Shakespeare’s King John is not frequently produced. It has many unfamiliar historical characters (John reigned during the early 13th century; history remembers him because he was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215). He was a ruthless schemer, more concerned with pomp and personal preservation than ruling justly, and Shakespeare’s play is shot through with murky themes of devious politics.
There are two unlikely pairings in Cincinnati Shakespeare's 1960s-flavored 'Much Ado About Nothing.' First is the romance between Beatrice and Benedick, competing wits whose friends trick them into realizing they're perfect for each other. Still more audacious is director Drew Fracher's attempt to marry this well-mannered comedy with the acid-tinged, free-love vibe of a hippie commune.
Putting it as simply as I can, Oscar Wilde's 'An Ideal Husband' is the crowning pleasure of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's 2009-10 season. Everything works. The direction by Jeremy Dubin is tight, focused and spot on. Design elements are more sumptuous and elegant than any CSC has ever presented. Performances maintain the lilt, audacity and inner laughter of high comedy.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It depends on what your definition of 'well' is." Sure, 'All's Well That Ends Well' at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company ends up neatly with loose threads tidied away. But truest delights are the four strong women who, as in no other play by Shakespeare, dominate the action as played by Kelly Mengelkoch, Sherman Fracher, Amy Warner and Sara Clark.
Imagine the result if Noel Coward had written 'King Lear.' Imagine the savagery that families reserve for their most bitter internecine battles but verbalized in the lilting, wit-lit language of drawing-room comedy. That's the effect of 'The Lion in Winter,' which is opening Season 16 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company with seven most familiar and ordinarily persuasive performers directed by artistic guru Brian Isaac Phillips.
When George Bernard Shaw's witty comedy 'Arms and the Man' debuted in 1894 in Dublin, it was a hit. Shaw described it as "one joke after another ... a firecracker." That's pretty much what you'll experience onstage at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, making its first foray into Shaw's prolific output. I hope we'll see more Shaw on Race Street, based on the success of this production.
This show is strong, nuanced and magical — a lovely whole crafted of lively parts. Example: Sherman Fracher digs deep to illuminate the shallow egocentricity and bitchiness of fading actress Irina, how fiercely she needs to be the epicenter of everything.
Big stories in the news — events like 9/11 and the Iraq War — have been the focus of many plays and films during the past several years. They are points of reference in Dying City, a 2007 play by Christopher Shinn that portrays the effects of such world-changing events in the context of a small but powerful personal drama. New Stage Collective is giving the play its local premiere, the first work by Shinn presented on a Cincinnati stage. His provocative script and this strong production will warm up the January theater scene.