It's a good weekend for local theater, with two confirmed choices and a fascinating new production with a lot of potential. Both shows that opened a week ago — End Days at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati and Gee's Bend at Cincinnati Playhouse — have been recommended by the Acclaims judging panel that considered them, and both have received nominations for performers and other aspects.
Have some time on Saturday afternoon for a one-time theatrical experience? Stop by Know Theatre at 3 p.m. for a reading of Noah Haidle's Mr. Marmalade.
Know planned to mount a full production of this show during its current season, but with the economy in the crapper, they had to make some adjustments and Haidle's script was set aside. Nevertheless, Know wanted to offer it in some form for audiences that are currently enjoying another play by the 30-year-old Haidle, Vigils (getting a full production through April 25).
Cincinnati Landmark Productions (CLP), operator of the Showboat Majestic and owner and operator of the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, is looking to expand its entertainment empire with a new facility in East Price Hill, not far from the Primivista Restaurant. At a meeting today with the East Price Hill Improvement Association, representatives from CLP will present a proposal to build a new performing arts center in the Incline District.
plan is for a theater with approximately 250 seats that will be
programmed throughout the year. CLP estimates 112 evenings of
performances, including theatrical productions, a summer season,
concerts, comedy events and cabarets.
CLP recently marked the tenth anniversary of the Covedale Center, a onetime movie theater that the group acquired and renovated. The West Side fixture has seen stead growth in attendance over the decade since opening in 2002. In its first year, there were 804 subscribers; 3,600 are anticipated for the coming season. Season attendance in 2002-2003 was 13, 990; for 2011-2012 it grew to 35,300.
from CLP have already met with developers and leaders of the East Price
Hill Development Association for exploratory purposes. CLP’s executive
artistic director Tim Perrino says that both his organization and the
developers view the partnership as a win-win. The vacant parcel on
Matson Place has nearby parking and dining — as well as the spectacular
view that’s familiar to generations of diners at Primavista.
“The people we’ve talked to,” Perrino explains, “see the true value an arts center can bring to a neighborhood. The arts create neighborhood vibrancy, more pedestrians, good news stories, visitors from outside the neighborhood, more bar and restaurant patrons and improved neighborhood perception.
project is still a concept without a budget or plans, but it’s an
exciting prospect coming from an organization that clearly knows how to
connect with audiences.
What with the economy sputtering and lots of people fretting about how to make ends meet, it's possible that you're thinking theater is a luxury you can't afford. I'd like to suggest that we need a bit of art and perspective more than ever at times like this, but I know that affording it can be a pragmatic issue. So let me make a suggestion for this weekend: Go see Love Song at the Cincinnati Playhouse.
Let's start with the subject matter. In my CityBeat review, I wrote, "If you need to be uplifted, you couldn’t find a better tonic for your mental state than the Cincinnati Playhouse’s regional premiere of John Kolvenbach’s Love Song, a quirky, contemporary, romantic comedy." I suggested that it had characters and situations reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode, and I thought it would charm audiences. Perhaps because of the state of the world, perhaps because this is an unfamiliar title by a little known playwright (if you'd like to know more about him, you can read my interview with him) — whatever the reason, the Playhouse is not selling as many tickets for this production, which is in its big theater.
That's too bad, because a lot of folks could be entertained. But that leads to my tip: The slow sales means that you can take advantage of the Playhouse's standing offer to purchase unreserved tickets for half-price on the day of a show. In other words if you call the Playhouse's box office (513-421-3888) on Friday or Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., you can purchase tickets normally priced for $31-$55 for half that much — and that's a good deal. And if you're a student, here's another good deal: Show up within two hours of curtain time, show your student ID, and you can buy any available ticket for $18. These "student rush" tickets are perfect for young people who like to make last-minute decisions. I can assure there are tickets available for most of Love Song's performances. I can also say it's pretty likely you'll enjoy this production. Give it a chance. (Performances continue through Nov. 21.)
As I wrote in my column in the current issue of CityBeat, there's a lot of good holiday theater available on Cincinnati stages right now. The Playhouse's production of A Christmas Carol, now in its 22nd year, is best in class — a well-told traditional tale with some of the best professional actors in town onstage, from Bruce Cromer as Scrooge and Dale Hodges as the Ghost of Christmas past. There are a few new faces, too, playing the Cratchits. And speaking of new faces, I feel comfortable recommending New Edgecliff Theatre's one-woman show, The 12 Dates of Christmas, which is being engagingly performed by Annie Kalahurka. It's paired with David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries, which feels a little shopworn to me, but you can catch the double-bill downtown at the Arnonff's Fifth Third Bank Theater — and maybe go for drinks at Arnold's before or after the show.
If you're looking for something kind of different, try The Naughty List (review here), a holiday-themed improv show (presented in Arnold's courtyard on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings) by Know Theatre. Five quick-witted comics who constitute OTR Improv are doing routines that use audience suggestions (and occasional audience participants) for nearly two hours of entertainment. It's a different show every night.
Have kids you want to take to the theater and give them a taste of what fun it can be? Two good bets are Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati for one of its musical fairytales with a moral (this year the show is a colorful, cartoonish rendition of Alice in Wonderland) and Covedale Center, where Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is singing and dancing its way through another familiar story the kids will know. The prince is handsome, Cinderella is sweet and the nasty Stepmother is played by a guy.
As far as familiar stories go, you've probably seen Frank Capra's classic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life a few times during the holidays. But I bet you haven't experienced in the unique way that Falcon Theater offers it up at Newport's Monmouth Theatre: The script frames the story as an old-time radio drama, and you get to watch behind-the-scenes as a handful of actors play all the roles and a few others create the necessary sound effects. It opens this weekend and runs for a week. I haven't seen this year's edition, but I've enjoyed past incarnations, and I suspect this one will be entertaining as well.
Before heading to South Pacific, I took a Friday morning excursion to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (better known today as BAM) and toured some of their historic facilities, including an old theater repurposed by dividing it into four small cinema spaces and a nearby building, dubbed The Harvey (for administrator Harvey Lichtenstein, who ran BAM for more than three decades), which was once a vaudeville theater.
The polls close tonight at midnight for the 2009 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for Theater. Once again the public is invited to determine the winners in 12 categories, while the remaining eight categories will be decided by as panel of local theater critics. See all the nominees and find the ballot here.
I'm quick to admit that suspense mysteries are not my favorite form of onstage entertainment: They always feel a bit contrived to me. But I know I'm in the minority, and if anyone is going to do a good job with one of them, it's certainly the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and its associate artistic director, Michael Evan Haney.
The current production of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth is fun to watch as two men find themselves on a seesaw of accusation, humiliation and vengeance. There are special effects and some surprising twists and turns that actors Munson Hicks and Michael Gabriel Goodfriend make both lively and chilling. And then there's a set by CEA Hall of Fame designer Paul Shortt — full of tricks and surprises, too.
After a long hot summer (well, it's still feeling like a long hot summer), we have a full array of shows onstage in Cincinnati for you to choose among. I've seen two of them so far: Good People at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati and The Three Musketeers at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
ETC's production of Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire's 2011 piece (this is the regional premiere of Good People, which was nominated for a Tony a year ago) about a woman who falls off the bottom of the employment ladder has enough humor to be entertaining (especially with Annie Fitzpatrick in the central role of Margie and Kate Wilford and Deb Girdler as her gossipy friends and bingo-night comrades) and enough contemporary relevance to be thought-provoking. ETC's D. Lynn Meyers is at her best staging naturalistic shows with social meaning, and that's exactly what this one offers. It has a great cast and flexible, attractive scenic design by the ever-creative Brian c. Mehring. I gave it a Critic's Pick. Through Sept. 23. Review here. Box office: 513-421-3555.
I wanted to love The Three Musketeers at the Playhouse (through Sept. 29), but its balance of humor and heart is out of whack to my tastes. There's lots of adventure, hilarity and laughter — especially some no-holds-barred swordplay — but the show tries to hard to entertain that it misses out on the true emotion that should lie beneath. I suspect many people will love this thrill-a-minute tale of political intrigue and valor, loyalty and royalty in 17th-century France, and perhaps it will evolve to deeper feelings as it runs. I love new Artistic Director Blake Robison's desire to put appealing, family-friendly work onstage, and he's using this production to show what he means. I hope his approach gets a tad more texture and depth as his tenure continues. Review here. Box office: 513-421-3888.
I haven't yet seen To Kill a Mockingbird at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and their publicity says it's already sold out its first-two weekends. So you might want to put that one on your calendar for sometime before it wraps up (Sept. 30). In the meantime, you might want to head to Washington Park on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. for a special free presentation of CSC's touring production of The Tempest. It's a perfect piece for outdoor performance, set on an island with a sorcerer and his lovely daughter and some shipwrecked nobles who are responsible for his exile. Audience participation will be a key component of this event, with the audience asked to create large-scale effects by blowing bubbles, making waves with silk and generating sound effects. Sounds like great fun. Music (by The Young Heirlooms) begins at 6 p.m. This is a good one to bring kids to see.
Also off and running this weekend is Cincinnati Landmark's production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It's a classic drama of sexual tension and family strife, a bit heavier fare than is usually found at the Covedale Center. It's a sign of the company's ambition to be a full-fledged theater offering a wide range of material. (Through Sept. 30.) Box office: 513-241-6550.