Arts List: 5 Reasons to Go to the Theater

Nancy Boykin, Carla Belver and Jing Xu in John at the Arden. Photo by Mark Garvin

Nancy Boykin, Carla Belver and Jing Xu in John at the Arden. Photo by Mark Garvin

John @ Arden Theatre Company| Through February 26
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker’s John follows a young couple from Brooklyn on a weekend trip to a B&B in Gettysburg, which happens to be located on the site of a Civil War hospital — and just might have something supernatural going on.

Constellations @ Wilma Theater | Through February 5
This one is a love story about a theoretical physicist and a beekeeper that takes place across parallel universes where the pair does and doesn’t wind up together. I’m getting a Sliding Doors vibe, and I dig it.

Marcus/Emma @ The Drake | January 20-February 12
InterAct Theatre Company is premiering a timely show by Philly’s own Mary Tuomanen, described as a “no-holds-barred, sex-fueled, bloody-minded battle” between two influential figures: civil rights leader Marcus Garvey and Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman. Akeem Davis, 2015 recipient of the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist, and Barrymore Award winner Susan Riley Stevens play the title roles. InterAct doesn’t recommend this one for anyone under 17. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Arden is Drag 101

Matteo Scammell, Dito van Reigersberg, and Mikéah Ernest Jennings in The Legend of Georgia McBride. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

Matteo Scammell, Dito van Reigersberg, and Mikéah Ernest Jennings in The Legend of Georgia McBride. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

Can an edgy, cult art form be reimagined for mainstream audiences? Should it be?

I pondered this while watching The Legend of Georgia McBride, Matthew Lopez’s middle-of-the-road comedy about drag performance. Listening to the wildly enthusiastic audience who whooped and cheered through the final scene and curtain call, their answer was obvious. For me, not so much. Read more »

Drag Queens Take Center Stage at the Arden in The Legend of Georgia McBride

Matteo Scammell and Dito van Reigersberg in The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Mark Garvin

Matteo Scammell and Dito van Reigersberg in The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Mark Garvin

Unless you’re immersed in the Philly theater scene, you probably know Dito van Reigersberg only as Martha Graham Cracker, a hirsute drag queen with an innuendo-laden sense of humor and an impressive set of pipes who regularly delights the crowds at L’Etage and other venues around town. But van Reigersberg, a co-founder of Pig Iron Theatre Company, is temporarily trading in his signature persona for a slightly more conventional drag queen — one who lip-synchs instead of singing live — in Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Read more »

Arts List: 6 Reasons to Go to the Theater

The Plough and the Stars is at the Annenberg Center. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

The Plough and the Stars is at the Annenberg Center. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

The Plough and the Stars @ Annenberg Center’s Zellerbach Theatre | October 13-16
Abbey Theatre’s revival of The Plough and the Stars, set during Ireland’s Easter Rising 100 years ago, stops in Philly as part of a limited U.S. tour. The play was first performed at the Abbey, Ireland’s national theater, in 1926. On Friday there’s a cast meet-and-greet after the performance.

Grounded @ InterAct Theatre Company at the Drake | Through October 23
Kittson O’Neill plays The Pilot, a role Anne Hathaway is tackling for the upcoming movie version, in InterAct’s production of Grounded. The story is about a fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy leads to an assignment operating military drones in the Nevada desert.
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REVIEW: Funnyman at the Arden

Carl N. Wallnau and Kenny Morris in Funnyman. (Photo by Mark Garvin.)

Carl N. Wallnau and Kenny Morris in Funnyman. (Photo by Mark Garvin.)

What’s the old theater saying — every clown wants to play Hamlet? Or maybe it’s scratch a comic, and you’ll find a sad, angry man. Either way, there’s some truth in it — as demonstrated by the legendary story of the great Bert Lahr, late in his career, who with trepidation undertook the role of Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, giving a performance that, in the eyes of some critics, bestowed upon Lahr a new legitimacy, though anyone with eyes could tell from his portrayal of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz that the man was genius.

That story is recounted in the program notes for Funnyman, Bruce Graham’s new play at the Arden, which is also based on the tale of Lahr and Godot. Spoiler alert – the program article is better. Read more »

Philly Theaters Take On Classic Mythology in Radically Different Ways

Left: Arden Theater's production of "Metamorphoses." Right: Wilma Theater's production of "Antigone."

Left: Arden Theater’s production of “Metamorphoses.” Right: Wilma Theater’s production of “Antigone.”

They’re the tales you learned in freshman year of high school: Of Aphrodite and Antigone, of gods and goddesses too numerous to actually remember (I recall being given a flow chart to fully understand the lineage line in several tales). The stories are old, passed on via numerous translations and oral tradition.

So it is interesting, if not slightly odd, that two of Philadelphia’s major theater companies open their seasons with these tales: the Wilma’s Antigone and Arden’s MetamorphosesYet the approaches that both productions take are so varied, so completely different, that it is important to remember that the core foundation of mythology, of Greek drama, is that storytelling is a human necessity. Read more »

Metamorphoses Beautifully Highlights Theater’s Role in Our Search for Meaning in Life

Lindsay Smiling as a narrator, Sean Bradley as Orpheus, and Clare O’Malley as Eurydice. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Lindsay Smiling as a narrator, Sean Bradley as Orpheus, and Clare O’Malley as Eurydice. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Yes, there’s a 2,600-gallon pool in the middle of the Arden Theater right now, and, of course, that’s what catches everyone’s attention the minute they walk into Metamorphoses, the divine staging of Mary Zimmerman’s acclaimed work currently running at the playhouse. However, that same pool, which is so shocking at start, ends up becoming a character itself, almost blending in as the gorgeous production starts. Read more »

Arden Theatre Company’s Latest to Be Set in a 2,600-Gallon Pool

Doug Hara, seen in the original, Broadway and regional productions, directs Metamorphoses at the Arden. | Photo by Teresa Wood

Doug Hara in the Arena Stage production of Metamorphoses. He’ll direct the Arden’s adaptation. | Photo by Teresa Wood

If you know the work of Mary Zimmerman, the theatre artist whose play Metamorphoses opens the season of Philly’s Arden Theatre Company this year, you know she doesn’t do anything small. The writer and director is known for over-the-top scenery and production values—from a giant sleepwalking plank that emerged over the orchestra pit at the Met’s La Sonnambula to her lavish staging of Disney’s The Jungle Book.

So it’s no surprise that her recent staging of her play Metamorphoses called for a giant pool on stage, and that’s exactly what the Arden is planning to construct: 2,600 gallons of water will invade the space, and performers will use the aquatic landscape throughout the play, which is adapted from the classic Ovid poem. The Arden even warns that audience members may get wet. Read more »