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
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:35 AM | Permalink
The big show this
weekend will be Lumenocity in Washington Park. If you were lucky enough
to get a ticket, you'll be seeing some great images on Music Hall's
facade with accompaniment by the Cincinnati Symphony. If you weren't so
lucky, you can still enjoy the show via radio (WGUC), television, big
screens (at Fountain Square and Riverbend, for free) or via live
streaming at lumenocity2014.com.
If you want to check out a free show at another park, how about free performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream? Cincinnati Shakespeare kicks off its Shakespeare in the Park tour this weekend. They'll be at Seasongood Pavilion at Eden Park on Friday evening, at Harry Whiting Brown Lawn in Glendale on Saturday and the Community Park Pavilion at the Milford Historical Society in Milford on Sunday. Performances generally begin around 7 p.m. Show up earlier to get a good seat and enjoy six of Cincy Shakes actors playing a bunch of characters in a very funny comedy.
On the West Side, it's the final weekend for Footloose The Musical,
presented as the 33rd annual summer show by Cincinnati Young People's
Theatre at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. This is a
program that gives teens from across Greater Cincinnati a chance to work
onstage and backstage. During the past three decades more than 2,300
kids have participated. The show, based on a popular movie from 1984, is
about a teenager and his mother who move from Chicago to a small
farming town where dancing is frowned upon by the local preacher. But
his rebellious daughter shakes things up and love wins out. It's a fine
show for teens. Tickets ($12-$16): 513-241-6550.
you're willing to make the drive to Dayton, you have the opportunity to
check out workshops of new musical theater material at the Human Race
Theatre Company. Molly Sweeney is about a young woman
whose blindness becomes an obstacle for her new husband to overcome,
even though she has a different perspective. (It's happening Friday night at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.) The second work is a songwriter showcase (Saturday at 8 p.m.) by a dozen creators who are working on new shows. It's being hosted by Dayton native Susan Blackwell, creator of the clever [title of show]. Advance tickets ($15): 888-228-3630 – or $20 at the door at the Loft Theatre (126 N. Main St., Dayton).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:07 AM | Permalink
If you paid attention to the local theater season just concluded, you will recall that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company completed a herculean task: During its 20-year existence, the classic theater has produced all 38 of Shakespeare's plays. This summer three of Cincy Shakes' best actors are repeating the feat — sort of — with a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), opening tonight. Jeremy Dubin, Justin McCombs and Nicholas Rose will be careening through the comedies, histories and tragedies digging props, wigs and ridiculous costumes out of a trunk. This is a perfect summer laugh-fest, and it's been a predictable hit in past seasons for Cincy Shakes, so tickets are sure to sell fast. Through Aug. 11. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.Summertime musicals are another great tradition, and Cincinnati Young People's Theatre has been presenting them with big casts of high school students for three decades. In fact, the just-opened production of Footloose at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts is the 33rd summer show. It's the stage version of the popular 1984 movie musical, and it's a perfect vehicle for youthful energy focused on a group of high school kids — despite a repressive conservative atmosphere, kids in a small farming town just want to dance and have fun. With Tim Perrino at the helm, CYPT has steered more than 2,300 teens through entertaining shows, and this one will be another notch in his director's belt, providing experience for performers and techies alike. Through Aug. 3, you'll be able to come out and "Hear It for the Boy"! Tickets ($12-$16): 513-241-6559.I wrote a CityBeat column a week ago about John Leo Muething, an ambitious young theater artistic who's staging a couple of shows this summer at the Art Academy's auditorium on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine. His second of three shows, repertory theatre, will be produced this weekend (Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.). It's about a timid young playwright who approaches a veteran director about his new play. With Shakespeare's Hamlet echoing throughout, things get wilder and wilder. This show was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe for two years, and its original production is still touring in England; this is its U.S. premiere. Tickets ($10) at the door.The Commonwealth Theatre Company's Route 66 winds up its run at Northern Kentucky University this weekend on Sunday. It's the tale of a band headed for the West Coast in the 1960s stopping at juke joints, diners, cheap motels and curio shops along one of America's legendary highways. Wes Carman, Roderick Justice, Dain Alan Paige and Joshua Steele play The Chicago Avenue Band. Dinner and the show ($30): 859-572-5464.If Monday evening arrives and you're still yearning for something entertaining onstage, you can't go wrong with the next quarterly installment of TrueTheatre. This time around it's trueBLOOD, with the warning that if you cringe easily, this might not be the show for you. Whether it's stories that make your blood run cold — or just run — you can be sure that there will be first-person tales of memorable experiences. Great fun with a lively audience. One night only, Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Know Theatre. Tickets ($15, only a few left): 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 04:27 PM | Permalink
There's a great array of theater this weekend, no matter what you like. That's a good thing, because local theater, like baseball, takes a kind of midsummer break (no All-Star Game onstage anywhere, however). So get out and see something this weekend, then enjoy the fireworks and picnics next. Here are some suggestions:Traditionally entertaining shows can be found at two professional theaters. At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, it's the closing weekend for Private Lives, a very witty classic comedy about marriage by Nöel Coward. (CityBeat review here.) Two couples are honeymooning in the south of France, in adjacent hotel rooms. Things go awry when one husband and the other wife cross paths by chance. They were once married to one another, and the spark quickly rekindles, despite the fact that they had a very volatile chemistry. It's a great piece for four comic actors, and Cincy Shakes has a great cast to handle it. Staged by Ensemble Theatre's D. Lynn Meyers. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273.A different kind of couple is showcased at Covedale Center, where Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is in its final weekend. Two guys who were comic partners in the days of vaudeville — and who grew very tired of one another — are brought together for a TV special about the "good old days." They don't much want to do it, but they're coaxed, and the results of their bickering and nastiness makes for a lot of laughter. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.A new theater company, Stone on a Walk, has its inaugural production this weekend, a low-budget performance of Cain by Lord Byron at the Art Academy's lecture hall, a venue familiar to Fringe Festival mavens. Yes, the playwright is that Romantic poet George Gordon you might recall from lit classes. He also wrote plays, and this one from 1821 focuses on Adam and Eve's first son, resentful that his parents' transgressions have forced them out of Eden and made death a real possibility. He spars with Lucifer, still hanging around to make trouble, and is at odds with his pious brother Abel, as well as his wife Adah. Things don't go well, as you might recall — Cain becomes the first murderer. John Leo Muething has put together a three-show season for his new theater venture, Stone on a Walk, with a one-weekend performance of each work (more to follow in July and August). This one features three actresses: Caitlyn Maurmeier is Cain; Hannah Rahe is Adah, Cain's dutiful wife; and Aiden Sims plays Lucifer and Abel. The casting of females in male roles is unusual, and the doubling of Sims as villain and victim might cause a bit of confusion (although she plays Lucifer with sinister hissing vigor, while Abel is the picture of sincerity). The 70-minute performance is done with no stage lighting or scenery; the final section, with actors on the floor, is hard to see unless you're in the front row or two. Cain is a lot of talking, poetry and high emotions, but Maurmeier powerfully renders Cain's despair, and Sims is very watchable as Lucifer. Tickets ($10) at the door; the Art Academy is at 1212 Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine.How about a showcase of excerpts from Cincinnati's community theaters? Friday evening and all day Saturday that's what's happening at Parrish Auditorium at Miami University's Hamilton campus (1601 University Blvd., Hamilton). Four 30-minute selections tonight include A Midsummer Night's Dream and Les Misérables, and eight more tomorrow morning and afternoon (Godspell, Steel Magnolias, Nunsense and Tommy are among them). Each performance will be assessed and a few will be selected for a statewide competition in early September. Cincinnati has a lot of excellent community theater, and this is your opportunity to see some of the best shows that have been offered during the 2013-2014 season. Ticket information: http://bit.ly/1lkw098.And in the off-week between Cincinnati Opera's opening production of Carmen and the upcoming staging of Silent Night, opera seekers might want to check out two works presented by the North American New Opera Workshop (they shorthand that name as "NANOWorks") at Below Zero's Cabaret Room (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine). It's the midwest premiere of Marie Incontrera's At the Other Side of the Earth, a riot girl opera followed by Eric Knechtges's Last Call (Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.,Sunday at 2 p.m.). Incontrera's piece combines classical performance with punk sensibilities; the piece by Knechtges (who is head of the musical composition program at Northern Kentucky University) is loosely based on the Cincinnati gay bar scene and includes at "techno/house aria" and a high-energy drag performance. This is definitely not your grandmother's opera. Tickets: $20 at the door.
Cincy Shakes production is spun from trivial flippancy
0 Comments · Saturday, June 14, 2014
Cincy Shakes is winding up its 20th-anniversary season with this witty bon mot of a comedy spun from an avalanche of “incessant trivial flippancy.”
by Rick Pender
at 03:22 PM | Permalink
What with the Fringe Festival finished up last weekend, there's not so
much to choose from in the world of local theater. But there is a piece of frothy entertainment at
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company that is a perfect summer refreshment:
It's Noel Coward's Private Lives. The show (created in
1929) is indeed a classic — making it perfect material for Cincy Shakes — but it's a very funny comedy about a pair of lovers who can't stand
to be apart and who have problems being together. They were married for
three years, spent too much time fighting and decided to divorce. As the
show opens, they're on honeymoons with new spouses, but they end up
coincidentally in adjacent rooms at a hotel in the south of France. When
the encounter one another on the patio, they old spark is there, which
leads them to run off together. As you might imagine, a lot of
foolishness ensues -- including them returning to the alternating
currents of being in love and throwing things at one another. The couple
are played by two Cincy Shakes vets, Jeremy Dubin and Kelly Mengelkoch,
who just happen to be married to one another. Their jilted second
spouses are also fine actors from the company: the sprightly Sara Clark
and the versatile Brent Vimtrup (astonishing as Hamlet earlier this
year) now playing a boorish dud. Lots of laughs along the way as this
tale unravels, gets tangled and winds up. Private Lives opened a week
ago and has been selling exceptionally well: I saw a performance on Thursday
evening that was completely sold-out, and they announced that most of
this weekend's tickets have been claimed. But you should call to see
what's available. Through June 29. Tickets ($21-$35): 513-381-2273.
There's truly something for everyone, no matter how weird you are
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 21, 2014
It’s almost here for the 11th consecutive
year. That’s right, it’s just about time for the Cincinnati Fringe
Festival, our annual dose of creativity and zaniness that might move you
to laughter or tears.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:02 AM | Permalink
You really can't go wrong with a show at the Cincinnati Playhouse this weekend. I gave both productions Critic's Picks. The North Pool, on the Shelterhouse stage through June 1,
is a taut dialogue between a suspicious high school vice principal and a
wary student of Middle Eastern descent. (CityBeat review here.) It takes a while (the show is
about 90 minutes, played in real time) to decide who's the good guy and
who's the bad guy, and you'll be turned around several times in the
process. Excellent acting and a fine script by Ohio native (and Miami
University grad) Rajiv Joseph makes this an excellent theatrical
experience. On the Playhouse's Marx Stage, it's the final weekend for
another kind of cat-and-mouse game. Venus in Fur is all
about sexual tension, between an imperious playwright/director and the
woman who's auditioning for a role in a play he's adapted from an erotic
novel. (CityBeat review here.) David Ives' witty and allusive script (it's literary and
mythical in some most amusing ways) is being produced at theaters from
coast-to-coast, but I can't imagine there's a finer production than this
one anywhere. Tickets: ($30-$75) 513-421-3888.
At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, you still have two weeks to catch a rare production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The play is rarely staged (perhaps with good reason: it's not one of
Shakespeare's best), but Cincy Shakes' rendition is noteworthy because
it's the final work to complete their endeavor of staging all 38 of the
Bard's works. (More on that feat here; CityBeat review of The Two Noble Kinsmen here.) It's a feat accomplished by just a handful of theaters
worldwide, and it's your chance to check this one off your bucket list.
Through May 25. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273.
Falcon theater, which produces shows in the tiny Monmouth Theater in Newport, Ky., opens Bat Boy the Musical
tonight. It's a show that was lifted from the headlines of the Weekly
World News (yes, found in the finest grocery store check-out lines)
about a strange creature found in a cave in West Virginia. Of course
it's crazy, but the show is actually a really entertaining piece about
acceptance and community. Three weekends, through May 31. Tickets ($17-$20): 513-479-6783
If you missed The Irish Curse
presented by Clifton Players at the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre on
Ludlow Avenue back in February and March, they've brought it back for a
couple of weekends, this being the second of two. It's an amusing adult
comedy about a bunch of guys fretting over the size of their
"equipment." Tickets can be ordered online (brownpapertickets.com) or purchased at the door (but be aware: it's a small venue that quickly sells out).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for a show that will get things going romantically,
I'll point you to the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Venus in Fur (onstage through May 17).
But be careful what you wish for: You might end up like
playwright/director Thomas with your hands full of more than you wanted
to take on. He's seeking an actress to play the central role in his
adaptation of an erotic Victorian novel. Vanda shows up for an audition,
none too promising at first, but the tables turn very quickly. This is a
funny and provocative script, and Greta Wohlrabe's performance as Vanda
is masterful and highly entertaining. I gave it a Critic's Pick.
Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
something completely different — and in a venue I bet you've never
visited — head to Bellevue, Ky., to St. John United Church of Christ
(520 Fairfield Ave.) for a bare-bones, church-basement production of Joe
Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead by WIT-Women in
Theatre. The group is focused on plays for and about women, and this one
touches on a lot of issues when two women without much in common end up
spending an unwilling evening together, stuck in an airport lounge due
to bad weather. They cover a lot of territory — imperfect marriages,
ungrateful children, fears, beliefs and politics (they're at opposite
ends of the spectrum). Their ups and downs are a bit forced, but
actresses Cat Cook and Cate White do solid jobs portraying two very
different women. It's a tad like a movie of the week on the Lifetime
channel, but there's some entertaining writing. This is the second and
final weekend. Word has it that Friday night is pretty full, but Saturday
(thanks to the Kentucky Derby) has plenty of seats available. Tickets
($15, discounted by $5 if you bring a piece of luggage bigger than a
If you've seen Shakespeare's 37 other plays, tonight is the night for you to catch the one you've missed: The Two Noble Kinsmen
opens at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the final script by the Bard
that gives the company bragging rights to be one of only five theaters
in the U.S. to stage every one of his plays. You can read more about
this one, as well as Cincy Shakes, which is marking its 20th anniversary
in my cover story in this week's issue. See it before it closes on May 25: Two Noble Kinsmen is rarely onstage, and Shakespeare fans are coming from all over North America to see this production. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273, x1.
Finishing up this weekend are runs of the musical Gypsy at the Covedale (513-241-6550) and Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way (513-300-5669).