As soon as you enter through the doors of Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you’ll discover an interactive display of fun fortune telling tools: Palm reading instructions. Magic Eight Ball. Fortune cookies. Tarot cards. MASH. Ouija Board. The night I attended “Fortune,” I learned my future holds a convertible and living in a rain forest.
What does your future hold? Have you ever wanted an
oracle to predict your future? To know what lies ahead in the midst of doubt
The beige and nebbish accountant, Jeremy (Jeremy Dubin),
is racked with an obsessive concern. He has no one who loves him. He barges his
way into the life of Madame Rosa (Kelly Mengelkoch) to find out, “Will I ever
have anyone?” If not, he’s determined to off himself. Madame Rosa declares,
“People think they want truth, but they want hope, magic.”
If you’re like me, you think soothsayers are either frauds or sheer entertainment. Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer makes it clear, with the delightfully imaginative design help of Brian c. Mehring (set and lighting), Shannon Rae Lutz (Properties Master/Design Assistant) and Matt Callahan (sound design), that Madame Rosa is the real thing. Yet, Madame Rosa doesn’t want to be a fortune teller. But it is her destiny — or so she believes.
Deftly directed by Brian Robertson, “Fortune” takes the audience on a journey as Jeremy and Maude discover things about themselves while they discover things about each other. By turns touching and humorous, this amusing show is based on the premise that we have chances to change our “destiny” through the decisions we make and the actions we take. The actors, married in real life, create characters that we care about individually and a relationship that we become invested in.
You’ll find romance in this charming comedy as two
isolated people become friends. They each find protective armor in trying on
other ways of being to comic effect. With the help of Amanda McGee (Costume
Design), Madame Rosa hides behind and transforms herself into at least three
other characters, including accents. But Madame Rosa (who, as it turns out, is named
Maude) is not the only one who sees people for who they are, predicts the
future, or plays roles to hide behind. Jeremy also possesses these talents.
The “Fortune” design team has delivered smart, surprising and beautiful elements to support the play and the characters. The set is divided between the interior of Maude’s home/parlor and the outside world. The interior is mystical, dark red, crowded with furniture, trunks, mementos, fringe, lamps and heavy curtains shutting out the world. It is a womb-like security for Maude seeped in a dusty past — except for the skylight, which gives a glimpse of the outside world.
The other part of the set is the outside world, which conveys a sense of openness and possibility. And wow! The rain. The sound design sets the mood, contrasting the gypsy violin music in Act I with a bigger, more jazzy sound in Act II. There is a point in Act II where the song choice starts off a bit sunny and then is distorted into dissonance. The Michael Bublé exit music cleverly harkens back to one line spoken by Maude in Act I. The costumes are very effective in underscoring character choices. And while it’s a small thing, the shoes Maude puts on at the very end of the show conveys how Maude is embracing parts of herself into her future. Just so smart and entertaining.
While your fortune cookie might not bring you the future
of your dreams, I can reveal this: if you’re wondering if you’d like this show,”
the Magic 8-ball says, “It is certain.” I agree.
Kari E. McLean is a returning wanderer getting reacquainted with the area and its exemplary arts programming. A theater aficionado, a coffee addict, and a Fiona fan, she keeps turning up in spots all over the Tri-State like a good penny.