WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.13.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 4-11 bloody bloody andrew jackson @ know theatre - kellen york as aj - photo deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Shatner, CSC and 'Bloody Bloody'

I’m not a big fan of playwright Neil LaBute, whose characters tend to be misogynistic, shallow and selfish. That’s the case with reasons to be pretty at New Edgecliff Theatre, which I saw last night. It’s in the same vein as other LaBute scripts, with a semi-sensitive guy who gets lost in being a man, pulls back slightly, but pays the price for his own thoughtless behavior and his collaboration with a caricatured, boorish friend. NET’s production benefits from some decent acting, and on opening night the audience was caught up in watching guys say nasty things and women act out and suffer. This show (full of coarse language and reprehensible behavior) appeals to the worst in human nature. The modest effort to pull it out at the end wasn’t enough for me. Box office: 888-588-0137. Know Theatre’s production of the recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a youthful mix of political commentary, driving Rock performances, history, humor and sober observations on the will of the people — just what we’ve come expect from Know Theatre. Not many musicals begin with the cast flipping the bird at the audience, but then not many musicals are like this one, spinning a tale of America’s seventh president to in-your-face Indie Rock tunes. (The “orchestra” for the production is the local band The Dukes Are Dead.) Kellen York, playing the title role is note even a remotely good singer, but he looks and acts the part, strutting around the stage as an “agent of change.” He’s surrounded by a cast of strong musical theater performers, and their work plus a sassy political satire makes this show a Critic’s Pick. This is Bloody Bloody’s first professional regional production, and it will surely be the big hit of Know’s season. (Through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669. Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It is a one-man tour by the actor who’s played an iconic starship captain on Star Trek and a sleazy attorney on television on Boston Legal. He’s been a character from start to finish, and this act has earned positive reviews in New York City and in cities where he’s making stops. He’s at the Aronoff on Friday night (one night only). Beam me up. Tickets: 513-621-2787. Pump Boys & Dinettes at the Covington’s Carnegie Center is something like an off-Broadway classic (it had a brief Broadway run) from the early 1980s. Set in a filling station that’s also a diner, it’s a framework for downhome Country tunes and cornpone humor. It opens a three-weekend run on April 13; I haven’t seen it yet, but the cast and an online video tell me it will be a lot of fun. Box office: 859-957-1940. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Grapes of Wrath (running through April 29) is a powerful theatrical interpretation of John Steinbeck’s grim tale about a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven to homelessness by ecological and economic disasters. It’s a portrait of the desperate life wrought by the Depression in the 1930s and a powerful reminder that life hasn’t improved for many Americans 80 years later. CSC’s production is made all the more relevant by folksy musical interludes performed live by some of the actors. A downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. It’s the final weekend for Kim Rosenstock’s new play Tigers Be Still at the Cincinnati Playhouse, a show about people dealing with depression in a way that’s charming, funny, optimistic and even heart-warming. It’s about a young woman with a recently earned degree in art therapy; she’s been down in the dumps about finding work, but not as much as her mom who’s gained weight and her sister who’s been dumped by her fiancé. There’s lots more to keep you laughing and paying attention. Through Sunday. Box office: 513-421-3888. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.06.2012
at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Several Quality Weekend Offerings

Last night I attended Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Grapes of Wrath, which opened a week ago and runs through April 29. It’s a powerful theatrical interpretation of John Steinbeck’s grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. They make an arduous trek to California in vain hope of employment and a better life. The show calls for an ensemble cast, and CSC uses more than 20 actors to pull it off convincingly. The first act revolves around the Joads’ agonizing trip in a dilapidated truck; the second act portrays the dismal conditions of unemployment and mistreatment once they arrive. It’s a sad reflection of life in the 1930s, as well as a powerful reminder that life has not improved for many Americans some 80 years later. The production is made all the more relevant by folksy musical interludes performed live by some of the actors. A downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing. Here's a link to my review. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1. Know Theatre’s production of the recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, opened last Saturday. I haven’t seen it yet, but the production has a positive buzz. (It’s onstage through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669. Thanks to spot-on casting of the four actors who bring Kim Rosenstock’s new play Tigers Be Still to life at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the show about people dealing with depression is charming, funny, optimistic and even heart-warming. It’s about a young woman with a recently earned degree in art therapy; she’s been down in the dumps about finding work, but not as much as her mom who’s gained weight and her sister who’s been dumped by her fiancé. She’s starting a new job thanks to her mom’s long-ago boyfriend, now a middle school principal. He has issues of his own — from a slacker son to anxiety about a tiger that’s escaped from the local zoo. Sound zany? Well, it is — as well as entertaining. The League of Cincinnati Theatres singled out this production’s sound design by Vincent Olivieri for an award. One panelist wrote, “On a very small stage, scenes took place in a school gym, drugstore, office, closet, outdoors and in the living spaces of two houses. Except for the main set, capturing the essence of these scenes was limited to a couple of props and pieces of furniture — and the sound!” Through April 15. Box office: 513-421-3888. There’s nothing profound about The Addams Family, onstage at the Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati through a Sunday matinee. The touring musical is derived from a 1960s TV series (and subsequent movies), based on on droll, mordant cartoons by Charles Addams, originally in The New Yorker. The show is a faithful reproduction of a pop culture icon; in fact, it begins with the sprightly theme from the TV show, complete with finger-snaps. It has a silly story about willful love and romance, but the entertainment comes from seeing the familiar characters come to life. The new musical numbers are largely clever, and the cast — which includes 1999 CCM grad Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia — is top-notch. Here's a link to my recent review. Tickets: 800-982-2787.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

The Grapes of Wrath (Review)

Onstage version of Steinbeck's classic reminds that life hasn't improved for many since Depression

0 Comments · Friday, April 6, 2012
John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is a grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. In the late 1980s theater artist Frank Galati adapted it into a powerful stage production, one you can see throughout April at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It’s a downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing.   

Sense & Sensibility (Review)

Reason and romance are the foundation of Cincy Shakes production

0 Comments · Monday, February 20, 2012
The popularity of Jane Austen continues unabated. A sparkling adaptation of Pride & Prejudice was an audience favorite a year ago for Cincinnati Shakespeare, and another Jon Jory adaptation of the 19th-century author’s stylish novels of romance and domestic intrigue, Sense & Sensibility, is likely to repeat that box-office bonanza.  
by Rick Pender 03.09.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-9 - merrily we roll along - cast at cincinnti playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Sondheim, Afghan Women's Writing and More

Last night I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time — actors who provide their own musical accompaniment — and the results are top-notch because he’s assembled a strong, talented cast. This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888 A completely different choice is the Afghan Women’s Writing Project at Know Theatre, this weekend only. Playwrights Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek took material written by women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write their stories and turn them into material for the stage. Several outstanding local actresses — including CEA Hall of Famer Dale Hodges and frequent CEA award winner Annie Fitzpatrick — are among the interpreters. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. If you go on Friday, plan to stick around for a post-show discussion. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669 If you like heart-warming, schmaltzy tales, you should find your way to Newport’s Monmouth Theatre where Falcon Theatre is presenting Visiting Mr. Green. It’s the story of a young man “sentenced” to regular visits with an elderly gentleman he nearly ran over. Beneath the surface of their disparate worlds they discover some surprising common ground. What makes this rather predictable story come to life is the acting: Joshua Steele and Mike Moskowitz, who happen to be grandfather and grandson, portray their characters with believability. This is the second of two weekends, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783 A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters in a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage until March 18, but many performances have sold out. Tickets: 513-381-2273 Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company recently announced its 2012-2013 season, which will feature some memorable characters — Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch (in To Kill a Mockingbird), Romeo & Juliet, Lady Bracknell (in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest), Richard II and Nick Bottom (Midsummer Night Dream’s aspiring actor who makes an ass of himself). You can read about the entire season in my blog post from last Sunday.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.04.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Cincy Shakes

Familiar Faces and Fantastic Tales at Cincy Shakes

A bunch of classic characters will be showing up at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to entertain us for the 2012-2013 theater season, announced today: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; Atticus Finch; Romeo and Juliet; Lady Bracknell; Nick Bottom and Puck. Oh, and a few kings and generals — Richard II and the bloody Titus Andronicus — plus a hearty dose of laughs with reprises of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Here’s the rundown: The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 20-Aug. 12, 2012). A regional premiere of a three-actor adaptation by Steve Canny of this memorable Sherlock Holmes mystery. To Kill a Mockingbird (Sept. 7-30, 2012). A reminder that all classics need not be British. One of our region’s best professionals, Bruce Cromer, will play Atticus Finch in this adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about prejudice, violence and hypocrisy in 1932 Alabama. Romeo & Juliet (Oct. 12-Nov. 11, 2012). You probably know the details of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy of star-crossed lovers. The cast features Sara Clark, Billy Chace, Annie Fitzpatrick and Sherman Fracher. Titus Andronicus (Oct. 20-Nov. 11, 2012). Cincy Shakes enjoys providing a bloodbath every year for Halloween, and Shakespeare’s play about a tyrannical Roman military leader is the perfect vehicle — revenge, murder, betrayal and gruesome murders. The Importance of Being Earnest (Nov. 23-Dec. 16, 2012). The smile-inducing production for the holidays will be Oscar Wilde’s delirious 1895 comedy of manners and intentionally mistaken identities, with Jim Hopkins in the cross-dressed role of the imperious grand-dame, Lady Bracknell. Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 16-30, 2012). An added holiday treat from Cincy Shakes — for the grown-ups — back for its seventh season.Richard II (Jan. 11-Feb. 3, 2013). As the company marches toward the completion of Shakespeare’s canon in 2014, this one notches the final history play in the repertoire. Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (Feb. 15-March 10, 2013). This 1985 play (and a 1988 Oscar-nominated movie) was adapted by Christopher Hampton from a 1782 novel about French courtiers who used sex as a weapon to manipulate and degrade. It’s a cynical, dark comedy, directed by Drew Fracher and starring Giles Davies, Sherman Fracher and Corinne Mohlenhoff. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (March 22-April 21, 2013). Shakespeare’s most popular comedy — four young lovers lost in a magical forest and a troupe of amateur actors rehearsing a silly play. Nick Rose plays Bottom the Weaver, he of the donkey’s head. Measure for Measure (May 3-26, 2013). Shakespeare’s play about the virtuous Isabella, played by Kelly Mengelkoch, one of Cincy Shakes’ best actresses, who must contend with hypocritical, religious double standards.  Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (June 7-30, 2013). A final bit of summer fun. That’s a very ambitious 11 productions in 12 months. Three shows (Titus Andronicus, Every Christmas Story and Complete Works) are outside the subscription series, but available at a discount to subscribers. Adult subscriptions (eight tickets which can be used in any combination) are $195; seniors ($165) and students ($130) are also available. A special bargain is a “preview” subscription ($105), offering admission to performances on the day or two before a show opens. Info: www.cincyshakes.com or 513-381-2273, x1.
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.02.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: CCM Talent and Sondheim

A lot of Stephen Sondheim’s shows are kind of heady, but Into the Woods — a bunch of fairytales put through a blender — is perhaps his most approachable. Given the delightful treatment, overflowing with talent you’ll find in this production at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, tickets might be in short supply but try — it’s a longer run than usual. Act I is about “happily every after,” while Act II explores what comes next. CCM has a remarkably skilled crop of seniors this year (they’ll be on Broadway before long), and professor and director Aubrey Berg, who heads the program in musical theater, has used them to full advantage in a wildly clever staging. There are many featured performances and songs — the characters include Cinderella and her evil stepsisters, Jack (from the beanstalk story) with a very funny pet cow, a handsome but empty-headed prince, a precocious Little Red Riding Hood and a lascivious Wolf — but this is way more than a tale for kids. In fact, Into the Woods is one of the best theater productions I’ve seen all season. Read my review (a Critic’s Pick), and then go to see it. Tickets: 513-556-4183. A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters — and a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage for two more weeks, but many performances have sold out, so don’t dally. Tickets: 513-381-2273. This is the final weekend for two more excellent productions. Know Theatre’s “comedy of anxiety” by Allison Moore, Collapse, about all kinds of things falling down — a highway bridge, the economy, relationships — winds up on Saturday evening. Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues, a complicated noir-ish tale of marital deceit and cryptic crime, finishes its run at Cincinnati Playhouse’s Shelterhouse Theater on Sunday. Both earned Critic’s Picks. In addition to Into the Woods, there are more shows by Sondheim on local stages. You’ll find the touring production of West Side Story at the Aronoff through March 11. It’s a show Sondheim wrote the lyrics for when he was 26 (he’ll soon be 82). Tickets: 800-982-2787. ... This weekend the Cincinnati Playhouse begins previews of Merrily We Roll Along, a Sondheim show from 1981 that was a flop at first, but now is praised as one of his greatest musical accomplishments. Tony Award winner John Doyle is directing; he makes things interesting by having his actors play musical instruments, too. (He did that at the Playhouse in 2007 with Sondheim’s Company, a production that transferred to Broadway.) Merrily opens next Thursday on the Marx Stage, but previews are the most affordable tickets, so think about catching it this weekend. Through March 31. Tickets: 513-421-3888. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 02.17.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Stage Door: Transmigration and Several Critic's Picks

Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues is a complicated noir-ish tale of marital deceit and cryptic crime that unfolds more clearly because of its accomplished four-actor cast, including local professionals Bruce Cromer (who’s played roles as varied as Ebenezer Scrooge for the Playhouse to King Lear for Cincinnati Shakespeare) and Amy Warner (a regular at Ensemble Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare). The show is a fascinating piece of theater that takes work to watch, follow and absorb. I suppose that some casual theatergoers will be put off by it, but if you like challenging drama and multi-layered acting, you’ll leave the theater with your gears spinning. I gave Speaking in Tongues a Critic’s Pick in this week's "Curtain Call" column. Onstage through March 4. Box office: 513-421-3888.If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Fringe, you should check out the Transmigration Festival at CCM on the University of Cincinnati campus. I was there last evening and saw three of the six performances, especially enjoying Booth, an interactive piece by nine actors based on John Wilkes Booth’s final days. I also was entertained by The Eddie Shanahan Show, closely inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but with some very modern twists. Attendees choose between six brief productions (30 minutes or less) that are completely created, promoted, enacted and staged by drama students. It’s a February boost of creativity, staged throughout the CCM facility, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30, as well as a 2:30 matinee on Saturday. Admission is free, but you need to call the CCM box office to reserve your ticket: 513-556-4183.Another university option can be found at NKU. It’s Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, telling the story of Phil Farnsworth who invented television but spent much of his life in legal wrangles with David Sarnoff, RCA executive and the first “media mogul.” Sorkin's credits — from The West Wing to The Social Network — are a guarantee of a heady, exciting tale based on real events. Tickets ($14 is the maximum price): 859-572-5464. Know Theater’s “comedy of anxiety” by Allison Moore, Collapse, opens with the collapse of a highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. But it’s about all kinds of things falling down — the economy, relationships. This is the kind of edgy script Know Theatre is known for, funny but meaningful. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick because it combines heart and humor. Collapse is presented with comic finesse and fine acting, especially by local professional actress Annie Fitzpatrick. Know’s best work of the season. Through March 3. Tickets: 513-300-5669. This weekend is your last chance to see the regional premiere of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man at Ensemble Theatre (through Saturday evening). The historical play, set in Richmond, Va., in April 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War, is a gripping drama that’s beautifully staged and convincingly acted. I gave it a Critic’s Pick. The production has been extended a week because of demand for tickets; you won’t be contending with subscribers this weekend, so if you haven’t seen it yet — call for a ticket: 513-421-3555.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

Macbeth (Review)

Cincinnati Shakespeare production is a strange brew

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy has bursts of chemistry and feeling mingled with drowsy places where the language washes over your brain, and the staging feels perfunctory. Macbeth has been given a contemporary setting, but it’s hard to see what the update adds to the play.  

A Winning Season

Cincinnati theater is off and running

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Cincinnati’s Riverfest fireworks once fired the starting gun for local theater, but already several theaters have shows onstage. This week Cincinnati’s major theaters open their first productions of 2011-2012, launching a fall offering an unusual number of award-winning shows.  

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