Sunday, January 14, 2001

Playwright, director click online

Internet brings 'Naked by River' to New Edgecliff

        It's a wonderful online world out there. Count producers and playwrights among the people the Web can bring together.

        New Edgecliff's Michael Shooner discovered playwright Michael Folie when he downloaded some of Mr. Folie's one-act plays and read them.

        Mr. Shooner e-mailed him and asked for more. Now corporate sort-of comedy Naked by the River is continuing through next Sunday at the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

        “The Web has been a real boon for playwrights,” Mr. Folie said by phone from his New York-area home after we'd made all our interview arrangements by e-mail.

        There's no real money in the work that's free on the Web, “but it does lead to gigs like New Edgecliff, and I've been in touch with theaters, mostly at colleges, in Taipei, New Zealand, the West Indies. Two weeks don't go by that I don't get an inquiry from somewhere around the world” which, Mr. Folie says, is very cool.

        Nobody is naked by a river in Naked by the River. It's a reference to a photo the play's heroine, a fast-tracking young corporate attorney, has of herself that defines a lost sense of freedom.

        She finds herself getting romantically involved with a law clerk, a former lawyer who's given up the shark pool to be a starving artist.

        Mr. Folie did a lot of temp work at a law firm when he was an actor. A flirtation did develop with a pretty attorney. “It never went anywhere, but I thought asking "what could have happened' would make a good romantic comedy.

        “Romantic comedies are getting harder and harder to write because there are fewer and fewer things to keep couples apart. It used to be parents, but nobody listens to parents anymore.”

        Mr. Folie may be approaching the verge of being almost famous. Naked by the River had a staged reading in Los Angeles last year featuring Tim Allen and Dana Delany. The drama Slave Shack is being workshopped this month at Cleveland Public Theatre. Two other plays have been scheduled by New Jersey Repertory in the coming year.

        Mr. Folie makes his living by writing speeches for corporate honchos, which, he assures, pays very well.

        Being reasonably successful and unknown “is and isn't frustrating,” Mr. Folie says. “I used to think about it more, but now I've accepted that theater is a boutique art form.

        “I like that in a way. Movies and TV craft products that have particular properties. It's like making a coat. That's a wonderful thing to be able to do, but I prefer theater, which is a quiet little voice where you can go to hear the truth.”

        The New Edgecliff production features Erica Jones, Mike Ward and Carrie-Ellen Zappa. Artistic director Mr. Shooner directs.

        Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 21. Tickets $15, students and seniors $12. 241-7469.

        Sandy's back: Gary Sandy, who pops up on Cincinnati stages occasionally (long after he left the broadcast offices of WKRP in Cincinnati) tours through town in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He co-stars with Ann-Margret March 20-April 1 as part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series. (His last performance here was memorable — Side Man for Ensemble last season.)

        Not that anybody's likely to notice the talented actor once the show's display ad, the talk of the Internet's theater sites, hits the local dailies.

        The 58-year-young Ann-Margret doesn't show a lot of skin, just enough to hint that she's ripely naked under rumpled sheets, very appropriate because she's playing a musical madame in Whorehouse.

        The ad was credited for much of the heavy advance ticket sales in first tour stop St. Louis. According to local spokesman Van Ackerman, Broadway Series has been kicking around the idea of color ads to, ah, take advantage of those fine flesh tones.

        Mr. Ackerman says he knows of no plans for a sheet campaign for Mr. Sandy. (“Thank goodness!” Mr. Ackerman says.)

        The Cincinnati Post will offer first view of Ann-Margret on Jan. 31; catch her Feb. 1 inthe Enquirer.

        The national tour shouldn't interfere with Mr. Sandy's long-standing connection to a longtime Broadway wannabe, Lone Star Love.

        It might sound like a Whorehouse sequel, but it's a reincarnation of the jolly Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas seen at Playhouse in the Park in 1994, featuring Mr. Sandy and the Red Clay Ramblers. Hope's been springing eternal since then; producers are crossing their fingers for a green light in 2001.

        YES winners: Northern Kentucky University has named the three winners in its Year-End Series (YES) New Play Festival for 2001.

        Selected from more than 300 submissions: a musicaladaptation of Little Women by Lori Vander Maten (Phoenix) and David Shukiar (Los Angeles); A Passion for Brandy by Mark Eisman (New York), a “heartfelt" comedy, festival coordinator Sandra Forman says, about a lot of people who want custody of a dog; and Rio Bozo by Ray Geiger (Dayton). “It's a spoof on spaghetti westerns that's set in a three-ring circus,” Ms. Forman says. “It's six-shooters and seltzer bottles.”

        Mr. Geiger is the YES Festival's first two-time winner. His last win was for Company Procedure in 1995.

        The three plays will be presented in rotating repertory April 19-29 in the Corbett and Black Box theaters at the NKU Fine Arts Center. Box office: (859) 572-5464.

        Romp through the classics: Coming up more immediately at NKU, The Chronicle of Arlechino and Columbina comes to the campus for two performances at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday ($3.)

        Regan Forman, a '92 NKU grad and daughter of theater professor Sandra Forman, and Oded Gross perform the original musical play inspired by commedia dell'arte, classical tragedy and American vaudeville.

        Chronicle's first act is “The Comedy of Romeo and Juliet,” the second act is “The Comedy of Oedipus Rex.”

        Los Angeles critics loved the show. LA Weekly dubbed it “an all-too-brief 60-minute comic romp.” L.A.'s Backstage West called the twosome “masters of comic counterpoint.”

        The twosome were married in August. Ms. Forman memorably broke her foot during the wedding reception, canceling not only the honeymoon to Italy but a fall engagement for Chronicles in New York.

        Her foot has healed; the trip to Italy has happened. Now they're hoping for a late spring re-scheduling in New York.

        "Puppet' honored: Congratulations to Saw Theatre, whose Account Me Puppet made Philadelphia Weekly's Top 10 theater picks for 2000.

        Account Me, “a spectacular Fringe Festival production”came in at No. 7. The show, wrote the Weekly, “boasted all the spectacle of The Lion King in a far more thoughtful and stimulating production.”
       Jackie Demaline is the Enquirer's theater critic and roving arts reporter. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330; e-mail,


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