A Winter Theater Preview for Northeast Ohio

As we teeter on the brink of living in a country that, as of Jan. 20, will be essentially owned and operated by the Republican Party, you may feel a bit queasy. You may not be sure if you should go out to see plays when huddling in a corner and weeping sounds like a much more attractive alternative.

Don't be silly! The chances of us all living through the next four years intact are probably around 50-50! So here are the stage shows that await us, month by month, from now until spring.


It is highly unlikely that the new president will actually start or stumble into a thermonuclear war during his inauguration speech, so why not consider a jaunt Into the Woods (now through Jan. 29 at Playhouse Square). This popular Stephen Sondheim musical is sure to get the full Broadway touring show treatment.

At Dobama Theater, they will be presenting The Night Alive (Jan. 20), a slightly otherworldly drama by Conor McPherson, who has been called "a true poet of the theater."

And the Cleveland Play House will trot out another offering from Ken Ludwig — Baskerville, a Sherlock Holmes Mystery which opens Jan. 21. So drag out your deerstalker hat and calabash pipe (better leave the cocaine at home).


By this time, Congress and the president will have certainly eliminated Obamacare. The good news: You can take the time you might have spent accessing necessary medical treatment and go to the theater instead!

On Feb. 3, Ensemble Theatre opens Radio Golf, a work by the esteemed playwright August Wilson that is less about golf than about race-based real estate shenanigans in Pittsburgh. Also opening on that day at None Too Fragile Theater is The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter, which involves a 600-pound recluse attempting to eat himself to death while simultaneously searching for redemption. That same weekend The Bridges of Madison County, a musical based on the novel by Robert James Waller, will debut at Lakeland Civic Theatre.

The King and I tour comes to Playhouse Square on Feb. 7, replete with Rogers and Hammerstein's gorgeous score and a bald, we trust, King of Siam. And on Feb. 10, Repairing a Nation by Nikkole Salter kicks off at Karamu, dealing with a family's reaction to a race riot. That's the same day Bring It On, the Musical takes the stage at Beck Center. With music and lyrics co-written by Hamiltion creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it delves into the mysteries of high school life and the agonies and ecstasies of cheerleading.

Here's a play that really does seem ripped from the headlines: A young Middle Eastern man is roaming a city that is paralyzed with fear after a bombing. It is titled I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri and opens Feb. 17 at Cleveland Public Theatre. Also on that Friday, Great Lakes Theater opens the classic Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott, lifting the lid on suspense involving a young blind housewife. And on Feb. 24, CPT is back in the game with Barbecue by take-no-prisoners playwright Robert O'Hara. It involves a confrontational family gathering touching on a drug addict's intervention and racial politics.


In all likelihood, clean air and water regs will have been axed by this month, so take a shower under a big bottle of Aquafina and go out for a nice evening of theater! Opening March 3 is A Great Wilderness at Beck Center, by Samuel D. Hunter, in which a leader of a Christian retreat devoted to "curing" gay teens comes up against reality. That same night, Dobama presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick, about three underpaid movie theater employees who mop and mope with insight and humor.

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel slips into gear at the Cleveland Play House on March 4. It's a ride back to the 1960s and the playwright's complicated relationship with an older man. Then on March 17, None Too Fragile presents A Skull in Connemara, a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh about two grudge-bearing brothers.

A dazzling production is promised when The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime lands at Playhouse Square on March 21. This "Best Play" Tony winner centers on 15-year-old Christopher who is on the Asperger/autism spectrum and is accused of killing the neighbor's dog. And on March 25, Convergence-Continuum Theater offers Harm's Way by company favorite Mac Wellman. It's about a very angry person trying to make sense of law and order in a world of other angry people.

If that last play doesn't seem like a fitting end to the winter of 2017, then nothing does. So forget about Washington D.C., go see these shows and try to take your mind off it all.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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