Shakespeare classic is a laugh riot at Cincy Shakes
0 Comments · Monday, November 24, 2014
The title of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is today a catch phrase for situations when things go wrong.
Suspense flocks to Cincy Shakes
0 Comments · Monday, October 20, 2014
Put aside what you think know about the narrative of The Birds if you’ve seen Hitchcock’s classic movie
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:09 AM | Permalink
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of
the Suicide Club opened last night at the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park. It's a new adventure for the Victorian sleuth. How can
that be, you might ask, if you're a Sherlock fan — this isn't a familiar title.
That's because playwright Jeffrey Hatcher picked up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
memorable detective, a master of deductive observation, and plugged him into a
tale of mystery and intrigue conceived by Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1878.
No spoilers here, but I will tell you that the plot of this show requires
closely following a complex tale of both personal and political intrigue.
Hatcher has set the story in 1914, on the brink of the first World War, and the
state of international relations in Europe is woven into the tale. But there's
nothing dry about this story, and Steven Hauck's performance as Sherlock is
very satisfying: He brings a quirky physicality as well as a sharp wit to the
character that makes him very engaging. Fans of Sherlock will not be disappointed
by this show. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888.
I attended the opening of The Great Gatsby at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company last week. In my review, I said, "the production gets the story and the era
right," and I added that CSC's Justin McCombs "perfectly
embodies" Nick Carraway, the honest narrator of this Jazz Age tale of
nouveau riche Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the one-time debutante who
obsesses him. There's lots to like about this production, which captures the
essence of lavish parties and the fast life of the Roaring Twenties. Cincy
Shakes is committed to bringing classic literary works to the stage, and this
production is a good example of how they get it done. Simon Levy's script hews
close to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1924 novel, and the company's actors bring life
to the characters. Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273.
Everyone I've talked to about Hands on a Hardbody
at Ensemble Theatre has been enthusiastic about the show that brings to life a contest to win a
Nissan pickup truck by keeping one hand on it the longest. It's a true story
(it was a 1997 documentary) and these feel like real people, down on their luck
but dreaming what a difference that winning could make. The music is by Trey
Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green, and the script was written by Pulitzer
Prize winner Doug Wright. ETC has staged memorable productions of his play I
Am My Own Wife and his musical, Grey Gardens. But the real
attraction is an excellent cast who make you believe in these people,
struggling to stay away and outlast one another under the brutal sun beating
down on the Texas parking lot of a Nissan dealership. It's a fine entertainment.
Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.
Just opened at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts
is a production of Tennessee Williams's great American play, A Streetcar
Named Desire. It's about a woman who's down on her luck but unwilling
to admit it. When genteel Blanche DuBois moves with her pragmatic sister and
her brutal, blue-collar husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a rude awakening that
goes downhill fast. Through Oct. 5. Tickets ($-$): 513-241-6550.
If you've become a fan of shows in the intimate Clifton
Performance Theatre, you might want to check out The Riverside, a
play written and directed by local theater artist Kevin Crowley. It's a story
set in a Cincinnati bar in 1989 as locals follow the saga of Pete Rose's demise
in baseball, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square. But the bar
itself is changing, too, impacting the lives of the family that owns it as well
as its patrons.Through Sept. 27. Tickets ($25): https://cpt.tixato.com/buy/.
Cincy Shakes' latest production explores the inescapable past
0 Comments · Saturday, September 6, 2014
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age novel, The Great Gatsby, is generally considered a great American novel.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 01:10 PM | Permalink
If you'd like to go to the theater every evening for the
next four days, there are plenty of options for you to consider as the
2014-2015 season is getting underway on stages all over town. Here are
some good choices to consider:
Hands on a Hardbody opened on Wednesday at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, and CityBeat reviewer Stacy Sims called it "effervescent" and "offbeat" in her review,
giving it a Critic's Pick. I was there, too, and couldn't agree more
about the infectious, heartfelt joy coming from the big cast of 15. The
show is based on a true story (the subject of a 1997 documentary) about
people in a downtrodden Texas town who enter a contest to win a Nissan
pickup truck by outlasting others who vow to keep one hand on the
vehicle. The cherry-red truck is as much a character as any of the
contestants, the physical embodiment of their hopes and dreams — which
take the form of songs by Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Amanda Green.
The script by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright treats these diverse,
down-on-their-luck folks with dignity, and the performers (who often
perform with the truck as their dance partner) bring every one of them
to life in vivid ways. This one is a must-see, a great way to kick-off
ETC's theater season. Through Sept. 21. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555
The Great Gatsby kicks off Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company's season tonight. You didn't know Shakespeare wrote
it? Well, he didn't. This theater company focuses on the Bard, to be
sure, but it frequently branches out to present stage versions of other
classics, in this case an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925
classic about a mysterious nouveau-riche millionaire who's obsessed with
a one-time debutante. Set in the Jazz Age and inspired by lavish
parties the high-flying Fitzgerald attended on the prosperous North
Shore of Long Island, Gatsby is a story about the ups and downs
of the American Dream. Simon Levy's script is the only one authorized by
Fitzgerald's estate, and Cincy Shakes is presenting its regional
premiere. (And here's a tip: on opening nights at 6 p.m., the theater
offers ticket holders a complimentary catered meal, beer and wine.)
Through Oct. 4. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club
opens next Thursday at the Cincinnati Playhouse, but previews begin for
the season opener this Saturday (through Wednesday). Tickets for these
performances are discounted, and you'll be seeing a show that's pretty
much ready to go. Jeffrey Hatcher's script should be lots of fun for
fans of the Victorian sleuth. He's taken the character created by Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle and dropped him into a tale conceived by another
inventive writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, for a mash-up that will keep
even Baker Street regulars guessing. Tickets: 513-421-3888
Serials! at Know Theatre, which has
presented episodes of six Fringe-like shows at two-week intervals all
summer long, culminates on Monday evening at 8 p.m. with finales of each
tale. Who will win the ultimate fist fight with the Devil in Flesh Descending? How long can Luke really stay in his bedroom during The Funeral? Will we ever find out what's really happening in Mars vs. The Atom?
These questions and more will be answered on Monday. Even if you've
missed a few episodes, don't worry: Each 15-minute performance begins
with a brief recap of the story so far. Zany and fun for anyone who's
enjoyed the annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669
Finally, a tip for an eye-opening theater experience next weekend: On Sunday, Sept. 14, the Cincinnati area's first-ever South Asian Theater Festival happens
in an all-day event at the Anderson Theater (7850 Five Mile Rd.). Five
plays are scheduled to be presented, as well as panel discussions, seven
hours of programming in all. The day begins at 12:30 p.m. and is set to
conclude around 8 p.m. A limited number of tickets remain ($19-$29): SATFCincy.org
Theater season starts now
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Shows that open seasons for local theater
companies carry added freight: They tell theatergoers, “This is what to
expect from us.”
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
Not too many years ago August was a very quiet month on local stages. No longer. You have plenty of good choices this weekend.Stacy Sims reviewed Know Theatre's production of Harry & the Thief, which opened last week. She called it "a
wonderfully ridiculous, history-twisting, large cast mash-up of a play,"
and that's just the beginning." Sigrid Gilmer's play is a riot of
modern perspectives and Civil War values, a mingling of contemporary
attitudes with opinions and behaviors long since set aside — but not so
far off that we can't recognize them as prejudice, misogyny and racism.
But Gilmer's weaves a lot of humor and satire around Harriet Tubman (a
real woman who led many people out of slavery into freedom in the 1850s
and 1860s). The play has been staged by guest director Holly Derr to
spotlight a zany streak of humor that the playwright has generously
salted across her script from start to finish. This feels a lot like a
Fringe festival show, and that makes sense, since Know is the annual
producer of the Cincy Fringe, and Harry & the Thief kicks off
its 2014-2015 season. As Stacy noted, "this bodes well" for the theater
now being managed artistically by Andrew Hungerford. I watched a
performance earlier this week with a full house resulting from Know's
"Welcome Project," throwing its doors open to anyone who wants to come
on several Wednesday
evenings (hoping that a few of them will pay something, but requiring
nothing more than showing up). I suspect many of those in attendance
will be recommending this production to friends. Through Aug. 30.
Tickets ($20 most of the time, although you can get rush tickets for
remaining seats 10 minutes before curtain time, and free next Wednesday, Aug. 20): 513-300-5669.
Speaking of the Fringe, Know presents occasional encores from past festivals. On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. (one night only) you can catch one of the best acts I've ever enjoyed in the Cincy Fringe: David Gaines returns with 7(x1) Samurai,
retelling Kurasawa's classic 1954 film in a one-man show that was a hit
of the 2009 festival. It's true to the source about victimized
peasants, marauding bandits and samurai warriors, astonishing to watch
and one hell of a performance. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
another astonishing, virtuoso work of theater onstage, this one south
of the Ohio River at Covington's Carnegie Theatre. It's Stephen
Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I plan to see it on Friday
evening (it opened last week), but people are already saying that
Justin Glaser brings a great voice to the maniacal killer and Helen
Raymond-Goers sings the role of the meat-pie-baking Mrs. Lovett with both
wit and polish. This is one of the greatest musicals of the late 20th
century, and all indicators are that this is a production worth seeing.
Through Aug. 23. Tickets ($21-$28): 859-857-1940.
Shakespeare Company will double your choices this weekend. At its Race
Street theater you'll find the final performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),
a comic rendering — or at least passing references to — all 38 of the
Bard's plays, his sonnets and some amusingly presented "facts" about his
life. It's a romp from start to finish, featuring three of Cincy
Shakes' best actors having a hell of a good time onstage, Jeremy Dubin,
Justin McCombs and Nicholas Rose. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.If you want something a tad closer to the original, find one of CSC's free touring productions at an area park: Macbeth on Friday night (7 p.m.) at Keehner Park in West Chester and Saturday evening (7 p.m.) at Cottell Park in Mason or A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday evening (6 p.m.)
at Washington Park. These are somewhat reduced productions (done in two
hours) using just six actors: That makes them all the more exciting to
watch — and to be dazzled by actors who can convincingly play multiple
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
The big show this
weekend will be Lumenocity in Washington Park. If you were lucky enough
to get a ticket, you'll be seeing some great images on Music Hall's
facade with accompaniment by the Cincinnati Symphony. If you weren't so
lucky, you can still enjoy the show via radio (WGUC), television, big
screens (at Fountain Square and Riverbend, for free) or via live
streaming at lumenocity2014.com.
If you want to check out a free show at another park, how about free performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream? Cincinnati Shakespeare kicks off its Shakespeare in the Park tour this weekend. They'll be at Seasongood Pavilion at Eden Park on Friday evening, at Harry Whiting Brown Lawn in Glendale on Saturday and the Community Park Pavilion at the Milford Historical Society in Milford on Sunday. Performances generally begin around 7 p.m. Show up earlier to get a good seat and enjoy six of Cincy Shakes actors playing a bunch of characters in a very funny comedy.
On the West Side, it's the final weekend for Footloose The Musical,
presented as the 33rd annual summer show by Cincinnati Young People's
Theatre at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. This is a
program that gives teens from across Greater Cincinnati a chance to work
onstage and backstage. During the past three decades more than 2,300
kids have participated. The show, based on a popular movie from 1984, is
about a teenager and his mother who move from Chicago to a small
farming town where dancing is frowned upon by the local preacher. But
his rebellious daughter shakes things up and love wins out. It's a fine
show for teens. Tickets ($12-$16): 513-241-6550.
you're willing to make the drive to Dayton, you have the opportunity to
check out workshops of new musical theater material at the Human Race
Theatre Company. Molly Sweeney is about a young woman
whose blindness becomes an obstacle for her new husband to overcome,
even though she has a different perspective. (It's happening Friday night at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.) The second work is a songwriter showcase (Saturday at 8 p.m.) by a dozen creators who are working on new shows. It's being hosted by Dayton native Susan Blackwell, creator of the clever [title of show]. Advance tickets ($15): 888-228-3630 – or $20 at the door at the Loft Theatre (126 N. Main St., Dayton).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:07 AM | Permalink
If you paid attention to the local theater season just concluded, you will recall that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company completed a herculean task: During its 20-year existence, the classic theater has produced all 38 of Shakespeare's plays. This summer three of Cincy Shakes' best actors are repeating the feat — sort of — with a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), opening tonight. Jeremy Dubin, Justin McCombs and Nicholas Rose will be careening through the comedies, histories and tragedies digging props, wigs and ridiculous costumes out of a trunk. This is a perfect summer laugh-fest, and it's been a predictable hit in past seasons for Cincy Shakes, so tickets are sure to sell fast. Through Aug. 11. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.Summertime musicals are another great tradition, and Cincinnati Young People's Theatre has been presenting them with big casts of high school students for three decades. In fact, the just-opened production of Footloose at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is the 33rd summer show. It's the stage version of the popular 1984 movie musical, and it's a perfect vehicle for youthful energy focused on a group of high school kids — despite a repressive conservative atmosphere, kids in a small farming town just want to dance and have fun. With Tim Perrino at the helm, CYPT has steered more than 2,300 teens through entertaining shows, and this one will be another notch in his director's belt, providing experience for performers and techies alike. Through Aug. 3, you'll be able to come out and "Hear It for the Boy"! Tickets ($12-$16): 513-241-6559.I wrote a CityBeat column a week ago about John Leo Muething, an ambitious young theater artistic who's staging a couple of shows this summer at the Art Academy's auditorium on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine. His second of three shows, repertory theatre, will be produced this weekend (Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.). It's about a timid young playwright who approaches a veteran director about his new play. With Shakespeare's Hamlet echoing throughout, things get wilder and wilder. This show was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe for two years, and its original production is still touring in England; this is its U.S. premiere. Tickets ($10) at the door.The Commonwealth Theatre Company's Route 66 winds up its run at Northern Kentucky University this weekend on Sunday. It's the tale of a band headed for the West Coast in the 1960s stopping at juke joints, diners, cheap motels and curio shops along one of America's legendary highways. Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele play The Chicago Avenue Band. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.If Monday evening arrives and you're still yearning for something entertaining onstage, you can't go wrong with the next quarterly installment of TrueTheatre. This time around it's trueBLOOD, with the warning that if you cringe easily, this might not be the show for you. Whether it's stories that make your blood run cold — or just run — you can be sure that there will be first-person tales of memorable experiences. Great fun with a lively audience. One night only, Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Know Theatre. Tickets ($15, only a few left): 513-300-5669.
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.