Reivew by Greg Bossler of As You Like It: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Billy Chase and Sara Clark in “As You Like It”
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s first Shakespeare play of the year is a delightful and breezy production of As You Like It, starring Sara Clark as a puckish Rosalind.
Like her father before her, Rosalind is banished to the Forest of Arden. Disguised as the young man Ganymede, she is accompanied by her cousin and best friend Celia, who is herself disguised as the young maid Aliena. The ensuing complications of their mistaken identities comically work themselves out, of course, and both Rosalind and Celia find true love, just in time to reunite with Rosalind’s father and see him restored to his dukedom.
Rosalind is the largest female role Shakespeare wrote, but Clark delivers it with an energy and poise that belies the considerable burden. Her performance is a fine balance of the silly and the solemn, the slapstick and the serious. Clark’s energy is matched by Miranda McGee, whose Celia is a Shakespearean Amy Schumer, a slightly naughty but good-natured provocateur.
Billy Chase veers toward the histrionic as Touchstone, but the fishing scene between the fool and the shepherd Corin, portrayed by Jim Hopkins, is a comedic highlight of the show. Also notable are Justin McCombs’s antics with a petulant lamb, Kyle Brumley’s recounting of the saga of a sobbing deer, and Lindsay Augusta Mercer’s music to the numerous songs, more than in any other Shakespeare play.
Director Jeremy Dubin makes good use of every last inch of space, including the aisles and even the pillars in CSC’s intimate auditorium. Shannon Robert is also inventive in her scenic design for the tight stage, which is evocatively lit by Sara Watson.
Performances continue until December 12, Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Single tickets are available at the box office (719 Race Street), by phone (513-381-2273, ext. 1), or online (www.cincyshakes.com) and range from $22 to $39, with discounts for students, seniors, groups, and AAA members.
Review by Sheldon Polonsky of All Childish Things: Know Theatre
Episode 4: A New Show. It was a dark time for Cincinnati Theatre. The holiday season was approaching, along with the usual holiday fare. But a rebel alliance at the Know Theatre, led by a ragtag band of actors, was determined to fight back…
Just in time for the opening of the new Star Wars epic, the Know Theatre presents a fresh and funny look at the generation who grew up with it. Imagine The Big Bang Theory meets Ocean 11: Three 30-something friends who grew up obsessed with Star Wars, along with one of their girlfriends, are planning a heist of priceless collectible merchandise from the Kenner warehouse in Norwood, Ohio. None of their lives have met the promise of their idealistic youth: Dave (Ben Dudley) is still living in his mother’s basement; Max (Chris Wesselman) is trying to make ends meet as a single father; Carter (James Creque) plays in a band, “Funk Force”, that has never taken off; and Carter’s girlfriend, Kendra (Laurie Benning Roberts) is a former cinema major who is selling popcorn at the Mariemont Theatre. All of them hope that this adventure will change their lives, and it will, but perhaps not in the way they expect.
All Childish Things is a true ensemble piece, and every one of these outstanding actors gets their own chance to shine–even Mike Sherman, who comes in during the second half as the mysterious instigator of their robbery. It takes a little while to warm up to these characters, but once you do each of them seems very authentic and relatable. I especially loved Wesselman’s wookie-ish portrayal of Max who’s innocence and good nature proves to be the heart of the group. There are plenty of serious themes of lost idealism and obsession, but fundamentally All Childish Things is a comedy, and a funny one at that. Director Tamara Winters keeps the dialogue and the action moving along a fine pace and all the timing is impeccable.
Any time I go to Know Theatre, I always look forward to Andrew Hungerford’s innovative sets and lighting, and this production was no exception. The set, Dave’s basement, is impeccably built and furnished, and kudos must go out to Sarah Beth Hall, who was in charge of props and must have scoured the city (or E-bay) for a wealth of Star Wars memorabilia. In addition, Doug Borntrager did a fine job with music and sound effects.
Finally, although anyone who grew up with Star Wars (myself included) will have a special connection with this production, by no means is it a prerequisite for enjoying it. My wife, who like Kendra wouldn’t know a nerfherder from an Ewok, loved this play and had a great time. Fundamentally, despite being grounded in the Star Wars culture, is really all about how our common bonds bring us together, and what it really means to be a hero, and that is something we can all relate to.
All Childish Things runs through December 19th and tickets can be purchased on the Know Theatre website, www.knowtheatre.com. Get on your X-wing fighter or landspeeder and don’t miss it.
Review by Erica Minton of All Childish Things: Know Theatre
James Creque and Chris Wesselman in “All Childish Things”
Joseph Zettelmaier’s All Childish Things recently opened at the Know Theatre’s Main Stage, and you can tell from the moment you walk in that the Know staff are having fun with this show. Signage is printed in a careful Star Wars-inspired hand. Specialty drinks are on offer, such as the “Red Saber”: Mountain Dew Code Red, plus vodka and triple sec. Geeky tunes are pumping, such as Weird Al’s “Yoda” and Hot Waffles’ “George Lucas Raped My Childhood.” (Now would be an appropriate time to mention that this show is not altogether child-friendly, mostly for language and some violence/gun themes.)
Immediately upon entering the stage area, the setting is a familiar one for geeks like myself, from the obligatory futon to the dual-monitor PC. From top to bottom, the room is decorated in Star Wars memorabilia, with no opportunity wasted, including Wookiee-like bean bag chairs and tauntaun figurines mounting other tauntaun figurines. Personally I’ve never known a Star Wars geek who didn’t also have a Doctor Who TARDIS cookie jar or some manga lined up on the book shelf, but let me be clear: this room is all Star Wars, all the time. Mountain Dew becomes a decor of its own, showing up in cases under the bed, loose cans in the mini-fridge, and empties stacked in pyramids on the desk. The narrow, frosted windows make it clear we’re in a basement (if there could be any doubt), and so before the lights even come up on All Childish Things, the audience has a clear idea of the characters they’ll encounter.
The only element that does not feel familiar is the mysterious cabinet taking up a quarter of the room. The cabinet, we find out, houses protagonist Dave Bulanski’s (Ben Dudley) most precious Star Wars figurines. When we meet him, Dave’s only drive seems to be amassing more of the toys—sorry, collectables. In fact, Dave and three of his best friends (or, more accurately, two friends and one Yoko Ono-style girlfriend) are about to embark on a massive heist of the secret Kenner warehouse in Norwood, Ohio.
However, the play is less about the heist itself as it is about the relationships between the four characters. The friends are in a stage of life that many 30-year-olds will recognize: you’ve been friends for decades but you’ve begun to drift apart. Carter (James Creque), once a lady’s man, is starting to get serious about his girlfriend Kendra (Laurie Benning Roberts). Kendra, on the other hand, is “not the marrying type” and cannot conquer her flight-or-fight response in a mature way. Dave’s best friend Max (Chris Wesselman) has a daughter of his own and needs to become more of a parent, less of a child. And Dave, with his mystery cabinet of mint condition toys, perhaps needs the biggest boot out of the nest.
Though each begins in his or her own state of arrested development, and each relationship is still being protected in the same plastic box it has been kept in for 20 years, over the course of All Childish Things we see growth from each of the characters. Sometimes it takes jarring, near-death experiences to shake our heroes by the shoulders, but slowly it does happen. The characters are in good hands, especially Laurie Benning Roberts’ Kendra—I have a soft spot for a female character who struggles to be one of the guys, and Roberts’ willful and bold Kendra was a win. Chris Wesselman and Ben Dudley are completely believable as lifelong friends; if those two don’t continue sharing Dews and Hostess Ding Dongs off-set, I’d be surprised.
Though attendance was sparse on Saturday, it was clear that the fanboy themes had attracted many new patrons to the Know Theatre. Those looking for references to nerf herders and wampas will leave satisfied. But if you aren’t fluent in Lucas, don’t let that scare you off: this show is more about people, relationships, change—and growing a pair.
Review by Liz Eichler of As You Like It: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Sara Clark as Rosalind in “As You Like It’ presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, with Geoffrey Warren Barnes II as Orlando, Rosalind’s love.
You’ll hit the “Like” button for Cincinnati Shakespeare’s As You Like It, playing now through December 12, 2015.
A gift for the early holiday season, director Jeremy Dubin sets this classical comedy in Victorian England, perhaps to channel Dickenensian warmth, nevertheless ensuring a fun, frolicking, family night at the theatre. There is something for everyone, ensuring giggles to guffaws. From intellectual wit and wisdom to Snidely Whiplash melodrama and Three Stooges physical humor, your modern family will connect.
This is Sara Clark’s show. She is a strong Rosalind, with great timing, charm and spunk. Her relationship with the talented Miranda McGee as cousin Celia is quite comfortable, sweet and sisterly, and her transformation to the male “Ganymede” made me wonder if she ever played Peter Pan (she should). Geoffrey Warren Barnes II is an earnest Orlando, Rosalind’s love.
The show builds slowly, yet the second act opens hilariously with two big men in a tiny boat, having an excellent adventure. They fish, they smoke, they don’t exhale. (This would be an excellent spin off for a late night series.) Billy Chase is over-the-top yet joyfully silly, as Touchstone the Fool. Jim Hopkins is his straight man, as the shepherd. Justin McCombs and Maggie Lou Rader ham it up as a couple of absurd yokels. Tess Talbot as Audrey and Doug Fries as the Wrestler also provide rich humor, standing out from a very good ensemble.
A layer of richness is added with music (led by the lovely Lindsey Mercer) and a dance to the Greek goddess of weddings… and other things.
This is the first CSC production where I noticed the stage appeared crowded and heavy. I never fully felt transported from rigid court to magical forest, save the delightful ending tableau. I can only imagine how excited the Company is to have a new space on the drawing board. Support their dream by buying tickets to AS YOU LIKE IT at www.cincyshakes.com.
Review by Prabir Das of Relatively Speaking: Diogenes Theatre Company
Relatively Speaking, presented by Diogenes Theatre Company at the Fifth Third Bank Theater of Aronoff Center, is indeed a story that can be a reality. Although set in the 1960s, Alan Ayckbourn’s play still resonates with many households even today.
The cast of four, consisting of one relatively middle-aged couple and one relatively younger couple, somehow get completely entangled in a relationship of who is who, or rather who is whose what! Greg and Ginny have possibly just entered into a steady relationship where a wedding between the two is in the horizon. Philip and Sheila are apparently a happily married couple who have gone through many springs together and perhaps are now facing the winter, while still maintaining Indian summer warmth in their life together. Ginny and Philip work in the same office and thus came to know each other and got engaged in a relationship outside of public eyes. Philip adores the much younger Ginny and spends nights at her apartment once in a while, where he at times forgets and leaves behind some of his belongings, such as a pair of shoes. He also showers his love for Ginny by regularly sending her chocolates, flowers and other gifts. Greg suspects yet remains clueless.
On a third Sunday of a month Ginny decides to visit Philip in his countryside home while Sheila is expected to attend church. Ginny wants to utilize this one last visit to end the relationship with Philip. Ginny tells Greg that she would be visiting her parents for the day. They say goodbye to each other and Ginny leaves to catch train to the countryside. Greg, who never met Ginny’s parents, decides to surprise them with his unannounced presence. He catches the train and arrives earlier than Ginny since Ginny missed the train.
The story truly gets hilarious from this point forward. Greg assumes Sheila is Ginny’s mother and Philip isGinny’s father. Ginny arrives shortly after and finds Sheila at home. And thus the entire relationship between the four continues to evolve. As an audience we applaud the humor as well as remain at the edge of our seats wondering when the two culprits will get caught. As they continue to attempt to untangle each relationship through various allies and alibis, the playwright takes us all to a rather pleasant and happy ending.
Director Brian Isaac Phillips does a marvelous job with several compositions that carry the essence of lightness of the play. Each of the cast members, Patrick E. Phillips (Greg), Bailie Breaux (Ginny), Robert Pavlovich (Philip) and Abby Rowold (Sheila) do complete justice to their characters. Abby Rowold is perhaps the best casting in the play. Her appearance, ease and elegant movements truly were outstanding.
Within the limitations of a black box theatre, set designer Sarah Beth Hall did a noteworthy job. Amanda McGee’s costume design was in line with the time period and Doug Borntrager’s sound designing was adequate. Alan Kleesattel’s lighting design at one untimely point lost power where the stage lost all lights; Abby Rowold’s impromptu delivery – “Umm, an eclipse all of a sudden” simply added to audience’s laughter in appreciation for her spontaneous reaction.
It is a must see for all fun loving theatre goers.
Sara Clark in CSC’s upcoming “As You Like It”
Sneak Peak by Gregory Bossler of As You Like It: CSC
This season’s Shakespeare opener at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is the pastoral As You Like It, which runs from November 20 to December 12.
The show follows Rosalind, who is banished to the Forest of Arden, where she finds her exiled father and his supporters, including the melancholy Jaques, who famously laments “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” As with most of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, there are a series of mistaken identities and complicated love triangles, but in the end, Rosalind finds true love with Orlando, just as her father is restored to the throne.
It’s been about ten years since CSC produced As You Like It. This time the production has Artistic Associate Jeremy Dubin at the helm and the entire Cincinnati Shakespeare resident ensemble in the company, including Geoffrey Barnes as Orlando and Sara Clark as Rosalind.
Clark returns to the stage just four months after giving birth to son Brennan. Now in her tenth season in the resident ensemble, she has appeared as Ophelia, Juliet, Daisy in The Great Gatsby, and Abigail Williams in The Crucible. Her first main-stage production at CSC was that production of As You Like It a decade ago.
Performances are scheduled Nov 18-19 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 20-Dec. 11, Thu-Sat at 7:30 p.m., Sun at 2 p.m.; and Dec. 12 at 2 p.m.
Single ticket prices range from $22 to $35 on Thursdays and Sundays and from $26 to $39 on Fridays and Saturdays. Previews are $25. If available, $14 student rush tickets may be purchased 30 minutes before a show with a valid student ID. Discounts are also available for seniors, groups, and AAA members.
Tickets may be purchased with cash, Visa, Discover, MasterCard, or American Express in person at the CSC box office (719 Race Street), by phone (513-381-2273, ext. 1), or online (www.cincyshakes.com).
Review by Grace Eichler of Seussical: Northern Kentucky University
NKU‘s School of the Arts’s first musical of the season, the ever-exuberant Seussical, takes an ingenious and downright funky approach to what can often be a sickly saccharine story. The Flaherty and Ahrens work, based on the famous works of Dr. Seuss, combines all of our favorite characters and stories, all narrated by the mischievously omniscient Cat in the Hat, expertly personified by senior Taylor Greatbatch. Director Daryl Harris places the Jungle of Nool, Town of Whooville and everywhere else in Seuss’s world onto a schoolyard playground, further elevating the theme of imagination and “thinks.”
Jojo, adorably played by Madeleine Burgoon, sees the Cat’s Hat appear on stage, and “thinks” him into existence. The Cat then takes the lead, introducing us to our protagonist, Horton the Elephant (Brandon Huber), and all of his fellow citizens of the Jungle of Nool. The plot ties together so many Seuss stories that you’ll have to see it to follow, and delight in remembering some of your favorite Seuss words and characters.
The score is overwhelmingly chipper and energetic, and needs talented voices and direction in order to be successful. Music Director and Conductor Damon Stevens tackles it deftly, although opening night had some of the more difficult group entrances that weren’t quite synched up with the orchestra.
Outstanding voices include Brittany Hayes’s Sour Kangaroo and all of her Arethariffic riffs and rolls. Harmonies are solid throughout the two featured ensembles of the Bird Girls (Kathryn Klens, Kaitlin McCulloch and Christina Tully) and the Wickersham Brothers (Kyle Segar, Andrew Blake and Kyle Taylor), although mic issues made many of them difficult to identify. Segar particularly impresses as the soloist on what may be the show-stealing number, “Monkey Around.” The boy band-esque trio breaks it down in the middle of the song with a step battle that is very impressive, so huge kudos to Choreographer Heather Britt.
An additional noteworthy performance is from Gabriella Francis as the diva Mayzie La Bird, who dumps her egg onto Horton to take a vacation in Palm Beach. Having seen many Mayzies, this may have been my favorite depiction. I’m not sure if Francis was intentionally going for it, but I was overwhelmingly reminded of Jenny Slate’s Mona Lisa Saperstein character on Parks and Recreation, and I loved it.
No production of Seussical is complete without a stellar costumer, and this is no exception. Ronnie Chamberlain’s designs seamlessly integrated animal characteristics in an anthropomorphized way, so that it seemed like any individual character could have been another student or teacher at recess on the school playground with Jojo. Wig Master Daniel Townsend echoed Chamberlain’s colors and detail with an eccentricity deserving of Seuss’s original illustrations. All of this was contrasted beautifully with Ronald A. Shaw’s minimalist scenic design, using metal playground equipment and a blacktop stage.
With all of the excitement, both visually and musically, it was sometimes difficult to concentrate on the action of the show. Some scenes were set so far upstage that you needed to search for where to focus your attention. The entire cast is on stage for the majority of the show, so there are hundreds of details and expressions to be distracted by at any given moment, but that also is a testament to the strength of every member of the ensemble.
And now, if you’ll forgive me…
When costumes and concept and vocals astound,
Seussical’s joy is sure to abound
The show is on stage at that school, NKU
Playing now through Sunday, November twenty-two!
Review by Doug Iden of “Sleuth”:
I love a mystery – especially one with a labyrinthine plot featuring a titanic verbal battle between two master gamesters. This is the premise in the play Sleuth showing at The Carnegie Theater. In the Anthony Shaffer masterpiece, an older man, Andrew Wyke, (played by Brent Burington) matches wits with Milo Tindle (portrayed by Rory Sheridan) whom Andrew suspects is having an affair with his wife. The “cat and mouse” banter is delightful, reminiscent of classic British mysteries from the Golden Age. Both actors are superb at the battle of one-upmanship. The enjoyment of the show is trying to figure out the complexity of the plot before the characters in the play do. Several gasps from the audience indicate that the playwright is normally ahead of the crowd.
The intricate set of an old English manor house (designed by Ryan Howell) is almost another character in the show. The stage has a cluttered, almost chaotic look highlighted by a life-sized, animated sailor who laughs at (mocks?) the characters. The clutter in the claustrophobic set contributes to a major plot point in the second act as Andrew searches frantically for hidden articles that could prove his undoing.
Despite the extended exposition, the play moves quickly due to the skill of the actors and the directorial talents of Greg Procaccino. My only quibble was uneven sound. As the actors moved around the stage, their voices became louder or softer which seemed to be due to microphone issues.
So grab your Deerstalker and try to out-guess Sleuth running at The Carnegie through November 22.