by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:02 AM | Permalink
You really can't go wrong with a show at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. I gave both productions Critic's Picks. The North Pool, on the Shelterhouse stage through June 1,
is a taut dialogue between a suspicious high school vice principal and a
wary student of Middle Eastern descent. (CityBeat review here.) It takes a while (the show is
about 90 minutes, played in real time) to decide who's the good guy and
who's the bad guy, and you'll be turned around several times in the
process. Excellent acting and a fine script by Ohio native (and Miami
University grad) Rajiv Joseph makes this an excellent theatrical
experience. On the Playhouse's Marx Stage, it's the final weekend for
another kind of cat-and-mouse game. Venus in Fur is all
about sexual tension, between an imperious playwright/director and the
woman who's auditioning for a role in a play he's adapted from an erotic
novel. (CityBeat review here.) David Ives' witty and allusive script (it's literary and
mythical in some most amusing ways) is being produced at theaters from
coast-to-coast, but I can't imagine there's a finer production than this
one anywhere. Tickets: ($30-$75) 513-421-3888.
At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, you still have two weeks to catch a rare production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The play is rarely staged (perhaps with good reason: it's not one of
Shakespeare's best), but Cincy Shakes' rendition is noteworthy because
it's the final work to complete their endeavor of staging all 38 of the
Bard's works. (More on that feat here; CityBeat review of The Two Noble Kinsmen here.) It's a feat accomplished by just a handful of theaters
worldwide, and it's your chance to check this one off your bucket list.
Through May 25. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.
Falcon theater, which produces shows in the tiny Monmouth Theater in Newport, Ky., opens Bat Boy the Musical
tonight. It's a show that was lifted from the headlines of the Weekly
World News (yes, found in the finest grocery store check-out lines)
about a strange creature found in a cave in West Virginia. Of course
it's crazy, but the show is actually a really entertaining piece about
acceptance and community. Three weekends, through May 31. Tickets ($17-$20): 513-479-6783
If you missed The Irish Curse
presented by Clifton Players at the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre on
Ludlow Avenue back in February and March, they've brought it back for a
couple of weekends, this being the second of two. It's an amusing adult
comedy about a bunch of guys fretting over the size of their
"equipment." Tickets can be ordered online (brownpapertickets.com) or purchased at the door (but be aware: it's a small venue that quickly sells out).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:59 AM | Permalink
February is Black History Month, a period when the arts traditionally wake up and pay attention to African-American stories and artists.
I'm always a bit troubled by this segmenting, so I want to commend both
the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati
for presenting two fine productions of shows featuring African Americans
in engaging stories — in the middle of March. They represent two of this weekend's best choices.
At ETC, Black Pearl Sings! features two outstanding local actresses. Annie Fitzpatrick plays Susannah Mullally, a folk music researcher in the 1930s; Torie Wiggins is Alberta "Pearl" Johnson, a prisoner (for a violent but probably justified
crime) who has a remarkable recollection of songs she learned as a
child from her family. They form an uneasy alliance that turns into a
guarded friendship, and Fitzpatrick and Wiggins have a delightful
interplay and chemistry. I heard that this might be the 40th production
Fitzpatrick has done at ETC; she's a versatile actress, and she convincingly creates the uptight but driven Susannah. Wiggins, who graduated from the drama program at CCM, earns her Equity card on this production: Chronologically, she's probably a tad young for the role, but she so wholly embodies Pearl's feisty character that it makes no difference. Hers is a tour-de-force rendition, musically and theatrically. This one is a definite must-see. Box office: 513-421-3555.
Let's give the Playhouse — and new artistic director Blake Robison — props for finally getting around to staging a show by Horton Foote, who died in 2009 at the age of 92. He was a prolific dramatist and screenwriter (he wrote screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies) for years, and his play A Trip to Bountiful is a lovely, emotional paean to the notion that "there's no place like home." Foote wrote the play about an
elderly Texas wido pining to return to her hometown in 1953 (as a play
for television, in fact) and it was an award-winning 1985 movie with a white cast. For the Playhouse, Timothy Douglas has changed up the story by overlaying an African-American filter over the story and casting veteran actress Lizann Mitchell as Carrie Watts. She's a dream of an actress,
portraying a tiny Texas cyclone of energy with a wry sense of humor.
The story is nothing too innovative — she runs away from a cramped apartment where she lives with her son and his demanding wife to return to her girlhood home, which has all but disappeared — but the truth and dignity of the tale (and Mitchell's performance) make this show worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3888.
Finally, I need to mention Clifton Players production of A Behanding in Spokane by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. He's the writer of dark tales like The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well as the even darker film In Bruges. Clifton Players perform at Clifton Performance Theatre, a tiny, intimate storefront space on Ludlow Avenue. I've heard lots of positive remarks about this production. Be prepared to be shocked and entertained by the show's comic violence. Tickets: 513-861-7469.