0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation
is a deceptively simple play — on the surface, it’s a comedy about five
people enrolled in a community center class about learning how to act.
by Rick Pender
125 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 09:33 AM | Permalink
I attended the opening of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical at the Cincinnati Playhouse last evening. The show offers some sense of the great Country music singer's life, but it's not detailed in the way Rosemary Clooney was portrayed in the Playhouse's recent production. Instead, it's Cash's music that's front and center, performed by a half-dozen veteran musicians and four singer/actors, two men and two women, all of whom convey the sincerity and strength that were his calling card. Jason Edwards and Derek Keeling have voices reminiscent of the"Man in Black," the former in maturity and the latter as brash young man. Trenna Barnes and Allison Briner round out the quartet, sometimes conjuring the persona of June Carter, Cash's talented wife. Both are great singers, but Barnes is especially powerful and entertaining as a young spitfire in numbers like "Cry, Cry, Cry." The show features more than 30 numbers, some familiar, several sung amusingly by the musicians, and all engaging. Especially fun is "I've Been Everywhere," the second act opener that has all 10 performers singing, playing guitars and accelerating through a list of cities where Cash toured. Read more about the show in my interview (CityBeat interview here) with Edwards, who is also the show's director. Box office: 513-421-3888.Speaking of the Playhouse, I should also mention that this weekend kicks off performances of Theory of Mind, the story of a teenager on the autism spectrum. It's about his first date with a young woman unsure of her own reasons for romance. Ken LaZebnik's play, created for young people who are 11 or older, premiered at the Playhouse in 2009 and was successful with kids and adults. This weekend it will show up at Prospect House in Price Hill on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Hyde Park Health Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. and at the Dunham Recreation Center in Price Hill on Saturday at 7 p.m. Some performances are free. For more details and a schedule of locations and dates (through Feb. 22), go to www.cincyplay.com.You shouldn't miss Waiting for Godot at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through Feb. 7). The production features excellent acting by Bruce Cromer (if you've seen A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse, you know him as Ebenezer Scrooge) and Cincy Shakes stalwart Nick Rose. Playing a pair of sad-sack hobos waiting for someone who never shows up, they capture the desperation of human existence in Samuel Beckett's masterpiece of theater of the absurd. I gave the show a Critic's Pick. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-381-2273. Two other productions kick off this weekend — the very funny Greater Tuna at the Covedale Center, through Feb. 15 (513-241-6550) in which two actors play many of the people in the "third smallest town in Texas," and the very serious Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre, through Feb. 21 (513-300-5669). The latter, a one-woman adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, features Cincy Shakes regular Corinne Mohlenhoff. I interviewed playwright Joe Stollenwerk in my Curtain Call (review here) column in CityBeat. At Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow Avenue Friday through Sunday only, you'll find a free show about coping with mental illness, She's Crazy, Mental Health and Other Myths features two local actresses, Sherry McCamley and Cathy Springfield, who developed this cabaret show that uses original songs and personal stories to reduce the stigma of mental health. Space is limited, so you are urged to call for reservations: 513-861-7469.Not for this weekend, but coming soon, you can get some bargains on tickets at Ensemble Theatre (where The Other Place opens next Wednesday). If you've never purchased tickets to ETC, you can score two $10 tickets during the first two weeks of each of its next three productions. A few restrictions apply, but it's a perfect opportunity to check out this excellent theater company if you've not been there. ETC is quick to point out that it's located in the Over-the-Rhine, where there are restaurants and events galore and easy parking in nearby garages. Box office: 513-421-3555.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Did you resolve to see more theater in
2015? If so, where to start?
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Playhouse serves up a tasty show about boyfriends and cooking
0 Comments · Friday, October 3, 2014
The show’s gimmick is that it’s set in a working kitchen where LaVecchia
prepares an aromatic three-course Italian meal while animatedly
describing her romantic adventures, starting at age 16 and continuing
into her 40s.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:09 AM | Permalink
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of
the Suicide Club opened last night at the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park. It's a new adventure for the Victorian sleuth. How can
that be, you might ask, if you're a Sherlock fan — this isn't a familiar title.
That's because playwright Jeffrey Hatcher picked up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
memorable detective, a master of deductive observation, and plugged him into a
tale of mystery and intrigue conceived by Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1878.
No spoilers here, but I will tell you that the plot of this show requires
closely following a complex tale of both personal and political intrigue.
Hatcher has set the story in 1914, on the brink of the first World War, and the
state of international relations in Europe is woven into the tale. But there's
nothing dry about this story, and Steven Hauck's performance as Sherlock is
very satisfying: He brings a quirky physicality as well as a sharp wit to the
character that makes him very engaging. Fans of Sherlock will not be disappointed
by this show. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.
I attended the opening of The Great Gatsby at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company last week. In my review, I said, "the production gets the story and the era
right," and I added that CSC's Justin McCombs "perfectly
embodies" Nick Carraway, the honest narrator of this Jazz Age tale of
nouveau riche Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the one-time debutante who
obsesses him. There's lots to like about this production, which captures the
essence of lavish parties and the fast life of the Roaring Twenties. Cincy
Shakes is committed to bringing classic literary works to the stage, and this
production is a good example of how they get it done. Simon Levy's script hews
close to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1924 novel, and the company's actors bring life
to the characters. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.
Everyone I've talked to about Hands on a Hardbody
at Ensemble Theatre has been enthusiastic about the show that brings to life a contest to win a
Nissan pickup truck by keeping one hand on it the longest. It's a true story
(it was a 1997 documentary) and these feel like real people, down on their luck
but dreaming what a difference that winning could make. The music is by Trey
Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green, and the script was written by Pulitzer
Prize winner Doug Wright. ETC has staged memorable productions of his play I
Am My Own Wife and his musical, Grey Gardens. But the real
attraction is an excellent cast who make you believe in these people,
struggling to stay away and outlast one another under the brutal sun beating
down on the Texas parking lot of a Nissan dealership. It's a fine entertainment.
Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.
Just opened at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts
is a production of Tennessee Williams's great American play, A Streetcar
Named Desire. It's about a woman who's down on her luck but unwilling
to admit it. When genteel Blanche DuBois moves with her pragmatic sister and
her brutal, blue-collar husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a rude awakening that
goes downhill fast. Through Oct. 5. Tickets ($-$): 513-241-6550.
If you've become a fan of shows in the intimate Clifton
Performance Theatre, you might want to check out The Riverside, a
play written and directed by local theater artist Kevin Crowley. It's a story
set in a Cincinnati bar in 1989 as locals follow the saga of Pete Rose's demise
in baseball, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square. But the bar
itself is changing, too, impacting the lives of the family that owns it as well
as its patrons.Through Sept. 27. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato.com/buy/.
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
Posted In: Theater
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
Just two more days of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, so here are a few recommendations for great shows you can still catch. (Look for reviews of these performances on CityBeat's Fringe page here.) Many Fringe performances are sold-out, so check in advance to be sure seats are still available: cincyfringe.com.
I was very impressed by Christine Dye's moving performance in Kevin Crowley's one-woman show, Sarge, about a woman whose husband is accused of child molestation. It's final offering is tonight at 7 p.m. Four Humors' An Unauthorized Autobiography of Benny Hill epitomizes the off-kilter nature of the Fringe, a piece that's funny and poignant. Last chance to see it is Saturday at 8:45 p.m. If you like storytelling, you can catch two of those on Saturday evening: Mike Fotis's Fotis Canyon (7 p.m.) and Paul Strickland's Papa Squat's Store of Sorts (9 p.m.) You might also want to check out the intern showcase at Ensemble Theatre, which just opened on Thursday evening; performances Friday (7:45 p.m.) and Saturday (1 and 7 p.m.). It includes some fine acting in some unusual scripts. True Theatre
is offers another Fringe iteration featuring its own brand of
revelatory truth-telling, featuring several Fringe artists providing
back stories about their careers and experiences. That's at 9 p.m. tonight at Coffee Emporium.
your taste is for more traditional — but equally entertaining —
theater, head to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Noël
Coward's Private Lives, a witty comedy classic from 1930. A
formerly married couple find themselves on honeymoons with new spouses,
but in close proximity to one another. Trouble ensues. Four of Cincy
Shakes best actors — Kelly Mengelkoch, Jeremy Dubin, Sara Clark and
Brent Vimtrup — constitute the cast. It opens tonight and continues
through June 29. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.
Finally, whether or not you're a fan of garage sales, you might be interested in what's happening on Saturday morning, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Cincinnati Playhouse's Scenery Shop
(2827 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, across from Thomson-MacConnell
Cadillac): It's the regional theater's annual sale of props, furniture,
dresses and more. If you're a regular at the Playhouse, you might
recognize items from productions of A Delicate Ship, The Trip to Bountiful, Thunder Knocking on the Door, As You Like It
and more. You'll have your choice of lots of miscellaneous items like
china and glassware, dining chairs, tables and desks, area rugs, a
bathtub and even a "concrete cherub planter." There's also a collection
of 20th-century "day dresses," along with some formal gowns and fabric
yardage. Prices are cheap; payment must be by cash or check. All items
are sold "as is."
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.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
I’m not making up a story when I suggest you could be charmed by Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights
at Northern Kentucky University. After all, her play is about telling
tales: Scheherazade, the latest bride of a cruel king who has a history
of marrying and executing his wives, survives by stringing him along
with stories she promises to finish the next night — for a “Thousand and
One Nights.” (Read my profile of Mary Zimmerman here.) She plies him with tales of Sinbad and Ali Baba. Audiences
at NKU will likely be strung along, too. Senior Cynthea Mercado plays
Scheherazade, whose life, she says, “is threatened with the reality of
her situation, and yet she is still able to enjoy her own tales and
sometimes get lost in them.” No need to get lost. Find your way to
Highland Heights and NKU’s Corbett Theatre for this production, through
March 2. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
If a classic musical is to your taste, you might try Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical Evita,
in a touring production at the Aronoff Center through March 2. I caught
a performance last evening, and it looks great — some epic scenery and
excellent choreography. Josh Young as Che is charismatic and
strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator. Unfortunately,
Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón gets too shrill way too fast and becomes a
grasping harpy before there’s a chance to be won over by her
Machiavellian charms. As Juan Peron, Sean MacLaughlin looks young and
slimy, without the sinister gravitas that the historical figure
possessed. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to convey the complex
chemistry — passion and manipulation — that bonded them as a political
machine. But the tale of the ambitious young woman who rose to the
highest levels of power in Argentina then crashed and burned is a
memorable modern tragedy, and the show’s rock-opera tunes by Andrew
Lloyd Webber will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-ARTS.
Cincinnati Shakespeare is keeping the cast of its recent production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet intact with its current production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
This time around, it’s the story of Hamlet’s college buddies
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who move from Shakespeare’s sidelines to
Stoppard’s center stage. In this classic 1967 script, the pawns become
the central characters, while Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, King
Claudius, Ophelia and others wander by. The classic tragedy is turned on
its head, and it becomes an existential tragedy for two guys who
everyone has a hard time telling apart. Through March 9. Tickets:
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize finalist script, 4000 Miles,
is onstage at the Shelterhouse Theatre. It’s about a 91-year-old
grandmother and her 21-year-old grandson bridging a giant generation gap
and finding that they actually have a lot in common. Through March 9.
It’s the final weekend for several shows that have been pleasing audiences. Nina Raine’s Tribes
at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati was originally scheduled to close last
Sunday, but to meet ticket demand for the show about coping with
deafness — and contentious families — ETC added performances through
Saturday. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-421-3555. … A block away at Know Theatre, the
off-kilter script by Steve Yockey, Pluto, winds up on
Saturday, too. It’s about dealing with tragedy and grief, told in an
inventive, sometimes even humorous, manner. Two of Cincinnati’s finest
actors — Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins — are in this one, making it
very watchable. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-300-5669 … For the younger set, this
weekend offers the final public performance, Saturday at 2 p.m., of
Children’s Theatre’s Pinkalicious at the Taft. It’s the story of a girl who can’s stop eating pink cupcakes. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
And here’s a tip for Monday evening: Dayton native Daniel Beaty, who pleased a lot of Playhouse patrons last season with his tour-de-force one-man show, Through the Night, will be in town for a one-night performance to promote his new book, Transforming Pain to Power.
His performance (6:30 p.m. in the Marx Theatre) and the book signing
afterward in the Rosenthal Plaza) are free, but you need to make a
reservation with the Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.