Ahead of the Curve

As a theater fan in Cincinnati, do you wonder if you’re missing works that other cities get to see? Let me calm your fears. Based on the list of “The Season’s Top 10” productions reported in the October 2008 issue of American Theatre magazine, we’re definitely ahead of the curve. Many of the works onstage in other cities have already happened in Cincinnati — or are being offered this season.

With 14 productions announced, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is tied for first place with the adaptation of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. We saw Doubt last January at the Cincinnati Playhouse, and Santaland has been offered several times locally, beginning in 2001. (American Theatre notes that 51 adaptations of A Christmas Carol — including one at the Playhouse — makes Dickens’ tale actually the most ubiquitous story onstage at theaters across America.) Third place (13 productions) goes to David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole, which Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) presented the poignant drama locally in September 2007.—-

In fourth place (12 productions) is Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, which ETC opened on Oct. 15, following its practice of being one of the first theaters across America to stage important new plays. Another local theater that presents a lot of new work, Know Theatre, is staging the fifth-place work, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice in March 2009. (Ruhl’s The Clean House was produced at the Playhouse early in 2006, before it took off as one of the most produced works on regional stages in 2006-2007.)

Two classics landed in sixth and seventh places. Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is being staged 10 times; Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is being offered by nine theaters. Mockingbird was in the Playhouse’s 1993-1994 season; Glass Menagerie was presented by the Playhouse in 1999 and last March by Cincinnati Shakespeare.

ETC provides Cincinnati theater audiences with a steady diet of premieres. Stephen Temperly’s 2005 script, Souvenir, the true story of off-key opera wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins, is getting nine productions across the U.S. this season. ETC offered it two years ago. This season ETC will present Cincinnati playwright Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius in March 2009. This script premiered in New York in 2007, and it’s being presented at eight theaters in addition to ETC this season. Of the two scripts getting eight productions, one of them is August Wilson’s Radio Golf, which ETC presented earlier this year. (ETC will stage another of Wilson’s momentous plays, Gem of the Ocean, next February.)

The other work getting eight productions at regional theaters this season is Michael Frayn’s delirious backstage comedy, Noises Off. I don’t believe it’s had a professional production in Cincinnati, but UC’s College-Conservatory of Music staged it beautifully in 2005, and it’s been presented locally by an array of high schools and community theaters. In fact, you can see the final performances of Noises Off by Sunset Players on Friday and Saturday at the Dunham Recreation Center. (For tickets: 513-588-4988.)

American Theatre does not include productions of works by Shakespeare in its tracking, but it notes that the most oft-staged work by the Bard is A Midsummer Night’s Dream with 13 productions. Oh, by the way: Cincinnati Shakespeare’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the fall of 2007 won the 2008 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for the best play of the 2007-2008 season.


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