by Rick Pender
51 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
Last night I was at the Cincinnati Playhouse for the opening of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, a charming one-woman play based on Giulia Melucci's foodie memoir from 2009. The frame of the show is that it's set in a stylish kitchen where actress Antoinette LaVecchia prepares a meal while sketching out her numerous disconnects in search of love, feeding boyfriends but finding herself starving. Four couples pay a bit more ($35 apiece beyond the ticket price) to sit at tables directly in front of her kitchen where she serves antipasti, salad and spaghetti Bolognese that she prepares as she talks about a series of amusing but unpromising relationships, convincingly painting portraits of her ill-fated choice in men. La Vecchia is so natural in the role (which she originated in 2012 and has played at several regional theaters since then) that you'll feel like you're one of her best friends. Running through Oct. 26, this Shelterhouse production gets a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888I also thoroughly enjoyed New Edgecliff Theatre's production of The Little Dog Laughed (at Hoffner Hall, 4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). The four-actor comedy by Douglas Carter Beane is about Diane, an acerbic agent, and Mitch, the actor whose career she's advancing. He's found a boyfriend he really likes (even though boyfriend is a male prostitute with a girlfriend), but she's convinced that this news could ruin his chances … and hers. Kemper Florin is a hoot as the motor-mouthed agent, spouting all sorts of crazy theories about how things should be in monologues that directly address the audience. The entire cast does a fine job, and I gave this one a Critic's Pick. Tickets ($20-$27): 888-428-7311
Area universities have two classics to offer. At UC's College-Conservatory of Music in a brief weekend run (through Sunday) it's Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth. In an unusual twist, the production features third-year female drama student Laura McCarthy as the power-mad military man who seizes the throne of Scotland. Tickets ($27-$31): 513-556-4183 … South of the Ohio River, Northern Kentucky University presents Euripides' The Bacchae, a play first performed in 405 B.C. The tale of power, revenge, decadence and debauchery takes place in Thebes, where citizens are torn between worship of the god Dionysus and the centrality of reason and humanism. Sunday will be the conclusion of a two-week run of the production. Tickets ($14): 859-572-5464
The musical Dirty Dancing, based on a hit movie from 1987 about young love at a family resort in the Catskills, wraps up two weeks of performance at the Aronoff Center. The touring production, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Sunday, features some dazzling video and lots of dancing. The story is pretty predictable, but it's one that people love. "Don't put Baby in the corner."
Tickets ($39-$89): 513-621-2787
New Edgecliff Theatre's Little Dog has crackle and snap
0 Comments · Thursday, October 2, 2014
There’s some deliciously nasty storytelling
going on upstairs at the Hoffner Lodge on Hamilton Avenue in Northside
thanks to New Edgecliff Theatre’s production of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A new theater season is bringing changes
to several local theater companies.
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
New Edgecliff Theatre production is right on the 'Money'
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Directed by Greg Procaccino, Other People’s Money is
both thoughtful and funny. While we understand that the corporate
raiders of the 1980s decimated entire communities, it feels more like a
nostalgic and wistful take on gentler times.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:33 AM | Permalink
It's the final
weekend for most holiday shows, and there are lots of good choices. I'm
ranking today's listings according to the laugh-o-meter, starting with
the most hilarious:
No. 1: Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some).
This is the eighth year the Cincinnati Shakespeare has put this show
together, but it's fun even for if you've been before. The cast of four
talented actors who usually do Shakespeare and the Classics prove adept
at silly, in-the-moment humor. While they're poking fun at many things
local, they also manage to touch on just about every Christmas story you
can imagine, all with laugh-out-loud results. The biggest challenge is
getting a ticket, since the run (through Dec. 29) was nearly sold out when it opened last Sunday. A performance has been added on Saturday at 2 p.m., which might be your best bet to score a seat or two. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
No. 2: The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), a show by the same guys who came up with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
The Cincinnati Playhouse is presenting the show's world premiere, and
it's a wide-ranging evening of every kind of humor imaginable by three
very adept performers. They can impersonate people and characters, they
can do improv, they can satirize the classics — and they can keep
everyone in the audience paying attention lest they get a pie in the
face. Seriously. Our should I say "humorously"? It's an evening of fun,
through Dec. 29. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
No. 3: The 12 Dates of Christmas
is the story of a gal who struggles through a year of awful dating
after she loses her fiancé when she sees him making out with another
woman on national TV during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Lots of
losers, lovers and louts — and a few nice guys who aren't quite right.
It's a one-woman show with a good heart and a great performance by Annie
Kalahurka. New Edgecliff Theatre is presenting the production at Know
Theatre. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
No. 4: A Klingon Christmas Carol.
This one isn't really laugh-out-loud, but it's a lot of fun to see
actors telling the familiar story of Scrooge and his ghosts through the
filter of Star Trek's fierce warrior race, the Klingons. SQuja'
(he's the central character) isn't a miser, he's a coward — which is
sinful for these tough guys. Find out how he gets retuned. It's a good
bet for Trekkies; others venture in at your own risk. Tickets for this
one ($20) can be obtained at the door, in the lobby of the Art Academy
of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).
Lots of more traditional fare elsewhere, of course, including Christmas Carols at the Playhouse and Covedale, as well as the family-oriented Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:37 AM | Permalink
the 13th, but if you're in the mood for holiday shows, this is your
lucky weekend. Just about every theater in town has something onstage aimed at getting you into the Christmas spirit, making you laugh,
diverting you from the stress of being cheerful or just poking fun at
the ways of the world (at least the world of commercialism we see in
America today).Perhaps you've already done your annual brush-up on Dickens' A Christmas Carol
at the Playhouse (another fine production, now in its 23rd season with
Bruce Cromer back as Scrooge and a new interpretation of Bob Cratchit,
featuring the very angular Ryan Wesley Gilreath, who seems to be all
arms and legs and stringy hair — very Dickensian) or the musical version
being presented by Covedale Center. With the story of Scrooge's dark
night of the soul fresh in mind, perhaps you're ready for A Klingon Christmas Carol,
presented by Hugo West Theatricals at the Art Academy of Cincinnati
(1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). This is a newish theater group that
knows its way around satirical work (their Don't Cross the Streams, a goofy derivative of Ghostbusters,
was a popular piece in the 2012 Fringe festival), they are giving this
unusual piece its local premiere. (It's been staged in Chicago and
Minneapolis.) It's actually a rather faithful retelling of the story
with SQuja' (Donald Volpenheim), a cowardly, money-grubbing member of
Star Trek's warrior race, taking the place of Scrooge. It's presented by
a deadpan Vulcan narrator (Lauren Carr) who positions the work as the
"original" of the tale. Klingons don't celebrate Christmas, but they are
bound by traditions, the greatest of them being the "Feast of the Long
Night." The 70-minute piece closely matches with Scrooge's story, but
it's all through a Klingon filter — lots of angry outbursts and hearty
laughter, grunting, growling, drinking and chest-thumping by characters
with wrinkled foreheads, bushy eyebrows and fierce demeanors. Eileen
Earnest handles timHom (a Muppet-like equivalent for Tiny Tim), son of
Quachit (David Dreith), whose training as a warrior is being neglected
because of greedy SQuja'. If you've never yearned for a visit to Qo'noS,
the Klingon homeworld, you might find this production a bit
impenetrable since it's performed in the guttural Klingon language, but
there are projected subtitles that add humor to the action. This won't
be a show for everyone, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you'll have a good time. Tickets ($20 at the door or here).
Elsewhere in OTR, there's no need for subtitles for New Edgecliff Theatre's The 12 Dates of Christmas,
presented this year at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St.). It's a remount
of NET's 2012 holiday, again featuring Annie Kalahurka as Mary, a New
York actress whose chipper view of the holidays is trashed when she sees
her fiancé kissing another woman on national TV at the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade. The one-woman show recounts her trajectory
through a year of dating a dozen men, a few with potential, others with
"what were you thinking?" qualities. Kalahurka does it all, from her
central character, her oppressive matchmaking aunt, her nervously
worried mother and a parade of bad choices marked by ornaments she hangs
on a tree — an old friend, a doctor, a bartender, guys met at weddings,
a musician and more. Along the way, she's in a production of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol (she
plays Christmas Past) adding more humor with references to theater and
such. This is a contemporary show with language to match (so it's not
for the kids), but Kalahurka is a charming performer who makes this one
totally worth seeing. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
On Sunday evening, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicks off two weeks of Every Christmas Carol Ever Told (and then some) for the eighth consecutive year. As the title implies, it's a mash-up of everything from A Christmas Carol to the Grinch, with stops for Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Nutcracker
and more. It's been a great evening of adult entertainment in past
incarnations: This year returns last year's cast intact — Miranda McGee,
Sara Clark, Justin McComb and Billy Chace. They're individually funny,
and together they can be downright hilarious. Even if you've seen this
one before, it's worth a return trip. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
For those who want to take the kids to a show, you can't go wrong with Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre through Jan. 4 (513-421-3555) or the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Day Before Christmas with performances today and Saturday at the Taft Theatre (800-745-3000).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:28 AM | Permalink
Several great choices for theatergoing this weekend. At the top of your list should be Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. I was at the opening of Gina Gionfriddo's 2013 Pulitzer Prize runner-up on Wednesday,
and it's another fine example of the kind of excellent production we've
come to expect from ETC. Lynn Meyers has a knack for finding exactly
the right actors for her shows, and she's assembled a perfect cast for
this one, the story of a twisty relationship between three one-time
college friends. Two women, played by Jen Joplin and Corinne Mohlenhoff,
were roommates back then, and Mohlenhoff's character had a charismatic
boyfriend. She went off to a renowned academic career and Joplin's
character ended up marrying Don, played by Charlie Clark. Twenty years
later they're back in close proximity, and neither woman is feeling
fulfilled by her life. Don is a willing player in trading places, which
makes for some amusing drama. Mohlenhoff's character offers a summer
seminar in feminism, film and pornography which plays out some
interesting theorizing among the show's female characters about the
roles women play. It's a great stew of talking and experimenting, which
takes some interesting turns along the way. Definitely watchable and
entertaining. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
At the Playhouse you'll find Martín Zimmerman's much more serious Seven Spots on the Sun,
a story set in a Latin American nation torn asunder by civil war. (CityBeat review here.) We
see the drama played out between several characters whose lives are
tragically intertwined and who struggle to understand how to continue in
light of past decisions and tragedies. It's a powerful story that
offers small glimmers of hope, not to mention some magical turns that
lead you to speculate about fate and hope. Zimmerman is a playwright
whose name will become increasingly familiar in the future; the
Playhouse is offer his script in its world premiere. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
you're looking for a different kind of theater experience, check out
New Edgecliff Theatre's annual fundraiser, "Sweet Suspense," back for
its sixth year with a one-time performance on Sunday evening. Playwright Catie O'Keefe has adapted Mary Shelley's classic monster tale of Frankenstein
into a radio adaptation, complete with creepy sound effects. Since NET
is homeless this season, the event is happening at Know Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
The "sweet" part of the evening is a dessert buffet at intermission
with treats from many local bakeries, including Holtman's Donuts, the
hot new sweet shop on Vine Street in OTR. Tickets are $35 (hey, it's a
fundraiser) for adults, $20 for kids 13 and under. Seating is limited,
so ordering tickets in advance is advised: 513-399-6638.
A bus stop worth stopping for
0 Comments · Friday, September 20, 2013
Set in a small-town
Kansas diner where passengers on bus must wait out a blizzard overnight
with a few friendly locals, the show is a tale of love vs. loneliness
and staying vs. going.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:54 AM | Permalink
Lots of choices to fulfill your appetite for good theater this weekend. Best bet is to catch one of the final performances of Other Desert Cities at Ensemble Theatre (Sunday at 2 p.m.
is your last chance), the story of parents and children who just can't
get along. (CityBeat review here.) Heavy doses of guilt, sarcasm and politics fuel a lot of
family angst, and some unexpected twists and turns keep things
interesting as a daughter who's a writer blames her parents for her
activist brother's suicide — in a very public way. The show features a
solid cast of local favorites. It's definitely worth seeing if you can
get a ticket. 513-421-3555.
A wholly different kind of show is Fly
at the Cincinnati Playhouse, an imaginative recreation of the lives of
four men recruited among hundreds of African Americans during World War
II to fulfill piloting roles in bombing missions over Europe. (CityBeat review here.) The
Tuskegee Airmen were the leading edge of the Civil Rights movement, men
who had to overcome prejudice to prove their worth. The production is
made visually and sonically engaging with videos that recreate flight
and a soulful tap dancer who brings emotion — joy, sorrow, grief and
anger — to various scenes. It's a very imaginative show. Through Oct. 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
On Wednesday evening, I caught the opening night of New Edgecliff Theatre's staging of William Inge's 1955 comedy-drama, Bus Stop.
It's about a collection of lost souls who end up trapped in a Kansas
diner during an overnight snowstorm. They're largely caricatures, but
Inge was a master of naturalistic dialogue, and in the hands of some
fine local performers directed by Jared Doren the show takes on a
pleasant, believable life. Some good things happen, some sad stories are
told, and some lessons learned. At the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third
Bank Theater, through Sept. 28. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
And for something completely different, you might want to check out a production by community theater group Showbiz Players of Carrie: The Musical,
Stephen King’s creepy novel about a bullied adolescent girl who
unleashes telekinetic vengeance on her persecutors. The show originated
on Broadway in 1988 and was long considered one of the worst ever, but
it was reborn in 2012, and became a hit. Decide for yourself by seeing
it at the Carnegie in Covington. Through Sept. 29. Tickets: 859-957-1940.