I went to church on Friday night, March 10, and the “house” was packed. We were at Davenport's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral to participate in a ceremony – the ceremony of theatre as constructed in T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, presented by the Genesius Guild under the direction of Don Wooten. The play enacts the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, a man who had been installed as archbishop by former friend King Henry II in order to consolidate the power of the crown, but who now, after becoming head of the church, is a man of conscience who refuses to bow to kingly power.

Imagine that it’s Christmas Eve and you are Terrence, a delivery-truck driver who, en route to the airport, loses his cargo – the dead body of an elderly Israeli tourist – and you can’t communicate with the woman’s granddaughter, who doesn’t speak English. What do you do? Well, you call your friend Josh who learned to “speak Jewish at his Hare Krishna” and ask him to inform the young Israeli that her grandmother’s body is lost, of course.

It is, according to a seasonal song, the beginning of that “most wonderful time of the year.” And on the day after Thanksgiving, I, along with my seven-year-old grandson John, attended the opening of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's holiday production in a traditional celebration of … pirates.

As an Augustana alum of so many years, I was excited to see the opening of the new Brunner Theatre Center on the Augie campus, and especially excited to see its current Othello under the direction of Jeff Coussens. The new theatre facility did not disappoint, and scenic and lighting designers Andy Gutshall and Adam Pfluger, respectively, created a memorable space for the production – minimally designed, yet replete with authentic Arabic graffiti and evocatively low, blue lighting.

After July 5's preview performance of On Golden Pond, it could be confidently asserted that Ernest Thompson's 1979 play was shaping up to be a show that Playcrafters Barn Theatre patrons would love.

I love works that play with time, moving backward and forward through flashbacks and memories. I also love witty British mysteries. And I really love seeing works that succeed on the stage. So it was with high expectations that a friend and I went to see Friday’s production of Checkmate, Leslie Sands’ 1993 murder-mystery currently in production at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre.

Don Faust has accomplished a very difficult achievement: He has written a play. Having written three of my own (two of them produced on-stage), I have something of an understanding of how daunting a task this is, and despite what I felt were some problematic areas in writing and acting, I admire much of what he has done in his play Dad & Me, which I attended on its opening night.

I love Christopher Durang, and was very much looking forward to his 2013 Tony Award winner Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, currently in production at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre. Durang has been a successful playwright for more than 40 years, and although this comedy is less edgy and absurd than previous plays, and although I felt Durang’s writing went off-track in the second act, Friday’s production provided many laugh-out-loud, wiping-tears-away moments. I have not felt so just-plain-happy being in the theatre in quite a long time.

Melanie Hanson in Baby with the BathwaterChristopher Durang’s irreverent Baby with the Bathwater is the current production at Scott Community College, and upon my arrival about 25 minutes prior to showtime, I enjoyed a few moments of the sweet music-box soundtrack, thinking it a clever juxtaposition to the darkly comedic farce that was to follow. However, a few minutes of it were enough for me to get the idea, and because those sounds were all that was in the offing regarding pre-show music, the next 22 minutes of waiting seemed, well, a bit long. Perhaps the music box also ignited my inner grump, because, with only a few exceptions, I did not find much comedic respite in the words and actions that followed.

Jackson Green, Jordan Webster-Moore, and  Becca Brazel in Noises OffMichael Frayn’s 1982 comedy Noises Off, which will be performed by the St. Ambrose theatre department this weekend, is a fast-paced, riotously wacky farce full of witty lines and tremendous physical comedy, and I can’t believe that, prior to Tuesday night’s rehearsal, I had never seen it before. This has, indeed, been my loss.

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