LCT Continuing “Stage Insights”

This season, LCT continues its program "Stage Insights". In place of our usual reviewing process, Stage Insights provides more in-depth, personal reviews from a select number of our contributors dedicated to each of the theatres they are reviewing. In addition, they will be providing exciting Sneak Peaks of upcoming productions. Look for our Sneak Peaks on the front page of our website and our weekly reviews on the Review Page.

Finding “Neverwhere” in the Latest Know Theatre Production

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Neverwhere: Know Theatre

The holiday season is a time when Cincinnati theatres tend to produce short holiday plays that act as light theatrical bon-bons.

Not so with Know Theatre.

In a bold move, Know Theatre is producing Neverwhere, a sprawling epic stage adaptation of the Neil Gaiman BBC television mini-series that depicts the world of London Below, the area below the London that we know where there are rat-speakers, wayward angels, and floating markets.  Adaptor Robert Kauzlaric has skillfully created the vast world of London Below, capturing the vastness of the Gaiman’s imaginative world.

Neal Gaiman is best known for his Sandman comic book series, as well  young adult books such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book.  Gaiman likes to create dark worlds where good fights against evil against impossible odds.  In Neverwhere, Gaiman uses his dark talents to craft a tale that is essentially a coming of age story for the play’s main character Richard Mayhew (Rory Sheridan).

The play starts out with Mayhew living a successful life as a young businessman.  Mayhew’s life is turned upside down when he sees Door (Ernaisja Curry), lying unconscious in one of the London underground subway tunnels.  Taking Door back to his apartment, Mayhew is confronted by Mr. Croup (Sean P. Mette) and Mr. Vandemar (Dylan Shelton), two assassins who have come to complete their job of killing Door.  What happens next is a vast and epic tale better left to be savored on stage than paraphrased in this review.

Co-directors Andrew J. Hungerford (Know’s Producing Artistic Director) and Dan R. Winters (Know’s resident photographer) have assembled a strong cast and have skillfully led them through the multiplicity of scenes that occur throughout Neverwhere.  It was tour-de-force directing to make all the elements hang together and I applaud their efforts at tackling this challenging work.

Acting in this production was strong, led by Rory Sheridan as Richard Mayhew.  Sheridan goes through a large transformation in this play, turning from businessman to warrior, and he plays each stage of that transformation exceptionally well.  Sheridan was believable as Mayhew and was able to add in comic touches when called for in the script.

Speaking of comic touches, Sean P. Mette and Dylan Shelton played the assassins Messrs. Croup and Vandemar to perfection.  The roles, while eerily creepy and menacing, also have places for humor and both Mette and Shelton were able to deliver creepy and comedic equally well.  They almost acted as a deranged Laurel and Hardy comedy duo willing to kill at the slightest provocation.

Ernaisja Curry as Door and Jeremy Dubin as Marquis de Carabas were also strong.  Curry plays Door as a valiant, but vulnerable woman who is able to open doorways to anywhere she wishes.  She has nicely paired with Sheridan’s Mayhew and the two have a good chemistry onstage.  Similarly, Dubin’s Marquis was full bombast, belligerence, and brilliance, a wonderful character acted by an equally wonderful actor.

Scenic Designer Sarah Beth Hall creates a structural steel outline of the London subway system that transforms itself to any number of different ways within the play.  There was great ingenuity in how some of the stage elements moved and it was delightful seeing what would happen next with the stage.

Perhaps this play is a perfect holiday offering by Know because this is a play that keeps on giving.  It runs three hours long, so this is not an evening of theatre for someone wanting a light theatrical bon-bon.  However, this is one of the better productions that I’ve seen at Know over the last few years, so it is must-see for anyone serious about theatre.

Neverwhere runs until December 17, with performances running Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 pm, with Sunday matinees at 3 pm.  For ticket information, please visit Know Theatre’s website http://knowtheatre.com/season-20/neverwhere

Covedale’s “Annie” is a Great Present for Christmas

Review by Doug Iden of Annie: Covedale Theatre

The perennial holiday favorite Annie opened triumphantly at the Covedale Theatre as part of the Cincinnati Landmark Productions Marquee Season.  This unabashedly optimistic and up-lifting musical (some might say corny) tells the story of an eleven year old girl stuck in a prison-like orphanage while desperately trying to find her parents during the 1933 Depression.  Based upon the newspaper cartoon Little Orphan Annie, we see a plucky girl aided by her fellow orphans trying to cope with the difficult and dreary life of the orphanage, run by the drunken and tyrannical Miss Hannigan, played deliciously by Helen Raymond-Goers.

The show opens with Annie (Jordan Darnell) in the dilapidated orphanage singing the plaintive soliloquy “Maybe” in which she dreams of a better life.  Immediately, we are introduced to Miss Hannigan and the brood of fellow orphans (Savannah Boyd, Nora Darnell, Megan Hirka, Maya Hunt, Esther Medlin, Sara Reynolds and Aine Steele) who sing about their abusive life in “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.  All of the orphans are young, exuberant, charismatic and talented.

Annie escapes the orphanage and is quickly absorbed into the homeless and unemployed citizenry of the early Depression era.  Her optimism shines through in the hit song “Tomorrow” which Darnell sings with poise and strength.  Not many musicals rely on the star power of a youngster but the spunky Annie is key to the show and Darnell acts and sings the role well.

We see the real character of Miss Hannigan as she drunkenly complains about her life while disparaging her charges in the hilarious song “Little Girls”.  This role is one of the great comic villainesses and Raymond-Goers plays her in a wonderfully outrageous manner.

Their salvation comes at the hands of Grace (Sarah Viola), the personal assistant to billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Justin Glaser) who is looking for an orphan whom Warbucks hosts for Christmas.  Grace’s selection of a girl, Annie, is a shock to Warbucks but he quickly warms to Annie’s gritty personality.  They celebrate with the big production number “N.Y.C.”, as Annie, Grace and Warbucks cavort through the streets of the “Big Apple”.

In a radio program, Warbucks appeals to the public to find Annie’s parents and offers a substantial reward.  Predictably, many wannabes claim the reward but are unsuccessful.

In one of the more delightful moments in the show, Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster (Spenser Smith) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Leslie Kelly) plot to con Warbucks by pretending to be Annie’s long-lost parents.  In their ecstasy, they dream of wealth while singing the raucous “Easy Street”.

Justin Glaser is believable as industry titan Warbucks with a good baritone voice as he explains his growing attraction to Annie, the child he never had, through the mournful “Something was Missing”.

Annie is often dismissed as a sentimental “kid’s show” but there are significant adult themes here including yearning for family, friendship, loyalty, perseverance and an unwillingness to accept life’s curves.  It also serves as both political and social commentary on the devastation that the Depression brought to many people.  There are a significant number of topical 1930’s references to performers, politicians, Supreme Court Judges and an extended role for President Franklin Roosevelt, played by Dave Wilson.  The score is by Charles Strouse (music) and Martin Charnin (lyrics) who are renowned for writing tuneful, bright and theatrically integrated songs with witty lyrics.

The singing of the ensemble is good and the dancing simple but effective while playing a variety of roles including, homeless people, regular New Yorkers, Warbuck’s servants, Cabinet members etc.  Music Director Steve Goers led his band of seven well at just the right volume level.

Brett Bowling continues to intrigue with effective and efficient set designs, using swinging doors and rollaway props to create different scenes.  The overall effect is a colorful, Christmas-themed set with a hint of surrealism.  Doors in the set open to display other scenes including a radio studio, Warbuck’s luxurious apartment, the streets of New York and FDR’s office.  The orphanage is depicted by rollaway bunk beds and a shabby office for Miss Hannigan.  The orphanage is dilapidated with plaster crumbling showing bricks underneath.  The effects are accentuated by Caren Brady’s costumes which range from rags for the orphans, to immaculate servant’s uniforms, to homeless vagrants, to passers-by on the street, to a zoot suit for Rooster to red and green dresses for the orphans in the finale.  Props also play a big part with the radio studio, musical instruments, carriages and a Christmas tree with lots of greenery.  The lighting was mostly effective but some of the spotlights seemed out of sync with the actor’s locations.

Overall, this is a fun-filled, jubilant, colorful show with good singing and a lot of spirit – a good holiday show.  So, since “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”, don’t wait until “Tomorrow” to stroll down “Easy Street” (or the Covedale Theater) to watch Annie running through December 23.  Their next production will be Guys and Dolls.

Don’t Wait Until “Tomorrow” to See Covedale’s “Annie”

Review by Jack Crumley of Annie: Covedale Theatre

It’s Christmas, and Covedale is getting in the spirit with the Tony award-winning Annie: the story of an orphan girl whose boundless optimism helps her find happiness. Based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strips, Annie opened on Broadway in 1977 and won the Tony for Best Musical. It’s a staple of modern American musical theatre, despite being so strongly rooted in the 1930s (and The Depression). It’s a show not generally associated with Christmas, but Director and Covedale Executive Artistic Director Tim Perrino points out that the show is specifically set during Christmastime to emphasize feelings of hope, family, and goodwill.

Annie is a show that has an 11-year-old girl as the main character, which can be a challenge for casting and production, but Jordan Darnell carries a clear voice and a big smile from the opening number to the final bow. She delivers every line with the earnestness and moxie that Annie is known for. She sings with kids, dances with adults, and even does her share of dog-wrangling on stage (the canine role of Sandy is played by Fergus Steele who is a well-trained dog, but not a stage animal by any means and needed some extra guidance from his actual master in the cast). The show is rather presentational and Darnell has quite a bit of dialogue said straight to the audience, but she never comes off as “too cute-sy.”

Even though Annie gets swept away from her “Hard Knock Life” at the orphanage, the girls she lived with are not forgotten. The girls who play them should not be forgotten in this review. Savannah Boyd, Nora Darnell, Megan Hirka, Maya Hunt, Esther Medlin, Sara Reynolds, and Aine Steele all shine on stage. Their reprise of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” in Act II is a particular highlight.

Trying to keep all these children down is the woman who runs the orphanage, Miss Hannigan, played by Helen Raymond Goers, who delivered a delightfully devilish performance. She really sells it in the Act I song where she bemoans the existence of “Little Girls.” And from the audience, it was just as much fun to watch her react to events on stage even when she wasn’t the focus, and that included the curtain call. Hannigan agrees to help her sleazebag brother, Rooster (played by Spenser Smith), and his new girl, Lily St Regis (played by Leslie Kelly), try to cash in on Annie’s situation. Smith and Kelly have good chemistry, and their ongoing song with Goers about wanting to live on “Easy Street” is played as a slow burn ragtime villain song.

Sarah Viola returns to the Covedale stage as Grace, personal assistant (though I believe she’s called a “secretary” in the show) to the billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, played by Justin Glaser. Once again, Viola’s voice is a joy to listen to. Glaser’s Warbucks is just as physically imposing as his checkbook is, but his rendition of “Something Was Missing” brought out a surprisingly tender singing voice.

Playing the butlers, maids, Hooverville-ites, and random New Yorkers is the ensemble cast, who should be praised for the number and speed of their costume changes from scene to scene along with all their songs and choreography. Several members of the ensemble are playing double (triple?) duty as well: Jaime Steele kicks off Act II as radio host Bert Healy, Dave Wilson spends the second half wheeling around as President Franklin Roosevelt, and Kyle Taylor hams it up as Harold Ickes and Judge Brandeis.

The colorful set Brett Bowling designed has several flats that fold in and out for different scenes, and then a pair of doors that open up into the Warbucks mansion. His outdoor setting for New York City has a nice moment with Denny Reed’s lighting design that mimics the bright lights of Times Square in the Act I “NYC” number.

A big musical with memorable songs like “Tomorrow” and “Maybe” needs a live band to give it a full sound, and that’s once again handled by Music Director Steve Goers. The band never overpowered the singers, and sound-wise, everyone was well-mic’d. The only issue an audience member might have is with Miss Hannigan’s whistle. It’s loud, but it’s supposed to be.

Caren Brady’s costume design had to account for 24 cast members, but with all the different roles the eleven members of the ensemble have to cover, she’s really got closer to five dozen different outfits. Also, many of those costumes have to be able to be put on and taken off quickly. Annie’s classic red dress is perfect, and saving it for the climax is a nice touch. Some other costume kudos go to Rooster’s plaid suit and Grace’s beautiful dress at the end.

Annie is a family-friendly show where goodness wins and bad guys get their comeuppance (and a buoyant little girl inspires the president to save a nation). It’s running Thursdays through Sundays until December 23. Tickets are available by calling 513-241-6550 or going to the Covedale website, www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/ccpa

There’s No Place Like Know’s “Neverwhere”

Review by Liz Eichler of Neverwhere: Know Theatre

Know Theatre’s Neverwhere is an epic fish-out-of-water story, except the fish is a man and the water is London.  It is an entertaining pastiche of characters and connivers, certain to draw in and satisfy fans of British Sci-Fi and any fantasy genre.

Based on a British mini-series and novel by Neil Gaiman, this adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric, is a mystery about the seedy “underside” of London. Businessman Richard Mayhew rescues an injured woman, Lady Door, and in doing so, he enters the world of “London Below,” encountering a multitude of odd (and dangerous) people and creatures on a journey to discover Door’s father’s murderer, and for Mayhew to return to his life in “London Above.” Englishman Gaiman is also the author of The Sandman comic book series, and novels such as Stardust, American Gods, The Graveyard Book (only book to win both the Newberry and The Carnegie Medal) and Coraline. Almost half of the Sunday afternoon audience were first-timers at Cincinnati’s Know Theatre, many visiting from Dayton and beyond, drawn by title alone to this production, and clearly thrilled with every nuance of its portrayal of beloved characters.

“Neverwhere” is a grand undertaking, as this is a grand and epic story.  The cast portrays countless characters on Mayhew’s trek into “London Below” and ensuing search for the key which allows him to return home.  Rory Sheridan creates a relatable Richard Mayhew, Ernaisja Curry creates a vulnerable yet regal Lady Door, and Jeremy Dubin commands the stage and captures every essence of Marquis de Carabas and Brother Fulginous. The Messrs. Croup (Sean Metter) and Vandermar (Dylan Shelton) loom wonderfully ominous, as (some of) the villains in this story, and the actors join the rest of the ensemble (Andrew Ian Adams, Brandon Burton, Maggie Lou Rader, Jordan Trovillion, and Chris Wesslesman) scurrying around in the highly choreographed marathon of costume, set, and character changes. There is so much going on, they must be exhausted by the end of the show!  Directors Andrew J. Hungerford and Dan Winters have woven a tight story into a tight space. Sarah Beth Hall’s set and props create the seedy subway station environment, and the costumes (Noelle Johnston) and puppets (Brandon Johnston) create the otherworldly fantasy elements.

This is a three-hour show. It is highly physically demanding for the performers, who will certainly only build their energy, and fun with the roles.

If you are unfamiliar with Neverwhere, I recommend you approach it like an opera, and read the synopsis first. It runs at Know Theatre through December 17. Many performances are already sold-out, so get tickets early at www.knowtheatre.org or call 513-300-KNOW for more information.

Falcon Theatre Tests the Limits of “Poor Behavior”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Poor Behavior: Falcon Theatre

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Ben Franklin’s quote did not take into account the extreme behavior depicted in Falcon Theatre’s latest production Poor Behavior.  Franklin would have changed the quote to make guests smell after a single day.

A single day is all it takes for two couples to break down and dissolve into a litany of poor behavior: pettiness, unreasonable anger, spitefulness, and constant bickering.

We get a foreshadowing of this during the opening of the play with a semi-drunken argument between Ella (played by Becca Howell) and Ian (played by Phineas Clark) over the nature of goodness, whether it is absolute or relative.  Their spouses, Ella’s husband Peter (played by Derek Snow) and Ian’s wife Maureen (played by Torie Pate) look on in amusement, unaware that they will be sucked into a domestic dispute involving Ella and Ian that threatens both marriages.

This is an ensemble performance and director Lauren Carr assembled a strong stable of actors for this production. All have appeared in Falcon Theatre productions and they work well with one another.  Poor Behavior is a play of small actions making a big difference and all these actors are able to deliver those small actions for large payoffs for the audience.  Actions as simple as discerning bad muffins or pulling a basil plant make a world of difference.

Becca Howell was a standout playing the part of Ella.  Howell played Ella with a blend of sophistication and assertiveness that was perfect for the role.  Her energies are beautifully counterbalanced by Derek Snow as Peter, who does an outstanding job of going from good-natured husband to jealous lover wielding a frying pan in defense of his wife.  Both work nicely off each other to establish a believable rut of a marriage.

Phineas Clark was also a standout as Ian, a man who has to deal with the histrionics of his wife Maureen and his desires for Ella.  Clark’s Irish accent sounded believable and his character comes across as someone caught within difficult circumstances.  This becomes the touchstone of that character.  Torie Pate’s ability to convey Maureen’s incessant nagging, histrionics, and jealousy made her perfect for that role.

Special kudos goes to Scenic & Lighting Designer Ted Weil to create a compelling set that looked like a tony kitchen in a country house.  The kitchen countertop and shelving units worked beautifully for this play (courtesy of Kitchens by Schoster).  Their sterile whiteness highlighted the sterility within these couples’ marriages.

Poor Behavior is not going to be a show for those involved in couple’s counseling or dealing with issues of infidelity or divorce.  This dark comedy will seem too dark.  However, for the rest of us, this is a play where we can delight in Shadenfreude, a delight in the misfortunes of others.  Local native Theresa Rebeck, who premiered this play in New York City, has crafted an engaging piece of theater in which every character is neither truly good or truly bad—but just fodder for us to laugh at.

Poor Behavior runs three weekends starting on November 17 and ending December 2.  There will not be a performance on Thanksgiving Day (November 23).  For more information on Falcon Theatre and ticket information for Poor Behavior, visit their website at htto://www.falcontheatre.net.

Take Some Time off for “Poor Behavior” at the Falcon

Review by Laurel Humes of Poor Behavior: Falcon Theatre

“Poor behavior” doesn’t even come close to describing the antics of the two married couples in Falcon Theatre’s current skillful production of the Theresa Rebeck play.

The tense, edgy Poor Behavior brings the friends together for a weekend getaway. As the show opens, though, there is already a drunken argument going on between Ian (Phineas Clark) and Ella (Becca Howell), as their spouses try unsuccessfully to intervene.

And it goes downhill from there.

Are Ian and Ella having an affair? Is Ian’s wife Maureen (Torie Pate) really unstable? How can Ella’s husband Peter (Derek Snow) stay so placid? Can these marriages survive?

Those are the questions you’ll debate at intermission. Before Act II brings more surprises.

I need to say that these characters are not people I would want to spend a weekend with. I fault the playwright for giving no redeeming qualities to any of them. But I had a Peeping Tom sense of fascination watching them self-destruct.

That I wanted to keep watching had everything to do with the actors.

Ian is Irish (great accent by Clark), and it’s up for debate whether he married his American wife for a green card and/or her money. Clark brings out Ian’s arrogance and ability to manipulate people with his words.

But Pate’s Maureen does not suffer in silence. Her accusations, eventually against all the others, are expressed in a range from cold to shrieking declarations. Pate is a master of physical expression; even if there was no dialogue, you could follow the character from her face alone.

Howell plays Ella as the superficial, egocentric character sketched by the playwright. But Howell has a gift of subtleness – watch to see the flashes of guilt and fear cross her face.

Playing her husband, Snow seems to be the calmest, most reserved and likeable of the characters. But Snow takes us with him as his anger slowly builds, culminating in an outburst of temper and (a bit-too-choreographed) fight with a frying pan.

Director Lauren Carr keeps the pace of dialogue and movement fast-moving. The single set – a very realistic eat-in kitchen – gives the actors plenty of space to move.

Falcon posted a warning that Poor Behavior “contains adult language and sexual situations.” The sex is heard more than seen, but there is no doubt about what’s happening!

Poor Behavior continues at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport, through Dec. 2. Go to www.falcontheatre.net for ticket information.

CSC’s “Tom Sawyer” in a Playful Play

Review by Doug Iden of Tom Sawyer: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Mark Twain and Shakespeare?  Seems a little incongruous but this delightful production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company theater bridges the gap.  I half expected a line such as: “Get thee thy brush and paint yonder fence”.  But, alas, there were no such lines.  The lines that do remain are a quick-paced but a significantly sanitized and politically correct adaptation of Twain’s memorable story by Laura Eason.  But the real vision comes from Director Sara Clark who relishes the playful and adventurous abandon of childhood.  Nothing is impossible for imaginative active youngsters from which adults could learn a significant lesson and that becomes the heart of this production.  The play has its dark sides, yes, but the youthful spirit of adventure shines through.

Admittedly, you are in the world of “suspension of disbelief” as adults cavort on the stage as teenagers but both the dialogue and charisma of the actors helps transcend the audience into the youthful world of Hannibal, Missouri in the 1800’s.  Only eight actors portray numerous characters plus the ensemble.  An ongoing narration by different actors, performed almost like new bulletins, informs us of scene changes, time lapses, etc. but helps move the story along briskly.

The star, of course, is Tom Sawyer, played with charismatic glee by Cary Davenport.  Davenport, literally, bounces around the stage with an almost continuously infectious smile.  His effervescent élan and love of life brightens the entire production.  Tom and his buddy Huck Finn (Kyle Brumley) open the production with their series of adventures including playing hookey and fishing.  Huck is an abandoned youngster who lives on his own and lives by his own rules.  Aunt Polly (Miranda McGee) who is raising Tom thinks that Huck is a bad influence and tries to steer her charge away from the homeless boy.  But that, of course, only encourages Tom to continue his activities with Huck.

Next, we see the domestic side of Sawyer’s life with Aunt Polly and Tom’s brother Sid played with a bored vacancy by Justin McCombs.  It’s the juxtaposition of Sid, who is straight-laced and well groomed, with Tom who is reckless and sloppily dressed, that signifies Twain’s social satire.  There’s just enough “meat” in the story to be interesting as adult fare.

Romance appears as Tom becomes smitten by Becky Thatcher (Caitlin McWethy) who plays a coquettish teenage girl in a blue gingham dress who flirts with Tom but has an on-again, off-again relationship throughout the show.

But all is not sweetness and light as Tom and Huck witness a murder in the cemetery committed by the infamous Injun Joe, portrayed menacingly by Christopher Jordan Salazar.  Injun Joe frames his companion Muff Porter (Geoffrey Warren Barnes II) who is then condemned to be hanged.  This creates a moral dilemma for Tom and Huck.  Do they stay silent and watch Muff hang or divulge what they saw and become possible victims of Injun Joe’s retribution?

The set, lighting and costuming become integral components of Sara Clark’s vision.  Unlike the two previous shows in their new theater which used a plethora of technical toys, this set (designed by Shannon Robert) is much more “old school” and extremely effective.  The stage is a multi-tiered, wooden structure with a futuristic tree in the back on one side and a platform on the other.  Both structures have different uses throughout the play.  But the ingenious part is the multi-tiered stage.  In keeping with the childlike theme of the story, the actors would pull up parts of the stage and create different illusions including a river (with real water), a campfire, gravestones and several scenes with desks or pews both in a school and in church.  It almost appears as though the children/actors were playing with Lincoln Logs or Legos as they continuously reconstruct the set as the play progresses.  Salazar (Injun Joe) also plays the firebrand minister and the disciplinarian teacher in the church and school scenes.

Denise Watkins has designed costumes which clearly differentiate the adults from the children.  The adults wear traditional Puritanical garb with high necks, long skirts and suit coats for the men.  In contrast, the children wear very loose clothes which don’t always match and many are barefoot.  With one exception, we see Sid dressed as the Victorian idea that children are “small adults” and has a suit.  One comic sight gag at the end shows Huck dressed in a suit after being adopted by the Widow Douglas (Miranda McGee).

The lighting designed by Justen Locke is also very effective.  The play starts with a yellow backdrop indicating a new day.  You almost want to start singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”.  The projections then change throughout.  In one scene, we see lighting bleeding out of the bottom of the tiered stage.  However, it is the cave scenes when the lighting (or lack thereof) works best because it adds to the terror and menace of Becky and Tom getting lost and then being pursued by Injun Joe.

The audience was a mixture of adults and children.  This is a good family show and the kids seemed to enjoy the production as much as the adults.  It is also very funny, especially during the first act.  All of the offensive language from the original book has been excised although they have retained much of river vernacular.  The kids in the play show the adults how to have fun and begin to realize their dreams.

So, grab your steamboat or your raft and float down to the Otto Budig Theater for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer running through December 9.

 

CSC’s “Tom Sawyer” is an Adventure to Lift Your Spirits

Review by Liz Eichler of Tom Sawyer: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Caitlyn McWethy and Cary Davenport in “Tom Sawyer”

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is the history of a playful boy and his friends, certain to lift your spirits on these dark fall days.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production is visually appealing, and picks out some of the best parts of Mark Twain’s classic. It allows you to feel, to remember what it was like to have one foot in the adult world, but another firmly rooted in freedoms of childhood. Young and old will love it.

Tom Sawyer is a 12-year old boy, around 1845, living in a small town near the Missouri River. Everyone in the town knows each other (for good or bad). It is the story of his friendship with Huck Finn, Joe Harper, the new girl Becky Thatcher, his Aunt Polly, brother Sid, and a few other local characters.

Cary Davenport has the perfect devilish grin, so you can see why Aunt Polly forgives him for so many broken rules. You see his mind flit from one idea to the next, as his energy, enthusiasm and charisma reframe dreadful chores into a desired activity in the iconic fence-painting scene. You may not recognize Miranda McGee as sweet Aunt Polly, attesting to the amazing range of this talented actress. Caitlin McWethy captures the innocence and girlishness of Becky Thatcher, and her scenes with Davenport are some of the show’s most charming. In between the dialogue, McWethy and Davenport give you a dictionary of looks, movements, and smiles.

The entire ensemble captures a sense of play, without (too much) effort. Director Sara Clarke has molded the play, by Laura Eason, into a creation of fun and wonder, exploration and adventure. The simplicity but effectiveness of the set (Shannon Robert) and lighting (Justen N. Locke) is amazing. (CSC is still showing audiences the full capacity of the space, using clever techniques that may recall “Transformers” – a childhood toy from another era.) Costumes by Denise Vulhop Watkins beautifully capture the class differences of the era. My favorite “scenery” is the cave, told in rich soundscape (Doug J. Borntrager).  The ensemble includes Geoffrey Warren Barnes II, Kyle Brumley, Justin McCombs, Christopher Jordan Salazar, and Crystian Wiltshire.

This is a show for the whole family,* from the young’uns to the grannies. Perfect for the holidays, capturing the fond memories of Childhoods Past, and the Childhoods yet to come, it plays through December 9, but get your tickets now (www.cincyshakes.com)—as they will go as quickly as childhood.

*From the CSC website: recommended for children ages 8+ but the whole family can still go– on Sundays Nov. 26 or Dec. 3, younger kids (4+) can have Artist-led child care DURING the performance, free for subscribers. Contact the box office or website for more information.