Stage Door: Arguments, legendary songs, murderous writers and a few addicts

'Disgraced' continues at the Cincinnati Playhouse; 'They Were You' gets its world premiere by CCM's musical theater program; 'Pulp' opens at Know Theatre; and trueTheatre kicks off its seventh season.

click to enlarge Stage Door: Arguments, legendary songs, murderous writers and a few addicts
Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
The Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Disgraced will make you uncomfortable. That’s its intention: It’s four very different people arguing about religion, politics and just how we get along (or can’t get along) in today’s world. Ayad Akhtar’s play won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, and its angry dinner party is discomfiting audiences from coast to coast this season. In fact, it’s the most-produced play at America’s regional theaters, including this rendition on the Playhouse’s intimate Shelterhouse stage. That confined space makes the combat over Muslim vs. Jew, white vs. black, extremist vs. conservative and art vs. commerce all the more intense. This is a show that will have you talking — and very likely disagreeing — with others who see it. That’s why you need to see it. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through Oct. 23. Tickets: 513-241-3888.

Last evening I attended They Were You at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. Never heard of it, you say? That’s because it’s a brand-new revue showcasing songs by lyricist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt getting its world premiere by CCM’s musical theater program. Conceived and curated by Aubrey Berg, CCM’s Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theater, the show brings together music from the pair’s well-known shows including The Fantasticks (the world’s longest-running musical), as well as I Do! I Do!, 110 in the Shade, Celebration and several less familiar works. It’s the first comprehensive revue of their work, which earned several Tony Award nominations and a 1992 Tony honor for excellence in theater. Performed by six fine-voiced musical theater majors with two-piano accompaniment (plus spirited choreography by CCM alum Katie Johannigman), it’s two hours of nostalgia and nonsense. Like most CCM productions, it has a brief run — remaining performances are tonight at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Box Office: 513-556-4183.

Know Theatre opens Pulp, a new comedy by Joseph Zettelmaier, tonight at 8 p.m. It’s about Frank Ellery, a washed-up private investigator in 1933 Los Angeles who’s recruited to look into the gruesome murder of a hack literary agent. The suspects are four of his eccentric clients, writers for several genres of pulp magazines. Those very genres flavor the story line as Pulp unfolds and twists through sci-fi, romance, adventure and horror. Cincy Shakes ensemble member Paul Riopelle is Ellery, and the writers are portrayed by several other familiar faces to local theatergoers: Maggie Lou Rader, Justin McCombs, Darnell Pierre Benjamin and Dylan Shelton. The production, onstage here through Oct. 29, is part of the National New Play Network “Rolling World Premiere.” Zettelmaier’s Star Wars-infused All Childish Things was a hit for Know in 2015. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

trueTheatre kicks off its seventh season Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. with trueADDICTION. There’s a piece of common wisdom that suggests “we are all addicted to something that takes the pain away.” Especially in this era of horrific drug abuse, the picture of addiction that comes to mind when you hear the word is not a pleasant one. The organizers of trueTheatre suggest that Monday evening’s program will point you in another direction. Monologues from everyday people will tell stories, some humorous, some heavy, about the demons we wrestle with: drinking, smoking, gambling and, yes, doing drugs. It’s another year of quarterly storytelling, set in Know Theatre’s Underground Bar on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine, just a few steps away from the Gateway District streetcar stop. It’s a good idea to call for tickets ($18) in advance, since these one-night-only events often sell out. Indeed, trueTheatre has proved to be an addiction in its own right. Tickets: 513-300-5669.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

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