by Rick Pender
39 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:30 AM | Permalink
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
0 Comments · Monday, October 13, 2014
Know Theatre’s 17th Season theme is
“adaptation,” and on the evening of Oct. 10, the company opened Julian
Rad’s 2003 take on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick.
by Rick Pender
46 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:20 AM | Permalink
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
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A new theater season is bringing changes
to several local theater companies.
Theater season starts now
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Shows that open seasons for local theater
companies carry added freight: They tell theatergoers, “This is what to
expect from us.”
by Rick Pender
102 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
Not too many years ago August was a very quiet month on local stages. No longer. You have plenty of good choices this weekend.Stacy Sims reviewed Know Theatre's production of Harry & the Thief, which opened last week. She called it "a
wonderfully ridiculous, history-twisting, large cast mash-up of a play,"
and that's just the beginning." Sigrid Gilmer's play is a riot of
modern perspectives and Civil War values, a mingling of contemporary
attitudes with opinions and behaviors long since set aside — but not so
far off that we can't recognize them as prejudice, misogyny and racism.
But Gilmer's weaves a lot of humor and satire around Harriet Tubman (a
real woman who led many people out of slavery into freedom in the 1850s
and 1860s). The play has been staged by guest director Holly Derr to
spotlight a zany streak of humor that the playwright has generously
salted across her script from start to finish. This feels a lot like a
Fringe festival show, and that makes sense, since Know is the annual
producer of the Cincy Fringe, and Harry & the Thief kicks off
its 2014-2015 season. As Stacy noted, "this bodes well" for the theater
now being managed artistically by Andrew Hungerford. I watched a
performance earlier this week with a full house resulting from Know's
"Welcome Project," throwing its doors open to anyone who wants to come
on several Wednesday
evenings (hoping that a few of them will pay something, but requiring
nothing more than showing up). I suspect many of those in attendance
will be recommending this production to friends. Through Aug. 30.
Tickets ($20 most of the time, although you can get rush tickets for
remaining seats 10 minutes before curtain time, and free next Wednesday, Aug. 20): 513-300-5669.
Speaking of the Fringe, Know presents occasional encores from past festivals. On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. (one night only) you can catch one of the best acts I've ever enjoyed in the Cincy Fringe: David Gaines returns with 7(x1) Samurai,
retelling Kurasawa's classic 1954 film in a one-man show that was a hit
of the 2009 festival. It's true to the source about victimized
peasants, marauding bandits and samurai warriors, astonishing to watch
and one hell of a performance. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
another astonishing, virtuoso work of theater onstage, this one south
of the Ohio River at Covington's Carnegie Theatre. It's Stephen
Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I plan to see it on Friday
evening (it opened last week), but people are already saying that
Justin Glaser brings a great voice to the maniacal killer and Helen
Raymond-Goers sings the role of the meat-pie-baking Mrs. Lovett with both
wit and polish. This is one of the greatest musicals of the late 20th
century, and all indicators are that this is a production worth seeing.
Through Aug. 23. Tickets ($21-$28): 859-857-1940.
Shakespeare Company will double your choices this weekend. At its Race
Street theater you'll find the final performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),
a comic rendering — or at least passing references to — all 38 of the
Bard's plays, his sonnets and some amusingly presented "facts" about his
life. It's a romp from start to finish, featuring three of Cincy
Shakes' best actors having a hell of a good time onstage, Jeremy Dubin,
Justin McCombs and Nicholas Rose. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.If you want something a tad closer to the original, find one of CSC's free touring productions at an area park: Macbeth on Friday night (7 p.m.) at Keehner Park in West Chester and Saturday evening (7 p.m.) at Cottell Park in Mason or A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday evening (6 p.m.)
at Washington Park. These are somewhat reduced productions (done in two
hours) using just six actors: That makes them all the more exciting to
watch — and to be dazzled by actors who can convincingly play multiple
Twerking time with Harriet Tubman at the Know
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Harry & The Thief by Sigrid
Gilmer is a wonderfully ridiculous, history-twisting, large cast mash-up
of a play about Harriet Tubman (Harry), slavery and time travel. It is
also the first play in Know Theatre’s 17th season, with Andrew
Hungerford now at the artistic helm. This bodes well.
by Rick Pender
130 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 09:15 AM | Permalink
The Commonwealth Theatre Company's production of Route 66 continues its dinner-theater run at Northern Kentucky University. It's about a band traveling from Chicago to the West Coast in the 1960s along one of America's most legendary highways. Along the way, they meet a lot of colorful characters and see a lot of America. Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele make up "The Chicago Avenue Band," who make stops at juke joints, diners, cheap motels and curio shops in this coming of age story. Through July 27. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.Last Saturday evening I ended up at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas to see teacher Jason Burgess's production of The Addams Family featuring a herd of high school kids from all over Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It's a perfect musical for the program Burgess has created (C.A.S.T, the Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre), bringing together a ton of students who are in love with theater. Surrounding the central characters in The Addams Family, nicely portrayed by Aaron Schilling as Gomez, Lindsey Gwen Franxman as Morticia and Harrison Swayne as Uncle Fester, are 18 ghostly "ancestors." Each one is costumed (designer Laura Martin) from various periods with a clearly evident character; together they sing and dance as a coherent company. (Amy Burgess served as the production's choreographer, and Alex Gartner is the music director — in creepy makeup.) Through Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission ($10) at the door or online via www.showtix4u.com.Monday evening at 8 p.m. brings the third installment of Serials! at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). It's a wacky summer-long set of a half-dozen episodic plays by local playwrights. So far we have seen meat falling from the sky, an NSA spook monitoring a contentious couple, a kid refusing to go to a funeral, a philosophical fetus, a suicidal pair competing over techniques and more. Each 10-15 minute episode is preceded by a clever recap to catch you up, even if it's your first time there. Rest assured there are cliffhangers — not to mention Know's well-stocked Underground Bar. Admission is $15. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
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
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