Sunday, January 5, 2003

The arts

2003 takes off with 12 entertaining weeks on stage


Winter is a great time to discover theater. Cold weather brings the most interesting choices on almost every stage calendar.

Remember when you're scanning the movie directory Friday morning in Weekend to check the theater listings, too.

There are lots of options for keeping costs down, whether it's stopping by a outlet on day of show or asking the people at Cincinnati Shakespeare whether they're offering any discounts. Bet they'll find one for you. A few minutes of browsing through is always worth your time, too.

Consider experimenting with second stages around downtown (that includes Newport and Covington), and the price is always right at a lot of university theater.

If you're ready for theatrical adventure, here's my list of quarterly recommendations for winter:

Week one: The Gimmick, Jan. 9-19, Cincinnati Shakespeare, 381-2273. Dael Orlandersmith's lyrical autobiographical drama was so terrific in a November run that Taylore Mahogany Scott returns for a reprise of her one-woman show about growing up in Harlem. Ms. Orlandersmith is, of course, now a heralded playwright with work including off-Broadway hit Yellowman.

Week two: Proof, Jan. 12-Feb. 14, Playhouse in the Park, 421-3888. Winner of last year's Tony Award for best play and Pulitzer Prize for drama, David Auburn writes about every definition of "proof" as troubled and brilliant Catherine finds the present an uneasy intersection between past and future.

Week three: Copenhagen, Jan. 22-Feb. 9, Ensemble, 421-3555. Playhouse in the Park in Over-the-Rhine? Producing artistic director Ed Stern brings Joneal Joplin and Dale Hodges to ETC for Tony winning best play Copenhagen. Michael Frayn's memory play about Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr explores the nature of nuclear physics and friendship.

Week four: Seussical the Musical, Jan. 28-Feb. 9, Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati, 241-7469. Cathy Rigby is The Cat in the Hat in this wacky and whimsical tour through the land of Dr. Seuss.

Also consider: Triumph of Love, Jan. 24-Feb. 1, Ovation Theatre, Fifth Third Bank Theater, Aronoff Center, 241-7469. Adapted from one of Marivaux's 18th-century gender-bending, bittersweet comedies. A princess disguised as a man falls in love with a prince. Complications arise.

Week five: An Infinite Ache, Feb. 1-March 9, Playhouse in the Park Shelterhouse, 421-3888. Twentysomethings are flashed forward from first date though all the happiness and heartache of an unexpected life together.

Week six: Joe Raiola in Almost Obscene, 7 p.m. Feb. 10, Playhouse in the Park Rosenthal Plaza, 421-3888. Alteractive is back! The wintertime Monday night series returns with a hit of the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival. MAD magazine editor and monologist Mr. Raiola riffing and ranting about the hypocrisy of humanity.

Also consider: Trust, Feb. 13-March 1, Know Tribe, 300-5669. The intriguing lineup includes works by Edward Albee, Adam Rapp, Sam Shepard and John Patrick Shanley.

Week seven: The Comedy of Errors, Feb. 13-March 9, Cincinnati Shakespeare, 381-2273. Just in time for Fat Tuesday, the festival thinks Mardi Gras for Shakespeare's mistaken identity comedy about two sets of identical twins.

Also consider: Death of a Salesman, Jan. 30-Feb. 16, Human Race Theatre Company, Loft Theatre, Dayton, (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630. Arthur Miller's timeless American classic about Willy Loman, aging and the American Dream.

Week eight: Sweet Charity, Feb. 20-March 1, Northern Kentucky University Fine Arts Center, Highland Heights, (859) 572-5464. Federico Fellini is Americanized into a Broadway musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields. Big tunes (including "Hey, Big Spender" and "If They Could See Me Now") help tell the story of dance hall girl Charity Valentine.

Also consider: Songs for a New World, March 20-30, Rising Phoenix, Temple Arts Center, Middletown, (513) 705-4131. Songs by Jason Robert Brown, composer of Parade, are all about living in the world now. The show will be performed cabaret style.

Week nine: The Wild Party, Feb. 27-March 9, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, 556-4183. Fresh from off-Broadway (the first production), Andrew Lippa's sexy and intense musical drama (recommended for mature audiences) is set in New York, 1929.

Week 10: James and Annie, March 12-30, Ensemble Theatre, 421-3555. The latest from ETC fave playwright Warren Leight (Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine). Mr. Leight takes a look at an interracial romance set just after V-J Day.

Also consider: Three the Hard Way, March 6-23, New Edgecliff, The Artery, Newport, 763-3844. It's a wry comedy about three sisters' travel to Reno to bury their pool shark father.

Week 11: Pacific Overtures, March 4-April 4, Playhouse, 421-3888. Stephen Sondheim's stunning musical explores the clash of cultures following U.S. Naval Commodore Matthew Perry's first expedition to Japan in 1853.

Complete the theatrical banquet with Stir-Fry Friday!, Chicago's premier Asian-American sketch comedy and improv troupe. 7 p.m. March 17 (talk about a way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day), alteractive, Playhouse Rosenthal Plaza, 421-3888.

Week 12: The Lion King, March 21-May 18, Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati, 241-7469. The extraordinary puppets and masks of director Julie Taymor are the real stars of Disney's musical riff on Shakespeare (see Hamlet) about young lion cub Simba destined to be King of the Jungle.

Also: The Love Song of Robert J. Oppenheimer, March 22-April 20, Playhouse, 421-3888. This year's winner of the Rosenthal New Play Prize is a tantalizing exploration of religion, conscience and the interior life of the man who birthed the nuclear age.

See you at the theater.

Lots of Initiative: Women's Theatre Initiative will produce the U.S. premiere of British playwright Charlotte Jones' In Flame in July. The London hit follows the lives of two women living almost a century apart and points out how little choices for women have expanded in 100 years.

"It's a Big Idea play," says Initiative producer Kristin Dietsche. "It's about how the choices we make are tainted by society's ideas of beauty, romance, aging, sanity, death."

Carrying over from a September staged reading will be director Regina Pugh and actors Dale Hodges and Carrie-Ellen Zappa.

In the near-term, the Initiative will host a Jan. 16 performance of Know Tribe's Pretty Fire which will benefit Women Helping Women. Tickets $10; for reservations call the Initiative at 604-8545.

Queen City Off Broadway artistic director Lyle Benjamin has been tapped to direct blueS alleY caT, a "popera" about life in Over-the-Rhine by Lee Horvitz and Joe Gorman. First order of business will be whittling down the 300-plus pages of script. Plans are for an early spring debut.

Know's one-acts: Here's the back-story to Know Theatre Tribe's line-up for Trust, its February program of one-acts.

The schedule: Zoo Story by Edward Albee directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare's Brian Isaac Phillips and featuring Know artistic director Matthew Pyle and Jeff Groh; Adam Rapp's Train Story and Sam Shepard's Tongues, both directed by Christine Defrancesco; and John Patrick Shanley's shorty The Red Coat directed by Mr. Pyle.

The story behind the show took place during IF Theatre's Lebensraum last November.

Lebensraum featured Mr. Pyle, Bill Hartnett and Corinne Mohlenhoff. Mr. Hartnett had been set to star in Eugene Ionesco's The Lesson for Mr. Pyle but had to drop out. Mr. Pyle decided to postpone The Lesson until Mr. Hartnett would again be available.

They started kicking around titles backstage and Zoo Story came up. Ms. Mohlenhoff, in the next dressing room, knew this to be an all-time favorite of her Significant Other, Mr. Phillips, and in no time the deal was done.

Also planning one-acts for February, the debuting New Gate will offer a sneak peek at their Irish rep during the Fine Arts Fund's Sampler Weekend.

They promise to return in June (location to be determined) with a production of Playboy of the Western World with Karen Vanover directing.

Traveling drama: Playhouse is all over the world in 2003. Long before King Lear's June exhibit in Prague, Nixon's Nixon, which has played the West End, the Edinburgh and Hong Kong festivals among many others, is headed for Australia.

It will be part of the Perth International Theatre Festival in January. Tim Donoghue and Keith Joachim again star under the direction of Charles Towers.


25 forces that will shape culture in 2003
1. The big economic squeeze
2. Clear Channel's dominance
3. Suburbanites: Will they roam?
4. The plea for racial healing
5. The media's message
6. A whole new ball game
7. Edgy art center opening
8. Tall Stacks rolls back
9. Will tourists go home happy?
10. How Fine Arts Fund carries clout
11. You can't fight City Hall
12. Laura Long: Downtown force
13. The CSO's growing empire
14. Rosenthals' big impact
15. Northern Kentucky development
16. Museum Center's main man
17. Lobbyist Weiland
18. UC at crossroads
19. The Nederlanders make a comeback
20. MidPoint: Rebuild the city on rock 'n' roll
21. The Schuster Center alternative
22. Another public art project goes to bat
23. The brain drain
24. Local film community gains focus
25. Dancing around visa problems
The wild card of 2003: War
2003 dates to keep in mind

DEMALINE: The arts
KENDRICK: Alive & Well
Get to it!