In its latest issue, City Paper reviews three shows playing in Philly right now.
David Anthony Fox on Arden Theatre Company’s Water by the Spoonful:
Water is an issue-driven play. In her program note, [playwright Quiara Alegría] Hudes writes eloquently about “individuals with stories just begging to be told,” and there’s never any doubt about her earnest commitment to those stories. But more often than not, the characters here (a too-obviously multi-ethnic mix) seem like mouthpieces — they’re more archetypes than people. And noble as it is to want to give voices to the disenfranchised, I have to wonder: Has Hudes watched TV or gone to the movies recently? These issues are in no sense unheard — they’re quite frequently a central topic. I’m sure in Hudes’ imagination, her characters and their experiences are unique and specific, but only occasionally does that come through in Water. … More often, the play’s tone reminds me of a well-intentioned middle school report. Read more here.
Fox wasn’t wowed by Walnut Street Theatre’s Other Desert Cities, either:
Other Desert Cities is part generational comedy and part family reckoning, and neither is completely successful. There are some funny lines, but the wit could be sharper. The darker issues are cleverly plotted, but the writing never cuts as deeply as it could. Much of the script is a too-tidily constructed series of polarized debates: parents versus children, liberal versus conservative, keeping family secrets versus living out loud. Still, it’s entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking, and the last two scenes pack a wallop. Read more here.
Mark Cofta takes on InterAct Theatre Company’s Gidion’s Knot:
[Playwright Johnna] Adams loads the play with a few too many surprises, like a twist concerning the 10-year-old boy’s sexuality, while InterAct’s casting adds a juicy subtextual race issue. The performers’ sincerity overcomes the script’s traps, creating believably flawed characters. [Karen] Peakes and [Alice] Gatling break — and mend — in surprising and genuine ways, just when it seems impossible for either to understand the other. No one’s afraid of the awkward silences the script demands, and that tension has a visceral effect. When the play ends, we’re suddenly able to breathe again, but Gidion’s Knot haunts for days after. Read more here.