Jason Bruffy

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

Degracias Lerma

Chris Guthrie is the title character in Know Theatre's reworking of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Asked why he'd undertake to present Hamlet, JASON BRUFFY, Know Theatre of Cincinnati's ambitious artistic director, flashes a sly smile as he says, "If you're going to take a stab at reinventing a classic, why not go for the most iconic character in the English language?" This has been a season of reinvention for Know (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine), where December's Christmas Yet to Come offered a latter-day update of A Christmas Carol. Bruffy says he's taken the lead from European and London theaters: "If you can't find the pieces you want in contemporary theatre, you go back to the classics and reinvent them. We came at this season seeking theater that pushed the boundaries of the art form rather than taking cues from Hollywood." At the same time, Bruffy wants to expand the medium of live theater, using multimedia as an integral component, with familiar scenes appearing as flashback sequences. "This won't follow Shakespeare's script in a linear way. We wanted to create a piece that relied heavily on multimedia: So often when people use video it's background, kind of a side note. If the computers went down, you could still do the piece. For our Hamlet, it wouldn't be the same experience if that happened." Bruffy says his production is firmly rooted in Shakespeare's text.

Several cast members have performed with Cincinnati Shakespeare, including CHRIS GUTHRIE, undertaking the title role. "I haven't taken a pen to the page to re-write Hamlet by any means," Bruffy says, "but we have found ways to make the story more contemporary, to slip into an American vernacular." In addition to two live video cameras, the production uses 20 independently operated monitors and three video projectors, featuring material created for Know by Big Bang Productions, a video-editing duo whose work often accompanies local bands. "It's another way to look at a story we all know," Bruffy says. Hamlet opens Thursday (this is the pay-what-you-can weekend) and continues through March 17. Info: knowtheatre.com. ...

Another theater company with an edge is QUEEN CITY OFF-BROADWAY, presenting shows at the Cincinnati Artist Warehouse in Northside (4011 Hamilton Ave.). The group is kicking off its 2007 season with David Mamet's Oleanna (through March 3), a play about a young woman who believes she's been sexually harassed by a college professor. (Two more shows by the muscular Chicago playwright are slated for later in the season: Cryptogram in May and A Life in the Theatre in July.) Using the concept of "mini-festivals," QCOB will offer several Pulitzer Prize dramas, including Michael Cristofer's 1977 winner, The Shadow Box (Sept. 13-29), about three terminally ill patients and their loved ones. The group will also stage the local premiere of The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow (Aug. 2-18), a recent award-winning comedy by Rolin Jones. Tickets: 513-227-0480. ...

CINCINNATI BLACK THEATRE COMPANY this weekend presents a musical that doesn't follow any traditional formulas: FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE recycles Pop tunes from the 1930s by Louis Jordan with contemporary stylings. The story is about a man who's been dumped by his girl and "five guys" who materialize from his radio to help him win her back — No-Moe, Eat-Moe, Big-Moe, Little-Moe and Four-Eyed-Moe. The show was a Broadway hit in 1992. If CBTC pulls together the right cast, this could be a winner. Don Sherman is the director. Performances at Xavier University's Gallagher Student Theatre are Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (2 and 7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.) Tickets: 513-241-6060. ...

In the 15 years since SHANNON WHEATLEY graduated from CCM at UC, she's performed in Cats on Broadway and Avenue Q in Las Vegas; she's also toured in Les Mis, Phantom and The Sound of Music. Wheatley is back in town to be part of a concert benefiting the music department at her alma mater, Ursuline Academy, on Friday evening (at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Tickets: 513-791-5791, ext. 1604.

contact Rick Pender: rpender(at)citybeat.com

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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