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).
Cincy Shakes set to join rare company by completing Shakespeare’s 38-play canon
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 30, 2014
When scholars refer to William
Shakespeare’s canon — his “complete works” — they typically count 38
plays, written between 1590 and 1612. Only six modern theater companies
have staged them all, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is set to join the ranks this week.
Cincy Shakes' testosterone-laden production is full of boys and a lot of noise.
1 Comment · Monday, March 31, 2014
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, nearly finished with the immense
task of staging all 38 of Shakespeare’s surviving plays over its 20-year
history, has launched another noteworthy effort.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:32 AM | Permalink
There's a magnificent production of the legendary musical Les Misérables at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. I attended the opening performance at Patricia Corbett on Thursday
evening, and a show that I've seen umpteen times has been given new
life with fresh direction, impassioned staging and innovative design —
even if you've seen the legendary original with its turntable and
massive barricades, you'll find CCM's rendition, directed by Aubrey
Berg, an eye-opener. It's simpler and more dramatic (that's quite a
claim for a show designed to pluck your heart-strings), and it's
especially noteworthy for the leads' strong vocal performances — Jean
Valjean and Inspector Javert are double-cast, a demonstration of the
depth of talent in this nationally renowned program — as well as each
and every every performer in an ensemble of more than 40. The
16-musician orchestra, conducted energetically by Steve Goers, sounds larger whole lot more, since several players handle three to five
instruments. Berg's staging gives the show a clarity and power that
makes it feel fresh and new. It has vivid feature characters and
storytelling with momentum and emotional impact. This one is a must-see,
so it's great that the production runs longer than many at CCM, where
it's usually one-weekend and done: There are nine more performances
through Sunday, March 9,
which means that more tickets ($31-$35; $18-$24 for students) are
available. Nonetheless, they'll be snatched up quickly, so you should
call right away to get yours. 513-556-4183.
I saw Cincinnati Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a week ago, and gave it a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review here. It's a one-off from Hamlet,
which Cincy Shakes just staged, using the same cast — but Tom
Stoppard's 1966 script puts two throwaway characters in the limelight.
Just like the Prince of Denmark, his college chums are perplexed and
bedeviled by questions of existence and the meaning of life. They're
caught in the swirl of the court — the characters of Hamlet dart
in and out around them and add to their confusion — which adds to their
confusion about their own roles, the expectations they need to fulfill
and their ultimate fate. Billy Chace and Justin McCombs have a firm
grasp on their hapless characters: Their sure-handed comic portraits of
loquacious Guildenstern and bewildered Rosencrantz might remind you of
the movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. This classic modern work of
absurdity drawn from perhaps the greatest Elizabethan tragedy makes for a
fine evening for lovers of great drama. Tickets ($22-$31): 513-381-2273, x1.
Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Evita is at
the Aronoff Center through Sunday.
looks great with some epic scenery and excellent choreography. Josh
Young as Che
is charismatic and strong-voiced in his role as the show’s commentator.
But Caroline Bowman’s Eva Perón is shrill, and Sean MacLaughlin's Juan
Perón lacks the sinister gravitas that the role requires. So there's not
nearly enough of the complex passion and
manipulation that bonded them as a political machine. The tale of the
ambitious woman who rose to the highest levels of power in Argentina
crashed and burned at age 32 is a memorable modern tragedy, and Andrew
Lloyd Webber’s rock-opera
tunes by will stick in your head. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 06:00 PM | Permalink
Cincy Shakes to offer Gatsby, Birds, Godot and the Bard; NKU has hit musicals and more
Shakespeare Company today announced its 21st season, commencing in July.
The company is committed to staging works by Shakespeare, of course,
but its goal is broader: It also presents definitive works of drama and
literary classics adapted for the stage. As far as the Bard's work, the 2014-2015 season will include a holiday staging of the silly but hilarious The Comedy of
Errors. Also on tap is the powerful history play, Henry V, another step in the company's epic five-year, eight-play history cycle that began with Richard II and continues during the current season with the upcoming Henry IV. Additionally, there will be a production in April 2015 of the comic battle of the sexes, The Taming of the Shrew, a popular work that Cincy Shakes staged during its first season in 1994 (as well as in 1999, 2003 and 2009).
Aside from Shakespeare's works, the coming season will offer stage versions of two beloved American classics: a new
adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby and the regional
premiere of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Daphne du Maurier's thriller, The Birds
(familiar to many as a 1963 film by Alfred Hitchcock) will show up in a
2009 adaptation by Irish playwright Conor McPherson (known for numerous
works staged locally, including St. Nicholas, The Weir, Port Authority, Shining City and The Seafarer). Next January will bring forth Samuel Beckett’s
profound comedy, Waiting for Godot featuring veteran actors Joneal Joplin and Bruce Cromer, and the season concludes in June 2015 with the Cincinnati
debut of the Tony-award winning, West-End
smash hit comedy, Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors, a 2011 play based on Carlo Goldoni's 1743 comic masterpiece, The Servant
of Two Masters.
Tickets for the
2014-2015 season went on sale earlier this month, resulting in a
record-breaking first day of sales on Feb. 3. Single
tickets are now on sale. For more information, go to cincyshakes.com or call the box office at 513-381-2273, x1.
the department of theater and dance at Northern Kentucky University
also announced its productions for the 2014-2015 academic year, a mix of
classics and contemporary works. The year kicks off in late September
with the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae by Euripedes. The fall semester also includes the hit 2003 Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray in October-November and, in November-December, Philip Dawkins' Failure: A Love Story,
the magical story of three sisters in 1928 Chicago who live and die in a
rickety home by the Chicago River. In February, launching the
spring semester, NKU will stage the epic musical Les Misérables,
the popular masterpiece that affirms the human desire to achieve
redemption. The academic year's theater productions will conclude with
the 17th Biennial Year End Series Festival of New Plays. During April,
the "YES" festival, as it's shorthanded, will present three
world-premiere plays which have not yet been selected. Info: theatre.nku.edu or 859-572-5464.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's existential comedy is stark raving sane
0 Comments · Sunday, February 23, 2014
Cincinnati Shakespeare has deeply enhanced the experience of both of these classic works, separated by four centuries in their creation, but sharing common philosophical ground in their exploration of the meaning of existence.