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.

When walking into Quad City Music Guild’s production of Children of Eden on August 7, I had no idea what sort of beautiful music my ears were about to be treated to. The story I was familiar with. Composer Stephen Schwartz's score, however, was all new to me, and director Bill Marsoun has assembled a fantastic cast with which to tell this biblical story of the Earth's creation.

Dining alone in a restaurant before attending the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's opening-night production, I couldn’t help but hear a mother-and-daughter conversation – or rather, confrontation – at the next table. The mother was insisting that her child (who I'm guessing was about eight) put her long, loose hair into a ponytail so it wouldn’t fall into her face while eating. The strong-willed girl refused. The mother kept insisting, and eventually tried pulling the girl's hair back with a hair tie, with her daughter squirming and shaking it loose. This battle of wills went on for five excruciating minutes, but I had to smile as I thought, “This little drama is a microcosm of the play I'm about to see.”

What this says about the state of America I don’t know ... or maybe don’t want to know. But for the first time since I started attending Genesius Guild’s season-closing comedies more than a decade ago, director/adapter Don Wooten’s political jabs and jokes – here in service of Aristophanes’ The Birds – were less ridiculous, much less ridiculous, than current, real-world politics. I may have left Friday’s opening-night performance wishing it were more biting, but in retrospect, in this particular year, playing it safe may have been the smartest way to go.

(SPOILER ALERT! The following may reveal details of the Timber Lake Playhouse's current production of the musical Titanic. Readers are advised to cease reading if they don't want to know how the story ends.)

Lighting, of course, can do a lot for a show, and Genesius Guild’s presentation of Much Ado About Nothing boasts a lovely, understated elegance – particularly in the twilight scenes – that’s much to the credit of designers Maaz Ahmed and Andy Shearouse. But at July 23’s Lincoln Park performance, it wouldn’t have been out of place for the duo’s mention in the program to come with an amendment: “... and special contributions by God Himself.” It turns out that lightning, too, can do a lot for a show.

In 1971, Jim Jacobs took his experiences attending Chicago's Taft High School and, together with Warren Casey, wrote the book, music, and lyrics for a musical titled Grease. You may have heard of it.

When actor Tommy Bullington walked on-stage for the Timber Lake Playhouse’s opening-night presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, his arrival as narrator Pseudolus was met with a smattering of applause. He acknowledged the greeting and smiled, and the moment the clapping ceased, his smile faded, and Bullington took a perfect micro-pause before saying, “No, I liked it.” Cue the laugh, a bigger ovation, and the star flashing a wide, open-mouthed grin, curtsy-bowing like Maria Callas after performing Tosca at the Met. That, folks, is how you make an entrance.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I left my Rock Island apartment to make my first acquaintance with Genesius Guild’s annual classical-Greek dramas performed largely in mask, reviewing Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes and Sophocles’ Antigone. This past Saturday, leaving the same apartment, I ventured to Rock Island’s Lincoln Park to review Genesius Guild’s masked-drama presentations of ... Seven Against Thebes and Antigone. So nice to see that so much in my life has changed over the past decade.

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.

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