Bad Epitaph Theater Company's first production in two years almost didn't happen. Less than a month before the opening of Albert Camus's State of Siege, director Thomas Cullinan's car was broken into, and numerous items -- including more than two dozen handmade masks -- needed for the play were stolen. "I was blown away by the response of [the community]," Cullinan says. "We got donations and people helping build masks."
Everything reconstructed, the troupe returned to rehearsing the existential tale of fear and doubt. "It's absolutely apropos to the culture that we are currently living in," Cullinan says. "I wanted to do the show in masks -- a very stylized form of theater -- because it lends an air of distance to the play. So it doesn't feel that I'm directly making an indictment of any particular government or any particular policy or any particular regime. I'm speaking in general about the culture that we live in. Fear has permeated our daily existence."
Sounds kinda weighty. "It certainly has a very strong lesson to it, but there's a lot of humor," Cullinan says. "We wanted our first show back after the hiatus to be something significant. There is a very strong message of hope at the end of the play. It's a simple message: Hope starts with the individual." State of Siege is at Cleveland Public Theatre (6415 Detroit Avenue) Friday, May 9, through May 31. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 and $15, available by calling 216-556-0919. -- Michael Gallucci
5/8 -- 5/11
What makes the official North American touring production of The Vagina Monologues different from the community theater versions that have played here over the past couple of years? Not much, really. Local performances "incorporate community-based information and use more actresses," says Deb Lemire, spokeswoman for the tour that stops in Akron this weekend. And they don't have star Sherri Shepherd, who plays the police partner of brother Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond. Eve Ensler's chick-centric play has raised millions of dollars to help stop violence against women over the past six years. This run benefits a battered women's shelter in Akron (Verizon Wireless is collecting old cell phones for the cause). The Vagina Monologues is at the Civic Theatre (182 South Main Street in Akron) through May 11. Tickets are $25 to $45; call 330-945-9400 for show times. -- Diane Sofranec
Haley Bonar gets her kicks at the Beachland.
Nineteen-year-old Haley Bonar recorded her debut album, . . . The Size of Planets, at the same Duluth, Minnesota church where Low made its latest CD. And like her fellow lo-fi statesmen, Bonar prefers her sounds sparse and just a little off-center. She's part of the Chairkickers' Music Tour -- with Low mastermind Alan Sparhawk and the atmospheric duo If Thousands -- that comes to town Saturday. In concert, Bonar takes her place behind a Rhodes piano and an acoustic guitar, while a drummer taps away in the background. It's an unexpectedly demure setting for an artist who leads her album with a song titled "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy." The Chairkickers' Music Tour is at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Road) at 7:30 tonight. Tickets are $8; call 216-383-1124 for more information. -- Michael Gallucci
Harmonia's Old World sounds play well in the New World too.
In Cleveland, where "What nationality are you?" is asked as often as "What's your sign?", Harmonia has found its rhythm on the ethnic-music circuit. After a tour of New Orleans, New York, and Chicago, the Eastern European-flavored sextet is back in its hometown. Its sound is rooted in Gypsy music, played on instruments indigenous to countries in the Carpathian Basin.
But founder/accordionist Walt Mahovlich doesn't want people to think the band is "a bunch of undifferentiated white folk. The idea of heritage has become a much more positive thing," he says. "I'm playing music that my grandparents played, and that's revolutionary." Harmonia performs at 8 Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6409 Detroit Avenue. Tickets are $10 to $15; call 216-631-2727. -- Cris Glaser
Will Hoge and his three-piece band play rock and roll like it's still the glory days of Springsteen and Petty. Big guitars, big hooks, and a big heart are all over Hoge's second album, Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, which wears its earnestness on its tattered sleeve. It's heartland rock from a Nashville singer-songwriter who believes that girls are still rock's ideal subject. And if there's a better album opener this year than Blackbird's rousing "Not That Cool," we haven't heard it. Hoge is at Peabody's Down Under (2083 East 21st Street) tonight at 8. Tickets are $10, available by calling 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci