by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:12 AM | Permalink
There's ample evidence at the Cincinnati Playhouse as to why David Ives' Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur
is the most produced script in America this season. I saw the opening
performance last evening, and it's an entertaining attention-grabber.
Inspired by an erotic Victorian novel, it's the story of a playwright
who's adapted it for the stage but despairing of finding the right
actress — until Vanda appears. Despite the initial impression she makes,
she proves to be almost too good to be true. Greta Wohlrabe is a marvel
in this role, flipping between being an ambitious, over-enthused
wannabe and a commanding, demanding, sophisticated paramour who knows
the character she wants to play and how to get what she wants. It's sexy
and funny — and a great evening for grown-ups. Through May 17. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
Want to try something new this weekend? A new theater company, Women in Theatre (WIT) is staging Joe Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead
at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Two women stuck in
an airport together end up sharing a table: One, from Washington, D.C.,
is reserved and educated, yearning for peace and quiet; the other is a
chatty Southerner who can't stop talking. Their conversation, according to
the show's publicity, is "funny, difficult, deeply revealing and
astonishingly frank." Through May 3. Tickets: 859-441-6882.
Stacy Sims, my CityBeat colleague, thought that New Edgecliff Theatre's production of Other People's Money was
pretty good. (CityBeat review here.) Jerry Sterner's 1989 play remains timely, the story of a
rapacious business guy who stands to destroy a small town when he buys a
company that is pretty much the sole livelihood of the residents of a
small Rhode Island town. Stacy called the show "good entertainment" and
added, "it just might provoke you to consider whom you are listening to
today." It's onstage at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater through Saturday evening.
Stacy liked Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way enough to give it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review here. It's two actors playing two actors in 1914 who are hired to
play gay men in Long Beach and entrap "social vagrants" — that is, gay
men. It's a multi-leveled script, playing with concepts of what's real
and what's "enacted." Heady but fascinating, and it features two
excellent actors, Jens Rasmussen and Michael McKeough. You won't be
bored if you go to see this one. Through May 3. Tickets ($15 in advance; $20 at the door): 513-300-5669.
Two productions that will appeal to audiences who like old-fashioned theater remain onstage. With its final performance on Sunday, Mary Chase's gentle comedy, Harvey,
at the Carnegie in Covington, is about Elwood, a guy who's a little
off-kilter — who sees a six-foot-tall white rabbit that no one else
believes is real (except the audience). Tickets ($17-$24); 859-957-1940. The classic musical Gypsy — full of great show tunes — continues at the Covedale through May 4;
it's about Rose, the pushy stage mother who launched her rather
unwilling daughter into a burlesque career as Gypsy Rose Lee. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:24 AM | Permalink
There are several good theater choices south of the Ohio River this weekend.The theater (and dance) program at Northern Kentucky University presents a truly varied array of programming — this season has included a play by Orson Welles, the legendary musical South Pacific, Shakespeare's As You Like It and more. The academic year's final production Monty Python's Spamalot, opened last evening, and it seems to be a perfect vehicle for a lot of onstage clowning. (In case you haven't been tuned in, the show is subtitled "A musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and many of the show's most hilarious moments are reproduced wholesale onstage.) But clowning can be serious work, and if you catch NKU's production, pay attention to the choreography (the work of NKU grad Roderick Justice) which is complex, amusing and very well executed by the cast of 25. Director Ken Jones keeps things moving; the actors get into the tomfoolery from start to finish, especially Kat Moser as the diva who's the Lady of the Lake and Bradley Goren as long-suffering Patsy (he's the one who clicks the coconut shells to simulate King Arthur riding on horseback, among other amusing moments). The show is a fine entertainment, if you're a fan of the low but articulate humor of the Python troupe. Through April 27. Tickets ($8-$14): 859-572-5464.Comedy of an entirely different sort is available at another Kentucky venue, the Carnegie in Covington, where Mary Chase's 1945 Pulitzer Prize winner Harvey is available through April 27. This is a piece of gentle humor from the past, about a slightly off-kilter guy who sees a six-foot-plus rabbit — he calls it a "pooka" — named Harvey, much to the dismay of several family members who are embarrassed by his behavior. Their efforts to get him committed to a local asylum go awry to much merriment and a message about being, well, gentle and sweet. This is good, old-fashioned fun. Tickets: 859-957-1940.If you prefer a well-written contemporary drama, this weekend is your last chance to see A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Anna Ziegler's new show (this is its world premiere) is a memory play that explores an unexpected chain of events triggered by a love triangle. It's beautifully staged by Michael Evan Haney with a cast of three actors who are just right for each of their roles. I gave this one a Critic's Pick when it opened; it's as good as anything I saw recently at the much-respected Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Tickets ($30-$80): 513-421-3888.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
If you follow music coverage in CityBeat (hey, isn't that really why you pick up the paper?), you're certainly aware of Green Day's 2004 recording American Idiot.
But since you're reading my weekend theater previews, you must be
interested in other kinds of performance, so here's a tip: For two nights
only, Green Day's American Idiot, a stage version of the powerful Punk score, will be onstage at the Aronoff. That's right — Friday and Saturday
only, just three performances, much shorter that Broadway in
Cincinnati's two-week presentation of touring Broadway musicals. I can
vouch for this one, since I saw it a year ago during a similar tour stop
in Dayton. It's the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward
spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life —
"alien nation" — as they sing in the opening number. The recording was
conceived as a "Punk Rock Opera" and turned into a Tony Award-nominated
Broadway show in 2010, with a lot of involvement by Green Day's lead
singer Billie Joe Armstrong (who actually appeared onstage in New York
at various performances; that's not happening here in Cincinnati).
There's a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of $25
tickets; you need to show up two-and-a-half hours before the performance
you're hoping to see (8 p.m. Friday, and 5 and 8 p.m. on Saturday)
with a valid photo ID. Complete an entry form and wait 30 minutes to
find out if you're a winner. If you prefer to just go ahead and buy your
seats ($38-$91), you can call the Aronoff box office: 513-621-2787.
In the classic musical Gypsy,
Rose has very concrete ideas regarding how to turn her daughters into
stars (long before Green Day was punking out, to be sure): Back in the
1920s and ’30s she pushed her kids onto vaudeville stages whether they
liked it or not. Things never went quite as she imagined, which was
really a desire for her own fame and stardom. It's one of the great
musicals, and the role of Rose has been compared to King Lear. That
might be a bit of a stretch, but she's a tragic character who's
fascinating to watch. There's a ton of great music, composed by Jule
Styne with lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and lots of humor
along the way, especially the hilarious number by three strippers, "You
Gotta Get a Gimmick." Cincinnati Landmark opened its production Thursday
night, and it will be onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing
Arts through May 4. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
Mary Chase's comedy Harvey
won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize and had a four-year Broadway run (1,800
performances). The story of Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible friend, a 6-foot tall rabbit named Harvey, is perhaps best known for the 1950
movie featuring Jimmy Stewart in an Oscar-nominated performance. That's
all well and good, but it's a show that audiences love to see live and
in-person, and you can do just that at Covington's Carnegie for the next
three weekends (tonight through April 27).
It's directed by Buz Davis, who produced shows at the Carnegie when it
was a dilapidated wreck back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now he's returning to
stage Harvey in the beautifully renovated Otto M. Budig Theatre.
(Tickets ($17-$24): 859-957-1940.) Davis has assembled a strong cast for this family-friendly comedy, you
can catch a few of them in this charming promotional video:Still onstage are several recommended productions: The Mountaintop at Ensemble Theatre (final extended performance is Saturday evening; 513-421-3555); A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse (through April 20; 513-421-3888; CityBeat review here); and The Twentieth-Century Way at Know Theatre (through May 3; CityBeat review here.) And if Monday comes and you want still more: Check out True Theatre's next installment — True Dating (7:30 p.m.
at Know Theatre). This round of monologues of real experiences will
feature stories of dating that led to true love, and some that went off
the tracks along the way. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 03:18 PM | Permalink
Theatre’s Humana Festival is indeed a launching pad for exciting new works.
That makes its final weekend the perfect moment for the American Theatre
Critics Association to recognize a set of outstanding plays produced at
regional theaters during 2013. None of the 2013 Humana Festival shows was
nominated, but one of the three works to win a significant cash prize ($7,500)
was Martín Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun, given its
world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park last fall. The play
blends magical realism and political issues in an affecting tale examining if
forgiveness is truly possible. Set in a Central American nation ravaged by
civil war, lust, plague and a consuming need for vengeance, it’s about a
widowed doctor in a small village and a newly-married soldier charged with
subduing dissent. Their journeys towards redemption converge in some painful
prize ($25,000) went to Lauren Gunderson for her play I and You, about a cranky
high school student who needs a liver transplant. A smart, athletic classmate
recruits her to help him finish a school project focused on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. As their unlikely
relationship evolves, they explore the meaning of life and death without a
shred of condescension or pretentiousness. I
and You was staged last October at Marin Theatre Company in California,
where Jasson Minadakis, who founded Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, is now
artistic director and nurtured the development of Gunderson’s script. Her play Toil & Trouble was presented locally
last summer by Know Theatre.
Playhouse world premiere brings another excellent new play and writer to Cincinnati audiences
0 Comments · Friday, March 28, 2014
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park hit a home run with its world
premiere of Anna Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship on the Shelterhouse
Cincinnati Playhouse takes on beloved Austen characters
0 Comments · Friday, March 21, 2014
Austen’s familiar characters in Pride and
Prejudice have all but taken on the status of real people. Everyone who loves
this 1813 novel of love and manners “knows” Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, to be
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Blake Robison wants the Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park to be at the forefront of Cincinnati’s cultural
conversation. “It’s our responsibility to bring the best theatrical
material, both old and new, to our community," he says.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 07:00 PM | Permalink
Season ahead includes homegrown works, award-winning shows and a couple of musicals
The Cincinnati Playhouse announced its 2014-15 season on Monday. I’m especially looking forward to Peter and the Starcatcher, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Circle Mirror Transformation, as well as the premiere production, Safe House. Here’s what’s coming our way, in chronological order:
Jeffrey Hatcher’s new whodunit featuring the world’s favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club. (Marx Theatre, Sept. 6-Oct. 4, 2014)I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, adapted from foodie Giulia Melucci’s hilarious memoir. (Shelterhouse Theatre, Sept. 27-Oct. 26, 2014)A world premiere by up-and-coming playwright and Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins, Safe House, inspired by his Kentucky ancestors. (Marx Theatre, Oct. 18-Nov. 15, 2014)Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical,
which traces America’s favorite girl singer from her Cincinnati
childhood and Hollywood stardom to triumphant comeback. It’s by the
local team of composer Janet Yates Vogt and writer Mark Friedman.
(Shelterhouse Theatre, Nov. 15-Dec. 28)The season also includes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, back for its 24th year. (Marx Theatre, Nov. 26-Dec. 28, 2014)A new version of the recent Broadway show, Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, directed by and featuring the star of the Broadway production, Jason Edwards. (Marx Theatre, Jan. 17-Feb. 15, 2015)The second U.S. production of an offbeat love story, Chapatti, a tasty new comedy of misadventures involving love and pets. (Shelterhouse Theatre, Feb. 7-March 8, 2015)Peter and the Starcatcher, the magical, family-friendly Peter Pan prequel that hooked five Tony Awards. (Marx Theatre, March 7-April 4, 2015)A compelling, darkly funny new play by Tracey Scott Wilson, Buzzer, getting its world premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre this month. (Shelterhouse Theatre, March 21-April 19, 2015)The 2013 Tony Award-winning best play, Christopher Durang’s hit comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, full of echoes of Anton Chekhov. (Marx Theatre, April 25-May 23, 2015)The comic off-Broadway hit Circle Mirror Transformation, winner of the 2009 Obie Award for best new American play. (Shelterhouse Theatre, May 9-June 7, 2015)
In a recent conversation, Artistic Director Blake Robison
described his program priorities and told me the Playhouse takes them
seriously. “Variety is one of our hallmarks. We’re always going to make
sure there are new works and culturally diverse works and that there are
family-friendly or multigenerational things. We will find ways to
continue to support and entertain the traditional audience while
reaching out in various directions to new audiences. It’s our
responsibility to bring the best theatrical material both old and new to
I’d say Robison’s third season sticks to his priorities.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I’ve had grandparents on my mind recently. Shirley Temple’s passing on Feb. 10 reminded me of her 1937 film Heidi,
the story of a neglected orphan in Switzerland, who is handed off to
her gruff grandfather. He is warmed by her spirit, and she basks in the