by Rick Pender
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
It might be hard to imagine that a show like Legally Blonde: The Musical
could stir up controversy, which it did last fall at Loveland High
School. But that's not stopping other theaters from putting it onstage,
including Northern Kentucky University, which opened a campus production
on Thursday (and continues through March 3). It's the familiar story of
Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit
of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just
a girlfriend. Not profound, but certainly entertaining. Tickets: 859-572-5464
On Wednesday evening, I attended the first performance of Slow Descent from Heaven,
a world premiere play by local writer Catie O'Keefe. Presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre (O'Keefe is their playwright-in-residence), it's an
ambitious work, presented in a converted classroom at the Clifton
Cultural Arts Center (3711 Clifton Ave.) in a production directed by Ed
Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA
scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986
and 2003. She's an angry, tense character, and her involvement with men
has affected her career and her attitude. The story has a reverse
chronology, so we peel backward in time to learn more about why she's
the way she is. I'm glad to have seen this, but I think the script needs
more work in delving into Molly's psyche. Right now, her angst is all
on the surface, and her interface with the two men in her life (plus the
funny mother of one of them) is too predictable. Nevertheless, it's
great to see a group like NET encouraging the development of new work.
Another group producing new work is Thompson House Newport
(the venue formerly known as Southgate House). They are staging a new
Rock musical, Variables, the comic story of five friends
out for a night on the town. Their evening takes a serious turn when
it's interrupted by disturbing news. It's the work of composer Jered S.
Ryan and lyricist Mark D. Motz. Performances are on Feb. 23, 28 and
March 2. I haven't seen it, so I can't offer an assessment, but it's
another example of our fertile local theater scene. Tickets: www.thompsonhousenewport.com
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Dangerous Liaisons (review here) is a listless interpretation of a show that should
be deliciously (dare I say "dangerously") nasty. There are some fine
actors onstage — notably Giles Davies and Corinne Mohlenhoff, both
longtime favorites at CSC — and moments when the chemistry works, but
not enough of them. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
Several Cincy Shakes actors are doing a fine job on another stage, in Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (review here) It's a fascinating piece of writing by Andrew Bovell, and
a taut, engaging 100-minute production, staged by CSC's Brian Phillips.
If you're looking for the one show to see this weekend, this is the one
I'd point you to. Tickets: 513-300-5669
CCM takes on Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's acclaimed dark comedy
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Premiered in Berlin in 1928, The Threepenny Opera
is an iconic work, the creation of composer Kurt Weill and
poet/dramatist Bertolt Brecht, and opens a two-weekend run at CCM as
part of its Kurt Weill festival, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation
for Music, Inc.
Seductive drama triumphs with beautiful design and humor
2 Comments · Monday, February 18, 2013
In Hampton’s 1985 play, the Marquise de Merteuil and the
Vicomte de Valmont are manipulative aristocrats in 18th-century France
who spend their time seducing scores of people and plotting to destroy
anyone who embarrasses or rejects them.
Boundaries between fantasy, reality blur in Deborah Laufer's modern script
1 Comment · Monday, February 18, 2013
Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer has found a vein of universality in her new play, Leveling Up,
using the world of online gaming in which players vie for higher levels
of power and accomplishment, as a metaphor for growing up.
Decline and fall
2 Comments · Monday, February 11, 2013
This dense, provocative script is a challenging work, but director
Brian Isaac Phillips has staged it beautifully with nine excellent actors who are
breathtakingly powerful in a complex tale that spans 80 years and four generations of two intricately interwoven families.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:50 AM | Permalink
No new shows opened this week. But
several will close this weekend, so it's your last chance to see them. At the
top of that list I would put Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Richard
II (Review here). If you're a
completist, this is a rare chance to catch a show that's produced very
infrequently. (CSC's staging is its first in 19 seasons, leaving it just one
shy of producing all 38 of Shakespeare's surviving plays.) But an even more
important reason is that actor Brent Vimtrup offers a breathtaking portrait of
a weak king (he ruled in the 14th century) who questioned his own ability to
reign, decided to hand over his throne and then agonized over relinquishing his
"God-given" right. Vimtrup makes Richard real and human in some
unexpected ways; it's a performance that's definitely worth seeing. It doesn't
hurt that the script is entirely in verse — CSC's actors know how to revel in
this language, so the words are wondrous things to hear. But you last chances
are this weekend; the final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
A British king of a different sort is onstage at the Carnegie in Covington,
where the musical
is on view in a concert staging (Review here). The mythical King Arthur — he of chivalry and
knighthood and the Round Table — is the subject, as well as his beautiful Queen
Guinevere and his valiant retainer Sir Lancelot. Like Richard, Arthur has some
shortcomings — hey, we're all human, right? — but his problems are more about
being too idealistic and trusting. The truth about Camelot is that the story is
kind of choppy and the characters rather one-dimensional, but Lerner and
Loewe's music is beautiful, especially in this production, where some great
voices are accompanied by an ensemble of musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber
Orchestra, conducted by the CCO's Mischa Santora. The show is minimally staged
and costumed, but its maximally sung. This one wraps up with a 3 p.m. matinee
on Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
Two other productions that are definitely worth seeing: The Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park's world premiere of
Feb. 17, 513-421-3888) (Review here), a spooky
sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati's regional premiere of the recent Off-Broadway hit Freud's
Last Sesson (through Feb. 16, 513-421-3555)
(Review here). The latter is an imagined
conversation between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis about some big issues of
life and death, faith and belief. It's a very thought-provoking script,
performed at ETC by two fine actors, Bruce Cromer and Barry Mulholland. This
one was scheduled to close on Feb. 10, but demand for tickets led to an
extension. Take advantage of it!
Strong acting redeems an unwieldy plot
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 29, 2013
In 1960, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe followed their 1956 megahit My Fair Lady with the musical Camelot.
Its arrival on Broadway coincided with the election of John Kennedy,
and many people extended the vision of a “magical kingdom” to his
ascendance as America’s charismatic 35th president.
Lumbering to the finish line
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Broadway Bound is the third and final installment
in Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical cycle of plays about growing up in
Brooklyn in the 1930s and ’40s.
Spectral sequel premieres at Cincinnati Playhouse
0 Comments · Saturday, January 26, 2013
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s world premiere play, Abigail/1702, is the Mount Adams theater’s 66th premiere, and a
positive sign that new artistic director Blake Robison will continue the
company’s long tradition of fostering new theatrical works and emerging writers.
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.