by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:45 AM | Permalink
Last weekend's snowstorm canceled performances at several local theaters (including the Cincinnati Playhouse), so you might have had several days without theater. Is it time to make up? I finally caught up with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Little Women last night, and I'm glad of it. While the weather is still cold and sidewalks still treacherously icy, the warmth generated by Jo March and her saucy sisters is a welcome tonic. Of course Louisa May Alcott's story of a temporarily fatherless family during the American Civil War is sentimental and, at times, rather maudlin, but the actresses at Cincy Shakes bring such vivacity to their roles that there's plenty to enjoy. Maggie Lou Rader is especially vivacious as Jo, the fiercely independent aspiring writer who insists on finding her own way in a world controlled by men; Kelly Mengelkoch is emotional, conscientious elder sister Meg; Caitlin McWethy is shy and loving Beth; and Courtney Lucien is Amy, the impetuous baby who matures in the second act. Annie Fitzpatrick is Marmee, their steadfast mother, and Justin McCombs is the spirited boy next door who captures the hearts of several of the sisters. The production is simply but effectively staged, enhanced by some subtle video projections and lovely choral singing of period hymns by the ensemble. It's a gentle story that beautifully conveys the virtues of family, sisterhood and feminine intellect in a period when such matters were not always top of mind. It's onstage through March 21. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.
Last Sunday, while many of you might have been watching the Academy Awards, I was one of 15 or so people in the audience watching Clifton Players' staging of August: Osage County. That's not quite as pitiful as it might sound, since the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre has only about 40 seats for this production. You're right in the midst of the bitter wars being conducted by the combative Weston family, brought together by the disappearance of their father and their mother's relapse into drug dependence and impossibly difficult behavior. But each of Beverly and Vi's three daughters have problems, issues and complicated family situations of their own, so Tracy Letts' three-act, three-plus hour show offers plenty of juicy roles for some of Cincinnati's best actors. The show has typically been played on a big set, but the closeness of CPT makes August: Osage County a powerful evening of dysfunction that's right in your face. Need some heat despite the cold snap? This is your show. It's a Critic's Pick (CityBeat review here). Onstage through March 13. Tickets: 513-861-7469.Performances tonight and Saturday evening will wrap up the run of In the Heat of the Night at Falcon Players in Newport (tickets: 513-479-6783), and Northern Kentucky University's Les Misérables continues through a Sunday matinee. The latter has been sold our for most performances, but if you show up an hour before curtain time, you can get your name on a wait-list for a seat.
For a glimpse of the future, check out my blog postings here and here from earlier this week with 2015-2016 season announcements for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Landmark Productions (at the Covedale Center and the new Incline Theatre) and Cincinnati Shakespeare.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
at 04:39 PM | Permalink
Four works by the Bard, plus timeless works by Arthur Miller, Jane Austen and Edmond Rostand — plus a few extras — make for a busy season
As I wrote on Monday, season
announcements from Cincinnati theaters are a sure sign that warmer days are
ahead. The temperature cranked up a few more notches tonight when Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company announced its 2015-2016 season. It’s no secret that CSC’s
history and stock-in-trade are plays by William Shakespeare, of which they’ll
offer four in the coming months. But their broadened scope includes definitive
works of drama and stage adaptations of literary classics by great writers. Here’s
what will be onstage at 719 Race St. from August 2015 through June 2016:
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Reed
Martin and Austin Tichenor. Cincy Shakes has had tons of fun with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
(Abridged). But Long, Martin and Tichenor have been generating laughs with numerous
other subjects, and this is one of their best works. (It was staged at the
Cincinnati Playhouse 10 years ago.) This one is a wild ride through our
nation’s past featuring three actors, who probably did not pass high school history,
who set off on a whirlwind historical tour that’s finds laughs in many of our
nation’s greatest hits and misses. This production is a “season extra,” not included
in subscription packages. July 24-Aug. 15, 2015.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC (based on Anthony Burgess’s translation of
Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play). Cincy Shakes will kick off the fall theater
season with this classic romantic tale of the valiant and clever Cyrano de
Bergerac, with long-time ensemble member Jeremy Dubin in the title role. Cyrano
epitomized panache: In fact, that French
word a feather or a plume was the hallmark of this dazzling swordsman and brilliant
16th-century poet. But he has a flaw, a gargantuan nose. He loves the beautiful
and brilliant Roxane but is convinced his clownish appearance means he has no
chance with her. Unaware of his feelings, Roxane tells him she loves Christian,
a handsome but dull solider; Cyrano intercedes by writing letters and verses to
her as if they were from Christian. The play has wit, swashbuckling adventure
and profound romance. Sept. 1-Oct. 3, 2015. Jeremy Dubin as Cyrano in Cyrano de
Bergerac. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, written in 1949, won multiple
Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The story of the waning
days of an aging salesman who still yearns to make it big is one of the great
plays of the 20th century. Cincinnati stage veteran Bruce Cromer will play
Willy Loman, the show’s memorable loser. This poignant tale of an average man
trying to achieve the American Dream, surrounded by his strident sons and his
loving wife is an exploration of failure and success that still resonates
today. Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 2015.
AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare is the first of Shakespeare’s
plays for the season and one of the Bard’s most popular, a predictable bestseller
for Cincy Shakes. This time it will be the company’s offering around the
holidays, featuring ensemble member Sara Clark playing the spirited Rosalind, banished
to the Forest of Arden with only her cousin and a fool for company. She dresses
as a man for protection and comedy ensues in the woods where love poems to her
are posted on the trees. The lovelorn poet is handsome Orlando, whom she tests
while hiding behind her boyish disguise. This show is great fun because it
features numerous comic characters, delightful music and warm-hearted romance. Nov.
20-Dec. 12, 2015. Sara Clark as Rosalind in As You Like It. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (AND THEN SOME!) by Michael
Carlton, James Fitzgerald and John K Alvarez. Cincy Shakes finishes up As You Like It just in time to celebrate
the 10th anniversary of its annual holiday hit, an irreverent look at umpteen
BHCs — the show’s acronym for “Beloved Holiday Classics.” The evening starts
out innocently enough as one character endeavors to perform a solemn reading of
A Christmas Carol. But before long
audiences are entangled in the stories of Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and
George Bailey. Four of Cincy Shakes’ veteran actors (one as a highly inebriated
Santa) send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss. It’s another “season
extra” (outside regular subscriptions) and definitely not for anyone who still
believes in Santa. Dec. 16-27, 2015.
HENRY VI , PART I by William Shakespeare. The company has committed
parts of several seasons to work its way through Shakespeare’s cycle of history
plays. This year it’s the first of three parts that tell the story of Henry VI.
Actors continue to reprise roles they’ve played for several seasons in two
parts of Henry IV and Henry V. In this installment, the
untimely death of Henry V puts his infant son on the throne, and the War of the
Roses, pitting the houses of York and Lancaster against one another, is off and
running. Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2016.
JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA (adapted by Jon Jory). Cincy Shakes has struck
gold with stage productions of Pride and
Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility,
Jane Austen’s novels of early 19th-century manners as adapted by Jon Jory, the
longtime artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. These shows appealed
to audiences in part because the company has a corps of talented female actors
(presently showcased in Little Women)
who will find great opportunities in Austen’s tale about amateur matchmaker
Emma Wodehouse who lives to meddle in others’ love lives. When she tries to set
up her less than promising friend Harriet, the plan goes awry, and Emma must
try to undo the damage. It’s another classic story of wit, whimsy and anxious
romance. Feb. 26-March 26, 2016.
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. Part one of a season-ending
epic pairing of two of the Bard’s great plays begins with this tragedy about
the brilliant general, a cunning politician and beloved leader of ancient Rome.
Jealous Roman patriots decide his ambition is a threat to the Republic and assassinate
him on the senate floor. The result is a civil war that tests friendships and loyalties;
it also determines the fate of the Roman Empire. April 8-May 7, 2016.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by William Shakespeare. The second part of the
company’s special event offers this rarely staged epic sequel to Julius Caesar. The civil war has ended
and the empire has been divided. Marc Antony heads to Egypt to rule his corner
of the globe, but his plans are sidetracked by Egypt’s Cleopatra. Their love
affair pits Rome and Egypt against each other and changes the ancient world
forever. May 13- June 4, 2016.
Subscriptions ($143-$233) are
sold in flexible sets of seven that can be used one per production or in other
combinations. Subscriptions and single tickets are now for sale via
cincyshakes.com or by calling 513-381-2273, x1.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
A special treat onstage at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater through a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, featuring Torie Wiggins giving voice to people making pronouncements about race, justice and violence in America. The script by Anna Deavere Smith, drawn verbatim from numerous interviews, was created in the mid-1990s in the following the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict more than two decades ago. But it feels incredibly timely in light of recent tragic events in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere — leading to questions about whether America has made any progress since then. Wiggins brings to life dozens of people — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — offering a myriad of opinions about events and outcomes. "No Justice/No Peace," words heard recently, echo through this script, punctuated with videos and quick audio introductions as Wiggins flips from role to role. It's an impressive performance and a reminder how theater can be more than entertainment — Twilight is a provocative presentation about American culture. Staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips. Tickets: 513-621-2787.A second one-woman show worth seeing is The Year of Magical Thinking, an effective, bare-bones production at the College Hill Town Hall (1805 Larch Ave., Cincinnati 45205) by the Cincy One Act Festival. It's based on Joan Didion's painful confrontation with grief following her husband's unexpected death and their daughter's serious and ultimately mortal illness. Cate White performs as Didion, the narrator of this deeply personal story; Lyle Benjamin is the director. The show is being presented on Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 28 (no performances on Feb. 20-21). Tickets: 888-428-7311.It's a great month for women onstage month on local stages, what with Corinne Mohlenhoff in another solo show The Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-300-5669), which also happens to be directed by Brian Phillips; and Regina Pugh as a beleaguered scientist whose world is coming unraveled in The Other Place at Ensemble Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555).Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Joe Stollenwerk lives in Bloomington,
Ind., where he’s pursuing a doctorate in theater at Indiana University.
'West Side Story' demands singers and dancers — but youth is essential, too
0 Comments · Monday, January 12, 2015
Despite its cramped stage, The Carnegie’s staging of the show has many elements that pay homage to the original.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Did you resolve to see more theater in
2015? If so, where to start?
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:37 AM | Permalink
With the holidays just behind us, there's a kind of a lull on local stages, but this weekend has a few offerings to consider. At the Cincinnati Playhouse there's a popular production that's been extended twice, so you still have chances to see Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical through Jan. 11. The show is a great recreation of the career of girl singer Clooney who grew up in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and rose to stardom in the 1950s and 1960s, only to find that the music world's fascination with Rock 'n' Roll was putting her in the rear view mirror. But she figured out how to reinvent herself and overcome drug dependency, too. Susan Haefner acts the part and sings a slew of convincing renditions of Clooney's Pop and Jazz hits. Michael Marotta plays her therapist and more: He steps in and out of portraits of all the other people in Clooney's life, from her mother and her sister to big names like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. It's a very entertaining show, guaranteed to warm up an early January night at the theater. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is offering one final weekend of its "non-denominational" holiday fairytale musical, Sleeping Beauty. With songs by local composer David Kisor and an entertaining script by Cincinnati playwright Joe McDonough, this production is good for kids and adults. Acting intern Deirdre Manning steps out in the title role with a fine singing voice and fellow intern Terrance J. Ganser is her Rock star prince and her soulful savior a century later. But the real zip in the show comes from Deb G. Girdler's evil Wisteria and Michael G. Bath as Falcon, her devious assistant. Final performance is 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets ($18-$44): 513-421-3555.Speaking of ETC, for the next week or so the theater is offering $10 off adult tickets to performances early in the runs of an engaging thriller The Other Place (Jan. 29-Feb. 3), the drama with historical context Detroit '67 (March 18-24) and a romantic comedy Outside Mullingar set in Ireland (May 6-12). Just mention the coupon code NEWYEAR15 when purchasing tickets in those date ranges online (www.ensemblecincinnati.com), in person or by phone (513-421-3555), and you'll save $10. That's a good way to get 2015 off on the right foot!
Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:31 AM | Permalink
Take your pick with these holiday shows
It's unusual that we get a chance during the holidays to see a world premiere of a new play, but it's happening at Northern Kentucky University's Corbett Theatre, where New Edgecliff Theatre and Actor & Playwrights Collaborative are producing Phil Paradis's new script, Soldier's Christmas, through Sunday. The show commemorates the centennial of the memorable "Christmas Truce" in which British and German troops stopped fighting along the Western Front during World War I and came together to celebrate the holiday. I had the opportunity to see its opening performance last week, and I can assure you that it's worth your time. A strong cast of men play nine solders, especially focused on one Brit, Corporal Tug Wilson (Aaron Epstein) and one German, Sgt. Gerhardt Dietrich (Jeffrey K. Miller). They meet tentatively after a furious episode of hand-to-hand combat, seeking warmth. They recognize their common ground and slowly convince their fellow soldiers of the common humanity that they share, leading to a momentary celebratory event in which they sing carols in their own language and discover how much alike they are. These scenes are counterpointed by five actresses playing women — wives, mothers, sisters, lovers — of the soldiers, telling their stories in monologues and chorus-like passages. Paradis's script covers the emotional spectrum, from humor to pathos, from anguish to joy. Cincinnati theatrical veteran Robert Allen directed the piece, and he keeps it from become maudlin or unbelievable. In fact, the tale is deeply moving — not to mention profoundly sad when the men are all but forced to return to their trenches and the senseless warfare that they've momentarily escaped. Nevertheless, a thread of hope runs through Soldier's Christmas, an emotion that makes this seem fitting for the season. Tickets ($18-$22) are available for performances on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.
For something completely different, look for the hilarious production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This is the ninth consecutive year for Cincy Shakes to present this mash-up of holiday tales told by three inventive comic actors and one very drunk Santa Claus. I've seen the production, featuring Sara Clark, Billy Chace, Justin McComb and Miranda McGee (she's Santa with a can of Foster's and her native Australian accent) for several years running. Even when I know what's coming, I find myself laughing out loud. That's because the cast and director Jeremy Dubin refresh the material every year with topical references and new bits, so it you have to keep up with their quick wit and frequent ad libs. McComb is the goofy but mischievous innocent; Chace is a pompous hipster; and Clark is the Dickens devotee who tries to coax her colleagues to pull together for the greatest "BHC" (Beloved Holiday Classic) of them all, A Christmas Carol. They steadfastly refuse, spewing forth with machine-gun rapidity one sharp parody or silly take on these familiar stories . The second act (the entire performance is about 90 minutes with an intermission) seems to be headed into Scrooge territory, but it keeps veering off into It's a Wonderful Life — in the most delightful and daffy way. After awhile you begin to wonder whether these shows are all somehow connected. And in fact they are: with an exclamation point provided at the end with a rendition of "Every Christmas Carol Ever Sung," an amazing compilation of musical numbers spliced together. Tickets ($28) for this production are virtually sold out, but it's worth a call to see if you can get in, especially for tonight's special 11 p.m. performance. In case you're wondering, Cincy Shakes does have a liquor license so you can join in the good fun with a drink of you own. Box office: 513-381-2273.Most every local stage in Cincinnati is presenting a holiday show this weekend, so check CityBeat's listings for more choices. It's a great weekend to go out and have fun at the theater.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:38 AM | Permalink
This weekend affords you numerous chances to see a holiday show. (Quite a few shows will still be onstage in another week, but you might be too busy shopping or baking cookies ...)
A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse has been drawing crowds for 24 seasons, and it's worth seeing (CityBeat review here). Lots of people do it as a family outing. (Tickets: 513-421-3888.) If kids are younger, you might consider Sleeping Beauty at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (CityBeat review here). This is the 18th year that ETC has offered a musical fairy tale created by two local artists, playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor. (Tickets: 513-421-3555). Both shows are lots of fun (Christmas Carol does have some ghosts, of course, but they are portrayed with humor and wit), quickly paced and dazzlingly produced with costumes and sets that make watching an enjoyable outing.
A new holiday show to the area is Soldier's Christmas, presented at Northern Kentucky University by New Edgecliff Theatre and the Actors & Playwrights Collaborative. This weekend marks the premiere of local playwright Phil Paradis's show about a remarkable event that happened on Christmas Eve 1914 when battle-weary British and German soldiers came out of their World War I trenches, left their weapons behind and celebrated the holiday together. The "Christmas Truce" was also the subject of Cincinnati Opera's Silent Night, presented last July. (Tickets: 888-428-7311).If you simply want to have a good time, I gave a Critic's Pick to the Covedale Center's production of Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings (CityBeat review here). The show is a sequel to the amusing musical about a quartet of Doo-Wop singers who return from heaven to do the big concert they missed out on in life (they died when their car was broadsided by a busload of girls on their way to see the Beatles' American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show). This time they're back to do a Christmas concert. It's a lot of silliness, of course, but the four guys — all musical theater majors at UC's College-Conservatory of Music — are talented singers, dancers and actors, so they're a blast to watch. (Tickets: 513-241-6550).More high-jinks are available thanks to OTR Improv at the courtyard at Arnold's Bar & Grill for The Naughty Show (starting Sunday evening, presented by Know Theatre; tickets: 513-300-5669), as well as Falcon Theater's production in Newport of The Eight Reindeer Monologues (it finishes up this weekend; 513-479-6783).
Finally, if you're tired of holiday stuff (and who isn't when it gets cranked up not long after Halloween?) there are three choices for you: Cincinnati Shakespeare's very funny The Comedy of Errors (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-381-2273); Know Theatre's mysterious and magical The Bureau of Missing Persons (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-300-5669); and Cincinnati Playhouse's staging of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (CityBeat review here; 513-421-3888). The latter has been selling lots of tickets, causing the Playhouse to extend the show until Jan. 11.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:30 AM | Permalink
If you want to go to the theater this weekend, you have plenty of choices, so long as you have the spirit of the season. Let's start with the familiar: Cincinnati Playhouse launched its 24th year of A Christmas Carol last week, and it's always a pleasure to see, featuring Bruce Cromer as Scrooge. But there are many more fine acting performances, including Ryan Wesley Gilreath as Bob Cratchit and Douglas Rees as the ebullient Mr. Fezziwig. Played out on a wingding of a set that spins and glitters and makes it possible to tell the story swiftly, Dickens' classic tale is a wonderful holiday tradition. Through Dec. 28. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888
Another tradition continues at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, where Sleeping Beauty is being revived for the fourth time. For 18 seasons, ETC has presented original shows by two local creators, playwright Joseph McDonough and composer David Kisor. It's a family-friendly piece that's conceived to entertain kids and adults with its innocent charm and a message that one person can truly make a difference. Many of ETC's regular actors return annually to do these shows, especially Deb G. Girdler (as the evil Wisteria) and Michael G. Bath (as her nefarious henchman). Intern Deirdre Manning is the sweet princess who sleeps for 100 years, and Terrance J. Ganser is both the prince who fulfills her curse and the one who breaks her free a century later. Especially enjoyable as a trio of mischievous fairies are Sara Mackie, Denise Devlin and Brooke Steele as Marigold, Lilac and Daisy. (They will be familiar to ETC audiences from several productions of the "Marvelous Wonderettes.") Through Jan. 4. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555
Lots of good holiday choices are up and running elsewhere: Forever Plaid – Plaid Tidings at the Covedale Center on the West Side; The Comedy of Errors at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company downtown; The Eight Reindeer Monologues at Falcon Theatre in Newport; and the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Snow Queen at the Taft Theatre downtown.
If you prefer to avoid elves, nutcrackers and bah-humbugs, you should try Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (CityBeat review here) at the Playhouse or The Bureau of Missing Persons, a the magical, mysterious production at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here).
Ho, ho, ho, indeed. That's enough theater to make anyone jolly.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.