Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer — but it’s also the last slow weekend before local theaters crank up their opening productions. So maybe it’s time for a bit of a preview.
If you want to get a head start, however, the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Shakespeare in Love will offer previews on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (The official opening is next Thursday.) If you want to stretch your entertainment dollars, a preview is worth looking into since ticket prices are discounted for these pre-opening performances. The Playhouse’s season opener is a stage adaptation of the 1999 Oscar-winning film about Shakespeare with a bad case of writer’s block. He gets through it by falling in love, this tale theorizes, and is inspired to write Romeo and Juliet. Of course, it’s a made-up story, but there’s a lot of fun along the way as snippets of dialogue and stories from other plays fly by fast and furiously. But you don’t have to be a Shakespearean scholar to enjoy it: The Playhouse’s Blake Robison says, “Most of the action is in everyday language that is accessible and understandable to everyone.” Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Catching Shakespeare in Love early might be a smart move if you’re eager to get to all the theater that starts next week. In addition to the Playhouse, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its season — and its new theater — with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first performances on Thursday and Friday are pretty well filled up with supporters, philanthropists, bigwigs and dignitaries, but starting on Saturday, you might find seats available for one of Shakespeare’s silliest, most delightful romantic comedies. It’s onstage through Sept. 30; tickets: 513-381-2273.
Also beginning on Thursday is Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ fall season at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, a production of The Miracle Worker. It’s William Gibson’s venerable 1962 moving drama about Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, and Annie Sullivan, the dedicated teacher who eventually breaks through to communicate with the sensitive child who’s been treated as little more than an unruly, out-of-control animal. It opens on Thursday and will offer performances through Oct. 1. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
A few alternatives to consider if you can’t get into any of these:
• Theater of War, a dramatic reading of scenes from Sophocles’ ancient play, Ajax, at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (7 p.m. Thursday at the Patricia Corbett Theater). Renowned actor David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck; The Bourne Ultimatum; and Lincoln) is on the bill. This is an innovative — and free — public health project offered as a catalyst for a town hall discussion about the challenges faced by service members, veterans and their families. No charge, but seating is limited. Info: theaterofwar.com.
• A One-Man Star Wars Trilogy (8 p.m. Friday, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine) is a solo madcap production by Canadian actor Charles Ross. In 60 minutes he recreates characters, music, ships and battles from the classic tale — without costumes, props or sets. Tickets: 513-977-8838.
• OTRimprov will present its fourth-annual Improv Festival of Cincinnati (Sept. 6-10) at Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine, featuring improv talent from Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Ann Arbor — and Cincinnati. For details and tickets: ifcincy.com.
• At Xavier University you can take in the world premiere of Charise Greene’s drama Cannibal Galaxy: A Love Story (Sept. 7-8), a play about the relationship between science, spirituality and violence and the struggles we face to find meaning in a chaotic world. Inspired by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and numerous other senseless acts of violence, the play was workshopped with Xavier students in 2015. Now it’s getting a full-fledged production. Tickets: 513-745-3939.
• Finally, not a theater performance, but an opportunity to get the goods you might need to do one of your own: The long-running community theater Showbiz Player has closed after its 30th season, and they’re having a warehouse liquidation sale of costumes, wigs, flats and platforms, tools and electronics as well as 24 puppets from a production of Avenue Q. Sounds like a bonanza of opportunity for community theaters, high school drama teachers and costume companies. It’s happening on Saturday, Sept. 9 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), and Sunday, Sept. 10 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), at 1301 Monmouth Ave. in Camp Washington. Questions can be directed to Bunny Arszman at 513-325-7842 or [email protected].
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.