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.”
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:21 AM | Permalink
Not too many years ago August was a very quiet month on local stages. No longer. You have plenty of good choices this weekend.Stacy Sims reviewed Know Theatre's production of Harry & the Thief, which opened last week. She called it "a
wonderfully ridiculous, history-twisting, large cast mash-up of a play,"
and that's just the beginning." Sigrid Gilmer's play is a riot of
modern perspectives and Civil War values, a mingling of contemporary
attitudes with opinions and behaviors long since set aside — but not so
far off that we can't recognize them as prejudice, misogyny and racism.
But Gilmer's weaves a lot of humor and satire around Harriet Tubman (a
real woman who led many people out of slavery into freedom in the 1850s
and 1860s). The play has been staged by guest director Holly Derr to
spotlight a zany streak of humor that the playwright has generously
salted across her script from start to finish. This feels a lot like a
Fringe festival show, and that makes sense, since Know is the annual
producer of the Cincy Fringe, and Harry & the Thief kicks off
its 2014-2015 season. As Stacy noted, "this bodes well" for the theater
now being managed artistically by Andrew Hungerford. I watched a
performance earlier this week with a full house resulting from Know's
"Welcome Project," throwing its doors open to anyone who wants to come
on several Wednesday
evenings (hoping that a few of them will pay something, but requiring
nothing more than showing up). I suspect many of those in attendance
will be recommending this production to friends. Through Aug. 30.
Tickets ($20 most of the time, although you can get rush tickets for
remaining seats 10 minutes before curtain time, and free next Wednesday, Aug. 20): 513-300-5669.
Speaking of the Fringe, Know presents occasional encores from past festivals. On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. (one night only) you can catch one of the best acts I've ever enjoyed in the Cincy Fringe: David Gaines returns with 7(x1) Samurai,
retelling Kurasawa's classic 1954 film in a one-man show that was a hit
of the 2009 festival. It's true to the source about victimized
peasants, marauding bandits and samurai warriors, astonishing to watch
and one hell of a performance. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
another astonishing, virtuoso work of theater onstage, this one south
of the Ohio River at Covington's Carnegie Theatre. It's Stephen
Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I plan to see it on Friday
evening (it opened last week), but people are already saying that
Justin Glaser brings a great voice to the maniacal killer and Helen
Raymond-Goers sings the role of the meat-pie-baking Mrs. Lovett with both
wit and polish. This is one of the greatest musicals of the late 20th
century, and all indicators are that this is a production worth seeing.
Through Aug. 23. Tickets ($21-$28): 859-857-1940.
Shakespeare Company will double your choices this weekend. At its Race
Street theater you'll find the final performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),
a comic rendering — or at least passing references to — all 38 of the
Bard's plays, his sonnets and some amusingly presented "facts" about his
life. It's a romp from start to finish, featuring three of Cincy
Shakes' best actors having a hell of a good time onstage, Jeremy Dubin,
Justin McCombs and Nicholas Rose. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.If you want something a tad closer to the original, find one of CSC's free touring productions at an area park: Macbeth on Friday night (7 p.m.) at Keehner Park in West Chester and Saturday evening (7 p.m.) at Cottell Park in Mason or A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday evening (6 p.m.)
at Washington Park. These are somewhat reduced productions (done in two
hours) using just six actors: That makes them all the more exciting to
watch — and to be dazzled by actors who can convincingly play multiple
Twerking time with Harriet Tubman at the Know
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Harry & The Thief by Sigrid
Gilmer is a wonderfully ridiculous, history-twisting, large cast mash-up
of a play about Harriet Tubman (Harry), slavery and time travel. It is
also the first play in Know Theatre’s 17th season, with Andrew
Hungerford now at the artistic helm. This bodes well.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:15 AM | Permalink
The Commonwealth Theatre Company's production of Route 66 continues its dinner-theater run at Northern Kentucky University. It's about a band traveling from Chicago to the West Coast in the 1960s along one of America's most legendary highways. Along the way, they meet a lot of colorful characters and see a lot of America. Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele make up "The Chicago Avenue Band," who make stops at juke joints, diners, cheap motels and curio shops in this coming of age story. Through July 27. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.Last Saturday evening I ended up at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas to see teacher Jason Burgess's production of The Addams Family featuring a herd of high school kids from all over Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It's a perfect musical for the program Burgess has created (C.A.S.T, the Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre), bringing together a ton of students who are in love with theater. Surrounding the central characters in The Addams Family, nicely portrayed by Aaron Schilling as Gomez, Lindsey Gwen Franxman as Morticia and Harrison Swayne as Uncle Fester, are 18 ghostly "ancestors." Each one is costumed (designer Laura Martin) from various periods with a clearly evident character; together they sing and dance as a coherent company. (Amy Burgess served as the production's choreographer, and Alex Gartner is the music director — in creepy makeup.) Through Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission ($10) at the door or online via www.showtix4u.com.Monday evening at 8 p.m. brings the third installment of Serials! at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine). It's a wacky summer-long set of a half-dozen episodic plays by local playwrights. So far we have seen meat falling from the sky, an NSA spook monitoring a contentious couple, a kid refusing to go to a funeral, a philosophical fetus, a suicidal pair competing over techniques and more. Each 10-15 minute episode is preceded by a clever recap to catch you up, even if it's your first time there. Rest assured there are cliffhangers — not to mention Know's well-stocked Underground Bar. Admission is $15. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:14 AM | Permalink
Probably the most entertaining thing onstage right now is Private Lives at Cincinnati Shakespeare. It's been selling so well that 2 p.m. matinee performances have been added this Saturday and June 28. (It closes on June 29.)
It's the story of honeymoons going bad when a feisty divorced couple
decide to reunite rather than stick with their new spouses — when they
find themselves coincidentally in adjacent hotel rooms in Southern
France. (CityBeat review here.) Cleverly staged by Ensemble Theatre's Lynn Meyers, using four of
Cincy Shakes best actors. Of course it's all improbable and overdone,
but that's a Noël Coward play for you — witty, silly and lots of fun.
Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.
You'll find laughs elsewhere with the Covedale Center's just-opened production of The Sunshine Boys
by Neil Simon, a master of comedy. It's about a pair of vaudeville
partners who spent 40 years working together and ended up not speaking.
But they're being coaxed to come together to re-stage one of their old
routines for a TV special. Rehearsals don't go well and the actual live
broadcast spirals down from there. Simon is a master of one-liners, and
this show has a million of them. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
If Monday leaves you still looking for something onstage, Know Theatre is ready to open its doors for something entertaining: Serials! All summer long at two-week intervals (starting Monday) there will be 15-minute episodes of plays by local writers. This week you'll get to see pilots of Mars vs. The Atom by Trey Tatum, Flesh Descending by Chris Wesselman, The Funeral by Jon Kovach, The Listener by Mike Hall and Fetus and the God
by Ben Dudley. These stories are open-ended and audience response will
be a factor in where they go. If some of those names sound familiar,
it's because most of them are veterans of the Cincy Fringe. If you had a
good time there earlier this month, here's a way to keep your groove
going. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:12 AM | Permalink
There's ample evidence at the Cincinnati Playhouse as to why David Ives' Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur
is the most produced script in America this season. I saw the opening
performance last evening, and it's an entertaining attention-grabber.
Inspired by an erotic Victorian novel, it's the story of a playwright
who's adapted it for the stage but despairing of finding the right
actress — until Vanda appears. Despite the initial impression she makes,
she proves to be almost too good to be true. Greta Wohlrabe is a marvel
in this role, flipping between being an ambitious, over-enthused
wannabe and a commanding, demanding, sophisticated paramour who knows
the character she wants to play and how to get what she wants. It's sexy
and funny — and a great evening for grown-ups. Through May 17. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
Want to try something new this weekend? A new theater company, Women in Theatre (WIT) is staging Joe Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead
at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Two women stuck in
an airport together end up sharing a table: One, from Washington, D.C.,
is reserved and educated, yearning for peace and quiet; the other is a
chatty Southerner who can't stop talking. Their conversation, according to
the show's publicity, is "funny, difficult, deeply revealing and
astonishingly frank." Through May 3. Tickets: 859-441-6882.
Stacy Sims, my CityBeat colleague, thought that New Edgecliff Theatre's production of Other People's Money was
pretty good. (CityBeat review here.) Jerry Sterner's 1989 play remains timely, the story of a
rapacious business guy who stands to destroy a small town when he buys a
company that is pretty much the sole livelihood of the residents of a
small Rhode Island town. Stacy called the show "good entertainment" and
added, "it just might provoke you to consider whom you are listening to
today." It's onstage at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater through Saturday evening.
Stacy liked Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way enough to give it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review here. It's two actors playing two actors in 1914 who are hired to
play gay men in Long Beach and entrap "social vagrants" — that is, gay
men. It's a multi-leveled script, playing with concepts of what's real
and what's "enacted." Heady but fascinating, and it features two
excellent actors, Jens Rasmussen and Michael McKeough. You won't be
bored if you go to see this one. Through May 3. Tickets ($15 in advance; $20 at the door): 513-300-5669.
Two productions that will appeal to audiences who like old-fashioned theater remain onstage. With its final performance on Sunday, Mary Chase's gentle comedy, Harvey,
at the Carnegie in Covington, is about Elwood, a guy who's a little
off-kilter — who sees a six-foot-tall white rabbit that no one else
believes is real (except the audience). Tickets ($17-$24); 859-957-1940. The classic musical Gypsy — full of great show tunes — continues at the Covedale through May 4;
it's about Rose, the pushy stage mother who launched her rather
unwilling daughter into a burlesque career as Gypsy Rose Lee. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets
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 09:30 AM | Permalink
Andrew Hungerford announces four coming productions
Know Theatre formally introduced its incoming artistic director, Andrew Hungerford, before a full house on Wednesday evening. He might not approach the boundless energy of his
predecessor Eric Vosmeier (more on his half-dozen years at the helm here), but Hungerford has a kind of boyish
enthusiasm for the job he's taking on that feels fresh and infectious.
The crowd of supporters seemed enthusiastic about his engagement and were
especially pleased as he filled in details about coming productions for
the months ahead in 2014.
Know's 17th season "Adaptation," he stressed that shows he's selected
are adaptations of literary works, of different genres for the stage, of
people struggling with changing circumstances and — by the way — of a
theater company adapting to a new artistic director. He announced four
The Twentieth-Century Way
by Tom Jacobson (April). Two actors play more than a dozen roles to
recreate the true story of how, in 1914, police in Long Beach, Calif.,
hired two actors to entrap gay men in the crime of "social vagrancy."
(Summer). Inspired by episodic TV series, Know will present 15-minute
slices of six "series" every other week, commencing during the Fringe
(in early June) and proceeding through the summer. This promises to be a
playground for local artists to connect with audiences returning for
more during the summer months on Know's Underground stage, with the bar
nearby — and popcorn promised.
Harry and the Thief
by Sigrid Gilmer (August). The story of a guy with a time machine and a
plan to go back to the Civil War era, find abolitionist Harriet Tubman
and give her guns. Hungerford describes this play "a socially conscious
riot of a play that uses a form of a Michael Bay action movie to tell a
story full of adventure, social relevance, and answering the call of
(October). This one was previously announced, a stage version of Herman
Melville's immense 19th-century American novel about an obsessive sea
captain and a "great white whale." Hungerford will co-direct Julian
Rad's script with "local theatrical rabble-rouser" Michael Burnham
(recently retired from the drama faculty at CCM). The production mixes
sea shanties and inventive physicality with a text that explores issues
of youth, friendship, duty and how far a man like Captain Ahab will go.
an intriguing lineup, one that seems likely to keep audiences returning
for doses of Know's brand of off-kilter but engaging theater.
Crossing Wires Between Reality and Fantasy: Pluto
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Know Theatre is presently staging Steve Yockey’s new play Pluto,
the second of four “rolling world premieres.” The work is not easy to
describe, to watch or to like. That’s not to say it’s not worth seeing —
but it’s challenging.