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The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati Tackles Death Row

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

By Rick Pender · September 1st, 2004 · Curtain Call
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Bob Elliott (left), most recently seen in Mr. Roberts, returns to the Playhouse in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Sept. 9-Oct. 8.
Sandy Underwood

Bob Elliott (left), most recently seen in Mr. Roberts, returns to the Playhouse in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Sept. 9-Oct. 8.



This fall the theater season's most frequently produced playwright is none other than WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Of course, the CINCINNATI SHAKESAPEARE FESTIVAL will present several shows, including its season opener, the comic and romantic Love's Labour's Lost (Sept. 9-Oct. 3) plus a touring production for many area schools of the classic teen love tragedy Romeo and Juliet. But the Bard's appeal has wooed other theaters to his timeless texts, including the CINCINNATI PLAYHOUSE IN THE PARK, which opens its fall season with one of my personal favorites, the wistful and poetic comic romance, Twelfth Night (Sept. 9-Oct. 8). This one has all the expected elements of mistaken identity and pining lovers, but it also offers some fabulous comic scenes. It's a certainty that Ed Stern will direct a cast of actors who can make this a delight, including frequent performer Bob Elliott, most recently seen in the role of the surly ship's captain in last spring's Mr. Roberts but especially remembered as the blustering constable, Dogberry, in Much Ado About Nothing several seasons back. If that's not enough Shakespeare for one season, you can take in another Romeo and Juliet (Oct. 22-30) presented by CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI; a production of the woodland comedy, As You Like It, by FALCON THEATER (Oct. 15-30); and yet another Romeo and Juliet at NORTHERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY (Dec. 2-12).

Of course, some theatergoers prefer shows that are less familiar, and there's plenty of options in that arena, too. ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI, whose stock in trade is premieres, kicks off its 2004-2005 season with a dandy, The Exonerated (Sept. 9-26), a searing drama built from the actual words of innocent people wrongly condemned to Death Row. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, the devastating memorial to injustice also offers a beacon of hope. Director D. Lynn Meyers will offer the show's regional premiere via a strong cast, including William Jay Marshall as the radical poet Delbert, a role he performed in the show's original New York production. This fall the theater season's most frequently produced playwright is none other than WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

Of course, the CINCINNATI SHAKESAPEARE FESTIVAL will present several shows, including its season opener, the comic and romantic Love's Labour's Lost (Sept. 9-Oct. 3) plus a touring production for many area schools of the classic teen love tragedy Romeo and Juliet. But the Bard's appeal has wooed other theaters to his timeless texts, including the CINCINNATI PLAYHOUSE IN THE PARK, which opens its fall season with one of my personal favorites, the wistful and poetic comic romance, Twelfth Night (Sept. 9-Oct. 8). This one has all the expected elements of mistaken identity and pining lovers, but it also offers some fabulous comic scenes. It's a certainty that Ed Stern will direct a cast of actors who can make this a delight, including frequent performer Bob Elliott, most recently seen in the role of the surly ship's captain in last spring's Mr. Roberts but especially remembered as the blustering constable, Dogberry, in Much Ado About Nothing several seasons back. If that's not enough Shakespeare for one season, you can take in another Romeo and Juliet (Oct. 22-30) presented by CLEAR STAGE CINCINNATI; a production of the woodland comedy, As You Like It, by FALCON THEATER (Oct. 15-30); and yet another Romeo and Juliet at NORTHERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY (Dec. 2-12). ...

Of course, some theatergoers prefer shows that are less familiar, and there's plenty of options in that arena, too. ENSEMBLE THEATRE OF CINCINNATI, whose stock in trade is premieres, kicks off its 2004-2005 season with a dandy, The Exonerated (Sept. 9-26), a searing drama built from the actual words of innocent people wrongly condemned to Death Row. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, the devastating memorial to injustice also offers a beacon of hope. Director D. Lynn Meyers will offer the show's regional premiere via a strong cast, including William Jay Marshall as the radical poet Delbert, a role he performed in the show's original New York production. The cast also includes Tracy Shayne (with Broadway credentials including Chicago, A Chorus Line, Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables), Jim Nelson (who teaches at Thomas More College), Tony Davis, Darryl Hilton, Deborah I. Brock-Blanks, A. Jackson Ford, Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Gregory Procaccino. Some performances will feature guest artists in key roles. The Cincinnati Playhouse's Shelterhouse venue frequently presents newer works, too; such productions played a big role in earning the 2004 Regional Theatre Tony Award. This fall's season on the smaller, more intimate stage kicks off with A Picasso by Jeffrey Hatcher, whose scripts (including the mystery, Scotland Road, which received its world premiere here, and an innovative rendition of The Turn of the Screw using only two actors) have been Playhouse favorites. A Picasso is set in Paris at the height of the German occupation in 1941. The renowned artist is interrogated by a woman hired by the Gestapo; art and politics collide in this dramatic piece, which won the 2003 Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play in Philadelphia. ...

If you're looking for fresh, new musical theater, your best bet might be Dayton's Human Race Theatre company, offering the world premiere of Was (Oct. 14-31): The story divides its time between 1870s when an orphan, Dorothy Gael, goes to Kansas to live with her aunt and uncle, and the 1980s, as an actor, obsessed with The Wizard of Oz, travels to Kansas to search for evidence of Dorothy. Based on a popular novel by Geoff Ryman, the compelling musical (definitely not for kids) has been created by Barry Kleinbort and Joseph Thalken. That bridge back to the classics gives me an opportunity to cite a few other works theater lovers should note: The Playhouse offers Arthur Miller's rendition of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible (Oct. 19-Nov. 19), a thinly veiled allegory of false accusations, inspired by anti-communism during the 1950s in America. The Playhouse's production inspired the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival to produce another Miller classic, All My Sons (Oct. 21-Nov. 14), about a World War II veteran whose efforts to achieve a good life fail when he's haunted by ghosts from the past. Speaking of ghosts, ETC will offer an intriguing October treat -- not Dracula or some other predictable work -- but a premiere by Robert Vaughan, Thirty Ghosts (Oct. 13-31), inspired by a remark from science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke: "Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living." Those living and dead interact in intriguing ways in this new play. ...

"Haunting" is a description that might also be applied to a seldom produced but lovely musical, Brigadoon (Nov. 18-21), which will be staged by UC's College-Conservatory of Music, directed by drama department head Richard Hess, who many remember for his deft touch with many Hot Summer Nights musical productions during the late 1990s. The tale of the evanescent Scottish village that reappears only once every hundred years is charming (its lovely score is by Lerner & Loewe, who also created My Fair Lady), but of special interest in CCM's presentation will be a restaging of Agnes De Mille's original choreography by Gemze de Lappe, the premiere dancer in the show's Broadway production in 1947. ...

The touring shows presented at the Aronoff Center by BROADWAY IN CINCINNATI aren't new by any stretch of the imagination (Chicago, Miss Saigon), but there will be one intriguing "new" piece: A concert program by Broadway star Patti LuPone, Matters of the Heart (Oct. 19-31), with CCM grad Chris Fenwick accompanying her on the piano.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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