by Rick Pender
88 days ago
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
by Rick Pender
102 days ago
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
If you follow music coverage in CityBeat (hey, isn't that really why you pick up the paper?), you're certainly aware of Green Day's 2004 recording American Idiot.
But since you're reading my weekend theater previews, you must be
interested in other kinds of performance, so here's a tip: For two nights
only, Green Day's American Idiot, a stage version of the powerful Punk score, will be onstage at the Aronoff. That's right — Friday and Saturday
only, just three performances, much shorter that Broadway in
Cincinnati's two-week presentation of touring Broadway musicals. I can
vouch for this one, since I saw it a year ago during a similar tour stop
in Dayton. It's the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward
spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life —
"alien nation" — as they sing in the opening number. The recording was
conceived as a "Punk Rock Opera" and turned into a Tony Award-nominated
Broadway show in 2010, with a lot of involvement by Green Day's lead
singer Billie Joe Armstrong (who actually appeared onstage in New York
at various performances; that's not happening here in Cincinnati).
There's a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of $25
tickets; you need to show up two-and-a-half hours before the performance
you're hoping to see (8 p.m. Friday, and 5 and 8 p.m. on Saturday)
with a valid photo ID. Complete an entry form and wait 30 minutes to
find out if you're a winner. If you prefer to just go ahead and buy your
seats ($38-$91), you can call the Aronoff box office: 513-621-2787.
In the classic musical Gypsy,
Rose has very concrete ideas regarding how to turn her daughters into
stars (long before Green Day was punking out, to be sure): Back in the
1920s and ’30s she pushed her kids onto vaudeville stages whether they
liked it or not. Things never went quite as she imagined, which was
really a desire for her own fame and stardom. It's one of the great
musicals, and the role of Rose has been compared to King Lear. That
might be a bit of a stretch, but she's a tragic character who's
fascinating to watch. There's a ton of great music, composed by Jule
Styne with lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and lots of humor
along the way, especially the hilarious number by three strippers, "You
Gotta Get a Gimmick." Cincinnati Landmark opened its production Thursday
night, and it will be onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing
Arts through May 4. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
Mary Chase's comedy Harvey
won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize and had a four-year Broadway run (1,800
performances). The story of Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible friend, a 6-foot tall rabbit named Harvey, is perhaps best known for the 1950
movie featuring Jimmy Stewart in an Oscar-nominated performance. That's
all well and good, but it's a show that audiences love to see live and
in-person, and you can do just that at Covington's Carnegie for the next
three weekends (tonight through April 27).
It's directed by Buz Davis, who produced shows at the Carnegie when it
was a dilapidated wreck back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now he's returning to
stage Harvey in the beautifully renovated Otto M. Budig Theatre.
(Tickets ($17-$24): 859-957-1940.) Davis has assembled a strong cast for this family-friendly comedy, you
can catch a few of them in this charming promotional video:Still onstage are several recommended productions: The Mountaintop at Ensemble Theatre (final extended performance is Saturday evening; 513-421-3555); A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse (through April 20; 513-421-3888; CityBeat review here); and The Twentieth-Century Way at Know Theatre (through May 3; CityBeat review here.) And if Monday comes and you want still more: Check out True Theatre's next installment — True Dating (7:30 p.m.
at Know Theatre). This round of monologues of real experiences will
feature stories of dating that led to true love, and some that went off
the tracks along the way. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
Beauty stylists primp for another "Art of" blockbuster
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Is The Art of Hair a quiet beauty compared with the hungry
beast that is the Carnegie Center’s highly anticipated annual show The Art of Food? Nope. It’s a monster, too.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
A few good local
productions are winding up this weekend. On Labor Day weekend, you won't
find much onstage. But you have a couple of decent choices right now to
tide you over.
At the top of my list would be Chicago
at the Carnegie (CityBeat review here). It's a classic musical by Kander & Ebb, getting an
excellent staging — great performances (by some solid professionals
with Broadway experience as well as rising talent from universities
around the Tristate), great choreography (Bob Fosse's iconic style has
been updated in some very imaginative ways) and really hot orchestral
accompaniment (the musicians would be worth listening to on their own!)
It all adds up to some fabulous razzle-dazzle. Final performance is Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets ($19-$26): 859-957-1940.
Know Theatre wraps up its run of Lauren Gunderson's very contemporary comedy, Toil and Trouble, which has echoes of Shakespeare's Macbeth from start to finish (CityBeat review here). Inspired by messages from fortune cookies (in place of Macbeth's
witches) A couple of slackers and their aggressive sportscaster
girlfriend concoct a crazy scheme to grab power and wealth. Of course,
it goes wildly wrong, with a lot of laughs along the way. Final
performance is Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets ($20): 513-300-5669
And if you're a Woody Allen fan, you might want to board the Showboat Majestic at the Public Landing for Don't Drink the Water,
a play he wrote in 1966 that had a two-year run on Broadway. Set inside
an American embassy behind the Iron Curtain, the show features lots of
Allen's hallmarks: farcical situations, loopy characters and a high dose
of humor. Final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets ($19-$20): 513-241-6550
The current issue of CityBeat includes previews of the fall arts season. It's online here, including my suggestions about shows from local theaters here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:18 AM | Permalink
Summer is flying by, or so it seems. This is the final weekend for you to see Cincinnati Shakespeare's production of The 39 Steps (CityBeat review here),
a satiric adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1935 film of
espionage and intrigue. Making it all the more amusing is the fact that
the story is performed by four actors, two of whom play most of the
citizens of London and beyond, using a lot of quick changes and quick
thinking. It's a very entertaining evening of tomfoolery, featuring four
of Cincy Shakes' most talented comedic actors. Your last chances to see
the show are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 513-381-2273.Another entertaining production is Lauren Gunderson's very new play, Toil and Trouble (CityBeat review here),
at Know Theatre. It's a comedy about contemporary slackers trying to
make a quick buck that's got a very Shakespearean ring to it — Macbeth,
to be precise. The humor presses a bit too hard at moments, but if you
go to have a good time, you'll definitely find one. Instead of warriors
and kings vying for the throne, this one focuses on 30-year-olds trying
to strike it rich without working too hard — but the echoes of the
Elizabethan tragedy can't be missed. There's a steady stream of sports
talk, too, making comparisons between baseball and life. It's a strange
brew, but plenty of laughs. Through Aug. 24. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
are always popular, but for some reason they seem especially attractive
fare in the summer months. So we can say thanks to the Carnegie in
Covington for serving up a tasty one, Kander and Ebb's Chicago,
an all-time Broadway favorite. This production — the sexy, salacious
tale of murderous women in Chicago in the 1920s — features choreography
by Broadway veteran and Cincinnati native David Baum in his local
professional debut. Word has it that he's put together some of the most
inventive choreography seen on local stages in a long time. The
production opens on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m.) and repeats on Sunday (3 p.m.). It continues for two more weekends, through Aug. 25. 859-957-1940.
Also onstage this weekend (and running through Aug. 25) is Woody Allen's hit Broadway comedy, Don't Drink the Water.
Amusingly, it's on board the Showboat Majestic (where you definitely
don't want to drink the water) — but it's a humorous tale of tourists
caught in an American embassy behind the Iron Curtain. Lightweight
entertainment, but a lot of fun. 513-241-6550.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Several slots for the 2013-2014 season
have been filled in by local theaters as the current season finishes.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:17 AM | Permalink
There's a bounty of
theater choices to keep you entertained this weekend, with productions
on venues all over town — including on several university campuses. Here
are a few you might want to check out.
Edgecliff Theatre, which has presented shows at the Columbia
Performance Center on Cincinnati's East Side for quite a few years, has
been itinerant this year while they seek a new home. They're completing
their fifteenth season with a production of David Auburn's Proof
at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater, which looks like it's
where they'll land for their next season. (I'll be writing more about
NET in my next CityBeat "Curtain Call" column on April 24.) I
attended the show's opening on Wednesday, and it's a solid production of
a very engaging play, the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Greg
Procaccino, NET's former artistic director, has returned to stage a
simple but effective production that features Rebecca Whatley as
Catherine, the anxious, self-doubting young woman who has been a
caregiver for years for her father, a renowned math professor whose
mental instability has been a factor and a threat in his daughter's
life. The show has several gripping twists and turns, as well as a
satisfying resolution. Through April 27. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Last week I was at the opening of Cock,
a regional premiere and Know Theatre's second production of the season. (CityBeat review here.)
It's the story of a man falling out of a gay relationship and into one
with a woman; he's torn by indecision and doubt about which way to go.
The show is staged (by director Brian Robertson) like a cockfight, with
the characters "pecking" at one another emotionally. It's also presented
in an unusual setting, bertween two rows of bleachers (like a cockfight
arena), so you're close to the action and able to see how others are
responding. It's a fight to the finish, and you can never be certain of
the outcome. Strong acting and a very contemporary, well-written script
by British playwright Mike Bartlett. Through May May 11. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
This is the final weekend at the Carnegie in Covington for the hard-hitting musical Parade
by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown and playwright Alfred Uhry.
(CityBeat review here.) It's based on the true story of Leo Frank, unjustly accused of
murdering a young teenaged girl working in the factory he managed in
Atlanta in 1913. A Jew from New York, Frank was the target of profound
anti-Semitism and never had a realistic chance to defend himself,
although his wife tried mightily to expose the prejudice. It's a
powerful production, featuring a cast of musical theater talent from
UC's College-Conservatory of Music, directed by Dee Anne Bryll and Ed
Cohen. The show is not easy to watch, but it's deeply moving. Through
Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
years since 1981, Northern Kentucky University has presented the Year
End Series Festival — shortened to the "YES," ten days of presentations
of three world premieres. This year's shows are a murder-mystery farce, Heart Attack with a Knife by Oded Gross; David L. Williams Spake, a drama set in Siberia; and a comic fable about fame and friendship, Furbelow
by J. Stephen Brantley. YES is a gargantuan undertaking, and it
represents how NKU prepares its drama students for careers in the
theater. Shows are presented in rotating repertory, so you should check the Web site for specific performance dates. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
area universities this weekend: At the Cohen Family Studio Theater at
UC's College-Conservatory of Music, you can see a production of Emily
Mann's Execution of Justice (UC's College-Conservatory of Music, through Sunday, 513-556-4183),
a new docu-drama about the trial of Dan White for the murder of Harvey
Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay Supervisor and Mayor George
Moscone. It's staged by retiring UC drama professor Michael Burnham. And
for musical theater fans, you can see Stephen Sondheim and James
Lapine's popular fairytale musical Into the Woods at Miami University (through April 27, 513-529-3200).
by Jac Kern
Posted In: Events
at 02:10 PM | Permalink
Remember when you
could buy a proper cocktail with the spare change in your pocket? OK, probably
not, but you can still enjoy Prohibition-era prices at Japp’s new happy hour
kicking off Friday. From 4-6 p.m. tonight (and each night thereafter), Japp’s
will serve up 33-cent Plymouth gin
martinis with a side of live Jazz and ‘20s-‘30s standards.
Pet owners have rallied for a downtown dog park for years; now there
are two! In addition to Washington Park’s AstroTurfed dog area is Fido Field on
Eggleston Ave. The space is made possible my volunteers and fundraising, as it
is not managed by the Cincinnati Park Board. Help contribute to the maintenance
of Fido Field by enjoying a night out on the Balls Around the Block bar crawl
Friday. Dog lovers and drinkers alike will hop from the Contemporary Arts Center
(check-in by 6 p.m.) to bars like Igby’s, Righteous Room, Madonna’s and more,
enjoying drink and food specials at various locations. Registration for the
event has closed; walk-ups will be accepted until 7 p.m. at the CAC for $40.
Check out the bar crawl map and learn more about Fido Field here.
While there aren’t any new theater productions opening this week, there
are plenty of shows to check out at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Ensemble
Theatre Cincinnati, Playhouse in the Park and Covington’s Carnegie Center. Read
about them in Rick Pender’s Stage Door.
Downtown’s newest bar, 601 Lounge and Nightclub, hosts a grand opening Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m.; $10
cover includes two free drinks. Like a lot of newer downtown clubs, 601 looks
to cater to the VIP/bottle service crowd, so dress to impress — or you’ll
be stuck in the cold.
Check out our calendar
for more events, art shows, concerts,
theater productions and more happening this weekend
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:11 AM | Permalink
The clash of good and evil seems to be on the mind of most of our local theaters this week as numerous openings bring plenty of offerings for you to choose from.Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a kind of sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible. This new play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (it's actually a world premiere) takes the character of Abigail Williams, the villainous and spiteful catalyst for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and moves her 10 years beyond. She's living in Boston, an outcast caring for people afflicted with the "pox" — and haunted by her past. She knows her actions in Salem were evil, perhaps inspired by the Devil himself. How she copes with the current events of her life is very much dictated by her actions from the past. This is a fascinating variation on a familiar character, told with an air of supernatural events and eerie sights and sounds. Box office: 513-421-3888.Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati puts a debate about the existence of God front and center, with the distance between good and evil or right and wrong as the battleground. Psychoanalyst and atheist Sigmund Freud is dying of oral cancer; he invites to his London flat a young academic and newly converted Christian, C. S. Lewis (who later wrote the Christian allegory The Chronicles of Narnia). On the September day in 1939 when England declares war on Germany — perhaps another clash of good and evil — they meet for a conversation. The play is almost all talking and very little action, but the clash of ideas is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. That's made especially true by two fine actors: Bruce Cromer (the Playhouse's longstanding Ebenezer Scrooge and Cincinnati Shakespeare's recent Atticus Finch) as the earnest Lewis, and Barry Mulholland (a local newcomer, but a veteran actor) as the skeptical Freud. This one will make you think. Box office: 513-421-3555.Camelot at Covington's Carnegie Center offers a distilled version of the Broadway hit from 1960. It's presented as a concert, singers backed up by members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, led by its maestro Mischa Santora. The story of King Arthur's court, a place of goodness and justice brought down by an illicit love affair, is another glimpse of the good and evil affect history — even if it's mythic history. Former NKU professor Mark Hardy is back in town to play Arthur. Through Feb. 3. Box office: 859-957-1940.The evils of racial injustice are at the heart and soul of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis, which has a touring production at the Aronoff through Feb. 3. Set in the 1950s, it's about a white radio DJ who digs black music long before it became mainstream. His love of the music leads him to a romance with a talented singer, and that causes complications in a town where black and white don't mingle without serious repercussions. Of course, it's a musical, so this doesn't dig too deeply into the issues, but it's definitely a reminder of a time and place that feels very foreign to us today — even if some attitudes persist. Ultimately, it's about the power of music to bridge difficult boundaries, and that's a good message. Box: 800-987-2787.
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 18, 2012
All right, you’re going to have to
forgive me — I am a theater critic and a theater lover. Those terms are
not mutually exclusive.