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OF MONSTER DESCENT presented by Queen City Flash as part of the 2018 Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

GYTN = Get You Tickets Now. Go ahead, follow the link, the review will still be here after you get back.

Writer/Director team Trey Tatum and Bridget Leak (“Slut Shaming” 2014 Artist Pick of the Fringe, “The Disappearance of Nicole Jacobs”) present a story about a family on the brink of collapse and the woodland beast that stalks just beyond their fence line. Set in a decaying Gulf Coast oasis, a young boy confronts family legacy and the untamed beyond in this otherworldly, lightning-lit, monster survival tale.

Sometimes the most successful solo shows at the Fringe are rooted in the performer’s personal history. When an artist takes the leap and exposes their vulnerability, the result can be amazing. Such is the case with OF MONSTER DECENT.

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Trey Tatum.

The script by Trey Tatum is extremely well-written. Pop culture and childhood experiences of family life in Alabama combine in an engaging, thought-provoking, yet genuinely laugh-out-loud funny sixty minutes.

His storytelling and emotional connection to the work is only strengthened by the direction of Bridget Leak. I really enjoy her eye for connecting the words to physical movement in a way that complements the work, without it becoming distracting or overwrought.

The end of the Thursday night performance was greeted with a well-deserved ovation from the sold-out audience.

Five performances remain at the FLC Lounge, one of the smaller Fringe venues:

  • Sat, June 2 at 9pm
  • Sun, June 3 at 7pm
  • Thu, June 7 at 7pm
  • Fri, June 8 at 8:30pm
  • Sat, June 9 at 4:45pm

More information |



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CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF presented Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through April 28. I attended the opening night performance.

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The cast. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

In a word, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is excellent. Director Michael Evan Haney has helmed a detailed and nuanced production that works extremely well in CSC’s new intimate theater.

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Maggie Lou Rader as Maggie. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Supported by an incredibly strong ensemble, it is the stand-out performances by Maggie Lou Rader, Jim Hopkins, and Grant Niezgodski that set this play apart.

As Maggie the Cat, Rader commands your attention. Sexy, confident, defiant, and yet exposing her desire to be loved by the very man who seems to hate her.

Jim Hopkins’ Big Daddy is larger than life, loud, and crass; but at the same time shows a sharp mind and open-mindedness beyond his station in life. His grand relief at having survived his own brush with mortality makes his fall to reality that much more tragic.

However, it is Niezgodski’ Brick that sets this production apart from others. Many times, I have seen Brick played as overly stoic, who mainly serves as the target for Maggie’s and Big Daddy’s pleas for answers to Brick’s deteriorating behavior. Grant’s Brick is completely engaged in every moment of conversation and displays a vulnerability in the character seldom seen. Ironically, I seemed to like Brick more the more drunk he became. You could hear a pin drop as Big Daddy and Brick confront their respective truths in the second half of act two.

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Grant Niezgodski as Brick and Jim Hopkins as Big Daddy. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

The production crew doesn’t miss a beat. Set, lighting, properties, costumes, and hair work perfectly together to create a totally believable world.

Brutally honest, emotionally true, and deeply engaging, this is easily the best production of this Tennessee Williams American classic I have seen.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER presented Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Feb. 17. I attended the first of two preview performances.

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Caitlin McWethy as Joanna Drayton and Darnell Pierre Benjamin as Dr. John Prentice. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company begins 2018 celebrating the silver anniversary of the silver screen classic, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER.

Guest director D. Lynn Myers has gathered an excellent ensemble that creates an engaging, heartfelt, and emotionally-true production.

The young, engaged couple of Dr. John Prentice and Joanna Drayton are portrayed by Darnelle Pierre Benjamin and Caitlin McWerthy. Benjamin gives Prentice a quietly- grounded and deliberate personality, countered by McWerthy’s Joanna who is free-spirited, happy and eternally-optimistic. Together the two enjoy a united, easy chemistry as they are confronted with objections to their relationship.

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Annie Fitzpatrick as Christina Drayton. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.

As Joanna’s mother Christina, Annie Fitzpatrick projects a brave face to hide the concerns she has for her daughter’s future. Father Matt (Barry Mulholland) struggles to balance his held beliefs with the realities his daughter would face in a mixed marriage.

The arrival of Dr. Prentice’s parents, Ken Early and Thursday Farrar, only heightens the tension. Farrar brings a quiet dignity to Mary who suffers seeing her husband and son so at odds. As John Sr., Early displays a barely-contained rage at what he sees as a betrayal to the sacrifices he made to give his son the best possibly life.

Rounding out the cast is Kelly Mengelkoch as Hillary St. George, the high-strung manager of Christina’s high-end art gallery; Burgess Byrd as Tillie, the Drayton’s long-time and much put-upon maid; and Jim Hopkins as Monsignor Ryan who is equally adept at dispensing wisdom as he is wise-cracks.

The scenic design by Shannon Moore provides four distinct play areas that speak well to the affluence of the Drayton family. Amanda McGee’s costume designs establish not only the period, but the economic divide of the two families.

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Thursday Farrar as Mary Prentice, Ken Early as John Prentice, Sr., Caitlin McWethy as Joanna Drayton, and Darnell Pierre Benjamin as Dr. John Prentice. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.

After the performance, I half-joked to my guest that I really enjoyed the show, but why did they do it as a period piece. Sadly, the script holds up very well fifty years later. Many of the concerns both families have for the how the world will treat the young, interracial couple are still valid today. In fact, the events of the past few years have re-exposed an ugliness that still infects this country.

But the play also instills hope. Several beautifully-staged scenes elicit tears from the audience as the characters connect over shared experiences and loss. There isn’t a dry eye on stage or off as Matt Drayton delivers his requested decision about their relationship.

Well-staged, emotionally strong and beautifully acted, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER holds a mirror up to the audience. Do you like what you see?

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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The cast of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 2018 production of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER. By Mikki Schaffner Photography.


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FINDING NEVERLAND presented Broadway in Cincinnati through Nov. 19. I attended the opening night performance.

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FINDING NEVERLAND tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever.

The incredibly strong and entertaining ensemble is led by Billy Harrigan Tighe who brings a beautiful voice and great physicality to the demanding role of J. M. Barrie. He shares a strong chemistry with the equally talented Lael Van Keuren as the widowed Sylvia who absolutely crushes her solo, “All That Matters.” Also very entertaining is John Davidson (yes THAT John Davidson) with a wonderful performance as theater manager Charles Frohman. Karen Murphy gives Sylvia’s mother, Mrs. du Maurier, a harsh exterior, and beautifully underplays the love she has for her daughter and grandsons. Speaking of the four young men (Connor Casey as Peter, Colin Wheeler as George, Wyatt Cirbus as Jack & Tyler Hennessy as Michael), they handled their roles incredibly well and their performance of “We’re All Made of Stars” was impressive.

Smartly directed, inventively and beautifully-staged, and uniquely choreographed, this charming and, dare I say, darling production un-cynically reminds us to embrace the child in all of us. A must-see for any Peter Pan fans.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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THE DROWNING GIRLS presented The Clifton Players through Nov. 11. I attended the opening night performance.

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Mindy Heithaus, Eileen Earnest & Carol Brammer.

Clifton Players open their new space, the Liberty Exhibition Hall, with a haunting production of THE DROWNING GIRLS.

Bessie, Alice and Margaret have two things in common: they are married to George Joseph Smith, and they are dead.  Surfacing from the bathtubs they were drowned in, the three breathless brides gather evidence against their womanizing, murderous husband by reliving the shocking events leading up to their deaths. 

Local favorites Mindy Heithaus, Eileen Earnest, and Carol Brammer excel in the production; both as an ensemble and in their strongest individual performances to date.

Director Bridget Leak continues to impress with her inventive staging and clear vision for the engaging script.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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