Stage Door: Playhouse's 'Curious Incident' is magically staged

Also in this week’s weekend theater preview: historic Shakespeare — and some scary stuff

click to enlarge The cast onstage at Cincinnati Playhouse's just-opened production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" - PHOTO: Mikki Schaffner Photography
PHOTO: Mikki Schaffner Photography
The cast onstage at Cincinnati Playhouse's just-opened production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"

CRITIC’S PICK

Last night the Cincinnati Playhouse opened its production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the 2015 Tony Award winner for best play. (CityBeat preview here.) The story of Christopher, a bright but extremely awkward and antisocial teenage boy, is told with imagination and creativity. We are inside his head and his emotions as he bravely ventures beyond his constricted personal world to solve the mysterious murder of his neighbor’s dog. He seeks the truth, but that includes painful realities about his parents’ shortcomings and the cruel world beyond. He rises above his limited ability to connect with people, even those who love him, to accomplish great things.

This imaginative work has been magically, insightfully staged by Marcia Millgrom Dodge, a New York director best known for musicals (including Cabaret and The Secret Garden for the Playhouse), who quite literally choreographs 10 actors in a re-enactment of Christopher’s adventure. Nick LaMedica turns in a superb performance as Christopher, with searing, painful and frank insight into a perspective you have likely never considered or experienced.

It’s acting that you’ll feel, admire and remember, well deserving of a Critic’s Pick. Through Nov. 11. Tickets: 513-421-3888.

Meanwhile, there’s one more week to check out Shakespeare and the Queen City at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a surviving copy of the First Folio, the 1623 publication that assembled 36 of Shakespeare’s plays and established the canon of his creative output. If it weren’t for this legendary book, many of his plays would surely have been lost. And there’s even more to the exhibition, especially historic glimpses of how Cincinnatians celebrated the playwright over the past two centuries. I enjoyed a video of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, featuring a half-dozen great actors — from Laurence Olivier to Benedict Cumberbatch — in films of the tragedy. Seeing their varying deliveries is eye-opening, a true insight into the power of performance and interpretation. Make time to visit. Final day is Sunday, Oct. 29. (The exhibition is free; parking is $6.)

Halloween is coming soon, so several local theaters are offering productions designed to sustain your appetite for fear and trembling. Cincinnati Shakespeare is using its new theater to full advantage with Dracula (through Nov. 4), featuring the company’s veteran actor Giles Davies in the creepy title role. But the entire cast avoids over-the-top campiness and treats the story with fear-inducing seriousness — Billy Chace plays the demented, fly-eating madman Renfield as a kind of off-the-tracks moderator and Miranda McGee and Caitlin McWethy both stand out as the vampire’s feisty, lovely victims. Tickets: cincyshakes.com.

Know Theatre kicks off a Halloween double-bill tonight: 13 Dead Dreams of “Eugene” by Fringe favorites Paul Strickland and Erika Kate MacDonald and The Zombie Odyssey, a trilogy of solo-performance zombie tales by Ricky Coates, who was a Cincy Fringe performer in 2015. Dead Dreams is rooted in a weird true tale of an embalmed corpse in Sabina, Ohio. Through Nov. 4, it’s offered as the front-end of two-performance evenings (and a few matinees) with Coates’ three pieces being the second portion. Each 60-minute piece is separately ticketed. Tickets: knowtheatre.com.

If you’re on the West Side, you might want to catch Young Frankenstein at the Covedale Center (through Nov. 12). It’s not so much an evening of horror as a campy musical comedy (based on Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy film), a parody of horror films. Tickets: cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

Steven Dietz’s This Random World, the season opener at Ensemble Theatre (through Nov. 4), is not to be missed. This intriguing dramedy a set of interconnected individuals who experience missed connections and unfulfilled expectations. And that includes the audience — you’ll think something is about to happen, but it won’t. The results are both amusing and bittersweet. Tickets: ensemblecincinnati.org.

Local university stages are busy this weekend with Musical theater productions at UC’s College Conservatory of Music of Seussical the Musical (through Nov. 29) and Legally Blonde at Xavier University, through Sunday.

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