by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:19 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is typically the first professional theater
in town to start the season, and that's the case for 2013 with Other Desert Cities that opened a week ago. You can read my review;
I really appreciated the powerhouse cast performing the show. That led
me to give Jon Robin Baitz's provocative family drama about strife
between generations a "Critic's Pick." (It's onstage through Sept. 22.) A tip option for seats is an added 7 p.m. performance on that final Sunday. If you enjoy ETC's productions of fresh new plays, you owe a debt of gratitude to its founding supporters. Longtime friends
Ruth Sawyer and Murph Mahler got the ball rolling back in 1987 and
faithfully guided the company for two decades, sustaining the company
financially, artistically and spiritually. Mahler passed away in 2009
and Sawyer earlier this year, so ETC is commemorating their dedication
with a special free event this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. The program will offer songs and stories performed by some of ETC's best artists. Seating is limited, so you need to RSVP: 513-421-3555.I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse's 2013-2014 season last evening. Fly
is a heart-grabbing piece of history, the story of four Tuskegee
Airmen, some of those bold African Americans who overcame prejudice in
the 1940s by joining the Army Air Corps and serving America valiantly
during World War II. The show is imaginatively presented, using a modern
tap dancer to punctuate the storytelling. There's plenty of excitement,
conveyed with video and sound — but mostly with some excellent acting.
The full-house audience, which included four veterans of the training
program, responded warmly. Through Oct. 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Cincinnati Shakespeare's Oliver Twist is a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' dark 1838
novel about crime and child abuse in Victorian London (CityBeat review here). It's a grim
drama, definitely not the chipper rendition you might recall if you've
seen the musical Oliver! Cincy Shakes' acting company rises to
the task, but I suspect you'll leave the theater glad you weren't a
child — or an adult — in that era. Through Sept. 29. 513-381-2273.
A few years back a play was commissioned about Cincinnati as A City of Immigrants.
It's a fine piece of theater about the place we call home and how it's
rooted in people who came here from elsewhere. It gets presented
periodically, including tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. at the Freedom Center, 30 East Freedom Way on the Banks. (Doors open at 5:30.)
There's no charge for admission; it's definitely worth seeing. The
event is to mark the kickoff of the local celebration of Hispanic
Running hot and cold
1 Comment · Thursday, September 5, 2013
The white-hot heat of a family tearing itself apart, the
cold fear of submerged emotions spilling forth — these elements fuel
this powerful drama.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:55 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company finishes its run of Measure for Measure
this weekend (CityBeat review here). It's a dark tale of hypocrisy and manipulation, with a
few glimmers of ribald humor. Director Brian Phillips has transported
the story from Renaissance-Era Vienna to the United States of the 1920s
when Prohibition made everyday occurrences of fast living and bad
behavior. (Can you say Boardwalk Empire?) In 20 seasons, CSC has
only staged it once before, but this is a production worth seeing
because of the strong acting company — especially Brent Vimtrup, Kelly
Mengelkoch and Nick Rose. Billy Chace does a nice job with the comic
bits, too, even though they feel weird in this difficult story of
self-righteousness and double-dealing. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.For those into crooning, sentimental nostalgia, you'll find an ample supply aboard the Showboat Majestic's production of Forever Plaid.
Jinx, Sparky Francis and Smudge conjure up a lot of good clean fun and
close harmonies for their final concert. And I do mean final — in fact,
they're kind of after the fact: Coming back from the great beyond for
one last gig after a tragic bus accident on their way to a career-making
gig. There's a lot of tomfoolery that makes this show amusing and
entertaining. Through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
If you prefer the girls to the boys, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is into the extended run of The Mavelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns.
The spunky gals — who also traffic in tunes from the ’50s and ’60s —
provide two more rounds of melodies and moodiness. "Caps" is a
reconstruction of their graduation night in 1958, while "Gowns" is a
decade later at the wedding reception of Missy, who always has a plan,
and Mr. Lee, a teacher she idolized. We get to see what life has brought
to her three friends, love-'em-and-leave-'em Cindy Lou, jealous Betty
Jean and vapid Suzy. ETC's casting gets an A+. Through June 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
For our early summer enjoyment, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has put together the charming and family-friendly Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself). I attended the opening on Thursday
evening and witnessed three actors who play a host of characters,
change costumes in plain view, create wildly imaginative scenery and
make their own sound effects. It's a wistful story of adventure that
revels in the adventure of storytelling. It's onstage through June 16. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:39 AM | Permalink
As the 2012-2013
theater season winds down, there are still several good productions
worth seeing: You can still be entertained by the froth of The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns at Ensemble Theatre (which runs through June 1), intrigued by the dark comedy Measure for Measure at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through May 26; CityBeat review here) or titillated by the noir tale of lust and murder, Double Indemnity, at the Cincinnati Playhouse (wrapping up on Saturday; CityBeat review here).But if you're looking for other options, you'll find them. Slightly more off the beaten path is Sunset Boulevard,
the Andrew Lloyd Webber about a faded silent film star living in her
grandiose memory of her glory days rather than in the cynical present of
the 1940s. Cincinnati Music Theatre has assembled a fine production of
the show at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater, onstage through
Saturday evening. This is a big show in terms of cast, choreography,
scenery and more, but CMT, a community theater, has the personnel to
pull it off. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Another tale of a film legend contemplating a return to the screen — but on a decidedly smaller scale — is offered in Krisit,
a new play by local playwright Y York. Veteran actress Dale Hodges
plays the title character in a show characterized by director Mark
Lutwak as a funny play about a serious subject. York and Hodges have a
history that goes back to New York City many years ago. It's onstage
(through June 2) at Clifton Performance Theatre (the space once occupied
by Sitwell's Coffee House, 404 Ludlow Ave.). Tickets: 513-861-7469. Speaking of legends, at the Aronoff tonight (Friday) you'll find Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!
He's been presenting the humor, satirical wit and timeless observations
of one of America's most iconic literary figures for more than a
half-century. Holbrook is now 88, more than a decade older than Twain
when he passed away in 1910. But he keeps his performances fresh and
timely with constant edits and changes about politics, culture and the
world, carefully attuned to the moment. (He has more than 16 hours of
Twain material in his repertoire!) His performance is in the Procter
& Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
If you've already enjoyed the Wonderettes at ETC, you might want to attend Forever Plaid,
which just opened the 2013 summer season on board the Showboat
Majestic. It's a similar story, a quartet of singers aspiring for their
big musical break. They get it, but at a high (and highly comic) price.
Lots of great tunes from the ’50s, surrounded by nostalgic humor. It's
onstage through June 2. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
you're a regular theatergoer in Cincinnati, you might want to attend
the League of Cincinnati's awards program on Monday evening, 7 p.m. at
Know Theatre. Details here.
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s Black Pearl Sings!
is a play come as a warning shot foretelling the modern-day recording
industry (such as it is) and its sad history of theft by corporate
henchmen. More obviously and tellingly, the play is
also a dance of race relations, race politics and the sometimes
heartbreaking history of relationships between black and white women.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:38 AM | Permalink
As I wrote in my column in the current issue of CityBeat, there's a lot of good holiday theater available on Cincinnati stages right now. The Playhouse's production of A Christmas Carol,
now in its 22nd year, is best in class — a well-told traditional tale
with some of the best professional actors in town onstage, from Bruce
Cromer as Scrooge and Dale Hodges as the Ghost of Christmas past. There
are a few new faces, too, playing the Cratchits. And speaking of new
faces, I feel comfortable recommending New Edgecliff Theatre's one-woman
show, The 12 Dates of Christmas, which is being engagingly performed by Annie Kalahurka. It's paired with David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries,
which feels a little shopworn to me, but you can catch the double-bill
downtown at the Arnonff's Fifth Third Bank Theater — and maybe go for
drinks at Arnold's before or after the show.
If you're looking for something kind of different, try The Naughty List (review here),
a holiday-themed improv show (presented in Arnold's courtyard on
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings) by Know Theatre. Five quick-witted
comics who constitute OTR Improv are doing routines that use audience
suggestions (and occasional audience participants) for nearly two hours
of entertainment. It's a different show every night.
Have kids you want to take to the theater and give them a
taste of what fun it can be? Two good bets are Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati for one of its musical fairytales with a moral (this year the
show is a colorful, cartoonish rendition of Alice in Wonderland) and Covedale Center, where Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
is singing and dancing its way through another familiar story the kids
will know. The prince is handsome, Cinderella is sweet and the nasty
Stepmother is played by a guy.
As far as familiar stories go, you've probably seen Frank Capra's classic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life
a few times during the holidays. But I bet you haven't experienced in
the unique way that Falcon Theater offers it up at Newport's Monmouth
Theatre: The script frames the story as an old-time radio drama, and you
get to watch behind-the-scenes as a handful of actors play all the
roles and a few others create the necessary sound effects. It opens
this weekend and runs for a week. I haven't seen this year's edition,
but I've enjoyed past incarnations, and I suspect this one will be
entertaining as well.
Irrevent humor anchors ETC's Dale Hodges as straight-laced etiquette teacher
0 Comments · Friday, October 12, 2012
— and napkin folding and thank-you-card writing — are
major topics of conversations in Jeffrey Hatcher’s semi-autobiographical
Mrs. Mannerly, but the play is
never dull or dry. Who knew place
settings could be so entertaining?
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
You have no excuse for complaining that there's not enough
theater in the days ahead. In fact, you'll have a hard time fitting it
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's regional premiere of
opened a few days ago: It's a comedy about growing up in small-town
Ohio under the watchful (perhaps oppressive) eye of a strict etiquette
teacher. Jeffrey Hatcher's play (largely based on his own experience in
1967) features one of Cincinnati's best actresses, Dale Hodges, in the
title role. And the production has been staged by Ed Stern, recently
retired after 20 years as producing artistic director at the Cincinnati
Playhouse. Box Office: 513-421-3555.
Cincinnati Shakespeare is producing Shakespeare's romantic tragedy
Romeo & Juliet, featuring a pair of actors — Sara Clark and Ian Bond — who had great chemistry in recent productions of Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility.
They will bring new life a familiar work, I'm sure. The production
opens Friday; bear in mind that Cincy Shakes has been selling out its
productions this season, so catching this one before it catches on with
the larger audience might be a good idea. Box Office: 513-381-2273 x1.
For entertainment of an entirely different stripe, I suggest you check out
The Beggar's Carnivale
on Friday and Saturday evenings (9 p.m.) at Know Theatre. This variety
show has been described as "Cirque du Soleil on a whiskey bender." It
includes elements of traiditonal circus arts, gypsy folk and Rock &
Roll. You'll witness a fast-paced spectacle with several acts linked by
interludes in the style of silent film. There's live music, too, by
their house band The Royal We and the Carnivale's personal DJ. Sounds
like an evening of unusual entertainment. Box Office: 513-300-5669.
For the stay-at-homes, you might sample
Lost in Yonkers on
WVXU's broadcast of L.A. Theatre Works, Saturday evening at 8 p.m. on
FM 91.7. This great nostalgic play by Neil Simon is part of an
autobiographical trilogy; the Cincinnati Playhouse is producing Brighton Beach Memoirs, another from this set, a few weeks from now. On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. WVXU will air The Moth,
a collection of monologues by everyday people, sharing anecdotes of
things that actually happened to them. It's the inspiration for our
local company True Theatre, which opens its third season on Monday
evening (7:30 p.m.) with trueLearning at Know Theatre.
Finally, to keep you occupied next week, CCM Drama is offering a week of
free, unticketed readings of gay-themed plays. On Monday it's Larry
The Normal Heart (1985); Tuesday and Wednesday offer Tony Kushner's 1993 award-winning Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches and Part 2: Perestroika. Thursday evening it's Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet
(2011). All readings are at 7 p.m. in the Corbett Center's Room 4755 at
the University of Cincinnati. On Friday evening, Dr. Richard Coons will
moderate a conversation about "Storytellers, History Makers and
Revolutionaries: The LGBT Story." A clinical psychologist, Coons is a
CCM Drama grad; in 1998 and 1999 he played the central role of Prior
Walter in CCM's local premiere of Kushner's Angels in America. (Also free, this event will be in Patricia Corbett Theatre on the UC campus.)
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
'The Second City 2' and 'next to normal' conclude this weekend, among others
It’s a weekend of last chances, as several shows that have
been entertaining audiences wind up their runs just before Independence
Day. Let’s start with The Second City 2: Less Pride … More Pork.
If you haven’t yet caught this evening of poking fun
at our local foibles and sacred cows, you have only until Saturday. The
cast of five from Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe has been tickling
local funny bones since late April, drawing their material from
bottomless well of our beliefs and behaviors. Even if you saw the show a
month or two ago, you’ll be entertained by a return visit. Improv is
the fuel for the evening, and every night they’re up to new tricks to
entertain audiences. By the way, that includes involving a few folks in
attendance, so be prepared. Box office: 513-421-3888.
Sunday winds up Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal. (Review here.) The story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia
and how it affects her family is even better than it was back in
September. The show uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to enhance
the impact of this painful story. ETC has reassembled most of its superb
cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her
beleaguered husband is now played by Bruce Cromer, who you might know as
Ebenezer Scrooge in the Playhouse’s annual A Christmas Carol. His character’s relationship with Hendy’s makes their struggles all the more deeply felt. Box office: 513-421-3555.
Last Sunday I had some good laughs at the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace
on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944),
but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, about a pair of
off-kilter elderly maiden aunts who keep their rather normal nephew
astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women
take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,”
and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They
convince another nephew, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them
in the basement by telling him they’re Panama Canal works who are
victims of yellow fever. A great show for the whole family. Box office:
Also winding up this weekend is Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This
rambunctious show mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are
completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish guys who
undertake the task. Order your tickets online where you’ll find an
automatic buy-one, get-one offer. Website: www.cincyshakes.com.
Cincinnati Opera is offering Porgy & Bess
for the first time ever, with a performances on Saturday evening (as
well as July 6 and 8). (Preview here.) Is it an opera or a musical? Judge for yourself
(and read about it in my Curtain Call column in next week’s issue of CityBeat).
It’s at Music Hall, with lots of seats, but as always, a limited run.
This is one you shouldn’t miss. I saw it Thursday night, and the leading
performers are great: Measha Brueggergosman is a conflicted Bess,
Jonathan Lemalu conveys Porgy’s dignified but depressed life, Gordon
Hawkins is the brutal Crown, and Steven Cole steals the show as the
animated, irreverent Sporting Life. And pay attention to the chorus —
it’s a wonderful ensemble. Box office: 513-241-2742.
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 08:46 AM | Permalink
If you missed my
recommendations last September about seeing the Tony Award-winning
musical next to normal at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati,
you have a reprieve. Starting today, the show is back for a two-week
revival. It’s the story of a woman struggling with paranoid
schizophrenia and how it affects her family; that might not sound
like the stuff that musicals are made of, but it uses the power of a
brilliant Rock score to deliver the impact of this story. ETC has
reassembled all of the superb cast, including Jessica Hendy in the
central role; the one role that needed a new performer is that of the
beleaguered husband, and ETC has lined up one of our area’s best
actors, Bruce Cromer. Tickets are being snapped up already, but this
is the hot show to be seen at the moment. Box office: 513-421-3555
The Showboat Majestic
just opened a production of the classic comedy Arsenic and Old
Lace. It won’t break any new ground, but it is one of the
funniest shows you’re likely to see, the tale of an off-kilter set
of relatives who keep their quite normal nephew astonished and
scrambling to keep them in line. His aunts take in boarders, quiet
elderly men who are alone in the world, and polish them off with
elderberry wine laced with arsenic; they convince their addled
brother, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them in the
basement by telling him they’re victims of yellow fever who have
been working on digging the Panama Canal. There’s lots more, but
you get the picture. Box office: 513-241-6550
Another stage full of
laughs is available from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in the form
of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
It’s your chance to see at least a passing mention of all the
Bard’s works — although many are completely unrecognizable,
thanks the three buffoonish characters who undertake the task. The
second act is a wild send-up of Hamlet that involves the audience.
There’s never a dull moment, and the CSC actors seem to especially
relish the task of poking fun at their usual fare. Box office:
Summer is the season
for lighter entertainment at the Commonwealth Dinner Theater, on
campus at Northern Kentucky University. They’re offering Neil
Simon’s Plaza Suite, a glimpse into the relationships
of three couples that occupy the same suite at the Plaza Hotel in New
York City. One couple is celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary
in the same room where they honeymooned; another is an oft-married
Hollywood producer who’s hoping for an encounter; the third is a
mother and father trying to coax their bride-to-be daughter out of
the locked bathroom and downstairs to the impatient wedding guests.
Box office: 859-572-5464
Each week in Stage
Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces
of theater news.