by Rick Pender
10 days ago
Noble Romans, ambitious astronomers, fairy tales and one bad girl
You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I
suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar
at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most
memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter
plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of
intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes
relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring
them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick
is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose
motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is
Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy,
and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling.
Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a
subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when
Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky,
is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of
science from a century ago when women were not expected to have
meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she
tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays
the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by
Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a
well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth
seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods
featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and
Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky
University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast
does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal
demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative
framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a
library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive
demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides
away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants
threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall
shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU
student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to
giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an
enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining,
visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be
sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and
choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart
and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast,
who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke
Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently
onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids
dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story
unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly
evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre.
This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to
hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s
College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a
staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids,
tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new
play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the
final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 20, 2016
It’s not so rare today to see a play with
a woman as its focal character. Two current Cincinnati productions
define opposite ends of the spectrum of admirable and despicable
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Once upon a time, popular theater was the
realm of melodramas with dastardly villains, heroic champions and
damsels in distress. New Edgecliff Theatre has experienced its own run
of “perils” that seem to be the modern-day equivalent of the challenges
faced in those long-ago productions.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:10 AM | Permalink
There's a ton of theater opening up this weekend, something for just about every taste. But if you're looking for something free, I have a special recommendation: It's 110 in the Shade at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. This is a production in the Cohen Family Studio Theater (an intimate black box venue that seats about 150). The production is in the "Musical Redux" series, bringing back a show that's not often produced. 110 dates back to 1963. It's the story of Lizzie Curry, on her way to being an "old maid," who lives with her dad and her brothers. A charming con man shows up posing as a rainmaker and promises relief to drought-stricken farmers. Is he for real? Lizzie has her doubts, but he works hard to win her over. CCM Studio productions are free, but reservations are required (513-556-4183), and performances are often filled up. This one is likely to be a lot of fun; it's this weekend only, final performance at 8 p.m. Saturday.I gave Cincinnati Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's lusty and lewd, and the battle of the sexes has never been fought in a more entertaining way. Two of the company's veteran actors, Nick Rose and Kelly Mengelkoch, play Petruchio and Katherine, and they mix it up with with and humor. Definitely an entertaining evening. Tickets: 513-381-2273.A week ago I had a chance to see one of the Cincinnati Playhouse's current touring productions (this one is aimed at kids in grades K-3), Bird Brain. It's funny fable that teaches a lesson that strange behavior isn't always foolish. More info here. This weekend it will be presented at Springfield Townships Grove Banquet Hall (Friday at 7 p.m.), The Drama Workshop at Glenmore Playhouse in Cheviot (Saturday at 2 p.m.), the Blue Ash Recreation Center (Saturday at 7 p.m.) and The Lebanon Theatre Company (Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m.). Admission is usually free (or very inexpensive). Grab a kid and go.Other productions opening this weekend: Steve Martin's very funny farce,The Underpants, kicks off a three weekend run at the Carnegie in Covington. New Edgecliff Theatre, still not in its new permanent home in Northside, is staging David Mamet's piercing drama, Race, at the Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). At Falcon Theatre (636 Monmouth St., Newport) you can catch the first weekend of The Cover of Life, a drama about three young women married to brothers from the same small town who have gone off to fight in World War II. Meanwhile, in Bellevue, Ky., at St. John United Church of Christ, you can see a production of Joanna Murray-Smith's Honour by WIT-Women in Theatre. The story of three women propelled to ask the question "What is love?" when they've been struggling with tough relationships, is onstage for two weekends. Children's Theatre kicks off two weekends of public performances of Disney's Aladdin JR. at the Taft Theatre. It's a stage version of the popular animated musical feature; the production includes jugglers, acrobats and stilt walkers. And Lion King continues its month-long run at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.)Don't forget that Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. is another quarterly offering from the True Theatre guys at Know Theatre. The theme this time is "true beauty," with real monologues by people who talk about things they've really experienced.Something for everyone, as they say!Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:00 AM | Permalink
Sought. Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati hosts its third annual Meals for Monologues on Monday
and Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 1127 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
It's an open casting call to Equity and non-union actors for theater, film, TV
and/or commercial projects cast by the theater's artistic director D. Lynn
Meyers. Interested performers should bring two non-perishable food (pasta,
canned goods, etc.) or toiletry items (soap, toothpaste) to the theater — to be
donated to the Freestore/Foodbank as well as a current headshot and résumé and
a short prepared monologue, song or two monologues. (No accompanist, so songs
need to be performed a capellla.) Time slots are five minutes maximum
and are available by appointment only. The deadline was last Friday, but a
quick email to Ben Raanan (email@example.com) will let
you know if any slots are still available. Meyers is a member of the Casting
Society of America, and she has tons of projects and connections beyond shows
at ETC; she recently did a lot of casting during two locally shot films, Carol
and Miles Ahead.
Fundraiser for New Edgecliff. The classic holiday story, Miracle on 34th Street
— yes, the one with Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as a child actor — will be
brought to life as a radio production on Sunday evening at the Northside Tavern
(4163 Hamilton Ave.) as an old-time radio drama. Produced by New Edgecliff
Theatre with sound effects by WMKV's Mike Martini, it's a benefit to the
theater group. Admission is $35, and it includes a dessert buffet at
intermission provided by Cincinnati State's Midwest Culinary Institute.
Tickets: 888-428-7311 (or at the door).
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney
Musical seems to be a big hit. The show, onstage in the Shelterhouse, opened
on Nov. 20, and on its first night artistic director Blake Robison announced
that sales were brisk enough to make it possible to extend the production a
week beyond its intended closing date (Dec. 28) to Jan. 4. Demand for tickets
has continued, so the Playhouse has extended the show another week, now closing
on Jan. 11. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
If you've read Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale,
you know it's a creepy vision of the not-too-distant future in which the United
States has become a theocracy called the Republic of Gilead. An oppressive
regime forces women to bear children for population growth, but Offred resists
the demands made of her. Cincinnati Shakespeare gave Joe Stollenwerk's
adaptation of the show a workshop in 2009 and a short-run production in 2011
featuring veteran Cincy Shakes actress Corinne Mohlenhoff as Offred. Next month
Know Theatre fills in a TBA slot in its season with the show's first
full-fledged production (Jan. 23-Feb. 21). Cincy Shakes' Brian Phillips will
stage the one-woman piece with Mohlenhoff. They are married, so this is an
unusual opportunity for them to work together on a new work rather than the
classics that Cincy Shakes usually stages. Tickets ($20) are now available: 513-300-5669.CityBeat's Rick Pender posts theater notices on
CALL BOARD every Monday morning.
by Rick Pender
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.