Old and New, Tragic and Comic

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Theater can take you to so many places, and two shows that opened last week demonstrate the possible range — a classic modern tragedy at Cincinnati Shakespeare and a contemporary comedy at Ensemble Theatre. Take your pick — they’re both winners.  

Fathers, Sons and Theatrical Honesty

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Some plays become classics because they last across time — Shakespeare’s plays are still produced after 400 years. That’s what’s usually onstage at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, but they also dig into more recent “classics,” qualified by elemental stories that burn fiercely.  

The Power of Sex

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Between 1982 and 2015, Americans’ attitudes about sex evolved. For evidence, check out two plays in production locally: Laura Eason’s contemporary Sex with Strangers at the Cincinnati Playhouse on its Shelterhouse stage and William Mastrosimone’s 1980s drama Extremities at Incline Theater.   

Struggling with Understanding: CCM’s ‘Pentecost’

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Theater programs at our universities in Greater Cincinnati often produce shows that not only offer educational opportunities for students, but also expose us to works we have lost track of or missed. David Edgar’s Pentecost is such a work, and it accomplishes what Richard Hess likes to do — challenge audiences.   

‘Cyrano’ Fell From the Moon

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Edmond Rostand’s play, like its hero, seems to have fallen unexpectedly from the moon. Cyrano de Bergerac was a surprising instant hit in Paris late in 1897. Its premiere received an hour-long standing ovation, and it was subsequently performed for 200 consecutive nights.   

Doing It for Love in ‘A Chorus Line’

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Let me admit right up front that I’m a total sucker when it comes to A Chorus Line. No matter how many times I’ve seen it (quite a few over the past four decades since it opened on Broadway in 1975), there are still moments that grab at my heartstrings and bring tears to my eyes.   
by Rick Pender 09.04.2015 88 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
seven guitars @ actors theater louisville 2015 (l-r) forrest mcclendon, j. alphonse nicholson_photo credit by bill brymer

Stage Door

Theater seasons starts movin’

There’s a lot more coming next week, once we get past Labor Day, but right now there’s just one theater locally with a production onstage. That’s the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Artistic Director Tim Perrino has been reminding everyone that just because Cincinnati Landmark Productions has opened the Incline Theatre, don’t think that the Covedale has shut down. In fact, it has an ambitious line-up of shows, and the opening production is already under way, A Chorus Line. I haven’t seen this production of it yet, but I will tell you that it’s a show that really lit my interest in musical theater. It was a Broadway hit back in 1975, and I saw a touring production of it in Cleveland in 1978. I had next to no income at the time — and tickets for subsequent performances were pretty well sold out anyway — but I told several friends that in a perfect world, I would have gone back to see it again. I had to wait a few years for that to happen, but this story of aspiring performers grabs me every time I see it. It’s the story of eager young dancers trying to get into the chorus of an upcoming Broadway production. The group is narrowed to 17, but the ultimate goal is four men and four women. The songs are rooted in each dancer’s personal story: Some are amusing, some are heart wrenching — all are painfully true. At the end, they all coalesce into “One (Singular Sensation),” a stunning finale that has all the individuals we’ve met together, dancing as one. It’s a wonderful metaphor about the passion to perform and to be part of a larger whole. A Chorus Line at the Covedale has performances this weekend and continues through Sept. 27. Tickets: 513-241-6550.Last evening I drove to Louisville where Actors Theatre is opening its 2015-2016 season with a superb production of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, one of his “Century Cycle” plays chronicling African-American life in Pittsburgh across the decades of the 20th century. This one, set in the late 1940s, swirls around a promising young Blues singer, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, who has been offered a recording contract just after his release from a 90-day stint in jail. The play opens with his funeral then circles back through scenes reminiscing about his life and six vividly different people who were close to him — three women and three men. The cast is powerful, and the minutely detailed setting, a desolate backyard in Pittsburgh’s Hill District (inspired by the art of African-American painter and collagist Romare Bearden) is a sight to behold. Seven Guitars blends humor, lyricism and tragedy. Although several of Wilson’s remarkable plays have been stage in Cincinnati, Seven Guitars — winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for best play in 1996 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award — has not been produced locally. So you might want to make a run down I-71 to Louisville between now and Sept. 20 to see this. This production is definitely worth the trip. Tickets: 502-584-1205.Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

Onstage: A Chorus Line

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 2, 2015
The dancers who back up Broadway productions are called “gypsies.” They lead anonymous lives, but they’re passionate, dedicated performers.  

Power Down — and Prepare for Bliss

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 2, 2015
For the past two Septembers I’ve written columns about theater etiquette. In 2013, my headline was “Behave Yourself,” and last year I updated it to “Behave Yourself 2.0.” Please don’t think me old-fashioned, but it’s time for another reminder — I’m not the only one concerned about this.