Category Archives: Reviews

FEAST Quick Review

FEAST presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Sept. 20. 

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Jennifer Joplin as Grendel’s mother.

The gang at Know Theatre have been at the forefront of bringing online content to local audiences. With FEAST, Know brings a fully-staged production to our “little boxes” with great success.

Playwright Megan Gogerty re-tells the legend of Beowulf from the viewpoint of Grendel’s mother. As history is written by the victors, she-who-was-not-named in the epic poem takes us to tasks for her grievances against our fathers, who not only killed and mutilated her son, but who also painted him as a “monster” for all time.

Gogerty’s script is smart, insightful and cleverly weaves 21st century themes into the narrative. Unexpected laughs, great turns of phrase, and thought-provoking conclusions permeate the performance.

Jennifer Joplin handles the dense and demanding script extremely well. Her verbal stream of consciousness flows from doting mother to vengeful, not to be trifled with demigod, and every emotion rings true.

Director Tamara Winters’ deft hand shows a strong understanding of the material. The show is well staged, being mindful of the camera but not beholden or tied to it. The flow of the show feels natural and makes great use of the entire play space.

The set, designed by Andrew Hungerford, not only defines the confined space, but allows the use of light and shadow to enhance the visual component of the show. Clever stage lighting plays with Joplin’s features as the character’s emotions ebb and flow. Stringent use of sound and visual effects, supplied by Douglas Borntrager, do much to add to the atmosphere of the work.

Congratulations all on a well-done, engaging production.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY Quick Review

BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY presented by Falcon Theatre through Feb. 8. I attended the opening Saturday performance. 

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Bryana Bentley as Angel and Elizabeth Taylor as Delia. Photo by Kristy Rucker

For the new year, Falcon takes its audience to Harlem in the summer of 1930 for the engaging drama BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY. This strong script touches upon several social issues that are still prominent 90 years later: racism, birth control/family planning, and homosexuality.

Producing Artistic Director Ted Weil’s set, featuring two small apartments separated by a hallway, is one of the most ambitious and well executed sets I’ve seen at Falcon. The two spaces are smartly furnished with great attention to detail. With Falcon’s limited play area, there were times when the tight quarters made for some awkward character crosses.

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Bryana Bentley as Angel. Photo by Kristy Rucker.

The five-person ensemble is well-cast and handles the material nicely. Director Torie Wiggins makes good use of the space and creates some beautiful stage pictures. There are some quiet, touching moments and the confrontational scenes had a nice bite to them. On Saturday night, the more conversational scenes lacked energy and could have used a bit more drive.

Overall a well-performed, solid period piece.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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HAND TO GOD Quick Review

HAND TO GOD presented by Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre through Feb. 9. I attended the opening Sunday performance. 

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Alex Slade as Jason & Hope Pauly as Jessica. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

On one hand, HAND TO GOD is an existential discussion on the use of the devil as an excuse for bad behavior. On the other hand, literally, it is the story of a possessed puppet with a raunchy mouth, violent tendencies and an overactive sex drive. If you find anything offensive in the previous two sentences, it is probably a good bet that this show is not for you.

The solid five-person ensemble is led by Alexander Slade as Jason (and by extension, also the puppet Tyrone). Slade impresses as he deftly switches between the distinctive voices of the two characters. Paired with his manipulation of Tyrone, he completely sells the shows central conceit.

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Alex Slade as Jason. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

Director Dylan Shelton has a sharp eye for casting and handles the outrageous comedy of the piece well. The set works well enough in defining the various settings, but with a dozen scenes the numerous blackouts interrupted the flow of the show.

The regional premiere of a five-year old play that was nominated for multiple Tony-Awards is the kind of programming I’d enjoy seeing the Incline embrace more often.

Overall a strong production of this biting, raunchy, laugh-out-loud comedy.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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ALL THE WAY Quick Review

ALL THE WAY presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Feb. 15. I attended the opening night performance. 

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The Cast: Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

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Jim Hopkins as President Lyndon B. Johnson. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

If you do not have enough political drama in your life at the moment, then I highly recommend ALL THE WAY, the current offering by Cincy Shakes. The play opens shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 and continues through Lyndon B. Johnson’s reelection in November of 1964. Although the story is dense with characters and covers a lot of territory in its 185-minute run time, I never felt overwhelmed thanks to Brian Isaac Phillips focused staging and smart pacing.

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Sylvester Little Jr. as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Across the board, the cast of 17 (portraying more than 40 roles) is excellent. This production showcases the talent and versatility of the ensemble. Jim Hopkins is engaging to watch as LBJ, allowing the audience to see the man beneath all the bluster. Sylvester Little, Jr. portrays Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. with an outward patience and dignity that does not hide the passion of his beliefs. Actors joining CSC’s ensemble for this production include Michael Bath, Bruce Cromer, Joneal Joplin, “ranney,” Brent Vimtrup, and Kate Wilford.

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Kate Wilford as Lady Bird Johnson & Jim Hopkins as President Lyndon B. Johnson. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

The pre-recorded video elements looked authentic and worked very well. Great attention to detail was evident in the costuming and props. The set elements and tight lighting design complemented the staging. Truly a showcase for the technical team.

Overall an interesting and engaging historic drama wonderfully told.

On stage seating is available for this production. 

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story Quick Review

BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Feb. 16. I attended the opening night performance. 

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The Cast. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

“Your father would have loved this show.”

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Andy Christopher as Buddy Holly. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

This was one of the first things my Mom said to me following the opening night performance. My parents were slightly younger contemporaries of the bespectacled rock and roller. And I totally blame my father (or more specifically his singles record collection that I played through dozens of time as a child) and the family-watched TV show Sha Na Na (love you Pamela Myers) for my appreciation of ’50s and ’60s music.

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Ryan Jagru as Ritchie Valens.

Buddy Holly is “considered one of the most influential creative forces in early rock and roll.” Playhouse’s program features quotes from rock legends Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen to name a few, about his impact on their music.

With its thin book, BUDDY is more tribute show than traditional jukebox musical. The story follows Holly’s struggle to have his music studio-recorded his way, to his groundbreaking performance at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, to his final Winter Dance Party Tour show in Clear Lake, Iowa before his tragic death at 22.

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Spiff Wiegand as Joe B. Mauldin & Andy Christopher as Buddy Holly. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

The cast consists of seven talented musicians and vocalists. Led by Andy Christopher in the title role (and serving as Music Director for the production) they rock the Marx Theatre, expertly performing more than 20 of Holly’s hits with great energy and showmanship that had the audience bobbing in their seats and clapping along.

A highly entertaining production for any Buddy Holly fan. Mom was right, Dad would have loved it.

There is a half-price special available for Tue-Fri and Sunday evening performances. Use promo code 2020fam at checkout, www.cincyplay.com/productions/buddy-the-buddy-holly-story.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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