0 Comments · Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Audiences will laugh and gasp at Karen Zacarías’ amusing Native Gardens at the Cincinnati
Playhouse and feel troubled by the plight of a fighter pilot in George Brant’s gripping
Grounded at Ensemble Theatre.
by Rick Pender
14 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.
A passion for humor at Ensemble Theatre
0 Comments · Thursday, October 15, 2015
This performance by Nick Cearley
had me laughing out loud, even when I knew what was coming. He’s that good.
0 Comments · Friday, September 11, 2015
director’s notes for Ensemble Theatre’s season-opening production of Rebecca
Gilman’s Luna Gale, D. Lynn Meyers writes,
“There are no villains here and no heroes, just people who make decisions as
best they can.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 13, 2015
John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar at
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is a kind of cockeyed Irish love story,
focusing on two generations, parents at odds with offspring and that
younger generation struggling to find their own balance in the world.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:19 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's 30th season will present three world premieres, the revival of a great musical and Cinderella
While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it. Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first. Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful. Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.
The fires of 'Detroit '67' are still burning
0 Comments · Friday, March 20, 2015
In late July 1967 more
than 10,000 citizens of Detroit rioted. Police had raided a blind pig — an
unauthorized after-hours hangout very much like the one Chelle and Lank have
established in their family’s basement — where more than 80 patrons, all
African-American, had gathered to celebrate the return of a Vietnam veteran.
ETC's latest offers a thoughtfully circuitous journey
0 Comments · Sunday, February 1, 2015
Lynn Meyers, producing artistic director at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, has a knack for finding thoughtful, engaging new plays that haven’t been seen on any local stage and giving them memorable productions.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:42 AM | Permalink
The really big show this weekend happens tonight when the The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
present their eighth annual awards for high school theater productions
and performers. Our local program is one of the most established, right
up there with programs in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and beyond. Our
local awards are presented at the Aronoff Center's Procter & Gamble
Hall. In addition to the recognition of high school student performers,
the evening offers excerpts from a dozen or so schools plus ensemble
numbers featuring kids from all over the region — more than 20 schools
participate in the program. An especially exciting aspect (at least from
my point of view as a critic) is the fact that an element of the
Cappies involves students attending one another's performances and
writing about them. Tonight will open with a recognition of the
outstanding boy and girl critics, and wrap up by citing the top team of
high school critics. I'll be onstage at the Aronoff to present that
award, as well as something new: An award for the "top critique" by a
student writer. I had the privilege of choosing the winner, which will
be posted on CityBeat's arts blog after the award ceremony. And to show how profoundly CityBeat
is committed to cultivating arts coverage, we're inviting that winner
to cover a high school Fringe Next production in the Cincinnati Fringe
Festival, which kicks off next week. No award for me, but I'm honored to
be asked to hand out this recognition to the next generation of theater
Speaking of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, I should remind you that it kicks off with a special party hosted by CityBeat on Tuesday. Performances begin on Wednesday evening (continuing through June 7). You can read my overview of the Fringe here
touching on the many aspects of creativity, talent, emotion and
flat-out fun that will be happening at venues throughout Over-the-Rhine
and the northern edge of Downtown Cincinnati. For more information: www.cincyfringe.com.
It's Memorial Day weekend, which is sort of the end of the local theater season, but there's still plenty to see. Size Matters, Ray McAnally's entertaining one-man show about his career as a "hefty" actor gets its final performance on Sunday (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555), and the Cincinnati Playhouse's taut drama The North Pool is still available on its Shelterhouse Stage (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3888).
One last tidbit: After many years of producing shows aboard the Showboat Majestic,
Cincinnati Landmark Productions has pulled into port to stage its
summer productions on dry land. They just opened a production of Jerry
Herman's classic musical Hello, Dolly!, the kind of show that people have flocked to see on the 'Boat for
decades. The Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is an interim
stop: By next summer, CLP intends to steam into its new facility, The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.
If that name is unfamiliar, it's because it's just been announced. The
savings and loan has been a West Side institution since 1893, and it's
lending its venerable moniker to the brand-new 220-seat performing arts
center, slated to break ground this summer. The fundraising effort
seeking $5.6 million for the project is nearing completion. In the
meantime, catch Hello, Dolly! between now and June 1. Tickets: 513-241-6550.