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011719-playcrafters

Playcrafters' "A Work in Progress" features, from left, Elizabeth Melville, Nicholas Waldbusser and Zachary Hunter.

East Moline's Alex Richardson has a bright future as a playwright, and he's bringing his talent to the venerable Playcrafters Barn Theatre. 

The theater's 2019 season kicks off in hilarious fashion with a new play by 24-year-old Richardson: a madcap comedy titled “A Work in Progress,” which he also directs with affection and abandon. In a program note, filled with weary cynicism and energetic idealism, he says he's already been involved with 83 productions since he started doing theater nine years ago, and the new “play within a play” reflects those harsh realities when misfortune and disaster strike.

“The reason I do theater is because I can't help but love all the crazy people who volunteer and make it a part of their lives,” writes Richardson, helming his fifth Playcrafters production. “Because as stressful and overwhelming and frustrating and exhausting and tiring as theater can be, getting the audience to laugh even once makes it all worth it.”

“A Work in Progress” is worth it, as the small but mighty crowd who braved last Saturday's snow laughed heartily during the wild performance.

Premiered in 2016 during his senior year at University of Illinois, Richardson's farce is about a failing theater company, Moline's New District Theatre, doing one last show to save itself. One of several problems (including a hands-off, cavalier producer) is they’ve lost their lead actress and the show opens in five days. As the week wears on, everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong.

The obvious star of both sides appears to be Playcrafters and RHP veteran Nicholas Waldbusser, who's uproariously funny as Sam — the high-strung, stressed director who erupts in anger many times — and the emergency sub for Clare (an actress in the show who gets hit by a bus), complete with wig, sparkly black dress, red high heels and a flamboyant fan.

The terrific cast includes Dave Moreland, Lauren VanSpeybroeck, Victoria House, Elizabeth Melville, Jesse Mohr, Zach Hunter, Micah Bernas, and Jo Vasquez.

The remaining performances, at 4950 35th Ave., Moline, are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13; $10 military, available at 309-762-0330 or playcrafters.com.

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