In case you’re keeping track, the most produced play in the United States this season is Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Boom, presently in its regional premiere at Know Theatre of Cincinnati.
According to American Theatre magazine, nine productions of the absurdist comedy are scheduled this season. The list excludes works by Shakespeare and holiday-themed shows. (Another staging of Boom is set for Marin Theatre Company in California, where Cincinnati Shakespeare co-founder Jasson Minadakis is the artistic director.)
In a tie for second place with eight productions are Conor McPherson’s ghostly tale The Seafarer, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) a year ago, and Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone, ETC’s current production. ETC’s D. Lynn Meyers has, in fact, a solid track record relative to this list: It also includes Michael Hollinger’s Opus, about a dysfunctional string quartet, which ETC staged back to back in the spring of 2007 with Stephen Temperley’s Souvenir, the true story of a tone-deaf woman who fancied herself a world-class singer. The rest of the country is seeing these shows two season after Cincinnati: Opus will have seven productions, while Souvenir is set for six.
The list also includes Around the World in 80 Days using the adaptation by Mark Brown that the Cincinnati Playhouse presented in 2008.
That inventive rendition of Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale was a local hit that moved to New York City for an extended run. Brown’s script has been picked up by seven theaters.
Two classics are included — Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie has seven productions, while Thornton Wilder’s Our Town gets six — as are two recent Broadway hits: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the multiple Tony Award-winning musical from 2005, will be performed at seven theaters, and the 2009 Tony winner for best revival, the 1965 comedy Boeing-Boeing, will entertain audiences in six cities.
Here in Cincinnati, community theater Showbiz Players is one of the first amateur companies in the U.S. to be granted rights to stage Spelling Bee. It happens at the Madisonville Arts Center next April.
What haven’t we seen? Four plays on the list are yet to reach Cincinnati theaters. Steven Dietz’s 2007 cerebral drama Yankee Tavern has six productions on tap. In March, ETC presents the prolific playwright’s Becky’s New Car, a gentle comedy that was a 2008 award winner.
An old-fashioned yarn spun by Donald Margulies, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, will be staged six times in the coming year. ETC produced the esteemed playwright’s Dinner with Friends in 2001 shortly after it won the Pulitzer Prize.
Eight companies will present Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate this year. The dark comedy seems a likely choice for Know Theatre of Cincinnati next season: It’s about three awkward teens who conspire to reveal the truth about a predatory teacher. It’s a coming-of-age piece that’s the sort of show Know excels at staging.
The final item on the American Theatre list is Black Pearl Sings by Frank Higgins, which six theaters will offer. It’s a fictionalized story about a singer in the 1930s who must cope with prejudice to find her true worth. I saw it last May at a theater in Florida; it would be an ideal choice for ETC.
All in all, Cincinnati’s theaters stack up pretty well.
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