THEATER REVIEW: In Guards at the Taj, A View from Downstairs

Anthony Mustafa Adair and Jensen Titus Lavallee in Guards at the Taj at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

Anthony Mustafa Adair and Jensen Titus Lavallee in Guards at the Taj at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

As any Downton Abbey fan will tell you — if you want to know the real story, ask the help. The folks downstairs always have a much fuller understanding of what’s actually going on than those upstairs.

If that’s true in a palatial Edwardian estate, it’s even more so at the Taj Mahal, built in 1643 by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his beloved wife (one of several wives, actually, but who’s counting?)  The glorious Taj is a wonder of the world — a monument to love, beauty, and formal perfection.

What’s happening behind the scenes is a whole other thing. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: Football, Friendship and Fame in Theatre Exile’s Tommy and Me

Matt Pfeiffer and Simon Kiley in Tommy and Me at Theatre Exile.

Matt Pfeiffer and Simon Kiley in Tommy and Me at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

I know virtually nothing about sports.

Normally, I would not lead with this.  But here, it matters.  You see, the “me” of Tommy and Me is the play’s author, sportswriter Ray Didinger; and Tommy is football player Tommy McDonald, whom Didinger idolized, and whose friendship he cultivated years after McDonald’s too-short career was over. Read more »

5 Questions With Eagles Great Tommy McDonald

Tommy McDonald played seven seasons with the Eagles, from 1957 to 1963. Photo provided

Tommy McDonald played seven seasons with the Eagles, from 1957 to 1963. Photo provided

Long before Ray Didinger was an award-winning sportswriter, Comcast SportsNet commentator and WIP host, he was an eager kid trotting after Tommy McDonald, No. 25, at Eagles training camp, spouting off the wide receiver’s stats and hoping to carry his helmet.

Year later, Didinger started crossing paths with his boyhood hero as a writer for the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Daily News, and the two formed a close friendship. But it wasn’t until McDonald was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 that he revealed their long-ago connection.

Didinger turned the story of that friendship into his first play, Tommy and Me, produced by Theatre Exile and premiering tonight at FringeArts. The show’s full run is already sold out.

McDonald, now 82, answered our questions about seeing the play, asking Didinger to present him at the Hall of Fame and being a lifelong Eagles fan. Read more »

Review: Theatre Exile’s Smoke is 50 Shades of Meh

Matteo Scammel and Merci Lyons-Cox in Smoke at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

Matteo Scammel and Merci Lyons-Cox in Smoke at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

“Will I seem terminally un-hip,” worried the 59-year-old critic, “if I admit I’m not into bondage?” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not offended, but I just don’t care about it — or at least, I don’t think it’s much of a spectator sport.

But if for a moment I fantasize about bondage and its appeal — don’t worry, I’ll keep this abstract — I imagine mysterious dark rooms, brutishly sexy partners with come-hither allure, and wordless but charged encounters.

All of which would be completely wrong — at least, according to Kim Davies’ play, Smoke. Here, in an ugly New York apartment kitchen, John and Julie awkwardly hook up. He’s a 31-year-old aspiring artist; she’s a 20-year-old rich girl student, who plans to drop out of college and do nothing. Only about 20 minutes into their agonizingly banal conversation do we start to realize that what they want isn’t just ordinary sex, it’s the kinky, high-risk kind. Read more »

Theatre Exile Wins Big at 2015 Barrymore Awards

A scene from Theatre Exile's "The Whale."

A scene from Theatre Exile’s “The Whale.”

It was a big night for Theatre Exile as the company’s production The Whale took home a ton of Barrymore Awards, making them the most-winning theater of the year at tonight’s ceremony at the Merriam Theatre.

A scene from Theatre Horizon's "Into The Woods."

A scene from Theatre Horizon’s “Into The Woods.”

Both The Whale (Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? led Theatre Exile to five wins, followed by Theatre Horizon, who scored four awards, all for their innovative staging of Into the Woods (Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical). 11th Hour Theatre Company, Flashpoint Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, People’s Light, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, and The Wilma Theatre had two wins each. Read more »

REVIEW: Theatre Exile’s Rizzo

Photo by Paola Nogueras

Frank Rizzo (Scott Greer) and Marty Weinberg (Paul L. Nolan)| Photo by Paola Nogueras

A special theatrical alchemy happens when a great actor plays a bigger-than-life, flawed but charismatic personality. Think of Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane, Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry, and Robert Preston’s Harold Hill. A couple of years ago, Bryan Cranston won a Tony portaying one such figure from the real world — Lyndon B. Johnson.

Read more »

Late Mayor Frank Rizzo Comes to Life in New Stage Play

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 3.49.36 PM

Photo by Robert Hakalski

Play readings don’t normally culminate in shouting matches or near-fistfights, but leave it to this world premiere about our controversial late mayor to change that. In May 2014, during a talkback after a reading of the script, one attendee relentlessly fumed at playwright Bruce Graham (The Philly Fan) for going too soft on Rizzo.

“Graham threatened to take him out in the parking lot,” says Best of Philly-winning actor Scott Greer (right), who plays Rizzo in the Theatre Exile production. “That’s how the discussion started.”

Greer, Graham and director Joe Canuso met with everyone from former mayor Wilson Goode to a Rizzo bodyguard to ex-con Vince Fumo to Rizzo right-hand man Marty Weinberg to develop the play, loosely based on Sal Paolantonio’s definitive biography.

Read more »

PHOTOS: Opening Night of Theatre Exile’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Last night was the premiere of Theatre Exile’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Plays and Players. The Edward Albee-penned, Tony-winning play concerns a fed-up, middle-aged married couple who invite a young co-worker and his wife to their home for cocktails. What ensues is an intense evening of psychological mind games that will make you cringe and beg for more all at the same time. The show stars Boardwalk Empire’s Pearce Bunting and Catharine Slusar as George and Martha. The younger couple is played by Jake Blouch and Emilie Krause.

HughE Dillon was there to get snapshots of the opening-night crowd. Check them out in the slideshow below. For more information on how to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, go here.

The 600-Pound Gay Man: How Actor Scott Greer Bares It All in The Whale

Scott Greer in "The Whale."

Scott Greer in “The Whale.”

Imagine eating yourself to death. Sounds dreadful. That’s what Charlie, the protagonist in the darkly humorous and poignant play The Whale, essentially does: After the death of his partner, Charlie balloons to 600 pounds, refusing to leave his house due not only to his depression, but his size. As his estranged daughter attempts to reconcile with Charlie, we get to see how family takes on a variety of meanings.

And, yeah, we get to see that 600-pound costume, too, a custom-made suit that takes an extraordinary amount of time for actor Scott Greer to get in and get out of. Greer stars in the production at Theatre Exile, and took the time to chat with us about what its like to play the monstrous character, and what kind of reaction someone like Charlie would get in the modern gay “community.” Read more »

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