FEATURE: Kat’s Favourite’s from Fall 2023

By Katrina “Kat” Reynolds

It’s January and that means the 2023-2024 theatre season is already half over – can you believe it?! With that reminder, it is my pleasure to present my Top 5 shows of Fall 2023 (in order by premiere):

#1 Sleeping Giant by Steve Yockey presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati (August 2023)

Described as what happens when “a marriage proposal gone awry” awakens an ancient evil from the lake, this show was not at all what I expected and that is a win in my book. A tight ensemble of four artists playing multiple roles (with particular stand-out performances by Jared Earland credited simply as The Raconteur) navigated the stage and story-telling with great ease. Creepy and thought-provoking, Sleeping Giant was a wild ride.

Sleeping Giant ant Know

#2 This Is Tom Jones! with Book, Lyrics, and Music by Mark Brown and Music by Paul Mirkovich presented by Human Race Theatre Company (September 2023)

Tom Jones not only kept me on my toes, but it easily became my favorite show of the season so far – and much to everyone’s shock, it is a musical! What happens when you combine a story from the 16th century with some 1960s mod? One of the best times you’ll ever have at the theatre. Yet another iron-strong ensemble delivered the songs and the jokes with an expertise and speed that was beyond impressive. Extra props to Sara Mackie whose character work is enviable to say the least.

Tom Jones

#3 Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight by Steven Dietz presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (September 2023)

I was thrilled to see a Steven Dietz original version of the age-old tale this fall. Contributing to the etymology of the term “gaslighting” which is the practice of using psychological manipulation on someone so they question their own reasoning, the time period may be in the past, but the message is still relevant. Not to mention, Jim Hopkins gave probably one of the best performances we’ve seen from him and that was a big task to accomplish. 

#4 Two Point OH by Jeffrey Jackson presented by Falcon Theatre (November 2023)

Giving us a stellar performance of one of the best scripts I’ve seen on stage in some time, Falcon Theatre didn’t mess around on Two Point OH. Very quickly, our protagonist – or perhaps antagonist? – is dead, but has come back into the lives of those who feel his loss in AI form. What follows is a true crisis of conscience for those who have been given his gift/burden. With no weak players to be seen and a stellar area premiere by actor Daniel Anderson.

Cast of Two Point OH at Falcon Theatre

#5 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with new Adaptation by Blake Robison presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (December 2023)

This is a new script with new staging in Playhouse’s newest space. In case it isn’t obvious, I’m a sucker for a good, strong ensemble – and this show is a master class. While its a struggle to choose a “standout”, I will narrow it down to two: Maggie Lou Rader as the Ghost of Christmas Past was powerful and absolutely radiant (and not just because her dress literally lit up) and insanely diverse Kelly Mengelkoch embodied the various emotions of Mrs. Cratchit with grace and commitment. If you didn’t catch it this year, I recommend giving it a try in 2024.

Looking at 2024 Theatre

There are still so many great shows coming our way in the next few months.

It has been my pleasure and privilege to see so much craftmanship in Cincinnati this season and an honor to be able to write about it. I encourage you to support your local arts scene. Donate, talk about it on social and be there in the audience. The feeling of live theatre is truly like no other, so let’s fill those seats!

Photos: for Cincinnati Shakespeare and Playhouse in the Park by Mikki Schaffner. Sleeping Giant photo by Dan R Winters. Two Point OH photo by Claudia Herschner. Tom Jones photo credit Human Race Theatre Company.