Don’t go thinking this show has anything to do with the holidays, and
despite the fact that some fourth-graders light its political fuse when
their teacher replaces a holiday pageant with a script that references a
possible gay relationship involving the 16th president, this is not a
show for kids. Who is it for? I’m not really sure, although some at the
opening performance found it hilarious.
It’s just about time for that magical
season of holiday shows in Cincinnati — some tried and true, and some
for the Grinches who don’t resonate with the good cheer that permeates
the world through most of December. Let’s take a little sleigh ride
around Cincinnati’s theaters to see what’s happening.
Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room,or the vibrator play,
now at Covington’s Carnegie Center in a production by the drama program
at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, has a current running through
it. The production is warm, bright and slightly shocking.
At the end of John Patrick Shanley’s multi-award winning play and film Doubt, the formidable Sister Aloysius cries, “Oh, Sister James. I have doubts! I have such doubts!” Those two short lines are laden with
pathos, emotion and high drama. It sounds operatic — and it will be.
Opera Fusion: New Works chose the drama of struggle for faith and power
for its inaugural workshop production, with libretto by Shanley and the
score by protean composer Douglas Cuomo.
Stephen Schwartz’s Wizard of Oz-inspired
musical about the green witch has become a cultural icon for adolescent
girls who yearn for freedom and success. Thousands, with or without
their families, will flock downtown between now and Thanksgiving
weekend, and they won’t be disappointed.
Last week the Cincinnati Playhouse in the
Park announced that Blake Robison, currently the producing artistic
director at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., will become its
next artistic director, succeeding Ed Stern, who retires after 20 years a
the end of the current season.
(1920-1994) didn’t get much recognition during her lifetime. She
won acclaim as an actress in the 1940s but was dissatisfied with
stereotyped roles, so she began writing plays. Trouble in Mind,
presented in 1955, made her the first woman to win an OBIE award, but
it never landed on to Broadway and was forgotten for years. Thanks to a prescient artistic decision, Northern Kentucky University
chose the show for this season.
Kevin Allison wants you to listen to his podcast, and he will tie your shoes to his balls to do it. The Cincinnati native left town in 1988,
and his comedy career launched into overdrive even before he graduated
from New York University four years later. Allison now runs a
storytelling podcast out of New York City called Risk!, which
encourages people to tell stories “you never thought you’d dare to
Anyone seeing this show will walk out of the theater
thinking about how an artist relates to his art, and how the world
relates to what he creates. These are fascinating connections that are
neither quantifiable or predictable. In fact, they are issues that
vibrate between two poles, emotion and intellect, a subject that Rothko
wrestles with constantly.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s
production of Shakespeare’s tragedy has bursts of chemistry and feeling
mingled with drowsy places where the language washes over your brain,
and the staging feels perfunctory. Macbeth has been given a
contemporary setting, but it’s hard to see what the update adds to the
Irving Berlin lived for more than a century (1888-1989)
and his popular songs have outlasted even that incredible lifetime
— including “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade” and
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” — so the current Covedale
Center revue I Love a Piano (a title from another of his well
known tunes) has a ready advantage with audiences of a certain age.
Michael Hollinger’s Opus was a hit for ETC in 2007; Ghost-Writer recently
won a Barrymore Award as the best new play in Philadelphia. It’s as
much a meditation for writers as for theater lovers, but both should
enjoy this thoughtful work.
I’ve seen As You Like It many times, but Ed Stern’s
final directorial outing for the Playhouse (co-staged with Michael Evan
Haney) distills its warmth and goodwill better than any I’ve previously
witnessed. Stern has blessed Cincinnati audiences
for 20 years, and this production is a wonderful gift of love and joy
that will be remembered for years to come.
This show reunites actors Beth Harris and Jens Rasmussen with director Drew Fracher; a
year ago they created Skin Tight, the best production of Know’s
previous season. If subsequent shows are as gripping and off-kilter as
this one in which humor and pathos constantly elbow one another, Know
will deliver on its annual promise of edgy theater.
Astonishing: It’s what Jo March yearns to
be, pacing in her attic, spinning gruesome, spectacular tales to take
the publishing world by storm. But Louisa May Alcott, the real-life
author the fictional Jo grew up to become, made her name not by
startling readers but by moving them with a simple story of four New
England sisters and their mother making the best of things in bad times.