by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 04:27 PM | Permalink
There's a great array of theater this weekend, no matter what you like. That's a good thing, because local theater, like baseball, takes a kind of midsummer break (no All-Star Game onstage anywhere, however). So get out and see something this weekend, then enjoy the fireworks and picnics next. Here are some suggestions:Traditionally entertaining shows can be found at two professional theaters. At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, it's the closing weekend for Private Lives, a very witty classic comedy about marriage by Nöel Coward. (CityBeat review here.) Two couples are honeymooning in the south of France, in adjacent hotel rooms. Things go awry when one husband and the other wife cross paths by chance. They were once married to one another, and the spark quickly rekindles, despite the fact that they had a very volatile chemistry. It's a great piece for four comic actors, and Cincy Shakes has a great cast to handle it. Staged by Ensemble Theatre's D. Lynn Meyers. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.A different kind of couple is showcased at Covedale Center, where Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is in its final weekend. Two guys who were comic partners in the days of vaudeville — and who grew very tired of one another — are brought together for a TV special about the "good old days." They don't much want to do it, but they're coaxed, and the results of their bickering and nastiness makes for a lot of laughter. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.A new theater company, Stone on a Walk, has its inaugural production this weekend, a low-budget performance of Cain by Lord Byron at the Art Academy's lecture hall, a venue familiar to Fringe Festival mavens. Yes, the playwright is that Romantic poet George Gordon you might recall from lit classes. He also wrote plays, and this one from 1821 focuses on Adam and Eve's first son, resentful that his parents' transgressions have forced them out of Eden and made death a real possibility. He spars with Lucifer, still hanging around to make trouble, and is at odds with his pious brother Abel, as well as his wife Adah. Things don't go well, as you might recall — Cain becomes the first murderer. John Leo Muething has put together a three-show season for his new theater venture, Stone on a Walk, with a one-weekend performance of each work (more to follow in July and August). This one features three actresses: Caitlyn Maurmeier is Cain; Hannah Rahe is Adah, Cain's dutiful wife; and Aiden Sims plays Lucifer and Abel. The casting of females in male roles is unusual, and the doubling of Sims as villain and victim might cause a bit of confusion (although she plays Lucifer with sinister hissing vigor, while Abel is the picture of sincerity). The 70-minute performance is done with no stage lighting or scenery; the final section, with actors on the floor, is hard to see unless you're in the front row or two. Cain is a lot of talking, poetry and high emotions, but Maurmeier powerfully renders Cain's despair, and Sims is very watchable as Lucifer. Tickets ($10) at the door; the Art Academy is at 1212 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine.How about a showcase of excerpts from Cincinnati's community theaters? Friday evening and all day Saturday that's what's happening at Parrish Auditorium at Miami University's Hamilton campus (1601 University Blvd., Hamilton). Four 30-minute selections tonight include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Les Misérables, and eight more tomorrow morning and afternoon (Godspell, Steel Magnolias, Nunsense and Tommy are among them). Each performance will be assessed and a few will be selected for a statewide competition in early September. Cincinnati has a lot of excellent community theater, and this is your opportunity to see some of the best shows that have been offered during the 2013-2014 season. Ticket information: http://bit.ly/1lkw098.And in the off-week between Cincinnati Opera's opening production of Carmen and the upcoming staging of Silent Night, opera seekers might want to check out two works presented by the North American New Opera Workshop (they shorthand that name as "NANOWorks") at Below Zero's Cabaret Room (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine). It's the midwest premiere of Marie Incontrera's At the Other Side of the Earth, a riot girl opera followed by Eric Knechtges's Last Call (Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.,Sunday at 2 p.m.). Incontrera's piece combines classical performance with punk sensibilities; the piece by Knechtges (who is head of the musical composition program at Northern Kentucky University) is loosely based on the Cincinnati gay bar scene and includes at "techno/house aria" and a high-energy drag performance. This is definitely not your grandmother's opera. Tickets: $20 at the door.
Cincy Shakes production is spun from trivial flippancy
0 Comments · Saturday, June 14, 2014
Cincy Shakes is winding up its 20th-anniversary season with this witty bon mot of a comedy spun from an avalanche of “incessant trivial flippancy.”
by Rick Pender
at 03:22 PM | Permalink
What with the Fringe Festival finished up last weekend, there's not so
much to choose from in the world of local theater. But there is a piece of frothy entertainment at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company that is a perfect summer refreshment:
It's Noel Coward's Private Lives. The show (created in
1929) is indeed a classic — making it perfect material for Cincy Shakes — but it's a very funny comedy about a pair of lovers who can't stand
to be apart and who have problems being together. They were married for
three years, spent too much time fighting and decided to divorce. As the
show opens, they're on honeymoons with new spouses, but they end up
coincidentally in adjacent rooms at a hotel in the south of France. When
the encounter one another on the patio, they old spark is there, which
leads them to run off together. As you might imagine, a lot of
foolishness ensues -- including them returning to the alternating
currents of being in love and throwing things at one another. The couple
are played by two Cincy Shakes vets, Jeremy Dubin and Kelly Mengelkoch,
who just happen to be married to one another. Their jilted second
spouses are also fine actors from the company: the sprightly Sara Clark
and the versatile Brent Vimtrup (astonishing as Hamlet earlier this
year) now playing a boorish dud. Lots of laughs along the way as this
tale unravels, gets tangled and winds up. Private Lives opened a week
ago and has been selling exceptionally well: I saw a performance on Thursday
evening that was completely sold-out, and they announced that most of
this weekend's tickets have been claimed. But you should call to see
what's available. Through June 29. Tickets ($21-$35): 513-381-2273.
There's truly something for everyone, no matter how weird you are
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 21, 2014
It’s almost here for the 11th consecutive
year. That’s right, it’s just about time for the Cincinnati Fringe
Festival, our annual dose of creativity and zaniness that might move you
to laughter or tears.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:02 AM | Permalink
You really can't go wrong with a show at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. I gave both productions Critic's Picks. The North Pool, on the Shelterhouse stage through June 1,
is a taut dialogue between a suspicious high school vice principal and a
wary student of Middle Eastern descent. (CityBeat review here.) It takes a while (the show is
about 90 minutes, played in real time) to decide who's the good guy and
who's the bad guy, and you'll be turned around several times in the
process. Excellent acting and a fine script by Ohio native (and Miami
University grad) Rajiv Joseph makes this an excellent theatrical
experience. On the Playhouse's Marx Stage, it's the final weekend for
another kind of cat-and-mouse game. Venus in Fur is all
about sexual tension, between an imperious playwright/director and the
woman who's auditioning for a role in a play he's adapted from an erotic
novel. (CityBeat review here.) David Ives' witty and allusive script (it's literary and
mythical in some most amusing ways) is being produced at theaters from
coast-to-coast, but I can't imagine there's a finer production than this
one anywhere. Tickets: ($30-$75) 513-421-3888.
At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, you still have two weeks to catch a rare production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The play is rarely staged (perhaps with good reason: it's not one of
Shakespeare's best), but Cincy Shakes' rendition is noteworthy because
it's the final work to complete their endeavor of staging all 38 of the
Bard's works. (More on that feat here; CityBeat review of The Two Noble Kinsmen here.) It's a feat accomplished by just a handful of theaters
worldwide, and it's your chance to check this one off your bucket list.
Through May 25. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.
Falcon theater, which produces shows in the tiny Monmouth Theater in Newport, Ky., opens Bat Boy the Musical
tonight. It's a show that was lifted from the headlines of the Weekly
World News (yes, found in the finest grocery store check-out lines)
about a strange creature found in a cave in West Virginia. Of course
it's crazy, but the show is actually a really entertaining piece about
acceptance and community. Three weekends, through May 31. Tickets ($17-$20): 513-479-6783
If you missed The Irish Curse
presented by Clifton Players at the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre on
Ludlow Avenue back in February and March, they've brought it back for a
couple of weekends, this being the second of two. It's an amusing adult
comedy about a bunch of guys fretting over the size of their
"equipment." Tickets can be ordered online (brownpapertickets.com) or purchased at the door (but be aware: it's a small venue that quickly sells out).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for a show that will get things going romantically,
I'll point you to the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Venus in Fur (onstage through May 17).
But be careful what you wish for: You might end up like
playwright/director Thomas with your hands full of more than you wanted
to take on. He's seeking an actress to play the central role in his
adaptation of an erotic Victorian novel. Vanda shows up for an audition,
none too promising at first, but the tables turn very quickly. This is a
funny and provocative script, and Greta Wohlrabe's performance as Vanda
is masterful and highly entertaining. I gave it a Critic's Pick.
Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
something completely different — and in a venue I bet you've never
visited — head to Bellevue, Ky., to St. John United Church of Christ
(520 Fairfield Ave.) for a bare-bones, church-basement production of Joe
Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead by WIT-Women in
Theatre. The group is focused on plays for and about women, and this one
touches on a lot of issues when two women without much in common end up
spending an unwilling evening together, stuck in an airport lounge due
to bad weather. They cover a lot of territory — imperfect marriages,
ungrateful children, fears, beliefs and politics (they're at opposite
ends of the spectrum). Their ups and downs are a bit forced, but
actresses Cat Cook and Cate White do solid jobs portraying two very
different women. It's a tad like a movie of the week on the Lifetime
channel, but there's some entertaining writing. This is the second and
final weekend. Word has it that Friday night is pretty full, but Saturday
(thanks to the Kentucky Derby) has plenty of seats available. Tickets
($15, discounted by $5 if you bring a piece of luggage bigger than a
If you've seen Shakespeare's 37 other plays, tonight is the night for you to catch the one you've missed: The Two Noble Kinsmen
opens at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the final script by the Bard
that gives the company bragging rights to be one of only five theaters
in the U.S. to stage every one of his plays. You can read more about
this one, as well as Cincy Shakes, which is marking its 20th anniversary
in my cover story in this week's issue. See it before it closes on May 25: Two Noble Kinsmen is rarely onstage, and Shakespeare fans are coming from all over North America to see this production. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273, x1.
Finishing up this weekend are runs of the musical Gypsy at the Covedale (513-241-6550) and Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way (513-300-5669).
Cincy Shakes set to join rare company by completing Shakespeare’s 38-play canon
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 30, 2014
When scholars refer to William
Shakespeare’s canon — his “complete works” — they typically count 38
plays, written between 1590 and 1612. Only six modern theater companies
have staged them all, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is set to join the ranks this week.
Cincy Shakes' testosterone-laden production is full of boys and a lot of noise.
1 Comment · Monday, March 31, 2014
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, nearly finished with the immense
task of staging all 38 of Shakespeare’s surviving plays over its 20-year
history, has launched another noteworthy effort.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:32 AM | Permalink
There's a magnificent production of the legendary musical Les Misérables at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. I attended the opening performance at Patricia Corbett on Thursday
evening, and a show that I've seen umpteen times has been given new
life with fresh direction, impassioned staging and innovative design —
even if you've seen the legendary original with its turntable and
massive barricades, you'll find CCM's rendition, directed by Aubrey
Berg, an eye-opener. It's simpler and more dramatic (that's quite a
claim for a show designed to pluck your heart-strings), and it's
especially noteworthy for the leads' strong vocal performances — Jean
Valjean and Inspector Javert are double-cast, a demonstration of the
depth of talent in this nationally renowned program — as well as each
and every every performer in an ensemble of more than 40. The
16-musician orchestra, conducted energetically by Steve Goers, sounds larger whole lot more, since several players handle three to five
instruments. Berg's staging gives the show a clarity and power that
makes it feel fresh and new. It has vivid feature characters and
storytelling with momentum and emotional impact. This one is a must-see,
so it's great that the production runs longer than many at CCM, where
it's usually one-weekend and done: There are nine more performances
through Sunday, March 9,
which means that more tickets ($31-$35; $18-$24 for students) are
available. Nonetheless, they'll be snatched up quickly, so you should
call right away to get yours. 513-556-4183.
I saw Cincinnati Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a week ago, and gave it a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's a one-off from Hamlet,
which Cincy Shakes just staged, using the same cast — but Tom
Stoppard's 1966 script puts two throwaway characters in the limelight.
Just like the Prince of Denmark, his college chums are perplexed and
bedeviled by questions of existence and the meaning of life. They're
caught in the swirl of the court — the characters of Hamlet dart
in and out around them and add to their confusion — which adds to their
confusion about their own roles, the expectations they need to fulfill
and their ultimate fate. Billy Chace and Justin McCombs have a firm
grasp on their hapless characters: Their sure-handed comic portraits of
loquacious Guildenstern and bewildered Rosencrantz might remind you of
the movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. This classic modern work of
absurdity drawn from perhaps the greatest Elizabethan tragedy makes for a
fine evening for lovers of great drama. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.
Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Evita is at
the Aronoff Center through Sunday.
looks great with some epic scenery and excellent choreography. Josh
Young as Che
is charismatic and strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator.
But Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón is shrill, and Sean MacLaughlin's Juan
Perón lacks the sinister gravitas that the role requires. So there's not
nearly enough of the complex passion and
manipulation that bonded them as a political machine. The tale of the
ambitious woman who rose to the highest levels of power in Argentina
crashed and burned at age 32 is a memorable modern tragedy, and Andrew
Lloyd Webber’s rock-opera
tunes by will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-2787.