Tom Naab, Margie Martel, and Ian Sodawasser in My Favorite YearIf you are of a certain age, you will happily recall the golden days of live television. And whether you can remember those days or not, you will have the opportunity, through Quad City Music Guild’s production of My Favorite Year, to go back in time to the year 1954, and experience the trials and tribulations of producing a weekly segment of a fictional TV show titled King Kaiser’s Comedy Hour.

Jennifer Poarch, Brad Hauskins, Tristan Layne Tapscott, Jeff Haffner, Carrie SaLoutos, and Tom Walljasper in Shear MadnessOur audience hadn't even realized the play had started.

The continually in-motion and always entertaining Bootleggers had barely concluded their pre-show when the evening's featured performance quietly began. As patrons sipped their after-dinner coffees, and with the house lights fully lit, the first characters in the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's production of Shear Madness made their way onstage and – delivering an outlandish and amusing show-before-the-show – gave our crowd some insight into what sort of over-the-top, wacky comedy we were about to see. Between cast members getting their hair washed and blow-dried in rhythm to classic pop music to the infinite number of entrances and exits, it was clear that this was going to be one wild and colorful ride.

Stephanie Moeller, Sydney Dexter, and Karrie McLaughlin in Mama Won't FlyFrom the moment you step foot into the Playcrafters Barn Theatre for its production of Mama Won’t Fly – a comedy by the popular team of Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones, and Nicholas Hope – you’ll hear Route 66 cruising music that gets you in the mood to take a road trip. The show itself subsequently delivers that trip, plus a few extra surprises.

Angela Elliott, Michael Carron, Abby Van Gerpen, Laila Haley, Joshua Pride, Erin Churchill, and Jordan McGinnis in The Big Meal, photo courtesy of Jessica Sheridan and Shared Light PhotographyBefore seeing Saturday's production of The Big Meal, my wife, youngest son, and I decided to grab supper. I wanted pizza, but my wife wanted to try something different, so we landed at a little restaurant just a few blocks east of the theatre. As we ate our hummus and falafel, we chatted about family, work, the future, and life in general. Little did we know that our simple meal together would be an almost mirrored precursor to what we were about to witness on stage.

Tammy PescatelliIt’s 8:08 a.m. when comedian and former Quad Cities resident Tammy Pescatelli calls for our arranged interview, and right off the bat, she apologizes, unnecessarily, for running eight minutes behind schedule.

“I’m calling you late because the principal from my son’s school called,” she says. “Whenever you hear that the principal is calling, you get nervous. First, you see that the school is calling, so you’re like, ‘Oh no ... is he sick?’ And then when it’s the principal, you’re like, ‘Oh, God ... what now?’ I mean, he’s never been in trouble, but you know ... . You become a kid when the principal calls your house.”

It turned out, however, that the principal was calling with good news: Pescatelli’s son Luca, who turns eight on February 26, had qualified for the gifted program. I tell her that’s great, and also congratulate Pescatelli on her 2013 comedy special Finding the Funny, the Netflix-streaming title I’ve viewed and enjoyed numerous times over.

“Then you know how excited I am to find out that my son’s in the gifted program,” she says upon hearing that I’ve seen her stand-up act. “’Cause you know the other side of his genes.”

Adam Cerny and Thomas Alan Taylor in Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb StoryLast month, I happened to turn on my TV to an episode of PBS' American Experience titled “The Perfect Crime,” which told of the senseless, 1924 murder of a young Chicago boy. The crime was committed by two teenagers, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, and I was awestruck not only because of the horrific details of the killing, but also by the fact that I had never before heard of it. Then, a few weeks ago, I was assigned to review Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, a musical I was unfamiliar with – but one, thanks to PBS, boasting a story I now knew.

Ian Brown, Nancy Terrlinck, Mike Kelly, Alexis Greene and Susan McPeters in Moon Over BuffaloOn a cold night indicative of February, weary of politicians and the weather, I escaped to Rock Island for the latest District Theatre offering Moon Over Buffalo. A Tony-nominated play that debuted on Broadway in 1995, author Ken Ludwig's farce is a comedy of silly, exaggerated humor, and probably not to every theatre-goer’s taste. But in my opinion, and judging by the belly laughs coming from Friday's opening-night audience, the humor as performed here clearly worked for a number of us.


Map of My Kingdom author Mary SwanderIn 2013, Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander was asked to meet with the Ames-based not-for-profit Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), a situation she likens to “getting called into the principal’s office” for offenses unknown. Yet when it turned out she was actually being commissioned to write a play about farmland transitions, Swander says her immediate reaction was likely the same as those faced with the prospect of seeing a play about farmland transitions: “Hmm ... really?”

Megan Hammerer and Samuel Langellier in Getting Out, photo courtesy of the Augustana Photo BureauAugustana College’s Getting Out, directed by Jeff Coussens, is the story of one woman’s difficulties in reconstructing her life after being released from prison, and author Marsha Norman’s 1978 play is a brilliant depiction of life's realities for a woman who has been caught in a cycle of violence, beginning with abuse as a child. Although she served her time in prison and has been released, she now has the real “getting out” to do – getting out of her own psychological hell.

Jake Walker, Stephanie Burrough, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Kitty Israel in Love's Labour's LostWhile waiting for the Prenzie Players' Thursday-night dress rehearsal of the William Shakespeare comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost to begin, I realized it had been a long time since I had seen one of the Bard of Avon’s plays performed live. I pondered whether I would be able to follow the plot and comprehend the dialogue. I worried that the show might be too stuffy for my unrefined sense of theatre. “Holy crap, I'm supposed to write a review – what if I don’t get it?” Yet as the show began, the Prenzies put my neuroses to rest very quickly.

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