WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.16.2012
Posted In: Theater at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-21 - time stands still - jen johansen as sarah goodwin - photo ryan kurtz.widea

Stage Door: ETC, Playhouse, Mariemont Players

Fewer productions onstage this week, but still some great choices. On Wednesday evening I attended the premiere of Donald Margulies’ very much in-the-moment drama Time Stands Still at Ensemble Theater. It’s the story of two journalists who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush of covering wars. He’s now running away and hiding in film reviews (there’s a touch of post-traumatic stress, it seems, because he’s watching classic horror films all the time), and she’s recovering from injuries that resulted from a roadside bomb blast in Iraq. What’s next for them? Well, that’s what the play is about — a return for more or settling for a calmer, safer life, represented by a happy if unlikely couple who visit them, the photographer’s editor and mentor and his naïve young girlfriend. Four intriguing character studies add up to an evening of thoughtful drama. I gave it a Critic’s Pick; here’s a link to my review. Through April 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555 I’ve been talking with lots of people about the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time: actors who provide their own musical accompaniment. I liked the results he got from his strong, talented cast. But I will say that this production evokes strong reactions: Some people love it, some are mystified and some hate the nontraditional approach. No one has said it’s not skillfully done, so I can safely tell you that you ought to go and see for yourself. Merrily has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures (its original run in 1981 lasted for only 16 performances on Broadway), but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of chasing success that has not resulted in happiness. We start at the end of a friendship, with three people at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest, optimistic moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a Broadway composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a fascinating production that musical theater lovers ought to see. In addition to my Critic’s Pick, this production has garnered five awards from the League of Cincinnati Theatres for Outstanding Ensemble, for performer Becky Ann Baker, for Scott Pask’s imaginative scenic design, Matt Castle’s music direction and Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s orchestrations. Can’t quite figure why director John Doyle wasn’t cited, since he’s the mastermind behind all this, but you can judge that one for yourself. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888. I don’t get to see too much community theater, but there are several companies that consistently present work worth watching: Mariemont Players is one of them. Through March 25 the company is presenting Cole, a musical tribute to the life of songwriter Cole Porter, from his days as a student at Yale, life in Paris then Manhattan then Hollywood. I haven’t seen it, but I suspect that it will be entertaining. At the Walton Creek Theater (4101 Walton Creek Road, just east of Mariemont). Tickets: 513-684-1236.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

Merrily We Roll Along (Review)

Tony Award-winning director leads another solid Sondheim work at the Playhouse

0 Comments · Saturday, March 10, 2012
At a swanky 1976 cocktail party, we witness the last gasp of two former friends. Composer Franklin Shepard, at the pinnacle of success in the entertainment world, is miserable. Author Mary Flynn is outspoken, loud and drunk. They argue about their old pal Charley Kringas, whose name can’t even be mentioned without ire.   
by Rick Pender 03.09.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
onstage 3-9 - merrily we roll along - cast at cincinnti playhouse - photo sandy underwood

Stage Door: Sondheim, Afghan Women's Writing and More

Last night I attended the opening of the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. It’s been directed by John Doyle, who inventively staged Sondheim’s Company in 2006, a production that moved to Broadway and earned a Tony Award. He uses the same approach this time — actors who provide their own musical accompaniment — and the results are top-notch because he’s assembled a strong, talented cast. This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals. Through March 31. Box office: 513-421-3888 A completely different choice is the Afghan Women’s Writing Project at Know Theatre, this weekend only. Playwrights Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek took material written by women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to write their stories and turn them into material for the stage. Several outstanding local actresses — including CEA Hall of Famer Dale Hodges and frequent CEA award winner Annie Fitzpatrick — are among the interpreters. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. If you go on Friday, plan to stick around for a post-show discussion. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669 If you like heart-warming, schmaltzy tales, you should find your way to Newport’s Monmouth Theatre where Falcon Theatre is presenting Visiting Mr. Green. It’s the story of a young man “sentenced” to regular visits with an elderly gentleman he nearly ran over. Beneath the surface of their disparate worlds they discover some surprising common ground. What makes this rather predictable story come to life is the acting: Joshua Steele and Mike Moskowitz, who happen to be grandfather and grandson, portray their characters with believability. This is the second of two weekends, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets: 513-479-6783 A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters in a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage until March 18, but many performances have sold out. Tickets: 513-381-2273 Speaking of Cincinnati Shakespeare, the company recently announced its 2012-2013 season, which will feature some memorable characters — Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch (in To Kill a Mockingbird), Romeo & Juliet, Lady Bracknell (in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious The Importance of Being Earnest), Richard II and Nick Bottom (Midsummer Night Dream’s aspiring actor who makes an ass of himself). You can read about the entire season in my blog post from last Sunday.Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 
by Rick Pender 03.02.2012
Posted In: Theater at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac_curtaincall_photo_marklyons.widea

Stage Door: CCM Talent and Sondheim

A lot of Stephen Sondheim’s shows are kind of heady, but Into the Woods — a bunch of fairytales put through a blender — is perhaps his most approachable. Given the delightful treatment, overflowing with talent you’ll find in this production at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, tickets might be in short supply but try — it’s a longer run than usual. Act I is about “happily every after,” while Act II explores what comes next. CCM has a remarkably skilled crop of seniors this year (they’ll be on Broadway before long), and professor and director Aubrey Berg, who heads the program in musical theater, has used them to full advantage in a wildly clever staging. There are many featured performances and songs — the characters include Cinderella and her evil stepsisters, Jack (from the beanstalk story) with a very funny pet cow, a handsome but empty-headed prince, a precocious Little Red Riding Hood and a lascivious Wolf — but this is way more than a tale for kids. In fact, Into the Woods is one of the best theater productions I’ve seen all season. Read my review (a Critic’s Pick), and then go to see it. Tickets: 513-556-4183. A year ago Cincinnati Shakespeare had a big hit with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. They’ve done it again with another adaptation, Sense & Sensibility. This time it’s two sisters, one rational and one emotional, wonderfully portrayed by Kelly Mengelkoch (as the reserved, reasonable Elinor) and Sara Clark (as willful, romantic Marianne). They’re surrounded by droll supporting characters — and a story of romance and domestic intrigue. I gave the production a Critic’s Pick. It’s onstage for two more weeks, but many performances have sold out, so don’t dally. Tickets: 513-381-2273. This is the final weekend for two more excellent productions. Know Theatre’s “comedy of anxiety” by Allison Moore, Collapse, about all kinds of things falling down — a highway bridge, the economy, relationships — winds up on Saturday evening. Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues, a complicated noir-ish tale of marital deceit and cryptic crime, finishes its run at Cincinnati Playhouse’s Shelterhouse Theater on Sunday. Both earned Critic’s Picks. In addition to Into the Woods, there are more shows by Sondheim on local stages. You’ll find the touring production of West Side Story at the Aronoff through March 11. It’s a show Sondheim wrote the lyrics for when he was 26 (he’ll soon be 82). Tickets: 800-982-2787. ... This weekend the Cincinnati Playhouse begins previews of Merrily We Roll Along, a Sondheim show from 1981 that was a flop at first, but now is praised as one of his greatest musical accomplishments. Tony Award winner John Doyle is directing; he makes things interesting by having his actors play musical instruments, too. (He did that at the Playhouse in 2007 with Sondheim’s Company, a production that transferred to Broadway.) Merrily opens next Thursday on the Marx Stage, but previews are the most affordable tickets, so think about catching it this weekend. Through March 31. Tickets: 513-421-3888. Each week in Stage Door, Rick Pender offers theater tips for the weekend, often with a few pieces of theater news.
 
 

Dead Accounts (Review)

Playhouse world premiere takes a loving look at hometown life

0 Comments · Monday, February 6, 2012
Playwright Theresa Rebeck knows Cincinnati (she grew up here), so her world premiere play takes dead aim by putting a very recognizable image our town onstage. You will know these people — your neighbors and people you grew up with if you’re from Cincinnati.   

Always ... Patsy Cline (Review)

Cincinnati Playhouse portrays a singer whose calling card was honesty

1 Comment · Monday, November 28, 2011
There’s a lot to like about the Cincinnati Playhouse’s non-holiday show for the holiday season. It’s a revue that includes two dozen of Cline’s best-known songs, and actress Carter Calvert perfectly captures the iconic Country singer’s delivery and manner.   

National Conversation

Playhouse artistic director wants to be part of the dialogue

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Last week the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park announced that Blake Robison, currently the producing artistic director at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., will become its next artistic director, succeeding Ed Stern, who retires after 20 years a the end of the current season.   

The Mysteries of Rothko’s Red

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 19, 2011
When I first started learning about contemporary art, Pop ruled. There was a wicked humor in Pop that was subversively accessible — taking the imagery of recognizable objects, often consumer products, and liberating them from their “official” meaning. It seemed both radical and fun in an ironic, distancing way.   

As You Like It (Review)

Ed Stern’s final Playhouse production is a gift of joy and love

0 Comments · Monday, October 10, 2011
I’ve seen As You Like It many times, but Ed Stern’s final directorial outing for the Playhouse (co-staged with Michael Evan Haney) distills its warmth and goodwill better than any I’ve previously witnessed. Stern has blessed Cincinnati audiences for 20 years, and this production is a wonderful gift of love and joy that will be remembered for years to come.  

A Winning Season

Cincinnati theater is off and running

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Cincinnati’s Riverfest fireworks once fired the starting gun for local theater, but already several theaters have shows onstage. This week Cincinnati’s major theaters open their first productions of 2011-2012, launching a fall offering an unusual number of award-winning shows.  

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