Stage Door: Give thanks for much ado about many things

Now's your chance to catch some entertaining theater before the onslaught of holiday shows takes over local stages (not that that's a bad thing).

click to enlarge Chris Mann and Katie Travis in "Phantom of the Opera" - Photo: Matthew Murphy
Photo: Matthew Murphy
Chris Mann and Katie Travis in "Phantom of the Opera"
It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving. Face it, next week you’ll all be busy with turkey and family and football, so now’s your chance to see some entertaining theater before the onslaught of holiday shows takes over local stages. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) Let’s start with a Cincinnati Playhouse production that’s holiday-inspired, but not in a candy cane, sugar plum fairy kind of way. In fact, all you might really need to know is that the Holidazed & Confused Revue at the Cincinnati Playhouse is the work of The Second City, Chicago’s legendary improv comedy club, and you’ll understand that this is going to be a lot of entertaining snarky sketches. There’s an agenda to be followed each evening, but you can be sure that a few moments (maybe more than a few) will veer off in some new and unexpected way. That’s part of the fun. This isn’t one for the kids, unless they’re smartass teens — in which case, it might be perfect. Read more about the show here. Through Dec. 31. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

Next month Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will be having its own fun with jokes about holiday classics when it stages Every Christmas Story Ever Told … And Then Some. But in the meantime, treat yourself to a witty theater classic opening tonight: Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. This comedy is about two brainy people who are so smart they can’t stand each other. That’s enough to make the friends of Beatrice and Benedick decide to trick the pair into falling in love. The ins and outs of that scheme make for a hilarious evening of theater, likely to be all the more fun with actors Miranda McGee and Jeremy Dubin in these great roles. Lots of fun, nary a wreath, reindeer or a fruitcake in sight. Through Dec. 10. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

A completely different kind of classic is onstage at the Aronoff Center through Thanksgiving weekend: the newly staged touring production The Phantom of the OperaIt’s got all the tunes you know and the overheated romantic story remains the same. But there are some gorgeous new scenic trappings, and we get to see the Phantom pulling off some of his dastardly threats more clearly than before. The special effects in this production are spectacular. Here’s a tidbit: When the Aronoff was built in the mid-1990s, it was specifically designed with an architecturally reinforced ceiling to accommodate the mechanism for the falling chandelier. I saw it Thursday night, and it’s more thrilling than ever. Through Nov. 27. Tickets: 513- 621-2787.

If Thanksgiving means a lot of arguing during dinner, maybe you’ll be in the mood for another round of other folks tearing into one another. You’ll find it at the Incline Theatre in East Price Hill. Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is about two couples who allow a playground dust-up between their sons escalate into World War III when they try to settle their differences. Marriages teeter and civility is abandoned as this Tony Award-winning script unfolds. It’s a wild ride. Onstage through Dec. 4. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

This weekend is your last chance to see Dial M for Murder at Falcon in Newport (final performance is Saturday evening) and the Carnegie’s staging of Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore in Covington (wrapping up with a matinee on Sunday). 

Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2000. It’s the radio play presented by L.A. Theatre Works on WVXU (FM 91.7) on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. It explores the lives of two couples and repercussions of divorce on their friendships, considering the cost of breaking up — and staying together. Ensemble Theatre staged this back in 2001. It’s a piece of theater worth revisiting.

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

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