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 »

33 Things to Do in Philly This Weekend

Screaming Females headlines Pilam's Human BBQ on Saturday. (Girlie Action)

Screaming Females headlines Pilam’s Human BBQ on Saturday. (Girlie Action)

FRIDAY, APRIL 7

First Friday @ All Over The Place
Yesterday I ran down five visual art shows you should check out: Chris Peters at Gravy Studio, Poets and Painters at Painted Bride, David Eichenberger at Space 1026, Wind Challenge 2 at Fleisher Art Memorial and JohnF at Head Games.

Art Unleashed @ University of the Arts
Annual exhibition and sale of some renown. This year’s Art Unleashed shines a spotlight on beloved multidisciplinary artist Shelley Spector. Through April 10.

Pigeon Poetry Slam @ PhilaMOCA
Live, original poetry in a competitive atmosphere, featuring award-wing poet and podcaster José Olivarez. Bring a haiku.

Cabaret @ Academy of Music
Theater critic David Fox had this to say: “Cabaret is a brilliant piece of theater, and it looks as good as ever here — in fact, I’ve seen the staging three times over the years (once on Broadway, twice on tour), and what I saw at the Academy last night strikes me as perhaps the most vividly acted of all.” Runs through April 9.

Cryptopictos @ Fleisher/Ollman
Group show of create cryptic pictures. Through May 26

The Fighter and the Kid @ The Trocadero
Live/standup interpretation of the podcast by ex-UFC fighter Brendan Schaub and comedian Bryan Callen.

Kingfisher @ Creep Records
The local psych/jam/funk/rock instrumental band releases its debut record.

Anna @ EgoPo Classic Theater
Theater critic David Fox had this to say: “Trees, lights, tents, rugs, screens — who could resist the gorgeous decorative excess of EgoPo’s Anna (scenery designed by the multi-talented Aaron Cromie)? Over the next two hours, this marvelous adaptation of Anna Karenina, devised by director Brenna Geffers and the ensemble, will build on that magic.” Runs through April 16.

Todd Barry @ Punchline
The dry-witted comedian sets up shop all weekend long.

Half Waif @ Everybody Hits
Nandi Rose Plunkett especially crushes it when her baroque pop synth sound bleeds into other genres, be it classical, Celtic or trip-hop.

The Prisoner of Zenda @ Hedgerow Theatre Company
Anthony Hope’s 1894 adventure novel — in which a hapless Brit must stand in for the king he happens to look like — gets a new adaptation by Matt Tallman. Through April 8.

DeadMau5 @ BB&T Pavilion
The DJ with the big giant mouse mask.

The Broken Heart @ Sedgwick Cultural Center
Quintessence presents the John Ford 1633 tragedy, performed in rotating repertory with Love’s Labor’s Lost. Through April 23

Pilobolus Dance Theater @ Annenberg Center
The renowned performance group presents Shadowland, “dreamlike dance narrative” about “about a teenage girl who wakes up one day to something incredible lurking behind her bedroom wall — her shadow.” Warning/bonus: The show contains “brief nudity, strobe lighting, haze and gunfire.” Through April 8

You for Me for You @ InterAct
Theater critic David Fox had this to say: “Don’t try too hard to make all the pieces fit. Mia Chung’s provocative, gripping, occasionally frustrating play is rich in ideas. Some are fully developed; others appear and disappear out of nowhere, without a resolution. Even the genre is an open question. You for Me for You is a comedy, a drama, a thriller, and pretty much everything in between. Don’t ask why — just go with it.” Runs through April 16.

Great Philadelphia Comic Con @ Greater Philadelphia Expo Center
Really, this is in Oaks, PA. Includes appearances by LeVar Burton, Alan Tudyk, Marina Sirtis and more pop culture/sci-fi notables. Through April 9.

SATURDAY, APRIL 8

Our Heavenly Bodies @ International House
A restored version of Hanns Walter Kornblum’s 1925 silent sci-fi film Wunder der Schöpfung with a live score performed by the band Coupler. Looks amazing.

Electrifest Day 1 @ the Rotunda
This two-day LGBT/QPOC wellness and healthcare festival is full of workshops, readings and live performances. Day 1 acts include King Azaz, Ramona Cordova, Pinkwash and more.

Swampoodle: A Philadelphia Noir Novel @ Big Blue Marble Bookstore
Author DP Curran presents his new novel, set in Irish North Philly “in the years between the Easter Uprising in Ireland the boon years of Prohibition in the underworld of Philadelphia and Atlantic City.”

Mumbo Jumbo: Jazz, Poetry and Invention @ African American Museum
This “family fun day” promises crafts, performances and such for the kids.

Dirt Day @ The Dirt Factory
If you want your soil tested, bring it. If you need “high quality organic compost” come on by. Plus learn about dirt.

PILAM BBQ XXXIX @ Pilam
The all-day barbecue/punk tradition continues with another “flesh-roastin’, face-meltin’ day of sacrifice” and live performances by Brandon Can’t Dance, Laser Background, Sad13, Screaming Females and more.

Ars Moriendi: Visions of Death Made Beautiful @ Mutter Museum
Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of Brooklyn’s lamented Morbid Anatomy Museum, presents a “heavily illustrated talk.” Then writers Chris McCreary and David Spolum read pieces influenced by the Mütter’s collection.

Boss Hog @ Underground Arts
Cristina Martinez and Jon Spencer — ’90s punk-blues power couple — revived their old band to see if they’re still as loud and weird as they used to be. They are. “Shh Shh Shh” is off their comeback record, Brood X.

Emily Wells @ Boot & Saddle
Part trip-hop, part classical, a little hip-hop and rock and pop and soul. At shows, she loops her violin over echoey beats and belts out breathy vocals that build to big-belting choruses. I’m listening to her new odds-n-sods record In The Hot right this minute and her take on “In My Time of Dying” is sort of freaking me out.

Where We Belong: Artists in the Archive @ Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The South Asian American Digital Archive presents a “day-long symposium bringing together archivists, artists, activists, and academics to explore ways to challenge the systematic erasure of stories of marginalized communities in America.” Includes music, visual arts and dance by Rudresh Mahanthappa, Chitra Ganesh, Chiraag Bhakta, Joti Singh and Zain Alam.

Tom Brokaw @ Nesbitt Hall
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw in conversation with his former producer at the Today Show, Karen Curry. Free.

Joe Jack Talcum & Dandrew @ Connie’s Ric Rac
Live music by two Dead Milkmen. Also a celebration of the release of a new EP by The Founders.

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq @ Penn Museum
A new exhibition that explores “the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East by showing what’s at stake — the rich history of the region and the diversity of its people — and what’s being done to prevent the loss of this history and cultural identity.” Saturday’s opening reception features music, discussions and family activities.

SUNDAY, APRIL 9

Agnostic Front @ Boot & Saddle
Thrashy hardcore forefathers just dropped a fresh one, My Life My Way. Still heavy and ornery.

Electrifest Day 2 @ the Rotunda
The two-day LGBT/QPOC wellness and healthcare festival continues with more workshops, readings and live performances. Day 2 acts include SWARM, M|GHTHAUNT, Solarized and more.

Morgan James @ World Café Live
Soulful singer-songwriter with a Broadway bent. Check out her cover of a Hall & Oates classic.

Dancing Figures @ Class of 1923 Arena
Figure skating/dancing “featuring the choreographed works of Brooke Frieling.” Not every day you see something like that. Free, too.

Le Cabaret Melange @ Johnny Brenda’s
A “sort of” revival of Robert Drake’s late night cabaret/variety show with Jeffrey Marsh and lots of old favorites doing new stuff.

Gallery Guide: Five Shows to Check Out This First Friday

From Chris Peters' show at Gravy Studios.

From Chris Peters’ show at Gravy Studios.

Chris Peters @ Gravy Studio
Wisconsin-born photographer Chris Peters creates “large scale, site-specific camera obscuras” in abandoned buildings. He’s collected photos of these works for his show Public/Private. Reception: Friday, April 7, 6-10 p.m.

Poets and Painters @ Painted Bride
A group show with a twist: The artists are “four couples all sharing and interesting dynamic: one person is a painter, one person is a poet.” The dynamic duos are Ursula Rucker and Anthony Carlos Molden, Rachel Ehrgood and Jared Wood, Emily Johnson and Amanda Robinson and Dwayne Thomas and Angelica Jackson-Thomas. Awesome idea. Also at the Bride at the same time: “When Myths Meet: Franz Fox & Al Johnson.” Receptions for both: Friday, April 7, 5-7 p.m. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: Cabaret is Back Again… and Edgier than Ever

The 2017 National Tour of Roundabout Theatre’s Cabaret. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Kander and Ebb’s musical Cabaret is now 50 years old. It’s never been out of the spotlight, but at times of political uncertainty, the show takes on special resonance. We’re deep in one of those times now—though in fact, the presidential election has nothing to do with this tour, which derives from a 2014 Broadway revival that was itself a revival of a landmark production by co-directors Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall.

Part of Cabaret’s staying power is its theatrical permutability, a rare quality in a musical. Each new Hello, Dolly! looks pretty much like the last one—but every generation reinvents Cabaret along strikingly new lines. Harold Prince’s original defined the show as radical in 1966; six years later, Bob Fosse rebuilt it for his hit movie adaptation.  Read more »

Arty Dozen: 12 Things to Do in Theater, Dance, Movies and more

Pilobolus Dance Theater presents Shadowland at the Annenberg Center, April 6-8.

Pilobolus Dance Theater performs Shadowland at the Annenberg Center, April 6-8.

Art in the Age of Injustice @ Da Vinci Art Alliance | Wednesday, April 5
Group exhibition of works by women artists, presented by the Philly chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art. Reception tonight, 6-8 p.m. Exhibition runs through April 26.

Oxford Coma III: Resistance @ Wooden Shoe Books | Wednesday, April 5
Poems of Dissatisfaction and Political Nihilism hosted by Angelo Colavita and featuring music by Little Strike. Doubles as a food drive for Food Not Bombs.

Understanding the Alt-Right @ Big Blue Marble | Wednesday, April 5
What’s a cuck? How many red pills is too many? A talk by Matthew Lyons, author of CTRL-ALT-DELETE. Read more »

Music: 7 Shows to See This Week

Emily Wells plays Boot & Saddle on Saturday. (terrorbird.com)

Emily Wells plays Boot & Saddle on Saturday. (terrorbird.com)

Steel Panther @ Fillmore Philly | Wednesday, April 5
These guys are a spot-on send-up of ’80s glam-metal, with all the high hair, tight spandex, and skin-deep lyrics that entails. They look like Poison. They sound like Motley Crue. It’s an easy target and they nail it.

Anthrax @ Electric Factory | Wednesday, April 5
Forked-tongue-in-cheek metal forefathers with serious thrash riffs, Anthrax were never the hardest or heaviest, but they never devolved into self-parody, either. In ’80s metal, that’s a win, though it bears mentioning that Anthrax has had more lead singers than hit songs. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: EgoPo’s Anna — Tolstoy in a Provocative Frame

Andrew Carroll, Colleen Corcoran, Lee Minora, and Maria Konstantinidis in Anna at EgoPo. (Photo by Dave Sarrafian)

Andrew Carroll, Colleen Corcoran, Lee Minora, and Maria Konstantinidis in Anna at EgoPo. (Photo by Dave Sarrafian)

Trees, lights, tents, rugs, screens—who could resist the gorgeous decorative excess of EgoPo’s Anna (scenery designed by the multi-talented Aaron Cromie)? Over the next two hours, this marvelous adaptation of Anna Karenina, devised by director Brenna Geffers and the ensemble, will build on that magic.

I was hooked pretty much instantly, despite some initial wariness about the central construct. Geffers and company give Anna a meta-theatrical frame, wherein a company of actors in the 1970s are presenting their take on Tolstoy’s novel. Would it all seem too twee?, I wondered. What value could there be in adding an additional layer to this already complex story? Read more »

Comedy: Let’s Have a Todd Barry Film Fest

Todd Barry just released his first book, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg (Fernando Leon)

Todd Barry just released his first book, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg (Fernando Leon)

Todd Barry is low-key one of the funniest people in comedy — and it’s most because he’s so low-key. He doesn’t move around, he doesn’t yell, none of his bits work as t-shirt slogans. Sure, he can be sarcastic and scathing, but he keeps it simple and mostly subtle. Barry also just released his first book, Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg. In advance of his upcoming run in Philly, let’s watch a bunch of Todd Barry clips:

Todd Barry is so good at crowd work he did a whole tour of it. His buddy Louis CK just released a five-dollar concert film directed by Lance Bangs and compiled from seven West Coast shows.

On several occasions, Todd Barry has opened for rock bands (like Yo La Tengo, Mates of State and Superchunk). Here he is at a YLT Hannukah show, reading and annotating a letter from a fan who was unnaturally disappointed by of his shows in Philly. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: In InterAct’s You for Me for You, the Parallel Risks of Leaving and Staying

Bi Jean Ngo and Mina Kawahara in You for Me for You at InterAct. (Photo by Kathryn Raines / Plate 3)

Bi Jean Ngo and Mina Kawahara in You for Me for You. (Photo by Kathryn Raines / Plate 3)

If you see You for Me for You at InterAct—and I think you should—I have some advice: don’t try too hard to make all the pieces fit. Mia Chung’s provocative, gripping, occasionally frustrating play is rich in ideas. Some are fully developed; others appear and disappear out of nowhere, without a resolution. Even the genre is an open question. You for Me is a comedy, a drama, a thriller, and pretty much everything in between. Don’t ask why—just go with it. Read more »

The Hit List: Victor Fiorillo Picks April’s 10 Best Shows in Philly

The touring cast of the Tony-Winning Broadway production of Cabaret. Photo via Dana SOHM.

The touring cast of the Tony-Winning Broadway production of Cabaret. Photo via Dana SOHM.

1. The Marriage of Figaro
If your exposure to Mozart’s greatest opera and, to be sure, one of the greatest operas ever written is limited to that 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon (a classic!), you’ll want to see this new production by Opera Philadelphia. Your complicated love life has nothing on that of the title character, who finds himself in the midst of an unending series of amusing entanglements.
April 28th through May 7th at the Academy of Music Read more »

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