Even as plans are underway for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park to evolve and grow dramatically with a new mainstage a few years from now, Artistic Director Blake Robison is announcing the award-winning regional theater’s 60th season. Running from September 2019 to June 2020, it will be presented while fundraising and design work for the new facility are in progress. The 11 productions in the coming season run the gamut from drama to comedy and from musicals to mysteries. As has been Robison’s practice, audiences can also expect family-friendly shows for multi-generational audiences.
Of particular interest will be americUS, a world premiere from the multicultural ensemble Universes that uses theater, poetry, dance, Jazz, Hip Hop and Blues to create a portrait of contemporary America. Robison says, “It will be unlike anything we’ve produced,” which is saying something for a theater that’s been producing shows since 1960. It will unfold on the Playhouse’s Rosenthal Shelterhouse Stage Feb. 1-March 8, 2020.
The mainstage Marx Theatre season begins with the Tony Award-winning musical Once on This Island (Sept. 7-Oct. 6) by Lynn Ahrens and CCM grad and composer Stephen Flaherty. Next is The Lifespan of a Fact (Oct. 19-Nov. 16) by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, a Broadway hit in 2018. Set in the world of journalism, it’s about a showdown of fact versus fiction. A Christmas Carol (Nov. 27-Dec. 29) returns for the 29th time. And Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Jan. 18-Feb. 16, 2020) kicks off the new year, chronicling the 1950s Rock & Roll icon's story.
Continuing the Playhouse’s annual commitment to female playwrights, Destiny of Desire (Feb. 29-March 28, 2020) by Karen Zacarías is an homage to Latin American soap operas through telling the story of baby girls switched at birth. (Zacarías’ previous Playhouse productions, Native Gardens in 2013 and The Book Club Play, were both well received). The Marx concludes with Agatha Christie’s classic mystery, Murder on the Orient Express (April 11-May 9, 2020). Playwright Ken Ludwig adapted this tale of detective Hercule Poirot solving the mystery of death on board the luxurious train.
In addition to Universes’ americUS, the Rosenthal Shelterhouse will present a varied set of shows, beginning with Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (Sept. 14-Oct. 27), adapted by Jennifer Blackmer. It’s a very different murder mystery about a 16-year-old girl who claimed to have lost the memories of her deed. (Netflix subscribers might recall that Atwood’s novel was also adapted into a 2017 miniseries.) The Shelterhouse holiday show is 2 Pianos, 4 Hands (Nov. 9-Jan. 5, 2020) by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, a comedy about two pianists in hot pursuit of musical stardom. Anna Ziegler’s Actually (March 21-April 26, 2020) follows americUS. (Ziegler also wrote A Delicate Ship, presented by the Playhouse in 2014.) This play from 2017 is about a couple’s night together that sets off an unexpected chain of events. The Shelterhouse season wraps up with Becoming Dr. Ruth (May 9-June 21, 2020) by Mark St. Germain. The one-woman show explores the harrowing and fascinating details of the life of Ruth Westheimer, who became America’s favorite sex therapist in the 1980s and ’90s.
Subscriptions are available online at cincyplay.com or by calling 513-421-3888. An especially affordable offering is the student-oriented “Build Your Own” package, which allows full-time students to pick from four to 10 shows for just $15 per production.