Much Variety in Playhouse’s 2017-18 Season

Artistic Director Blake Robison calls it a 'big season' that is committed to multicultural and multigenerational shows as well as new works, many of which are by female playwrights.

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click to enlarge Blake Robison has “blockbuster titles” in store. - Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Blake Robison has “blockbuster titles” in store.
Two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Playhouse announced plans to build a new theater in Eden Park, opening in time for the 2020-21 season. But that’s three years off, and Artistic Director Blake Robison has just shared plans for the immediate future — his productions for 2017-18.

He calls it “a big season” that sustains the Playhouse’s commitment to multicultural and multigenerational shows and new works, especially by female playwrights. There are one- and two-person shows, and he’s excited to be presenting “some blockbuster titles to headline the Marx.”

Robison will direct the season’s first show on the theater’s mainstage, Shakespeare in Love (Sept. 2-30), a theatrical adaptation of the 1998 Oscar winner about young Will overcoming writer’s block in the midst of backstage drama. 

“It’s going to be a glorious, rich, romantic way to kick off the season,” Robison says.

Next is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Oct. 14-Nov. 11), an adaptation of a 2003 novel that gets inside the mind of a brilliant autistic boy. Unfairly accused of murdering his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to clear his name. This script will be staged by Broadway director Marcia Milgrom Dodge (who staged the Playhouse’sCabaret in 2013) in a production unlike the spectacular physical staging it had in London and New York. “At its most simple and human level,” Robison says, “this is a moving story about people and characters. You can look inside his mind and his heart, and see the world through his eyes without any special effects.”

In 2018, it’s Million Dollar Quartet (Jan. 20-Feb. 18), a musical set in a Memphis recording studio in 1956 when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley crossed paths and had a jam session. A tour of this show stopped at the Aronoff Center in 2013, but Robison says this will be a chance to see it up close and personal. 

Music plays a big part in Marie and Rosetta (March 3-31). It’s about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a Gospel crossover musician who paved the way in the 1930s and 1940s for Rock-and-Rollers with her fierce guitar playing. Her partnership with a young protégé, Marie Knight, frames their story, which Robison calls a “character-rich script with a lot of humor and some amazing singing.” 

The Marx Season wraps up with Robison’s staging of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (April 21-May 19). He describes this as “the latest entry in the Playhouse’s commitment to multigenerational programming.” 

The Playhouse’s intimate Shelterhouse stage will be the venue for five more productions, starting with Daniel Beaty’s Mr. Joy (Sept. 23-Oct. 22). One actress brings to life nine of the Harlem customers of a Chinese shoe repairman. 

Running opposite the Playhouse’s annual production of A Christmas Carol (on the Marx Stage) will be An Evening with Groucho (Nov. 4-Dec. 17), in which Frank Ferrante brings Groucho Marx to life with one-liners, anecdotes, songs and some ace interaction. He’s performed as the legendary comedian in London and New York as well as on PBS.

Two Shelterhouse shows in 2018 are world premieres by up-and-coming female writers, Deborah Zoe Laufer and Allyson Currin. Laufer’s Leveling Up, a story about online gamers, was a Playhouse 2013 premiere. Her new script, Be Here Now (Feb. 9-March 11), is about two lost souls who help one another after an unexplainable turn of events. Currin is a new writer for Playhouse audiences. Sooner/Later (March 24-April 22) explores the pains and pleasures of romance, marriage and parenting, as a teenager helps her single mom through the dating scene.

The 2018 season finishes with a Shelterhouse production of Murder for Two (May 5-June 10), a two-person musical murder mystery that Robison characterizes as “an absolute stitch.” One actor plays a detective investigating a novelist’s murder; another portrays all the suspects and victims.

Robison expects audiences will be fascinated and entertained by the 2017-18 season. 

“I’ve already got a couple of titles sketched in for 2018-19 that I wanted to do this season,” he says. “We just couldn’t fit them all in!” ©

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