Another theater outing you say? If this keeps up, you’re gonna think I’m far more cultured and refined than I really am. I’ll get things back to normal with my recounting of MTV’s The Real World tomorrow…

Basic CMYKLast night, my delightfully talented friend Julie invited me to a sneak peak of her theater company’s latest work. Now I’ll be honest, when she said Falcon Theater’s newest production was Hamlet, I had my worries. There was every possibility that without the cliffs notes and a mini maglite, I’d be lost in a sea of sonnets and couplets and daggers, oh my! But I adore Julie and if she thought I was up to the challenge, by golly, I wasn’t gonna let a little Shakespearean English scare me.

(I remind you that I’m not a critic, I have no formal training in any of the arts, nor the critiquing of same. I’m not a Shakespearean expert – I know, quite the shocker!. My opinion is based purely on the standard: “did I like it or not?”.)

The Monmouth Theater, home to Falcon, is small, unpretentious, welcoming – all the charms I love about local theater. The action is right there, you can’t help but be engaged with the actors. It’s as if they are performing just for you and you can’t take your eyes off of them.

“Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?”

As Hamlet, Ted Weil was nothing short of astounding. For the first time in a very long time, I was able to follow the high-brow verse of an age long gone by. His expressions and passion were wonderful and kept you hanging on his every word. This intensity, from his perfected monologues to the closing sword fight, has you cheering for him. Afterall isn’t there a little Hamlet in all of us?

n28703687_31636922_58513Ophelia, played by Carrie Mees, was perfection. Rather tame and unassuming at first, just as you would imagine a young woman in the early 1600’s to be, she’s guided by all the men in her life – her brother, Hamlet, her father. She is ever dutiful and resigned to follow wherever she is led. But the beauty of this character lies in the madness that ensues after she is left without a compass in her life – no man to point her in the right direction and all hell breaks loose. And she does a magnificent job with the descent. Ophelia is the poster child for feminists everywhere – the picture of what can happen when you don’t define life on your own terms. (Photos are courtesy of Mikki Reynolds-Schaffner, Mikki Reynolds-Schaffner)

I was skeptical about Terry Gosdin in the role of Claudius. I’ve long heard of his talents on stage, but you see I’ve had the good fortune to meet Terry socially (he is Julie’s main-squeeze) and sinister is not a word I would associate with him. I was so wrong, he had me convinced that he’d kill me in a heartbeat if I so much as took his parking spot. After the performance Terry mentioned that playing the bad guy is so much more rewarding and he does it well.

n28703687_31636934_25712Terry Gosdin as King Claudius
(Photo by: Mikki Reynolds-Schaffner)

It’s easy in this age to forget the treasures of the classics. We’ve let television and film dumb us down to the point that it’s hard to get excited when we’re asked to think, asked to bring our imagination to the table. This production challenges you to go there and makes the trip worthwhile and quite entertaining.

The Falcon Theater Group celebrates Opening Night this evening and the show runs on Fridays and Saturdays through March 7th. You can get more information and purchase tickets via their website. And view cast info and photos at their Facebook page as well.

n28703687_31636924_63852My pal Julie Neisen as the Player Queen
(Photo by: Mikki Reynolds-Schaffner)

Local theater is one of the best things about Greater Cincinnati. I mean who can afford Aronoff pricing or fly to New York for a regular dose of live entertainment? I know I can’t. But on any given night, there are a dozen or so productions up and running all over the tri-state and they are jewels. Don’t miss out!

PS: Word to the wise: don’t trust your GPS if you’re not familiar with the Newport area. The theater is nestled in a row of storefronts and it will fool your Tom Tom, so pay attention as you’re driving down Monmouth Street – the theater is on the left.