0 Comments · Wednesday, January 27, 2016
People do a lot of dreaming, and their
emotions are often tied up in those dreams. That’s the case with two
very different stage productions currently available at local theaters.
by Rick Pender
18 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 11:47 AM | Permalink
A little history, a little love and some fantasy
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is staging the original
“game of thrones” — England’s Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) as retold
by the Bard’s history plays — eight shows being presented in
chronological order across five theater seasons. (Cincy Shakes is only
the second theater company in the U.S. to present the history cycle in
Chronological order.) We’ve already seen Richard II, Henry IV: Part 1 and 2 and Henry V. Now it’s time for the reign of Henry VI, which Shakespeare covered with three plays. This week starts the production of Henry VI, Part I,
the story of Henry V’s only son who, in 1421, inherited the throne
before his first birthday, after his father’s untimely death. A child on
the throne opened the door to the dynastic struggles of the War of the
Roses. (The cycle concludes next season with the bloody tragedy of Richard III.)
Darnell Pierre Benjamin plays Henry, an unusual choice. Here’s what he
says about taking on this role: “I’m a black male from St. Martinville,
Louisiana. Despite how much I’ve always fixated my interests on the
classics, I never thought that I’d have the honor of representing one of
Shakespeare’s history kings.” He says he hopes “to open people’s minds
and hearts to seeing the core of this story — a young man coming into
his own as he learns that there are forces, both good and bad, that can
alter his perception of himself.” Through Feb. 13. Tickets:
513-381-2273.The Covedale Center just opened Neil Simon’s Chapter Two,
a play about a widowed writer trying to start over while still grieving
for his late wife. The story is rooted in Simon’s own experience, and
the playwright’s famous one-liners are still there, but woven into the
show’s humor is a story about coming to terms with death and moving on.
Through Feb. 14. Tickets: 513-241-6550.In Covington, The Carnegie is offering what sounds like an interesting production of The Wizard of Oz that
opened last night. With musical accompaniment by the Kentucky Symphony
Orchestra, it’s a “lightly-staged” rendition with Harold Arlen’s famous
score from the 1939 movie. Of particular interest is the scenic design
by local artist Pam Kravetz, a unique take on the iconic landscapes of
Oz, including Munchkin Land and the Emerald City. Just to remind folks
passing by on Scott Avenue, you’ll see a giant pair of legs with striped
stockings and ruby slippers to remind you that one wicked witch is
dead. Through Jan. 31. Tickets: 859-957-1940.For something completely different, consider The Realistic Joneses
by Clifton Players, at Clifton Performance Theater on Ludlow Avenue.
It’s about two couples named Jones, next-door neighbors who get to know
one another despite fear and loneliness. Will Eno’s unusual play — part
comedy, part drama — digs into secrets that aren’t often spoken aloud.
It’s being staged by local theater veteran Dale Hodges with a cast that
includes Carter Bratton, Mindy Siebert, Miranda McGee and Phil Fiorini.
It’s onstage through Feb. 7. Tickets: 513-861-7469.Next week there will be even more theater on local stages: Grounded, a one-woman show about a fighter pilot assigned to making drone strikes (Ensemble Theatre, Jan. 27-Feb. 14, 513-421-3555), BlackTop Sky, a tale of homelessness and friendship (Know Theatre, Jan. 29-Feb. 20, 513-300-5669) and Prelude to a Kiss,
a sweet love story about changing places and understanding different
perspectives (Falcon Theater in Newport, Jan. 29-Feb. 13, 513-479-6783).Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
20 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 05:58 PM | Permalink
2016-2017 shows announced for Cincinnati Landmark venues
we’ve just passed the halfway point of the 2015-2016 theater season, the
over-achievers at Cincinnati Landmark Productions just announced plans for future
productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts and the Warsaw
Federal Incline Theater for 2016-2017.
Perrino, CLP’s executive artistic director, says, “With our two venues,
Cincinnati Landmark Productions has two great platforms to create exciting
theater and palpable neighborhood vitality. We set a course for success with a
summer of sellouts at the Incline in 2015, and we’re chomping at the bit to
bring these just-announced shows to life in 2016 and 2017.”
Covedale’s offerings are designed for mainstream audiences, while the Incline
offers two distinct seasons — “Summer Classics” presents shows with broad
appeal; the “District Series” produces more adult fare, both musicals and
Covedale Center’s “Marquee Series” for 2016-2017 will offer:Godspell
(Sept. 8-Oct. 2, 2016), Stephen Schwartz’s first big musical theater hit, based
on the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew. Schwartz is the composer of Wicked.The Foreigner
(Oct. 20, Nov. 13, 2016), a comedy by Larry Shue, in which a shy, lonely guy
poses as visitor from an exotic country who doesn’t speak English.
The Night Before Christmas (Dec. 1-23, 2016) for the holiday season.
19-Feb. 12, 2017), John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner about a suspicious
nun and a progressive priest.
(March 9-April 2, 2017), Ken Ludwig’s farce about a pair of Shakespearean
actors scheming for an inheritance.
My Fair Lady
(April 27-May 21, 2017), Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical about a professor of
linguistics who trains a Cockney gal to pose as an elegant noblewoman.
Incline’s “District Series” plans to produce starting next fall:
[title of show] (Sept. 29-Oct. 16, 2016), a clever musical about creating a musical to
enter in a festival.
God of Carnage
(Nov. 17-Dec. 4, 2016), Yasmina Reza’s domestic drama about a pair of parents
who come to blows arguing about a fight between their children.
The Rocky Horror Show (Feb. 16-March 5, 2017), the sci-fi parody musical from
1973 that inspired the 1975 cult film.
6-23, 2017), Peter Shaffer’s award-winning drama about a psychiatrist treating
a teenager who blinded six horses.
the pipeline for the Covedale’s current season are productions of Neil Simon’s
warm-hearted comedy Chapter Two (Jan.
21-Feb. 14) and two classic musicals, She
Loves Me (March 1-April 3) and Brigadoon
(April 28-May 22).
at the Incline for the balance of this season are the satiric musical Avenue Q (Feb. 18-March 6) and David
Mamet’s hard-as-nails real-estate drama Glengarry
Glen Ross (April 6-24). Those will be followed by the previously announced
“Summer Classics” season for 2016, featuring three likeable musicals Anything Goes (June 1-26), Baby (July 6-31) and Chicago (Aug. 10-Sept. 4). The Incline’s
summer season in 2015 completely sold out three productions — The Producers, 1776 and 9 to 5.
by Rick Pender
53 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 10:43 AM | Permalink
This weekend is your final chance to see several December productions, including Low Down Dirty Blues (Cincinnati Playhouse), All Childish Things (Know Theatre) and Rent (Incline Theater). A few shows stick around after Dec. 25 — A Christmas Carol (Playhouse) continues through Dec. 30 and Ensemble Theatre’s staging of its jaunty rendition of Cinderella remains onstage until Jan. 3. I would find it odd to watch Ebenezer Scrooge getting scared into a “Merry Christmas” a few days after the holiday, but ETC’s contemporary rendition of a beloved fairytale might be just the thing to entertain bored kids after they’ve tried out all the new toys. Tickets for the latter: 513-421-3555.I checked out opening night of the tenth anniversary presentation of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and it’s as silly and funny as ever — especially with some clever pokes at people and events from 2015. The annual gags about fruitcakes take on a whole new dimension this time around by having some fun with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her intransigence about issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Every Christmas Story trots out just about every “BHC” (Beloved Holiday Classic) you might recall and puts it through a humorous filter. It’s fun from start to finish, but there is a moment — after recreating A Charlie Brown Christmas, complete with a woebegone tree — when Justin McCombs steps into a pool of light as Linus with his security blanket and recites the New Testament passage from the Gospel of Luke about an angel speaking to the shepherds. It’s a somber and wholly lovely scene, so far removed from very tongue-in-cheek, sometimes off-color humor typical of the show that it sticks with audience members. The antic McCombs also plays a true believer who refuses to be be convinced that Santa’s existence is impossible: His enthusiasm for all the miraculous things the Jolly Old Elf can accomplish is so childlike that you’ll wish you could return to that innocent age yourself. Even if you’ve seen Every Christmas Story before, it’s a blast to go back. In fact, I’d say it’s become a BHC in its own right. Onstage through Dec. 27. Tickets (if they’re still available): 513-381-2273.There’s also some great holiday laughs to be had compliments of OTRImprov, presenting its annual show The Naughty List in the Courtyard at Arnold’s Bar & Grill in Downtown Cincinnati. The 90-minute show — unscripted and building off suggestions from the audience — happens Sunday-Tuesday, Dec. 20-22 and Dec. 27-29. It’s a laugh-a-minute way to have fun right before or after Christmas. To make an evening of it, show up at Arnolds (201 East 8th St.) between 6 and 6:30 p.m., get seated and place your dinner order. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. The rotating cast includes OTRImprov’s quick-witted regulars Mike Hall, Kirk Keevert, Sean Mette, Dave Powell, Charlie Roetting, Dylan Shelton and Kat Smith. Tickets (order before 4:30 on the day of the show): 513-300-5669.Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
103 days ago
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
Know Theatre opens Andy’s House of [BLANK] tonight at 8 p.m. The show is the spawn of the second round of Know’s Serials, a happily creative two-month program of five 15-minute episodes. This one, a musical about a shop full of oddities and a story of love, regret and time travel, was a crowd favorite early in 2015. It struck Know’s artistic team as warranting further development, so they invited creators/storytellers Trey Tatum and Paul Strickland to turn it into a full-fledged work. As in Serials, it’s staged by director Bridget Leak. It’s being produced in Know’s Underground Bar, cleverly transmuted into the interior of Andy’s oddity shop with a set drawn on cardboard. Strickland (who’s also a singer and songwriter) has created a bunch of musical numbers; he and playwright Tatum are in the show, as if they were teens working at Andy’s back in the day and now retelling what went on. Read my Curtain Call column here to learn more. It’s happening through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, with a short run at UC’s College-Conservatory of music this weekend, is a classic from the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. It’s a darker story than you might expect from Rodgers and Hammerstein: Billy Bigelow, a good-looking bad boy who runs the merry-go-round at the carnival is love-’em-and-leave-’em kind of guy until he meets Julie Jordan. He tries to live a better life once they’re married and she’s pregnant, but it’s not really his thing. He dies after a bungled robbery and then has a chance to come back and make things right with his teenage daughter. There’ a lot of great music in this show — “If I Loved You” is one of several classic numbers — and with faculty member Diane Lala staging it (and choreographing it, too), it’s sure to be extremely watchable. Final performance is the Sunday matinee. Tickets: 513-556-4183.Floodwaters are threatening life and limb in the past and the present at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where Dana Yeaton’s Mad River Rising is on the big stage. Set in an abandoned barn, it’s the story of Angus Stewart (played with dry humor and stubborn attitudes by 82-year-old actor Robert Hogan) who witnessed a devastating flood in 1937 that all but destroyed his family’s farm. In old age he’s trying to stave off waves of newfangled innovation and life choices that have abandoned the traditional values of farming and owning land. Hogan is a fine performer, and the story has intriguing moments as he tangles with family members trying to accommodate him, help him or navigate around him. It’s a fine portrait of the challenges of aging. Here’s a to my CityBeat review. It’s onstage through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-421-3888.Elsewhere: Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati finishes its run of the very funny one-man show Buyer and Cellar, about an actor hired to manage a faux shopping mall in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. (CityBeat review here.) Actor Nick Cearley turns in winning performances as the actor, as Streisand and a handful of others as he retells the ups-and-downs of “selling” to one tough customer. The run ends on Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555. … Cincinnati Shakespeare’s fine production of the prize-winning American drama Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller continues through Nov. 7. (CityBeat review here.) One of our region’s great professional actors, Bruce Cromer, turns in a heart-rending performance as Willy Loman, whose aspirations have come to a grinding halt; Annie Fitzpatrick’s powerful portrait of Willy’s devoted, weary wife Linda makes the sad story all the more compelling. Tickets: 513-381-2273. … Covedale Center is presenting a frothy farce by Ken Ludwig in the tradition of Marx Brothers’ comedies. Fox on the Fairway is a madcap story set at a private country club. Onstage through Nov. 15. Tickets: 513-241-6550.One more thing: Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is presenting a series of behind-the-scenes events that will enhance your appreciation of how theater productions are put together. This month’s Caffeinated Conversation on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. explores how ETC’s season is put together, how local actors are found and what it’s like to direct plays and musicals that deal with mental illness, economic disparity and racial tension. One of Cincinnati’s most admired directors, D. Lynn Meyers, will speak and answer questions. Tickets ($15): 513-421-3555.Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Let me admit right up front that I’m a total sucker when it comes to A Chorus Line.
No matter how many times I’ve seen it (quite a few over the past four
decades since it opened on Broadway in 1975), there are still moments
that grab at my heartstrings and bring tears to my eyes.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 01:01 PM | Permalink
Christopher Durang's witty comedy Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike opened last night at the Cincinnati Playhouse. If that title makes you think of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, well, that's part of the playwright's comic plan. But his script reassembles some of those wry comic elements with a few modern twists. The three characters with Chekhovian names are siblings with wildly divergent perspectives; "Spike" stirs things up by being more physical than intellectual. You don't have to know any theater history to have a good time with this play, especially when Vanya launches into a 10-minute rant about what's wrong with the modern world — referencing everything from postage stamps and technology to global warming and a lot of TV from the 1950s. It's hilarious. This show is being staged at theaters all over America this season. For more about Durang, read my Curtain Call column. Through May 23. Tickets: 513-421-3888The Covedale Center has carved our a meaningful niche in the local theater scene with staging Golden Age musicals, and they're opening one of the best this weekend, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. It was the final show by the pair who created Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and The King and I. Thanks to the movie featuring Julie Andrews, I don't really have to tell you what it's about. But I should mention that the stage version has a bit more of a socio-political edge to it: Two of my favorite numbers (that didn't make it into the film) are "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive?" — pay attention to them for some sassy songwriting. The show is onstage at the West Side theater through May 24; tickets: 513-241-6550Several worthwhile productions are finishing their runs this weekend with Sunday performances. That includes the searing psychological and political drama Death and the Maiden by Diogenes Theatre Company, featuring Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Giles Davies at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … Cincinnati Shakespeare is winding up its staging of the great comedy of love and combat, The Taming of the Shrew. (Read my review here). Tickets: 513-381-2273 … And if you've ever struggled to connect with a play by the Bard, you might enjoy John Murrell's Taking Shakespeare at Dayton's Human Race Theater Company. The latter is about a disillusioned college professor asked to tutor her dean's son through a freshman class in Shakespeare. The subject is Othello, and their wrangling helps them learn more about one another. It's some fine acting, with Jon Kovach, seen frequently on Cincinnati stages, as the opinionated but drifting young man. Tickets: 937-228-3630Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
It's their party
0 Comments · Monday, March 16, 2015
When I attended the Covedale Center’s production of The Marvelous Wonderettes at a Sunday matinee, there were no young people in attendance.
by Rick Pender
at 09:08 AM | Permalink
I seldom laugh out
loud when I'm watching a comedy, but I found myself doing just that more
than once at last night's opening of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Cincinnati Playhouse. You can read about this show and the appeal of Peter Pan here,
but let me simply say this is a deliriously silly but wholly heartfelt
prequel about the origins of the boy who "won't grow up." This
award-winning play uses simple theatrics, not special effects, to work
its magic, and the Playhouse cast of a dozen quick-change performers
dive into the wacky storytelling with zest and zeal. Everyone is having a
good time, perhaps Tom Story most of all, playing "Black Stache" (the
pirate who will become Captain Hook) who spews malapropisms and
extravagant posturing: "There's a poet in these pirate veins," he
announces. The laugh-inducing moment that sets up his subsequent need
for a hook is both ghastly and breathlessly funny, not to mention milked
for all it's worth. Everyone in the cast has moments of fun. This is
imaginative storytelling and extravagant theatricality at its best.
You'll have fun if you bring a kid or two; but even if you don't, go by
yourself and feel like a kid again. Through April 4. Tickets: 513-421-3888.A show that's stuck with me since last June's Fringe Festival, Katie Hartman’s ghostly and
mournful song cycle, The Legend of White
Woman Creek, is back for a pair of performances at Know Theatre tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. It's the tale of Anna Morgan Faber, a white woman captured then slowly absorbed into the
Cheyenne tribe in 1860s Kansas. Hartman sings about a desperate, lonely woman who finally finds
happiness only to have it it brutally snatched away. “It’s
not a stand-up-and-cheer kind of show,” I wrote in my review. Instead, “it’s artfully
crafted and professionally delivered in an understated way. But it is powerfully
effective.” Tickets: 513-300-5669.Elsewhere you can catch Covedale Center's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes,
the story of four high school girls in the ’50s and ’60s who get their
big break singing Doo-Wop tunes. This show kicked off a string of hits
for Ensemble Theatre a few years back, and I imagine the Covedale's audience will love it, too. Tickets: 513-241-6550.If Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a book you've treasured over the years, you can see a stage adaptation at Cincinnati Shakespeare through March 21 (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-381-2273)
or a musical theater version by Footlighters, the community theater
that performs at Newport's Stained Glass Theater (tickets: 859-652-3849).This is the final weekend for August: Osage County
at Clifton Performance Theatre. It's a big sprawling play wedged into a
tiny space, but with a great script and a fine cast, it's definitely
worth seeing. You'll be close enough to feel like a member of the
dysfunctional Weston family. I gave it a Critic's Pick here. Tickets: 513-861-7469.I missed the first two installments of Serials 2: Thunderdome! at Know Theatre, but I was there on March 2, and I'll be back on Monday evening to see which of five 15-minute segments gets to live on. I'm looking forward to Josh Bromels' So In Tents (there's a pun in there) and Trey Tatum and Paul Strickland's Andy's House of [blank], a wild, time-shifting musical. But there will be more surprises, I'm sure. It's a breath of fresh creative air. Tickets: 513-300-5669Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday.
Covedale’s trip to Tuna is irreverent fun
0 Comments · Monday, January 26, 2015
Tuna, Texas, once a real-live speck of a town, had been written off state maps for decades. That changed in 1981 when Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard penned Greater Tuna, the first of four comedic plays focusing on the quirky, small-town conservatism of Tuna.