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 »
Molly Ward, Catharine Slusar, Sean Bradley, and Amy Frear in Lost Girls at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)
As America learns more every day, many of us are just a step away from catastrophe. So it is for Maggie, a Manchester, New Hampshire divorcée, living of the edge. She’s perpetually behind on bills, overworked and stretched to the limit, and living a tense truce with her difficult mother. Then Maggie’s car is stolen—an event that would be a challenge for anyone. Will this be the moment where everything in her life, including her family, implodes?
From here, John Pollono’s wildly uneven Lost Girls goes every which way. Read more »
Theatre Exile’s production of Lost Girls opens in previews on Thursday, February 16th, and runs through Sunday, March 12th.
John Pollono is most comfortable in the theater, where a playwright has the final word. When he’s acting on television or in a movie, or watching one of his screenplays turn into a film, so much can change.
“I work a lot in features and in TV, but I keep going back to theater. It’s such a writer’s medium — I can collaborate on my own terms,” he says. With writing a movie, like his script for the upcoming Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, “there are so many people involved, so many variables. And it’s great, I love doing it, but theater is more of a pure form of writing. When you write a screenplay, writing becomes one of the facets of the filmmaking. With theater, writing is the singular facet,” Pollono says. Read more »
Jenson Titus Lavallee
Originally from California, Jenson Titus Lavallee is now a Fishtown-based actor starring as “Babur” in Theatre Exile’s latest production of “Guards at the Taj.” We chatted with the Pig Iron School alum about his leading role, Philly’s LGBTQ performance scene, and being out in the theater world.
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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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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.”
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 »
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.
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