Sunday, April 18, 2004

Decade worthy of note


Reviewer offers 10 fine memories

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
The Taming of the Shrew at Gabriel's Corner in Over-the-Rhine was Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's first production.
In a decade of watching Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, here are my 10 unforgettable memories:

• July 1994 - The Taming of the Shrew. There's nothing like the rush of witnessing a birth, even in grungy old Gabriel's Corner.

• February 1997 - Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio brought a condom on stage, blew it up like a balloon and set Cincinnati audiences reeling. (I've never seen one of those on a Cincinnati stage again.) For the record, it was a terrific show directed by Warner Crocker.

• February 1999 - A Midsummer Night's Dream. Director Drew Fracher used his great fight choreography skills to harness the ensemble into big, rambunctious fun - they've never been better at Shakespearian comedy. A highlight was a hilarious performance from Marni Penning as Hermia.

• November 1999 - Waiting for Godot. CSF's first moment of greatness, with Giles Davies, Jeremy Dubin, Chris Reeder and Nick Rose creating buzz and sell-out performances in Jasson Minadakis' visit to Samuel Beckett-land.

• April 2001 - "Hamlet," the festival's porcine sculpture entry in the Big Pig Gig, is damaged during the civil unrest.

• September 2001 - Fuddy Meers. The beginning of what would be the festival's greatest season (to date). A crazy-scary comedy about domestic abuse, nobody got the title's obscure play on words, 9-11 happened during the second week of performances and nobody came.

• February 2002 - Nocturne. The audience joined Brian Isaac Phillips on stage (there was room for about 30), close up and personal for a searing monologue about a man looking back on family horror. I had to remember I was in Cincinnati, not Off-Broadway.

• April 2002 - The Beard of Avon. It's a hit in New York this season. Minadakis found it years ago. High comedy and tragedy, it questioned who wrote Shakespeare's plays. John Alcott was glorious as Edward de Vere (Earl of Oxford) and with Davies (as the Earl of Southampton) made a heart-wrenching romantic teaming.

• June 2002 - Chagrin Falls. The world premiere by Mia McCullough was the outstanding production in Cincinnati in 2001-02, bringing together everything that matters - strong script, stronger ensemble and passionate direction from Minadakis.

• October 2003 - Dracula. Very sexy visit to Transylvania, courtesy of director Phillips and wonderful work from Davies in the title role and Corinne Mohlenhoff as a fallen angel.

Jackie Demaline




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