Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
The Whipping Man is drawing big audiences for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. In fact, they’ve added several performances extending the closing date from Feb. 12 to Feb. 18. It’s the story of Simon, a dedicated former slave who remains in a ruined mansion in 1865 Richmond in the days just after the Civil War. Caleb, the wounded son of his former master, stumbles in (desperately needing some horrendous surgery) and then does John, another former slave, a young man raised side by side with Caleb. The slave-owning family was Jewish, and it’s almost time for Passover, which they must celebrate with limited means. It’s a powerful show about freedom and responsibility with a plot that will keep you guessing. As I noted recently in this week's Curtain Call column, director D. Lynn Meyers gets the most from her cast, especially Ken Early as Simon. This one is a must-see. Box office: 513-421-3555
Spring Awakening, the Rock musical that won the 2007 Tony Award, is onstage this weekend in the Cohen Family Studio Theater at UC’s College Conservatory of Music.
Red, John Logan’s 2010 Tony Award winning drama about abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, is onstage at Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company. It’s an interestingly different production from the one offered back in September at the Cincinnati Playhouse — more abstract, in fact, one might say. The setting just barely suggests an artist’s studio, so you get to focus on the dynamic between the intellectual, outspoken painter (played by Michael Kenwood Lippert) and his assistant Ken (Will Allan) who grows from tremulous respect to angry equal. It’s a great script, and this production highlights the forces that motivate artists, visual or otherwise. Direction is by CCM drama professor Richard E. Hess. This production has been onstage since Jan. 19; I didn’t get to see it until this week. Final performance is a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Box office: 937-228-3630
Know Theater opens Collapse, a “comedy of anxiety” by Allison Moore with a performance on Saturday night, kicking off a run through March 3. The collapse of a highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis touches the lives of several people touched by the tragic event. David went off the bridge and survived, but now he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife has her own stress — mostly coping with David’s depression. The arrival of her flaky sister pushes Hannah to the verge of her own collapse. This is the kind of edgy script Know Theatre excels at producing, and Jason Bruffy, Know’s former artistic director, is directing this regional premiere. Box office: 513-300-5669