WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.24.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Stage Door: More Love for 'Merrily'

Ensemble Theatre, NKU and Children's Theater also have quality offerings

Last Sunday evening I gave a lecture prior to the Cincinnati Playhouse performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. I stuck around to see the show again (I attended the opening on March 8 in order to review it for CityBeat). I gave the show a Critic’s Pick, but empty seats on Sunday reminded me that a theater critic’s opinion is not necessarily the only endorsement needed for a show to sell tickets. Although this is a fine production, several reasons come to mind: The show is not well known; if people do know it, they’ve heard it was a flop when it had a brief Broadway run in 1981. John Doyle’s production shows little evidence of the latter and demonstrates amply that there’s much to be appreciated. But there’s not been much buzz around Merrily at the Playhouse, despite the work of Doyle and his excellent cast. The upshot is tickets are still available for most performances, through March 31. Doyle inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006 at the Playhouse, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. This production uses the same approach: actors provide their own musical accompaniment. It’s a showbiz tale about chasing success at the expense of happiness. We start at the demise of a bond between three former friends who wonder what happened to the “good thing going” they once had. We trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments via great music, brilliant design and excellent performances. If you love musicals, you should see Merrily We Roll Along. I’ve talked with several people who have returned the Playhouse production. (Merrily is not likely to transfer to New York as Company did in 2006. The show was presented by Encores! at New York’s City Center in February, so theater critics have not paid attention to the Cincinnati production as they did with Company in 2006, right after Doyle staged Sweeney Todd on Broadway.) Box office: 513-421-3888 You can’t go wrong with Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time Stands Still at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s the story of two journalists who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush of covering wars. He’s now running away and hiding in film reviews (there’s a touch of post-traumatic stress, it seems, because he’s watching classic horror films all the time), and she’s recovering from injuries that resulted from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq. What’s next for them? Well, that’s what the play is about — a return for more or settling for a calmer, safer life, represented by a happy if unlikely couple who visit them, the photographer’s editor and mentor and his naïve young girlfriend. Four intriguing character studies add up to an evening of thoughtful drama. I gave it a Critic’s Pick; here’s a link to my review. Through April 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555 Northern Kentucky University just opened a production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. It’s about people sent off to a penal colony in Australia in the 1780s. The governor decides to impose order on the criminals by having them put on a play. It’s not an easy undertaking — but it changes the lives of everyone involved. It’s a play about the power of the arts to humanize people and transform them into something new and better. The show’s original Broadway production in 1991 was nominated for six Tony Awards. It’s one of my favorite scripts, a fine choice for NKU’s drama program, where it’s being staged by Daryl Harris. Through April 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464 Finally, if you’d like to instill some interest in the theater in a couple of kids, take them to one of this weekend’s performances of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, presented by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. It’s a world premiere musical created by composer Janet Vogt and writer Mark Friedman, who wrote How I Became a Pirate, a hit from last season. Performances happen at the nicely renovated Taft Theatre on Saturday and Sunday (as well as March 31). Tickets: 513-569-8080, x13.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

Time Stands Still (Review)

Tony Award-nominated drama brings visceral, textured performance to ETC

0 Comments · Friday, March 16, 2012
A photojournalist’s image is framed and captured, a moment of high emotion frozen by the camera lens, a distillation of a larger, often tragic event. Today those events, all too often, are scenes of physical and emotional devastation in war-torn nations. In Donald Margulies’ 2009 play, Time Stands Still, we learn that shooting those images generates addictive adrenaline even as it hardens the soul.   

St. Nicholas (Review)

In search of innocent victims — critics and vampires

3 Comments · Thursday, March 1, 2012
In Irish playwright Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas, Michael Shooner plays a thoroughly nasty theater critic; a writer without  much to say but who enjoys lording his influence over actors and theaters. Most  critics actually love the theater, but not this guy — it’s largely an experience for him to bully people and freeload food and drink on opening nights. He enjoys preying on those who fear him. So perhaps it’s only natural that he ends up in the employ of a coven of vampires.   
by Rick Pender 03.09.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: Sondheim, Afghan Women's Writing and More

Last night I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time — actors who provide their own musical accompaniment — and the results are top-notch because he’s assembled a strong, talented cast. This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888 A completely different choice is the Afghan Women’s Writing Project at Know Theatre, this weekend only. Playwrights Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek took material written by women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write their stories and turn them into material for the stage. Several outstanding local actresses — including CEA Hall of Famer Dale Hodges and frequent CEA award winner Annie Fitzpatrick — are among the interpreters. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. If you go on Friday, plan to stick around for a post-show discussion. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669 If you like heart-warming, schmaltzy tales, you should find your way to Newport’s Monmouth Theatre where Falcon Theatre is presenting Visiting Mr. Green. It’s the story of a young man “sentenced” to regular visits with an elderly gentleman he nearly ran over. Beneath the surface of their disparate worlds they discover some surprising common ground. What makes this rather predictable story come to life is the acting: Joshua Steele and Mike Moskowitz, who happen to be grandfather and grandson, portray their characters with believability. This is the second of two weekends, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783 A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters in a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage until March 18, but many performances have sold out. Tickets: 513-381-2273 Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company recently announced its 2012-2013 season, which will feature some memorable characters — Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch (in To Kill a Mockingbird), Romeo & Juliet, Lady Bracknell (in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest), Richard II and Nick Bottom (Midsummer Night Dream’s aspiring actor who makes an ass of himself). You can read about the entire season in my blog post from last Sunday.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.04.2012
Posted In: Theater at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Cincy Shakes

Familiar Faces and Fantastic Tales at Cincy Shakes

A bunch of classic characters will be showing up at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to entertain us for the 2012-2013 theater season, announced today: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; Atticus Finch; Romeo and Juliet; Lady Bracknell; Nick Bottom and Puck. Oh, and a few kings and generals — Richard II and the bloody Titus Andronicus — plus a hearty dose of laughs with reprises of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Here’s the rundown: The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 20-Aug. 12, 2012). A regional premiere of a three-actor adaptation by Steve Canny of this memorable Sherlock Holmes mystery. To Kill a Mockingbird (Sept. 7-30, 2012). A reminder that all classics need not be British. One of our region’s best professionals, Bruce Cromer, will play Atticus Finch in this adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about prejudice, violence and hypocrisy in 1932 Alabama. Romeo & Juliet (Oct. 12-Nov. 11, 2012). You probably know the details of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy of star-crossed lovers. The cast features Sara Clark, Billy Chace, Annie Fitzpatrick and Sherman Fracher. Titus Andronicus (Oct. 20-Nov. 11, 2012). Cincy Shakes enjoys providing a bloodbath every year for Halloween, and Shakespeare’s play about a tyrannical Roman military leader is the perfect vehicle — revenge, murder, betrayal and gruesome murders. The Importance of Being Earnest (Nov. 23-Dec. 16, 2012). The smile-inducing production for the holidays will be Oscar Wilde’s delirious 1895 comedy of manners and intentionally mistaken identities, with Jim Hopkins in the cross-dressed role of the imperious grand-dame, Lady Bracknell. Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 16-30, 2012). An added holiday treat from Cincy Shakes — for the grown-ups — back for its seventh season.Richard II (Jan. 11-Feb. 3, 2013). As the company marches toward the completion of Shakespeare’s canon in 2014, this one notches the final history play in the repertoire. Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (Feb. 15-March 10, 2013). This 1985 play (and a 1988 Oscar-nominated movie) was adapted by Christopher Hampton from a 1782 novel about French courtiers who used sex as a weapon to manipulate and degrade. It’s a cynical, dark comedy, directed by Drew Fracher and starring Giles Davies, Sherman Fracher and Corinne Mohlenhoff. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (March 22-April 21, 2013). Shakespeare’s most popular comedy — four young lovers lost in a magical forest and a troupe of amateur actors rehearsing a silly play. Nick Rose plays Bottom the Weaver, he of the donkey’s head. Measure for Measure (May 3-26, 2013). Shakespeare’s play about the virtuous Isabella, played by Kelly Mengelkoch, one of Cincy Shakes’ best actresses, who must contend with hypocritical, religious double standards.  Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (June 7-30, 2013). A final bit of summer fun. That’s a very ambitious 11 productions in 12 months. Three shows (Titus Andronicus, Every Christmas Story and Complete Works) are outside the subscription series, but available at a discount to subscribers. Adult subscriptions (eight tickets which can be used in any combination) are $195; seniors ($165) and students ($130) are also available. A special bargain is a “preview” subscription ($105), offering admission to performances on the day or two before a show opens. Info: www.cincyshakes.com or 513-381-2273, x1.
 
 
by Jac Kern 03.02.2012
 
 
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Your Weekend To Do List: 3/2-3/4

Bockfest is upon us! The annual celebration of Cincinnati's beer brewing history kicks off tonight with the Bockfest Parade, stepping off at 6 p.m. Organizers are keeping an eye on the weather, so check back with their site and Facebook page just in case. Even if the weather gets real ugly, just stop by one of the dozen participating venues where admission is free and beer is a-flowin'. Tons of special events coincide with the fest: Tonight, Park + Vine hosts its second annual veenie roast tonight (veggie hot dogs on delicious Mayday pretzel buns), Japps will feature a dance party tonight and Saturday, a Craft Menagerie takes over Arnold's Saturday and Washington Platform has a Bockfest Brunch Sunday, to name a few. And remember, you're not just getting your drink on, you're supporting Cincinnati history!Covington's Carnegie Center presents its sixth annual Art of Food show, opening tonight. As you might've guessed, this art exhibit is centered around all things edible. The reception features beautiful culinary creations (that you can actually eat) by everyone from BonBonnerie to La Poste, Queen City Cookies to Taste of Belgium. Admission is a little steep ($60 at the door for non-members), but you'll leave with your left brain and stomach both very satisfied. Admission after the reception is free. Get details here.It's always exciting when a new exhibit comes to the Contemporary Arts Center, and their opening parties are always a blast. Saturday the CAC welcomes two new art shows: I surrender, dear, Dasha Shishkin's first solo museum exhibit and Spectacle: The Music Video, curated by creative collective Flux. Read more about the artists here and check out our preview of Spectacle here. Music videos as art. Super cool.The opening reception kicks off at 8 p.m. In addition to checking out the artwork, electronic musician/wizard Dan Deacon will perform 8-9 p.m. If you haven't heard of him, here's a preview:Following the original performance is a DJ set 'til 11 p.m. The party is free and there will be a cash bar. Get more info here.If you didn't score tickets to tonight's sold out Black Keys show, there are plenty of other music options. Eli's BBQ on Riverside Drive hosts Downtown Country Band tonight at 10 p.m. Tickets are $12. And really, any concert that also features barbecue is probably a sure bet. The Harlequins hosts an album release show Saturday at Mayday in Northside. Peep our interview with the crew. There are tons of other live music shows this weekend. Find them all on our music blog.This not enough for you? There are tons of other happenings this weekend. Arts? We got 'em. Theater? You bet. Foul-mouthed, inxtoicated comedians? Of course. Just check out our To Do page for all your fun-having needs.
 
 
by Jac Kern 03.01.2012
Posted In: TV/Celebrity, Music, Fun, Events, Concerts at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Thursday To Do List

Doug Stanhope, Swizzle Soiree and more arts, theater and music suggestions

Comedian Doug Stanhope is performing at Go Bananas in Montgomery nightly through Sunday. Known for his sharp tongue and boozy performances, Stanhope is a comedy giant. He has released a number of comedy CDs and DVDs, toured around the globe and recently played a seriously deep character in an episode of Louie. Expect plenty of foul-mouthed fun. Tonight's show is at 8 p.m. Find details here.Speaking of people who like to drink, tonight is our Swizzle Soiree, an annual celebration of the release of our bar guide. Head on over to PLAY downtown from 5:30-10:30 p.m. There will be free drink tickets and hors d'oeuvres from area restaurants, happy hour specials all night, music from Pop Empire and lots of giveaways — movie passes, shot glasses and two passes to Bonnaroo! Sign up to register and be present at 9 p.m. to win. It's gon' be fun. Check out the event on Facebook for more info.The Cincinnati Opera's Opening Gala takes place April 28, with an after-party at the Duke Energy Center. In preparation for this "Late Night in Charleston," Japp's is hosting a happy hour tonight. Preview the event, and help the Opera decide which signature cocktail (by none other than Molly Wellman) to serve next month. The party runs 6-9 p.m. Go here for details.Catie Curtis performs at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Yonder Mountain String Band will be at Madison Theater and Ultraviolet Hippopotamus play The Mad Frog tonight. Find live music details here.Tonight in theater: Collapse at Know Theater, West Side Story at the Aronoff and Into the Woods at CCM. Find more recommended picks for tonight here.Before you leave for the night, set up that DVR for Delocated, Awake, 30 Rock and more Thursday television gems. Peep our TV column for details.
 
 
by Jac Kern 02.29.2012
Posted In: Concerts, Culture, Events, Northside, Life, Holidays at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Leap Day To Do List

Leap Day means different things to everyone (like those with rare Feb. 29 birthdays), but we suggest spending this extra day exploring all the fun events our city has to offer. Or this:Do you love the true storytelling style of This American Life and live groups like The Moth and Cincinnati's True Theater? Head down to Below Zero Lounge tonight for Teilen (German for "to share"), a local storytelling night. In honor of Leap Day, tonight's theme will be "leaping out." Enjoy a variety of true stories told without notes, and feel free to share your own five-minute anecdote. Storytelling is one of the oldest human traditions and it's still a great way to connect with others. Doors open at 6 p.m.; the free event starts at 7. Find details here.Sexy Time Live Band Karaoke continues its weekly mission to make us all feel like Rock Stars. Become a frontman (or woman!), if only for three minutes. Karaoke kicks off at 9 p.m. in Northside Tavern's back room. Check out the group's Facebook page for details and an extensive song selection (start rehearsing now!).The Lackman hosts a party to introduce new Six Point Brewery beers tonight, featuring Sweet Action (barley and hops), Bengali Tiger IPA (bitter hops and sweet malt) and Resin Double IPA (just delicious). Reps will be on hand for all questions. The tasting event runs 4-6 p.m. Find more info here.Find more To Do suggestions, like theater productions and art shows, here. Check out Mike Breen's blog for tonight's live music happenings. And a head's up: Our Swizzle bar guide came out today (purty, ain't it?) and if reading that doesn't make you want to grab a cocktail at one of many amazing local watering holes, nothing will! Celebrate the issue with us tomorrow at PLAY downtown. Guests can expect free cocktails and food from Bolly Bears and FUSIAN, live music from Pop Empire, a fabulous Flashbox photo booth and tons of giveaways. And when I say giveaways, I don't just mean movie passes and shot glasses (though there will be plenty of those) — one lucky partier will walk away with two passes to Bonnaroo! If you miss this, you cray. RSVP here.
 
 
by Jac Kern 02.28.2012
Posted In: Animals, Fun, Events, Music, Northside at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Wednesday To Do List

One year ago today, the home of Shannon DeBra, founder of the all-foster rescue Recycled Doggies, caught on fire. Thirteen dogs and one cat died as a result, and Recycled Doggies faced a tremendous setback. Tonight, on the tragedy's anniversary, animal lovers everywhere are invited to attend a benefit, give what you can and support the organization and all its foster families and volunteers. Head over to Star Lanes at the Levee for a silent auction, raffles, happy hour specials and, of course, plenty of bowling fun. Go here to RSVP to the event, which runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m.CANstruction kicked off today, with teams building artistic creations made entirely out of canned goods. Stop by the Weston Gallery to see their progress and drop off canned goods of your own. All donations, and all cans used to build the artwork, will go to the Freestore Foodbank. Crazy! Cool. No, I'm not talking about TLC's 1994 album, I'm talkin' 'bout West Side Story. The Bernstein and Sondheim hit is alive and well 55 years after its debut on Broadway. The Jets and Sharks put any Crosstown Shootout rivalries to shame, and in this revived version, audiences can expect a grittier tale with more Hispanic influence. The classic runs at the Aronoff Center through March 11. Find details here.Every Tuesday is Writer's Night at MOTR Pub. Songwriters, poets, spoken word artists — anyone with original work is welcome to share. Sign ups open at 8:30 p.m. and $40 goes to a special winner each week. Lucas of The Dukes Are Dead hosts. Enjoy a beer, a BLT and great company.Honey in Northside offers a $10 comfort food menu every Tuesday. Choose from homestyle favorites like fish and chips, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken stew with dumplings and more. It's a great chance to try the local spot if you've never been and you're on a budget. Peep our full review of Honey here.Check out our To Do page for tons of recommended art shows open today.
 
 
by Rick Pender 02.10.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Stage Door: More Great Theater

On Thursday evening I was that the Cincinnati Playhouse for the opening of Speaking in Tongues. If you like heady, noir-ish drama with flashes of sardonic humor, this is the show for you. Andrew Bovell’s 1996 script uses four actors to play nine characters whose lives intersect and diverge and reconnect in ways that you have to pay attention to if you want to get the story. This is not a sit-back-and-relax kind of play, but rather one you’ll be trying to follow the narratives, which are neither linear nor chronological. But they are certainly fascinating. The cast includes two of Cincinnati’s best local professional actors, Bruce Cromer and Amy Warner, and two others who have delivered memorable Playhouse performances, R. Ward Duffy and Henny Russell (who happen to be husband and wife). In fact, Warner is married to director Michael Evan Haney, so this show about deceitful relationships and the importance of trust and faith must have made for an intriguing rehearsal process. Be prepared to think hard if you go to see this one on the Shelterhouse stage. 513-421-3888.

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