THEATER REVIEW: In Buzzer, It’s Location, Location, Location

Matteo Scammell, Alex Keiper, and Akeem Davis in Buzzer at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

Location, location, location—it’s America’s real estate mantra. And with it comes the usual advice that the smartest and safest bet for new buyers is to choose a modest house in a good neighborhood. But there are always the pioneers—people who instead go for the fabulous property in an iffy area, hoping they’re at the start of an upswing.

The high-stakes, social-status-transforming metaphors of home ownership are so powerful, so connected to the American Dream, that it’s no wonder it’s a favorite motif in theater. Tracey Scott Wilson’s punchy, gripping Buzzer riffs on it in clever and unexpected ways. The pioneer here, Jackson (Akeem Davis) is a black man with a blue-chip education—he’s moving back to his old neighborhood, which is every bit as fraught as it sounds. Maybe a little bit selfish, too—for Jackson’s white girlfriend, Suzy (Alex Keiper), walking through the neighborhood is daily blitz of cat calls. And moving in with them as a semi-permanent houseguest is Don (Matteo Scammell), who should have been the success story in the group (he’s white and privileged), but drug addiction has destroyed much of his potential. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: PTC’s Hand to God Proves the Devil is in the Details

Aubie Merrylees in Hand to God at Philadelphia Theatre Company. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

Aubie Merrylees in Hand to God at Philadelphia Theatre Company. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

The alchemy that makes comedy gold is so fragile that even seasoned veterans can’t always produce it. Of course, a great script is the beginning—but it’s not enough. To fully click, the material also needs just the right balance with the cast and creative team, not just individually, but together.

Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Hand to God has some of our best actors (Aubie Merrylees especially shines in the dual role of Jason, a young boy, and Tyrone, his puppet other-half), and a fine director (Matt Pfeiffer). They’ve even brought in local legend Robert Smythe to design the puppets. But despite lots of good work, the show doesn’t consistently achieve lift-off. Read more »