Sunday, January 4, 2004

Thirteen weeks of good theater begin now

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Here are Jackie Demaline's theater recommendations for winter, week by week.

1 Always...Patsy Cline through Jan. 18 (Playhouse in the Park, 421-3888) It's not a good sign when there's no new show to recommend to start the new year of theater-going, but for the first time in memory, Cincinnati producers aren't offering an early year option. It's hard to ask for a better holiday hold-over than Patsy, a hokey-scripted revue that's made into something marvelous by the presence of Molly Andrews, who delivers the heart and soul to country legend Cline's greatest hits - and lesser known but swingin' early work.

2 Hamlet, Jan. 15-Feb. 15 (Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 381-2273). It's just the greatest play ever written in the English language. Longtime company member (and new artistic director) Brian Isaac Phillips takes the title role of the Prince of Denmark in this ever-spellbinding tale of "carnal, bloody and unnatural acts ..."

3 Going Gone, next Sunday-Feb. 13 (Playhouse in the Park) A world premiere by Karen Hartman, named as a talent to watch by American Theatre magazine. She's pulled from family stories to write a fact-based fiction about the family of her grandfather, Harry Hartman, the 1930s voice of the Reds. (The title refers both to home runs and to a father who was always on the road.)

4 My Children! My Africa!, Jan. 29-Feb. 14 (Know Theatre Tribe, 300-5669) Reggie Willis, always worth seeing, stars in Athol Fugard's powerful work about South African apartheid. Willis is the black teacher in a segregated township trying to persuade just one young student that education, not violence, is the answer to South Africa's problems.

5 A Lesson Before Dying, Jan. 28-Feb. 15 (Ensemble Theatre, 421-3555) Based on the novel by Ernest Gaines, a black schoolteacher in the segregated South is asked to help an innocent condemned man learn to "die like a man."

6 The Drawer Boy, Feb. 7-March 7 (Playhouse in the Park) One of Time's 10 Best Plays of 2001, the serious comedy examines what we remember and what we think we remember and why it matters when a young actor comes to the farm to live with two long-time friends as he researches a new play. You know he wakes up memories of what's long forgotten.

7 Get alternative with three great choices this week! Ghetto, Feb. 19-21 (College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, 556-4183) This regional premiere is based on the historical accounts of the flourishing theater community in the Jewish ghetto of Vilna, Lithuania, during the Nazi extermination.


Breath, Boom, Feb. 19-28 (Ensemble Theatre Off-Center/On-Stage) Kia Corthron's exploration of girl gangs tells the story of a girl and how she got in and how she wants to get out. Also, Playhouse's alteractive series begins Feb. 16, details will be announced on Thursday but mark the date now.

8 The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Feb. 26-March 7 (College-Conservatory of Music) Drood gives a Victorian Music Hall spin to the Charles Dickens mystery that was left unfinished at his death. This is the last chance to see the great CCM musical theater class of 2004 - and the audience gets to vote on the ending every night!

9 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Feb. 19-March 14 (Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival) Tom Stoppard's fabulous sideways look at Hamlet pushes inept conspirators R&G center stage, while the Prince of Denmark goes through his drama on the sidelines. Jeremy Dubin (welcome back!) and Christopher Guthrie promise to be one of the season's top twosomes in the title roles.

10 Dame Edna, March 2-14 (Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati, 241-7469) Barry Humphries (dressed to dazzle), who brings Edna to Cincinnati for her first appearance, promises one laugh for every half-minute on stage (and has the special Tony Award to prove he's as good as his word).

11 Blue, Feb. 29-April 2 (Playhouse in the Park), This off-Broadway hit follows the lives of the Clark family, affluent African-Americans who own a funeral home in a small South Carolina town. Their story plays out against the songs of "Blue Williams," a singer who provides a soundtrack to their lives.

12 The Women of Lockerbie, March 17-April 4 (Ensemble Theatre) Some of Cincinnati's best actressesgather for a play that uses the traditions of Greek tragedy to tell a contemporary tragedy - the aftermath of the Pan Am Flight 103 crash.

13 Pericles, March 25-April 11 (Cincinnati Shakespeare). Popular company member Nick Rose takes the title role, and the marvelous Mahogany Scott turns villain in this far-flung adventure of riddles, shipwrecks, love lost and found.



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