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Update on Unified Auditions 2015

The League of Cincinnati Theatres will not be hosting a Unified Audition in 2015. Each of our professional member theatres holds auditions at various points during the year. We strongly encourage interested actors to contact individual companies for which they may be interested in auditioning; links are provided under the “Membership Information” tab above. For actors new to town, or curious about the theatres that might be a good fit for them, you’re invited to contact LCT President Joshua Steele at joshuaTsteele@gmail.com.

New Changes to the LCT Paneling/Review Process!

For the winter/spring season this year, LCT is excited to announce a new format for reviews. Instead of a formal rating system, we will be posting a full review from one of our panelists on our review page here. We are hoping this approach will give theatre goers more robust insight into the productions and help them choose the shows they really want to watch. We anticipate even more exciting changes in our review process and awards for the next season, so stay posted!

Untethered’s “August: Osage County” Emotional, Bold

Any family has its ups and downs, issues and secrets. The Westons have that and then some. As literature, “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts is a masterful work. It is multilayered and multi textured but not all of the layers are things you really want to explore. The story of the Weston sisters and their parents and relatives, who come together during a family crisis, reflects and absorbs the energy of many families; sometimes the mirror reflects humor, sometimes naked raw emotion.

Untethered Theatre made a bold choice in choosing this piece, perfectly aligned with their mission, but not with their sight lines, and eliminating seating for the audience. Perhaps there were other answers to the sprawling set in the cramped, yet intimate space. Could the bunkbed and study have been switched for audience comfort? Or was it a conscious effort to make the audience squirm and turn in their seats? As each layer is ripped away, the audience should become more uncomfortable at the sight of their own wounds.

With those details aside, it is a powerful play, where layer upon layer it is revealed that this family has been poisoned and eaten away by a complicated web of lies, denial, illness and the sweet allure of whiskey, pills, weed or wine.

The highlights of the evening are performances by Dale Hodges (Violet Westin), Christine Dye (Mattie Fay), Bob Allen (Charlie), Carter Bratton (Little Charlie) and Mindy Heithaus. Strength of focus, crafting people rich and full in detail confirm these actors as Cincinnati treasures. Another audience member summed up Dale Hodges’ performance “How she made me detest this complicated woman and then be hopeful for her well-being by the end of the play was lovely to watch.” The others rounding out the cast of 13 (!) fulfill their roles well, in a true ensemble cast. Costumes and lighting were appropriate.

I highly recommend this show. It is not for the easily offended. It is long, but most of it flew by as we were all entranced by this wonderful theatre making brave, bold choices.

Falcon’s “Heat of the Night” Warms Cincinnati Audiences

So says black Pasadena Homicide Investigator, Virgil Tibbs, strongly played by Derek Snow in the Falcon Theatre’s production of In the Heat of the Night.

It’s the early sixties, and Tibbs is traveling in the deep South. He is waiting for a bus in Argo, Alabama when he arrested by the local hayseed cops for a murder. Virgil confronts racism and prejudice while helping the local sheriff solve the murder mystery.

This production of In the Heat of the Night is outstanding. Small intimate spaces like the Falcon put the audience close to the action of the stage. Director Ed Cohen smartly places all the actors behind a scrim, reminding the audience of the ensemble, which is very good. Each actor of the 10-person troupe was well-prepared for their roles. Derek Snow was solid throughout, commanding each scene. He needed a good counterpoint for his strong, laconic role of Mr. Tibbs and he got it in Michael Hall’s interpretation of Sheriff Gillespie, an outsider hired to be sheriff. Hall’s performance matched Snow’s, and you really felt his transition from desiring to be accepted in a bigoted town to accepting the new world where a black man could be equal.

Cohen used the actors to change the set and this technique moved the play along at a brisk pace. Simon Powell and Dan Maloney played police officers and both were very fine. I like when actors project their voices toward the audience! Tom Peters also stands out, playing two crucial roles.

Special mention must be made for the production music provided by two actors on stage, Rich Setterberg and Allison Evans. Rich played three roles, and played bass lines of popular tunes from the era (and harmonica). Allison provided a drum beat and did a good job playing her character.

The lighting in this show was also very fine. The Whiskey Shambles Band played some blues tunes before the show. This was a great way to set this fine period piece by John Ball.

Falcon is celebrating its 25th season. Falcon Producer Ted Weil wears more hats than the inventory of Batsakes Hat Shop downtown. Lighting design, set design, set construction, sound design. In addition, Falcon Theatre has successfully purchased the building and have made serious improvements to the theatre space.

Greater Cincinnati theatre lovers are lucky to have the Falcon Theatre as one of the many theatrical treasures available. Go see this show!

 

Mad Anthony’s “Any Given Monday” A Rewarding Production

If you stick with Mad Anthony Theatre Company’s production of “Any Given Monday,” you will be amply rewarded. Overall, the show got off to a rocky start opening night, but the second act fulfilled the play’s promise. The plot gets started with a potentially trite action – wife cheats on husband, possibly ending a 20+ year marriage. Husband Lenny, very well played by Chris Kramer, is devastated. He is a Good Man (everyone says so) who would never do the same to his wife, and all he wants is to have her back. He and his friend Mickey talk while watching Monday Night Football on TV – hence the title of the play. This is an insightful observation by playwright Bruce Graham; serious talk can flow easier if people (maybe especially men) can pretend to be distracted by the screen. The long first-act scene between the two friends is played out, rather than acted – that’s how well each actor slips into his role. Daniel C. Britt’s Mickey is rough and cynical from his long-time job on the subway. He spends his days observing all kinds of people, and none of them escapes his sarcasm. Mickey’s lines account for many of the laughs in the show, although sometimes they are cheap laughs based on bigotry and laced with profanity. It is in this first-act scene that the real plot of the show takes off, and the second act provides more twists that can’t be revealed without spoiling the pleasure for future audiences. You know an audience is totally involved when, as on opening night, there is a collective gasp at a revealing and well-played piece of stage business. Bekka Eaton as wife Risa shines in the second act. The actress is very ill-served in the first act, by her placement at an ill-lit edge of the stage and the badly chosen costume for her first appearance. By the end of “Any Given Monday” we are pondering some big ethical and moral questions about honesty, death, good and evil, introduced by the fourth performer, daughter Sarah, adequately yet awkwardly played by Allyson West. Post-show discussions may well start with “What would you do?” and that is the mark of a thoughtful script well played.

It must also be note that the newly renovated theatre is warm and welcoming, and a visit to the Fitton Center always provides additional opportunities to enjoy art shows. There are three new installations which you will also enjoy.

Know Theatre’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” is Relevant and Thought-Provoking

Submitted by LCT Panelist

Corinne Mohlenhoff in "A Handmaid's Tale"

Corinne Mohlenhoff in “A Handmaid’s Tale”

If I’m being honest, I was skeptical walking into the Know Theatre‘s production of The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood has long been my favorite author, and I spent a full semester of English studying this book in particular. While I was excited to see it come to life, I was scared it would have the same book-to-movie effect where details and even plot lines were cut for the sake of time or budget. Brian Isaac Phillips, however, did not disappoint. Directing his wife, Corinne Mohlenhoff, as the handmaid Offred, I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Atwood’s work through the script adaptation by Joe Stollenwerk. Set in the not-so-distant dystopian conservative future, women are categorized based on their fertility, serving as “handmaids” for wealthy couples that can’t conceive. Offred narrates between her position in the Commander (Fred’s) house and her memories from “the time before,” which sounds like it could be as close as 30 years away.

The set, designed by Andrew J Hungerford, grew on me more and more as the two acts unfolded. The disintegrating walls, burnt wood floor and high windows combined a dystopian underground bunker with a prison cell, only letting in sunlight where you couldn’t reach it. As the show doesn’t aim to be highly “spectacle,” with one set, one costume and one actor, I enjoyed being able to interpret the set as a metaphor as well.

Also deserving mention were the light and sound design, by Hungerford and Doug Borntrager, respectively. The combination of natural stage lighting and overhead fluorescents transported us to either an old school gym, a quiet bedroom or (twice) the doorway to the unknown. Borntrager’s sound design also seemed effortlessly realistic, as I turned around more than once to see which audience member was talking while Offred described a conversation. Even the simplest suggestions of sound in the script were brought to life and pulled the audience closer into the story.

The nature of the show is, as Offred repeats, “a reconstruction.” It is not live action or a distant memory, but a retelling, full of minor modifications and inner dialogue. That being said, I enjoyed Mohlenhoff’s reconstruction of Offred, but felt there could have been more distinction between her actions and her role as a narrator– that is, defining her self between present, past and “the time before.”

While I heard remarks about the length and wordiness of the narration, what else would you expect from a one-woman novel? Again, I am extremely partial to the story, and found it even more relevant today than I did at first reading, but I would recommend this show to most modern & mature audiences, as it can make the dystopian future seem startlingly close.

Covedale’s Irreverent “Greater Tuna” Provides Oceans of Laughs

Submitted by LCT Panelist

CovedaleGreaterTunaImageTwo hardworking actors playing 21 zany characters are the comedic centerpiece of Greater Tuna. Justin Smith and Matt Wilson earn the audience’s laughter and ovations in the production now playing at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts.

The setting is Tuna, the third-smallest town in Texas, and a place where “the Lions Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies.” The glue of the town is the local radio station, where no piece of news or gossip is too unimportant to be broadcast, and where everyone with an opinion is invited to call in.

And in this satire, everyone has a politically incorrect opinion. The Smut Snatchers group wants to remove books from the high school library, specifically “Roots,” because “it doesn’t properly present the other side of slavery,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” because “it just shows teenagers having sex.”

A Ku Klux Klan member makes a conspiracy case against Agent Orange when he notes that he hired several Vietnam vets; only four of them died and none turned orange. The owner of a used weapons shop advertises that all her products are “guaranteed to kill.”

And there is the elderly woman who routinely poisons dogs who come into her yard. This time, she accidentally poisons her husband’s valuable bird dog, then runs over it with the car to hide her crime.

This is Greater Tuna – consistently in bad taste, always offensive. But it can be funny. Director Bob Brunner makes that case in his program notes: “Greater Tuna is irreverent and wrong on so many levels. Prepare to laugh.”

Easier to admire is Covedale’s production of Greater Tuna. Actors Smith and Wilson move seamlessly among their characters – men, women, teenagers to senior citizens, each with a costume and wig change. Kudos to costume designer Caren Young and her team of quick-change artists: Betsy Brunner Kline, Natasha Boeckmann and Melanie Hall.

Smith and Wilson make each character (caricature, actually) distinct by voice and movement. A highlight is when they draw the audience into the scene, as a stand-in for a church congregation.

Also to be admired is the set, designed by Brett Bowling. The huge barn façade is decorated with old metal signs for Esso and beer, including one that reads “Hippies use back door,” and flanked by an old-time TV antenna and an oil derrick. Cleverly, the hayloft door opens and becomes the radio station studio.

Greater Tuna runs through Feb. 15. Call 513-241-6550 for ticket information.

LCT: “Plaid Tidings” is a 4-Star Show

CovedalePlaidTidingsImageThe League of Cincinnati Theatre (LCT) announces the Covedale Theatre’s Plaid Tidings” is a 4-Star Show. Special recognition goes to Steve Goers for Musical Direction and Direction of a Musical, as well as the whole ensemble.

After an unfortunate accident, a singing group returns to earth. Their angelic mission: bring a little heavenly ‘harmony’ to an apathetic world at Christmas. The cast includes Tyler Huckstep (Jinx), Charlie Meredith (Sparky), John Battagliese (Francis), and Thomas Knapp (Smudge), all juniors and seniors at CCM.

A panelist notes that “from the very beginning, the quartet engaged the audience and maintained this rapport and participation throughout the show.” Another states “it was the beautiful harmony and comic timing that really stands out.” A final panelist encourages the audience with “Plaid Tidings is a Christmas revue like the old time TV shows and one you’ll remember for seasons to come…and you don’t need to have a cardigan sweater to enjoy the fun!”

Contact www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com for tickets to “Plaid Tidings.”

League of Cincinnati Theatre panelists evaluate productions on a 5 star scale and recommend shows at either a 4 star or 5 star level. Nominations for LCT awards will be determined and announced at the end of the season and winners awarded at the annual LCT gala in the spring.