by Rick Pender
25 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 04:27 PM | Permalink
There's a great array of theater this weekend, no matter what you like. That's a good thing, because local theater, like baseball, takes a kind of midsummer break (no All-Star Game onstage anywhere, however). So get out and see something this weekend, then enjoy the fireworks and picnics next. Here are some suggestions:Traditionally entertaining shows can be found at two professional theaters. At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, it's the closing weekend for Private Lives, a very witty classic comedy about marriage by Nöel Coward. (CityBeat review here.) Two couples are honeymooning in the south of France, in adjacent hotel rooms. Things go awry when one husband and the other wife cross paths by chance. They were once married to one another, and the spark quickly rekindles, despite the fact that they had a very volatile chemistry. It's a great piece for four comic actors, and Cincy Shakes has a great cast to handle it. Staged by Ensemble Theatre's D. Lynn Meyers. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.A different kind of couple is showcased at Covedale Center, where Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is in its final weekend. Two guys who were comic partners in the days of vaudeville — and who grew very tired of one another — are brought together for a TV special about the "good old days." They don't much want to do it, but they're coaxed, and the results of their bickering and nastiness makes for a lot of laughter. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.A new theater company, Stone on a Walk, has its inaugural production this weekend, a low-budget performance of Cain by Lord Byron at the Art Academy's lecture hall, a venue familiar to Fringe Festival mavens. Yes, the playwright is that Romantic poet George Gordon you might recall from lit classes. He also wrote plays, and this one from 1821 focuses on Adam and Eve's first son, resentful that his parents' transgressions have forced them out of Eden and made death a real possibility. He spars with Lucifer, still hanging around to make trouble, and is at odds with his pious brother Abel, as well as his wife Adah. Things don't go well, as you might recall — Cain becomes the first murderer. John Leo Muething has put together a three-show season for his new theater venture, Stone on a Walk, with a one-weekend performance of each work (more to follow in July and August). This one features three actresses: Caitlyn Maurmeier is Cain; Hannah Rahe is Adah, Cain's dutiful wife; and Aiden Sims plays Lucifer and Abel. The casting of females in male roles is unusual, and the doubling of Sims as villain and victim might cause a bit of confusion (although she plays Lucifer with sinister hissing vigor, while Abel is the picture of sincerity). The 70-minute performance is done with no stage lighting or scenery; the final section, with actors on the floor, is hard to see unless you're in the front row or two. Cain is a lot of talking, poetry and high emotions, but Maurmeier powerfully renders Cain's despair, and Sims is very watchable as Lucifer. Tickets ($10) at the door; the Art Academy is at 1212 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine.How about a showcase of excerpts from Cincinnati's community theaters? Friday evening and all day Saturday that's what's happening at Parrish Auditorium at Miami University's Hamilton campus (1601 University Blvd., Hamilton). Four 30-minute selections tonight include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Les Misérables, and eight more tomorrow morning and afternoon (Godspell, Steel Magnolias, Nunsense and Tommy are among them). Each performance will be assessed and a few will be selected for a statewide competition in early September. Cincinnati has a lot of excellent community theater, and this is your opportunity to see some of the best shows that have been offered during the 2013-2014 season. Ticket information: http://bit.ly/1lkw098.And in the off-week between Cincinnati Opera's opening production of Carmen and the upcoming staging of Silent Night, opera seekers might want to check out two works presented by the North American New Opera Workshop (they shorthand that name as "NANOWorks") at Below Zero's Cabaret Room (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine). It's the midwest premiere of Marie Incontrera's At the Other Side of the Earth, a riot girl opera followed by Eric Knechtges's Last Call (Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.,Sunday at 2 p.m.). Incontrera's piece combines classical performance with punk sensibilities; the piece by Knechtges (who is head of the musical composition program at Northern Kentucky University) is loosely based on the Cincinnati gay bar scene and includes at "techno/house aria" and a high-energy drag performance. This is definitely not your grandmother's opera. Tickets: $20 at the door.
by Rick Pender
32 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 10:14 AM | Permalink
Probably the most entertaining thing onstage right now is Private Lives at Cincinnati Shakespeare. It's been selling so well that 2 p.m. matinee performances have been added this Saturday and June 28. (It closes on June 29.)
It's the story of honeymoons going bad when a feisty divorced couple
decide to reunite rather than stick with their new spouses — when they
find themselves coincidentally in adjacent hotel rooms in Southern
France. (CityBeat review here.) Cleverly staged by Ensemble Theatre's Lynn Meyers, using four of
Cincy Shakes best actors. Of course it's all improbable and overdone,
but that's a Noël Coward play for you — witty, silly and lots of fun.
Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.
You'll find laughs elsewhere with the Covedale Center's just-opened production of The Sunshine Boys
by Neil Simon, a master of comedy. It's about a pair of vaudeville
partners who spent 40 years working together and ended up not speaking.
But they're being coaxed to come together to re-stage one of their old
routines for a TV special. Rehearsals don't go well and the actual live
broadcast spirals down from there. Simon is a master of one-liners, and
this show has a million of them. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
If Monday leaves you still looking for something onstage, Know Theatre is ready to open its doors for something entertaining: Serials! All summer long at two-week intervals (starting Monday) there will be 15-minute episodes of plays by local writers. This week you'll get to see pilots of Mars vs. The Atom by Trey Tatum, Flesh Descending by Chris Wesselman, The Funeral by Jon Kovach, The Listener by Mike Hall and Fetus and the God
by Ben Dudley. These stories are open-ended and audience response will
be a factor in where they go. If some of those names sound familiar,
it's because most of them are veterans of the Cincy Fringe. If you had a
good time there earlier this month, here's a way to keep your groove
going. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
81 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for a show that will get things going romantically,
I'll point you to the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Venus in Fur (onstage through May 17).
But be careful what you wish for: You might end up like
playwright/director Thomas with your hands full of more than you wanted
to take on. He's seeking an actress to play the central role in his
adaptation of an erotic Victorian novel. Vanda shows up for an audition,
none too promising at first, but the tables turn very quickly. This is a
funny and provocative script, and Greta Wohlrabe's performance as Vanda
is masterful and highly entertaining. I gave it a Critic's Pick.
Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
something completely different — and in a venue I bet you've never
visited — head to Bellevue, Ky., to St. John United Church of Christ
(520 Fairfield Ave.) for a bare-bones, church-basement production of Joe
Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead by WIT-Women in
Theatre. The group is focused on plays for and about women, and this one
touches on a lot of issues when two women without much in common end up
spending an unwilling evening together, stuck in an airport lounge due
to bad weather. They cover a lot of territory — imperfect marriages,
ungrateful children, fears, beliefs and politics (they're at opposite
ends of the spectrum). Their ups and downs are a bit forced, but
actresses Cat Cook and Cate White do solid jobs portraying two very
different women. It's a tad like a movie of the week on the Lifetime
channel, but there's some entertaining writing. This is the second and
final weekend. Word has it that Friday night is pretty full, but Saturday
(thanks to the Kentucky Derby) has plenty of seats available. Tickets
($15, discounted by $5 if you bring a piece of luggage bigger than a
If you've seen Shakespeare's 37 other plays, tonight is the night for you to catch the one you've missed: The Two Noble Kinsmen
opens at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the final script by the Bard
that gives the company bragging rights to be one of only five theaters
in the U.S. to stage every one of his plays. You can read more about
this one, as well as Cincy Shakes, which is marking its 20th anniversary
in my cover story in this week's issue. See it before it closes on May 25: Two Noble Kinsmen is rarely onstage, and Shakespeare fans are coming from all over North America to see this production. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273, x1.
Finishing up this weekend are runs of the musical Gypsy at the Covedale (513-241-6550) and Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way (513-300-5669).
by Rick Pender
88 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:12 AM | Permalink
There's ample evidence at the Cincinnati Playhouse as to why David Ives' Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur
is the most produced script in America this season. I saw the opening
performance last evening, and it's an entertaining attention-grabber.
Inspired by an erotic Victorian novel, it's the story of a playwright
who's adapted it for the stage but despairing of finding the right
actress — until Vanda appears. Despite the initial impression she makes,
she proves to be almost too good to be true. Greta Wohlrabe is a marvel
in this role, flipping between being an ambitious, over-enthused
wannabe and a commanding, demanding, sophisticated paramour who knows
the character she wants to play and how to get what she wants. It's sexy
and funny — and a great evening for grown-ups. Through May 17. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
Want to try something new this weekend? A new theater company, Women in Theatre (WIT) is staging Joe Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead
at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Two women stuck in
an airport together end up sharing a table: One, from Washington, D.C.,
is reserved and educated, yearning for peace and quiet; the other is a
chatty Southerner who can't stop talking. Their conversation, according to
the show's publicity, is "funny, difficult, deeply revealing and
astonishingly frank." Through May 3. Tickets: 859-441-6882.
Stacy Sims, my CityBeat colleague, thought that New Edgecliff Theatre's production of Other People's Money was
pretty good. (CityBeat review here.) Jerry Sterner's 1989 play remains timely, the story of a
rapacious business guy who stands to destroy a small town when he buys a
company that is pretty much the sole livelihood of the residents of a
small Rhode Island town. Stacy called the show "good entertainment" and
added, "it just might provoke you to consider whom you are listening to
today." It's onstage at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater through Saturday evening.
Stacy liked Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way enough to give it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review here. It's two actors playing two actors in 1914 who are hired to
play gay men in Long Beach and entrap "social vagrants" — that is, gay
men. It's a multi-leveled script, playing with concepts of what's real
and what's "enacted." Heady but fascinating, and it features two
excellent actors, Jens Rasmussen and Michael McKeough. You won't be
bored if you go to see this one. Through May 3. Tickets ($15 in advance; $20 at the door): 513-300-5669.
Two productions that will appeal to audiences who like old-fashioned theater remain onstage. With its final performance on Sunday, Mary Chase's gentle comedy, Harvey,
at the Carnegie in Covington, is about Elwood, a guy who's a little
off-kilter — who sees a six-foot-tall white rabbit that no one else
believes is real (except the audience). Tickets ($17-$24); 859-957-1940. The classic musical Gypsy — full of great show tunes — continues at the Covedale through May 4;
it's about Rose, the pushy stage mother who launched her rather
unwilling daughter into a burlesque career as Gypsy Rose Lee. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets
Covedale production could use a bit more nasty
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Gypsy, a great musical from 1959,
has a score by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a script by
Arthur Laurents. It’s the true story of burlesque stripper Gypsy Rose
Lee (she preferred the label “ecdysiast”)...
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:19 AM | Permalink
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Cabaret is a
must-see for anyone who is a fan of musicals. (CityBeat review here.) Kander and Ebb's Tony
Award winner from the late '60s has been brought to the main stage with
inventive verve by veteran Broadway choreographer and director Marsha
Milgrom Dodge. Sure, it's set in 1929 Berlin, populated by amoral
entertainers and Nazis rising to power. But its scrutiny of prejudice
and bigotry in the context of jaunty, thoughtless entertainment is a
fascinating way to bring attention to topics that are timeless. Dodge
has assembled a cast of triple-threats (who can sing, act and dance),
given them choreography rooted in the 1920s, costumed them in period
clothing (and some clever get-ups for the cabaret routines) and set them
spinning on a stage arrayed with Expressionist imagery. It's a winning
combination. Cabaret just opened on Thursday evening; you have until Nov. 16
to catch it, but it's likely to be a hot ticket, so this is a good
weekend to head to Mount Adams. The other choice at the Playhouse, Seven Spots on the Sun,
is in its final weekend on the Shelterhouse stage. It's a powerful
drama set in a Latin American nation, torn asunder by civil war. Serious
theatergoers have been giving this one a thumbs-up. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Shakespeare hasn't gotten around to any Shakespeare plays yet this
season, but no one's complaining. Last weekend they opened a moving
production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, featuring
top-notch performances by Jeremy Dubin and Jim Hopkins as a pair of
Depression Era migrant works who have to stay one step ahead of trouble
because man-child Lennie (Hopkins) doesn't know his own strength and has
emotions that are seldom reined in. Great acting, worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) Through
Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati finishes its run of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn this
weekend, hot from Broadway in its regional premiere. (CityBeat review here.) A story about
modern women and what satisfies — and dissatisfies — them. Three
generations end up debating choices made: It's both entertaining and
thought-provoking, a showcase of excellent local actors. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
As Halloween draws closer, you might want to check out a show or two inspired by the "season." Dracula at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (tickets: 513-241-6550) tells the familiar tale of the legendary vampire. (CityBeat review here.) Slasher at Falcon Theatre (Monmouth Theatre in Newport; tickets 513-479-6783)
is a tongue-in-cheek piece that originated a few years back at the
Humana Festival in Louisvile. It's about people making a horror flick
and how it affects their lives. Lots of humor, but some thoughtful
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:34 AM | Permalink
My best recommendation for this weekend is Ensemble Theatre's staging of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn.
This is an ultra-natural piece of writing with several generations of
women arguing and contesting over the ways women should behave. (CityBeat review here.) It's
focused on two women, once friends, one married to the other's ex
college boyfriend. It's years later and neither woman is very happy with
her present life. How that plays out will keep you engaged from start
to finish. Some exceptional acting, with strong direction by D. Lynn
Meyers. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
The Playhouse's world premiere of Martín Zimmerman's Seven Spots on the Sun
is a powerful drama that engages all your senses as well as your
imagination. The products of a devastating civil war in Central America
are played out in painfully personal ways. Potent script, strong
performances make this a show worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) This weekend at the
Playhouse also offers a series of previews (hence, more affordable
tickets) of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, a show that's been
around for a long time — but still has a saucy kick that makes it feel
very in the moment. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
Need to starting getting into a Halloween state of mind? Covedale Center opened a production of Dracula on Thursday (it's onstage through Nov. 10) for you to sink your teeth into. Or vice versa. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Cincinnati Shakespeare kicks off its production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
this evening. It's a tale of friendship in the midst of the Great
Depression, two men who are migrant workers, often staying one step
beyond serious trouble caused by oafish Lennie. Cincy Shakes' regular
Jim Hopkins plays the simple-minded giant who's protected by the
pragmatic George, brought to life by veteran Jeremy Dubin. It's a
thoughtful, sad story. Opens Friday evening, continues through Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company is involved in bringing National
Theatre Live broadcasts from London to Cincinnati. If these screenings
generate any profits, Cincy Shakes will get some financial benefit. So
assemble a group and head to Springdale 18's Cinema de Luxe on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. You'll see a powerful performance of Othello
featuring Adrian Lester (an Olivier Award winner) as the title
character and Rory Kinnear (featured in a couple of recent James Bond
films) as the manipulative Iago. Here's a link to buy tickets, $19 in general, $15 for seniors and students.
a kid to see a show and you're likely to create a lifetime theater
lover. That's what happened to me when my grandfather took me to see the
musical Brigadoon. So you can give this theory a try this weekend as
the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati opens its 89th mainstage season
with Annie JR. at the Taft Theatre. It's a shortened
version of the Broadway hit about a spunky orphan who charms everyone
(and which happens to be back on Broadway this fall in a full-length
production). Public performances today, tomorrow and Sunday. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 07:31 AM | Permalink
Theatre company to focus on Covedale Center after 23 years on the river
Abandon ship! Well, that's not exactly true. In fact, Cincinnati
Landmark Productions has done a remarkable and loving job of sustaining
the ship — in the form of the Showboat Majestic, which it has operated
for 23 years in the face of at least 10 floods and countless repairs
(including a leaky hull). But with its lease running out later this
month, the company has decided not to return for the 2014 season.
Cincinnati Landmark will focus its endeavors on the
Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, the converted West Side movie
theater where it will offer a "Summer Classics Season" in a vein similar
to mainstream fare of classic comedies and musicals that has long drawn
audiences to the Majestic. There have been 170 productions on board
since 1991, attracting more than 350,000 patrons to the last floating
theater in the United States. Cincinnati Landmark is also embarking on a
new voyage with a performing arts center to be built in the Incline
District in East Price Hill, a venue anticipated to be up and running as
early as 2015.Tim Perrino, executive artistic director at Cincinnati
Landmark, says, "It's time to say goodbye. Our organization enjoyed a
prolific chapter in the Majestic's grand history, painstakingly caring
for the old boat" — launched in 1923 — "and producing seasons that paid
tribute to her heritage."
Opening this week on Wednesday, Showboat Follies
will be Cincinnati Landmark's final production on the Majestic. An
annual tradition, it's a compilation of musical showstoppers, comic
sketches, audience interaction and a return of the "Queen City Toast," a
longtime staple of season-closing shows. "This show has become our love
letter to the Majestic," Perrino says, adding that it's "a thank-you to
our subscribers, longtime supporters and the many artists who helped
make our time on the Showboat so special." Showboat Follies runs through Sept. 29.During the summer of 2014, Cincinnati Landmark will present four productions at the Covedale: Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (May 22-June 1); Neil Simon's comedy, The Sunshine Boys (June 19-29); Footloose (July
24-Aug. 3), the 2014 Cincinnati Young People's Theater production, a
summer favorite using local high school talent; and a spectacular
song-and-dance show, The Will Rogers Follies (Aug. 21-31).
In 1989, the Showboat Majestic was named a National
Historic Landmark. No word from the City of Cincinnati, which has owned
the Majestic since 1967, as to what might be next. The Majestic was
operated with summertime shows by the University of Cincinnati for many
years, and it served as a popular venue during several of the Tall
Stacks festivals over the years.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:10 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is offering a double dose of entertainment this weekend. First and foremost is The 39 Steps at CSC's mainstage (CityBeat review here). If that title sounds familiar, it's because it was a
classic espionage novel a century ago, made into a classic film by
Alfred Hitchcock 80 years ago, now turned into a very funny riff on its
predecessors as a play using only four actors to fill all the roles. CSC
has ramped up the humor by using four of its best comedic actors — Nick
Rose, Miranda McGee, Justin McComb and Billy Chace — who play the
principals, plus much of the population of London, especially McComb and
Chace who will make you dizzy as they shift from one part to another,
sometimes within seconds. It's actually a faithful retelling of the
story, but it's amped up to a high level of hilarity by the onstage
shenanigans. It adds up to great summertime humor. It's being performed
through Aug. 11. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
One show isn't enough for CSC: This weekend they also
launch their annual free Shakespeare in the Park tour with a performance
of Romeo & Juliet at Boone Woods Park in Burlington at 7
p.m. on Saturday. (If you live north of the river, you'll get your
chance next Wednesday evening at Eden Park's Seasongood Pavilion or at
Burnet Woods in Clifton on Thursday.) As noted, these are free
presentations, presented in classic Elizabethan style and use six actors
from the company's resident ensemble. These are the same productions
that CSC tours to schools and community centers, so they're great for
the entire family. A week from now they'll start performing A Midsummer Night's Dream at some locations. For a full schedule, go here.
Shakespeare is behind the story of Toil and Trouble, the
current offering at Know Theatre. It's a new play (this is just the
second time its been produced; its world premiere was in California last
fall) that offers a contemporary riff on Macbeth (CityBeat review here).
Instead of kings and warriors, however, its characters are a pair of
thirtysomething slackers and Beth, a wildly ambitious sportscaster who
has more testosterone than either of the guys. There's a lot of wacky
moments in this play, replaces Macbeth's witches with fortune
cookies and the kingdom of Scotland with an almost unpopulated island
off the coast of Chile. You can pick up on the laughs through Aug. 24.
At the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, the annual production by Cincinnati Young People's Theatre is Grease,
a tried-and-true musical about kids in the ’50s at Rydell High. Sixty
years haven't dimmed the musicality of the show, and the youthful
performers will bring this one to life if you're in the mood for a
classic. It wraps up with a matinee on Sunday. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
While the Cincinnati Symphony's LumenoCity
isn't exactly theater, the performances in Washington Park on Saturday
and Sunday evening — with a dazzling light show on the facade of Music
Hall — will definitely be theatrical. It's the debut for Louis Langree
as the CSO's new music director, and the program will feature performers
from Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera. But the big deal is the
colorful illumination that will let you see historic Music Hall in a
light you've never imagined. It's free, starting at 8:30 p.m. both
nights; big crowds are expected, so come early. Don't you wish the
streetcar were already here so you could ride it to Over-the-Rhine?