More Plays for Your Calendar

More word about upcoming seasons from two of Cincinnati’s smaller but adventurous companies. New Edgecliff Theatre (NET) has put forth a five-show season with work by several excellent contemporary playwrights, as well as a holiday offering partnering with the True Theatre. Queen City Theatre (QCT is the current incarnation of the dormant Queen City Off Broadway) will offer productions of dramas using the black box theater at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.—-

New Edgecliff’s season opens with Burn This by the late Lanford Wilson (Sept. 29-Oct. 15). Cincinnati had a love affair with Wilson about a decade ago with simultaneous productions at several theaters and a visit to town by Wilson. This show is a searing drama about love and relationships in the aftermath of death.

NET’s Michael Shooner returns to the stage at the Columbia Performance Center (3900 Eastern Ave., Columbia-Tusculum) in Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas (Feb. 23-March 10, 2012). Irish playwright McPherson has had fine local productions of The Weir (Cincinnati Shakespeare), The Good Thief (Know Theatre) and The Seafarer (Ensemble Theatre). His stories are wicked and riveting, and this 1996 script is no exception — a burned-out theater critic (imagine that!) obsessed with a young actress leaves his family to pursue her and then finds himself in the employ of a coven of vampires.

The season’s third-full fledged production is Neil LaBute’s Reasons to be Pretty (April 12-28, 2012). NET staged LaBute’s nasty script, Fat Pig, a few seasons back, and his plays are always dark and probing. Reasons to be Pretty follows two couples navigating the conflicting loyalties of love and friendship. The production takes a hard look at beauty — and the multi-billion-dollar obsession we have with it.

NET’s other productions are repeats with fresh approaches. On Oct. 29 (one night only) they’ll repeat the popular Sweet Suspense radio drama event, offering two tales by the great Edgar Allen Poe, in an evening entitled Poe-sessed. NET’s playwright-in-residence Catie O’Keefe (her mysterious script Darker was presented by NET during the Fringe Festival) has adapted Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” The evening (perfect for Halloween thrill seekers) uses live sound effects and the atmosphere of an old-time radio theatre. NET partners with area restaurants for desserts to follow the performance.

More good news is the return of Crumpet, David Sedaris’s Macy’s elf, for NET’s annual production of The Santaland Diaries (Dec. 1-17). Josh Steele took over the sardonic monologue in 2010 with excellent results. NET has retired the distasteful second monologue by Sedaris, Season’s Greetings, which I’ve been lobbying them to do for years. Instead, they’re matching Sedaris’ “true” experience with several other true holiday stories told by real people in partnership with True Theatre, whose regular venue is Know Theatre for quarterly events. I’m especially enthusiastic to see what comes of this combination; apparently each evening will feature different true stories of personal holiday experiences.

The production stars Walnut Hills graduate Leah Strasser and is directed by Queen City Theater Founder Lyle Benjamin. Show dates are 8 p.m. July 22, 23, 29, 30. Tickets are just $15 general admission. Call 513-254-4413 for reservations and information. The production will be staged in the 130-seat Black Box Theatre.

QCT will present Jessica Dickey’s The Amish Project, opening this week on Friday and continuing through July 30 at SCPA’s small theater. The one-woman show was first seen at the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival, featuring the playwright as seven different characters. It’s a fictional account of the 2006 Nickel Mines shooting in an Amish community in Pennsylvania. It generated sufficient interest to carry it to a workshop production at New York City’s Cherry Lane Theatre followed by an Off-Broadway staging at Rattlesticks Playwrights Theatre on June 10, 2009. Leah Strasser, a former Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati intern, is performing it here. 

It’s been reported elsewhere that QCT will import a production of Samm-Art Williams’ Home to the SCPA venue in late August. If I had more details I’d share them, but if it materializes, this would be a must-see event.

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