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
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:36 AM | Permalink
Last evening I went to see Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses
at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. You can read more about
playwright Zimmerman in my column in this week's issue here, and you'll
probably figure out that this is one of my favorite scripts. CCM's drama
program has created a shimmering, playful production that's getting a
brief run (final performance is a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday) at Patricia Corbett Theatre. Guest director D. Lynn Meyers
took a break from Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati to travel up the hill and
stage this one on the UC campus, and her cast of 18 student performers
wholly embraced this unusual show — which requires a pool of water as
its central design feature. (Water plays a significant and meaningful
role in the retelling of a set of classical myths shaped and recorded by
Ovid two millennia ago.) But Dana Hall's scenic design doesn't stop
with water; it's elemental, with immense hanging slabs of stone that
resonate with the decorative concrete slabs in PCT. Wes Richter's
lighting — it really does shimmer — enhances the stories of characters
changed by circumstances, good intentions and bad decisions, and Kevin
Semancik's sound design brings vivid punctuation to many stories,
including a destructive storm at sea. Speaking of sound, cellist Jacob
Yates, a senior at CCM, composed moody accompaniment that distills the
moving emotional essence of each scene; he performs live from stage left
as the tales unfold. Amanda Kai Newman's costume designs complete the
visual power of the show, whether they are fluttering around the edge of
the pool or from a high balcony upstage from which the gods watch and
control the mortals — and even when they are sopping wet from action in
the variable-depth pool. Much of the action is beautifully choreographed
and delivered with confident physicality. All in all, CCM's Metamorphoses is a total theatrical package that's definitely worth seeing. Tickets are likely available if you call quickly: 513-556-4183..
If you want a two-fer featuring shows staged by D. Lynn Meyers, you can catch her production of Tribes
back at her ETC home base. (CityBeat review here.) Nina Raine's script focuses on two young
adults who come from different "tribes," families with distinctively
separate approaches to deafness. Billy's family wants to approximate
normalcy by teaching him to lip read, while Sylvia's parents, both deaf,
have used signing. Now that she's going deaf herself and has befriended
Billy, these practices are at odds. But this is also a show about
family dynamics, love and acceptance — something everyone can relate to.
Billy's family is boisterous and rude, behaviors that often exclude
him. Sylvia's gentle, thoughtful manner is both solace and revelation to
him. Actors Dale Dymkoski and Kelly Mengelkoch (familiar to Cincinnati
Shakespeare audiences; she's a company member there) are simply
excellent in these two roles, and the balance of the cast creates real,
human characters. Tribes has been extended to Feb. 22, a week beyond its announced closing, to accommodate ticket demand. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
Other productions worth checking out this weekend are Seminar
by Falcon Theater at Newport's Monmouth Theater, a play by Cincinnatian
Theresa Rebeck about a writing class with a tyrannical teacher
(CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-479-6783); Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, revealing how attitudes about race and class haven't evolved all that much in 50 years, at Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-421-3888); and Steve Yockey's absurdist drama Pluto at Know Theatre, an inventively told story of contemporary grief (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-300-5669).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:53 AM | Permalink
Lots of plays not previously seen in Cincinnati are good theater choices this weekend:Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati just opened its regional premiere of Tribes by Nina Raines on Wednesday,
and I've given it a Critic's Pick. The story circles around two young
adults from families with very different approaches to deafness. Billy's
family has tried to give him a "normal" life by teaching him to speak
and lip read, while Sylvia's deaf parents have always communicated using
sign language. Now that she's going deaf, she's more and more dependent
on that skill. But Billy's loud, boisterous family objects to him to
make his deafness so obvious, even though he's finally found a path to
overcome his loneliness. This tale of warring tribes is as much about
family dynamics and human nature as it is about coming to terms with a
disability. Provocative and thoughtful, with a sterling cast of
convincing actors. Through Feb. 16. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has a winner with its production of Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park, a show that portrays territoriality rooted in insensitivity and prejudice. (CityBeat review here.) Using a 1959 play, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun*, as
its jumping-off point, Norris's first act portrays a white Chicago
neighborhood where the sale of a home to an African-American family has
set off warfare between residents. In the second act, it's 2009 and the
same neighborhood, blighted by deterioration, is now being gentrified.
The tables are turned, but many of the arguments — and in Norris's
clever script, even some of the same words — resurface. I gave this one a
Critic's Pick, too. Through Feb. 16. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
*A footnote to Clybourne Park: To experience this show's inspiration, A Raisin in the Sun, tune to WVXU (FM 91.7) on Saturday evening, 8-10 p.m., for a radio production of Lorraine Hansberry's play by LA Theatre Works. It's a seminal American drama in its own right.
This bounty of premieres is joined by Know Theater's staging of Steve Yockey's brand-new play, Pluto.
(CityBeat review here.) It's the story of a single mom and her sullen, disconnected son in a
generic suburb. It feels realistic, but there are signs that it goes
beyond that: A blossoming cherry tree has crashed through the ceiling,
and a three-headed dog (played by a one-headed actress) sits nearby,
offering curious observations about what's going on. A radio spits out
news about a school shooting, sometimes speaking directly to the mom,
and then the refrigerator begins to shake violently, as if some force is
trying to escape. There's more to be revealed, and I should warn that
gun violence and death are portrayed. But this is a poetic and emotional
tale of grief distilled. Through Feb. 22. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Daniel Beaty's one-man show, Through the Night,
was well-received at the Cincinnati Playhouse in a Fall 2012
production, performed by the playwright. (CityBeat previewed that piece here.) Northern Kentucky University
this weekend is offering another of Beaty's solo works, the
multi-character show (27 roles in all) Emergency, a piece
that features slam poetry, performed by local actor Deondra Means. It
begins with a fanciful premise, a slave ship arriving in a New York City
harbor in the 21st century. Director Daryl Harris calls Emergency
"a perfect storm for the social activist and the theater artist in me."
It's onstage only this weekend at NKU's Stauss Theatre. Tickets: 859-572-5464.