WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 04.28.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
lynn meyers

ETC Shares News About Four Shows for Next Season

Two additional shows will round out 2013-14 season

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati today announced four of its six shows for the 2013-2014 season, which opens on Sept. 4. Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers says, "We are planning a truly original, fresh and exhilarating season of dynamic regional premieres, and I am absolutely thrilled to showcase some of the hottest titles and newest voices this coming year." I'll add my vote of confidence: Meyers' play selection has been unerring for several seasons: Even if the titles aren't immediately familiar, ETC's productions have been engaging and among the best work onstage locally. It's a bit of annual amusement for ETC subscribers that Meyers takes longer than most to pull together what she will present — but that's because she's bargaining, wheedling and pleading with agents, rights organizations and sometimes playwrights themselves right up until the last minute to land very recently produced works. In fact, for the coming season, rather than wait until everything is in place, Meyers has is announcing four shows for the company's 28th season, with slots still open for productions in February and May 2014.Here's what we know, for now:Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (Sept. 4-22, 2013). The searing comedy by the creator of TV's hit drama Brothers & Sisters, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and The New York Times called it "the best new play on Broadway" a year ago. When a once-promising novelist returns home to Palm Springs to visit her parents, conflict ensues when she reveals she's been writing a juicy, tell-all memoir focusing on the tragic death of her antiwar-activist brother. Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo (Oct. 9-27, 2013). It's another Pulitzer Prize finalist, this one is by a writer whose credits include Law & Order and the recent Netflix series starting Kevin Spacey, House of Cards. It's a social comedy about a rising young academic who's not at all certain that she's leading the life she wants. An evening with a friend who's a stay-at-home mom leads to an interesting game of musical chairs.Around the World in 80 Days by Joseph McDonough and David Kisor (Dec. 4, 2013-Jan. 4, 2014). ETC will revive one of the first of its holiday shows created back in 1999. Based on Jules Verne's classic novel, it's the story of a crazed circumnavigation of the globe in 1899 by the brilliant Englishman Phileas Fogg, who wages a fortune that he can do it in record time. Bandits, buffalo and winter storms are just a few of the obstacles he must overcome, but the story promises great fun for families.The Mountaintop by Katori Hall (March 19-April 6, 2014). This show won London's Olivier Award for the season's best new play, and its Broadway production featured Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a feisty young hotel maid. The civil rights leader is cooling down in a lonely Memphis hotel room after delivering one of his greatest speeches. The next day, tragedy would strike. It's a powerful piece of theater by a rising young playwright, according to all who have seen it.Subscriptions are already on sale for ETC's season. More information is available by calling 513-421-3555. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on August 5, 2013.
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.22.2013
Posted In: Theater at 07:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
dont cross the streams

Stage Door: Comedy, Conflict and Classics

My schedule hasn't afforded me the time to see the production of Don't Cross the Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical, a show that began its life in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival back in June. (It also was a festival highlight at the IndyFringe in Indianapolis in August.) But the very tongue-in-cheek piece inspired by the film Ghostbusters (but not allowed to say that) has now been expanded into a full-fledged musical that's onstage at Newport's Monmouth Theatre, presented by Falcon Theatre and Hugo West Theatricals. The League of Cincinnati Theatres has termed the show a "recommended production," so it's evident that their judging panel enjoyed it. One panelist called it "a lively, enthusiastic spoof," and another said that the show is "an evening of theater that doesn't take itself too seriously. The show just had a two-weekend run, so it's final performance is Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783. Ensemble Theatre's production of Black Pearl Sings! features one of the finest performances by a local actor that I've seen this season. Torie Wiggins plays a woman in the 1930s who translates her memory of songs from her African ancestors into a ticket out of prison and to some notoriety in New York City. Wiggins nuanced performance is complemented by veteran Annie Fitzpatrick as the folk music researcher who sees Pearl as her own ticket to success. Their tentative relationship becomes a delicately balanced friendship, while both explore issues of racism, sexism and getting ahead. Definitely worth seeing. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3555. Lizan Mitchell is at the other end of the career spectrum from Wiggins, but she too plays Carrie Watts, a sprightly, elderly African-Amerian woman whose powerful sense of home takes her on an impromptu journey back to her roots in A Trip to Bountiful at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's laced with sadness, since what she remembers no longer exists, but her memories and her joyful take on life make it all worthwhile, not only for her but for others in her life, including her browbeaten son and his selfish wife as well as a sweet young woman who is Carrie's companion on a long bus ride. Through April 7. Box office: 513-421-3888. This weekend Cincinnati Shakespeare is opening a production of the much-loved Shakespearean romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's been transported to 1940s America and set in a Jazz-inspired magical forest, with original musica composed by resident sound designer Doug Borntrager; there's also original choreography by Brittany Kugler. The production is staged by Jeremy Dubin, and features veteran actor Nick Rose in the role of Nick Bottom the Weaver, the guy who makes an ass of himself — literally. It's a tangled, funny story that all works out perfectly in the end. A great show to kick off springtime. Through April 21. Box office: 513-381-2273 x1. 
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.15.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Photo: Ryan Kurtz

Stage Door: Recognizing African-American Stories

February is Black History Month, a period when the arts traditionally wake up and pay attention to African-American stories and artists. I'm always a bit troubled by this segmenting, so I want to commend both the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati for presenting two fine productions of shows featuring African Americans in engaging stories — in the middle of March. They represent two of this weekend's best choices. At ETC, Black Pearl Sings! features two outstanding local actresses. Annie Fitzpatrick plays Susannah Mullally, a folk music researcher in the 1930s; Torie Wiggins is Alberta "Pearl" Johnson, a prisoner (for a violent but probably justified crime) who has a remarkable recollection of songs she learned as a child from her family. They form an uneasy alliance that turns into a guarded friendship, and Fitzpatrick and Wiggins have a delightful interplay and chemistry. I heard that this might be the 40th production Fitzpatrick has done at ETC; she's a versatile actress, and she convincingly creates the uptight but driven Susannah. Wiggins, who graduated from the drama program at CCM, earns her Equity card on this production: Chronologically, she's probably a tad young for the role, but she so wholly embodies Pearl's feisty character that it makes no difference. Hers is a tour-de-force rendition, musically and theatrically. This one is a definite must-see. Box office: 513-421-3555. Let's give the Playhouse — and new artistic director Blake Robison — props for finally getting around to staging a show by Horton Foote, who died in 2009 at the age of 92. He was a prolific dramatist and screenwriter (he wrote screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies) for years, and his play A Trip to Bountiful is a lovely, emotional paean to the notion that "there's no place like home." Foote wrote the play about an elderly Texas wido pining to return to her hometown in 1953 (as a play for television, in fact) and it was an award-winning 1985 movie  with a white cast. For the Playhouse, Timothy Douglas has changed up the story by overlaying an African-American filter over the story and casting veteran actress Lizann Mitchell as Carrie Watts. She's a dream of an actress, portraying a tiny Texas cyclone of energy with a wry sense of humor. The story is nothing too innovative — she runs away from a cramped apartment where she lives with her son and his demanding wife to return to her girlhood home, which has all but disappeared — but the truth and dignity of the tale (and Mitchell's performance) make this show worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3888. Finally, I need to mention Clifton Players production of A Behanding in Spokane by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. He's the writer of dark tales like The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well as the even darker film In Bruges. Clifton Players perform at Clifton Performance Theatre, a tiny, intimate storefront space on Ludlow Avenue. I've heard lots of positive remarks about this production. Be prepared to be shocked and entertained by the show's comic violence. Tickets: 513-861-7469.
 
 

The Language You Cry In

0 Comments · Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Playwright Frank Higgins began his writing career as a poet, so he pays careful attention to the way he puts words together. After some time working at poetry, he felt that his best pieces were stories about people.  

New Vistas

0 Comments · Tuesday, February 26, 2013
This week marks the opening Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 37th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. First up is Meredith McDonough’s The Delling Shore, about two rival authors and their daughters, a work in which words become weapons.  

Rising To The Top

Deborah Laufer explores big questions with playwriting

0 Comments · Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Playwright Deborah Laufer loves to tell stories. “I think what theater does,” she told CityBeat recently, “is bring people together to contemplate what it means to be human at this point in time. It’s a place to ask all the big questions..."  
by Rick Pender 02.01.2013
Posted In: Theater at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent vimtrup as king richard ii - cincinnati shakespeare company - photo by rich sofranki

Stage Door: Closing Shows

No new shows opened this week. But several will close this weekend, so it's your last chance to see them. At the top of that list I would put Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of Richard II (Review here). If you're a completist, this is a rare chance to catch a show that's produced very infrequently. (CSC's staging is its first in 19 seasons, leaving it just one shy of producing all 38 of Shakespeare's surviving plays.) But an even more important reason is that actor Brent Vimtrup offers a breathtaking portrait of a weak king (he ruled in the 14th century) who questioned his own ability to reign, decided to hand over his throne and then agonized over relinquishing his "God-given" right. Vimtrup makes Richard real and human in some unexpected ways; it's a performance that's definitely worth seeing. It doesn't hurt that the script is entirely in verse — CSC's actors know how to revel in this language, so the words are wondrous things to hear. But you last chances are this weekend; the final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1. A British king of a different sort is onstage at the Carnegie in Covington, where the musical Camelot is on view in a concert staging (Review here). The mythical King Arthur — he of chivalry and knighthood and the Round Table — is the subject, as well as his beautiful Queen Guinevere and his valiant retainer Sir Lancelot. Like Richard, Arthur has some shortcomings — hey, we're all human, right? — but his problems are more about being too idealistic and trusting. The truth about Camelot is that the story is kind of choppy and the characters rather one-dimensional, but Lerner and Loewe's music is beautiful, especially in this production, where some great voices are accompanied by an ensemble of musicians from the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the CCO's Mischa Santora. The show is minimally staged and costumed, but its maximally sung. This one wraps up with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940. Two other productions that are definitely worth seeing: The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's world premiere of Abigail/1702 (through Feb. 17, 513-421-3888) (Review here), a spooky sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's regional premiere of the recent Off-Broadway hit Freud's Last Sesson (through Feb. 16, 513-421-3555) (Review here). The latter is an imagined conversation between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis about some big issues of life and death, faith and belief. It's a very thought-provoking script, performed at ETC by two fine actors, Bruce Cromer and Barry Mulholland. This one was scheduled to close on Feb. 10, but demand for tickets led to an extension. Take advantage of it!
 
 
by Jac Kern 02.01.2013
Posted In: Events, Drinking, Fun at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
japps-martini_sign_web-01

Your Weekend To Do List: 2/1-2/3

Remember when you could buy a proper cocktail with the spare change in your pocket? OK, probably not, but you can still enjoy Prohibition-era prices at Japp’s new happy hour kicking off Friday. From 4-6 p.m. tonight (and each night thereafter), Japp’s will serve up 33-cent Plymouth gin martinis with a side of live Jazz and ‘20s-‘30s standards. Pet owners have rallied for a downtown dog park for years; now there are two! In addition to Washington Park’s AstroTurfed dog area is Fido Field on Eggleston Ave. The space is made possible my volunteers and fundraising, as it is not managed by the Cincinnati Park Board. Help contribute to the maintenance of Fido Field by enjoying a night out on the Balls Around the Block bar crawl Friday. Dog lovers and drinkers alike will hop from the Contemporary Arts Center (check-in by 6 p.m.) to bars like Igby’s, Righteous Room, Madonna’s and more, enjoying drink and food specials at various locations. Registration for the event has closed; walk-ups will be accepted until 7 p.m. at the CAC for $40. Check out the bar crawl map and learn more about Fido Field here. While there aren’t any new theater productions opening this week, there are plenty of shows to check out at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Playhouse in the Park and Covington’s Carnegie Center. Read about them in Rick Pender’s Stage Door. Downtown’s newest bar, 601 Lounge and Nightclub, hosts a grand opening Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m.; $10 cover includes two free drinks. Like a lot of newer downtown clubs, 601 looks to cater to the VIP/bottle service crowd, so dress to impress — or you’ll be stuck in the cold. Check out our calendar  for more events, art shows, concerts, theater productions and more happening this weekend
 
 
by Rick Pender 01.25.2013
Posted In: Theater at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
a&c1_abigail1702_photo_clintonbphotography

Stage Door: Good vs. Evil

The clash of good and evil seems to be on the mind of most of our local theaters this week as numerous openings bring plenty of offerings for you to choose from.Abigail/1702 at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a kind of sequel to Arthur Miller's The Crucible. This new play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (it's actually a world premiere) takes the character of Abigail Williams, the villainous and spiteful catalyst for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and moves her 10 years beyond. She's living in Boston, an outcast caring for people afflicted with the "pox" — and haunted by her past. She knows her actions in Salem were evil, perhaps inspired by the Devil himself. How she copes with the current events of her life is very much dictated by her actions from the past. This is a fascinating variation on a familiar character, told with an air of supernatural events and eerie sights and sounds. Box office: 513-421-3888.Freud's Last Session at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati puts a debate about the existence of God front and center, with the distance between good and evil or right and wrong as the battleground. Psychoanalyst and atheist Sigmund Freud is dying of oral cancer; he invites to his London flat a young academic and newly converted Christian, C. S. Lewis (who later wrote the Christian allegory The Chronicles of Narnia). On the September day in 1939 when England declares war on Germany — perhaps another clash of good and evil — they meet for a conversation. The play is almost all talking and very little action, but the clash of ideas is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. That's made especially true by two fine actors: Bruce Cromer (the Playhouse's longstanding Ebenezer Scrooge and Cincinnati Shakespeare's recent Atticus Finch) as the earnest Lewis, and Barry Mulholland (a local newcomer, but a veteran actor) as the skeptical Freud. This one will make you think. Box office: 513-421-3555.Camelot at Covington's Carnegie Center offers a distilled version of the Broadway hit from 1960. It's presented as a concert, singers backed up by members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, led by its maestro Mischa Santora. The story of King Arthur's court, a place of goodness and justice brought down by an illicit love affair, is another glimpse of the good and evil affect history — even if it's mythic history. Former NKU professor Mark Hardy is back in town to play Arthur. Through Feb. 3. Box office: 859-957-1940.The evils of racial injustice are at the heart and soul of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis, which has a touring production at the Aronoff through Feb. 3. Set in the 1950s, it's about a white radio DJ who digs black music long before it became mainstream. His love of the music leads him to a romance with a talented singer, and that causes complications in a town where black and white don't mingle without serious repercussions. Of course, it's a musical, so this doesn't dig too deeply into the issues, but it's definitely a reminder of a time and place that feels very foreign to us today — even if some attitudes persist. Ultimately, it's about the power of music to bridge difficult boundaries, and that's a good message. Box: 800-987-2787.
 
 

Giving the Gift of Theater

0 Comments · Tuesday, December 18, 2012
All right, you’re going to have to forgive me — I am a theater critic and a theater lover. Those terms are not mutually exclusive.  

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