Sunday, January 02, 2000

For a quarter, fine local theater fare

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Planning on hunkering down for the first quarter of Y2K? Don't do it! Come to the theater instead. Here are 13 weeks worth of ideas. Stay on the schedule and it will be spring before you know it.

        • Week One: Last chance to see More Smoke on the Mountain: Sanders Family Christmas, Playhouse in the Park's captivating, down home holiday show. It closes Jan. 9. 421-3888.

        • Week Two: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival fave Marni Penning returns to the troupe after a several-month sabbatical and, to make good news even better, Andy Gaukel does a guest stint in Moliere's brilliant rhymed satire, The Misanthrope. Through Jan. 23. 381-2273.

        • Week Three: New Edgecliff Theatre, which has been tippy-toeing into existence with a production every six months or so, makes one of its appearances with The Woolgatherer, a “fragile romance” from the '70s about very dysfunctional people by playwright William Mastrosimone. This entry stars artistic director Michael Shooner. Jan. 14-23 at Fifth Third Bank Theater. 241-7469.

        • Week Four: From the man who brought you Driving Miss Daisy comes another bit of period Americana, Deep South-style. The Last Night of Ballyhoo takes place on the fateful weekend when a Jewish cotillion and the premiere of Gone With the Wind collide in Atlanta. Jan. 18-Feb. 18 at Playhouse in the Park. 421-3888.

        If the weather outside isn't too frightful, consider a drive to Miami University where the dazzling Urban Bush Women (with jazz composer David Murray and his Octet) will perform Soul Deep, inspired by field hollers and gospel shouts,for one night only, Jan. 25 in Millett Hall. (513) 529-1847.

        • Week Five: Stage First artistic director Nicholas Korn has been scribing for years on world-conquering Alexander the Great. Part One — Alexander had a very eventful life — has its world premiere Feb. 3-12 at Fifth Third Bank Theater. 241-7469.

        • Week Six: Off-Broadway's biggest hit gets its regional premiere at Playhouse in the Park. Dale Hodges plays the John Donne scholar suffering from terminal cancer in Wit. This one falls into the “don't miss” category. Feb. 5-March 5. 421-3888.

        Kurt Weill is,admittedly, an acquired taste, but if you're wild about Weill, you'll want to be there for both parts of A Kurt Weill Cabaret presented at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in conjunction with the National Opera Association Conference. Part One: The Berlin Songs, Part Two: Broadway and Hollywood, Feb. 10-13, location TBA. 556-4183.

        • Week Seven: Paul Shortt's stunner of a studio theater makes its debut as part of CCM's new campus village. It should be an inspiring home for the drama department's production of Chekhov's complex and bittersweet The Cherry Orchard. And it's free! Feb. 17-19. First come, first served.

        • Week Eight: In case you haven't noticed, theater can get awfully serious in winter (and it doesn't get any chillier than in the season's final five weeks), so I strongly suggest a musical break (and even the musicals have serious themes).

        Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series brings the national tour of Cabaret into town Feb. 22-March 5, sans the nightclub setting that made the revival the toast of New York. It still promises to be down and dirty.

        Meanwhile, CCM dreams the im possible dream with Man of La Mancha Feb. 24-March 5. Earlier this season, The Secret Garden displayed as much talent as a national tour — at about one-third the cost. Patricia Corbett Theater, University of Cincinnati, 556-4183.

        • Week Nine: The local Martin McDonagh festival (also see Week 11) begins with The Beauty Queen of Leenane. As funny as it is scary and creepy as it is funny, it's a celebration of family dysfunction (mother and daughter) in a bleak, isolated corner of Ireland. Playhouse in the Park, Feb. 20-March 31. 421-3888.

        • Week 10: You have to drive to Dayton, Ohio, for Human Race's regional premiere of Richard Greenberg's haunting Three Days of Rain. A mysterious will and the words “three days of rain” in a journal prompt an adult brother and sister to search out their family history. As the work of one of America's best contemporary playwrights continues to go unseen in Cincinnati, it's a day trip worth considering. March 9-26. (937) 228-3630.

        • Week 11: Just when you thought Irish life couldn't get any stranger than it is in Leenane (see Week Nine), Ensemble Theatre welcomes you to Inishmaan. Here it's a pair of brothers enjoying an intense familial relationship in The Cripple of Inishmaan. Meanwhile, the town awaits the arrival of a Hollywood director and the movie the town folk hear he's going to be filming. March 15-April 2. 421-3555.

        If you find yourself longing for something light, try the Bard's classic battle of the sexes comedy, The Taming of the Shrew at Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. Feb. 24-March 19. 381-2273.

        • Week 12: This year's Rosenthal New Play Prize winner at Playhouse in the Park continues the theme of family dysfunction. It's a triangle created by a young mother in recovery, her new boyfriend and her troubled adolescent son, from whom the drama takes its title, The Dead Eye Boy. The faint of heart need not make reservations. March 18-April 16. 421-3888.

        • Week 13: The poetry of disastrous family reaches its zenith with Eugene O'Neill. Long Day's Journey into Night is one episode in the American master's autobiographical chronicle of the tragic Tyrones. They are victim to drug addiction, bad investments, alcoholism, tuberculosis, memories and shattered dreams.

        Can Stage First pull it off? That's the big question. The winter season is replete with productions of plays by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee in which small companies are undoubtedly over-reaching their abilities. The reason this one makes the cut is because we've gone so long without any O'Neill at all — and it's spring, a time for hope. In this case, the hope is the show can be cast with talented amateurs. March 23-April 1. 241-7469.

        Jackie Demaline is Enquirer theater critic and roving arts reporter. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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