WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
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!
 
 

Mrs. Mannerly (Review)

Irrevent humor anchors ETC's Dale Hodges as straight-laced etiquette teacher

0 Comments · Friday, October 12, 2012
Silverware — 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 10.12.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
poster_mrs_mannerly

Stage Door: Too Many Options

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 all in. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's regional premiere of Mrs. Mannerly 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 Kramer's 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 06.29.2012
Posted In: Theater at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
porgy and bess cred

Stage Door: Last Chances

'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: 513-241-6550. 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 06.15.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
arts lead - 9-7 - next to normal @ etc - charlie clark (dr. madden - dr. fine) and jessica hendy (diana) - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door: 'next to normal' Is Back

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: 513-381-2273, x1. 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.
 
 

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