by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:34 AM | Permalink
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
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:
Each week in Stage
Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces
of theater news.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:09 AM | Permalink
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:
you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Fringe, you should check out the
at CCM on the University of Cincinnati campus. I was there last
evening and saw three of the six performances, especially enjoying
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
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
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
— are a guarantee of a heady, exciting tale based on real events.
Tickets ($14 is the maximum price): 859-572-5464.
“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.
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
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 17, 2011
While you might think of a play or a musical as entertainment — which it is — there’s another dimension worth considering. They are also works of literature, words written on a page meant to be spoken or perhaps sung. The success or failure of a performed work often hinges on the quality of the words in a play’s script or a musical’s book.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Thanks to our own Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, productions of Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be coming to area parks during August and September. The latter play is a particular favorite since its setting is in a magical forest around Athens where lots of tomfoolery and mischief occurs, so it feels quite natural to watch it surrounded by trees and wildlife.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company offers a fresh look and a fine cast
0 Comments · Monday, June 13, 2011
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s current production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is the regional premiere of a new version of the play first produced in 1987, and it’s much fresher. Instead of simply clowning around, the 2011 cast of Billy Chace, Justin McCombs and Brian Isaac Phillips truly throw themselves into the comedy, using acting skills usually reserved for more polished work.
Few motives or profound emotions in CSC’s latest production
0 Comments · Monday, May 9, 2011
Even the Bard’s byline doesn’t guarantee that that this early Shakespearean play is a comic gem. It has a few humorous moments, which do provide some respite in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s current production, but they are few and far between in a silly tale that offers little motivation for its central characters and implausible solutions to their largely mean-spirited actions.
Cincy Shakes presents a frightening look at a possible not-too-distant future
0 Comments · Monday, April 4, 2011
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel from 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale, tells a frightening story about a woman trapped in a not-too-distant future that seems even more real today than it did when the book was first published a quarter-century ago. A conservative overthrow of the U.S. government has created the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy in which women are subjugated to stereotypical roles.
1 Comment · Wednesday, March 2, 2011
In August of last year, CityBeat’s Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs) for theater ended a run of 14 years by merging with the Acclaim Awards, a program established more recently by The Cincinnati Enquirer. As part of that merger, CityBeat offered to develop a new element that would preserve the CEA process of public voting whereby theater enthusiasts can cast ballots for onstage work they appreciate. To that end, the 2011 Acclaims will feature the newly established Cincinnati Theater Awards (CTAs) with results announced later this spring. That’s where your help is needed.