WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 12.13.2013
Posted In: Theater at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door

Stage Door: Holiday Cheer

It's Friday the 13th, but if you're in the mood for holiday shows, this is your lucky weekend. Just about every theater in town has something onstage aimed at getting you into the Christmas spirit, making you laugh, diverting you from the stress of being cheerful or just poking fun at the ways of the world (at least the world of commercialism we see in America today).Perhaps you've already done your annual brush-up on Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse (another fine production, now in its 23rd season with Bruce Cromer back as Scrooge and a new interpretation of Bob Cratchit, featuring the very angular Ryan Wesley Gilreath, who seems to be all arms and legs and stringy hair — very Dickensian) or the musical version being presented by Covedale Center. With the story of Scrooge's dark night of the soul fresh in mind, perhaps you're ready for A Klingon Christmas Carol, presented by Hugo West Theatricals at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). This is a newish theater group that knows its way around satirical work (their Don't Cross the Streams, a goofy derivative of Ghostbusters, was a popular piece in the 2012 Fringe festival), they are giving this unusual piece its local premiere. (It's been staged in Chicago and Minneapolis.) It's actually a rather faithful retelling of the story with SQuja' (Donald Volpenheim), a cowardly, money-grubbing member of Star Trek's warrior race, taking the place of Scrooge. It's presented by a deadpan Vulcan narrator (Lauren Carr) who positions the work as the "original" of the tale. Klingons don't celebrate Christmas, but they are bound by traditions, the greatest of them being the "Feast of the Long Night." The 70-minute piece closely matches with Scrooge's story, but it's all through a Klingon filter — lots of angry outbursts and hearty laughter, grunting, growling, drinking and chest-thumping by characters with wrinkled foreheads, bushy eyebrows and fierce demeanors. Eileen Earnest handles timHom (a Muppet-like equivalent for Tiny Tim), son of Quachit (David Dreith), whose training as a warrior is being neglected because of greedy SQuja'. If you've never yearned for a visit to Qo'noS, the Klingon homeworld, you might find this production a bit impenetrable since it's performed in the guttural Klingon language, but there are projected subtitles that add humor to the action. This won't be a show for everyone, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you'll have a good time. Tickets ($20 at the door or here). Elsewhere in OTR, there's no need for subtitles for New Edgecliff Theatre's The 12 Dates of Christmas, presented this year at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St.). It's a remount of NET's 2012 holiday, again featuring Annie Kalahurka as Mary, a New York actress whose chipper view of the holidays is trashed when she sees her fiancé kissing another woman on national TV at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The one-woman show recounts her trajectory through a year of dating a dozen men, a few with potential, others with "what were you thinking?" qualities. Kalahurka does it all, from her central character, her oppressive matchmaking aunt, her nervously worried mother and a parade of bad choices marked by ornaments she hangs on a tree — an old friend, a doctor, a bartender, guys met at weddings, a musician and more. Along the way, she's in a production of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol (she plays Christmas Past) adding more humor with references to theater and such. This is a contemporary show with language to match (so it's not for the kids), but Kalahurka is a charming performer who makes this one totally worth seeing. Tickets: 513-621-2787. On Sunday evening, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicks off two weeks of Every Christmas Carol Ever Told (and then some) for the eighth consecutive year. As the title implies, it's a mash-up of everything from A Christmas Carol to the Grinch, with stops for Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Nutcracker and more. It's been a great evening of adult entertainment in past incarnations: This year returns last year's cast intact — Miranda McGee, Sara Clark, Justin McComb and Billy Chace. They're individually funny, and together they can be downright hilarious. Even if you've seen this one before, it's worth a return trip. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1. For those who want to take the kids to a show, you can't go wrong with Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre through Jan. 4 (513-421-3555) or the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Day Before Christmas with performances today and Saturday at the Taft Theatre (800-745-3000).
 
 
by Rick Pender 10.25.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cabaret

Stage Door: 'Cabaret' and Halloween Fare

The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Cabaret is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of musicals. (CityBeat review here.) Kander and Ebb's Tony Award winner from the late '60s has been brought to the main stage with inventive verve by veteran Broadway choreographer and director Marsha Milgrom Dodge. Sure, it's set in 1929 Berlin, populated by amoral entertainers and Nazis rising to power. But its scrutiny of prejudice and bigotry in the context of jaunty, thoughtless entertainment is a fascinating way to bring attention to topics that are timeless. Dodge has assembled a cast of triple-threats (who can sing, act and dance), given them choreography rooted in the 1920s, costumed them in period clothing (and some clever get-ups for the cabaret routines) and set them spinning on a stage arrayed with Expressionist imagery. It's a winning combination. Cabaret just opened on Thursday evening; you have until Nov. 16 to catch it, but it's likely to be a hot ticket, so this is a good weekend to head to Mount Adams. The other choice at the Playhouse, Seven Spots on the Sun, is in its final weekend on the Shelterhouse stage. It's a powerful drama set in a Latin American nation, torn asunder by civil war. Serious theatergoers have been giving this one a thumbs-up. Tickets: 513-421-3888. Cincinnati Shakespeare hasn't gotten around to any Shakespeare plays yet this season, but no one's complaining. Last weekend they opened a moving production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, featuring top-notch performances by Jeremy Dubin and Jim Hopkins as a pair of Depression Era migrant works who have to stay one step ahead of trouble because man-child Lennie (Hopkins) doesn't know his own strength and has emotions that are seldom reined in. Great acting, worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) Through Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati finishes its run of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn this weekend, hot from Broadway in its regional premiere. (CityBeat review here.) A story about modern women and what satisfies — and dissatisfies — them. Three generations end up debating choices made: It's both entertaining and thought-provoking, a showcase of excellent local actors. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-421-3555. As Halloween draws closer, you might want to check out a show or two inspired by the "season." Dracula at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (tickets: 513-241-6550) tells the familiar tale of the legendary vampire. (CityBeat review here.) Slasher at Falcon Theatre (Monmouth Theatre in Newport; tickets 513-479-6783) is a tongue-in-cheek piece that originated a few years back at the Humana Festival in Louisvile. It's about people making a horror flick and how it affects their lives. Lots of humor, but some thoughtful moments, too.
 
 
by Rick Pender 10.18.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_onstage_raptureblisterburn_ryankurtz

Stage Door: Choices, Choices

My best recommendation for this weekend is Ensemble Theatre's staging of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn. This is an ultra-natural piece of writing with several generations of women arguing and contesting over the ways women should behave. (CityBeat review here.) It's focused on two women, once friends, one married to the other's ex college boyfriend. It's years later and neither woman is very happy with her present life. How that plays out will keep you engaged from start to finish. Some exceptional acting, with strong direction by D. Lynn Meyers. Tickets: 513-421-3555. The Playhouse's world premiere of Martín Zimmerman's Seven Spots on the Sun is a powerful drama that engages all your senses as well as your imagination. The products of a devastating civil war in Central America are played out in painfully personal ways. Potent script, strong performances make this a show worth seeing. (CityBeat review here.) This weekend at the Playhouse also offers a series of previews (hence, more affordable tickets) of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, a show that's been around for a long time — but still has a saucy kick that makes it feel very in the moment. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888. Need to starting getting into a Halloween state of mind? Covedale Center opened a production of Dracula on Thursday (it's onstage through Nov. 10) for you to sink your teeth into. Or vice versa. Tickets: 513-241-6550. Cincinnati Shakespeare kicks off its production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men this evening. It's a tale of friendship in the midst of the Great Depression, two men who are migrant workers, often staying one step beyond serious trouble caused by oafish Lennie. Cincy Shakes' regular Jim Hopkins plays the simple-minded giant who's protected by the pragmatic George, brought to life by veteran Jeremy Dubin. It's a thoughtful, sad story. Opens Friday evening, continues through Nov. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1. Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company is involved in bringing National Theatre Live broadcasts from London to Cincinnati. If these screenings generate any profits, Cincy Shakes will get some financial benefit. So assemble a group and head to Springdale 18's Cinema de Luxe on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. You'll see a powerful performance of Othello featuring  Adrian Lester (an Olivier Award winner) as the title character and Rory Kinnear (featured in a couple of recent James Bond films) as the manipulative Iago. Here's a link to buy tickets, $19 in general, $15 for seniors and students. Take a kid to see a show and you're likely to create a lifetime theater lover. That's what happened to me when my grandfather took me to see the musical Brigadoon. So you can give this theory a try this weekend as the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati opens its 89th mainstage season with Annie JR. at the Taft Theatre. It's a shortened version of the Broadway hit about a spunky orphan who charms everyone (and which happens to be back on Broadway this fall in a full-length production). Public performances today, tomorrow and Sunday. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
 
 
by Rick Pender 09.20.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_onstage_etc_otherdesertcities_ryankurtz

Stage Door: Choices, Choices

Lots of choices to fulfill your appetite for good theater this weekend. Best bet is to catch one of the final performances of Other Desert Cities at Ensemble Theatre (Sunday at 2 p.m. is your last chance), the story of parents and children who just can't get along. (CityBeat review here.) Heavy doses of guilt, sarcasm and politics fuel a lot of family angst, and some unexpected twists and turns keep things interesting as a daughter who's a writer blames her parents for her activist brother's suicide — in a very public way. The show features a solid cast of local favorites. It's definitely worth seeing if you can get a ticket. 513-421-3555. A wholly different kind of show is Fly at the Cincinnati Playhouse, an imaginative recreation of the lives of four men recruited among hundreds of African Americans during World War II to fulfill piloting roles in bombing missions over Europe. (CityBeat review here.) The Tuskegee Airmen were the leading edge of the Civil Rights movement, men who had to overcome prejudice to prove their worth. The production is made visually and sonically engaging with videos that recreate flight and a soulful tap dancer who brings emotion — joy, sorrow, grief and anger — to various scenes. It's a very imaginative show. Through Oct. 5. Tickets: 513-421-3888. On Wednesday evening, I caught the opening night of New Edgecliff Theatre's staging of William Inge's 1955 comedy-drama, Bus Stop. It's about a collection of lost souls who end up trapped in a Kansas diner during an overnight snowstorm. They're largely caricatures, but Inge was a master of naturalistic dialogue, and in the hands of some fine local performers directed by Jared Doren the show takes on a pleasant, believable life. Some good things happen, some sad stories are told, and some lessons learned. At the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater, through Sept. 28. Tickets: 513-621-2787. And for something completely different, you might want to check out a production by community theater group Showbiz Players of Carrie: The Musical, Stephen King’s creepy novel about a bullied adolescent girl who unleashes telekinetic vengeance on her persecutors. The show originated on Broadway in 1988 and was long considered one of the worst ever, but it was reborn in 2012, and became a hit. Decide for yourself by seeing it at the Carnegie in Covington. Through Sept. 29. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
 
 
by Rick Pender 09.13.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door 9-13 - fly @ playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Back in Business

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 Heritage Month.
 
 

Other Desert Cities (Review)

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 05.24.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 5-15 - measure for measure - kelly mengelkoch & brent vimtrup - photo rich sofranko

Stage Door: Near Season's End

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 05.17.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dale hodges in krisit - photo jim springfield

Stage Door: Choices, Choices

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. Finally, if 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.
 
 

Black Pearl Stings!

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 12.07.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
naughty list

Stage Door: More Holiday Cheer

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. Happy holidays!
 
 

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