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Theatre Mini-Reviews: "Something Rotten", "This Wide Night"

RCN Arts writer Jackie Demaline offers these mini-reviews of two shows currently on local stages.

Something Rotten, Broadway in Cincinnati

The opening night audience at touring Something Rotten wasn’t just laughing. They were howling. You can’t ask for better than that. The Tony Award-winning musical continues through March 5 at the Aronoff in a first-rate production.

It will help if you’re crazy for musicals and know your Bard, but the sheer joie de vivre and nutbally-ness of the show should give less obsessed members of the audience a serious case of the giggles, and maybe even tempt them to brush up their Shakespeare.

Enter (wink, wink) Nick Bottom (Rob McClure), who has a wildly unsuccessful theatre company in Tudor London. His plays are crap, and it’s making him nuts that Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) is a rock star. Literally.

Something Rotten has great fun with the fact that The Bard lifted plot lines from everywhere (but, boy, did he know what to do with them). Anyway, it turns out Nick’s younger, dreamy poet brother Nigel (Josh Grisetti) wrote all of Shakespeare’s best lines.

At wit’s end, Nick has the bright idea of taking his family’s life savings and hiring a soothsayer to, A) tell him what Shakespeare’s greatest hit is going to be, and, B) tell him what’s going to be the next big thing on stage.

The wild-haired soothsayer (Blake Hammond) kind of gets it right. “MU-si-cal!,” he prophecies, leading to a true, over-the-top, shrieking audience, show-stopping number. (Read: worth the price of admission).

As for the plot Nick should steal, the soother has a vision. There’s a Prince. There’s breakfast – Danish, and eggs, and maybe ham…

And we embark on the making of Omelette! The Musical! with the breaking of many eggs and heavily peppered with The Merchant of Venice.

Revel in a show that has a dandy cast having a fine time in a true musical comedy that cleverly riffs on Shakespeare’s favorite devices (we still love those disguises!) and comic bits that range from vaudeville shtick to rapping some of Shakes’ iambic pentameter.

A good time is had by all.

Something Rotten, Through March 5. Broadway in Cincinnati, Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., downtown Cincinnati. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $30-$94 plus ticket fees (from $9.15-$13.70 per ticket). 513-621-ARTS and CincinnatiArts.org.

This Wide Night, Clifton Players

Two of the theater season’s best performances grace the tiny playing space at Clifton Performance Theatre through March 4.

The regional premiere of intimate chamber drama This Wide Night is all about secrets, lies, desperation, need, and, just maybe, a port in the storm of life. Notice I didn’t say "safe" port, but, paraphrasing the lesson on-the-edge Marie has been taught since girlhood, things were never meant to be all right for everybody.

Theatrical treasure Dale Hodges has been wanting to do this play for two years – and if that doesn’t get you in the door, you don’t know area theatre.

Hodges knows a great role when she sees one, and the two characters in This Wide Night invite impossible-to-forget performances.

Miranda McGee, a member of the resident company at Cincinnati Shakespeare, has been a stand-out ever since she first set foot on the CSC stage, but mostly she’s been quietly dazzling in smaller roles. Center stage in Clifton last year in The Realistic Joneses directed by Hodges, she was part of the tight ensemble that delivered one of the best productions of the 2015-2016 season.

McGee is the above-mentioned Marie, whom we meet huddling in an armchair in her mess of a one-room basement apartment. Everything about her says she’s just trying to pull it together enough to get through another day.  

Into her life storms 60-ish Lorraine (Hodges). It turns out they were cell mates in prison and filled unspoken emptiness in each other’s emotional DNA, needs that never work for both of them.

Revel in the series of scenes that play out. Kevin Crowley directs like a concert master, and the design team does a huge amount with a very little: Nazanin Khodadad (set design and construction), Garry Davidson (lighting), Sebastian Botzow (sound), Vasia Taite (costumes), and props perfectly imagined by Kristen Ruthemeyer-Hammer (stage manager) and producer Carol Brammer.

This Wide Night, through March 4. Clifton Players, Clifton Performance Theatre, xxx Ludlow Ave., Clifton. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. There’s an industry night Feb. 27. Tickets: 813-7469 (SHOW).

Photo provided