by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 07:00 PM | Permalink
Season ahead includes homegrown works, award-winning shows and a couple of musicals
The Cincinnati Playhouse announced its 2014-15 season on Monday. I’m especially looking forward to Peter and the Starcatcher, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Circle Mirror Transformation, as well as the premiere production, Safe House. Here’s what’s coming our way, in chronological order:
Jeffrey Hatcher’s new whodunit featuring the world’s favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club. (Marx Theatre, Sept. 6-Oct. 4, 2014)I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, adapted from foodie Giulia Melucci’s hilarious memoir. (Shelterhouse Theatre, Sept. 27-Oct. 26, 2014)A world premiere by up-and-coming playwright and Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins, Safe House, inspired by his Kentucky ancestors. (Marx Theatre, Oct. 18-Nov. 15, 2014)Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical,
which traces America’s favorite girl singer from her Cincinnati
childhood and Hollywood stardom to triumphant comeback. It’s by the
local team of composer Janet Yates Vogt and writer Mark Friedman.
(Shelterhouse Theatre, Nov. 15-Dec. 28)The season also includes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, back for its 24th year. (Marx Theatre, Nov. 26-Dec. 28, 2014)A new version of the recent Broadway show, Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, directed by and featuring the star of the Broadway production, Jason Edwards. (Marx Theatre, Jan. 17-Feb. 15, 2015)The second U.S. production of an offbeat love story, Chapatti, a tasty new comedy of misadventures involving love and pets. (Shelterhouse Theatre, Feb. 7-March 8, 2015)Peter and the Starcatcher, the magical, family-friendly Peter Pan prequel that hooked five Tony Awards. (Marx Theatre, March 7-April 4, 2015)A compelling, darkly funny new play by Tracey Scott Wilson, Buzzer, getting its world premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre this month. (Shelterhouse Theatre, March 21-April 19, 2015)The 2013 Tony Award-winning best play, Christopher Durang’s hit comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, full of echoes of Anton Chekhov. (Marx Theatre, April 25-May 23, 2015)The comic off-Broadway hit Circle Mirror Transformation, winner of the 2009 Obie Award for best new American play. (Shelterhouse Theatre, May 9-June 7, 2015)
In a recent conversation, Artistic Director Blake Robison
described his program priorities and told me the Playhouse takes them
seriously. “Variety is one of our hallmarks. We’re always going to make
sure there are new works and culturally diverse works and that there are
family-friendly or multigenerational things. We will find ways to
continue to support and entertain the traditional audience while
reaching out in various directions to new audiences. It’s our
responsibility to bring the best theatrical material both old and new to
I’d say Robison’s third season sticks to his priorities.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I’ve had grandparents on my mind recently. Shirley Temple’s passing on Feb. 10 reminded me of her 1937 film Heidi,
the story of a neglected orphan in Switzerland, who is handed off to
her gruff grandfather. He is warmed by her spirit, and she basks in the
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:36 AM | Permalink
Last evening I went to see Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses
at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. You can read more about
playwright Zimmerman in my column in this week's issue here, and you'll
probably figure out that this is one of my favorite scripts. CCM's drama
program has created a shimmering, playful production that's getting a
brief run (final performance is a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday) at Patricia Corbett Theatre. Guest director D. Lynn Meyers
took a break from Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati to travel up the hill and
stage this one on the UC campus, and her cast of 18 student performers
wholly embraced this unusual show — which requires a pool of water as
its central design feature. (Water plays a significant and meaningful
role in the retelling of a set of classical myths shaped and recorded by
Ovid two millennia ago.) But Dana Hall's scenic design doesn't stop
with water; it's elemental, with immense hanging slabs of stone that
resonate with the decorative concrete slabs in PCT. Wes Richter's
lighting — it really does shimmer — enhances the stories of characters
changed by circumstances, good intentions and bad decisions, and Kevin
Semancik's sound design brings vivid punctuation to many stories,
including a destructive storm at sea. Speaking of sound, cellist Jacob
Yates, a senior at CCM, composed moody accompaniment that distills the
moving emotional essence of each scene; he performs live from stage left
as the tales unfold. Amanda Kai Newman's costume designs complete the
visual power of the show, whether they are fluttering around the edge of
the pool or from a high balcony upstage from which the gods watch and
control the mortals — and even when they are sopping wet from action in
the variable-depth pool. Much of the action is beautifully choreographed
and delivered with confident physicality. All in all, CCM's Metamorphoses is a total theatrical package that's definitely worth seeing. Tickets are likely available if you call quickly: 513-556-4183..
If you want a two-fer featuring shows staged by D. Lynn Meyers, you can catch her production of Tribes
back at her ETC home base. (CityBeat review here.) Nina Raine's script focuses on two young
adults who come from different "tribes," families with distinctively
separate approaches to deafness. Billy's family wants to approximate
normalcy by teaching him to lip read, while Sylvia's parents, both deaf,
have used signing. Now that she's going deaf herself and has befriended
Billy, these practices are at odds. But this is also a show about
family dynamics, love and acceptance — something everyone can relate to.
Billy's family is boisterous and rude, behaviors that often exclude
him. Sylvia's gentle, thoughtful manner is both solace and revelation to
him. Actors Dale Dymkoski and Kelly Mengelkoch (familiar to Cincinnati
Shakespeare audiences; she's a company member there) are simply
excellent in these two roles, and the balance of the cast creates real,
human characters. Tribes has been extended to Feb. 22, a week beyond its announced closing, to accommodate ticket demand. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
Other productions worth checking out this weekend are Seminar
by Falcon Theater at Newport's Monmouth Theater, a play by Cincinnatian
Theresa Rebeck about a writing class with a tyrannical teacher
(CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-479-6783); Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, revealing how attitudes about race and class haven't evolved all that much in 50 years, at Cincinnati Playhouse (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-421-3888); and Steve Yockey's absurdist drama Pluto at Know Theatre, an inventively told story of contemporary grief (CityBeat review here; tickets: 513-300-5669).
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.
Then and Now: Clybourne Park at the Playhouse
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Bruce Norris’ award-winning Clybourne Park (Tony,
Olivier and Pulitzer Prize) employs clever writing and vivid characters
to aim squarely at issues such as racism and intolerance that we might
think we have moved beyond.
0 Comments · Monday, December 23, 2013
How was 2013 as a year for plays and
musicals in Cincinnati? From where I stand — or sit, since I’m most
often in a seat at one of our local theaters — it stacked up pretty
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).
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:42 AM | Permalink
The theater season
takes a bit of a pause around Thanksgiving, since many companies are readying
holiday productions. But there are plenty of choices available this weekend.
I'm not the only
one who enjoyed the laugh-fest that is The Complete History of Comedy
(abridged) at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I've heard numerous people who
saw it say they were recommending it to others. In two hours the Reduced
Shakespeare Company puts forth more humor than you can shake a stick at. (But
be careful shaking sticks. You might get a pie in the face.) No matter your
tastes in comedy — witty, loud or rude and crude — you'll find it in this
production. How about Abe Lincoln as a deadpan rapper? This could be a good
outing this weekend or a lot of fun for out-of-town guests who descend on you
next week. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is an
opening at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the very frothy comedy Twelfth
Night. (It's subtitle is "or What You Will," indicating that
it's a lot of foolishness, which is an apt description.) In fact, Twelfth Night
is a beautiful piece with clever situations, amusing characters, a bit of
intrigue and a lot of mistaken identities. And several of the most laughable
characters Shakespeare ever created, from the bombastic Malvolio to his
persecutor Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, plus the best of all
Shakespeare's fools, Feste. It's a safe bet that this is a production that even
those who fear Shakespeare will truly enjoy. Tickets: 513-381-2273 x 1.
If you're more
into storefront theater, you might check out the current production by
Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. It's a tiny space (only 50 seats), but that makes it all the
more interesting. The current production is Wendy Macleod's The House of
Yes, a very dark comedy about a weirdly dysfunctional family. The story
focuses happens while there's a Thanksgiving hurricane outside, so it's timely,
too. Performances Friday and Saturday (through Dec. 7). Go here
This is the last
weekend for Boeing Boeing, a crazy farce about a guy juggling
three fiancees who happen to be flight attendants. It's at the Carnegie,
featuring performers from the drama program at UC's College-Conservatory of
Music. Tickets: 859-957-1940.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company's fast-and-furious foray is a dizzying night's entertainment
0 Comments · Friday, November 15, 2013
These guys are truly
adept jokesters, physical shtick, wordplay, music, improv — they can do it all
and they are, right here in Cincinnati.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 10:06 AM | Permalink
There's a fine community theater production of A Chorus Line
at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. It's by Cincinnati Music
Theatre, and they've recruited a talented cast of dancers, singers and
actors to tell the stories of 16 performers competing for roles in the
chorus of a Broadway show. There are many fine performances in this show
— the characters become known, one by one as they tell their stories,
some humorous, some heartbreaking — but the show's greatest emotional
wallop comes when they are all in synch, wearing glitter and gold, hats
cocked and performing as "One." Final performance is Saturday evening. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
you prefer your theater small and intimate, you might want to head to
the tiny Clifton Performance Theater on Ludlow, just east of the
business district. Untethered Theater opens a production of Wendy
MacLeod's The House of Yes tonight for a three-week run.
It's a very dark comedy about a dysfunctional family obsessed with the
Kennedys. I haven't seen this one, but it's a solid script and the young
Untethered company has a good track record of interesting shows.
Through Dec. 7. Tickets: 513-939-0599.
If you are in the mood for something totally silly, I can recommend the Cincinnati Playhouse's presentation of The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) that opened last evening. (It has a long run, through the holidays, closing on Dec. 29.) It's a world premiere by the same guys who created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
and other works — several presented at the Playhouse — comically
condensing subject matter like the Bible, great literature and American
history. These guys are the originators of this material, so it's a
special treat to see them at work. If you’ve enjoyed Shakespeare (abridged), you’ll find this right up your alley. The performers are truly adept jokesters,
physical shtick, music, improv — they can do it all. … Also, the Playhouse's excellent production of the legendary Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret winds up on Saturday
evening. (CityBeat review here.) By now, most of the subscribers have attended, so you might be
able to call at the last-minute and get a ticket. Marcia Milgrom
Dodge's production traces back to the roots of the show, adhering
closely to the stories of Berlin in the 1920s that inspired the show.
Worth seeing. Playhouse box office: 513-421-3888.
CityBeat's other reviewer, Stacy Sims, really enjoyed the production of the farce Boeing Boeing
at the Carnegie by CCM Drama. (CityBeat review here.) It's about a Casanova in Paris who's
careful juggling of three flight attendances to whom he's engaged goes
awry when Trans-Atlantic flights happen faster thanks to new aircraft.
Silly but obviously a lot of fun. Through Nov. 24. Tickets: 859-957-1940.