Boundaries between fantasy, reality blur in Deborah Laufer's modern script
1 Comment · Monday, February 18, 2013
Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer has found a vein of universality in her new play, Leveling Up,
using the world of online gaming in which players vie for higher levels
of power and accomplishment, as a metaphor for growing up.
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
Spectral sequel premieres at Cincinnati Playhouse
0 Comments · Saturday, January 26, 2013
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s world premiere play, Abigail/1702, is the Mount Adams theater’s 66th premiere, and a
positive sign that new artistic director Blake Robison will continue the
company’s long tradition of fostering new theatrical works and emerging writers.
Creator of 'Abigail/1702' grew up dreaming of being a playwright
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was in
Chicago early in 2008, rehearsing the world premiere of a new play he
had just written for Steppenwolf Theatre. The company was staging Arthur
Miller’s legendary 1953 Tony Award winner, The Crucible, on its mainstage.
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)
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:21 AM | Permalink
Your best bet for theater this weekend, based on several
enthusiastic recommendations, seems to be Daniel Beaty's one-man
performance at the Cincinnati Playhouse in Through the Night. Harper Lee gave it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review this week, and the League of Cincinnati Theatres panel described
Beaty as a "brilliant showman and interpreter” whose “beautifully and
powerfully acted” performance “weaved in, out and through real people —
multifaceted people.” The show was praised as “moving and full of hope —
an evening of pure joy, celebration and a mournful reminder as well.” Through the Night
“shatters the stereotypes of the ‘African American’ plight and shows
beautifully that these predicaments and life choices are ‘human’ ones." I
caught a performance this week and found Beaty's ability to shift from
character to character quite astonishing — he plays six men and boys, as
well as numerous other figures in their lives, each well defined and
believable. It's a tour de force performance in the Shelterhouse,
presented simply with some projected images and nothing more, not even
costume changes. Box office: 513-421-3888.
College theater has good choices for you at both UC's
College-Conservatory of Music and Northern Kentucky University. Each is
presenting a classic, although from very different eras. NKU continues
its run of
You Can't Take It With You (through Sunday), a
classic comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart that won a Pulitzer
Prize back in 1937. It's about a wacky family that marches to the beat
of several different drummers and how their "normal" daughter and her
boyfriend (the product of truly straitlaced parents) try to figure out
how to make a relationship work in the midst of a lot of craziness. At
CCM there's another form of craziness in Michael Burnham's staging of
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tale of
mistaken lovers and magical transformations. In both cases, there's a
happy ending and most of the right people end up with suitable partners.
Both shows are sure to offer offer a lot of laughs, as well as plenty
of opportunities for young actors to take on entertaining roles. Either
show should make for a fun outing that doesn't require much serious
thought. CCM Box Office: 513-556-4183; NKU Box Office: 859-572-5464.
Finally, on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. you have a very
special opportunity to see a brand-new musical as a work-in-progress at
the Carnegie Center in Covington. It's a one-night-only presentation of The Sandman, a creepy musical created by Cincinnati native and Cirque du Soleil
maestro Richard Oberacker and his creative partner Robert Taylor. Using
a wildly imaginative story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (the guy who wrote the
wildly imaginative story of battling mice and toys coming to life that
became The Nutcracker), Oberacker and Taylor have crafted a show
that's getting a workshop locally with some serious star power. Narrated
by Van Ackerman (who turned in a great performance as the Man in the
Chair in CMT's recent production of The Drowsy Chaperone), the
performance will feature Tony nominee (and early CCM grad) Pamela Myers,
always watchable Bruce Cromer (fresh off his powerful turn as Atticus
Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincy Shakes), Charlie Clark
and Sara Mackie. While it's a "reading," it will have sound effects and
some slide projections to set the eerie scene. You can call 859-957-1940 for tickets, or order them online at www.thecarnegie.com. General admission is $25 (theater professionals and students can get in for $15). Sounds like a don't miss event.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 01:45 PM | Permalink
OK, so it's MidPoint weekend and I know you're busy
running from bar to bar and band to band, but variety is the spice of
life, right? So wouldn't you enjoy it all the more if you took in a
show, just to break up the monotony of all that great music? Here are a
couple of theatrical ideas.
Shark Eat Muffin is a new Cincinnati theater company — with a name that
sounds like a band! They're breaking onto our local theater scene with
three short plays they're calling
Just Beyond Reach. For
one ticket ($10 in advance, $15 at the door) you'll get into Newport's
Monmouth Theatre (636 Monmouth St.) to see Abbie Doyle's It's a Real Shame, David H. Hughes Acapulco and Catie O'Keefe's The Noise Maker.
This is mostly young talent, so it's your chance to catch the theater
equivalent of the up-and-coming Midpoint bands: Doyle is a senior at
McAuley High School, Hughes is a recent UC theater arts grad and O'Keefe
is New Edgecliff Theatre's young playwright-in-residence (and Shark Eat
Muffin's artistic director). Their scripts are derived from the theme
of "just beyond reach," one of several suggestions posted on the
company's Facebook page two months ago. Sounds like fun: performances
are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets: www.sharkeatmuffin.com.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park just opened its first Shelterhouse production of the season, Daniel Beaty's
Through the Night.
It's a one-man show that Beaty wrote and performs — it's already won an
Obie Award in New York City (that's "OB" as in Off-Broadway).
He plays six African-American males whose lives intertwine during the
course of one night. It's an exploration of the place of such men in
America today, especially how they influence one another. I chatted with
Beaty about his play in my CityBeat column this week, and I expect this
to be a thought-provoking performance. Box office: 513-421-3888.
If you want something more tried-and-true, head to the Northern Kentucky University campus for You Can't Take It With You,
a Pulitzer Prize winning comedy from 1937. It's about the wacky but
endearing Sycamore family and the oddball characters who fill their
lives. It's truly a comic masterpiece, with lots of opportunity for
actors to make their mark. Box office: 859-572-5464.
by Mike Breen
Lunchtime Fountain Square event to feature local musicians playing Hank Williams tunes
Tickets for the forthcoming season at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park were put on sale this morning at 10 a.m. To celebrate, the Playhouse is hosting a lunchtime event on Fountain Square at noon featuring giveaways and other merriment, as well as a performance by a few excellent local musicians. Mark Utley, frontman for diverse Americana group Magnolia Mountain, Chris Cusentino (The Turkeys) and Cameron Cochran (Pop Empire, Jeremy Pinnell & the 55s) are slated to be on hand for the festivities this afternoon, performing a few songs from the remarkable songbook of Hank Williams. The performance is a tie-in to the Playhouse's forthcoming staging of Hank Williams: Lost Highway, a play that follows Williams' early career and starts in "the backwoods of Alabama and winds up at center stage of the Grand Ole Opry." Lost Highway — which features over 20 of Williams greatest tunes (including locally-recorded ones like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry") — opens Nov. 3 and runs through Dec. 23. Click here for more info on this and all of the upcoming Playhouse performances for this season. (Meanwhile, it appears my karmic adventures with Hank will continue …)Utley's Magnolia Mountain recently debuted a brand new music video for its track "Bad For Me" off of the group's recent Town and Country album. Dig it …
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
'The Second City 2' and 'next to normal' conclude this weekend, among others
It’s a weekend of last chances, as several shows that have
been entertaining audiences wind up their runs just before Independence
Day. Let’s start with The Second City 2: Less Pride … More Pork.
If you haven’t yet caught this evening of poking fun
at our local foibles and sacred cows, you have only until Saturday. The
cast of five from Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe has been tickling
local funny bones since late April, drawing their material from
bottomless well of our beliefs and behaviors. Even if you saw the show a
month or two ago, you’ll be entertained by a return visit. Improv is
the fuel for the evening, and every night they’re up to new tricks to
entertain audiences. By the way, that includes involving a few folks in
attendance, so be prepared. Box office: 513-421-3888.
Sunday winds up Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s revival of the Tony Award-winning musical next to normal. (Review here.) The story of a woman struggling with schizophrenia
and how it affects her family is even better than it was back in
September. The show uses the power of a brilliant Rock score to enhance
the impact of this painful story. ETC has reassembled most of its superb
cast from last fall, including Jessica Hendy in the central role. Her
beleaguered husband is now played by Bruce Cromer, who you might know as
Ebenezer Scrooge in the Playhouse’s annual A Christmas Carol. His character’s relationship with Hendy’s makes their struggles all the more deeply felt. Box office: 513-421-3555.
Last Sunday I had some good laughs at the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace
on the Showboat Majestic. It’s an old chestnut (it was a hit in 1944),
but it’s one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see, about a pair of
off-kilter elderly maiden aunts who keep their rather normal nephew
astonished and scrambling to keep them in line. The kind-hearted women
take in boarders, quiet elderly men who are “all alone in the world,”
and polish them off with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. They
convince another nephew, who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt, to bury them
in the basement by telling him they’re Panama Canal works who are
victims of yellow fever. A great show for the whole family. Box office:
Also winding up this weekend is Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This
rambunctious show mentions of all the Bard’s works — although many are
completely unrecognizable, thanks the three buffoonish guys who
undertake the task. Order your tickets online where you’ll find an
automatic buy-one, get-one offer. Website: www.cincyshakes.com.
Cincinnati Opera is offering Porgy & Bess
for the first time ever, with a performances on Saturday evening (as
well as July 6 and 8). (Preview here.) Is it an opera or a musical? Judge for yourself
(and read about it in my Curtain Call column in next week’s issue of CityBeat).
It’s at Music Hall, with lots of seats, but as always, a limited run.
This is one you shouldn’t miss. I saw it Thursday night, and the leading
performers are great: Measha Brueggergosman is a conflicted Bess,
Jonathan Lemalu conveys Porgy’s dignified but depressed life, Gordon
Hawkins is the brutal Crown, and Steven Cole steals the show as the
animated, irreverent Sporting Life. And pay attention to the chorus —
it’s a wonderful ensemble. Box office: 513-241-2742.
Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.