What's the most important event to have on your calendar this week? I hope the first thing you thought of was Friday evening's 2006 CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS, presented at Corbett Auditorium at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. This is the 10th consecutive year of CEAs. When we began this program in 1996-97, we weren't certain if there would be enough theater to recognize. That's never been a problem. Today the biggest challenge is deciding how to recognize more and more. (A new category for Choreography and Stage Movement has been added this year.) It's said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," so that's how we've decided to take the arrival of competing theater awards programs. The CEAs is the only program that relies on the wisdom of public voters (who cast ballots for 12 of the 20 categories) and that of 10 local theater critics (from every publication except the one that decided to do its own) who decide on the remaining eight categories that benefit from the insights of people who see and write about a lot of plays every year.
(For instance, I attend more than 100 productions annually -- which gives me a frame of reference for voting on categories such as Outstanding Play and Outstanding Musical.) But you can judge for yourself. The CEA awards on Friday evening are open to the public: Come and check out what makes theater great in Cincinnati. Info: citybeat.com/cea. ...
It's hail and farewell at NEW EDGECLIFF THEATRE (NET), where Artistic Director ELIZABETH A. HARRIS is moving to Pittsburgh with plans to attend graduate school; she's been acting and directing at NET since 2003, offering work that has always been worth seeing. NET's new artistic director will be veteran actor GREG PROCACCINO (he's played Marley in the Cincinnati Playhouse's A Christmas Carol for years, but he's also appeared in more than 80 professional productions). NATHAN GABRIEL is also being added to NET's artistic team as associate producer. He'll be responsible for assembling NET's new annual festival celebrating one-acts, the Cincinnati Director's Competition (March 8-18, 2007). Other productions planned for NET's upcoming season include several one-acts by Christopher Durang, An Evening in Durang(o) (Nov. 2-18), Athol Fugard's Master Harold and the Boys (Feb. 1-17, 2007) and Sam Shepard's Fool for Love (May 10-26, 2007). Info: www.newedgecliff.com
4 Know Theatre's production of LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE (through Saturday) is portrayed as a comedy, but it ends with a character sobbing uncontrollably. Jonathan Tolins' play goes out of its way to present and shatter stereotypes. A committed gay couple who live on Christopher Street welcome a group of friends -- a veritable rainbow of gay stereotypes -- to their apartment to watch the annual Gay Pride parade from their Manhattan apartment window. One guest announces he's decided to get married -- to a woman -- and a lot of consternation ensues. Tolins' script plays with the routine themes and characters found in gay plays. By playing with these conventions, he's working to leave them behind. Performances are solid and generally believable. This is a realistic script about relationships that happen to be gay. Rick Pender) Grade: B+
4 New Stage Collective's THE BOOK OF LIZ (through Saturday) is by two laugh-out-loud funny people, Amy and David Sedaris. But I had a hard time wrapping my head around this one, a play about a young woman who is "Squeamish" -- a thinly veiled parody of the Amish. Sister Elizabeth Donderstock supports Clusterhaven, but feels underappreciated, so she departs for the larger world -- a place as insane as the oddball community she's escaping. The show feels like a Saturday Night Live skit with a clever concept -- but it's 80 minutes long. If you're amused, you'll love this. If not, you'll be bewildered. It's a good show for summer, but you might leave feeling a little addled. (RP) Grade: B-
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com