New Stage Collective (NSC) planned to present Michael John LaChiusa's HELLO AGAIN this month. Following differences over budget and artistic process, director Andrew Lazarow and most of the cast resigned with plans to present it elsewhere. (NSC replaced it with a revival of Jason Robert Brown's song cycle, The Last Five Years, reviewed below.) Lazarow and company, calling themselves THE SATORI GROUP (a name they intend to establish as a new theater company in Seattle later this year), have established a momentary beachhead in Hartwell in a building that was once the headquarters for Hustler magazine when publisher Larry Flynt was a local celebrity back in the 1970s (it's near I-75's exit 9, Paddock Road). That's somehow appropriate for Hello Again, billed by Satori as "a musical of sexual indiscretion." The show portrays 10 characters in 10 sexual interactions, one during each decade of the 20th century. It received the 1994 Obie Award for outstanding Off-Broadway musical, and it landed nine Drama Desk nominations that year, including one for best musicalcincihelloagain.com. ...
It seems like strange bedfellows, but the Satori Group has hooked up with Covington-based Jersey Productions as its co-producer for Hello Again. Apparently Jersey is acting as a nonprofit umbrella for Satori. Jersey, which focuses on family-oriented musicals, opens its production of GREASE at the Carnegie this week for a run through Aug. 26. On Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. they're holding a sock hop between afternoon and evening performances. Admission to the dance is free with a ticket to either performance. Audience members are urged to come dressed as favorite characters from Grease, the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys from Rydell High School. Info: jerseyproductions.org
Some plays aspire to do something other than entertain or provoke -- like provide insight and information. That's what first-time playwright Nancy Jones has done with ABOVE THE 37TH PARALLEL, a one-woman script recounting her personal experience with multiple sclerosis. The show had its premiere in an independent production with performances at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater on Aug. 10 and 11. "MS Girl," played by local professional Sherman Fracher, recounts her diagnosis and many anecdotes about living with the disease for 18 years. The audience was packed with people who nodded and chuckled knowingly. This is probably not a play that will engage general audiences, but with Fracher's vivacious presence and believable physicality (the 90-minute piece was lovingly directed by her husband, CEA-nominated director Drew Fracher), it certainly made its point. The writing too often falls into clichés, but Jones' positive mindset and good humor offer an affirming insight into what can be achieved in the face of adversity. (Rick Pender) Grade: B-
In its very first season (2003), New Stage Collective (NSC) presented the area premiere of Jason Robert Brown's song-cycle, THE LAST FIVE YEARS. In its fifth season, NSC is again offering the two-actor song cycle about a marriage that comes apart -- as an opportunity for reviewing its own "last five years" for the young company, now with its own home on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. NSC Artistic Director Alan Patrick Kenny is directing the concert staging with two different performers each evening (through Aug. 26). I had the chance to see Kenny himself singing the role of Jamie (while playing piano and conducting five string players); Kera Halberslaben, a veteran NSC performer now studying at New York University, performed his Cathy. Check NSC's Web site (newstagecollective.com) to see who's singing Brown's great tunes -- which re-create telling moments in a failed marriage between a struggling actress and an aspiring novelist. Memorable, well-performed songs. (Rick Pender) Grade: B+
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com