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.
CSC portrays the fall of a king
0 Comments · Monday, January 14, 2013
Audiences seeing Richard II will wonder why it’s not presented more often because this production works so well. The common wisdom is that Richard II is
more about head than heart. Shakespeare’s other histories are full of
glory and combat, whereas this play focuses on a king whose weakness
leads to his downfall.
Broadway production takes risks lyrically exploring '50s racial divide
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award winner for best musical, is loosely based
on the story of a white disc jockey who crossed the color line and
played black music on the radio in the racially divided Tennessee city, and it’s a story worth witnessing.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:30 AM | Permalink
Mormons, dancers, dictators, the Grinch and more
Cincinnati will see the regional premiere of The Book of Mormon a year from now. The winner of nine Tony Awards will be the highlight of Broadway in Cincinnati's 2013-2014 season at downtown's Aronoff Center for the Arts. It's set for a three-week run, Jan. 7-26, 2014. A show described as "the funniest musical of all time" that was created by the guys behind the satirical South Park TV series has enough raucous, off-color humor to melt away any winter chill that settles in following the holidays. It's about two naive and optimistic Mormon missionaries who tryto persuade residents of Uganda to follow their faith — but threatened by a maniacal warlord, the locals are more concerned with war, famine, poverty and AIDS than religion. The satire is laid on thick, and it's the kind of show that's bound to offend some people. Nevertheless, it's been a gigantic Broadway hit since it opened in March 2011; the tour that comes our way began back in August, so Cincinnati is an early stop.The season will have a number of familiar titles, including another three-week run for the Broadway hit Wicked (March 5-23, 2014). The Wizard of Oz musical has been running on Broadway for a decade. There will also be two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, a new production of his 1978 musical Evita (Feb. 18-March 2, 2014), based on the show's successful 2012 Broadway revival; as well as another chance to see Lloyd Webber's phenomenal hit, The Phantom of the Opera (April 30-May, 11, 2014).Proving that old movies never die — they just come back as musicals — two other productions booked for the season are the love story Ghost(Sept. 24-Oct. 6, 2013), based on the 1990 movie with Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg; and the romantic dramaFlashdance (Oct. 29-Nov. 10), based on the 1983 film about a young woman welder who aspires to be a dancer. And if you're yearning for another story you've heard before — with more music than you mightremember — we'll also have a brief run of a holiday show, Dr. Seuss'How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (try singing that!) surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 27-Dec. 1).Subscriptions go on sale today (Jan. 20) online, and starting Monday (Jan. 21) you can order at the Aronoff Center Box Office (650 Walnut Street, Downtown Cincinnati), online or by calling 800-294-1817. Subscriptions for six shows range between $179 and $611.
Creator of 'Abigail/1702' grew up dreaming of being a playwright
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was in
Chicago early in 2008, rehearsing the world premiere of a new play he
had just written for Steppenwolf Theatre. The company was staging Arthur
Miller’s legendary 1953 Tony Award winner, The Crucible, on its mainstage.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:29 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is the first out of the
chute with a new production in 2013. Of course, it's a 400-year-old play
about a king from two centuries before that. But Shakespeare proved
with his script for Richard II that there are universal
traits that make us all human, even if we're a king who's supposedly
given his powers directly from God. Richard was thrust onto the throne
while still a teenager, and in Shakespeare's version he's an adult but
very uncertain of his right to rule and doubtful of his ability to do
so. That kind of anxiety still makes sense in the 21st century. So CSC's
first-ever staging of the show is something that should interest both
to your average theatergoer as well as anyone looking to complete the
experience of seeing every play the Bard penned. This one marks No. 37
of 38 for CSC; one more year and they'll have staged every one of
Shakespeare's surviving works, quite an accomplishment. With a fine
actor, Brent Vimtrup, playing Richard, and a script that's all poetry,
this one promises to be both fascinating and satisfying.
More things start up next week and the one after that has a
veritable avalanche of shows, so I suggest you hustle on downtown to
Cincy Shakes venue and catch this one before you have too many choices.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
, Visual Art
at 09:50 AM | Permalink
There's not much onstage locally yet as our theater companies prepare their first productions of 2013, so here's a tip for this weekend. WVXU's airing of Deborah Zoe Laufer's End Days on L.A. Theatre Works on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. (That's FM 91.7 if you're still using a radio or wvxu.org if you prefer to listen online.) It's the story of a
middle-American housewife who has found salvation and her rebellious
teenage daughter who wants nothing to do with it. But when a bookish young
suitor in an Elvis suit comes calling, the daughter experiences an
unexpected revelation of her own. If you're a regular at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you will remember this show from a darkly funny production in March 2011. (Read my review here.) And a further note of interest: A world premiere work by Laufer is headed our way in February at the Cincinnati Playhouse: It's called Leveling Up, a show about twentysomethings making the transition from college to a "real" life of video games in a Las Vegas basement. Laufer has a knack for catching the drift of contemporary culture, so tune in for End Days on Saturday and get ready for Leveling Up coming soon.
Cincy theaters put good shows on every stage in town
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Throughout the year I assign “Critic’s
Picks” to noteworthy theatrical productions. As 2012 draws to a close,
it seems like a good time to take a look back at some shows that made
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.
OMG, it’s a BHC*
0 Comments · Monday, December 17, 2012
Starting in 2006, Cincy Shakes offered this raucous
run-down of holiday tales, movies, TV specials and tunes at the
courtyard at Arnold’s Bar & Grill downtown. This year it’s moved to CSC’s mainstage at 719 Race St., and tickets
have been selling like candy canes.