I don’t really consider myself a theatre critic; I know, that seems strange given that right up there above this text it says “REVIEW” in big, bold capital letters. Fact is, I still bristle when people introduce me that way to actors or other theatre makers. I want to believe that I am a theatre advocate. Or writer. Critic just seems harsh.
But after all this time writing about theatre – eight long, wonderful years – I know it’s true. I am critical. At least more so than when I started. I think I’ve earned the right to be, but when you take the cynical view of critics that Conor McPherson does in his play, the oddly titled (but presumed passive-aggressive dig at some critic named Nick) ST. NICHOLAS, it’s hard to not be on the defensive. I mean, if I don’t like the show it might be because I had my feelings hurt. If I do like it, it might be seen as an attempt at sucking up, a way to distance myself from the type of critic portrayed in the show.
So, I think I’ll walk as squarely in the middle as possible. There are things I adored. Bruce Cromer’s performance, for instance, is exquisite. He is such a physical actor, hard-working as much as he is talented. Every movement is intentional, every lingering vowel important. He could quite literally read almost any script and I suspect he’d find something in it that would captivate a crowd. Brian Robertson’s direction (which includes brooding lighting by Brian c. Mehring, even before the show begins) maintains a sinister tone. (I found an online review of a 2012 production starring Michael Shooner, also directed by Robertson. It seems that perhaps he and his team took something away from THAT critic and made some changes this time around… except for the continued inclusion of that pesky intermission.)
Maybe we’re not all so bad after all, eh?
Any night at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is a good one, especially one year into their new space. The seats are more comfortable, the productions are professional, and the staff are as welcoming as you’ll find anywhere. And ST. NICHOLAS is an entertaining, well-woven story featuring perhaps Cincinnati’s most engaging actor. Why wouldn’t you go see it?
ST. NICHOLAS runs through October 27th at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati in Over-the-Rhine. Tickets and more information can be found here.