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
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
Posted In: Theater
at 10:50 AM | Permalink
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
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
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
Posted In: Events
at 02:10 PM | Permalink
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
Posted In: Theater
at 09:11 AM | Permalink
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.
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.
Ensemble Theatre offers a colorful, energetic take on classic tale
0 Comments · Friday, November 30, 2012
Alice in Wonderland works best when treated as an
ensemble show, rather than a show about a dreamy little girl meeting a
cast of supporting characters. This show does exactly that.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Collaboration is the byword for many
arts organizations today, especially theaters where financial support is
tough to obtain and ticket revenues are seldom enough to support the
cost of productions. By working together, economies can be achieved and,
in some cases, multiple constituencies can be activated.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
You'll have to pick and choose this weekend because
there's so much theater onstage. In addition to our professional
theaters, it's worth checking out production at universities: Tonight
through Sunday, CCM's esteemed musical theater program is offering the
cult favorite Chess, with music by ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus
and Benny Andersson. The story is set in Bangkok and Budapest during a
mid-1970s world chess championship — and it's driven by gamesmanship
between nations, between lovers and, of course, between chess players. I
saw the opening on Thursday, and it's a BIG show with a gigantic cast.
Several leading roles are double cast (with more juniors than seniors,
in fact, which bodes well for CCM productions for this season and next).
In particular, Matthew Paul Hill, playing the Russian grand master
Anatoly, lifted the roof of Corbett Auditorium with his powerful
baritone voice singing the stirring "Anthem," the Act 1 finale. Tickets
($30) Box office: 513-556-4183. At Northern Kentucky University you'll a production of Royal Gambit
by German playwright Hermann Gressieker (translated into English in the
late 1950s). The subject is King Henry VIII and his six wives, and this
looks to be a beautifully costumed show, featuring senior Seth Wallen
in the leading role. Tickets ($14). Box office: 859-572-5464.
Neil Simon's funny and endearing Brighton Beach Memoirs is
onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I gave it a Critic's Pick (review here),
and I'm sure audiences will love this sweet portrait of growing up in
Brooklyn in the 1930s, where a loving but fractious family copes with
hard times. It's told from the perspective of Eugene, a precocious
adolescent (he's really Simon as a 15-year-old), who takes notes on his
family's behavior. Well acted and beautifully staged. Box office: 513-421-3888l.
My schedule hasn't permitted me to see several shows that are getting
good notices, including recognition from the folks evaluating
productions for the League of Cincinnati Theatres. I'm catching up this
evening with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which is offering two shows
Romeo & Juliet is its mainstage show, and
Sara Clark is getting high marks for her portrait of romantic but
tragic young love. Brian Phillips' staging picked up an LCT nod, and the
show received an overall recommendation from LCT. On the evenings when R&J
is not onstage, there's another Shakespeare work for thrill seekers,
specially selected and staged for the Halloween season: the bloody, gory
tale of revenge, Titus Andronicus. Veteran actor Nick
Rose plays a crazed Roman general, and just about everyone I've heard
from says his performance is memorable. (It earned him an LCT
nomination, too.) Box office: 513-381-2273.
This weekend is the final one for
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre. When Harper Lee reviewed this one for CityBeat (review here),
she gave it a Critic's Pick, and I agree wholeheartedly. (LCT named it a
recommended production, too.) CEA Hall of Fame actress Dale Hodges is
great fun to watch as a strict etiquette teacher in 1967, and Raymond
McAnally plays all the other characters — a bunch of kids who are
learning how to behave in a "mannerly" way. It's funny from start to
finish, but there's a heart-warming message within the story. Definitely
worth seeing. Box office: 513-421-3555.
At Clifton Performance Theatre, Clifton Players are staging
A Bright New Boise,
which also picked up an LCT recommendation. I haven't seen it, but the
show won an Obie Award (that's for outstanding off-Broadway plays) in
2011, and it has a strong cast. This is a newish venue that's
specializing in "storefront theater." Should be worth supporting.
Tickets ($20): 513-861-7469.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
My first and foremost recommendation for the weekend is Blue Man Group.
(Review here.) It's a performance experience unlike much of anything else you've
probably ever experienced in a theater — raucous music, zany humor,
eye-popping technology and infectiously fun engagement with the
audience. Amazingly, it's done without spoken words — the guys mime
(well, kind of, it's actually more like they're mute in the style of
Harpo Marx, with a lot of staring and double-takes), although they're
backed up by awesome video that does offer some instruction (and laughs)
for the literate. As I've said before, it's hard to describe but easy
to enjoy. This is Blue Man Group's first time in Cincinnati, presented
by Broadway Across America; the Aronoff Center might never be the same.
(Through Oct. 28) Box office: 800-982-2787.
Last night I enjoyed opening night for the thoroughly authentic and charming production of Neil Simon's
Brighton Beach Memoirs
at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It's the story of a Jewish
family in Brooklyn in the 1930s, but thanks to Simon's witty, heartfelt
recollections of his own youth, it has a feeling of universality. The
narrator is Eugene Morris Jerome (who's a stand-in for Simon himself),
and actor Ryan DeLuca conveys the joys and pangs of adolescence and
puberty with feeling and hilarity. He frequently addresses the audience
about his interactions with his grouchy parents and his woebegon aunt,
his worldly brother, his pampered cousins — he's documenting them for
something he'll write when he's older, a novel or perhaps a play! And
that play is the one onstage at the Playhouse, the first Neil Simon
script ever presented there in more than 50 seasons. (Through Nov. 10.)
Box office: 513-421-3888.
Continuing productions of the comedy
Mrs. Mannerly at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (513-421-3555) and Shakespeare's romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (513-381-2273, x1)
have been positively reviewed and appreciated by audiences. This
weekend also marks the opening of Cincy Shakes' staging of Shakespeare's
bloody history of the Roman emperor Titus Andronicus,
staged with tongue in cheek (and in a pie) for the Halloween season. It
happens on the nights when the R&J cast takes a breather.
You might also consider two special events: New Edgecliff Theatre's annual one-night fundraiser,
Sweet Suspense Theatre,
a presentation in the style of a radio play, happens on Saturday
evening. This year the production, a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's
story of The Canterville Ghost, is being presented at the
Cincinnati Art Museum — and includes an extended intermission with lots
of goodies from local bakeries and restaurants. (Tickets: 888-588-0177). You might also want to check in with the Playhouse about ticket availability for Post Secret
on Monday evening; the one-night presentation of a piece based on an
anonymous "true confessions" website is rumored to be sold out, but
there might be a waiting list if you call the box office. (513-421-3888)