As the clock approached 7:30 p.m. on a refreshingly cool and clear mid-April Saturday, the old barn beckoned like a silent sentinel as my wife and I wove our way up the meandering hill. While approaching the main entrance, the imposing presence at the ticket window asked quietly, eerily, if we had reservations. We said we did, and he motioned for us to climb the stairs leading us to the loft. I swallowed hard and took my time, stretching out each step knowing that I was ascending ever closer into the darkness, the unknown, and into a night of murder. Bwa-a-a-a-h Ha-a-a-a-ha-a-a-a-ha-a-a-a-a-a!!!

Checklist for Tuesday night's dress rehearsal of Quad City Music Guild’s springtime production:

Topnotch vocals by an energetic cast. Check!

Snappy doo-wop moves exquisitely choreographed and performed. Check!!

Powerful and tight 10-piece pit ensemble. Check!!!

Foul mouthed, R&B-singing, seven-foot-tall, man-eating houseplant. Check!!!!

Wait … . What?!?

What do you get when you mix Molière and Agatha Christie with a healthy dose of Garry Marshall? A wacky mystery farce written by perhaps the most prolific playwright of the 20th Century: Neil Simon. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Rumors is Simon’s outlandish play that combines absurd comedy with a whodunit – though it's more of a whathappened – featuring some very sitcom-like characters.

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

 

What really goes on in a beauty salon? As someone follicly challenged, I have wondered what happens behind all the glamour posters, hair products, and Hollywood-scandal magazines: Certainly there's more than stereotypical gossip between the customers and their stylists – right? Well, the truth is out. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre production of Steel Magnolias lifts the veil and exposes the beauty-shop mystique, and at least in this particular shop, Southern ladies come to share their fears, secrets, joys, and love with their very best friends – all while getting the perfect shampoos, colorings, and styles.

I love the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol. You know: The one about Ebenezer Scrooge – that cantankerous old skinflint who defined the term “hostile workplace” by treating his lone employee (and everyone else, for that matter) like the dirt beneath his well-worn shoe? To save his soul, the spirit world sends three ghosts on Christmas Eve who unveil aspects of Scrooge’s life, and the lives of those around him, that facilitate a much-needed change in his withered, cold heart. Because of this experience, he transforms into a man of enlightenment and generosity, helping his community and those closest to him.

Everyone loves “holiday fluff,” right? You know – that oddly concocted mixture that your crazy aunt brings for the holidays each year combining Cool Whip, pistachio pudding, marshmallows, crushed pineapple, and walnuts (or not), with cherries on top? Admit it. It’s the perfect little taste of sweetness on a plate otherwise full of more savory dishes.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse is now serving its own version of holiday fluff. No, not on the buffet menu, but rather in the form of its musical Holly Jolly Christmas, which isn't really a musical so much as a musical revue. There's no real story or character development. You won’t see the duality of man in an Ebenezer Scrooge figure or an “If only I would have …” scenario played out by a George Bailey type. In fact, you won’t see anything remotely resembling a plot. What you will find is a Branson-style revue that utilizes the talents of an extremely gifted cast in spite of Ty Stover's exceptionally weak script.

In an October filled with local theatre that includes the likes of Shakespeare, Sam Shepard, and Flowers for Algernon, I was shivering with anticipation: What show would I be assigned this month? Could I handle the depth and power of a classic? Finally, the e-mail came, and I was given the sweetly daunting task of examining one of the most astounding, bucket-list theatrical works I could ever review. Yes! Yes!! YES!!! Thank the theatre gods! I could finally revisit my late teens to dissect the '70s cult classic The Rocky Horror Show!

As I watched the opening-night production of the Timber Lake Playhouse’s Always … Patsy Cline, I kept thinking of the word “harmony.” Thinking about musical harmony certainly was appropriate, as this was, after all, a stage musical. Then I reflected on how harmonies can be calming and tranquil or dissonant and disparate. Yet I still hadn’t been able to place why “harmony” kept going through my mind until it hit me that what I was seeing, hearing, and experiencing was true balance – an interweaving of two very different stories that were connected in the nearly perfect parallel of two actresses' performances. “Yes!”, I thought. “Harmony!”

“The word 'theatre' comes from the Greeks. It means 'the seeing place.' It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.” – Stella Adler

The QC Theatre Workshop's latest production, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (and Davenport native) Susan Glaspell's Inheritors, is rightly the place to look for one's truth in life, and to understand views on a diverse archive of social situations.

It was a dark and stormy night … . No, seriously – it really was a dark and stormy night on August 11, which, fortunately, enhanced the eeriness and prolonged the tension of the opening night for the Timber Lake Playhouse's final production of its summer season.

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