Tribes (Review)

Can you hear me now? 'Tribes' at Ensemble Theatre

0 Comments · Friday, February 7, 2014
Nina Raine’s award-winning play Tribes is overtly — and creatively — about people living with deafness. But it’s also a story of families and the human need to connect.   
by Rick Pender 01.03.2014
Posted In: Theater at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Stage Door: Couple of Classics

Truth to tell, midnight has already passed and Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg thinks he's missed the deadline for getting "around the world in 80 days." But his faithful servant Passepartout (played with manic energy by the always amusing Michael G. Bath) saves the day by sorting out travel across time zones. Your deadline has not quite passed, since Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's inventive staging of a musical version of Jules Verne's classic Around the World in 80 Days continues through a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. (CityBeat review here.) If football and cold weather aren't your preferences, maybe you should head to the Over-the-Rhine theater for a final volley of holiday entertainment. Tickets: 513-421-3555. While you're thinking about theater, you should be making plans to see Shakespeare's greatest tragedy (some say it's the greatest play ever written), Hamlet, which opens next week at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Once you've taken that one in, you'll be ready to head back in mid-February for Tom Stoppard's other-end-of-the-telescope version of the show (using the same actors), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Tickets: 513-381-2273. Happy New Year!

Local Stages Kept Things Interesting in 2013

0 Comments · Monday, December 23, 2013
How was 2013 as a year for plays and musicals in Cincinnati? From where I stand — or sit, since I’m most often in a seat at one of our local theaters — it stacked up pretty well.  

Around The World in 80 Days (Review)

Entertaining, Charming and Heart-Warming

1 Comment · Monday, December 9, 2013
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati opened a revamped version of the delightfully spirited Around The World in 80 Days on Dec. 4 to a full house. The production is exactly what you would hope for from a family-friendly holiday show.  
by Rick Pender 10.11.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: Solid Choices

Several great choices for theatergoing this weekend. At the top of your list should be Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. I was at the opening of Gina Gionfriddo's 2013 Pulitzer Prize runner-up on Wednesday, and it's another fine example of the kind of excellent production we've come to expect from ETC. Lynn Meyers has a knack for finding exactly the right actors for her shows, and she's assembled a perfect cast for this one, the story of a twisty relationship between three one-time college friends. Two women, played by Jen Joplin and Corinne Mohlenhoff, were roommates back then, and Mohlenhoff's character had a charismatic boyfriend. She went off to a renowned academic career and Joplin's character ended up marrying Don, played by Charlie Clark. Twenty years later they're back in close proximity, and neither woman is feeling fulfilled by her life. Don is a willing player in trading places, which makes for some amusing drama. Mohlenhoff's character offers a summer seminar in feminism, film and pornography which plays out some interesting theorizing among the show's female characters about the roles women play. It's a great stew of talking and experimenting, which takes some interesting turns along the way. Definitely watchable and entertaining. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3555. At the Playhouse you'll find Martín Zimmerman's much more serious Seven Spots on the Sun, a story set in a Latin American nation torn asunder by civil war. (CityBeat review here.) We see the drama played out between several characters whose lives are tragically intertwined and who struggle to understand how to continue in light of past decisions and tragedies. It's a powerful story that offers small glimmers of hope, not to mention some magical turns that lead you to speculate about fate and hope. Zimmerman is a playwright whose name will become increasingly familiar in the future; the Playhouse is offer his script in its world premiere. Onstage through Oct. 27. Tickets: 513-421-3888. If you're looking for a different kind of theater experience, check out New Edgecliff Theatre's annual fundraiser, "Sweet Suspense," back for its sixth year with a one-time performance on Sunday evening. Playwright Catie O'Keefe has adapted Mary Shelley's classic monster tale of Frankenstein into a radio adaptation, complete with creepy sound effects. Since NET is homeless this season, the event is happening at Know Theatre at 7:30 p.m. The "sweet" part of the evening is a dessert buffet at intermission with treats from many local bakeries, including Holtman's Donuts, the hot new sweet shop on Vine Street in OTR. Tickets are $35 (hey, it's a fundraiser) for adults, $20 for kids 13 and under. Seating is limited, so ordering tickets in advance is advised: 513-399-6638.

Finding a Niche in Local Theater — and Seeking More

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
In recent columns I surveyed Cincinnati theater companies that came and went during the past 20 years. Some stumbled because their founders had more passion than management expertise; others simply lacked the focus to keep audiences coming back. The truth is it’s hard to identify a niche and settle into it  

Theater on the Horizon

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Several slots for the 2013-2014 season have been filled in by local theaters as the current season finishes.  
by Rick Pender 06.09.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ensemble Theatre Announces Remainder of Season

Cincy Playhouse veterans Ed Stern and Michael Evan Haney to stage shows

If you enjoyed "great theater in a great theater" at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park during past seasons, you'll be pleased to learn that Ed Stern, former producing artistic director, and Michael Evan Haney, whose tenure as associate artistic director ends on June 30, have both been engaged to stage shows at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) for its 2013-2014 season. Haney will stage Nina Raine's Tribes (Jan. 29-Feb. 16, 2014) and Stern will co-direct the world premiere of Raymond McAnally's Size Matters (May 7-25, 2014); the playwright is also an actor (he co-starred in ETC's production of Mrs. Mannerly last fall) and he will be the solo performer of the one-man show.Tribes is about Billy, the deaf son of an outspoken family obsessed with self-expression. He  has adapted to his family but not vice versa. Then he begins to connect with the deaf community, and his family resents his new "tribe." The show uses spoken and sign language as well as surtitles so  audiences can fully follow the action. The show has been a hit in New York (where it won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for outstanding play) and London, where it debuted in 2010 at the Royal Court Theatre. It's only been seen at a few theaters in the U.S. including the La Jolla Playhouse and the Guthrie in Minneapolis. As usual, ETC's Lynn Meyers is ahead of the curve in picking up great new works, and it's a good bet that Haney will make this a fine production. (Haney remains connected with the Playhouse as one of three artistic associates; he will direct A Christmas Carol as well as the world premiere of Anna Ziegler's A Delicate Ship during the Playhouse's 2013-2014 season.)McAnally's comedy, Size Matters is even newer, of course, as a world premiere. It's about a "big guy," living in a crowded city and getting work based on his weight. McAnally, an actor who's weighed more than 280 pounds since he was 18, explores the impact his weight has had on who he is: It's apparent to him that "size matters" much of the time, but not always. The show about body issues and self-confidence is based on true events. Stern will co-direct with ETC's Meyers.The balance of ETC's season was announced earlier: It opens on Sept. 4 with Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities, andincludes Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn, the holiday musical Around the World in 80 Days and Katori Hall's The Mountaintop about Martin Luther King Jr. Find more details here. 

Swimming in the Shallows (Review - Critic's Pick)

0 Comments · Saturday, June 8, 2013
The 2013 Fringe has provided a final showcase for a half-dozen talented performers to shine in their own light in a production of Adam Bock’s absurdist comedy.  
by Rick Pender 05.10.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
cock photo- deogracias lerma

Stage Door: Stock Up

Nothing new onstage this week, but lots of good work continues as we head toward the summer when theater gets scarce. Now's the time to stock up. This is the final weekend for Cock at Know Theatre. (Some publications call it The Cockfight Play, but Cock is Mike Bartlett's actual title for his play.) It's the story of a man who thought he was gay but now finds himself powerfully drawn to a woman. (CityBeat review here.) His former lover and his new passion both push him to make a choice, and he's torn. It's a great piece of theater, fueled by strong acting and interesting staging. Tickets: 513-300-5669. Ensemble Theatre's production of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns is off and running — and on its way to being another box-office hit for ETC. It's the same four spunky gals who audiences loved back in 2010 (in ETC's best-selling show ever), with new tuneful glimpses into their high school graduation in 1958 and a wedding reception in 1968. Talented singers, individually and as a quartet, make this a fine evening's entertainment. If you've seen it before, you know the drill — and you're probably ready for more. Tickets: 513-421-3555 James M. Cain's novel of crime and deception, Double Indemnity, continues at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) If you think you know this show from Billy Wilder's 1944 film (one that defined the noir genre), you're in for a treat: While this production adopts the elements of terse narration, tough guys and sexy dames, the playwrights tell the story differently for the stage. And the Playhouse stages it inventively — one might even say cinematically. Tickets: 513-421-3888. Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is a strange piece, a comedy with a deeply disturbing story about hypocrisy. (CityBeat review here.) A judgmental official condemns men for their licentious behavior, then turns around and propositions a virtuous woman pleading to spare her brother. This troublesome tale is interspersed with comic moments as minor characters wend their way through a time of sordid behavior — in Cincinnati Shakespeare's production it's been moved to Prohibition-era America. If you're a Shakespeare buff, this one is worth seeing, since it's not often staged. (It's been 18 years since it's been presented locally.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 x.1. The musical Sister Act, based on the Whoopi Goldberg film from 1992, continues at the Aronoff. (CityBeat review here.) It's an evening of silly fluff, but the touring production, onstage through Sunday, is polished and entertaining. The plot is implausible, but it's a framework for some great singing and an eye-popping series of set pieces. Tickets: 800-982-2787.  If you prefer a musical with a little more grit, head to Dayton where the Human Race Theatre Company is presenting next to normal at the Victoria Theater. This Rock musical about a paranoid schizophrenic mom and the damage her affliction imposes on her family is a powerful show, one that Cincinnati's Ensemble Theatre gave a well received production in 2011 that was revived a year ago. The show was an unusual winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It's onstage in Dayton through May 19. Tickets: 937-228-9360.