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Dead City

by Sheila Callaghan

directed by Alan Patrick Kenny

New Stage Collective

February 2009

Dead City


Now, New Stage Collective and Director Alan Patrick Kenny have brightened Cincinnati’s winterscape with a loud, lively, mixed-media production that’s a little like watching fireworks. Explosions of words, thoughts, lights, sounds and images surge into view, glitter for a moment and then fade to black, readying the stage for the next explosion. It can be argued that both script and production work too hard, trying too frantically to sizzle and amaze. It also can be argued that they’re just exuberant. 


Borrowing structure from James Joyce’s Ulysses, Callaghan awakens thirtysomething Samantha Blossom (a smart, skillful a. Beth Harris) with news that her husband (Ken Early) is having an affair, then sends her on a careening, daylong chase through offices, hospitals, sleek stores, sleeker spas and trendy nightclubs — seeking truths (like Joyce’s Bloom) or at least a few comforting fictions. Poets, waiters, friends, clerks, doctors, patients and street people speed and impede her search. Alphabetically, and of equally high energy, they are: Aretta Baumgartner, Cary Davenport, Hannah Dowdy, Margaret-Ellen Jeffreys, Michael Monks and Alison Vodnoy.


Blossom’s chase around Manhattan is nimbly choreographed (especially the lightning set changes) and lit with dazzle (Sara Watson). Live action is supported with bursts of video imagery (Paul Lieber) and an excellent soundscapes (Chris Guthrie). 


I’ve been urging theatergoers for almost a year now to find their way to Twelfth and Main in Over-the-Rhine and New Stage Collective. It fills a big void in the local scene – young, vital, messy, imperfect, New Stage is invariably fun because its young artistic director, Alan Patrick Kenny, has an eye for intriguing scripts and an eye for talent.


He gets some of the best actors in town on his stage, and it can’t be the money, so it has to be the material.


This time, the actors include standouts from area university theater programs, and the draw is clearly “Dead City,” a funky, feminist, 21st-century riff on James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”


“Dead City” is a fun, messy, smart but light homage that’s a perfect fit for New Stage’s urban loft and director Kenny’s stylistic sensibilities – the production at times has the feel of a musical.



Photos by Mikki Schaffner

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