0 Comments · Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Bruce Cromer’s performance as The Poet in An Iliad
is no easy task. He’s playing a world-weary soul, sick of repeating
tales of devastation and death.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 3, 2014
No costume challenge is too daunting for
two local design divas Reba Senske and Caren Brady Young.
Theater season starts now
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Shows that open seasons for local theater
companies carry added freight: They tell theatergoers, “This is what to
expect from us.”
Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati Intern Company
0 Comments · Friday, June 6, 2014
Both pieces, staged by directing intern Ben Raanan (the
program is about 100 minutes), are well chosen pieces for the talented interns.
I hope to see several of them remain in Cincinnati for subsequent onstage work.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:25 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati's artistic director D. Lynn Meyers has assembled another set
of intriguing productions for 2014-15, opening with the musical Hands on a Hardbody (September), a Tony-nominated 2013 musical with a book by Doug Wright, the playwright of I Am My Own Wife and bookwriter for Grey Gardens,
both hits for past ETC seasons. This one is based on a 1997 documentary
about a Texas contest to win a new truck by being the last person to
keep at least one hand on the new vehicle.
In October-November it will be An Iliad,
adapted from Homer's classic Greek epic of the Trojan War by Lisa
Peterson and Denis O'Hare. This one-man show will be staged by Michael
Evan Haney, always a good bet for a fine production, and feature veteran
actor Bruce Cromer as the many characters in the story.
For the holidays, ETC will bring back Sleeping Beauty, another of its smart fairytale adaptations that entertain kids and make adults smile.
To kick off 2015, ETC will offer Sharr White's drama The Other Place,
a gripping psychological thriller. The March-April slot has not been
filled yet. In May, former Cincinnati Playhouse artistic director Ed
Stern will work with popular stage veterans Dale Hodges and Joneal
Joplin to present the regional premiere of Outside Mullingar, a romantic comedy by John Patrick Shanley, winner of the Pulitzer, Oscar and Tony awards. (He's the writer of Doubt and Moonstruck.)
They'll play the parents of the show's shy central character, Anthony,
who lives on an Irish cattle farm, next door to Rosemary, who has pined
for him for years. This one just had a Broadway production, so ETC's
production will be one of its first on a regional stage.
Subscriptions are on sale now. For the coming season, ETC will offer a five-show Tuesday preview subscription, as well as Sunday
evening subscriptions. The preview package provides the first chance to
see productions (and at $125 price, considerably below the regular
subscription rate), and the Sunday evenings have great seating availability. You can order a subscription by calling 513-421-3555.
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 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.
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.
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).