I wholeheartedly agree with Eric Reid’s assessment of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the opening production at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new Otto M. Budig Theater. She gave it a Critic’s Pick and wrote, “As directed by Brian Isaac Phillips, it shows off all the impressive technical capabilities of the new building as well as all the energy its actors can offer.” I saw Saturday evening’s performance, and I was dazzled by all the theatrical bells and whistles on display — maybe a bit over the top, but used in service of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedy. The play’s three plots —four mixed-up lovers; a tug-of-war between Titania (Miranda McGee) and Oberon (Giles Davies), with Puck (Sara Clark, whose flying is quite spectacular) aiding and abetting; and the loopy “Rude Mechanicals” staging their own silly play within the play — come together nicely. It might not be quite how Shakespeare imagined it, but this production is an audience pleaser. Through Sept. 30. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Back for the fifth time in Cincinnati is another chance to see the Broadway mega-hit Wicked. The backstory of the witches of Oz has been selling tickets hand over fist since 2003, and it’s sure to fill up the Aronoff over the next five weeks. (Performances through Oct. 15.) Read more about its appeal in my recent Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-621-2787 (Broadway in Cincinnati, 9/13-10/15).
Two fine productions of shows with roots in Oscar-winning movies can be found onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse and the Covedale Center. Shakespeare in Love is adapted from the 1998 film that imagines a young, amorous Bard afflicted with writer’s block. Boy meets girl (even thought she’s disguised as a boy) and love ensues. This show is also an amusing love letter to the theater. The Playhouse production is a made-up story, of course, but its big cast, gorgeous costumes and a set paying reverence to Elizabethan England make for a very entertaining show. Meanwhile at the Covedale, the story of teacher Annie Sullivan’s arduous task of connecting with deaf and blind Helen Keller, age 6, is movingly told with two fine actors in the central roles, Rebecca Whatley as Sullivan and Brooke Chamberlin as Helen. The Miracle Worker was a play in 1959 (and the winner of five Tony Awards) before it became a movie; the latter won the Academy Award in 1962. These two plays are onstage through the balance of September. Tickets: 513-421-3888 (Playhouse) and 513-241-6550 (Covedale).
Over the years, a local company — once called Queen City Off-Broadway and now Queen City Theater — has periodically produced ambitious shows that are worth checking out. It’s planning three productions this season to be presented at the Carnegie in Covington, starting with Typhoid Mary (opening Saturday and presented through Oct.8). It’s the story of Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant cook who carried typhoid a century ago, unwittingly infecting at least 22 people in New York City. After she was diagnosed as an “asymptomatic carrier” of the deadly disease, she was quarantined on an island off the coast of Manhattan for 21 years. It’s a fascinating script by Tom Horan, an Indianapolis-based playwright. Subsequent productions planned are The Bomb-itty of Errors in December, a Hip Hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, and The Body of an American next March, a script inspired by a photo of the body a dead American solder being dragged from the wreckage of a Blackhawk helicopter and through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. Info: qctheater.com; tickets: 859-957-1940.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.