Here are the ingredients: a couple of Broadway and off-Broadway hits, three world premieres, a lavish Jane Austen show, a classic musical by Kander and Ebb, an innovative drama with tap dancing and video, plus holiday festivities including A Christmas Carol (of course) and the complete history of comedy — abridged. Put all this together and you have the Cincinnati Playhouse’s 2013-2014 season, announced on March 24 by Artistic Director Blake Robison, his second year in charge of the regional theater.
“People look to the Playhouse for classic entertainment and the best contemporary theater,” Robison says. His season has loaded a lot of the latter into the smaller Shelterhouse space, while bigger titles are landing on the Marx stage. He has appointed three artistic associates: Timothy Douglas (director of the current production of A Trip to Bountiful) and KJ Sanchez, as well as Michael Haney, the Playhouse’s associate artistic director since 2002. Each will direct two shows, as will Robison.
The Shelterhouse gets the premieres: Martin Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun (October 2013) set in a Latin American village during a brutal civil war, and Anna Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship (March-April 2014), about a humorous and heartbreaking love triangle. The Shelterhouse is also the venue for Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (February-March 2014), an exploration of growing up and growing old that Time magazine called “the best play of the season” in 2012, as well as The North Pool (May 2014), a riveting psychological drama by Rajiv Joseph, whose Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo was a 2010 Broadway hit and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
For the holidays, the Reduced Shakespeare Company — the zanies behind The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) who refined other compacted works at the Playhouse (The Bible: The Complete History of God in 2002 and The Complete History of America in 2005) — will return to launch their next abbreviated work, the world premiere of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) (November-December 2013).
The Playhouse earlier announced a pair of shows to start the season on the main stage: Fly (September 2013), the story of the Tuskegee Airmen told with tap-dancing and video projections, and the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaret (October-November 2013).
Both are co-productions with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. After Scrooge and company come and go for the holidays (Michael Haney will stage the production for the 21st consecutive year), the big theater will host Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for best play, a story inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun. A lavish adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (March 2014) follows, and the season finishes with David Ives’ smart, sexy comedy Venus in Fur (April-May 2014), a 2012 Tony best play nominee.
Momentous goings-on are planned for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company next season, too, marking the classic group’s 20th anniversary — as well as Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. The big news is that they’ll complete “the canon” by offering Shakespeare’s Two Noble Kinsman, the 38th of the Bard’s 38 plays to be staged locally, a feat achieved by just four other U.S. theater companies.
CSC’s season opens in September with an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (September 2013), followed by a stage version of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (October-November 2013). The center of the season features a load of Shakespeare. The sweetly lyrical Twelfth Night (November-December 2013), a show featured in the company’s first season in 1994 (when it was launched as the Fahrenheit Theatre Company), is a holiday offering. Hamlet (January-February 2014) is back, followed quickly by the same cast performing Tom Stoppard’s riff on Prince Hamlet’s tragic story from the perspective of minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (February-March 2014).
CSC takes another step in its five-season, chronological offering of Shakespeare’s history plays with Henry IV: Part 1 & 2 (April 2014). Then it’s the seldom-staged Two Noble Kinsmen (May 2014), the story of two friends who become impassioned rivals when they fall in love with a beautiful princess. Noël Coward’s comedy about love and divorce, Private Lives (June 2014), rounds out the season. Along the way CSC presents two special offerings: a summer production of the tongue-in-cheek stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The 39 Steps (July-August 2013) and the wildly popular holiday romp, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) (December 2013).
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