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The Know Theater Blasts Off to the Year 2088 with “The Absentee”

Review by John Woll of “The Absentee”: Know Theatre

The Know Theatre‘s newest production,”The Absentee”, by Julia Doolittle, begins its 2019-2020 season with a bang in a futuristic journey to outer space.

The time is 2088 and far out in the Milky Way in Dimension 9, a U.S. Space Force ship explodes and brings space travel to a standstill. We see Operator (Jordan Trovillion) aboard her spacecraft in Beacon 44.AR.90 on an isolated one woman space mission. She is assisted by her Artificial Intelligence Beacon (A.J. Baldwin) who will at times brilliantly take on the persona of the her ex-girlfriend, but is set to turn itself off to avoid too personal connection with it’ operator. Space force code prevents the Operator from revealing her full name and she is completely devoid of any human interaction other than the occasional brief command by her superior Lieutenant Zala (Hannah Jones). Deep space wifi-connection is poor and she gets no access to the news on earth.

That is, until she gets an unlikely phone call from a tenatious political campaign volunteer Glenn (Nathan Tubbs) who is eager to persuade her to vote via an intergalactic absentee ballot.

She has been in space alone since her girlfriend passed away from a new disease. In 6 months she will return to Earth, only to immediately return to space for 4 more missions. But as time goes on, thru her connection with a persistent campaigner over the phone, we learn of her past, her hopes, her desires and ultimately her fear for the future.

These actors are at the top of their game. Jordan plays the role of Operator with tremendous grit, tenacity, edge and heart.  Her storytelling and angst drove the show on an intergalactic journey of escape from grief with some excellent light and comedic moments. Her connection with Glenn is the perfect mix of wit and sass. It is a volley of topics that soon turn from political to personal.

Nathan Tubbs is exuberant, energetic and passionate in his insightful push of the presidential campaign of Senator Huerta. His Glenn is not stuck in one place the whole show, but full of movement, color and depth. His delivery was bright and upbeat in a warm and sincerely passionate performance.

A.I. Beacon adds brilliant nuance and power to her adaptive robotic persona. Move over Alexa and Siri because she will play you a song, teach you a dance class and re-enact an old episode of Bob Ross. A.J. Baldwin is a definite swipe right.

This scenic design is Amazing! Kudos to Andrew J. Hungerford for creating such a tight and surprising set. A great mix 60’s futurism with pops of somewhat dystopian technology. The video and sound effects designed by Doug Borntrager were captivating with a sense of humor. Noelle Wedig-Johnston’s costuming was perfectly futuristic and utilitarian. Under the direction of Kate Bergstrom everything just works!

In today’s political climate, current discussions tend to run in circles. “The Absentee” is an escape to a future that asks the questions of democratic engagement that we need to be thinking about in a brilliant story by Julia Doolittle full of futuristic human elements, self-discovery and an ending that will have you on the edge of your seat!

“The Absentee” runs thru October 5th at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati with a special National Voter Registration Day After Party on the 24th.

Don’t miss this riveting 80 min (no intermission) unique launch to another space and time!


Review By David Brush of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”: Human Race Theatre

The bio-musical of musical artists is all the rage these days. With the recent success of “The Cher Show” and the upcoming “Tina” opening on Broadway, it seems “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” — a 1986 play with music by Lanie Robertson — was decidedly a great deal ahead of its time. After a wildly successful Audra McDonald-led Broadway revival in 2014 (and subsequent HBO airing), this inventive piece recreates one of Billie Holiday’s final concert appearances in the titular South Philadelphia bar in 1959. As the Human Race Theatre’s female-centric season opener (continuing through September 29), the brilliantly directed and fluidly performed show resonates in ways perhaps it never has been before.  The intimacy of this piece – which places the audience as patrons of the run-down Emerson’s – is the key to its urgency. As audience members, we are not merely watching a standard linear biopic approach but are instead thrown into the thick of things as participants to the legendary Holiday’s life and work. This play with music also uses Holiday to direct our attention to a systemic American racial divide as well as she publicly recounts such instances. The haunting “Strange Fruit” is a highlight and a reminder of Holiday’s strength and charisma.

Tanesha Gary as Billie Holiday in Human Race’s “Lady Day at Emerson”s Bar & Grill”

Bear in mind, dear audiences, that under Scott Stoney’s fluid direction, Robertson’s writing does not sugarcoat Holiday. All of the charm is there, yes – but so is the tawdry, throw-caution-to-the-wind core that defined both her life and career. It’s refreshing, honestly – and a lesson that more contemporary bio-musicals can glean from Robertson’s honesty. And under the always watchful eye of The Human Race and the added intimacy of The Loft, it’s as if “Lady Day” was written for this company in this space at this time.

And let’s discuss the luminescent Tanesha Gary whose performance as Holiday is nothing short of a master class in character embodiment. She is particularly poignant as Holiday begins to deteriorate. The star of this production, however, is the music. Gary’s nuanced vocals are supported by one of the tightest jazz trios I’ve heard in years – Keigo Hirakawa, Eddie Brookshire and Dayton’s legendary Deron Bell Sr. Additionally, the inspired idea to use Bell Sr. to serve as music director makes the piece decidedly Dayton – and decidedly relevant again. THIS is what great theatre companies do – understand their constituents and then program and design accordingly. (As I sat in the audience, I could not help but feel that – after the crushing summer this city has seen – the Human Race is providing a much-needed salve with a piece that celebrates humanity at its best – in a time where we often only see its worst.)

The warmth of Scott J Kimmins’ scenic design and John Rensel’s lighting design create a more than appropriate ambience that allows audience members to settle in at Emerson’s as Holiday herself does. “Lady Day” by way of The Human Race is an intimate portrait of an artist and the country who – for better or worse – shaped her. This production hits all of those notes.

Tickets and performance information for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” are available at or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, and at the Schuster Center box office. Performances continue through September 29.

Comedy, Science-Fiction, and Politics collide in Know’s “The Absentee”

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “The Absentee”: Know Theatre

What would you do if you were alone in outer space for an extended period of time with nothing to do? Know Theatre’s world premiere of Julia Doolittle’s “The Absentee” takes on that question and more. The year is 2088 and the Operator of a beacon, a toll station for space traffic, is stuck without anything to do and anyone to communicate with because an accident in space has delayed all traffic. Kate Bergstrom deftly directs this 90-minute science-fiction play, which is by turns hilarious and full of pathos.

AJ Baldwin as Beacon and Jordan Trovillion as Operator in “The Absentee”

Doolittle’s Operator (Jordan Trovillion) is a working-class queer woman in space. There is a quotidian quality to the play; space is no longer the great frontier or even the wild west. Space is a highway with an accident that has shut down the road. Despite being set in the future, “The Absentee” is populated by characters who are close and familiar. Trovillion’s Operator is sardonic, funny, and complicated, and carries the play. Trovillion makes you care about this broken, smart-mouthed person who has chosen to live by herself in space, rather than deal with her issues on earth. 

While the Operator is waiting, she receives a phone call that will be all too familiar in the coming months, a volunteer campaign support call from Glenn with Huerta for America (Nathan Tubbs), because 2088 is an election year and you can vote absentee from space. Before you groan about a play about politics, there is something wonderful about Doolittle’s choice to remove our political situation from the immediate divisions of our current society. It gives the play’s message and ideas room to breath. This is not a satire but a comedic reflection on the power of making your voice heard while simultaneously asking if you scream in space can anyone hear you.

Tubbs’ Glenn is full of earnest hope, in contrast to the Operator who he calls Ripley (a sly reference to other sci-fi narratives of women alone in space), since Beacon operators don’t give out their real name in compliance with the Space Force code. In contrast to Glenn’s optimism, the Operator also has interactions with the beacon’s by-the-book Artificial Intelligence (played with excellent comic timing by AJ Baldwin), and the pragmatic Lieutenant Zala of the government clean-up ship (a serious and believable Hannah Jones). The staging (including choreography by Darnelle Pierre Benjamin) is very smart throughout, letting us see how important connection is when you are alone.

The design team does a wonderful job creating the world of the Beacon. Scenic and Lighting Designer Andrew Hungerford (who is also Know Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director) creates a stunning moment of the nearest star rising through the beacon’s windows that instantly set the tone for the play (warning: this show uses strobe light). Doug Borntrager’s sound and video design completes the ambient environment, and provides several great jokes. Of particular note is the hilarious song that the Operator creates from a recording of her cursing. The costumes, by Noelle Wedig-Johnston, are pitch-perfect — especially Glenn’s volunteer political campaigner outfit.

At heart, every science fiction story from “Alien” to “Westworld” is really about what makes us human, and “The Absentee” is no different. Glenn has a speech about humanity and democracy towards the end of the play that is reminiscent of the best parts of “Independence Day” and “The West Wing”, and brought me (and the folks sitting on either side of me) to tears.  Through the play’s twists and turns, and very high stakes (things can so quickly go wrong for life in space!), “The Absentee” asks the audience to think about how political choices really do make an impact on the larger world, and why your vote — even from space — can matter. To that end, Know has partnered with both The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati area and the Cincinnati house of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and they’ll be hosting a few voter registration drives for the community and audience as part of the run of the show.

This show will give you lots to think about as we all go together into the coming election year, don’t miss it! “The Absentee” runs now til October 5th at The Know Theatre of Cincinnati. Tickets can be purchased here

An Unhappy Family Erupts at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s “August: Osage County”

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “August: Osage County”- Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are the same, and that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. In the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s  “August: Osage County”, that adage plays out on stage for the Weston family. Over the course of three acts (and over three hours) the troubles of the Weston clan unfold and unravel, until the entire family structure is dissolved. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips, Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, which premiered in 2007, still packs a punch (sometimes literally) and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with laughter and horror over the complicated relationships that make up the Weston family.

Lett’s writes “August: Osage County” in the tradition of Chekov’s “Cherry Orchard“ and O’Neil’s “Long Days Journey Into Night”: an ensemble drama about the private tragedies of an unhappy family brought back together by tragic events. The first act introduces the problem–Beverly Weston (Jim Hopkins), the alcoholic patriarch of the family, has hired Johnna Monevata (played with gravity by Isabella Star LaBlanc), a Cheyenne woman, to be a live-in cook and caretaker for his addict wife, Violet (Leslie Brott). Then the patriarch leaves the home–bringing two of his daughters and brother and sister-in-law back to comfort his wife. The opening act is the slowest of the three.  But, friends, please do not worry about the next few hours as a tedious evening in theatre (I am personally always wary of a three act, over three-hour play)–this production will grab your attention and not let go till the evening is over.  

The second act opens with the entire family back together, and leads with a comedic aria perfectly timed by Maggie Lou Rader as Karen Weston, the flightiest of the three Weston Sisters. Rader’s mastery of this scene, and comedic timing with napkins, sets the fast, funny and vicious tone for the rest of the evening. No family drama is complete without a meal, and the dinner in the second act is one of the finest paced and staged dinner scenes I have seen. When Uncle Charles, played expertly by Barry Mulholland, delivers Grace before the meal the entire audience was in stitches. Mulholland was one of many standouts in this ensemble cast. Kelly Mengelkoch, who we last saw at CSC as the bold Miss Holmes, becomes the believable wallflower sister Ivy. One of the wonderful things about the ensemble model that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company uses is that the audience gets to experience the wide range of roles that actors can play over the course of multiple seasons.

The engine of this play, however, is not the ensemble, but rather the dueling matriarchs Violet Weston and her favorite daughter Barbara (Corinne Mohlenhoff). Mohlenhoff’s Barbara is by turns reserved, violent, darkly comic, and powerful, and a match to the pill-induced vicious madness of of Brott’s Violet. If you’ve seen the 2013 film adaptation of “August: Osage County”, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep played these two characters, but the film doesn’t give those actors the space and time for the muscularity that Mohlenhoff and Brott bring to the roles. 

What is public and what is private in the life of a family? I found myself wondering about that boundary often throughout the play, but especially as I contemplated Shannon Moore’s stunning and detailed set. Moore’s work invites us into the sprawling Weston Home in Oklahoma, but not too far in. There are three detailed floors crammed into the intimate Otto M. Buddig theatre, but Moore has cleverly only exposed the public areas–the dining room, living room and hallways. Other than Johnna’s attic and Beverly’s office, the private rooms of the family are closed to us. We can never really know what happens behind closed doors, just like we can never really know an addict’s struggle or why a marriage fails. Justen N. Locke’s lighting made the space feel as warm and oppressive as the un-air-conditioned, shuttered house in August should feel.  

Many things have changed in the world since this play premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago in 2007. The stories of addiction and abuse resonate differently during the opioid crisis, and the sexual coercion by one of the male characters towards Barbara’s 14-year-old daughter Jean (the splendid debut of Kayla Temshiv) feel more timely and hit harder than they did a decade ago. I will be thinking about this play and this performance for a while, and considering what the breakdown of the white family, supported by a Native American woman, means for us today. Oklahoma, after all, was originally the territory where so many tribes were removed to before it became a state. I was happy to see that CSC included a land acknowledgement in the program, and I hope they’ll continue that practice for their whole season. 

“August: Osage County” runs through September 28th, and it is well-worth your time  to go see this thoughtful, moving, hilarious, and tragic production. You can purchase tickets here.

Covedale’s “Driving Miss Daisy” Provides a Heartwarming Outing

Review by Doug Iden of “Driving Miss Daisy”: Covedale Theatre

The Pulitzer Prize winning play “Driving Miss Daisy” rode triumphantly into the Covedale Theater.  Written by Alfred Uhry, the play views the relationship of two very different people over a 25-year period in mid-20th century Atlanta, Georgia.  Daisy Werthan (Kathleen Labanz) at age 72 crashes her car and both the insurance company and her son Boolie (Justin Baldwin) insist that she stop driving, much to the chagrin of Daisy.  Boolie decides to hire a driver (Hoke Coleburn, played by Dante Donaldson) which initiates the long-term, somewhat tempestuous relationship between the two.

Hoke and Daisy are almost polar opposites pitting Daisy, a wealthy, Jewish, white woman versus Hoke, who is a black, poor, illiterate man.  Initially, they are both wary of each other but the crotchety Daisy finally allows Hoke to drive her to the grocery store.  They verbally spar continuously until Daisy discovers that her suspicion that Hoke was stealing food proved false.  Thereafter, the frost between them starts to thaw.  Daisy discovers that Hoke is illiterate and, because she had been a teacher, offers to teach him to read which is the first major step in solidifying their relationship. The remainder of the play concentrates on a melding of their ill-matched personalities.  Hoke is patient, insightful, practical and a homespun philosopher while Daisy is imperious, prickly, moralistic and sarcastic.  A lot of the humor comes from Daisy’s observations of people and circumstances.  She is continuously disdainful of Boolie’s wannabe Episcopalian wife and her son’s tolerance of Christianity and conservative politics.  Boolie even appears in a Santa Claus suit.  

The acting challenge is twofold.  Both Hoke (Donaldson) and Daisy (Labanz) must transform their personalities and biases as they negotiate their fluid, uneasy relationship.  They have to learn to trust each other.  The other challenge is to convincingly convey the aging process over more than two decades. Part of the transformation is due to acting as each character moves more slowly and more stoop-shouldered throughout the play aided by some props (canes and walkers) and increasingly older and more dowdy costumes designed by Caren Brady.  Donaldson, in particular, was very effective in both transitions. LaBanz was a little uneven but still carried the day.  Justin Baldwin plays Boolie as a somewhat frustrated comic relief, who tries to placate his unreasonable (in his mind) mother while countering the wily attempts by Hoke to continually increase his salary.

The primary themes include race relations in the South, religion, social status, wealth versus poverty, religious violence when Daisy’s synagogue is bombed, and the maturation of the characters.  However the serious themes are conveyed in a matter-of-fact tone and not heavy handed. You don’t walk away from this play feeling lambasted.

The passage of time from 1948 to 1973 is effectively shown by an onstage video screen which shows contemporary pictures of timely events and newspaper headlines.  The set is minimalist and static which reflects the initial set design of the play. Originally, for example, the “car” was represented by four chairs, two in front and two in the back.  Here, Brett Bowling created two benches placed on a tiered, moveable platform.  Hoke always sits in the driver’s seat, simulating the movements of the steering wheel, while Daisy sits in the back on the opposite side so the audience can see both actors.  The illusion of the car is enhanced by Denny Reed’s sound effects.  The remainder of the set is merely props including a desk, a living room chair and table. some telephones and pictureless frames 

Based upon notes from Director Greg Procaccino, this is the most requested, non-musical play by Covedale theater-goers.

Overall, this is an excellent play which has not aged over time.  It is unfortunate that the racial and religious overtones are still resonant in today’s headlines but the core and heart of the story resides in the hard-won friendship of two very different people.  There were a few opening night glitches but it is a good production.

So, consider driving over to see Miss Daisy at her home at the Covedale Theater,, running through September 29.

Cincinnati Shakespeare’s September Sizzles with “August: Osage County”

Review by Sheldon Polonsky of “August: Osage County”: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its “Season of the Woman” appropriately with Tracy Letts’ blistering contemporary drama, “August: Osage County”. Director Brian Isaac Phillips opens his notes on the play with the comment, “Families are a mine field”–and that, coupled with the promotional image of the silhouette of a matriarch surrounded by a bomb, pretty much sums up the explosive nature of family dynamics in this portrayal of the tension-fraught family reunion of the Westons in rural Oklahoma.

Leslie Brott in “August: Osage County”

The plot develops as aging poet and father Beverly Weston (Jim Hopkins) suddenly disappears from the home after abruptly hiring a young Native American, Johnna (Isabella Star LaBlanc) as a caretaker for his acerbic drug-addicted wife Violet (Leslie Brott). Violet, who shifts rapidly between moments of confusion and clarity, is joined by her eldest daughter, the plain and self-conscious Ivy (Kelly Mengelkoch) and her second daughter Barbara, (Corinne Mohlenhoff) who arrives from Colorado with her adolescent daughter (Kayla Temshiv) and estranged husband Bill (Jared Joplin). Barbara was the mom’s favorite but Ivy stayed behind in Oklahoma to take care of her aging parents. Also rounding out the first act are Violet’s sister and brother-in-law, Mattie Fae (Kate Wilford) and Charlie (Barry Mulholland).

The aftermath of the the father’s disappearance brings still more family grist to the mill in the second act–a third daughter, Karen (Maggie Lou Rader) and her fiancé Steve (Justin McCombs). Karen was the wild daughter who finally seems ready to settle down and find happiness with a seemingly devoted and steady man. We also meet the apprehensive and unpoised “Little Charles”, Mattie and Charlie’s son (Cary Davenport), who is treated as a failure by his mother, and Sheriff Deon (Sylvester Little, Jr.), Barbara’s former high-school sweetheart.

To try to relate how this family steadily unravels through the course of the play, with all their hidden truths and unexpected revelations, would be impossible and spoiling. Suffice it to say that the mine-field analogy applies. The ensemble nature of the play really shows off the depth and talent of CSC’s company, and it was a pleasure to see them in a more contemporary setting. The anchors of the cast are Brott and Mohlenhoff, who portray the more striking Violet and Barbara with strength and dignity despite their character flaws and play off each other brilliantly. But every member of this cast has their own moment to shine and they all do so with consummate skill. My personal favorites were Rader’s rambling introduction to Karen’s character, and Mulholland as Charlie desperately trying to put together an appropriate Grace before dinner. But if I had time I could wax on about every role in this play.

The audience’s visceral reactions to this show were also remarkable. One theatre-goer who saw the original on Broadway thought this was even better–“grittier”–and I can certainly believe it. Director Phillips does not pull any punches, literally or figuratively. This is an extremely long play–over three hours, not including two intermissions–and while the first act takes it a little slow setting up the dynamics, the second and third roll over you like a steamroller. Scenic designer Shannon Moore’s realistic and detailed set also helps, using every inch of the Oscar Mayer theater–front to back and top to bottom–to show the sprawling Weston house and highlight the actions of all the characters even when they aren’t in a scene.

My only reservation when I left the show was possibly that Lett’s play was all a bit too much–too manipulative in terms of angst and emotion, like Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill on steroids. But then I thought about my own reunion with my mother whom I moved into assisted living only last weekend–and have to agree with Phillips’ director’s comments that as extreme as the Westons may be, every family has its issues, and “we can all identify with the dread and/or excitement that can overcome us when we think of family.”

So, don’t hesitate to head over to Cincinnati Shakespeare and immerse yourself in the Weston Family for “August: Osage County”, now through September 28th. Tickets can be purchased on their website,

Covedale’s “Driving Miss Daisy” Warms Hearts With Nostalgia and Friendship

Review by Mary Kate Groh of “Driving Miss Daisy” Covedale Theatre

If you yearn to take a nostalgic ride through history from the late 1940s right up to the momentous Civil Rights Movement, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts has the play for you. Written by the American playwright Alfred Uhry, “Driving Miss Daisy” is the poignant story of a beautiful friendship that blossomed simply because an elderly, rich woman demolished her car. 

The play opens in Atlanta, Georgia during the late 1940s with Daisy Werthen (Kathie Labanz) having just wrecked her new car. Daisy, a fiery and spirited old widow, despises the idea of her son, Boolie (Justin Baldwin) hiring her a chauffeur, a humble black man, Hoke (Dante’ Donaldson). 

Over the next twenty-five years, Miss Daisy and Hoke form a close bond with each other and grow more dependent on each other. Daisy teaches Hoke how to read and write while Hoke is ready to drive Daisy wherever she needs to go. The play closes with a touching moment as Hoke pays a visit to Daisy, now in a nursing home, where it teaches the audience an important lesson on friendship, civility, and love, despite the challenging time in history that their friendship formed.   

Director Greg Procaccino does an impeccable job of bringing this classic story to life for audience members of all ages to enjoy. The actors deliver the tongue in cheek lines with such flawless comedic timing that patrons roared with laughter. The classic songs that play throughout the entire production had me tapping my toes and swaying to the wistful melodies. 

Production Stage Manager Angelica Ortiz does a fabulous job with keeping the stage design simple yet to the point. The simplicity of the stage allowed me to focus on the heartwarming play unfolding before my eyes. 

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments that stand out to me from this production is the clever way that shows how time is passing. A large projector screen, disguised as a picture frame mounted to the wall, displays iconic and notorious headlines from throughout history dating from the early 1950s with the Korean War right up to the late 1960s when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. 

Portraying time passing in a stage production can be difficult, but this simple set design with the projection screen really helped move the story along without any confusion as to what the time period was during a particular scene. Hats off to Angelica Ortiz for her outstanding stage management. 

I went into “Driving Miss Daisy” with an open mind because I did not really know what to expect, however, I was anything but disappointed. This lively yet moving play is not to be missed. “Driving Miss Daisy” runs through September 29 at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 513-241-6550 or by clicking here.

Incline’s “Seven Brides and Seven Brothers” Full of Great Numbers

Review by Doug Iden of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”: Incline Theatre

It’s tricky to adapt an original classic, dance-oriented Hollywood musical to the theater, but Cincinnati Landmark Productions has succeeded admirably as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” opened at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.  Based upon the movie and the Stephen Vincent Benet play “The Sobbin’ Women,” with music by Gene dePaul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Seven Brides” relates how farmer Adam (Evan Koon) in the Oregon backwoods in the 1850’s sets about finding a bride. During Adam’s foray into town, he meets Milly (Katelyn Reid), who is a world-weary cook trying to serve dinner to a group of abusive, unruly townsmen.  Adam sweet-talks Milly into coming to his farm without bothering to tell her, to Milly’s chagrin, that he has six surly, unwashed brothers living in the farmhouse as well. 

Angry but undaunted, Milly resorts to her natural pluck and perseverance to make the best of the situation.  She initially disdains Adams’ advances but endeavors to help the brothers learn social graces so they can romance the young townswomen.  In the delightful dance and song, “Goin’ Courtin’”, Milly tries to teach dancing and good manners to the brothers Benjamin (Ryan-Chavez Richmond), Caleb (Nick Godfrey), Daniel (Jared Roper), Ephraim (Marco Colant), Frank (Kyle Taylor) and Gideon (Cian Steele).  Much of this story is told through dance.  This is not just dancing for the sake of dancing, but the plot is moved along through the choreography, here designed by Director/Choreographer Maggie Perrino.  The best example of this is the barn dance scene when the “now civilized” brothers try to compete with the young townsmen for the affections of the younger women.  In a competition reminiscent of the barn-raising scene in the original movie, the brothers and the townsmen compete with each other by trying to out-dance each other while trying to impress the women.  The dancing in this number and the “Goin’ Courtin’” scene is very good with a combination of ballet, square dancing and tumbling.  This is a large cast with 25 actors, most of whom are dancing in this scene.  The brothers make a good impression on the women–Dorcas (Ally Davis), Ruth (Kate Stark), Liza (Emma Moss), Martha (Renee Stoltzfus), Sarah (Ria Villaver Collins) and Alice (Sara Cox)–but go home alone.  The ensemble singing and dancing is very good. 

Later, the brothers, instigated by Adam, kidnap the women and take them to their wilderness home.  An avalanche blocks the pass so the townspeople can not rescue the women until spring.  Milly steps in and demands that the women stay in the house with the brothers in the barn.  As winter progresses towards spring, a legitimate courtship begins to transpire.

A major theme of the show is the classic conflict between a civilized but corrupted town versus the free and open wilderness coupled with the gradual development of a family. 

Many of the songs from the movie are included but some have been added to accommodate the normal complement of Broadway songs in a show.  The additional songs are written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn which helps move the story along.  The new song “Love Never Goes Away” is effective as a trio between Adam, who thinks that all women are the same, Gideon who is pining for his Alice and Milly who is appalled by Adam’s sentiment but is clearly in love with her husband.  Koons has a good baritone voice and Gideon sings well but the star is Reid who has an excellent voice, good dancing steps and is very believable as the hurt but determined woman who becomes the matriarch of the family.

Another excellent scene merges original song “Lonesome Polecat” with new song “We Gotta Make it Through the Winter” sung and danced by the frustrated brothers, still mooning over their girlfriends.

The set is pure backwoods, western Americana.  Brett Bowling designed a basic set which shows the inside of the log cabin house with an upstairs bedroom.  Through the upstairs windows, you can see a projection of the mountains.  Evergreens, wooden benches and chopping blocks grace both sides of the stage.  Props including axes, pitchforks and rifles.  Additionally, there are a number of movable set-pieces which represent wooden walls and doors through which the actors continually move.

Imagine designing and creating costumes for 25 actors, which was the role of Caren Brady and her staff.  The costumes run the gamut from pioneer work-clothes to sleeping apparel to fancy dress (in pioneer fashion) to wedding garb. 

Overall, this is a fun show and a good adaptation of one of my favorite movie musicals.  I must give the Incline staff credit because, between this show and “Pippin”, they have stretched themselves with challenging dance and musical numbers.  A good crowd on opening night seemed very appreciative.

So, take an enjoyable, fun-filled trek into the Oregon wilderness with the delightful “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” which continues at the Incline Theater through September 8.
Tickets are available at