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For NKU Professor/Actress, Neil Simon Show is Perfect Play at Perfect Time

We told you women are center stage in January (and February) – especially Northern Kentucky women, including Kimberly Gelbwasser, who plays Jennie Malone, new love to recent widower, writer George Schneider in Neil Simon’s funny and touching Chapter Two, continuing through Feb. 14 at Covedale Center for the Performing Arts.

It’s a valentine of a show – if you know your Neil Simon, the great comedy writer often draws from life, in this case his own romance with actress Marsha Mason.

“It’s so human,” Gelbwasser observes. “The vulnerability in loving again after a failed relationship. The joys and fears of embarking on a new relationship – I’ve felt that before. People can relate.”

George (Greg Bossler) has been more and more depressed after a series of bad dates. Then his younger brother Leo (Steve Milo) comes up with Jennie, who’s a keeper.

Even so, it's a bumpy and very funny road to a happy-ending for these second-time-arounders, trying to overcome their hesitation and emotional neediness. Meanwhile, Leo has a fling with Jennie's neurotic married friend Faye (Mindy Heithaus).

Gelbwasser lives in Covington these days, moving back to the area almost two years ago to join the Northern Kentucky University faculty as assistant professor of voice.

She lived in Cincinnati as a master's and doctoral student at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and she was delighted to come back. “I loved and knew the area already,” she said.

Since returning, Gelbwasser has performed in occasional recitals but she’s been looking for a play or musical to fit into her schedule – no easy task.

Summer would seem do-able but last year she was teaching at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts and this summer she’s off to Salzburg, Austria where she’ll teach diction for Italian and German opera as part of the music faculty of the Kentucky Institute for International Studies.

Gelbwasser teaches opera diction at NKU, as well as Yoga for Creativity (“It’s based on The Artist’s Way, which is wonderful – it changed my life”) and she co-teaches NKU’s Opera Workshop.

The spring production is Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (March 18 and March 20), which she will co-direct with Jason Vest (who memorably starred as Jean Valjean in NKU’s Les Miserables last season.)

“We alternate blocking the show, we take turns taking the lead, we give feedback together – it works really well.”

They’re staging the opera in and around musicians, inspired by a Lexington Philharmonic concert. There will be voice, music education and musical theatre majors in the cast.

Her busy schedule means Gelbwasser has no idea when she’ll have another opportunity to be on stage.

She calls Chapter Two “the perfect play at the perfect time.”

And calls NKU “a really beautiful fit. It’s a really good time in life.”

Chapter Two, through Feb. 14. Covedale Center, 4990 Glenway Ave., West Price Hill. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $26 adults, $23 seniors/students. 513-241-6550 and www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com  

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

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