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Resident Critic for www.ClevelandStageAlliance.com www.tpography.com – Kevin Kelly

TPOGraphy.com Editor: Robert Kowalewski

Month

November 2014

The Great Gatsby at Ensemble Theatre

Ensemble Theatre
Professional Theatre

The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, which follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg, on prosperous Long Island during the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s greatest novel and an American Classic, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess. Thereby creating a portrait of the Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties, that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. The adaption of this iconic novel by Simon Levy brings the humor, irony, pathos and loveliness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic to the stage. Navigate the languid atmosphere of wealth and privilege with Nick Carraway, as he observes the glittering, elaborate parties of his neighbor, the infamous and illusive Jay Gatsby. But, observation is just an invitation to being sucked into the craziness that will engulf him, and change him forever.

The story

The main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway (James Rankin) serves as the novel’s narrator. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby (Kyle Carthens), a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. Nick drives around the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan (Rebecca Moseley), and her husband, Tom (Aaron D. Elersich), a college acquaintance of Nick’s. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker (Sidney Perelman), an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. She reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress Myrtle Wilson (Cassandra Mears).Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment they keep for their affair. At the apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party takes place. It ends in violence.

As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick encounters Jordan Baker at the party, and they meet Gatsby himself. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby knew Daisy from a romantic encounter in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. He spends many nights staring at the green light at the end of her dock, across the bay from his mansion, hoping to one day rekindle their lost romance. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are an attempt to impress Daisy in the hope that she will one day appear again at Gatsby’s doorstep. Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy. He does. They begin an affair. Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Gatsby. At a luncheon at the Buchanan’s’ house, Daisy speaks to Gatsby with such undisguised intimacy that Tom realizes she is in love with Gatsby. Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is outraged by his wife’s infidelity. He forces the group to drive into New York City and confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, asserting that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand. In addition to that, he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him.

When Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive home, they discover that Gatsby’s car has struck and killed Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. Nick later learns from Gatsby that Daisy, not Gatsby himself, was driving the car at the time of the accident, but Gatsby intends to take the blame anyway. Myrtle’s husband, George (Joseph Milan), falsely concludes that the driver of the yellow car is the secret lover he recently began suspecting she has, and sets out on foot to locate its owner. After finding out the yellow car is Gatsby’s, he arrives at Gatsby’s mansion, where he fatally shoots both Gatsby and then himself. Nick stages an unsettlingly small funeral for Gatsby, ends his relationship with Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest, disillusioned with the Eastern lifestyle.

Currently presenting this soiree into decadence is Ensemble Theatre, with a production directed by Ian Wolfgang Hinz. My first impression of the space was one of intrigue, with the stage being separated into 5 audience sections, bathed in a black, grey and white color scheme that represented the black tie underbelly of the piece. But, as I recall the performances in this play, there are a few that stand out. The fact that just a few stand out is due to the much underplayed direction that haunts this production. There are also off technical aspects to this production. Some of the projections, that are used to create scenic locations are crooked, or off the screen. The music is out of balance by using current songs redone in a 20’s style, the recognition of what the song is, brings you out of the era. Tainted Love does not take me to the West Egg of this story. There are many dead transitions that create dull energy.  Mr. Hinz is the designer for all of them. So the actors seem to be on their own to create their individual energy and presence.

Succeeding in the journey are actors that left an impression. Rankin handled Carraway with a great charm and innocence. Incredibly likeable. His transitions from Narrator to character were beautifully executed. And provided a good eye to the storm. Elersich provided great masculine energy to the proceedings. Working the Alpha male personae, it was easy to think he was a jerk for being misogynistic bully. He brought great truth and confidence to each of his scenes. Mears was a fantastic hot mess of energy and kinetic chutzpah. Her drive was compelling, and memorable. Milan was a very impressive addition to this cast. Fabulous energy and resolve to even the simplest of scenes. And providing a journey that was heartbreaking to watch and unfold. Excellent work. A shout out to the Aerial Artist Rhian Virotsko. Beautiful work on the drapes. I certainly almost lost my breath a couple of times, and I usually only do that when I hear “Dinner is ready!” The rest of the cast are good, but I just didn’t feel the characters were alive enough to hold my attention, or leave that theatrical characterization that stay with you.

The costume design had its problems as well. There were suits that didn’t fit, which surprisingly included Gatsby. The women certainly fared well, but having the extravagance cultivator in clothes that looked too small, did not help Carthens create his character’s omnipotence. Lighting Designer Andrew Eckert did a good job with scene changes and mood shifts. Stage Manager called a good show.

As the production heads into the second weekend, a tightened space and creative tweaks will certainly enhance the production, that reveals one of the most classic American stories in our treasure chest.

Tpography.com

11/20/14

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November 14 – December 14
Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

Tickets:
$12-$22 General Admission

(216) 321-2930

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Ensemble Theatre
2843 Washington Blvd

Cleveland, OH 44118

[title of show] at Beck Center for the Arts

Beck Center for the Arts
Professional Theatre
Currently at the Beck Center for the Arts, is a very fun theatrical jaunt called [title of show]. it is quite crazy and inventive. Director Scott Spence has assembled a group of Beck Center regulars, and one new addition to the Beck family, to present this 90 minute fest. [title of show] is an Obie Award-winning musical comedy, featuring a book by Hunter Bell, with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen. The musical is about two guys, writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. this show within a show is a scream, and the concept is incredibly clever. The show chronicles its own creation as an entry in the New York Musical Theatre Festival and follows the struggles of the author Hunter (Will Sanborn) and composer/lyricist Jeff (Pat Miller) and their two actress friends Heidi (Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly*), and Susan (Amiee Collier), during the initial brief (three-week) creative period, before the deadline for submission. All of the shenanigans that go on, is underscored and interactively invaded by Larry Goodpaster, the actual music director of the show, who is on stage as the actual music director of the show within a show. And, in the original script, is named Larry. Kismet!
The first thing that impressed me about the show is that it was sold out. Seeing as last weekend was the fifth weekend of a six-week run, that reveals a lot about word of mouth regarding the show. In some respects, this production reminds me of a college skit that seemed crazy at first, but then really worked. Each of the performers stand on their own merits, and contribute their strengths to the greater good. Collier and Reilly are like the Thelma and Louise of the Studio Theatre. Each possess fierce voices, and both have deft comedic skills, The men seem to be the lifeguards at the pool, each seeming they were cut out of a conservative preppy magazine for musical theatre. they both have that youthful energetic kick that is needed for to sustain this piece, and have the voices to tell the tale. There were some highlights for me. The song “Die Vampire, Die!”, led by Collier is a hot mess of fun. and Reilly’s “A Way Back to Then”, is performed with a beautiful texture, and exquisite nuance. The gentleman hold up well against the ladies, with a beautiful blend of harmonic charm.
Larry Goodpaster (Musical Director and Larry), was a blast to have on stage. His deadpan delivery is fabulous. many of us have enjoyed him behind the scenes, so it was a refreshing change to find him onstage the entire musical playing with his usual flair, and getting to be the jokester he really is at heart.
Director Scott Spence keeps the staging brisk and interesting. There are plenty of moments that the audience throughly enjoyed. Spence is also the Artistic Director of the Beck Center, and decided to throw his Scenic Design hat into the ring on this one. With no fly space for bedazzled chairs to reappear at the end, he incorporates a clever poster reveal at the end, that is wonderful. I thought there could have been a bit more cleverness,,or more surprising moments tied to the choreography for the piece, Musical Director Larry Goodpaster provides excellent guidance for the vocals, and keyboard skills. Becky Adams called a great show. Lighting Designer Trad A Burns (no period after the A) provided great context to the show. Sound Designer Richard B. Ingraham provided terrific sound quality and balance. Tech Director pull the elements together nicely, will able assistance from Technical Assistant Dan Folino.
This is truly a fantastic book, and a fun ride. There is one weekend left. Check it out!!!!!!!
*Actor appears courtesy of the Actors’ Equity Association
October 10 – November 16
Showtimes:
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Tickets:
$12-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Tpography.com
11/12/14
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TINGLETANGLE AT THEATRE NINJAS @ GUIDE TO KULCHUR

Theater Ninjas
Professional Theatre

TingleTangle is an evening of personal storytelling, gender-bending songs and no-punches-pulled conversations about sexuality, gender, oppression, hate speech and compassion’s transgressive power. This cabaret-inspired performance responds to a conflicted, changing world, with love, empathy, humor and the desire to understand…not to mention some out-and-out desire! This provocative evening revels in the nuances of identity and how we all use performance to communicate our truest selves to the world.  TingleTangle is a show about compassion and transformation. An avant-garde Muppet Show mixed with Weimar sex and danger. Come in! Enjoy yourself! Laugh!

Well I did come in. I did enjoy myself, and I laughed, a lot. TingleTangle is beautifully conceived by Ray Caspio, unabashedly directed by Jeremy Paul, and Eric M. C. Gonzalez provides original haunting composition and accompaniment to the entire proceedings. I enter the location, Guide To Kulchur, entrance greeted by Don, who is definitely a gender bend, and here we go. My ticket is taken by a young man in a trench coat, who casually opens up his coat to point where I should go, while flashing a little skin. At this point, I am not even at the theatre, and I had to spritz. As I moved downstairs, it certainly reminded me of entering a secret club, that usually would have a door with a slide window, which opens to a man who got punched too many times in the face asking for the password. Luckily, I am already in.

As i sit in my seat, i notice a German Groucho Marx( a versatile Ryan Lucas), working the crowd as a stand up comic. He does a great bit, by identifying people’s lives by giving them a T.V. show title. Ray Caspio enters and begins to take us on a journey of his own life. Identifying pivotal moments in his sexuality that are painful, explosive and heartwarming. Whether delivering slices of his life in dialogue or singing his emotional journey, the path of his sexual life is honest, beautiful, shocking, and inspiring. The rest of the cast is fierce and certainly have worked thought any emotional or physical barriers about performing, or are just so glad to have this opportunity to perform in an open and unconstrained environment. Katie Beck, Dan Rand are beautiful additions to the foray. Valerie C. Kilmer, once again transforms herself into a gorgeous creature of theatrical delight. After seeing her in Code at Theatre Ninjas, and then in Huck Finn at Lantern Theatre, I was amazed by her transformative talents. Her we find a more glammed up Kilmer, with a beautiful voice, physicality and comedic chops. And speaking of comedic chops, Amy Schwabauer takes the submersion cake. Her routine as a gym teacher answering questions about sex from her students, is one of the funniest things i have seen all year. Also, i will never look at a condom the same way again.DO NOT MISS THIS SCENE!

This is a fearless cast. They have all created this piece by slicing open parts of themselves, or literally exposing parts of themselves, to help tell a story. It’s a story, of a lovely lady, who had……….. well, not that story. But even in that house, there was a closet never opened. Too bad that people are shamed into not being who they are.

The Production team out tingles themselves. Jeremy Paul did a great job at using the space, and allowing for free movement, and sensing the form and presentation of the evening. Stage Manager Kaitlin Kelly called a great show. Costume Design was clever, sexy and fun. Lighting Design (Benjamin Gantose) was fierce. It was raw, sexual, haunting, and a visual tingletangle of emotions.

Ray Caspio opens his heart and his soul on this personal journey. you have one more weekend of performances to go underground to reach your destination. You will come back up with a challenge to free yourself to be who you are. As Caspio writes “Love and Truth are the most powerful weapons we have”. Indeed it is, indeed it is.

Tpography.com

11/11/2014

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October 30 – November 15
Showtimes:
8pm Mondays
8pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturday (Additional 11pm performance on 11/8)

Tickets:
$5-$20 General Admission

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Guide to Kulchur
1386 W 65th Street
Cleveland, OH 44102

Woman and Scarecrow at Mamai Theatre Company

Mamaí Theatre Company
Professional Theatre
“I think being a woman is like being Irish… Everyone says you’re important and nice, but you take second place all the time.”
― Iris Murdoch

My first time at Mamai Theatre Company certainly turned out to be an elegant affair. Presently, they are producing Woman and Scarecrow, by Irish playwright Marina Carr. Although Carr is not a feminist, her plays bolster femininity, and defy previous thoughts of weak women into ones of strength. In this play, we find a woman who is on her deathbed. Her interactions with her spiritual partner, and family, unfold in a fascinating, and chilling expose on the last moments of life. Throughout the entire play, “Woman” ( played brilliantly by Derdriu Ring*), is confined to her bed. Mostly, she interacts with her spiritual psyche named Scarecrow (a haunting Bernadette Clemens*). Along the way, there are visits from her Auntie Ah (Mary Jane Nottage), and her husband, described as “Him” (James Lally).

As the play begins, in the darkness we hear breathing, but you can tell there are two breaths that seem to be lying in wait. And, indeed there are. Ring is in bed, with Clemens playing opposite of her on the floor, verbally sparring with each other, as the details of her last moments are discussed. What concerns Woman is the question of “Who is going to take care of……?. That question tears her apart, as she realizes that her eight children will not have her to guide them. These are just one of the worries of someone who is dying. Through their interactions, you can see they are both tied together physically and emotionally, especially when dealing with affairs of the heart.

Scarecrow challenges Woman for answers that she wants herself. She does so by taunting her with treasures such as “Your spite is that the world didn’t live up to your standards.” When visits from Auntie Ah and her husband take place, it becomes apparent that Scarecrow can only be seen by Woman. This leaves us wondering who exactly is, or what exactly does Scarecrow represent for this dying woman. Those answers are left to us to decipher.

The dialogue between the two never gets tiring. Each actress is so focused and in the moment, that you are completely taken in with their journey together. Interfused are visits from two characters that certainly complicate a desire for anyone to go smoothly into the after world. Nottage as Auntie Ah, comes across as fiery as her red hair. She sets off easily, and doesn’t a comforting asset. But, beautifully performed. And then, there is the total dick husband, as portrayed by Lally. What a piece of work is man. Well this man, played with emotional coldness, it delightful to want to kick his ass. So many people will connect with a relationship that is one-sided and blinded with love, and Lally’s performance certainly creates a jerk, who has the ability to climb into bed with his dying wife, and somehow comfort her. It is tough to watch. Beautifully executed.

The Production Team was firing on all cylinders. Director Pandora Robertson made the most of her debut. Beautiful staging, fabulous concept for the set, and created a remarkable intimacy for all of us to share. Inda Blatch-Gieb’s Costume Design was wonderful, and especially Clemens’s death outfit was fierce. She also killed it with the scenic design, with lush draped carpets to contain the sound and add to the color of the evening. Rob Peck delivered a deft lighting design, that greatly enhanced the moments throughout the performance.

The team of Ring and Clemens is a delectable treat that needs to be seen. This is the first time I have seen them together, and I certainly hope it is not my last.

*Actor appears courtesy of the Actor’s Equity Association

Tpography.com

11/11/14

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October 30 – November 16
Showtimes:
7:30pm Thursdays
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

Tickets:
$10-$20 Reserved Seating/General Admission

(216) 382-5146
Order Tickets Online

Location:
Pilgrim Church at Lincoln Park
2592 W 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

The Norwegians at Dobama Theatre

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

Currently at Dobama Theatre is the dark comedy The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson. Swanson must have been inspired by the movie Fargo, and decided to take a turn at her own Coen-esque genre. The results involve two women scorned in Minnesota and the really, really nice gangsters—Norwegian hit men—they hire to whack their ex-boyfriends. Olive (Christine Fallon+) is a transplant from Texas and Betty (Lara Knox*) is a transplant from Kentucky, but neither of them was prepared for the Norwegian men they would fall in love with there: the practical, warm, thoughtful, destructive, evil, jilting kind. If you’re a hit man in Minnesota, 83% of your clients want to take out their ex (oofda!). Betty has referred Olive to Gus (Tom Woodward*) and Tor (Robert Ellis*), a partnership in the whacking business. What Tor doesn’t know is that Gus has a special relationship with the clients. What Olive doesn’t know is that Gus is Betty’s own ex, and she has already made some decisions about ending their relationship.

This production is marketed by sharing a New York Times review that states it “is often hysterical”, and in Dobama press, where it states the play is “hilarious.” I would offer that this production of the play is funny, but not often hysterical or hilarious. The “Fargo” idea is not fresh anymore, and thus, the play must be directed with an incredibly fresh delivery. What is delivered is a good rendition of the material, and not a nuanced presentation of comedic timing.

The standout of this production is Knox. Her Betty is a hard core bitch, equipped with a purse, that could double as a magic well with incredible depth. Knox takes us from being hard core, to moments of truth, that are very effective in providing a layered character to connect with on different levels. Her bit with the contents of her purse is a scream. Fallon offers a feisty and colorful character, who does her best to keep up with Knox, but certainly has the tools to face off against the hit men. Her energy is certainly on point. Ellis is a hoot as Tor. He brings the down home charm and kindness, with deft execution. And, it really makes it a treat to watch him navigate his profession, along with the fact that his explanation of the Big Bang Theory,  would involve Norway as the center. Woodward reminds me a gangster mutt. His penchant for smacking someone upside the head with a baseball bat as a career choice is entertaining to watch. The two hit men are certainly a pair of delightful, entertaining henchmen.

Shannon Sindelar directs a funny rendition of the script. The cast needed to be more equally tuned. Scenic Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski designed a cool icy set,  equipped with an ice waterfall, black ice background that illuminates for creative purposes, and a frozen base with its own iceberg. Lighting Designer Marcus Dana gives great looks to the proceedings. Costume Designer Inda Blatch-Geib continues her trail of professional appealing work. Sound Designer Richard Ingraham adds his artistic touch for clarity. Technical Director David Tilk pulls the elements together nicely.Stage Manager Joel Rathbone called a great show.

Overall, this is a funny show. The cast has a good time creating a train wreck of relationships and love gone wrong, or getting out of love.

October 24 – November 22
Showtimes:
7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays (7:30pm Sunday 10/26 Pay-What-You-Can)

Tickets:
$10-$28 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Dobama Theatre

2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Ira Levin’s Deathtrap at Aurora Community Theatre

Aurora Community Theatre
Community Theatre

Well, Halloween certainly spurs many to think about scary things, and conjure up fright gags to hilariously torture our friends by scaring the bejesus out of them. So I think Aurora Community Theatre got it quite right about producing Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, a Thriller in Two Acts, during this festive season. Based on the audience’s reactions, there were plenty of ominous moments that were verbally exorcised at the show I attended.

For those who are not familiar with the show, it is a quite clever who done it, or who you thought done it, and even stretches to I have no fricking idea who is doing what to whom. And that is the major fun of this piece, so much so, it is one of the longest running plays on Broadway. The five-character drama about Sydney Bruhl (Kevin Horak), a playwright with writer’s block, his fragile wife Myra (Susan Henthorn), his talented seminar student Clifford Anderson (Zach Griffin), his lawyer Porter Milgrim (Mark Durbin) and the psychic next door, Helga ten Dorp (Sue Jeromson), opened on Feb. 26, 1978, and ran for 1,793 performances.  Recently deceased Marian Seldes, who played the wife, Myra, became famous for staying with the show during its entire run, not missing a single performance. The play was made into a 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Dyan Cannon and the late Christopher Reeve. The film caused a sensation at the time due to a kiss shared by Caine and Reeve. Shocking, I know.

Director Paula Kline- Messner has assembled a good group of actors, some of which excel more than others.  They have the great joy of cavorting on an awesome set. Beautiful set design work is the first striking asset for this production. Horak cuts a fine regal figure as Sydney Bruhl. He presents himself as a solid character, and lets the layers unravel slowly, as we discover his dark side. Good work. Henthorn is appropriately fragile at his wife. She is fragile egg that is devoted to her husband, and is ready to help in any way, almost. Nice work. Griffin certainly enters the festivities with a gentle honest demeanor. His character development works beautifully, as we soon discover, there is much more to this devoted student. Jeromson kills it as Helga. She is a fireball of energy, look, and overall character. Her accent is endearing, and her comedic timing a gift. Durbin does an outstanding job as Porter. Bringing his down home flavor just right, and, infuses the play with very good energy. Nice character work.

Overall, the first act seems to drag in energy. That goes away in act two, but part of the reason is the lack of varied delivery of lines. Horak has a beautiful baritone voice that should be more expressive, and I am sure it will be as the run goes on. But it kind of lulls you during act one. The pace also could be sharper, as Kline needed to tighten up the ship. This energy gap is exposed when Jeromson enters the room, and then the party begins. Also, there is a glaring mistake in the blocking. Porter states that “Is it true, that Helga pointed to the spot on the floor where she was going to die?” But she died in a chair. Another distraction is that the character Anderson is in jeans the whole play. Wouldn’t he dress up to at least business casual as Bruhl’s secretary, as opposed to looking like a college roommate? Then there is the gay issue here. It seems like the gentlemen are uncomfortable with the underlying character relationship between them. As you think they might share a kiss at tender moments of intrigue, they don’t, and they never really seem comfortable as actors dealing with that issue. It shouldn’t be a major point at the show, but it should be handled with more ease.

Producer Jennifer L.S. Teller did a fantastic job. Wes Shofner really did some tremendous work with the set. Craig D. Kollai did good work, along with a rain storm that looked real. Maggie Hamilton provided great sound, although the first scary music part might be better if faded out, not just shut off. Ann Nyenhuis called a great show. Neil Thackaberry provided some excellent guidance with the fight choreography.

When you balance out the evening, this is a fun production. You will never guess the twists and turns that these actors take you though. And as the machine fine tunes itself, the production will grow just in time for you to get out to Aurora Community Theatre and see this classic.

Tpography.com

11/3/14

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October 31 – November 22
Showtimes:
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays

Tickets:
$16 Reserved Seating

(330) 562-1818

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Aurora Community Theatre
115 E. Pioneer Trail

Aurora, OH 44202

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