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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Ensemble Theatre doesn’t pull any punches
with the opener for its 30th season.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:33 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati continues its hot streak of well-cast and engaging scripts with Sharr White's The Other Place, the story of a brilliant but abrasive woman who is losing her grip. Regina Pugh is excellent in this moving and sometimes funny production, ably supported by Michael G. Bath as her perplexed husband, and with two performers usually seen at Cincinnati Shakespeare, Kelly Mengelkoch and Billy Chace, in an array of supporting roles. This is a drama that keeps you guessing as to what's the truth behind the story that's unfolding. When it all comes together, the revelation is devastating. Definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3555.Another powerful piece of theater is onstage at Know Theatre, where another Cincy Shakes regular is featured in the one-woman adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. The script feels a tad long, but it's such a pleasure to watch Corinne Mohlenhoff as Offred — and a half-dozen other distinct characters — that all you can do is marvel at her skill in presenting them, not to mention in memorizing more than two hours of text. This frightening dystopian tale of America's possible future staged by Brian Phillips (Cincy Shakes artistic director and Mohlenhoff's husband) on a very effective set designed designed by Andrew Hungerford (Know's artistic director) is definitely worth seeing. Box office: 513-300-5669.Other productions worth seeing on local stages: A collection of Johnny Cash tunes in Ring of Fire at the Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat interview here), the humorous Greater Tuna at Covedale (CityBeat review here) and a compelling staging of Samuel Beckett's breathtaking piece of absurdity, Waiting for Godot, at Cincy Shakes (CityBeat review here).
Get ready for more fun at Know Theatre with the kick-off of the second season of Serials!, this one subtitled "Thunderdome." Starting Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. (and continuing at two-week intervals through the end of March) will be five 15-minute pieces intended to be episodically developed. But this time, two will be voted off each week by the audience, to be replaced by two new works the next time around. Sounds like fun, and if this repeats the success of last summer's inaugural event, it's a chance to see local actors and writers at work. Box office: 513-300-5669.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:33 AM | Permalink
I attended the opening of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical at the Cincinnati Playhouse last evening. The show offers some sense of the great Country music singer's life, but it's not detailed in the way Rosemary Clooney was portrayed in the Playhouse's recent production. Instead, it's Cash's music that's front and center, performed by a half-dozen veteran musicians and four singer/actors, two men and two women, all of whom convey the sincerity and strength that were his calling card. Jason Edwards and Derek Keeling have voices reminiscent of the"Man in Black," the former in maturity and the latter as brash young man. Trenna Barnes and Allison Briner round out the quartet, sometimes conjuring the persona of June Carter, Cash's talented wife. Both are great singers, but Barnes is especially powerful and entertaining as a young spitfire in numbers like "Cry, Cry, Cry." The show features more than 30 numbers, some familiar, several sung amusingly by the musicians, and all engaging. Especially fun is "I've Been Everywhere," the second act opener that has all 10 performers singing, playing guitars and accelerating through a list of cities where Cash toured. Read more about the show in my interview (CityBeat interview here) with Edwards, who is also the show's director. Box office: 513-421-3888.Speaking of the Playhouse, I should also mention that this weekend kicks off performances of Theory of Mind, the story of a teenager on the autism spectrum. It's about his first date with a young woman unsure of her own reasons for romance. Ken LaZebnik's play, created for young people who are 11 or older, premiered at the Playhouse in 2009 and was successful with kids and adults. This weekend it will show up at Prospect House in Price Hill on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Hyde Park Health Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. and at the Dunham Recreation Center in Price Hill on Saturday at 7 p.m. Some performances are free. For more details and a schedule of locations and dates (through Feb. 22), go to www.cincyplay.com.You shouldn't miss Waiting for Godot at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (through Feb. 7). The production features excellent acting by Bruce Cromer (if you've seen A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse, you know him as Ebenezer Scrooge) and Cincy Shakes stalwart Nick Rose. Playing a pair of sad-sack hobos waiting for someone who never shows up, they capture the desperation of human existence in Samuel Beckett's masterpiece of theater of the absurd. I gave the show a Critic's Pick. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-381-2273. Two other productions kick off this weekend — the very funny Greater Tuna at the Covedale Center, through Feb. 15 (513-241-6550) in which two actors play many of the people in the "third smallest town in Texas," and the very serious Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre, through Feb. 21 (513-300-5669). The latter, a one-woman adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, features Cincy Shakes regular Corinne Mohlenhoff. I interviewed playwright Joe Stollenwerk in my Curtain Call (review here) column in CityBeat. At Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow Avenue Friday through Sunday only, you'll find a free show about coping with mental illness, She's Crazy, Mental Health and Other Myths features two local actresses, Sherry McCamley and Cathy Springfield, who developed this cabaret show that uses original songs and personal stories to reduce the stigma of mental health. Space is limited, so you are urged to call for reservations: 513-861-7469.Not for this weekend, but coming soon, you can get some bargains on tickets at Ensemble Theatre (where The Other Place opens next Wednesday). If you've never purchased tickets to ETC, you can score two $10 tickets during the first two weeks of each of its next three productions. A few restrictions apply, but it's a perfect opportunity to check out this excellent theater company if you've not been there. ETC is quick to point out that it's located in the Over-the-Rhine, where there are restaurants and events galore and easy parking in nearby garages. Box office: 513-421-3555.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:37 AM | Permalink
With the holidays just behind us, there's a kind of a lull on local stages, but this weekend has a few offerings to consider. At the Cincinnati Playhouse there's a popular production that's been extended twice, so you still have chances to see Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical through Jan. 11. The show is a great recreation of the career of girl singer Clooney who grew up in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and rose to stardom in the 1950s and 1960s, only to find that the music world's fascination with Rock 'n' Roll was putting her in the rear view mirror. But she figured out how to reinvent herself and overcome drug dependency, too. Susan Haefner acts the part and sings a slew of convincing renditions of Clooney's Pop and Jazz hits. Michael Marotta plays her therapist and more: He steps in and out of portraits of all the other people in Clooney's life, from her mother and her sister to big names like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. It's a very entertaining show, guaranteed to warm up an early January night at the theater. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is offering one final weekend of its "non-denominational" holiday fairytale musical, Sleeping Beauty. With songs by local composer David Kisor and an entertaining script by Cincinnati playwright Joe McDonough, this production is good for kids and adults. Acting intern Deirdre Manning steps out in the title role with a fine singing voice and fellow intern Terrance J. Ganser is her Rock star prince and her soulful savior a century later. But the real zip in the show comes from Deb G. Girdler's evil Wisteria and Michael G. Bath as Falcon, her devious assistant. Final performance is 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets ($18-$44): 513-421-3555.Speaking of ETC, for the next week or so the theater is offering $10 off adult tickets to performances early in the runs of an engaging thriller The Other Place (Jan. 29-Feb. 3), the drama with historical context Detroit '67 (March 18-24) and a romantic comedy Outside Mullingar set in Ireland (May 6-12). Just mention the coupon code NEWYEAR15 when purchasing tickets in those date ranges online (www.ensemblecincinnati.com), in person or by phone (513-421-3555), and you'll save $10. That's a good way to get 2015 off on the right foot!
Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:30 AM | Permalink
If you want to go to the theater this weekend, you have plenty of choices, so long as you have the spirit of the season. Let's start with the familiar: Cincinnati Playhouse launched its 24th year of A Christmas Carol last week, and it's always a pleasure to see, featuring Bruce Cromer as Scrooge. But there are many more fine acting performances, including Ryan Wesley Gilreath as Bob Cratchit and Douglas Rees as the ebullient Mr. Fezziwig. Played out on a wingding of a set that spins and glitters and makes it possible to tell the story swiftly, Dickens' classic tale is a wonderful holiday tradition. Through Dec. 28. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888
Another tradition continues at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, where Sleeping Beauty is being revived for the fourth time. For 18 seasons, ETC has presented original shows by two local creators, playwright Joseph McDonough and composer David Kisor. It's a family-friendly piece that's conceived to entertain kids and adults with its innocent charm and a message that one person can truly make a difference. Many of ETC's regular actors return annually to do these shows, especially Deb G. Girdler (as the evil Wisteria) and Michael G. Bath (as her nefarious henchman). Intern Deirdre Manning is the sweet princess who sleeps for 100 years, and Terrance J. Ganser is both the prince who fulfills her curse and the one who breaks her free a century later. Especially enjoyable as a trio of mischievous fairies are Sara Mackie, Denise Devlin and Brooke Steele as Marigold, Lilac and Daisy. (They will be familiar to ETC audiences from several productions of the "Marvelous Wonderettes.") Through Jan. 4. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555
Lots of good holiday choices are up and running elsewhere: Forever Plaid – Plaid Tidings at the Covedale Center on the West Side; The Comedy of Errors at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company downtown; The Eight Reindeer Monologues at Falcon Theatre in Newport; and the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Snow Queen at the Taft Theatre downtown.
If you prefer to avoid elves, nutcrackers and bah-humbugs, you should try Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical (CityBeat review here) at the Playhouse or The Bureau of Missing Persons, a the magical, mysterious production at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here).
Ho, ho, ho, indeed. That's enough theater to make anyone jolly.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Sleeping Beauty needs a bit more villainy
0 Comments · Monday, December 8, 2014
I love that artistic director Lynn Meyers calls Ensemble Theatre’s holiday shows “nondenominational, multigenerational.”
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:00 AM | Permalink
Sought. Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati hosts its third annual Meals for Monologues on Monday
and Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 1127 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
It's an open casting call to Equity and non-union actors for theater, film, TV
and/or commercial projects cast by the theater's artistic director D. Lynn
Meyers. Interested performers should bring two non-perishable food (pasta,
canned goods, etc.) or toiletry items (soap, toothpaste) to the theater — to be
donated to the Freestore/Foodbank as well as a current headshot and résumé and
a short prepared monologue, song or two monologues. (No accompanist, so songs
need to be performed a capellla.) Time slots are five minutes maximum
and are available by appointment only. The deadline was last Friday, but a
quick email to Ben Raanan (firstname.lastname@example.org) will let
you know if any slots are still available. Meyers is a member of the Casting
Society of America, and she has tons of projects and connections beyond shows
at ETC; she recently did a lot of casting during two locally shot films, Carol
and Miles Ahead.
Fundraiser for New Edgecliff. The classic holiday story, Miracle on 34th Street
— yes, the one with Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as a child actor — will be
brought to life as a radio production on Sunday evening at the Northside Tavern
(4163 Hamilton Ave.) as an old-time radio drama. Produced by New Edgecliff
Theatre with sound effects by WMKV's Mike Martini, it's a benefit to the
theater group. Admission is $35, and it includes a dessert buffet at
intermission provided by Cincinnati State's Midwest Culinary Institute.
Tickets: 888-428-7311 (or at the door).
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney
Musical seems to be a big hit. The show, onstage in the Shelterhouse, opened
on Nov. 20, and on its first night artistic director Blake Robison announced
that sales were brisk enough to make it possible to extend the production a
week beyond its intended closing date (Dec. 28) to Jan. 4. Demand for tickets
has continued, so the Playhouse has extended the show another week, now closing
on Jan. 11. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
If you've read Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale,
you know it's a creepy vision of the not-too-distant future in which the United
States has become a theocracy called the Republic of Gilead. An oppressive
regime forces women to bear children for population growth, but Offred resists
the demands made of her. Cincinnati Shakespeare gave Joe Stollenwerk's
adaptation of the show a workshop in 2009 and a short-run production in 2011
featuring veteran Cincy Shakes actress Corinne Mohlenhoff as Offred. Next month
Know Theatre fills in a TBA slot in its season with the show's first
full-fledged production (Jan. 23-Feb. 21). Cincy Shakes' Brian Phillips will
stage the one-woman piece with Mohlenhoff. They are married, so this is an
unusual opportunity for them to work together on a new work rather than the
classics that Cincy Shakes usually stages. Tickets ($20) are now available: 513-300-5669.CityBeat's Rick Pender posts theater notices on
CALL BOARD every Monday morning.
Cromer gives an astonishing, memorable performance in ETC’s An Iliad
0 Comments · Thursday, October 16, 2014
Bruce Cromer's embodiment of Poet is an acting performance to cherish, one of the most powerful I have ever witnessed onstage.