Check Out the Theater Pipeline: Choices for 2016

If you were captivated by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s hit (and revived) production of next to normal in 2011-2012, then you should consider catching the newest show from the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of composer Tom Kitt and writer Brian Yorke

click to enlarge The Broadway production of 'If/Then'
The Broadway production of 'If/Then'

If you were captivated by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s hit (and revived) production of next to normal in 2011-2012, then you should consider catching the newest show from the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of composer Tom Kitt and writer Brian Yorkey. It’s called If/Then, and the Tony-nominated show comes to Cincinnati as a touring production at the Aronoff for one week, Feb. 2-7. It tells the story of Elizabeth, a newly divorced urban planner, who’s ready for a fresh start. One friend, a lesbian kindergarten teacher, suggests she start using the name Liz and seek new experiences; another, a bisexual guy who’s a community organizer, urges her to return to her college nickname, Beth, and begin making professional connections. The show imagines her pursuit of these potential paths.

Prefer something brand-new? The Cincinnati Playhouse will stage a pair of world premieres early in 2016, both by award-winning women playwrights. Native Gardens by Karen Zacarías (Jan. 23-Feb. 21) is the story of next-door neighbors with very different ideas about urban gardening — and how they wrestle with diverging opinions. The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson (Feb. 5-March 6) is a girl-powered comedy about four feisty women plotting to overcome extremists during the French Revolution: a playwright, an assassin, an activist and a former queen, whose heads are all on the line. In early February you can schedule a double-header and see two world premieres in one weekend, something that rarely happens in Cincinnati — or anywhere else.

Or how about three shows in repertory at Xavier University? Between Feb. 17 and 28 a trio of plays will be presented — two classics and a world premiere by a Xavier theater major. August Strindberg’s Miss Julie is the story of a young woman who has an affair with her father’s valet — a play from 1888 that explores sex, class and power. Nobel Prize-winner Harold Pinter’s Betrayal portrays a man and a woman having an affair while deceiving their spouses and each other. The story moves backward in time as layers of betrayal are revealed. And XU playwright Tatum Hunter’s Begotten will be premiered shoulder-to-shoulder with these classics. A triangular tale of complex relationships, it’s about a young couple, Aaron and Marianne, and Aaron’s mother, with both women vying for his attention — a complex tale of love, motherhood and parenting.

Love gone wrong is the theme of yet another classic, this one by Jane Austen, staged by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (Feb. 26-March 26), which has achieved great success with adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jon Jory. Emma gives us an amateur matchmaker who makes a mess of things while trying to help her friend Harriet find love. Austen’s wit comes through loud and clear in another of Jory’s excellent translations of the early 19th-century novelist to the stage.

The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music is lining up a production of American Idiot (March 3-13), based on the Grammy Award-winning recording by the Punk Rock band Green Day. The 2010 Tony-nominated Rock opera is about three guys eager to escape bland suburbia. They do, but the harsh realities of life are not what they envisioned. CCM performers are often Broadway-bound, so they’ll surely give this show a bravado production. Northern Kentucky University should do a bang-up job with a more familiar classic — Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s Into the Woods (April 21-May 1). The fairytale mash-up about what comes after happily ever after, a hit motion picture a year ago, will be a showcase for NKU’s talented theater students.

Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet was an award winner for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati back in 1999, when Over-the-Rhine was still a daunting destination for theatergoers. ETC’s award-winning production of this 1997 off-Broadway hit about a disfigured young woman who takes a bus journey to a faith healer deserved more attention than it received 16 years ago, so to cap off its 30th-anniversary season and celebrate OTR’s rebirth, ETC will restage Violet (May 4-22).


CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]


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