Theater on the Horizon

Several slots for the 2013-2014 season have been filled in by local theaters as the current season finishes.

click to enlarge Lauren Gunderson in 'Toil and Trouble.'
Lauren Gunderson in 'Toil and Trouble.'

Several slots for the 2013-2014 season have been filled in by local theaters as the current season finishes. Rather than mapping out an entire season, Know Theatre announces plays as rights can be obtained. They’ve landed Lauren Gunderson’s Toil and Trouble (July 26-Aug. 24), which had its world premiere last November; this will be its second production. It might be the tag end of Know’s 2012-2013 season — or one of the first of 2013-2014. And if July 1 marks the line between the two seasons, two earlier productions will be Godspell (July 12-Aug. 3) by Thompson House Theatre in Newport and The 39 Steps (July 19-Aug. 11) by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

The title of Gunderson’s play will resonate with Shakespeare fans, since it’s a line the witches chant in Macbeth. Indeed, Toil and Trouble is a modern take on Shakespeare’s tragedy with a huge dash of comedy. Instead of vying for the crown of Scotland, Gunderson’s characters — two aimless college grads and a scheming girlfriend — decide to take over a small island nation off the coast of Chile. (Macbeth’s witches are reduced to fortune cookies.)

Know’s Eric Vosmeier, who will stage Toil and Trouble, says, “We’ve been looking for a strong comedy for quite some time, and I think this fits the bill perfectly. This contemporary retelling of Macbeth is spot on, but with enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” Vosmeier has cast Joshua Murphy and Breona Conrad, who toured in Know’s production of Calculus: The Musical, and Chris Wesselman, an NKU grad, improv artist and Know staffer. 

Ensemble Theatre, just a block from Know in Over-the-Rhine, also presents new works, thanks to the persistent efforts of artistic director Lynn Meyers. She’s filled two empty slots in her previously announced season with scripts to be staged by directors with Cincinnati Playhouse credentials. Director Michael Evan Haney will stage Nina Raine’s Tribes (Jan. 29-Feb. 16, 2014), while Ed Stern, who retired in 2012 after 20 years as the Playhouse’s producing artistic director, will co-direct (with Meyers) the world premiere of Raymond McAnally’s Size Matters (May 7-25, 2014).

Tribes is about the deaf son of a family obsessed with self-expression. When he begins to connect with the deaf community, his family resents his new “tribe.” The show uses spoken and sign language as well as surtitles. It’s been a hit in New York (it won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for outstanding play) and London, where it debuted in 2010. 

McAnally’s comedy about body issues and self-confidence is a world premiere. Based on the playwright’s life, Size Matters is a one-man show about a “big guy” living in a crowded city and getting work based on his weight. McAnally, who’s weighed more than 280 pounds since he was 18, will also perform. He co-starred with Dale Hodges in ETC’s Mrs. Mannerly last fall with Stern directing.

New Edgecliff Theatre presents two of its three shows at the Aronoff Center’s Fifth Third Bank Theater. William Inge’s classic 1955 play, Bus Stop (Sept. 18-28), is up first, the story of a busload of weary travelers stuck at a diner overnight by a howling snowstorm west of Kansas City, Mo. Relationships, romantic and otherwise, rise and fall between the travelers and the diner’s staff. Jerry Sterner’s 1989 off-Broadway play, Other People’s Money (April 16-26, 2014), is also set for the Fifth Third. Despite being a quarter-century old (the Cincinnati Playhouse produced the show in 1991), the tale of an attempted corporate takeover of a New England manufacturing facility from its genial founder is a timely piece. NET will bring back the holiday show it debuted in 2012, The 12 Dates of Christmas (Dec. 11-21, venue to be determined). It will again feature local actress Annie Kalahurka as a woman trying to pull her life together after seeing her fiancé kissing another woman on TV during the Thanksgiving Day parade. 

Covington’s Carnegie Center starts its season in mid-August with a production of Kander and Ebb’s cynical vaudeville musical Chicago (Aug. 10-25), staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll. Also scheduled for the Carnegie is the hilarious 1962 comedy Boeing Boeing (Nov. 8-24) in conjunction with the CCM Drama program and a new UC director, and Mary Chase’s wistful 1944 comedy, Harvey (April 11-27, 2014), about Elwood P. Dowd and his best friend, an invisible man-sized rabbit named Harvey.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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