CityBeat Blogs - Arts http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-37.html <![CDATA[The Search for a "Holy Grail" Photo at a FotoFocus Show]]>

Brian Powers, the Cincinnati librarian who has done exhaustive work researching King Records history, thought he had found a “Holy Grail” photo — of the West End record store that Syd Nathan owned before starting King.

He knew it had been on Central Avenue, but didn’t know what it looked like.

It was in the Hebrew Union College/Skirball Museum FotoFocus-connected exhibit Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods, which features George Rosenthal’s photographs, taken in the late 1950s, of the West End before I-75 construction would dramatically alter it. Rosenthal’s photographs, owned by Cincinnati Museum Center, hadn’t been shown at least in 50 years, if ever.

Visiting on the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 22, Powers saw one Rosenthal photo of a Central Avenue record store at 1567 Central Ave. Just a small storefront with a homey screen-door, it had what looked like neon signs that announced “Records All Speeds” and then listed the choices: Spirituals, Classics, Pops, Rhythm-Blues, Bop, Hillbilly & Western.

You can also partially see some letters and the initials “CO” at the top of the signs. Some additional written information was on a window, and another sign offered television sets for $29. Nathan wouldn’t have still owned such a store in this time period — he started King in 1943 — but might it have carried on the same location, more or less unchanged, with someone else in charge?

Powers told Henry Rosenthal, the late George’s son, about his hunch. And in his opening remarks, Henry mentioned it. Henry was particularly proud because he owns the desk that James Brown kept at King Records’ headquarters in Evanston. “It’s my prize possession,” he said.

Among the Rosenthal family members at the opening, besides Henry, were Jean Rosenthal Bloch, George’s wife; daughter Julie Baker; George S. Rosenthal and Roger Baker, George’s grandsons; great-grandson Clay Baker, and cousin Ed Rosenthal. With several hundred in attendance, it was an important moment in recognizing Rosenthal’s work.

Alas, when Powers (who didn’t attend the reception) later started researching, he saw the record store in this photo wasn’t where Nathan’s was located.

“Syd’s shop was at 1351 Central Ave.,” he said via E-mail. “The shop in the photo is at 1567 Central. It was called Mo-F-A Co. It’s listed as a TV repair shop. It was owned by a guy named Ted Savage, who seemed to have lived there with his wife.

“It looks like Syd handed over his store to Ike Klayman around 1945 to 1946. I don’t see 1351 Central listed after 1949. It may have been torn down by then. It’s where Taft football field is now.”

Powers added that he has seen a photo of a record store owned by Klayman, but believes it is at a different location

So the search for a photo of Nathan’s record store goes on, but meanwhile this very evocative one is now — finally — available to be seen.

The exhibit, which looks at what life in Cincinnati was like in the West End and Downtown before much was torn down for controversial “urban renewal” from the 1960s to 1980s, both in terms of their architecture and the conditions of the poor, also features powerful photos by Daniel Ransohoff and Ben Rosen.

It is up through Dec. 21 at the Skirball and Jacob Rader Marcus Center on the HUC campus, 3010 Clifton Ave. Go here for details.

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<![CDATA[Lectures Highlight CAM's 'Eyes on the Street' Show]]>

Last night, British photographer Paul Graham presented his FotoFocus-sponsored lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum. Graham’s work is in two of FotoFocus’ featured exhibitions — the museum’s Eyes on the Street and the Stills show at Downtown’s Michael Lowe Gallery. Eyes on the Street is up until Jan. 4; Stills closes Nov. 1.

Graham’s work is related to but updates classic street photography in that, based on what he said last night, he seeks out subtle shots rather than what he calls “clichéd” or obviously dramatic images. He tries to build haiku-like, enigmatic visual sequences that in their small details cumulatively provide insight. (That said, he did show slides from a recent series that features rainbows.)

It’s a difficult task not always easily evident to the viewer, but he expressed his purpose eloquently last night and repeatedly mentioned those whose work inspired him — Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand. For those moved by his work, there’s a Where’s Waldo quality to “reading” the smallest details — the color of a tie or T-shirt, the positioning of a pedestrian on a street, the relationship of the camera angle to a storefront sign, the choices in focus.

This is particularly noticeable in his recent The Present series of New York street life, from which the Cincinnati-displayed photos come. “It’s the theater of the street, the theater of life coming at you,” he said. He also prefers that his framed prints be mounted on a gallery wall close to the floor, to approximate sidewalk level. But he acknowledged last night that the Stills show did not do that, and he enjoyed being able to see his photos at more normal eye level.

His The Present photos in Eyes on the Street capture the results of bold action or drama, a rarity for him, in that a woman has fallen on the sidewalk while others move toward her.

Meanwhile last night, the museum’s associate curator of photography, Brian Sholis, distributed announcements of two additional events connected to the current Eyes on the Street show: a Nov. 5 panel discussion at 7 p.m. about Eyes on the Street at Niehoff Urban Studio, University of Cincinnati, 2728 (Short) Vine St.; and a Nov. 19 conversation at 7 p.m. on “Art and Privacy” featuring Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and civil-rights lawyer Alphonse Gerhardstein. It’s at the museum’s Fath Auditorium.

Go here for more information.

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<![CDATA[Tyler Shields Returns to Cincinnati for Miller Gallery Show]]>

American photographer and firebrand Tyler Shields makes his return to Cincinnati for a Miller Gallery exhibition as part of the ongoing FotoFocus Biennial.

This is Shields’ second appearance at the Miller Gallery in conjunction with FotoFocus, first appearing in 2012 with Controlled Chaos. This year's exhibit – Provocateur — opens tonight and he’s been shooting in various locations locally throughout the week.

Of all the superlatives to describe Shields and his work, “provocateur” might be most suitable of all. He’s gained a level of notoriety for his past exhibits and photo shoots, including a 2011 exhibit that substituted paint for the fresh blood of 25 rich and famous celebrities.

Shields has successfully merged the world of art with celebrity, similar to fellow rebel-rouser Andy Warhol. He’s taken racy and playful photos of Lindsay Lohan, Kathy Griffin, Abigail Breslin and the entire cast of Revenge.

His work can also be seen as a companion to Jay Z and Kanye Wests’s Watch the Throne, using the medium of photography to exhibit grandeur, fame and the excesses of materialism. His works have seen the destruction of a $100,000 Hermès Birkin bag and the detonation of a vintage Rolls Royce — all in the name of art, of course.


His latest Cincinnati exhibit yet again pushes his subjects and the limits of what photography can be. His exhibit takes risks, but also presents the germination for pensive and reflective thought.

But of all the superlatives and excessive descriptors for his work, nothing beats seeing the real thing. Make sure Provocateur is a part of your 2014 FotoFocus experience.

The opening party takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at Miller Gallery (2715 Erie Ave., Hyde Park) and continues through Nov. 8. Go here for more information.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Safe House and Spooky Performances]]> Last night I was at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for the opening of Keith Josef Adkins' new play, Safe House, the 71st world premiere staged by our Tony Award-winning regional theater. (CityBeat feature story here.)

It's a fascinating piece that's about the little-known circumstances of "free people of color" in 19th-century America — not slaves but not exactly free. They're put into complex and stressful situations, personified here by a pair of very different brothers: Addison is a hardworking, aspiring entrepreneur, dreaming of become a cobbler with his own store, while younger brother Frank is impetuous and chafing at the restrictions imposed on them. The heat gets turned up when runaway slaves through their Northern Kentucky county need shelter and perhaps passage to Liberia, something their Aunt Dorcas has quietly supported. The story is based on Adkins' family history in this region, and it comes to life in this provocative drama. Through Nov. 15. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.

UC's College-Conservatory of Music only rarely gives more than one weekend to musical theater productions. This fall's privileged show is the very commercial Legally Blonde (a hit movie with Reese Witherspoon from 2001 that became a Broadway property in 2007). It's a genuinely entertaining show that actually has a meaningful message about living up to potential and not judging people by their exteriors. It also has a ton of dancing, so it's great news that this production is both being staged by veteran CCM choreographer Diane, who I profiled in my Curtain Call column this week. The production is happening at UC's Patricia Corbett Theater through Nov. 2. Tickets ($31-$35): 513-556-4183.

It's fairytale time at the Covedale Center with a production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. But proceed with caution: The first act takes more or less traditional stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and more, and mixes them into one happy stew. But in Act II, well, things aren't so "happily every after" when reality sets in. Big cast, great tunes, lots of humor — but some thoughtfulness, too. Through Nov. 16. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

The chance to see Bruce Cromer's one-man performance in An Iliad at Ensemble Theatre is an absolute must for anyone who's serious about theater. (CityBeat review here.) It's quite astonishing that one man can do so much and hold an audience's attention for 100 minutes in this retelling of the savagery of the Trojan War. It's all the more powerful because it's a condemnation of war across the ages. Don't miss this one. Through Nov. 2, and no chance that it will be extended, so call now for your tickets. Here's a tip, thanks to friendly relations with Know Theatre, just around the corner from ETC: Use the coupon code MOBY20 to get 20 percent off the price of two tickets for any remaining performances. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.

With Halloween just a week away, several theaters are offering shows that will make your heart pound. There's creepy ghost in Falcon Theatre's production of The Woman in Black ($17-$19, 513-479-6783), and the characters in Conor McPherson's The Birds are under attack in ways that don't bode to well for human interaction ($22-$36, 513-381-2273). (CityBeat review here.) And while it's not exactly a Halloween story, Moby Dick at Know Theatre has some scary oddballs and a gargantuan villain out to murder everyone, so that qualifies, too. (CityBeat review here.) It's onstage through Nov. 8 ($18; 513-300-5669).

This weekend is last call for I loved, I lost, I Made Spaghetti at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) Actress Antoinette LaVecchia spins some great stories about writer Giulia Melucci's bad taste in men, all the while making an aromatic Italian dinner — antipasti, wine, spaghetti Bolognese (homemade pasta and fresh sauce) — for a few lucky audience members. This is a totally charming show, great for weekend entertainment. Final performance is Sunday. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-2418-3888.

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[FAILE Mural Unveiled in Covington Tonight]]>

Covington’s collection of high-end street art expands today with the unveiling of a vibrant mural created by Brooklyn-based artists FAILE. The mural will cover the rear walls of the adjacent Republic Bank and Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Bridal buildings on the corners of Sixth Street and Madison Avenue.

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, collectively known as FAILE, create multimedia installations and collage, incorporating an experimental style and popular cultural references. Although FAILE has exhibited art in traditional gallery spaces, their work on city walls across the globe has put them on the innovative edge of the street art community. Amsterdam, New York, London, Bethlehem, Palestine and Vienna are just a few of the cities where FAILE’s work can be found.

The Covington collage-style mural was inspired by the artists’ “rip style painting.” It features classic FAILE motifs along with suggestions of Kentucky culture. The placement of the mural on two adjacent buildings allows the split images to visually converse with each other through space. The mural’s high contrast and dramatic aesthetic references FAILE’s inspiration from screen printing along with urban contemporary art. The humorous overtone of the mural’s imagery makes a strong visual connection to pop art and comic book illustrations.

Covington’s BLDG, a cooperative arts organization working to “foster inspiration, the visionary and the uncommon” will host the unveiling of the mural. BLDG nurtures creativity by providing branding, gallery space, publicity and refuge for artists and innovative thinkers. Their unique team brings internationally celebrated artists to the Covington area, placing the city on the list of artistically progressive areas. BLDGs projects have included collaborations with the London Police and Prefab77.

The unveiling will take place from 5-7 p.m. tonight at the mural site. Drinks and food will be provided by Rhinegeist, Arnolds, Tito’s Vodka and The Gruff (a pizza shop/deli coming soon to Covington). Go here for more info.

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<![CDATA[REVIEW: concert:nova's 'Gothic Halloween']]>

Before Anne Rice and Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe set the standard for gothic creepiness. He's the inspiration for Gothic Halloween, a terrific program of music and Poe's classic stories guaranteed to chill the blood temperatures to appropriate Halloween levels, performed with wicked glee by the adventurous ensemble concert:nova. It's an evening of music from the dark side seamlessly interwoven with equally scary stories and songs.

Performed on the stage of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of The Birds, it's the perfect setting for an evening of macabre and mayhem. Many of the musicians sported black capes but harpist Gillian Sella takes the prize —more on her later.

Bach's "Toccata" from the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" is a horror standard and that's what starts the evening, performed with gusto by local treasure, keyboardist Julie Spangler. It's so familiar that the opening three-note sequence evoked laughter, which was quickly silenced by Spangler's artistry. She makes the small electric keyboard resonate with the power of a cathedral instrument.

The "Psycho Suite" features three pieces from the classic film score by Bernard Herrmann, performed by a string sextet — Eric Bates (no relation to Norman), Gerald Itzkoff, Mari Thomas, Rebe Barnes, Margaret Dyer and Theodore Nelson. There were also a few chuckles which quickly subsided. Those screeching string swipes don't need film to convey the murder in the shower scene or the ominous mood at the Bates Motel.

Baritone Edward Nelson gave a powerful performance of Schubert's setting of German poet Heinrich Heine's "Die Doppelganger," a song about a frightening encounter with one's alter-ego. Spangler accompanied and segued into Part II of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Musica ricercata," ("Researched music"). Entitled "Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale," (Sad, rigid and ceremonial), the music is a series of repeated notes, restless and menacing.

Sections of Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1 accompany a reading of Poe's "The Cask of the Amontillado," performed by Jason Podplesky and Edward Nelson. Podplesky seemed uneasy at first, stumbling over mispronunciations, but he recovered to bring the story to its macabre finale. Nelson did a fine job as the hapless victim. He remained onstage, joined by a string quartet for a performance of Samuel Barber's setting of Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach." Nelson conveyed the longing, passion and terror with elegant tone and flawless diction. The string quartet delivered an appropriately moody reading.

The second half opened with violists Barnes and Dyer slinking out on stage to perform "Viola Zombie," Michael Daugherty's duet that's a mashup of horror themes and plucked strings. You gotta love a piece with movements entitled "Jerks of Rigor Mortis" and "Zombie revivus." Barnes and Dyer clearly do.

The evening closed with Poe's ultimate horror classic, "The Masque of the Red Death," read by Podplesky, accompanied by French composer Andre Caplet's  "Conte Fantastique: Masque of the Red Death" for string quartet and harp. In spite of a few mispronunciations here and there, Podplesky rendered the story with ghoulish delight. Caplet's score meshes fantasy and foreboding, and the harp glissandos add to the eerie atmosphere. Willowy harpist Gillian Sella nearly stole the show when she entered, garbed in a white satin cape and pointed hat.

c:n Artistic Director and clarinetist Ixi Chen doesn't perform in this concert but her creative mark is all over this terrific program.

You have one more opportunity to up your scare quotient on Monday evening, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. A party follows the performance. You go, ghouls. Tickets and more info here.

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<![CDATA[FotoFocus Talk Spotlights Lexington's Photographic Heritage]]>

If the assault of Mitch McConnell ads has you thinking Kentucky must be the most hopelessly unprogressive state ever, a FotoFocus Biennial-related lecture last Sunday provided another take on the Bluegrass State.

The speaker, who also presented slides, was the veteran Lexington photographer Guy Mendes, who with Carey Gough has the exhibition Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Kentucky Photographs at Over-the-Rhine’s Iris BookCafe, 1331 Main St., through Jan. 25. His presentation, organized by Iris’ photography curator William Messer, was at Mr. Pitiful’s bar, close to Iris.

Mendes, active in Kentucky arts, public television production and higher education since the late 1960s, has been collected by Ashley Judd, Willie Nelson, Maker’s Mark (he’s very proud of that) and the New Orleans and Cincinnati art museums, among others. At Mr. Pitiful’s, he made a compelling case for Lexington as a center for progressive creative thought — in photography, especially — that has had a broad influence on our times.

As a college town (University of Kentucky), Lexington maybe has been better known for its basketball than its radicalism, but Mendes made it seem like it could hold its own with Berkeley, Calif., Ann Arbor, Mich., or Madison, Wis., in any history of counter-cultural hotspots.

His presentation focused on a group he became part of in the late 1960s, the Lexington Camera Club, active from the 1950s to the early 1970s (and recently revived). While, like other camera clubs it attracted its share of hobbyists, it also had stalwart support from open-minded professionals with an experimentalist bent.

Mendes mentioned and showed slides of work from the Camera Club’s first golden era. The accomplishments of these now-deceased members was impressive — Van Deren Coke (who went on to become director of the George Eastman House); Robert May, who specialized in multiple exposures; James Baker Hall, a poet (and former state Poet Laureate) and photographer whose haunting series of images featuring collaged family photos may have been a way to deal with his mother’s suicide when he was a child.

One Camera Club photographer, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, has become recognized since his 1972 death as one of America’s most memorable — and spookiest. His black-and-white shots of children and adults wearing masks in strange settings are still unsettling.

Lexington was restive in the anti-Vietnam War days, and Mendes published an underground newspaper called Blue-Tail Fly and was involved in protests. And as he became friends with local writers Wendell Berry and Ed McClanahan, his literary and photographic worlds began to merge. (Both still are active today.)

In Mendes’ show at Iris, those two figures are in probably the two most striking photographs. One is a 2012 portrait of Berry, on a farm in Henry County, with his horses Nip and Jed grazing behind him. It’s sheer happenstance, but the horses’ placement is such as to create the illusion is that their heads extend from his shoulders. Messer refers to them as “horse angel wings,” and it’s a great tribute to Berry, an environmentalist as well as a writer. The photo gives the elderly man a heavenly glow.

McClanahan is involved in the weirdest photograph in the show — 1972’s “The Fabulous Little Enis & Go Go Girls of Boots Bar.” This photo (in a tarted-up version) accompanied McClanahan’s article about this colorful musician in Playboy. It depicts the left-handed, backwards-holding guitarist Little Enis and a chorus line of scantily clad women outside the bar.

The late Carlos Toadvine’s stage name “Enis,” Mendes told his audience, was a play on the nickname given to Elvis Presley as “Elvis the Pelvis” — you get the point. Mendes said Enis was a fabulous guitarist but the working-class Boots Bar was a tough place for scruffy, hippy-looking artists like McClanahan and himself in 1972. On their first visit there, McClanahan and Mendes, were greeted by a flying beer bottle. (On the Internet, there is a photo of long-haired college-age young men admiring Little Enis’ act, so maybe the bar got a little safer with time.)

The Iris show also features color photographs of Kentucky music-related sites by Gough, who considers Mendes a mentor.

Lexington’s impact on the arts is fascinating in other ways, too. The writer Bobbie Ann Mason attended UK, as did the great character actor Harry Dean Stanton. (There is now a film festival there in his honor.) Walter Tevis based his novel The Hustler on a pool hall there. Punk icon Richard Hell was born and raised there, as was Cincinnati artist/composer Jay Bolotin.

There must be something in the bluegrass. It’s captured in Mendes’ photographs.

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<![CDATA[New Art World Documentary has Strong Cincinnati Connection]]> Next Friday, the documentary Art and Craft is opening at the Mariemont Theater. It's the story of an art forger, Mark Landis, who gave his work away to museums and colleges.

He was exposed by Matthew Leininger, before the latter became a Cincinnati Art Museum registrar. While in Cincinnati, in 2012 Leininger and Aaron Cowan, curator of UC-DAAP galleries, organized an exhibit about Landis, which was covered in CityBeat at the time.

Landis even came to the opening. The film, which is being nationally distributed and has done good business elsewhere, uses footage and information from that show. So for the Cincinnati opening, Leininger and Cowan both will participate in an audience discussion after the 7:30 p.m. showings next Friday and Saturday (Oct. 24 and 25). This poster, with a certain Saul Bass-like suspense-movie vibe, has just been released.

Watch for a full article in next week's CityBeat by Movie Critic tt stern-ezi.
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<![CDATA[Two FotoFocus Shows Not to Miss]]> Hard to believe, but we’re halfway through October, the main month of the FotoFocus Biennial. (Some FotoFocus-related shows run longer.)

So this weekend is really a great time to get out and see some of the shows — fotofocusbiennial.org has a full list. Find CityBeat's full FotoFocus preview here.

Two that I highly recommend, and that I’m afraid might be overlooked because of bigger museum shows, are Emily Hanako Momohara’s Heirloom — at Downtown’s Weston Art Gallery — and David Benjamin Sherry’s Western Romance at a temporary space at 1500 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine. Momohara’s show is up through Nov. 30 but Sherry’s ends Nov. 1.

Both use color wonderfully to make you focus on objects and/or landscapes close-up — so close-up they have a transporting, transcendent effect if you can spend enough time with them.

Sherry, an L.A. artist recently featured on The New York Times Magazine’s cover, uses color in a psychedelic way, achieving the effect he wants during processing. It gives his Western mountain and desert landscapes a glaze — a “purple haze,” in the case of “Putting Grapes Back on the Vine” — that turns physical geography into a state of mind. There are also in the show black-and-white prints by masters of Western photography — Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins — to acknowledge Sherry’s debt and also proclaim a change.

Momohara, who taught photography at the Art Academy of Cincinnati but now is relocating to China, is using Heirloom to explore ideas about her Okinawan and Japanese ancestry. These distinctive still photographs and photograph-like videos isolate and deeply contemplate objects related to or inspired by that.

The vertically formatted pieces — like the fantastic “Gathering” video, which looks at luminescent, open-mouthed koi as they crowd around the water’s surface — seem to be moving forward a grand narrative, like scrollwork. And the more horizontal pieces, like “Mask #1,” revel in mystery through the way illuminated objects occupy space in an otherwise dark ground.

To me, these two shows are among FotoFocus’ very best — and I especially hope Momohara returns at some point with something much more extensive.

 

 

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: An Iliad, Varekai, and Other Items of Note]]> On Wednesday evening I attended one of the most remarkable solo performances I've ever seen: Bruce Cromer starring in An Iliad at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati.  Based on Homer's epic poem about the Trojan War, the poetic but dynamic script calls on one actor to play a dozen or so characters. Cromer does everyone of them (sometimes interacting with one another) with both imagination and detail. But mostly he's "The Poet," trapped by his role to tell this story — and the story of war in general — for nearly three millennia. He lets us see the attraction of glory and the devastation of senseless combat often for trivial reasons (the stealing of one man's wife by another lit the fuse on the Siege of Troy). The play is a condemnation of war and an acknowledgement of its inevitability. But it's also a celebration of theater, and Cromer is an absolute marvel to watch: After 100 minutes (no intermission) he's dripping with sweat from the effort and bowing to a genuine standing ovation. This is a production that no theater fan should miss. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555

There's a Cirque du Soleil show, Varekai, at the Bank of Kentucky Center at Northern Kentucky University. Like most, it's light on content and high on entertainment: A winged man falls from the rafters into a magical world where he recovers, witnessing the delights of strange creatures — who also happen to be marvelous performers: tumblers, aerial artists, jugglers and acrobats. As always, there's a pair of clowns who have fun with a few audience members. I didn't find Varekai (it's a Gypsy word that means "wherever") quite as breathtaking as some of the Cirque shows I've witnessed, but that's a relative remark, not a judgment on this production. The "Russian Swings" just before the finale feature acrobats hurled high into the air by massive swings, landing in the arms of others or on canvas sails. (Don't try this at home.) Varekai is a great escape and totally family friendly. Final performance is Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets ($28-$145): 800-745-3000

For a quick taste of Know Theatre's Moby Dick, check out this trailer: http://youtu.be/QMbqos66s0s. There's singing of sea shanties, hoisting of sails and a tremendous battle with the Great White Whale. I'm hoping that this ambitious production gets its sea legs soon: It felt a bit wobbly during the opening week. But Herman Melville's classic American novel has life breathed into it by a cast of eight hardworking actors. Onstage through Nov. 8. Tickets ($18, but performances on Wednesdays are free): 513-300-3669

Other items of note: On Monday evening, Know Theatre hosts the quarterly presentation of TRUEtheatre, real stories told by everyday people; this time around it's True Hair. … The following night at KNow, Cincinnati Fringe favorite Kevin Thornton is back in town to present another of his one-man shows of music and comedy, this one is called Talky Concert Thingy. He's a load of unpredictable talent, always watchable. … Falcon Theatre (they perform at the Monmouth Theatre in Newport) this weekend opens a production of the classic thriller, The Woman in Black. It's a good scare for the Halloween season. Tickets: 513-479-6783 … Children's Theatre of Cincinnati is offering public performances of Disney's Beauty and the Beast JR. at the Taft this weekend (and Saturday, Oct. 25). Tickets ($7-$25): 800-745-3000
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<![CDATA[Comic Musical Duo Igudesman & Joo Performs at SCPA Tonight]]>

Comic musical duo Igudesman & Joo performs at the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ Mayerson Theater tonight, presented by the Constella Festival. Korean-British pianist Richard Hyung-ki Joo and Russian violinist Aleksey Igudesman mix Classical music with other popular genres and humor for a wholly entertaining performance. Check out this popular performance (which has more than 7 million YouTube views):

    

CityBeat writer Anne Arenstein spoke to Joo about the duo's unique spin on performing the classics.

It was hate at first sight when Igudesman and Joo met. There’s a hilarious account of what brought them together on their website, but according to Joo, the moment of truth came a couple of months later. 

“We shared the notion that the Classical music world which we loved so much was taking itself way too seriously,” Joo says. “Going to concerts was like going to a funeral.”

“We were young and we didn’t know much but we knew Classical music was full of life,” he continues. “Through our own projects and the music we wrote, we could at least create events that we would want to go to.”

Go here to read the full interview.

"An Evening with Igudesman and Joo" takes place at 8 p.m. tonight at SCPA’s Mayerson Theater, 108 W. Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine. More information and tickets: 513-549-7175 or constellafestival.org.

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<![CDATA[FotoFocus' Sharp, Smart Programming at Memorial Hall]]>

The centerpiece of the FotoFocus Biennial’s programming was its five days of events at Memorial Hall — films, panel discussions, lectures and a Saturday-night performance of This Filthy World by John Waters.

As the Wednesday-Sunday events coincided with other key FotoFocus events — the excellent Screenings exhibit of short art films curated by the biennial’s artistic director, Kevin Moore, was at Lightborne Studios during the same period — it was hard to attend everything.

But what I did attend was really rewarding — thought-provoking discussions about photography that centered on ideas and thus were of interest to everyone. In fact, that’s a point I think needs to be made about FotoFocus as it seeks to grow its following: It isn’t a narrow-focused event for photography professionals; it’s for anyone who likes the visual arts. That should be everyone.

Here are some of the highlights of what I was able to attend:

A panel discussion on FotoFocus’ Vivian Maier: A Quiet Pursuit exhibition, about the secretive Chicago street photographer whose work has only recently been discovered since her death. One guest was Howard Greenberg, the New York fine-art photography dealer who represents John Maloof, the Chicago owner of much of Maier’s archives of unpublished work. Regarding a current dispute with another party over who has the right to print and sell her work, Greenberg said he and Maloof were close to an agreement with the city of Chicago-appointed attorney for the Maier estate to let sales of prints resume while the dispute proceeds, since the income would benefit the estate.

A conversation with photographer Elena Dorfman, whose recent Empire Falling project documented old Rust Belt quarries but then manipulated the images into something slightly ethereal, offered stimulating ideas about how post-industrial ruins have become melancholy pilgrimage sites — accidental earthworks to rival “Spiral Jetty” or “Lightning Field.”

Friday night’s keynote lecture on “Shadow and Substance: Photography and the Civil War,” by Jeff L. Rosenheim of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was fantastically involving. He was an engaged and engaging speaker. For instance, he explained why there are so few actual photographs of battles – with both sides blasting away, sometimes imprecisely, at each other on battlefields, few photographers wanted to set up their cumbersome equipment along the dangerous sides to capture the action. But once a battle was over, it wasn’t so difficult to document the bodies on the ground.

A panel discussion on the growth of Instagram, tied to a FotoFocus-sponsored “Fotogram” project for which Instagram photos were fed into a screen at the temporary ArtHub structure in Washington Park, had food for thought. Jose Garcia, the ArtHub’s architect, somewhat jokingly characterized Instagram selfies as “a cry for help.” And Nion McEvoy, chairman and CEO of San Francisco’s Chronicle Books, observed that new technology — with its emphasis on swiftly delivered virtual transmissions rather than carefully crafted physical objects — has been met with a healthy, growing counter-movement encompassing vinyl records, locavore-oriented slow foods, letterpress printing and more. And, he said, Chronicle Books’ main business is still print.

John Waters drew a big crowd to Memorial Hall — FotoFocus had sold 200 more passes than seats (a pass was good for all Memorial Hall events, not just Waters) and was worried. Fortunately, not every passholder came to his Saturday night show — there were some empty seats on the sides. His show lived up to its This Filthy World title, as he joked about seemingly every sex act known to the human race (and maybe some known only to aliens).

But he also made humorous references to artists — he’s an art connoisseur — and some of his political observations had the kind of shocking in-your-face bite reminiscent of Lenny Bruce. For instance, on abortion, he said (and I paraphrase a little, since I didn’t take notes), “If you’re not going to love your child, don’t have him. I don’t want him to grow up to kill me."

Afterwards, he signed objects for fans and then joined a small group of FotoFocus organizers, supporters and guests for a late dinner on the Memorial Hall stage. As fate would have it, he sat next to me. Charming man.

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<![CDATA[Some of the Best Films in Town Are at FotoFocus’ Screenings]]> Since they’re not playing at a multiplex, or even an indie theater like the Esquire, you might easily overlook some of the best films in town right now. They’re in FotoFocus’ Screenings program, curated by its artistic director Kevin Moore and showing at Lightborne Studio, 212 E. 14th St. in Over-the-Rhine 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today through Sunday.

This is basically a program of shorts presented in a comfortably spacious room (usually a studio) fitted with big sofas. But two hour-long (approximately) films are continuously alternating in a smaller second room, also decked out with sofas. The one I saw on Thursday, Rainer Ganahl’s 2013 El MundoA Classical Music Concert, was a transfixing achievement both film and music. It’s really worth seeking out.

The filmed, staged concert takes place in a Spanish Harlem discount store going out of business – everything is drastically on sale and looks picked-over, as if waiting for a dumpster to clear it out. Previously, the building was a theater and you can see traces of its former-life ornamentation.

The heat must have been turned off for this event. The concertgoers Ganahl has brought to the place are dressed warmly – one woman looks ready to explore the Arctic at intermission.

In the middle of this stuff there is a grand piano. There, during the course of the film, two pianists play – one an accompanist and another a sublime soloist. There is also a young violinist (Rachel Koblyakov) and two operatic singers. The most spectacular presence is the older diva Ok-Cha Lim, wearing the reddest possible formal dress with a red wrap around her shoulders and wrists. She dramatically sings arias from Madame Butterfly and Tosca.

The film is split-screen, so you watch the performers do their pieces on one side while another camera wanders around the crowd and the store itself, stopping to inspect the goods. It’s an intimate enough space you can see the crew moving in and out of the frames. You can’t help but think about how, on one hand, capitalism churns out so much disposable stuff while on the other hand art produces timeless beauty. Or, how art can enrich any environment.

For more information, visit www.fotofocusbiennial.org.
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: A Whale, Two Brothers and a Beast]]> Know Theatre sets sail this weekend with tonight's opening of Moby Dick. It's Herman Melville's great American novel stripped down to its bare essentials of men at sea doing battle with a creature that maimed their obsessive captain. It's Know's first main stage show staged by new artistic director Andrew Hungerford, who's teamed with co-director Michael Burnham, retired from CCM but no doubt as inventive as ever in bringing unusual material to audiences. Featuring the haunting music of sea shanties and a stage full of theatricality, it being performed through Nov. 8. Tickets ($20 in advance): 513-300-5669. And here's a tip: Wednesday evening performances are free as part of Know's "Welcome Experiment," intended to bring new audiences to its Over-the-Rhine facility.

UC's College-Conservatory of Music is presenting Willy Russell's powerful British musical Blood Brothers today and tomorrow in the Cohen Family StudioTheater. Set in 1950s Liverpool, it's about a woman with too many children who is talked into giving up one of a pair of newborn fraternal twins. Despite her efforts and those of the unstable woman who wanted a baby, the boys meet and become not just friends but "blood brothers." They don't know their history, they simply feel drawn to one another. That leads to a tragic, perhaps inevitable, confrontation. But there is humor and an energetic Pop Rock score along the way. Hannah Kornfeld is heartbreaking as the conflicted mother; Thomas Knapp and Karl Amundson turn in heart-breaking performances as the ill-fated boys, from age 7 to 22. This weekend only; the final performance is Saturday evening at 8 p.m. Tickets are free but need to be reserved (513-556-4183); call in advance — performances are often sold out.

Perhaps you'd like to take a kid or two to see a show. The Cincinnati Playhouse's "Off the Hill" production, Roses & Thorns, based on "Beauty and the Beast," would be a fine choice. It's a touring production for kids ages 7 and up, and it's making its way to various neighborhoods over the next month or so (through Nov. 2). I attended a preview recently and found it thoroughly enjoyable. It's a sweet retelling of the familiar story whose love and devotion saves her family and breaks a curse on a monstrous beast who's really a handsome prince. The show uses clever props and costumes, slapstick, satire and high camp styles; its four actors are professionals in training, and their work, playing multiple characters and making quick changes, is great fun to watch. This weekend it's onstage at the Lebanon Theatre Company (10 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon) on Sunday at 2 p.m. Check the Playhouse's website for future performances around the Tristate. Tickets in Lebanon are $5: 513-228-0932

If you missed Kevin Crowley's one-woman show Sarge during the Cincinnati Fringe Festival last June, it's getting a reprise this weekend and next (it's onstage tonight through Oct. 20). Christine Dye's performance as the devoted but deluded wife of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, found guilty of molesting young boys, won the Critics Pick of the Fringe. Dye is remarkable in three monologues that reveal the mind of a woman who cannot accept her husband's true nature. It's being presented in a double bill with another short script by local actor and playwright Crowley, The Monkey's Paw, a dark comedy about a couple struggling with the anxieties of early parenthood. Performances at Clifton Performance Theater, 404 Ludlow Avenue. Tickets ($25): 513-861-7469

I gave Critic's Picks in CityBeat recently to two excellent productions recently, and they remain onstage this weekend. I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a one-woman piece about cooking and relationships (charming actress Antoinette LaVecchia prepares an Italian dinner while describing her bad luck with men). Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888 … The Little Dog Laughed finishes its run this weekend at New Edgecliff Theater at Hoffner Hall (4120 Hamilton, Ave., Northside. It's the story of a gay actor whose agent is trying to keep him from ruining his career by being public about his persuasion. It's surprising how a play from 2007 could present anxieties about something that today is much more accepted, but this production is great fun to watch thanks to four fine actors, especially Kemper Florin as the motor-mouthed, scheming agent. Tickets: ($20-$27): 888-428-7311
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<![CDATA[Key FotoFocus Events Begin Today]]>

Today starts the key stretch of FotoFocus Biennial activities at Memorial Hall, which begin at 8 p.m. with Triumph of the Wild, a show of animated firms by Martha Colburn accompanied by music from Thollem McDonas, Tatiana Berman and the four-person Constella Ensemble.

On Thursday, programming at Memorial Hall turns to the theme of Photography in Dialogue. At 1 p.m., the film Gerhard Richter Painting will be screened followed by a response from Anne Lindberg. At 3:30 p.m., FotoFocus Artistic Director Kevin Moore and Contemporary Arts Center Director Raphaela Platow will discuss the FotoFocus show at CAC, The One-Eyed Thief: Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs. And at 5 p.m., there will be a forum on another FotoFocus-sponsored show, Vivian Maier: A Quiet Pursuit.

On Friday, Memorial Hall activities center on Landscapes. At 1 p.m., the film Somewhere to Disappear, With Alec Soth screens, followed by a response from Matthew Porter. At 3 p.m. is a conversation with photographer Elena Dorfman and 21c Museum Hotel curator Alice Gray Stites. At 4:30, photographer David Benjamin Sherry — the subject of a FotoFocus show — will be in conversation with Elizabeth Siegel. And at 6 p.m., Jeff L. Rosenheim, photography curator at Metropolitan Museum, lectures on "Shadow and Substance: Photography and the American Civil War."

On Saturday, the subject is Urbanscapes and events get underway at 1 p.m. with the film Bill Cunningham New York, followed by a response from Ivan Shaw. At 3:30 is a forum on street photography with three curators — Moore, CAC's Steven Matijcio and Cincinnati Art Museum's Brian Sholis. At 5 p.m. comes a discussion on the Fotogram project at the ArtHub, which opens today in Washington Park. Participants include its architect, Jose Garcia. And the big event gets underway at 8 p.m., when John Waters presents This Filthy World.

Sunday offers three forums, starting at 1 p.m. when Jordan Tate and Aaron Cowan discuss the FotoFocus show Inpout/Output with artist Rachel de Joode. At 2:30 p.m. is a conversation with Fred and Ruth Bidwell on Bidwell Projects and Tate's Transformer Station, Cleveland art project. At 3:30 p.m., there is talk about film with Moore, Colburn and Kristen Erwin Schlotman.

Attendance at Memorial Hall events requires a passport ticket, which cost either $25 or $75, depending on benefits ($15 for students), and are available at www.fotofocusbiennial.org.]]>
<![CDATA[Such + Such Recognized in West Elm Small Business Contest]]>

Cincinnati-based design company Such + Such has been selected as one of 20 finalists for popular home furnishing retailer West Elm’s national “We Love Local Small Businesses Grant” contest. The grand prize winner will receive $25,000 and mentorship from West Elm while three runners-up will have their products featured in West Elm stores during the upcoming holiday season.

“The fact that we were chosen to move forward in this competition has blown us away,” said Alex Aeschbury, co-founder of Such + Such, in a press release. “We couldn't have gotten here without the support of Cincinnati, and it’s fitting that Cincinnati will help take our brand to the next level.” Such + Such’s founders Aeschbury and Zach Darmanian-Harris, former students at University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, have provided design and fabrication services for a variety of clients nationwide, as well as some of Cincinnati’s local favorites Neon’s Unplugged, Sloane Boutique and the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Coinciding with the contest, Such + Such in August launched a product line featuring hand-crafted furniture and home decor pieces including coffee tables, stools and wall clocks. All of the pieces from this inaugural line are sustainably made from naturally felled ash wood locally sourced from the Ohio Valley.

Such + Such joins 19 other small companies from around the U.S. whose creations include pottery, hand-dyed textiles, organic soap and skincare and handmade novelty goods. These finalists will be judged based on online votes, originality, design, story, commitment to local production and depth of product assortment. Public voting is open through Oct 14, and can be done here. The winners will be announced Nov 19.

There will be a voting party hosted by PB&J, a local PR and design firm that merged with Such + Such in 2013. The party will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. tonight at the PB&J offices at 1417 Main St. 1A in Over-the-Rhine. Rhinegeist Brewery will be providing refreshments.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Spaghetti, Macbeth and More]]> Last night I was at the Cincinnati Playhouse for the opening of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, a charming one-woman play based on Giulia Melucci's foodie memoir from 2009. The frame of the show is that it's set in a stylish kitchen where actress Antoinette LaVecchia prepares a meal while sketching out her numerous disconnects in search of love, feeding boyfriends but finding herself starving. Four couples pay a bit more ($35 apiece beyond the ticket price) to sit at tables directly in front of her kitchen where she serves antipasti, salad and spaghetti Bolognese that she prepares as she talks about a series of amusing but unpromising relationships, convincingly painting portraits of her ill-fated choice in men. La Vecchia is so natural in the role (which she originated in 2012 and has played at several regional theaters since then) that you'll feel like you're one of her best friends. Running through Oct. 26, this Shelterhouse production gets a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888

I also thoroughly enjoyed New Edgecliff Theatre's production of The Little Dog Laughed (at Hoffner Hall, 4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). The four-actor comedy by Douglas Carter Beane is about Diane, an acerbic agent, and Mitch, the actor whose career she's advancing. He's found a boyfriend he really likes (even though boyfriend is a male prostitute with a girlfriend), but she's convinced that this news could ruin his chances … and hers. Kemper Florin is a hoot as the motor-mouthed agent, spouting all sorts of crazy theories about how things should be in monologues that directly address the audience. The entire cast does a fine job, and I gave this one a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($20-$27): 888-428-7311


Area universities have two classics to offer. At UC's College-Conservatory of Music in a brief weekend run (through Sunday) it's Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth. In an unusual twist, the production features third-year female drama student Laura McCarthy as the power-mad military man who seizes the throne of Scotland. Tickets ($27-$31): 513-556-4183 … South of the Ohio River, Northern Kentucky University presents Euripides' The Bacchae, a play first performed in 405 B.C. The tale of power, revenge, decadence and debauchery takes place in Thebes, where citizens are torn between worship of the god Dionysus and the centrality of reason and humanism. Sunday will be the conclusion of a two-week run of the production. Tickets ($14): 859-572-5464

The musical Dirty Dancing, based on a hit movie from 1987 about young love at a family resort in the Catskills, wraps up two weeks of performance at the Aronoff Center. The touring production, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Sunday, features some dazzling video and lots of dancing. The story is pretty predictable, but it's one that people love. "Don't put Baby in the corner." Tickets ($39-$89): 513-621-2787]]>
<![CDATA[Stage Door: Dirty Dancing, Laughing Dogs and More]]> To see some of Cincinnati's finest actors working together in close quarters, check out Clifton Players' production of Kevin Crowley's new play The Riverside, onstage through Saturday at Clifton Performance Theatre (located just west of the Clifton/Ludlow business district at 404 Ludlow). It's 1989 and the denizens of a fictional bar in a very real Mt. Adams are riled up over Pete Rose's battle with the baseball commissioner gambling problems as well as the imminent closing of the family-owner bar where they all hang out. Although a few of the characters are rather caricatured, it's evident that Crowley is a close observer of everyday people. They drink and fight, love and cheat. And they have their passions, feelings that bubble up and over. The theater is a small space with seating for just a few dozen, but that's part of the fun — you feel like you're one of the regulars at the Riverside. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato/com/buy

I caught a performance of Dirty Dancing, a musical based on the iconic 1987 movie about sensual dancing and the intermingling of guests and staff at a posh resort in the Catskills in 1963. This touring show is presented by Broadway in Cincinnati at the Aronoff Center, even though it has yet to land on Broadway. It uses a lot of creative video and projections, a constant reminder that its roots are cinematic. But it has an ensemble of vigorous dancers, especially Jillian Mueller as idealistic Frances "Baby" Houseman, who's eager to grow up, and Samuel Pergande as bad-boy dance instructor Johnny Castle. There's also Jenny Winton, whose dancing is especially watchable as the very sexy Penny Johnson. This is a dance show from start to finish, using familiar Pop tunes from the '60s plus a lot of sambas and rumbas. I realized as the performance  was winding up that the central characters never sang — not once. Mueller and Pergande look great as they recreate the iconic movie roles created by Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze, but virtually all the singing is handled by ensemble members Doug Carpenter and Jennlee Shallow — powerful vocalists who handle a number of singing styles, but who especially elevate the temperature with the show's best-known numbers, including "The Time of My Life." Don't go expecting great acting beyond the leads: Most of the rest of the roles range from shallow to silly. But trust me, you'll be surrounded by people who know and love this story, and they're having a good time, waiting until the moment when Johnny shouts, "Don't put Baby in the corner!" Through Oct. 5. Tickets: $39-$89: 513-621-2787

New Edgecliff Theatre has finally found a new home, Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside), after a season at the Aronoff. NET's first production at the former St. Patrick's church will be Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, a very funny four-character comedy from 2006 about a Hollywood star, his controlling agent, his boyfriend and the boyfriend's girlfriend. Yes, it's that complicated, and that's the source of much of the humor as the agent tries to keep the lid on the gossip about her star client. Through Oct. 11. Tickets ($20-$27): 888-428-7311

A couple of well-received shows are still running, including Tennessee Williams' classic drama A Streetcar Named Desire at the Covedale Center (through Oct. 5; tickets: 513-241-6550), a stage version of The Great Gatsby at Cincinnati Shakespeare (through Oct. 4; tickets 513-381-2273), and a fast-paced mystery, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club, at the Cincinnati Playhouse (through Oct. 4; tickets: 513-421-3888). Finally, this weekend is your last chance to see Showbiz Players' staging of the tongue-in-cheek musical Reefer Madness, about the "dangers" of marijuana, at the Carnegie in Covington. Tickets ($19.50-$22.50): 859-957-1940. ]]>
<![CDATA[Stage Door: Riverside, Reefer and Sondheim]]>

There are several good productions onstage around town — check out CityBeat coverage of Hands on a Hardbody (a musical at ETC), The Great Gatsby (a classic American novel adapted for the stage at Cincy Shakes), Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club (a new adventure for the great detective at the Cincinnati Playhouse) and Tennessee Williams' prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire (at the Covedale) — but if you've seen those, you have other choices for onstage entertainment. Here are three suggestions for shows a little more off the beaten path:

Local actor/director/writer Kevin Crowley has written a play called The Riverside, rooted in Cincinnati (Crowley is a member of a family that's lived locally for generations) and getting a production — he's directing it, too — at Clifton Performance Theatre, just west of the Clifton/Ludlow business district (404 Ludlow). It's set in an imaginary (or rather an imagined) bar called the Riverside, where a bunch of folks in 1989 are following the Pete Rose case about gambling that eventually got him banned from baseball. But there's a lot more happening — like protests in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In CPT's tiny space is filled up with a lot of talent — Michael Shooner, Daniel Britt, Buz Davis, Mike Dennis, Mindy Heithaus, Reggie Willis, Mark Bowen, MaryKate Moran, Gary McGurk, Pete Wood, Cathy Springfield and Paul Morris — playing folks who hang out and argue about what's going on. I haven't caught this one yet, but everyone who has says it's worth seeing. Through Sept. 27. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato/com/buy

Community theater company Showbiz Players is staging the musical Reefer Madness at the Carnegie in Covington. It opens tonight (and runs through Sept. 28). This tongue-in-cheek show was inspired by a very serious film from 1936 designed to inspire fear and loathing when clean-cut kids fall prey to marijuana. The producers "warn" that it contains adult humor, religious parody and drug use — and note that it will go "straight to your head." Should be a lot of fun for those mature enough to get the jokes ... Tickets ($19.50-$22.50): 859-957-1940

Side by Side by Sondheim was the first musical revue created using songs by the guy who wrote the music and lyrics for shows including Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Gypsy and A Little Night Music. That was in 1976 in London, but the tunes are just as fresh and vibrant today as they were nearly four decades ago. Middletown Lyric Theatre is presenting this collection of 25 numbers for two weekends (tonight and tomorrow, as well as Sept. 26-27) — using seven singers and two pianists. Tickets ($15): 513-425-7140
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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Sherlock Holmes & More]]>

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club opened last night at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It's a new adventure for the Victorian sleuth. How can that be, you might ask, if you're a Sherlock fan — this isn't a familiar title. That's because playwright Jeffrey Hatcher picked up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's memorable detective, a master of deductive observation, and plugged him into a tale of mystery and intrigue conceived by Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1878. No spoilers here, but I will tell you that the plot of this show requires closely following a complex tale of both personal and political intrigue. Hatcher has set the story in 1914, on the brink of the first World War, and the state of international relations in Europe is woven into the tale. But there's nothing dry about this story, and Steven Hauck's performance as Sherlock is very satisfying: He brings a quirky physicality as well as a sharp wit to the character that makes him very engaging. Fans of Sherlock will not be disappointed by this show. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.

 

I attended the opening of The Great Gatsby at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company last week. In my review, I said, "the production gets the story and the era right," and I added that CSC's Justin McCombs "perfectly embodies" Nick Carraway, the honest narrator of this Jazz Age tale of nouveau riche Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the one-time debutante who obsesses him. There's lots to like about this production, which captures the essence of lavish parties and the fast life of the Roaring Twenties. Cincy Shakes is committed to bringing classic literary works to the stage, and this production is a good example of how they get it done. Simon Levy's script hews close to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1924 novel, and the company's actors bring life to the characters. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.

 

Everyone I've talked to about Hands on a Hardbody at Ensemble Theatre has been enthusiastic about the show that brings to life a contest to win a Nissan pickup truck by keeping one hand on it the longest. It's a true story (it was a 1997 documentary) and these feel like real people, down on their luck but dreaming what a difference that winning could make. The music is by Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green, and the script was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright. ETC has staged memorable productions of his play I Am My Own Wife and his musical, Grey Gardens. But the real attraction is an excellent cast who make you believe in these people, struggling to stay away and outlast one another under the brutal sun beating down on the Texas parking lot of a Nissan dealership. It's a fine entertainment. Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.

 

Just opened at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is a production of Tennessee Williams's great American play, A Streetcar Named Desire. It's about a woman who's down on her luck but unwilling to admit it. When genteel Blanche DuBois moves with her pragmatic sister and her brutal, blue-collar husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a rude awakening that goes downhill fast. Through Oct. 5. Tickets ($-$): 513-241-6550.

 

If you've become a fan of shows in the intimate Clifton Performance Theatre, you might want to check out The Riverside, a play written and directed by local theater artist Kevin Crowley. It's a story set in a Cincinnati bar in 1989 as locals follow the saga of Pete Rose's demise in baseball, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square. But the bar itself is changing, too, impacting the lives of the family that owns it as well as its patrons.

Through Sept. 27. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato.com/buy/.

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