A bus stop worth stopping for
0 Comments · Friday, September 20, 2013
Set in a small-town
Kansas diner where passengers on bus must wait out a blizzard overnight
with a few friendly locals, the show is a tale of love vs. loneliness
and staying vs. going.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:54 AM | Permalink
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.
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
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
You still have several weeks to see Cock (aka "The Cockfight Play" for journalism wimps) at Know Theatre. (It's onstage through May 11.) It's an oh-so-contemporary piece of theater about a gay man — or rather a man — who thought himself to be gay until he breaks up with his boyfriend and takes up with a woman. (CityBeat review here.) The play involves the tense dance of indecision he becomes part of as his lovers fight over him. It's about 90-minutes of fiercely acted theatrics, staged in a setting that looks like the arena where cockfighting happens. Definitely for mature audiences who appreciate shows that don't pull punches. Tickets: 513-3
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 23, 2013
New Edgecliff Theatre completes its 15th season with David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Proof
(onstage through Sunday at the Aronoff Center’s Fifth Third Bank
Theater), a production providing ample evidence of NET’s strength...
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:17 AM | Permalink
There's a bounty of
theater choices to keep you entertained this weekend, with productions
on venues all over town — including on several university campuses. Here
are a few you might want to check out.
Edgecliff Theatre, which has presented shows at the Columbia
Performance Center on Cincinnati's East Side for quite a few years, has
been itinerant this year while they seek a new home. They're completing
their fifteenth season with a production of David Auburn's Proof
at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater, which looks like it's
where they'll land for their next season. (I'll be writing more about
NET in my next CityBeat "Curtain Call" column on April 24.) I
attended the show's opening on Wednesday, and it's a solid production of
a very engaging play, the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Greg
Procaccino, NET's former artistic director, has returned to stage a
simple but effective production that features Rebecca Whatley as
Catherine, the anxious, self-doubting young woman who has been a
caregiver for years for her father, a renowned math professor whose
mental instability has been a factor and a threat in his daughter's
life. The show has several gripping twists and turns, as well as a
satisfying resolution. Through April 27. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Last week I was at the opening of Cock,
a regional premiere and Know Theatre's second production of the season. (CityBeat review here.)
It's the story of a man falling out of a gay relationship and into one
with a woman; he's torn by indecision and doubt about which way to go.
The show is staged (by director Brian Robertson) like a cockfight, with
the characters "pecking" at one another emotionally. It's also presented
in an unusual setting, bertween two rows of bleachers (like a cockfight
arena), so you're close to the action and able to see how others are
responding. It's a fight to the finish, and you can never be certain of
the outcome. Strong acting and a very contemporary, well-written script
by British playwright Mike Bartlett. Through May May 11. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
This is the final weekend at the Carnegie in Covington for the hard-hitting musical Parade
by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown and playwright Alfred Uhry.
(CityBeat review here.) It's based on the true story of Leo Frank, unjustly accused of
murdering a young teenaged girl working in the factory he managed in
Atlanta in 1913. A Jew from New York, Frank was the target of profound
anti-Semitism and never had a realistic chance to defend himself,
although his wife tried mightily to expose the prejudice. It's a
powerful production, featuring a cast of musical theater talent from
UC's College-Conservatory of Music, directed by Dee Anne Bryll and Ed
Cohen. The show is not easy to watch, but it's deeply moving. Through
Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
years since 1981, Northern Kentucky University has presented the Year
End Series Festival — shortened to the "YES," ten days of presentations
of three world premieres. This year's shows are a murder-mystery farce, Heart Attack with a Knife by Oded Gross; David L. Williams Spake, a drama set in Siberia; and a comic fable about fame and friendship, Furbelow
by J. Stephen Brantley. YES is a gargantuan undertaking, and it
represents how NKU prepares its drama students for careers in the
theater. Shows are presented in rotating repertory, so you should check the Web site for specific performance dates. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
area universities this weekend: At the Cohen Family Studio Theater at
UC's College-Conservatory of Music, you can see a production of Emily
Mann's Execution of Justice (UC's College-Conservatory of Music, through Sunday, 513-556-4183),
a new docu-drama about the trial of Dan White for the murder of Harvey
Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay Supervisor and Mayor George
Moscone. It's staged by retiring UC drama professor Michael Burnham. And
for musical theater fans, you can see Stephen Sondheim and James
Lapine's popular fairytale musical Into the Woods at Miami University (through April 27, 513-529-3200).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:38 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for an unusual but gripping theatrical production this weekend, you should head straight to UC's College-Conservatory of Music for The Threepenny Opera. Don't think that this is some stuffy old piece from 1928, although that's when the
show with a script by Bertoldt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill was first
performed. It was radical and challenging, mocking the establishment
and paying no heed to social structures. This musical theater production, staged by CCM Opera Chair Robin Guarino, feels lethal and threatening. You'll recognize a tune or two ("Mack the Knife" is the show's familiar tune), and if you've seen Cabaret or Urinetown, you'll recognize how this piece influenced those works. Guarino's production, with a big cast and an
imaginative set (designed by Tony Award winner John Arnone), captures
the vitality and spirit of the original work. I doubt we'll see another
production of this one very soon, so here's your chance to catch a bit
of theater history — and be both entertained and provoked. Definitely worth seeing. Through March 10. Box office: 513-556-4183.
If you haven't yet seen Know Theatre's production of When the Rain Stops Falling, that's another one you should have in your sights. Andrew Bovell's dense, imaginative script is a compelling story of multiple, intersecting generations of two families. (Review here.) The taut, engaging 100-minute production,
staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's Brian Phillips, features several of that company's best actors, as well as several other local standouts. One of the best productions from Know Theatre in several seasons. It's onstage through March 16. Tickets: 513-300-5669.I haven't seen it (alas, my schedule just doesn't have room for everything), but Legally Blonde: The Musical at NKU has received props from the League of Cincinnati Theatres as an entertaining production. It's the story of Elle Woods, spurned by her fiancé, off to Harvard Law School in pursuit of him, only to discover that she's got the smarts to be more than just a girlfriend. Not profound, but surefire entertainment. Through Sunday. Tickets: 859-572-5464
This is the second and final weekend for Catie O'Keefe's world premiere, Slow Descent from Heaven, presented by New Edgecliff Theatre. (O'Keefe is NET's playwright-in-residence). It's being performed in a converted classroom at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, directed by Ed Cohen. The central character, Molly (Elizabeth A. Harris), is a NASA scientist whose story is bookended by space shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003. An angry, tense character, her involvement with men has affected her career and her attitude.
The story has a reverse chronology, so we peal backwards in time to
learn more about why she's the way she is. This is a good chance to see an original script by a local writer. Tickets: 513-399-6638.
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 18, 2012
All right, you’re going to have to
forgive me — I am a theater critic and a theater lover. Those terms are
not mutually exclusive.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
It’s time for mistletoe and holly, when
theaters entice folks in search of holiday cheer (and occasional
parodies thereof) to celebrate the season. Many theaters need December
ticket revenues to present shows onstage for the rest of the year.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
My first and foremost recommendation for the weekend is Blue Man Group.
(Review here.) It's a performance experience unlike much of anything else you've
probably ever experienced in a theater — raucous music, zany humor,
eye-popping technology and infectiously fun engagement with the
audience. Amazingly, it's done without spoken words — the guys mime
(well, kind of, it's actually more like they're mute in the style of
Harpo Marx, with a lot of staring and double-takes), although they're
backed up by awesome video that does offer some instruction (and laughs)
for the literate. As I've said before, it's hard to describe but easy
to enjoy. This is Blue Man Group's first time in Cincinnati, presented
by Broadway Across America; the Aronoff Center might never be the same.
(Through Oct. 28) Box office: 800-982-2787.
Last night I enjoyed opening night for the thoroughly authentic and charming production of Neil Simon's
Brighton Beach Memoirs
at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It's the story of a Jewish
family in Brooklyn in the 1930s, but thanks to Simon's witty, heartfelt
recollections of his own youth, it has a feeling of universality. The
narrator is Eugene Morris Jerome (who's a stand-in for Simon himself),
and actor Ryan DeLuca conveys the joys and pangs of adolescence and
puberty with feeling and hilarity. He frequently addresses the audience
about his interactions with his grouchy parents and his woebegon aunt,
his worldly brother, his pampered cousins — he's documenting them for
something he'll write when he's older, a novel or perhaps a play! And
that play is the one onstage at the Playhouse, the first Neil Simon
script ever presented there in more than 50 seasons. (Through Nov. 10.)
Box office: 513-421-3888.
Continuing productions of the comedy
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (513-421-3555) and Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (513-381-2273, x1)
have been positively reviewed and appreciated by audiences. This
weekend also marks the opening of Cincy Shakes' staging of Shakespeare's
bloody history of the Roman emperor Titus Andronicus,
staged with tongue in cheek (and in a pie) for the Halloween season. It
happens on the nights when the R&J cast takes a breather.
You might also consider two special events: New Edgecliff Theatre's annual one-night fundraiser,
Sweet Suspense Theatre,
a presentation in the style of a radio play, happens on Saturday
evening. This year the production, a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's
story of The Canterville Ghost, is being presented at the
Cincinnati Art Museum — and includes an extended intermission with lots
of goodies from local bakeries and restaurants. (Tickets: 888-588-0177). You might also want to check in with the Playhouse about ticket availability for Post Secret
on Monday evening; the one-night presentation of a piece based on an
anonymous "true confessions" website is rumored to be sold out, but
there might be a waiting list if you call the box office. (513-421-3888)