Cleveland Play House presents “Ten Chimneys”

The Cleveland Play House opens the Second Stage theatre with the delightful Ten Chimneys.  Starring Emmy Award winning actress, Mariette Hartley, Ten Chimneys is a backstage comedy directed by CPH’s very own Artistic Director, Michael Bloom.  The new Second Stage is part of the Allen Theatre complex at PlayhouseSquare, the new home of Cleveland Play House.

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were theatre royalty. They were so revered that their names live on in Manhattan’s Theatre District at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Although they lived for the stage, they did have a provision in their acting contracts: they must be guaranteed their summers off to spend them at Ten Chimneys, their summer home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. And this is where the play takes place.

Although Ten Chimneys was a summer retreat, it was also a place for great artistic development. The Lunts would often invite fellow actors to their home to rehearse upcoming plays. In the play Ten Chimneys, famous stage actors Uta Hagen and Sydney Greenstreet arrive to rehearse Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the actors rehearse the play, they begin to see certain parallels between the characters in The Seagull and themselves. And this is the basic premise of Ten Chimneys.

Ten Chimneys is not just a clever and well-written play, but a fun and witty one, too.  There is some good drama, but there are even more great laughs. And although the entire cast is phenomenal, as one would expect from any Cleveland Play House production, Mariette Hartley’s Hattie Sederholm has some of the best lines. (Yes, the same Mariette Hartley that used to do the Polaroid commercials with James Garner.) Jordan Baker and Donald Carrier are perfect as Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt, respectively.  And I must also mention Kelli Ruttle, who is absolutely wonderful as Uta Hagen. Ms. Ruttle is a member of the Graduate Ensemble Class of 2012. I will hate to see her graduate from the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program after seeing her perform so many exceptional roles at Cleveland Play House.

The Second Stage is one of only three theatres of its type in the nation.  It is a fully flexible performance space, which means that any configuration can be achieved, from a traditional end stage to thrust to runway to arena. For this production, the Second Stage incorporates the arena configuration, a theatre-in-the-round. The audience completely surrounds the actors as they perform in the middle of the theatre. This is the first time in Cleveland Play House history that this configuration has been used.  And it suits this play masterfully. The theatre, alone, is worth the trip.

It is rumored that Carol Channing once said, “If you get to go to Ten Chimneys, you must have done something right.” And I say, “If you go to see Ten Chimneys, you will see great theatre done right.”  Ten Chimneys runs through February 5.

Up next at the Cleveland Play House is Radio Golf (February 10 – March 4), followed by Red (March 16 – April 8), both in the Allen Theatre.  And In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (April 13 – May 6) will close the 2011-2012 season on the Second Stage.  In the Next Room will also serve as the “anchor performance” for this year’s FusionFest, CPH’s highly successful multi-arts festival.

Also in 2012, the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program will perform in the new Lab Theatre. The Graduate Ensemble of 2014 will bring us In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (February 1-11), and the Graduate Ensemble of 2012 will present its final show with William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (March 7-17). I am always amazed by the great talent of the Graduate Ensemble students.  If you have never seen one of their performances, put these shows on your calendar.  And at only $15, they are a very economical way to enjoy great theatre at Cleveland Play House.

Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first and longest-running professional theatre company, continues to offer some of the very best professional theatre in the country.  Now in its 96th season, it is located in the Allen Theatre Complex at PlayhouseSquare.  For showtimes, pricing, and more information on Ten Chimneys and the rest of the 2011-2012 season, please visit the Cleveland Play House website at www.clevelandplayhouse.com.  For more information about PlayhouseSquare, its website is www.PlayhouseSquare.org.

– Submitted by Christopher S. Musselman, guest blogger and avid theater-goer

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One response to “Cleveland Play House presents “Ten Chimneys””

  1. joe says :

    I can barely begin to describe what inane garbage this play was. To sit and watch these wooden people spewing the worst cliches and silly absurd, confusing, pointless nonsense was so horribly boring – I kept wishing I could check the time to see how much more of this drivel I had to sit through. First, there was no development, that is, no real challenge or conflict developed that would make a viewer care about what would happen. Nothing to root for, nothing to fear. The only character that had any vibrancy was Nina and she remained an isolated person in a swamp of incongruity.

    How anyone could actually write this play or anyone could have picked this play to perform is a huge mystery. The theme was apparently something about how life and the theater reflect each other but that was communicated only when the characters announced it as if they had to tell the audience what the thing was all about – the play itself didn’t demonstrate it.

    Every minute or two the dialogue had some really cheesy, stupid pun during which the actors would pause expectantly for the audience reaction and yes there was some laughter but it made no sense in the context of the play, that is, was it a comedy or a serious piece? And the dialogue was plain awful – the cliches were just embarrassing, you could predict the idiotic stuff that the characters would say a mile away. So it was neither moving nor funny. The characters had no chemistry and were just buffoonish stereotypes.

    All in all, awful.

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