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by Rick Pender 02.22.2013
at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 2-20 - when the rain stops falling (know) cast at table - photo deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Cincy Shakes Steals the Show(s)

It might be hard to imagine that a show like Legally Blonde: The Musical could stir up controversy, which it did last fall at Loveland High School. But that's not stopping other theaters from putting it onstage, including Northern Kentucky University, which opened a campus production on Thursday (and continues through March 3). It's the familiar story of Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just a girlfriend. Not profound, but certainly entertaining. Tickets: 859-572-5464

On Wednesday evening, I attended the first performance of Slow Descent from Heaven, a world premiere play by local writer Catie O'Keefe. Presented by New Edgecliff Theatre (O'Keefe is their playwright-in-residence), it's an ambitious work, presented in a converted classroom at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (3711 Clifton Ave.) in a production directed by Ed Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003. She's an angry, tense character, and her involvement with men has affected her career and her attitude. The story has a reverse chronology, so we peel backward in time to learn more about why she's the way she is. I'm glad to have seen this, but I think the script needs more work in delving into Molly's psyche. Right now, her angst is all on the surface, and her interface with the two men in her life (plus the funny mother of one of them) is too predictable. Nevertheless, it's great to see a group like NET encouraging the development of new work. Tickets: 513-399-6638

Another group producing new work is Thompson House Newport (the venue formerly known as Southgate House). They are staging a new Rock musical, Variables, the comic story of five friends out for a night on the town. Their evening takes a serious turn when it's interrupted by disturbing news. It's the work of composer Jered S. Ryan and lyricist Mark D. Motz. Performances are on Feb. 23, 28 and March 2. I haven't seen it, so I can't offer an assessment, but it's another example of our fertile local theater scene. Tickets: www.thompsonhousenewport.com

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Dangerous Liaisons (review here) is a listless interpretation of a show that should be deliciously (dare I say "dangerously") nasty. There are some fine actors onstage — notably Giles Davies and Corinne Mohlenhoff, both longtime favorites at CSC — and moments when the chemistry works, but not enough of them. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.

Several Cincy Shakes actors are doing a fine job on another stage, in Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (review here) It's a fascinating piece of writing by Andrew Bovell, and a taut, engaging 100-minute production, staged by CSC's Brian Phillips. If you're looking for the one show to see this weekend, this is the one I'd point you to. Tickets: 513-300-5669

 
 
by Rick Pender 02.15.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 2-20 - when the rain stops falling (know) cast at table - photo deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Stop Waffling

If you're waffling between whether to go to the theater or do something else this weekend, let me help you decide: You should get a ticket to see When the Rain Stops Falling at Know Theatre. It's running through March 16, but it's going to be an in-demand ticket soon: I gave it a Critic's Pick in CityBeat (review here), the League of Cincinnati Theatres bestowed eight nominations on it (I believe that's the most they've given to any production this season), and everyone I've talked to has been breathless in their praise of the script, the cast, the design — well, the entire production.

Andrew Bovell's play bounces around in time between 1959 and 2039 and between the histories of four generations of two families. That might sound a bit complicated or confusing, but it's not: There are parallels and intersections that slowly make sense, and the play uses language and imagery to bring the stories together into a coherent narrative by play's end.

Two characters are played by two different actresses, representing younger and older incarnations of these unusual women: One is an intellectual in her early years, but becomes emotionally distant due to a personal trauma; the other is a free-spirited young woman whose life turns dramatically and becomes an older woman with fragmented memories and a tenuous grip on the present. The stories are about fathers and sons, parents and children, and how actions by one generation reverberate down the line. Bovell's script reinforces these echoes with lines and artifacts that recur in different contexts. It's a brilliant piece of writing, and director Brian Phillips (he's artistic director at Cincinnati Shakespeare) uses movement and scene intersections to tell the story with nine actors (four from his Cincy Shakes company). The LCT recognition singled out three performers, but I'd suggest that the show is powerful because the entire ensemble is operating in a powerful, parallel manner. You don't want to miss this one. Box office: 513-300-5669

On Thursday evening I attended Leveling Up at the Cincinnati Playhouse, a world premiere by Deborah Zoe Laufer. It's an insightful slice of contemporary life, three young men and a girlfriend who are obsessed with video gaming, stalled in their post-college lives. They spend 20 hours a day online, and their social skills (if they had them previously) have deteriorated amid the rubble of a basement game room in Las Vegas.

Laufer's script will leave you feeling like you've eavesdropped on real life (in fact, they're already playing when you enter the Shelterhouse Theatre — although the "screen" they watch is the theater's invisible fourth wall: They are staring forward at the central audience section and their attention never wavers, even when they're having distracted conversations about life. The divide between their world and being "IRL" ("in real life" as they shorthand it) increasingly and distressingly — and sometimes comically — blurs. Laufer's metaphor about "leveling up" in games and its parallel to stepping up to levels of maturity gives the show meaning and depth. The young cast are entertaining and convincing. I know this show will appeal to young audiences, but I heard many in the audience after the 90-minute performance who were impressed with the story and what it tells us about society today. It's worth noting that this weekend the Cincinnati Playhouse has two world premieres on its stages, which Abigail/1702 (review here) on its mainstage. Box office: 513-421-3888.

Opening tonight is a production of Dangerous Liaisons at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It's Christopher Hampton's stage play that inspired the 1988 film many will recall featuring Glenn Close and John Malkovich as manipulative French nobility who play games with young innocents (including Michelle Pfeiffer). For CSC, the cast includes two popular performers from the past: Giles Davies as the Vicomte de Valmont and Corinne Mohlenhoff as the Marquise de Merteuil, the scheming pair who put devious plots in motion. This promises to be a delicious drama. Box office: 513-381-2273 x1. 


 
 
by Steven Rosen 02.12.2013
Posted In: Arts community, Visual Art at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
crumpcam

James Crump Resigns as Cincinnati Art Museum Chief Curator

On Monday, Cincinnati Art Museum announced the resignation of James Crump, its chief curator and photography curator. He arrived at the museum in 2008. A press release said he would "pursue independent projects." The press release also included high praise for Crump from Aaron Betsky, museum director:

"We are so grateful for the great work James has done here in Cincinnati. His exhibitions and acquisitions have made us a center for photography, and we look forward to building on his extraordinary achievements."

One of those achievements, the exhibition James Welling: Monograph, just opened Feb. 2. Crump was also a leader in the organization of last year's multi-venue FotoFocus photography festival, and Cincinnati Art Museum sponsored two of its biggest shows — Herb Ritts: L.A. Style and Doug and Mike Starn's Gravity of Light.

The museum said an interim chief curator will be named soon.

Recently, the Italian art-book publisher Damiani launched a new line of Damiani / Crump books. It begins in March with Empire Falling, photographer Elena Dorfman's study of Midwest rock quarries.

 
 
by Rick Pender 02.08.2013
Posted In: Visual Art, Theater, Arts community at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Something Old, Something New

A new round of shows comes your way this weekend (while several good ones remain onstage, including Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre and Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse). Here are a few choices that are just opening:

Know Theatre is finally getting around to its first full-fledged production of the season, Andrew Bovell's award-winning drama, When the Rain Stops Falling. (The playwright's Speaking in Tongues was a much admired production at the Cincinnati Playhouse a year ago.) An intricate fabric of overlapping connections, Bovell's 2010 script moves seamlessly through time and across continents between the years of 1959 and 2039. In a world where the rain rarely stops falling, four generations of a family search for truth and hope to mend broken connections. What they discover is the impossibility of escaping the past. The production should be all the more interesting since it's being directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Brian Isaac Phillips and features a cast of nine excellent actors, four of whom are CSC regulars. It will be onstage through March 16. Box office: 513-300-5669.

To see another award winner, you need to head up I-75 to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is offering the regional premiere of Eric Simonson's bio-play, Lombardi. Set in 1965, it's a portrait of the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers through the eyes of a young reporter assigned to follow the sports icon, a man full of passion and drive without equal. The show had a recent run on Broadway, and I expect it will attract an audience not normally drawn to the theater. Through Feb. 24. Box office: 937-228-6830

Falcon Theater, which presents its shows in the tiny Monmouth Theatre in Newport, is staging the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt, a success on Broadway, at the Cincinnati Playhouse, and on movie screens. It's the provocative story of a starchy nun who thinks it's possible that a priest has abused one of her students. Although she's not sure, her accusations have dire ramifications. Through Feb. 23. Box office: 513-479-6783

Finally, a blast from the past at UC's College-Conservatory of Music: William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life. Set in October 1939 in a run-down waterfront dive bar on the docks of San Francisco, the script is full of colorful, eccentric characters and portrays the love and follies of human nature. It's being staged by veteran faculty member Diane Kvapil with a cast of 29. This production has a short run (one weekend, wrapping up with a performance in Patricia Corbett Theatre on Sunday at 2 p.m.) Box office: 513-556-4183


 
 
by Rick Pender 02.01.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent vimtrup as king richard ii - cincinnati shakespeare company - photo by rich sofranki

Stage Door: Closing Shows

No new shows opened this week. But several will close this weekend, so it's your last chance to see them. At the top of that list I would put Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Richard II (Review here). If you're a completist, this is a rare chance to catch a show that's produced very infrequently. (CSC's staging is its first in 19 seasons, leaving it just one shy of producing all 38 of Shakespeare's surviving plays.) But an even more important reason is that actor Brent Vimtrup offers a breathtaking portrait of a weak king (he ruled in the 14th century) who questioned his own ability to reign, decided to hand over his throne and then agonized over relinquishing his "God-given" right. Vimtrup makes Richard real and human in some unexpected ways; it's a performance that's definitely worth seeing. It doesn't hurt that the script is entirely in verse — CSC's actors know how to revel in this language, so the words are wondrous things to hear. But you last chances are this weekend; the final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.

A British king of a different sort is onstage at the Carnegie in Covington, where the musical
Camelot is on view in a concert staging (Review here). The mythical King Arthur — he of chivalry and knighthood and the Round Table — is the subject, as well as his beautiful Queen Guinevere and his valiant retainer Sir Lancelot. Like Richard, Arthur has some shortcomings — hey, we're all human, right? — but his problems are more about being too idealistic and trusting. The truth about Camelot is that the story is kind of choppy and the characters rather one-dimensional, but Lerner and Loewe's music is beautiful, especially in this production, where some great voices are accompanied by an ensemble of musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the CCO's Mischa Santora. The show is minimally staged and costumed, but its maximally sung. This one wraps up with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.

Two other productions that are definitely worth seeing: The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's world premiere of
Abigail/1702 (through Feb. 17, 513-421-3888) (Review here), a spooky sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's regional premiere of the recent Off-Broadway hit Freud's Last Sesson (through Feb. 16, 513-421-3555) (Review here). The latter is an imagined conversation between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis about some big issues of life and death, faith and belief. It's a very thought-provoking script, performed at ETC by two fine actors, Bruce Cromer and Barry Mulholland. This one was scheduled to close on Feb. 10, but demand for tickets led to an extension. Take advantage of it!

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.25.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
a&c1_abigail1702_photo_clintonbphotography

Stage Door: Good vs. Evil

The clash of good and evil seems to be on the mind of most of our local theaters this week as numerous openings bring plenty of offerings for you to choose from.

Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a kind of sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible. This new play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (it's actually a world premiere) takes the character of Abigail Williams, the villainous and spiteful catalyst for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and moves her 10 years beyond. She's living in Boston, an outcast caring for people afflicted with the "pox" — and haunted by her past. She knows her actions in Salem were evil, perhaps inspired by the Devil himself. How she copes with the current events of her life is very much dictated by her actions from the past. This is a fascinating variation on a familiar character, told with an air of supernatural events and eerie sights and sounds. Box office: 513-421-3888.

Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati puts a debate about the existence of God front and center, with the distance between good and evil or right and wrong as the battleground. Psychoanalyst and atheist Sigmund Freud is dying of oral cancer; he invites to his London flat a young academic and newly converted Christian, C. S. Lewis (who later wrote the Christian allegory The Chronicles of Narnia). On the September day in 1939 when England declares war on Germany — perhaps another clash of good and evil — they meet for a conversation. The play is almost all talking and very little action, but the clash of ideas is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. That's made especially true by two fine actors: Bruce Cromer (the Playhouse's longstanding Ebenezer Scrooge and Cincinnati Shakespeare's recent Atticus Finch) as the earnest Lewis, and Barry Mulholland (a local newcomer, but a veteran actor) as the skeptical Freud. This one will make you think. Box office: 513-421-3555.

Camelot at Covington's Carnegie Center offers a distilled version of the Broadway hit from 1960. It's presented as a concert, singers backed up by members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, led by its maestro Mischa Santora. The story of King Arthur's court, a place of goodness and justice brought down by an illicit love affair, is another glimpse of the good and evil affect history — even if it's mythic history. Former NKU professor Mark Hardy is back in town to play Arthur. Through Feb. 3. Box office: 859-957-1940.

The evils of racial injustice are at the heart and soul of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis, which has a touring production at the Aronoff through Feb. 3. Set in the 1950s, it's about a white radio DJ who digs black music long before it became mainstream. His love of the music leads him to a romance with a talented singer, and that causes complications in a town where black and white don't mingle without serious repercussions. Of course, it's a musical, so this doesn't dig too deeply into the issues, but it's definitely a reminder of a time and place that feels very foreign to us today — even if some attitudes persist. Ultimately, it's about the power of music to bridge difficult boundaries, and that's a good message. Box: 800-987-2787.

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.20.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mormon

Broadway in Cincinnati Announces What's Coming in 2013-2014

Mormons, dancers, dictators, the Grinch and more

Cincinnati will see the regional premiere of The Book of Mormon a year from now. The winner of nine Tony Awards will be the highlight of Broadway in Cincinnati's 2013-2014 season at downtown's Aronoff Center for the Arts. It's set for a three-week run, Jan. 7-26, 2014. A show described as "the funniest musical of all time" that was created by the guys behind the satirical South Park TV series has enough raucous, off-color humor to melt away any winter chill that settles in following the holidays. It's about two naive and optimistic Mormon missionaries who tryto persuade residents of Uganda  to follow their faith — but threatened by a maniacal warlord, the locals are more concerned with war, famine, poverty and AIDS than religion. The satire is laid on thick, and it's the kind of show that's bound to offend some people. Nevertheless, it's been a gigantic Broadway hit since it opened in March 2011; the tour that comes our way began back in August, so Cincinnati is an early stop.

The season will have a number of  familiar titles, including another three-week run for the Broadway hit  Wicked (March 5-23, 2014). The Wizard of Oz musical has been running on Broadway for a decade. There will also be two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, a new production of his 1978 musical Evita (Feb. 18-March 2, 2014), based on the show's successful 2012 Broadway revival; as well as another chance to see Lloyd Webber's phenomenal hit, The Phantom of the Opera (April 30-May, 11, 2014).

Proving that old movies never die — they just come back as musicals — two other productions booked for the season are the love story Ghost(Sept. 24-Oct. 6, 2013), based on the 1990 movie with Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg; and the romantic dramaFlashdance (Oct. 29-Nov. 10
), based on the 1983 film about a young woman welder who aspires to be a dancer. And if you're yearning for another story you've heard before — with more music than you mightremember — we'll also have a brief run of a holiday show, Dr. Seuss'How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (try singing that!) surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 27-Dec. 1).

Subscriptions go on sale today (Jan. 20) online, and starting Monday (Jan. 21) you can order at the Aronoff Center Box Office (650 Walnut Street, Downtown Cincinnati), online or by calling 800-294-1817. Subscriptions for six shows range between $179 and $611.  

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.18.2013
Posted In: Arts community, Visual Art, Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
a&c1_abigail1702_photo_clintonbphotography

Stage Door: Options Abound

An avalanche of theater heads our way next week — including the touring Broadway musical Memphis (not Million Dollar Quartet, as mistakenly published in last Sunday's Enquirer), the regional premiere of Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (not "Freud's Last Stand" as the same Enquirer piece labeled it — doesn't our daily paper employ copy editors and fact checkers?), the world premiere of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Abigail/1702 (in previews this weekend; read more here) and a concert staging of Lerner & Loewe's lovely musical Camelot at the Carnegie Center in Covington (with accompaniment by Mischa Santora and members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra). 

By the way, there's apparently such anticipation for Freud's Last Session, which features local actor Bruce Cromer, that tickets are selling out for some performances. As a result, even before the show opens on Jan. 23, ETC has extended the show's run by a week, to Feb. 16. Box office: 513-421-3555

If you haven't yet caught Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's staging of Richard II, you really should make a point of doing so. In my review, I pointed to Brent Vimtrup's multi-faceted performance. I'll add here that there are strong supporting performances from Jim Hopkins, Nick Rose and Giles Davies (this longtime CSC favorite is back in town for a few productions). This show isn't often produced (it's the first time for Cincy Shakes in its 19-year history), but this staging will make you wonder why. It's bursting with poetry, and there's lots to look at with beautiful 14th-century-styled costumes. An Acclaim Awards panel cited Vimtrup's performance as well as Andrew Hungerford's lighting design; I gave the production a Critic's Pick. Need any more encouragement? Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1

Elsewhere, you'll find a production of Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter by Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre. This is a chilly drama about a weird love triangle. It's a great piece for three young actors. Look for a review in the next issue of CityBeat. (Tickets: 513-939-0599) If you want something a little lighter, consider Moonlight and Magnolias at Mariemont Players, a very dependable community theater on Cincinnati's east side. The show is an amusing reconstruction of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans involved in writing the script for Gone with the Wind. It's told with a lot of slapstick that will have audiences laughing out loud. (513-684-1236)

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.11.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Photo: Rich Sofranki

Stage Door: Cincy Shakes Opens 2013

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is the first out of the chute with a new production in 2013. Of course, it's a 400-year-old play about a king from two centuries before that. But Shakespeare proved with his script for Richard II that there are universal traits that make us all human, even if we're a king who's supposedly given his powers directly from God.

Richard was thrust onto the throne while still a teenager, and in Shakespeare's version he's an adult but very uncertain of his right to rule and doubtful of his ability to do so. That kind of anxiety still makes sense in the 21st century. So CSC's first-ever staging of the show is something that should interest both to your average theatergoer as well as anyone looking to complete the experience of seeing every play the Bard penned. This one marks No. 37 of 38 for CSC; one more year and they'll have staged every one of Shakespeare's surviving works, quite an accomplishment. With a fine actor, Brent Vimtrup, playing Richard, and a script that's all poetry, this one promises to be both fascinating and satisfying.

More things start up next week and the one after that has a veritable avalanche of shows, so I suggest you hustle on downtown to Cincy Shakes venue and catch this one before you have too many choices. 

 
 
by Rick Pender 01.04.2013
Posted In: Theater, Visual Art at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
end days at etc - richard lowenburg as nelson - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door: New Year Edition

There's not much onstage locally yet as our theater companies prepare their first productions of 2013, so here's a tip for this weekend. WVXU's airing of Deborah Zoe Laufer's End Days on L.A. Theatre Works on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. (That's FM 91.7 if you're still using a radio or wvxu.org if you prefer to listen online.)

It's the story of a middle-American housewife who has found salvation and her rebellious teenage daughter who wants nothing to do with it. But when a bookish young suitor in an Elvis suit comes calling, the daughter experiences an unexpected revelation of her own. If you're a regular at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you will remember this show from a darkly funny production in March 2011. (Read my review here.)

And a further note of interest: A world premiere work by Laufer is headed our way in February at the Cincinnati Playhouse: It's called Leveling Up, a show about twentysomethings making the transition from college to a "real" life of video games in a Las Vegas basement. Laufer has a knack for catching the drift of contemporary culture, so tune in for End Days on Saturday and get ready for Leveling Up coming soon.

 
 

 

 

 
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