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NEW GROUND…new. theater. festival. light up CPH

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

Cleveland Play House’s The 2013 New Ground Theatre Festival lit up the three stages in the Allen Theatre complex starting on May 2nd with parts running through the 19th.

The annual event showcased cutting-edge productions and readings from nationally-recognized artists.  This year’s offerings included a well written and performed world-premiere comedy, a delightful off-the-wall dance-theatre piece, play readings, new scripts and general excitement to packed houses.

Kudos to Roe Green, the honorary producer for her generous financial and emotional support.

Quick-cuts of the offerings:


My capsule judgement of Victoria Stewart’s RICH GIRL was that it grabbed and held the audience’s attention, that the cast was strong, and the technical aspects excellent. I recommended seeing the sure-fire audience pleaser which runs until May 19.  For the entire review of the production which featured Dee Hoty and Liz Larsen, two Tony Award-nominated actresses, and was directed by CPH’s Artistic Director, Michael Bloom, go to


Presented May 2nd through the 4th, THE BETTER HALF, performed by Lucky Plush Productions, was a co-presentation of DANCECleveland and CPH.

This evening of joyous, clownish, acrobatic, thought provoking dance and theatrical glee, was a take-off on the film classic GASLIGHT, blended into glimpses of THE BOURNE IDENTITY, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, FLIRT, ALL THE REAL GIRLS and TRUST.  The musical score was a mix of compositions such as “Gaslight,” “Joy in the Morning,” and “My Cruel Heart.”

This was a special night of entertainment by a very talented group of dancers and a duo of exceptional choreographers.


Jordan Harrison, the 2013 winner of the Roe Green New Play Award, challenges the audience to think of a time in the future when both a life lived and a life remembered may be a reality. A time when the living can interact with a “prime,” a backboard which can be input with information that allows for repeating of learned experiences of a particular person through real conversation.  A time when the familiar becomes the fantastical.

Creatively directed by Laura Kepley, and starring the Grande dame of Cleveland theatre, Dorothy Silver, the well performed staged reading also featured Stephen Michael Spencer, Johanna Day and Thomas Jay Ryan.

One can only question how this play of words and almost no action, will translate to a full-scale production.


A workshop of a new work by Crystal Finn, who also played the leading role, BECOMING LIV ULLMANN, is a two-person show which takes the audience on a journey of hysterically angst.

A young woman desperately wants to get back her ex-boyfriend, who once commented upon her being like Liv Ullmann, the famous Swedish, or is it Norwegian, actress who is either alive or dead, and may or may not have been a prostitute, and could have been married to Ingmar Bergman, and may have had a couple of children, or not.

Yes, Finn, verbally flowing in what sounds like an ad lib presentation, uses play scripts, a chalkboard, wigs, a fellow actor (TJ Gainley) and a man plucked out of the audience, to take the audience on a very funny imaginative exploration.


Included in the event, but not viewed by this reviewer were:  Deborah Zoe Laufer’s INFORMED CONSENT, a new play reading.  It will get a full-staged production as part of CPH’s 2013-14 season.  Also presented was Pamela DiPasquale’s MARGIE AND MIKE, new play for ages 5 and up which is part of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Classroom Matinee Touring program.

Capsule judgement:  NEW GROUND CPH is a giant undertaking by the staff of Cleveland Play House, which garnered wonderful results.  This is a very special area event that deserves the strong support and attendance which it received.  Let’s hope CPH continues to give us many more years of new ground.