Best-selling novels aren't necessarily the most predictable sources for good stage plays. But Mitch Albom's TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, which spent four years on The New York Times' list and became a successful TV film that picked up several Emmys, has become a popular onstage work. According to American Theatre magazine, it's among the 10 most produced plays in 2006-2007. OVATION THEATRE COMPANY (OTC) is a contributor to that number, presenting the regional premiere, opening Friday (through March 24) at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The autobiographical tale is based on sports journalist Albom's reconnection with a college professor afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease. A single trip becomes weekly visits exploring the meaning of life. Alana Ghent, OTC's artistic director who has staged the show, says it was difficult for a small company to land the rights for a relatively new script. She spent several months negotiating with New York agents and made a trip to Detroit to speak personally with Albom. AL ALEXANDER plays Albom; TOM MANNING is Morrie Schwartz.
Know Theatre's in-the-moment staging of HAMLET, featuring videos and knife fights, has been drawing sizeable audiences, and that's led to several added performances. One happened on March 11, and another comes around this Sunday at 2 p.m., actually the show's final performance. If you haven't been to see a Know production in their new space at 1120 Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine, check this one out for a taste of the cutting edge. 513-621-2787. ...
In New York recently, I saw a fine revival of Translations, a 1980 script about conflict between British soldiers and Irish citizens in the 1830s, by the great Irish playwright Brian Friel. His best-known work, Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), was staged by the Playhouse back in 1993-1994 (it had another good production at CCM in 2004). If you're in an Irish mood this week -- and who isn't? -- you might want to take in the second weekend of THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY, a 1972 script by Friel written just after 13 civil rights marchers were shot dead in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, by British soldiers. It's presented at the Brookwood Retirement Center (12100 Reed-Hartman Hwy., Sycamore Twp.) by New Gate Celtic Theatre. Tickets for Friday or Saturday evening 7:30 performances are available at the door, or in advance: www.sellingticket.com/newgate. ...
New Edgecliff Theatre (NET) recently staged its first CINCINNATI DIRECTORS COMPETITION. From nine short productions, two winners, both students at Northern Kentucky University, had their shows chosen for reprise stagings on March 11. Christopher Karr's Precious picked up the $200 runner-up prize, while Stephanie Brockman's God, a cutting from Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney's Parallel Lives, earned the top spot -- and $500. (See brief reviews below.) NET had impressive audiences and positive feedback for three evening performances. Plans for 2008 will likely result in Sunday being a run-off between a winner from each of the three nights.
GOD is a wicked script about the paths of two women from innocent childhood to cynical middle age. Stephanie Brockman selected scenes about religious belief and skepticism, and Katherine Robb and Jennifer Cook brought Teri and Tina to life. From acting out concepts of heaven and hell with Barbies to confessions after 14 years of "lying a lot," this 25-minute piece was swift, inventive and entertaining. From start to clear-cut finish, it had a solid forward energy. Brockman knows how to get good work out of animated performers. Grade: A-
Christopher Karr directed his own 10-minute script, PRECIOUS. It's an intense dialogue between two men (Josh Beshears and Chris Wesselman) -- one angry, the other lost -- about the nature of memory. As they recall holidays and simple moments, they're trailed by a silent young woman (Mollie Gober) who touches them and personifies what they seem to have lost. Abstract yet emotional, the piece helped the audience members to get inside their feelings. Grade: B
contact rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com