Lots of plays not previously seen in Cincinnati are good theater choices this weekend:
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati just opened its regional premiere of Tribes by Nina Raines on Wednesday,
and I've given it a Critic's Pick. The story circles around two young
adults from families with very different approaches to deafness. Billy's
family has tried to give him a "normal" life by teaching him to speak
and lip read, while Sylvia's deaf parents have always communicated using
sign language. Now that she's going deaf, she's more and more dependent
on that skill. But Billy's loud, boisterous family objects to him to
make his deafness so obvious, even though he's finally found a path to
overcome his loneliness. This tale of warring tribes is as much about
family dynamics and human nature as it is about coming to terms with a
disability. Provocative and thoughtful, with a sterling cast of
convincing actors. Through Feb. 16. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has a winner with its production of Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park, a show that portrays territoriality rooted in insensitivity and prejudice. (CityBeat review here.) Using a 1959 play, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun*, as
its jumping-off point, Norris's first act portrays a white Chicago
neighborhood where the sale of a home to an African-American family has
set off warfare between residents.
In the second act, it's 2009 and the
same neighborhood, blighted by deterioration, is now being gentrified.
The tables are turned, but many of the arguments — and in Norris's
clever script, even some of the same words — resurface. I gave this one a
Critic's Pick, too. Through Feb. 16. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
*A footnote to Clybourne Park: To experience this show's inspiration, A Raisin in the Sun, tune to WVXU (FM 91.7) on Saturday evening, 8-10 p.m., for a radio production of Lorraine Hansberry's play by LA Theatre Works. It's a seminal American drama in its own right.
This bounty of premieres is joined by Know Theater's staging of Steve Yockey's brand-new play, Pluto.
(CityBeat review here.) It's the story of a single mom and her sullen, disconnected son in a
generic suburb. It feels realistic, but there are signs that it goes
beyond that: A blossoming cherry tree has crashed through the ceiling,
and a three-headed dog (played by a one-headed actress) sits nearby,
offering curious observations about what's going on. A radio spits out
news about a school shooting, sometimes speaking directly to the mom,
and then the refrigerator begins to shake violently, as if some force is
trying to escape. There's more to be revealed, and I should warn that
gun violence and death are portrayed. But this is a poetic and emotional
tale of grief distilled. Through Feb. 22. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Daniel Beaty's one-man show, Through the Night,
was well-received at the Cincinnati Playhouse in a Fall 2012
production, performed by the playwright. (CityBeat previewed that piece here.) Northern Kentucky University
this weekend is offering another of Beaty's solo works, the
multi-character show (27 roles in all) Emergency, a piece
that features slam poetry, performed by local actor Deondra Means. It
begins with a fanciful premise, a slave ship arriving in a New York City
harbor in the 21st century. Director Daryl Harris calls Emergency
"a perfect storm for the social activist and the theater artist in me."
It's onstage only this weekend at NKU's Stauss Theatre. Tickets: 859-572-5464.