Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's existential comedy is stark raving sane
0 Comments · Sunday, February 23, 2014
Cincinnati Shakespeare has deeply enhanced the experience of both of these classic works, separated by four centuries in their creation, but sharing common philosophical ground in their exploration of the meaning of existence.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
I’m not making up a story when I suggest you could be charmed by Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights
at Northern Kentucky University. After all, her play is about telling
tales: Scheherazade, the latest bride of a cruel king who has a history
of marrying and executing his wives, survives by stringing him along
with stories she promises to finish the next night — for a “Thousand and
One Nights.” (Read my profile of Mary Zimmerman here.) She plies him with tales of Sinbad and Ali Baba. Audiences
at NKU will likely be strung along, too. Senior Cynthea Mercado plays
Scheherazade, whose life, she says, “is threatened with the reality of
her situation, and yet she is still able to enjoy her own tales and
sometimes get lost in them.” No need to get lost. Find your way to
Highland Heights and NKU’s Corbett Theatre for this production, through
March 2. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
If a classic musical is to your taste, you might try Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical Evita,
in a touring production at the Aronoff Center through March 2. I caught
a performance last evening, and it looks great — some epic scenery and
excellent choreography. Josh Young as Che is charismatic and
strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator. Unfortunately,
Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón gets too shrill way too fast and becomes a
grasping harpy before there’s a chance to be won over by her
Machiavellian charms. As Juan Peron, Sean MacLaughlin looks young and
slimy, without the sinister gravitas that the historical figure
possessed. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to convey the complex
chemistry — passion and manipulation — that bonded them as a political
machine. But the tale of the ambitious young woman who rose to the
highest levels of power in Argentina then crashed and burned is a
memorable modern tragedy, and the show’s rock-opera tunes by Andrew
Lloyd Webber will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-ARTS.
Cincinnati Shakespeare is keeping the cast of its recent production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet intact with its current production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
This time around, it’s the story of Hamlet’s college buddies
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who move from Shakespeare’s sidelines to
Stoppard’s center stage. In this classic 1967 script, the pawns become
the central characters, while Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, King
Claudius, Ophelia and others wander by. The classic tragedy is turned on
its head, and it becomes an existential tragedy for two guys who
everyone has a hard time telling apart. Through March 9. Tickets:
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize finalist script, 4000 Miles,
is onstage at the Shelterhouse Theatre. It’s about a 91-year-old
grandmother and her 21-year-old grandson bridging a giant generation gap
and finding that they actually have a lot in common. Through March 9.
It’s the final weekend for several shows that have been pleasing audiences. Nina Raine’s Tribes
at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati was originally scheduled to close last
Sunday, but to meet ticket demand for the show about coping with
deafness — and contentious families — ETC added performances through
Saturday. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-421-3555. … A block away at Know Theatre, the
off-kilter script by Steve Yockey, Pluto, winds up on
Saturday, too. It’s about dealing with tragedy and grief, told in an
inventive, sometimes even humorous, manner. Two of Cincinnati’s finest
actors — Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins — are in this one, making it
very watchable. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-300-5669 … For the younger set, this
weekend offers the final public performance, Saturday at 2 p.m., of
Children’s Theatre’s Pinkalicious at the Taft. It’s the story of a girl who can’s stop eating pink cupcakes. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
And here’s a tip for Monday evening: Dayton native Daniel Beaty, who pleased a lot of Playhouse patrons last season with his tour-de-force one-man show, Through the Night, will be in town for a one-night performance to promote his new book, Transforming Pain to Power.
His performance (6:30 p.m. in the Marx Theatre) and the book signing
afterward in the Rosenthal Plaza) are free, but you need to make a
reservation with the Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Whether or not you’re a Shakespeare aficionado, you’ve certainly heard of Hamlet,
generally considered one of his greatest plays, if not one of the
greatest works ever written for the stage.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:34 AM | Permalink
Truth to tell, midnight
has already passed and Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg thinks he's
missed the deadline for getting "around the world in 80 days." But his
faithful servant Passepartout (played with manic energy by the always
amusing Michael G. Bath) saves the day by sorting out travel across time
zones. Your deadline has not quite passed, since Ensemble Theatre
Cincinnati's inventive staging of a musical version of Jules Verne's
classic Around the World in 80 Days continues through a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
(CityBeat review here.) If football and cold weather aren't your preferences, maybe you should
head to the Over-the-Rhine theater for a final volley of holiday
entertainment. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
you're thinking about theater, you should be making plans to see
Shakespeare's greatest tragedy (some say it's the greatest play ever
written), Hamlet, which opens next week at Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company. Once you've taken that one in, you'll be ready to
head back in mid-February for Tom Stoppard's other-end-of-the-telescope
version of the show (using the same actors), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Happy New Year!
0 Comments · Monday, December 23, 2013
How was 2013 as a year for plays and
musicals in Cincinnati? From where I stand — or sit, since I’m most
often in a seat at one of our local theaters — it stacked up pretty
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:33 AM | Permalink
It's the final
weekend for most holiday shows, and there are lots of good choices. I'm
ranking today's listings according to the laugh-o-meter, starting with
the most hilarious:
No. 1: Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some).
This is the eighth year the Cincinnati Shakespeare has put this show
together, but it's fun even for if you've been before. The cast of four
talented actors who usually do Shakespeare and the Classics prove adept
at silly, in-the-moment humor. While they're poking fun at many things
local, they also manage to touch on just about every Christmas story you
can imagine, all with laugh-out-loud results. The biggest challenge is
getting a ticket, since the run (through Dec. 29) was nearly sold out when it opened last Sunday. A performance has been added on Saturday at 2 p.m., which might be your best bet to score a seat or two. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
No. 2: The Complete History of Comedy (abridged), a show by the same guys who came up with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
The Cincinnati Playhouse is presenting the show's world premiere, and
it's a wide-ranging evening of every kind of humor imaginable by three
very adept performers. They can impersonate people and characters, they
can do improv, they can satirize the classics — and they can keep
everyone in the audience paying attention lest they get a pie in the
face. Seriously. Our should I say "humorously"? It's an evening of fun,
through Dec. 29. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
No. 3: The 12 Dates of Christmas
is the story of a gal who struggles through a year of awful dating
after she loses her fiancé when she sees him making out with another
woman on national TV during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Lots of
losers, lovers and louts — and a few nice guys who aren't quite right.
It's a one-woman show with a good heart and a great performance by Annie
Kalahurka. New Edgecliff Theatre is presenting the production at Know
Theatre. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
No. 4: A Klingon Christmas Carol.
This one isn't really laugh-out-loud, but it's a lot of fun to see
actors telling the familiar story of Scrooge and his ghosts through the
filter of Star Trek's fierce warrior race, the Klingons. SQuja'
(he's the central character) isn't a miser, he's a coward — which is
sinful for these tough guys. Find out how he gets retuned. It's a good
bet for Trekkies; others venture in at your own risk. Tickets for this
one ($20) can be obtained at the door, in the lobby of the Art Academy
of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).
Lots of more traditional fare elsewhere, of course, including Christmas Carols at the Playhouse and Covedale, as well as the family-oriented Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:37 AM | Permalink
the 13th, but if you're in the mood for holiday shows, this is your
lucky weekend. Just about every theater in town has something onstage aimed at getting you into the Christmas spirit, making you laugh,
diverting you from the stress of being cheerful or just poking fun at
the ways of the world (at least the world of commercialism we see in
America today).Perhaps you've already done your annual brush-up on Dickens' A Christmas Carol
at the Playhouse (another fine production, now in its 23rd season with
Bruce Cromer back as Scrooge and a new interpretation of Bob Cratchit,
featuring the very angular Ryan Wesley Gilreath, who seems to be all
arms and legs and stringy hair — very Dickensian) or the musical version
being presented by Covedale Center. With the story of Scrooge's dark
night of the soul fresh in mind, perhaps you're ready for A Klingon Christmas Carol,
presented by Hugo West Theatricals at the Art Academy of Cincinnati
(1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). This is a newish theater group that
knows its way around satirical work (their Don't Cross the Streams, a goofy derivative of Ghostbusters,
was a popular piece in the 2012 Fringe festival), they are giving this
unusual piece its local premiere. (It's been staged in Chicago and
Minneapolis.) It's actually a rather faithful retelling of the story
with SQuja' (Donald Volpenheim), a cowardly, money-grubbing member of
Star Trek's warrior race, taking the place of Scrooge. It's presented by
a deadpan Vulcan narrator (Lauren Carr) who positions the work as the
"original" of the tale. Klingons don't celebrate Christmas, but they are
bound by traditions, the greatest of them being the "Feast of the Long
Night." The 70-minute piece closely matches with Scrooge's story, but
it's all through a Klingon filter — lots of angry outbursts and hearty
laughter, grunting, growling, drinking and chest-thumping by characters
with wrinkled foreheads, bushy eyebrows and fierce demeanors. Eileen
Earnest handles timHom (a Muppet-like equivalent for Tiny Tim), son of
Quachit (David Dreith), whose training as a warrior is being neglected
because of greedy SQuja'. If you've never yearned for a visit to Qo'noS,
the Klingon homeworld, you might find this production a bit
impenetrable since it's performed in the guttural Klingon language, but
there are projected subtitles that add humor to the action. This won't
be a show for everyone, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you'll have a good time. Tickets ($20 at the door or here).
Elsewhere in OTR, there's no need for subtitles for New Edgecliff Theatre's The 12 Dates of Christmas,
presented this year at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St.). It's a remount
of NET's 2012 holiday, again featuring Annie Kalahurka as Mary, a New
York actress whose chipper view of the holidays is trashed when she sees
her fiancé kissing another woman on national TV at the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade. The one-woman show recounts her trajectory
through a year of dating a dozen men, a few with potential, others with
"what were you thinking?" qualities. Kalahurka does it all, from her
central character, her oppressive matchmaking aunt, her nervously
worried mother and a parade of bad choices marked by ornaments she hangs
on a tree — an old friend, a doctor, a bartender, guys met at weddings,
a musician and more. Along the way, she's in a production of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol (she
plays Christmas Past) adding more humor with references to theater and
such. This is a contemporary show with language to match (so it's not
for the kids), but Kalahurka is a charming performer who makes this one
totally worth seeing. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
On Sunday evening, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicks off two weeks of Every Christmas Carol Ever Told (and then some) for the eighth consecutive year. As the title implies, it's a mash-up of everything from A Christmas Carol to the Grinch, with stops for Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Nutcracker
and more. It's been a great evening of adult entertainment in past
incarnations: This year returns last year's cast intact — Miranda McGee,
Sara Clark, Justin McComb and Billy Chace. They're individually funny,
and together they can be downright hilarious. Even if you've seen this
one before, it's worth a return trip. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1.
For those who want to take the kids to a show, you can't go wrong with Around the World in 80 Days at Ensemble Theatre through Jan. 4 (513-421-3555) or the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati's production of The Day Before Christmas with performances today and Saturday at the Taft Theatre (800-745-3000).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:42 AM | Permalink
The theater season
takes a bit of a pause around Thanksgiving, since many companies are readying
holiday productions. But there are plenty of choices available this weekend.
I'm not the only
one who enjoyed the laugh-fest that is The Complete History of Comedy
(abridged) at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I've heard numerous people who
saw it say they were recommending it to others. In two hours the Reduced
Shakespeare Company puts forth more humor than you can shake a stick at. (But
be careful shaking sticks. You might get a pie in the face.) No matter your
tastes in comedy — witty, loud or rude and crude — you'll find it in this
production. How about Abe Lincoln as a deadpan rapper? This could be a good
outing this weekend or a lot of fun for out-of-town guests who descend on you
next week. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is an
opening at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the very frothy comedy Twelfth
Night. (It's subtitle is "or What You Will," indicating that
it's a lot of foolishness, which is an apt description.) In fact, Twelfth Night
is a beautiful piece with clever situations, amusing characters, a bit of
intrigue and a lot of mistaken identities. And several of the most laughable
characters Shakespeare ever created, from the bombastic Malvolio to his
persecutor Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, plus the best of all
Shakespeare's fools, Feste. It's a safe bet that this is a production that even
those who fear Shakespeare will truly enjoy. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1.
If you're more
into storefront theater, you might check out the current production by
Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. It's a tiny space (only 50 seats), but that makes it all the
more interesting. The current production is Wendy Macleod's The House of
Yes, a very dark comedy about a weirdly dysfunctional family. The story
focuses happens while there's a Thanksgiving hurricane outside, so it's timely,
too. Performances Friday and Saturday (through Dec. 7). Go here
This is the last
weekend for Boeing Boeing, a crazy farce about a guy juggling
three fiancees who happen to be flight attendants. It's at the Carnegie,
featuring performers from the drama program at UC's College-Conservatory of
Music. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:46 AM | Permalink
If you love musicals, you should run, don’t
walk to the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music this
weekend for the short run of Singin’ in the Rain. It's a
fabulous recreation of the iconic 1952 movie that featured Gene Kelly.
It's about the transition from silent to
talking pictures in the late 1920s. Even if you’ve never seen the film,
bet you know Kelly’s iconic splash down a movie-set street, joyously
in puddles and swinging from a lamppost. That's what's onstage at
Corbett Auditorium — a whole stage full of tap dancers and a torrential
rainfall! But it's only there through Sunday afternoon; shows at CCM seldom run more than one weekend. So if you want to see this one, call for tickets right away: 513-556-4183.
There's water falling on another stage right now: The touring production of Flashdance: The Musical is at the Aronoff through Nov. 10,
and its star, Jenny Mueller as the free-spirited welder who aspires to
be a dancer concludes the first act with a memorable sequence where she
performs at a club, culminating in a backlit shower. Mueller is a fine
dancer and onstage from start to finish, but the show is full of shallow
characters and too many subplots that make for slow going. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
One more musical item: I gave the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's production of Cabaret
a Critic's Pick, and it's definitely worth seeing. Despite the fact
that it first appeared on Broadway 50 years ago, it's still a powerful
piece of theater — about intolerance and willful ignorance. But it's
framed in a great story with a memorable score by John Kander and Fred
Ebb (who also created Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more) with a new production by Broadway veteran Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
you're in the mood for something more serious, there are plenty of
choices that have received good reviews: Check out Cincinnati
Shakespeare's staging of Of Mice and Men or their joint project with Xavier University of The Crucible. Tickets: 513- 381-2273, x1. And I hope you have on your radar Know Theatre's staging of Bull (which runs throughout November) by Mike Bartlett, the same playwright who wrote Cock, presented last spring. It opens tonight. Tickets: 513-300-5669.Find reviews of Flashdance, Cabaret, Of Mice and Men and The Crucible at citybeat.com.