Best Of 2018

Best Midsummer Night's Reality: Otto M. Budig Theater

Otto M. Budig Theater
click to enlarge Otto M. Budig Theater - HAILEY BOLLINGER
Hailey Bollinger
Otto M. Budig Theater

William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream focuses on the power of transformation, which made it an especially timely choice to debut the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s sparkling new Otto M. Budig Theater in Over-the-Rhine in September. A show written to engage and delight Shakespeare’s public when first performed in 1605, Midsummer was just right for this modern theater’s inaugural production. As directed by Brian Isaac Phillips, it showed off all the impressive technical capabilities of the new building as well as all the energy of its actors. The play-within-a-play used every inch of the thrust stage --— and Cincy Shakes’ actors’ fast wit, adept physical comedy and nuanced storytelling -— to create a sense of visual and dramatic depth. It was also a grand (if slightly overdone) display of the theater’s special effects, with flying rigs and modern lighting and projection. The end goal was to make theatergoers feel engaged, and it worked. But every experience at the Otto M. Budig Theater will be up close and personal: With six rows of seats horseshoed around a thrust stage, plus a single row of 47 seats on the balcony, no person is more than 20 feet from the stage. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 1195 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincyshakes.com.