0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation
is a deceptively simple play — on the surface, it’s a comedy about five
people enrolled in a community center class about learning how to act.
Events kick off Tuesday and the weirdness continues through June 6
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
As the Cincinnati Fringe Festival comes
upon its 13th year — starting May 26 and running through June 6 — we
thought it would be informative to hear from seven people who work
behind the scenes to produce this annual two weeks of theater,
creativity and fun.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:19 AM | Permalink
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati's 30th season will present three world premieres, the revival of a great musical and Cinderella
While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it. Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first. Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful. Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.
0 Comments · Monday, April 13, 2015
When you hear the name Steve Martin, you surely think of a
funny guy — "wild and crazy," in fact — both as an actor and a
comedian. But he's also a playwright, and you have the opportunity to
see one of his most amusing works at the Carnegie where The Underpants is onstage through April 26.
CCM takes on Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's acclaimed dark comedy
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Premiered in Berlin in 1928, The Threepenny Opera
is an iconic work, the creation of composer Kurt Weill and
poet/dramatist Bertolt Brecht, and opens a two-weekend run at CCM as
part of its Kurt Weill festival, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation
for Music, Inc.
Peter Pan is everywhere these days — including the Cincinnati Playhouse
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Peter Pan is a Johnny-come-lately in the
world of fairytales.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:45 AM | Permalink
Last weekend's snowstorm canceled performances at several local theaters (including the Cincinnati Playhouse), so you might have had several days without theater. Is it time to make up? I finally caught up with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Little Women last night, and I'm glad of it. While the weather is still cold and sidewalks still treacherously icy, the warmth generated by Jo March and her saucy sisters is a welcome tonic. Of course Louisa May Alcott's story of a temporarily fatherless family during the American Civil War is sentimental and, at times, rather maudlin, but the actresses at Cincy Shakes bring such vivacity to their roles that there's plenty to enjoy. Maggie Lou Rader is especially vivacious as Jo, the fiercely independent aspiring writer who insists on finding her own way in a world controlled by men; Kelly Mengelkoch is emotional, conscientious elder sister Meg; Caitlin McWethy is shy and loving Beth; and Courtney Lucien is Amy, the impetuous baby who matures in the second act. Annie Fitzpatrick is Marmee, their steadfast mother, and Justin McCombs is the spirited boy next door who captures the hearts of several of the sisters. The production is simply but effectively staged, enhanced by some subtle video projections and lovely choral singing of period hymns by the ensemble. It's a gentle story that beautifully conveys the virtues of family, sisterhood and feminine intellect in a period when such matters were not always top of mind. It's onstage through March 21. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.
Last Sunday, while many of you might have been watching the Academy Awards, I was one of 15 or so people in the audience watching Clifton Players' staging of August: Osage County. That's not quite as pitiful as it might sound, since the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre has only about 40 seats for this production. You're right in the midst of the bitter wars being conducted by the combative Weston family, brought together by the disappearance of their father and their mother's relapse into drug dependence and impossibly difficult behavior. But each of Beverly and Vi's three daughters have problems, issues and complicated family situations of their own, so Tracy Letts' three-act, three-plus hour show offers plenty of juicy roles for some of Cincinnati's best actors. The show has typically been played on a big set, but the closeness of CPT makes August: Osage County a powerful evening of dysfunction that's right in your face. Need some heat despite the cold snap? This is your show. It's a Critic's Pick (CityBeat review here). Onstage through March 13. Tickets: 513-861-7469.Performances tonight and Saturday evening will wrap up the run of In the Heat of the Night at Falcon Players in Newport (tickets: 513-479-6783), and Northern Kentucky University's Les Misérables continues through a Sunday matinee. The latter has been sold our for most performances, but if you show up an hour before curtain time, you can get your name on a wait-list for a seat.
For a glimpse of the future, check out my blog postings here and here from earlier this week with 2015-2016 season announcements for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Landmark Productions (at the Covedale Center and the new Incline Theatre) and Cincinnati Shakespeare.Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
by Rick Pender
at 04:39 PM | Permalink
Four works by the Bard, plus timeless works by Arthur Miller, Jane Austen and Edmond Rostand — plus a few extras — make for a busy season
As I wrote on Monday, season
announcements from Cincinnati theaters are a sure sign that warmer days are
ahead. The temperature cranked up a few more notches tonight when Cincinnati
Shakespeare Company announced its 2015-2016 season. It’s no secret that CSC’s
history and stock-in-trade are plays by William Shakespeare, of which they’ll
offer four in the coming months. But their broadened scope includes definitive
works of drama and stage adaptations of literary classics by great writers. Here’s
what will be onstage at 719 Race St. from August 2015 through June 2016:
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Reed
Martin and Austin Tichenor. Cincy Shakes has had tons of fun with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
(Abridged). But Long, Martin and Tichenor have been generating laughs with numerous
other subjects, and this is one of their best works. (It was staged at the
Cincinnati Playhouse 10 years ago.) This one is a wild ride through our
nation’s past featuring three actors, who probably did not pass high school history,
who set off on a whirlwind historical tour that’s finds laughs in many of our
nation’s greatest hits and misses. This production is a “season extra,” not included
in subscription packages. July 24-Aug. 15, 2015.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC (based on Anthony Burgess’s translation of
Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play). Cincy Shakes will kick off the fall theater
season with this classic romantic tale of the valiant and clever Cyrano de
Bergerac, with long-time ensemble member Jeremy Dubin in the title role. Cyrano
epitomized panache: In fact, that French
word a feather or a plume was the hallmark of this dazzling swordsman and brilliant
16th-century poet. But he has a flaw, a gargantuan nose. He loves the beautiful
and brilliant Roxane but is convinced his clownish appearance means he has no
chance with her. Unaware of his feelings, Roxane tells him she loves Christian,
a handsome but dull solider; Cyrano intercedes by writing letters and verses to
her as if they were from Christian. The play has wit, swashbuckling adventure
and profound romance. Sept. 1-Oct. 3, 2015. Jeremy Dubin as Cyrano in Cyrano de
Bergerac. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, written in 1949, won multiple
Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The story of the waning
days of an aging salesman who still yearns to make it big is one of the great
plays of the 20th century. Cincinnati stage veteran Bruce Cromer will play
Willy Loman, the show’s memorable loser. This poignant tale of an average man
trying to achieve the American Dream, surrounded by his strident sons and his
loving wife is an exploration of failure and success that still resonates
today. Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 2015.
AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare is the first of Shakespeare’s
plays for the season and one of the Bard’s most popular, a predictable bestseller
for Cincy Shakes. This time it will be the company’s offering around the
holidays, featuring ensemble member Sara Clark playing the spirited Rosalind, banished
to the Forest of Arden with only her cousin and a fool for company. She dresses
as a man for protection and comedy ensues in the woods where love poems to her
are posted on the trees. The lovelorn poet is handsome Orlando, whom she tests
while hiding behind her boyish disguise. This show is great fun because it
features numerous comic characters, delightful music and warm-hearted romance. Nov.
20-Dec. 12, 2015. Sara Clark as Rosalind in As You Like It. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.
EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (AND THEN SOME!) by Michael
Carlton, James Fitzgerald and John K Alvarez. Cincy Shakes finishes up As You Like It just in time to celebrate
the 10th anniversary of its annual holiday hit, an irreverent look at umpteen
BHCs — the show’s acronym for “Beloved Holiday Classics.” The evening starts
out innocently enough as one character endeavors to perform a solemn reading of
A Christmas Carol. But before long
audiences are entangled in the stories of Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and
George Bailey. Four of Cincy Shakes’ veteran actors (one as a highly inebriated
Santa) send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss. It’s another “season
extra” (outside regular subscriptions) and definitely not for anyone who still
believes in Santa. Dec. 16-27, 2015.
HENRY VI , PART I by William Shakespeare. The company has committed
parts of several seasons to work its way through Shakespeare’s cycle of history
plays. This year it’s the first of three parts that tell the story of Henry VI.
Actors continue to reprise roles they’ve played for several seasons in two
parts of Henry IV and Henry V. In this installment, the
untimely death of Henry V puts his infant son on the throne, and the War of the
Roses, pitting the houses of York and Lancaster against one another, is off and
running. Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2016.
JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA (adapted by Jon Jory). Cincy Shakes has struck
gold with stage productions of Pride and
Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility,
Jane Austen’s novels of early 19th-century manners as adapted by Jon Jory, the
longtime artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. These shows appealed
to audiences in part because the company has a corps of talented female actors
(presently showcased in Little Women)
who will find great opportunities in Austen’s tale about amateur matchmaker
Emma Wodehouse who lives to meddle in others’ love lives. When she tries to set
up her less than promising friend Harriet, the plan goes awry, and Emma must
try to undo the damage. It’s another classic story of wit, whimsy and anxious
romance. Feb. 26-March 26, 2016.
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. Part one of a season-ending
epic pairing of two of the Bard’s great plays begins with this tragedy about
the brilliant general, a cunning politician and beloved leader of ancient Rome.
Jealous Roman patriots decide his ambition is a threat to the Republic and assassinate
him on the senate floor. The result is a civil war that tests friendships and loyalties;
it also determines the fate of the Roman Empire. April 8-May 7, 2016.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by William Shakespeare. The second part of the
company’s special event offers this rarely staged epic sequel to Julius Caesar. The civil war has ended
and the empire has been divided. Marc Antony heads to Egypt to rule his corner
of the globe, but his plans are sidetracked by Egypt’s Cleopatra. Their love
affair pits Rome and Egypt against each other and changes the ancient world
forever. May 13- June 4, 2016.
Subscriptions ($143-$233) are
sold in flexible sets of seven that can be used one per production or in other
combinations. Subscriptions and single tickets are now for sale via
cincyshakes.com or by calling 513-381-2273, x1.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
A special treat onstage at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater through a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, featuring Torie Wiggins giving voice to people making pronouncements about race, justice and violence in America. The script by Anna Deavere Smith, drawn verbatim from numerous interviews, was created in the mid-1990s in the following the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict more than two decades ago. But it feels incredibly timely in light of recent tragic events in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere — leading to questions about whether America has made any progress since then. Wiggins brings to life dozens of people — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — offering a myriad of opinions about events and outcomes. "No Justice/No Peace," words heard recently, echo through this script, punctuated with videos and quick audio introductions as Wiggins flips from role to role. It's an impressive performance and a reminder how theater can be more than entertainment — Twilight is a provocative presentation about American culture. Staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare's artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips. Tickets: 513-621-2787.A second one-woman show worth seeing is The Year of Magical Thinking, an effective, bare-bones production at the College Hill Town Hall (1805 Larch Ave., Cincinnati 45205) by the Cincy One Act Festival. It's based on Joan Didion's painful confrontation with grief following her husband's unexpected death and their daughter's serious and ultimately mortal illness. Cate White performs as Didion, the narrator of this deeply personal story; Lyle Benjamin is the director. The show is being presented on Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 28 (no performances on Feb. 20-21). Tickets: 888-428-7311.It's a great month for women onstage month on local stages, what with Corinne Mohlenhoff in another solo show The Handmaid's Tale at Know Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-300-5669), which also happens to be directed by Brian Phillips; and Regina Pugh as a beleaguered scientist whose world is coming unraveled in The Other Place at Ensemble Theatre (CityBeat review here; box office: 513-421-3555).Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Joe Stollenwerk lives in Bloomington,
Ind., where he’s pursuing a doctorate in theater at Indiana University.