December shows have it all

Photo: Illusionist Adam Trent takes the stage at Schuster Center

By Dr. Jill Summerville

The Illusionists Present: Adam Trent, The Schuster Center

Magician Adam Trent made his Broadway debut in 2014, as part of The Illusionists: Live From Broadway. Amongst his co-performers, Trent was designated The Futurist due to his penchant for tricks that required technical devices or CGI technology. Assured and affable, he became America’s favorite postmodern magician when he borrowed a cell phone from a member of his staff, who was waiting for a call saying his wife had gone into labor, smashed it, put it into a blender, then restored it.

Contemporary magicians frequently reveal their secrets, but Trent prefers to keep his audiences awed; he describes his performance as “a variety show that uses magic as the driving force.” Anyone who enjoys Vegas theatrics and displays of physical virtuosity should join Adam Trent on Dec. 3, 2017.

Beehive: The Sixties Musical by Larry Gallagher, The Dayton Playhouse

In this 1960s musical revue, actually written in the 1980s, six women embody famous girl groups associated with the 1960s, most notably Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin. The 1960s was the decade when America defined values that are still debated as part of contemporary culture—what is a woman’s place in public space (and how much physical expressiveness she should have there), what role should young people play in changing politics, and, most importantly, how much power do any of us have when lives are lost during wartime? Americans still face these questions, and joyful, exuberant singing is still the best way to find the resilience to face them.

This production runs Jan. 19 through Feb. 4, 2017.

Womit 2.0 The Black Box Improv Theatre

Scottish poet Robert Burns may have been right about how often the best laid schemes of men (and women, and everyone in between) are thwarted, but he couldn’t have imagined how gleefully improvisers anticipate that possibility. In Womit 2.0, The Black Box’s improvisers mock a serious matter—past examples include a court case and a discussion of genetics—meticulously explained by a guest expert. They turn academic theories into hyperbole as they act out increasingly irreverent scenarios.

This show happens every Friday.

Urinetown: The Musical by Mark Hollman (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (book and lyrics), Wright State University

During a twenty-year drought, free urination has been outlawed. No one is permitted to own a private toilet. The Urine Good Company, a private company, owns every public toilet. Anyone who refuses to pay the fee or urinates without paying it is sent to Urinetown, a penal colony. When Bobby Strong’s father, Joseph Strong, pees unlawfully because he can’t afford the fee, he’s exiled to Urinetown. Bobby and his group of rebels vow to restore the privilege of free urination by overthrowing Caldwell B. Cladwell, the greedy CEO of The Urine Good Company.  Will Bobby be caught by Caldwell before he can restore justice to the citizens of Urinetown, or will his plans be thwarted when his heart is snared by Caldwell’s idealistic daughter, Hope? With an earnest, satirical acting style, and a catchy, offbeat score inspired by the principles of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil, Urinetown cheekily explores the cost of humans’ waste.

This production runs from Dec. 1 through Dec. 10, 2017.

The Christians by Lucas Hnath, The Dayton Theatre Guild

Hnath’s thoughtful exploration of a church schism was a finalist in the 2014 Humana Festival, and it moved to Broadway soon afterward. Hnath wins respect from audiences on both sides of a church isle for his attention to the details of religious life, both ecclesiastical and personal. Taciturn Pastor Paul has gathered his congregation, the audience, for two announcements: one is this unnamed, Midwestern, mega church is no longer in debt. The other is that Pastor Paul has decided that he no longer believes in hell. He invites his church members to leave should they wish, though his decision changes friendships and families, including his own.

This production runs from Nov. 17 through Dec. 3, 2017.

Little Women by Mandi Dickstein (lyrics) and Jason Howland (music), Dare 2 Defy Productions 

Author Louisa May Alcott says, “Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again.” That certainly applies to her 1859 two-volume novel, Little Women, which has graced little girls’ bookshelves since its publication. Margaret (Meg), Josephine (Jo), Elizabeth (Beth), and Amy March are coming-of-age in New England during the Civil War. Their soldier father’s fate is uncertain; the girls’ lives are guided by the warm, steady presence of their beloved Marmee. Thankfully, the struggle to determine what it means to be a professional woman has eased, but any audience member will recognize the trepidation of leaving home for the first time and the longing to return again.

This productions run Dec. 1, 2, 8, and 9.

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Jill Summerville

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