Cleveland Stage Alliance – Reviews and Previews

Eric Fancher – Founder/Administrator/ Webmaster/"CSA Presents" Co-Producer


June 2014

MOVE ON! at Near West Theatre

“Let’s remember the first show here. It was the summer of 1978 and there were 13 kids, 11 to 16 years old. There were basketball hoops here in the space that we had to push out of the way, and all we had was one light.  Well, we stand on their shoulders tonight and remember all those who came before us.”

Those dramatic and inspiring words were shared on opening night by Near West Theatre Co-Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek to the cast of MOVE ON! The last show ever in the St. Patrick’s Club Building, home since 1978. The rise of Near West Theatre is an incredible tale of relentless dedication and incredible resolve by the founding partners. The philosophy of Near West Theatre is the belief in the healing, transformative power of the theatrical arts. Their mission statement states that “Near West Theatre builds loving relationships and engages diverse people in strengthening their sense of identity, passion, and purpose, individually and in community, through transformational theatre arts experiences.” That is a tall order for a theatre that started being Ohio City based and bred. The results are staggering, as the theatre has transformed many, and empowered thousands to move forward with focus and clarity.

As the Artistic Director, Bob Navis Jr. has joined Morrison-Hrbek on this transformative mission, and has provided vital musical direction and inspiration for the institution to move forward, presenting musicals that embrace the audience with visceral energy. Navis has provided one last musical goodbye to the quirky, magical space that has housed the theater for 36 years. Sixty-six cast members of all ages are filling a 90-minute one-act with reflections and music, plus projected pictures and video, which evoke the healing, transformative power of theater.

The music is provided by Assistant Musical Director/Keyboard/Conductor Jordan Cooper, Percussion by Rick Taylor, Trumpet by Juan Ingram, and solo piano by Bob Navis, Jr.

The show highlights the beginnings of the theatre, along with the process that creates the shows themselves. A Revolution section is a powerful testament to the social issues that the theatre has not shied away from and addressed with honesty and truth. A Broadway section serves up show stopping performances from some of the many productions at Near West Theatre.  And in the end, it is all about thanking everyone who had something to do with the journey. Present, past and those that radiant from above.

Producing this particular journey are Assistant Director Kelcie Nicole Dugger, Technical Director/Production Manager Josh Padgett, Assistant Technical Director/Video Designer Perren Hedderson, Scenic and Props Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski, Stage Manager Ryan Wolf, Choreographer Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, Assistant Stage Managers Roderick Cardwell II and Alexa Jones, Costume Designer David Glowe, Lighting Designers Mike Stein and Rob Wachala, and Sound Designer Joshua Caraballo.

The new home will be located in the Gordon Square Arts District, and will certainly be a crucial addition to the revitalization. There is a lot of joy and celebration that the cast members and staff want to share with returning patrons, and new attendees. Be a part of, and participate in Cleveland theatrical history.

Thursday, June 26 at 7:30pm
Friday, June 27 at 7:30pm
Saturday, June 28 at 7:30pm

Sunday, June 29 at 3:00pm

$8-$20 General Admission

(216) 961-6391

Order Tickets Online

St. Patrick’s Club Building
3606 Bridge Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44113

My Fair Lady at Porthouse Theatre


In 1956, the juggernaut musical “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway. It is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Unless you have been living under a theatrical rock, you know that Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews graced the original story that follows Eliza Doolittle (gracious Kayce Cummings* (Green)), a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins (dynamic Greg Violand*), as a result of a bet with Colonel Pickering (lovable Geoff Stephenson*), that she may pass as a lady at an Embassy Ball. The journey is what “My Fair Lady” is all about, and of course, some memorable characters along the way. My Fair Lady hit a more universal audience when the film production featured Audrey Hepburn as Eliza.

Porthouse Theatre, under the expedient direction of Artistic Director Terri Kent *^, serves up a fine rendition of this classic. Cummings is a classic beauty as Eliza. She comes on stage as a snarky street urchin ready to take on the world with a heart of gold. Her brash physicality was solid, but I didn’t notice any dirt on her face, even though her clothes were certainly downtrodden. Must have been her flower selling technique “Would this face lie to ya?” Cummings is a joy to watch throughout this production, and watching her sneak a chocolate is priceless. Personally, I like a more soprano like quality to Eliza’s voice, but Cummings is a powerful theatrical force of nature and sold it well.

Greg Violand knocked the role of Professor Henry Higgins out of the park. It was a solid, textured, comedic, and charmingly executed portrayal. Every time he would yell or get flustered, it cracked me up. What a beautiful marriage of a role and an actor that was firing on all cylinders.  I could write an entire paragraph about “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face. “ He cuts a fine handsome figure that the audience couldn’t resist, and happily reciprocated by providing an evening of uninterrupted magic.

Charm and a lovable presence was in full bloom with Geoff Stephenson* as Colonel Pickering. As Higgins sidekick, Stephenson kept Pickering affable, likable and engaging the whole performance. Elliot Litherland could have rented the Megabus, and taken home every woman in the theatre. His charisma meter was off the charts as a result of a beautiful voice, and an honest, sweet, and touching rendition of “On The Street Where You Live”. Lissy Gulick is adorable as Mrs. Pierce, as she keeps 27-A Wimpole Street organized, but also, displays no fear in sharing her “opinion.” As Alfred P. Doolittle, Porthouse veteran Rohn Thomas* cuts of fine disheveled figure, bringing debauchery to a new level of “oh no, he didn’t.” I would have preferred him a little more inebriated throughout, but, he overcomes that by being charming as heck. Darian Lunsford and Dylan Ratell, Jamie and Harry, make appropriate sidekicks and pseudo body beer guards to Doolittle.

The Quartet (Daniel Lindenberger, Ratell, Connor Simpson, Christopher Tuck) sparkled with lush harmonies, however, at times it seemed they were were not loud enough to enjoy their vocal work. The Servants’ Chorus (Lucy Anders, Jessica Benson, Grace Falasco, Miriam Henkel-Moellmann, Linderberger, and Simpson) delivered strong vocals, and Falasco delivered great face. Speaking of face, Lunsford kills it at the Ascot Gavotte, throwing more shade then RuPaul on a long weekend.

All of these wonderful actors, including ensemble member Mackenzie Duan, are decked out to the nines and appropriate fabulousness in costumes designed by S.Q. Campell. I thoroughly enjoyed the visual parade.

One of the excitements of this lush musical, is the orchestration. Hearing the sweeping sounds that illuminate the score can elevate an audience to heights unimagined. With this production, Porthouse Musical Director Jonathan Swoboda has opted for two pianos (Second pianist, accomplished Melissa Fucci), instead of a full or abridged orchestra. With the exception of one flute, the result is an under fulfilled score.  However, if you are not married to a full pit of musicians, the piano becomes powerful in its own right, and services this compact production quite well. This is accomplished by the exquisite skill of Swoboda, and the assist from Fucci.

There were some distractions in the production. Because of the set design (Ben Needham), dancers and actors had to continually navigate the checkerboard floor plan, with heightened sections that kept dancers and actors precariously close to platforms edges throughout the night. You can’t help but worry that some may step off and fall. The set design was very functional and effective, but the unevenness was the price you paid. As a result, the choreography (John R. Crawford) seemed very efficient, instead of raucous numbers that should have electrified the stage.  The pace of the show is brisk, and many smaller important emotional moments are lost. This culminates at the end, when a longer moment is used to close the show, and it almost becomes awkward. On a personal note, I love the role of Mrs. Higgins. The character is fierce and has one of the greatest exit lines ever. Director Kent certainly knows her audience, which certainly affected casting the role with a Porthouse treasure in drag. But, I prefer the original, emanating warmth and biting clarity when needed most. I guess I need to loosen up.

Tech staff was on point. Lighting Designer T.C. Kouyeas, Jr., Sound Designer Brian Chismar, Assistant Director Jerimie Newcomb, Production Stage Manager Derric Nolte* called a great show, and Technical Director Steve Pauna.

Porthouse is a summer theatrical treasure, but not an appetite suppressant. Said Kevin after 3 hot dogs, a soft pretzel and 2 diet cokes. Enjoy!

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers.

^Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.


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June 12 – June 28
8pm Tuesdays
8pm Wednesdays
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays

2pm Sundays

$17-$38 Reserved Seating

(330) 672-3884

Order Tickets Online
Porthouse Theatre
Blossom Music Center
1145 W Steels Corners Rd
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at Huntington Playhouse

Huntington Playhouse is offering up a zesty production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) directed by Improv Wizard Marc Moritz.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a play written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. The convention of the piece is that it parodies all the plays of William Shakespeare, while being performed by only three actors. In this case, the cast is Douglas F. Bailey II, Sean Cahill, and Dan Sekanic. Typically, the actors use their real names, which they do here, and play themselves when they are not characters or having a ball with the audience.  The script allows and encourages improvisation, which results in each performance being different and fresh. Local and topical references are often added to the mayhem.

The writers, Long, Singer, and Winfield—former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company—first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987, and later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine years. It has become one of the world’s most popular shows, playing frequently in a variety of languages. It is notable for holding the (self-proclaimed) world record for the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at 43 seconds, as well as the fastest performance of Hamlet backwards, at 42 seconds.

Moritz has taken the show’s improvisation moments, and let the sexual overtones run free. This approach has colored the occasion with a Vegas lounge feel. This interpretation lends itself to puppets taking it every which way but loose, naughty text interpretation, nipple rubbing, and proclaiming that “Taylor Swift is a whore.” Fitting that into the abridged works of Shakespeare keeps the audience on their toes, and creates some nervous laughter. A charming Bailey opens the show with a warm welcome and prepares the audience for the evening flight plan. Sekanic joins later on, as Cahill joins them from the audience with hilarious results.

The action begins with a parody of Romeo and Juliet, followed by a Titus Andronicus cooking show. Following is Othello, which is done through a rap song. The rest of the first act demonstrates most of the other plays by all of the comedies being combined into one convoluted reading, all of the histories being acted out through athletic activity, complete with cheerleaders, a reduction of Julius Caesar to his death, followed immediately by a reduction of Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth. At the end of the act, the characters are about to finish, when they realize that they forgot to perform Coriolanus, exacerbated, the other actors run out of the theater. The final actor is left to entertain the audience by himself and introduce the intermission.

After the intermission, the entire second act is the performance of Hamlet. The audience gets involved during this segment when one audience member is asked to portray Ophelia for the Nunnery Scene. The rest of the audience makes up Ophelia’s subconscious, with three sections that each represent her ego, superego, and id. This whole bit was executed really well, and the audience ate it up. After the portrayal of Hamlet, the actors realize they have a little time left, and proceed to recreate all the plays in 30 seconds. And if that isn’t enough, they finish by performing it backwards. However, at this performance, the cast wheels came off completely during the last scene, (flubbing lines), which caused the cast to break, and ended the show in a muddled mess. But, it was fun getting there.

Stage Manger Joy DeMarco (called a clean show), Set Design Tom Meyrose (looked great), Light and Sound Design Chuck Tisdale (great), Costume Design David Glowe (very creative).

June 5 – June 29
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$10-$20 Reserved Seating

(440) 871-8333

Huntington Playhouse
28601 Lake Road
Bay Village, OH 44140


The Six Ages of Woman performed by Mary Faktor.

Recently, I was invited by the beloved Mary Faktor to attend her one woman show The Six Ages of Woman. I have known Mary for some time, and have been familiar with her show, but this was the first performance where schedules clicked. When someone invites you to a show, and more importantly a one person show which they have written, you really hope it is going to be good. Well, it was! I settled into the St. Michaels Woodside Party Center in Broadview Heights, surrounded by 175 women and 2 men hiding in plain sight. These ladies were wired up for fun, and I am sure the men were wondering what the hell was going to happen.

The 90 minute script is drawn from Faktor’s life experiences, and tweaked and edited as the years have gone by to include more relevant topics and observations. The set is simple. A backdrop that allows for costume changes to occur on stage, with appropriate coverage, a chair and a phone and table. The rest is conversation and story telling that will cover The Six Ages of Woman with hilarious results.

Before the “show” actually begins, Faktor takes the stage to introduce herself and what the evening is about. She covers her current range of occupations, her performance pedigrees, her movie career, and outlines her family history. Describing life as a young woman, Faktor covers what it feels like to hear “You look good for your age,” and what the conditions used to be like to obtain the title of “good girl.’ You can just hear the woman in the audience getting ready to rumble. Faktor explains how she found herself at a low emotional point, wanting more out of life, and how theatre became an outlet. Which resulted in getting cast in a show. Her breakout role. A depressed housewife.

She challenges the audience to examine their “What If?” world, and reassures them that “There is a reason for everything.” Faktor has had 33 years to develop her message of hope through laughter and some slightly racy humor, which is eaten up faster than the desserts. On With the Show!

We follow “Vicki” by listening in on her phone conversations with her best friend, Madge. We never meet Madge, but trust me, we all have a Madge in our lives. The show opens with Vicki as a teenager reading her current issue of True Romance. Decked out in a pink sweater, that should get a curtain call on its own. In fact, all the costumes throughout the evening are extremely fun. We listen in on a discussion about being asked out on a first date by Alan Zerwicki, and the plans that follow, that include Bowling and White Castle. We also hear about Vicki’s feelings about how she is going to treat her kids in the future. A bold statement from someone too young to know the path before her.  As she reads Good Housekeeping, we learn Vicki got married to Alan. That must have been some good White Castle.  They talk about the first time for sex, the first decorating motif, and the first master plan of when to have babies, all with comic delight.

Vicki is pregnant and reading her Baby Magazine. We venture through trips to the gynecologist, sex dreams, and exploring the vision of how to be a wonderful mom. Reading the National Enquirer signals the next phase of owning a new home, and having a baby, or as Vicki explains to Madge who has just come back from a trip to Monte Carlo, how the 4th pregnancy is going. We hear about the master plan, sugar, eBay, and even more sex dreams.  The Successful Woman magazine signals a new phase that explores why it has suddenly gotten a little hot in here, how Vicki has entered business management, Marriage counseling and that one long chin hair. 50 years after the first phone call, Vicki is reading AARP. Faktor displays some mad bra skills with an epic “removal under the sweatshirt” to thunderous laughter and applause. But, we also enjoy Viagra, a bittersweet conversation with Madge, and the joys of becoming a grandmother.

This is a grand presentation of life presented with deft comedic monologues and terrific characterizations.  The costumes are delightful, and even the phone changes by time period, which is a nice detail. My mother would have had a tremendous time.  This show is funny, and gently bumps into sex jokes without setting off any defibrillators. This is really a perfect show for adult women to bring their friends, mothers, and grandmothers. But, the men will have fun too. To borrow from the marketing material, this show is a perfect choice for church, hospital and organizations fund raisers, conventions, conferences and social banquets.

Check out Mark Faktor at There is a lot of fun going on here.


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Join hands June 29 in a farewell circle of love around St. Pat’s

Near West Theatre. A Beautiful end that allows for a beautiful beginning.

The Near West Circle

NWT-2013-14-Brochure-CoverThis is it. Our last week of performances at the St. Pat’s Club Building, our home of 36 years, has arrived. Will you join us in saying a communal goodbye to this grand old place? Sunday, June 29, at about 4:45 p.m., after the final matinée of Move On!, you’re invited to join an outdoor community circle around our beloved building at 3606 Bridge Avenue. Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr. is creating a brief farewell ritual in which we’ll join hands and raise voices to say goodbye to this place where so many lives have been touched, so many relationships formed, so much passion shared.

You’re encouraged to join the circle (it’s a free, public event) even if you’re not in the audience that day, though we do hope you’ll help us fill the house Thursday through Sunday. Tickets for shows at 7:30 p.m. June 26, 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. June 29, are available online anytime or by phoning 216-961-6391 between…

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Willoughby Fine Arts Association

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Walking into the lobby of Willoughby Fine Arts Association, you can’t help but notice an extra kick of energy in the air. It doesn’t take long to discover why, as a perky character approaches me with a hair style that would make Crazy Eyes from OITNB proud. Who is she? Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (clarion voiced Leah Smith), one of the contestants in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” delightfully directed by James Mango (Artistic Director). The Bee is a one act musical conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with music and lyrics by William Finn. Feldman also wrote the book, which garnered her a Tony and Drama Desk Award in 2005.

The show is a fictitious spelling bee taking place at the Putnam Valley Middle School. There are six peculiar contestants along with some adults that are a little special themselves. Add in the convention that the cast brings four audience members on stage with them to enter the Bee, and all hell breaks loose. The script is very funny, but also leaves room for ad-libbing which results in each night becoming a slightly different shade of crazy.

My initial observation of seeing the cast onstage, is that Mango went for a younger look, then packing the stage with veterans. This casting choice, at least with the students, lends itself to a stronger connection with the kids actually being in middle school. This doesn’t have to happen, but it worked. With the “adults”, both Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Korbin James Lashley) and former champ and returning moderator Rona Lisa Perretti (Cassandra Mears), also had the same youthful look, which was a little distracting from an older adult presence. However, Comfort Counselor Mickey Mahoney (Rachel Roth) gave some adult realness, looking like the love child of Mimi from The Drew Carey Show and the Hells Angels.

The first contestant to stand out is Smith, who has a solid character, clear diction (even with a lisp), and a glorious set of pipes. Smith was a scream to watch. William Barfee (Tyler Moliterno) is terrific. His characterization seemed so real and natural, you wondered if he was like this at home. Probably having a life sized poster of Daniel Day Lewis in his room. With this total immersion and deft comedic choices, he is hard to forget. As was his reaction to peanuts, which was one of my favorites bits. And one more, he is the doppelganger of Doug Bailey. That is a compliment Tyler. Another stand out is Gus Mahoney, who seems to inhabit Leaf Coneybear with ridiculous pleasure, and athletic clowning. His coma induced spelling antics are definitely a well-executed bit of fun. Charming Celia Lupton as Marcy Park, brings a great sight gag to the party and she crashes the orchestra and lays down some mean piano riffs of her own during “I Speak Six Languages.” Great stuff. Olive Ostrovsky (demur Jackie DiFrangia) plays introvert, with a side of angst at first, and then unleashes some great golden pipes and comedic antics of her own. “Chip” Tolentino (Surya Ravindran) is a hot mess of puberty, which he plays to the hilt. He also has a stint playing Jesus Christ, which is very funny. As for the adults, they add the anchor to the proceedings with charm, Perretti’s vocals, Lashley’s custom tailored ad-libbing, and Roth’s hard knock life, juice box sincerity.

There were some distractions within the production. The biggest being sound. The opening number was unbalanced, and it was hard to hear many lyrics over the orchestra. This occurred many times during the night, so I don’t know if the balance was constantly in a state of flux, or the mics were being turned on and up properly, which was certainly the case with Coneybear. Being opening night, the crispness of the comedic moments were not all there, but should be as the run continues. The pace lagged towards the end, and the harmonic elements of “The I Love You Song” didn’t help. DiFrangia was fine, but what was happening around her needs to be toned up. As the run takes shape, these distractions will become a distant memory. The cast also doubles as the other minor characters in the show to delight of the audience.

Musical Director John Krol supplied a tip top band to crank out this delightful score, and did it with energy and vigor. Jennifer Justice supplied the choreography, which seemed to provide a loose structure to be filled in with character driven moves and wild abandon.

The technical staff delivered. Competent Technical Director and Scenic Designer Michael Roesch, Lighting Designer J. R. Simons, Costume Designer D. Justin Bilewicz, III (creative and fun), Sound Designer Tom Linsenmeier ( some issues), Production Stage Manager Laura Schleder called a clean show.


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June 6 – June 22
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

$15-$25 Reserved Seating

(440) 951-7500

Order Tickets OnlineLocation:
Fine Arts Association
38660 Mentor Ave.
Willoughby OH 44094

Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life at The Cleveland Play House.

“WELL, HELLO CLEVELAND!” With that glorious opening, the legendary Maurice Hines opened his old school Vegas show at The Cleveland Play House to an enthusiastic response. Well, actually, the show opened with an attending senior who was a little overexcited, so much so, he needed to be escorted back to his seat after dancing and cavorting around the front of the stage. I actually thought that he might be the opening and hop of the stage and start tapping. I thought wrong. But that actually just reflected the excitement of the crowd. Backed by the remarkable and frisky THE DIVA ORCHESTRA, led by acclaimed Musical Director Dr. Sherrie Maricle, Hines launches into his jazz infused rendition of “I’ve Never Been In Love Before.”

He then takes us through the early years, with assistance from photos projected on the cleverly designed screen panels. Even then, the brothers attracted attention. So with the vision of his mother, and the dancing abilities of his father, the young protégées were guided to hone their talented dancing feet. Hines talks about his parents a lot in very touching moments. But the sweetest is his rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face”, where he intertwines a parental moment of love. He also can’t say enough about Cleveland, and gives a shout out to Artistic Director Laura Kepley, and their visit to Hot Sauce Williams to turn his mood around.

At ages 7 to 9, the tapping phenoms appear in Las Vegas. But not on the strip, due to the racial prejudice that existed. And even though that happened, the mood is kept light. However, the bluntness of racism is quite a life check on how far we have come, and where we need to go. Their first encounter with celebrity greatness was with Tallulah Bankhead, who made a life changing introduction to Pearl Bailey. In a powerful moment, Hines explains how they all went for a swim, but afterwards, the hotel drained the pool. He then gently rolls into “Smile”, while pictures of segregation are shown in the panels. It gives the song a whole new meaning, but also represents their strength in persevering. Hines also, addresses prejudice in other areas as well, highlighting DOMA, while he sings “Get Me To The Church On Time.” Now, this is a class act. Stories abound about meetings with Johnny Carson, Ella Fitzgerald, the Rat Pack, Judy Garland, and then Duke Ellington and his musical “Sophisticated Ladies” lightheartedly follow.

One touching moment is when Hines tap dances with his brother, represented by a spotlight, and recreates the first soft shoe number they ever learned. With that, it is time to tap. And joining the icon on stage is John and Leo Manzari, who previously appeared in Arena Stage’s Production of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies” starring Hines at the Lincoln Theatre.  Tapping off with their mentor, these two brothers are fierce tappers with agility, grace, and moves that seem to defy gravity. They are two good looking dancing athletic artists that raise the roof with their charm and execution. Not to be outdone, Hines brings on a young lady that appears to be right out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Well she quickly sheds that moniker with a scorching tap routine that has the audience going nuts. Then, the three join together for a tap off that is so much fun, you don’t want it to end.

The evening ends with a tribute to his mother, with whom he credits his career to her vision. In a rendition of “Too Marvelous for Words”, you can just feel the love this family had for each other through all the pain and suffering that they all must have gone through. But the pain is not what Hines wants you to focus on, it is the strength that lies within families, it is the drive that results from oppression, and it is the soul of a dancer and the spirit that is released with each step. This is an evening of old school Vegas. I don’t think my feet stopped bopping or shaking to the rhythms the entire evening.

The Creative Design Team for the show includes Tobin Ost (Scenic Designer), T. Tyler Stumpf (Costume Designer), Michael Gillian (Lighting Designer), Carl Casella (Sound Designer), and Darrel Maloney (Projection Designer). Stage Manager Jennifer Matheson Collins, along with Assistant Stage Manager Tom Humes, called a great show.

Bravo to The Cleveland Play House for bringing this piece to Playhouse Square. AND, don’t leave right away, the DIVA ORCHESTRA plays out the performance with a kick ass number. The folks that remained were cheering and yelling at the end. So much fun, but yes, old school. For me, that is totally cool.


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May 30 – June 22

7pm Tuesdays
7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
2:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

$15-$55 Reserved Seating

(216) 241-6000
 Order tickets:
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115


Twentieth Century at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre

All aboard the 20th Century Limited! Chagrin Valley Little Theatre has produced the zany comedy “Twentieth Century”, which may have the longest subtitle of authors. This version is a new adaptation of the play by Ken Ludwig, originally written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur that was based on an unpublished play by Charles Bruce Milholland. So “All Aboard!” is doubly appropriate.

The first Broadway production, directed by George Abbott, opened on December 29, 1932 at the Broadhurst Theatre. It was adapted for a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name two years later. The play has been revived on Broadway twice. The second revival, an adaptation by Ken Ludwig directed by Walter Bobbie, opened on March 25, 2004 at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre. Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche received Tony Award nominations.

With a troupe of community theatre artists, Director Barbara L. Rhoades takes on the train that is loaded with characters that are all a little off track is some way or another. And some of them generate quite a bit of laughter. The play is about Oscar Jaffe (Tim Walsh), the egomaniacal Broadway director, and Lily Garland (Grace Mannarino), the chorus girl he transformed into a leading lady. Bankrupt, with his career on a downslide, Oscar boards the Twentieth Century Limited and encounters Lily, now a temperamental Hollywood star. He’ll do anything to get her back under contract and back in his bed, but his former protégé will have nothing to do with him. All of the action takes place on board the legendary Twentieth Century train from Chicago to New York City where Oscar has 20 hours to persuade Lily to return to Broadway in his upcoming show. No Lily, no show, no career!

Most of the laughs are generated by and around Lily Garland, richly played by Grace Mannarino. Here is a woman that could beat Gloria Swanson to a cab. Diving into the diva part of the play, Mannarino has a blast overacting and serving ham at a moment’s notice. Tom Hill as Dr. Grover Lockwood, is appropriately shady and energetic, as he takes a ride on the love train with the mischievous Anita Highland (beautiful Keri Lambert). The Porter could easily be a throw away part, but in the hands of Cody Steele, he is a delightful presence. Jerry Schaber stays true to the O’ in his name but making sure his character Owen O’Malley is tipsy, and his face is mugalicious. Tim Walsh handles the lead role of Oscar Jaffe with confidence and appeal. Natalie Dolezal as Ida Webb is the eye of the hurricane, by setting up a lot of comedy around her.

This is a colorful group of characters. But what is lacking is the precision and timing of rapid fire pace. Scenes shifting from one train section to the other are often delayed, creating dead air that isn’t filled with anything visually active to hold the energy. I can’t tell if the actors don’t feel the lack of crispness needed, or the direction didn’t focus enough on the timing and full out energy needed to pull off this comedic bullet train. At intermission, an audience member in front of me stated to his partner “you kind of wonder if it gets better.” It does. Act Two brings in a force of nature in Max Jacobs, played to the hilt by Stephen Kay, and also provides a very funny death scene in which all characters enjoy a comedic self-actualization. But, the lack of sharpness still takes a toll on the overall effect.

Production values were in good shape. Set, Sound (could be louder), and Lighting Design by Edmond C. Wolff. Costumer Jackie Kruyne has a great eye for style. And Stage Manager Karen Paktinat called a clean show.

Chagrin Valley Little Theatre is a dynamic venue, surrounded by a picturesque and charming city by the falls. There is a lot of great history here. Check it out when you can.


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May 30 – June 21
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays


$14-$18 Reserved Seating/General Admission

(440) 247-8955

Order Tickets Online

Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
40 River Street
Cahgrin Falls, OH 44022


Seminar by Theresa Rebeck at the Beck Center for the Arts

There is no doubt that the current offering at the Beck Center for the Arts is one “Seminar” you do not want to miss. Five thriving actors fire on all cylinders in this witty play about the creative process of writing, and the critique that gets you there. Without intermission, “Seminar” is a 90 minute literary ride that never stops giving, thanks to the adroit and inventive direction of Donald Carrier. Written by Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck, “Seminar” must have been a blast to write. It pokes fun at the literary world from the angle of what teachers and advisors can be like, and the fellow students and achievers that have that special quirky signature esthetic.  But it leaves room for some very poignant moments that reflect the true meaning of what exists within our most honest considerations.

The play opens in a fabulous Upper West Side Apartment, which happens to contain four hungry writers ready to take on the literary world. Kate (Lara Knox*) is the owner of the apartment, or should I say, the recipient of gracious parents. She is a high strung pistol who is a little sexual repressed and dramatic. She has spent 6 years tweaking her masterpiece in an attempt to revise it to perfection. Martin (Andrew Gombas) is very focused on being a “real” writer. The only problem is he won’t share his writings with anyone. Douglas (Brian Gale) comes from great pedigree, and really enjoys hearing himself speak on a high intellectual level and about the process. He has the power of a recognizable last name, which is helpful, but as later addressed, seems a bit whorish.  Izzy (Aily Roper) starts off being a big fan of Douglas, but seems more interested in working connections, by using her own power of “connection”. Izzy works a room better than most lobbyists. What do these fab four have in common? They have each paid $5000 dollars apiece to receive the tutelage of the esteemed Leonard (Scott Plate*), a renowned editor and playwright. What they don’t expect to get is the editor from hell, which Plate embodies with zest.

Plate, who is on fire here, is like the Mama Rose of the literary world. He infuses Leonard with grand layers of drive, pompous posturing, and most importantly, brutal honesty. I mean, who can’t love a guy who refers to writers as feral cats. I am surprised the set wasn’t surrounded by boxing ring ropes.  Everyone gets to take their turn being obliterated by the Godzilla of critique. My favorite is watching Knox eat her feelings, and ends up showing she does not need a spoon to devour her ice cream. This is one depressed feral cat that will never go hungry. Knox is fantastic throughout this play, and made me gut laugh with the simple act of ordering Chinese food. It also doesn’t help, Kate has feelings for Martin. And that doesn’t end well either, as Izzy and Martin get busy for extended periods of time, without deference to location. So much so, a bit created to pick up the “pillow of love” off the floor, is brilliant.

As the play goes on, everyone is taking a toll from the brutal nature of the sessions, and as a result, people want out, their money back, or decide to lessen morality to achieve a higher purpose. Towards the end, the laughs subside to explore and address internal issues buried within these characters. Do we judge the writer or the work? Is there pride as a Ghost writer? And, why Martin is afraid to give up his pages? As Leonard states, “Some people are so crippled, they can’t stand the truth.”

Reaching the end, there are two very powerful moments that avail themselves. Gombas delivers a searing, powerful torrent of emotion and brutal truth as Martin finally lets loose on Leonard. And in response, Plate displays the most honest and moving passages from Leonard, that he hasn’t shared with anyone in many, many years. Both moments are pin drop worthy. And when it is Martin that consoles Leonard, a sparkling moment reveals itself.

These actors are a beautiful team, led by a dynamic director who has guided an exquisite evening of theatre. There are many laughs, and a crescendo that results in true introspection. Also of note, is that Gale, Gombas and Roper are recent graduates of acclaimed Oberlin College. Kudos to the acting program that created these talented young artists, and to the teachers, like the venerable Matthew Wright, who invested so much in their future.

The Production Staff delivers fine work as well.  Superb Scenic Designer Cameron Caley Michalak, provides a set that seamlessly changes from scene to scene, and then finally, location. Trad A (no period) Burns continues his excellent work. Sound Designer Cyrus O. Tayler spot on. Technical Director Joseph Carmola competently pulls the elements together is great style and execution.

This is a very good evening of theatre. Elements of comedy abound, but also, the elements of darkness that haunt most artistic genius.

*appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.


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May 30 – June 29
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

$12-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

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