Politics, Rock and the will of the people take center stage
0 Comments · Saturday, April 7, 2012
Not many musicals begin
with the cast flipping the bird at the audience, but then not many
musicals are like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the brash show
that spins a tale of America’s seventh president to in-your-face
Indie Rock tunes.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:54 AM | Permalink
I was at UC’s
College-Conservatory of Music last evening to see this weekend’s
production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. I love this
densely intellectual script that’s awash in math and physics theory
as well as conflicting perspectives deriving from the Romantic
movement and the Age of Enlightenment. The play alternates between
1809 and 1993, with characters in the more recent era speculating
about actions and motives of people, including the poet Lord Byron,
from nearly two centuries earlier. It’s a fascinating conceit, but
it’s also three hours of dialogue that require close attention —
and a lot of the CCM audience took off at intermission. The challenge
is exacerbated by a lot of fast-talking using British accents and
amplification (the actors wear body mics) that sounds blurry. That’s
too bad, because the production looks great, is nicely costumed and
has some fine performances, and Stoppard’s script is one of the
great plays of the past 30 years. But unless you’ve seen it or read
it, you might find this production a challenge. Box office:
Pump Boys &
Dinettes at the Covington’s Carnegie Center is something
like an off-Broadway classic (it had a brief Broadway run) from the
early 1980s. Set in a filling station that’s also a diner — where
you can “Eat and Get Gas” — it’s a jaunty framework for
downhome Country tunes and cornpone humor. It opens a three-weekend
run a week ago, and I found it to be a delightfully entertaining
production. Read my review here. Box
More musical froth is
available this weekend, including My Favorite Year,
through Sunday at Northern Kentucky University (859-572-5464), and
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through
May 13 at the Covedale Center (513-241-6550). The former is a story
about backstage shenanigans in the early days of television; the
latter is an early show by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on a familiar
biblical story. Neither is profound, but both should fun to watch.
For a musical with some
sharper edge, you might check out Know Theatre’s production of the
recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit, Bloody
Bloody Andrew Jackson. The show is a youthful mix of
political commentary, driving Rock performances, history, humor and
sober observations on the will of the people — just what we’ve
come expect from Know Theatre. (The “orchestra” for the
production is the local band The Dukes Are Dead.) The show has a cast
of strong musical theater performers, and they make this sassy
political satire a Critic’s Pick. This is Bloody Bloody’s
first professional regional production, and it will surely be the big
hit of Know’s season. (Through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669.
Company’s production of The Grapes of Wrath (running
through April 29) is a powerful theatrical interpretation of John
Steinbeck’s grim tale about a Depression-era family of Oklahoma
sharecroppers driven to homelessness by ecological and economic
disasters. It’s a portrait of the desperate life wrought by the
Depression in the 1930s and a powerful reminder that life hasn’t
improved for many Americans 80 years later. CSC’s production is
made all the more relevant by folksy musical interludes performed
live by some of the actors. A downer of a story, but definitely worth
seeing. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.Each week in Stage
Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces
of theater news.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:08 AM | Permalink
Twenty-nine shows in two weeks, commencing May 29
Know Theatre has announced the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe
Festival, kicking off May 29 and continuing through June 9. Festivities begin
with the official CityBeat Fringe Kick-Off Party on May 29 at 6 p.m. (A
suggested donation of $5 gets you in.) During the Festivals’ two-week run, 29
productions will receive multiple performances. Some shows are locally
originated (14) and others are by touring artists (15) who travel to festivals
around the United States. If everything selected actually happens (that’s
seldom the case), there will be 10 plays, nine solo shows, four dance works and
six multimedia/variety pieces.Several award-winning groups popular with past Fringe
audiences are set to return. One of the most popular performers from 2011,
Kevin J. Thornton — his I Love You (We’re Fucked) had a sold-out run and
returned for another stint last October — is back with Strange Dreamz.
Thornton has appeared in the Capital Fringe, Indy Fringe, NYC Frigid Festival,
Tucson Fringe Festival, Phoenix Fringe Festival, Orlando Fringe Festival,
Kansas City Fringe Festival, and the Minnesota Fringe Festival.
Four Humors Theater from the Twin Cities is back for
the fifth consecutive year, this time presenting Bombus and Berrylinne, or the
Bumblebee and the Hummingbird. The group has previously produced Mortem
Capiendum (Producer’s Pick of the Fringe, 2008), April Fools (2009), and Harold
(Critic’s Pick of the Fringe, 2010) and the hilarious James Bond-inspired
puppet show You Only Live Forever Once (2011).
The longevity honors will continue to be held by Cincinnati
Fringe veteran group Performance Gallery, returning for their ninth year with Rodney
Rumple's Random Reality. Past Cincinnati Fringe appearances include Images of a
Beating Heart (2004), The Killer Whispers and Prays (2005), Godsplay (2006), Girlfight
(2007), Fricative (2008), KAZ/m (2009), The Council (2010) and The Body Speaks
(2011). Brad Cupples, the playwright for Performance Gallery’s 2010 entry,
returns with Third Quarter Moon: A Complex Derivative Love Story.
We’ll see shows from established local companies, including Quake:
A Love Story from New Edgecliff Theatre (they presented Darker in 2011) and Don't
Cross The Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical, a stage musical from
Covington’s Carnegie Visual & Performing Arts Center.
Two new local companies will present for the first time.
Homegrown Theatre, led by local actress Leah Strasser will present an absurdist
piece, The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh, while
Essex Theatre Arts Studio, founded by actors Bob Allen and Elizabeth Harris,
will stage Love Knots, a series of shorts plays about love and romance by
local playwright Phil Paradis.
There will be plenty of new acts, including Grim &
Fisher (the award-winning A deathly comedy in full-face mask) from Portland,
Ore., and Rebecca King (Storms Beneath Her Skin), a transgender artist from
Chicago. New York artist Tanya O’Debra’s Radio Star has won awards in San
Francisco, Montreal and New York City.
There will be dance performances by Houston-based dance
company Psophonia (Delicious) and two local groups, MamLuft&Co.’s (Latitude)
and Pones, Inc. (Project Activate). The latter is a collaborative and
participatory performance that asks “How do you
activate Cincinnati?” It’s the product of five local service organizations with
12 professional artists from a variety of disciplines.Each evening after performances, artists, audience members,
staff, and volunteers gather at Know Theatre’s Underground bar for the Fringe
Bar Series featuring the “Channel Fringe Hard Hitting Action News Update.”
Events there include Fringe previews, Fringe Olympics, Fringe-e-Oke, Fringe
Prom, and the 22.5 hour play project.
This year marks the second year of FringeNext, offering
three shows created and performed by high school students. Two are originating
from the School for Creative and Performing Arts; the third is from Lakota West
Individual tickets to shows are still $12. “Full Frontal”
passes are $200, providing access to every event in the festival. “Flexible
Voyeur” six-show passes are on sale for $60, the price equivalent of five tickets.
“One Night Stand” passes are $35; that’s good for one weeknight (as many as
three shows) and a drink at Know Theatre's Bar. Pre-sale single tickets will go
on sale mid-May.
For more information about the performances or to purchase
passes, check out www.cincyfringe.com or call (513) 300-KNOW (5669).
by Rick Pender
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
Last night I attended
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Grapes of
Wrath, which opened a week ago and runs through April 29.
It’s a powerful theatrical interpretation of John Steinbeck’s
grim recounting of a Depression-era family of Oklahoma sharecroppers
driven from home by ecological and economic disasters. They make an
arduous trek to California in vain hope of employment and a better
life. The show calls for an ensemble cast, and CSC uses more than 20
actors to pull it off convincingly. The first act revolves around the
Joads’ agonizing trip in a dilapidated truck; the second act
portrays the dismal conditions of unemployment and mistreatment once
they arrive. It’s a sad reflection of life in the 1930s, as well as
a powerful reminder that life has not improved for many Americans
some 80 years later. The production is made all the more relevant by
folksy musical interludes performed live by some of the actors. A
downer of a story, but definitely worth seeing. Here's a link to my review. Box office:
production of the recent off-Broadway and Broadway Rock musical hit,
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, opened last Saturday. I
haven’t seen it yet, but the production has a positive buzz. (It’s
onstage through May 12.) Box office: 513-300-5669.
Thanks to spot-on
casting of the four actors who bring Kim Rosenstock’s new play
Tigers Be Still to life at the Cincinnati Playhouse,
the show about people dealing with depression is charming, funny,
optimistic and even heart-warming. It’s about a young woman with a recently earned
degree in art therapy; she’s been down in the dumps about finding
work, but not as much as her mom who’s gained weight and her sister
who’s been dumped by her fiancé. She’s starting a new job thanks
to her mom’s long-ago boyfriend, now a middle school principal. He
has issues of his own — from a slacker son to anxiety about a tiger
that’s escaped from the local zoo. Sound zany? Well, it is — as
well as entertaining. The League of Cincinnati Theatres singled out
this production’s sound design by Vincent Olivieri for an award.
One panelist wrote, “On a very small stage, scenes took place in a
school gym, drugstore, office, closet, outdoors and in the living
spaces of two houses. Except for the main set, capturing the essence
of these scenes was limited to a couple of props and pieces of
furniture — and the sound!” Through April 15. Box office:
profound about The Addams Family, onstage at the
Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati through a Sunday matinee. The
touring musical is derived from a 1960s TV series (and subsequent
movies), based on on droll, mordant cartoons by Charles Addams,
originally in The New Yorker. The show is a faithful
reproduction of a pop culture icon; in fact, it begins with the
sprightly theme from the TV show, complete with finger-snaps. It has
a silly story about willful love and romance, but the entertainment
comes from seeing the familiar characters come to life. The new
musical numbers are largely clever, and the cast — which includes
1999 CCM grad Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia — is top-notch.
Here's a link to my recent review. Tickets: 800-982-2787.Each week in
Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few
pieces of theater news.
Know Theatre production has heart and humor
1 Comment · Monday, February 6, 2012
Allison Moore’s new play is quite literally
a play for our anxious times. Its four characters are each driven by some form
of anxiety unlikely in previous generations. Moore has tapped into the contemporary
zeitgeist to write a story that, while full of zany, improbably humor,
nevertheless hits a sensitive nerve that you’re likely to recognize and perhaps
Know Theatre offers a twisted love story
0 Comments · Monday, October 10, 2011
This show reunites actors Beth Harris and Jens Rasmussen with director Drew Fracher; a
year ago they created Skin Tight, the best production of Know’s
previous season. If subsequent shows are as gripping and off-kilter as
this one in which humor and pathos constantly elbow one another, Know
will deliver on its annual promise of edgy theater.
Fringe Fest finishes its most successful year yet
0 Comments · Monday, June 13, 2011
This was perhaps the most satisfying Cincy Fringe Festival yet, offering varied and diverse shows that kept audiences coming back for more. My personal top choices in addition to 'Miss Magnolia' were 'Missing: The Fantastical and True Story of My Father's Disappearance and What I Found When I Looked for Him,' 'Headscarf and the Angry Bitch,' 'Melancholy Play,' 'Peyote Business Lunch,' 'Curriculum Vitae,' 'I Love You (We're Fucked)' and 'You Only Live Once Forever.'
Eighth annual festival promises two great weeks in June
0 Comments · Monday, April 18, 2011
Despite recent chilly weather, I have received a sure sign of intense future warmth. It came in the form of the news release from Know Theatre listing the shows that will make up the eighth annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival, which opens its two-week run on May 31 at 6 p.m. with CityBeat’s official Fringe Kick-off Party. All in all, there will be 35 different productions to see, including three works from a new program, FringeNext, that’s powered by high school students.
Know’s production takes too long to tell an obvious story
0 Comments · Monday, April 11, 2011
Know Theatre of Cincinnati is known for its fearless work and for partnering with other artists and companies. But I wish more of their work engaged me. I looked forward to Know’s collaboration with Madcap Puppets for The Dragon, in hopes of more innovation. But what’s onstage, using a newly adapted script, struck me as lethargic and not inventive enough.
1 Comment · Tuesday, February 15, 2011
What the heck are theater critics good for? Few of us are actually curmudgeons who revel in badmouthing actors and shows. Most I know are theater fans. I typically attend a show full of optimism, expecting to be entertained. I love it when something unexpected happens and I only write negatively when I feel a production has failed to live up to its promise. I’m especially thrilled by fresh interpretations or revelatory performances.