THEATER REVIEW: Uncle Vanya, Straddling Two Worlds

Kevin Bergen and Steven Wright in Uncle Vanya at Quintessence. (Photo by Shawn May)

We theater critics can be insufferable, especially when it comes to Chekhov. We’re forever pontificating about particular productions, usually pointing out flaws. They get the tone wrong; they’re too comic (nor not comic enough); and, of course, this perennial favorite—they’re not idiomatic. As if we actually know, since few of us speak Russian, and none of us has seen one of the original productions by the Moscow Art Theater (the last premiere was in 1904).

Hey, I’m guilty of it, too. But this time, I pledged, it would be different. Rather than comparing productions—or relying on some conceptual idea about how Chekhov ought to look—I’d consider Quintessence’s Uncle Vanya strictly on its own terms. Alas, that’s easier said than done. Minutes into this sometimes powerful, but often meandering Uncle Vanya, inevitably I was trying to understand my sense of disconnection. Read more »

Q&A with Comedian Chris Gethard

Chris Gethard will tape his Beautiful/Anonymous podcast at the TLA on Saturday.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Chris Gethard’s face. Maybe it was on Broad City, or in Don’t Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia’s movie about struggling improv comedians. There’s also a good chance you caught his funny and affecting one-man show, Career Suicide, on HBO recently. Of course, there’s the wildly unpredictable talk/variety program The Chris Gethard Show which started at the UCB theater in NYC, then moved to public access TV and Fusion. It will re-launch on Tru TV in August.

And then there’s his popular podcast Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People, where — at least until he took the show on the road — he doesn’t show his face at all. And we know even less about the identity of his guests. It works like this: Gethard tweets out the phone number. About 5,000 people immediately try to call in. One caller wins. He talks to that unnamed person for an hour about life, the universe and everything. He’s not allowed to hang up.

Like just about everything Gethard does, Beautiful/Anonymous (as it’s known) is both funny and humane and kind of a highwire act. Favorite episodes include “Escape from a Cult,” “The Most Amazing Destruction” “I Cry When I Run” and “What Not To Ask A Trans Person.”

The live version of the show (which comes to the TLA on Saturday) has Gethard taking a call onstage while being fed questions from the audience via smartphones. Read more »

54 Things to Do This Weekend

The 10th annual Roots Picnic is Saturday at Festival Pier. (Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC)


Elizabeth Zharoff/Xavier Foley @ World Café Live
An alluring description for an atypical concert at WCL: “Two emerging composers and recent grads of the Curtis Institute of Music collaborating around their love of video games and their serious classical chops.” Elizabeth Zharoff is a soprano. Xavier Foley is a double bassist.

Talib Kweli/Vikter Duplaix @ Fillmore Philly
The two hip-hop stars do a Kiss-N-Grind DJ show at the Foundry performance space, upstairs in the Fillmore. Call it your Roots Picnic wind-up.

Michelle Biloon @ Good Good Comedy
A standup show by the Philly-based comedian heard/seen on Comedy Bang Bang, Chelsea Lately, 2 Dope Queens and more. Read more »

First Friday: Five Galleries to Check Out Tomorrow

Beth Heinly’s art will be on display at Vox Populi this Friday. This the art, not the artist

June First Friday @ Vox Populi
Three shows at once, featuring works by Gabriel Boyce, Beth Heinly, Erin Murray and Jes Fan. The reception also features Jes Fan performing part of their show “Disposed to Add” and Beth Heinly enacting a series of“living cosplays.” Meanwhile, Iranian photographer/filmmaker Mohammadreza Mirzaei’s “If he didn’t say he loved you” will screen on a loop in Vox Pop’s Blackbox. Reception Friday, June 2, 6-8 p.m. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: In How to Use a Knife, Life in the Kitchen from Simmer to Boil

J Hernandez and Angel Sigala in How to Use a Knife at InterAct Theatre. (Photo by Kate Raines)

God is in the details, as they say. Watching InterAct’s marvelous production of Will Snider’s How to Use a Knife, I was struck again and again by how much theatrical realism depends on getting all the little things just right. You see it here from the start—a rare kind of authenticity, evident immediately in Colin McIlvaine’s set and Robin Stamey’s lighting. We could be looking in on an actual working diner kitchen.

But it’s only the beginning. These actors disappear fully into their characters, especially J Hernandez and Angel Sigala, who (often speaking in Spanish) bring the kitchen cooks brilliantly to life. Prepping and cooking the food, squabbling to get the orders out on time, their interpersonal relationships captured in even in the tiniest looks—yes, we think: this is real life. Read more »

12 Things to Do in Comedy, Film, Dance, Art and more

Kumail Nanjiani leads the Big Sick Comedy Tour to the Troc on Wednesday. (photo from

Big Sick Comedy Tour @ Trocadero | Wednesday, May 31
This stacked stand-up comedy tour features the stars of Kumail Nanjiani’s film The Big Sick. Performers include Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Ray Romano (whom everybody once loved), Aidy Bryant (SNL) and Kurt Braunohler (Bunk, Hot Tub, etc.).

Photo Op with Kevin Hart @ Free Library | Wednesday, May 31
Buy your ticket ahead of time to get a signed copy of the Philly comedian/movie star’s new book I Can’t Make This Up and have a professional photo taken with him. Read more »

THEATRE REVIEW: In Making History, What Happened Vs. What’s Remembered

Kevin Rodden and Ethan Lipkin in Making History at Irish Heritage Theatre. (Photo by Carlos Forbes)

Brian Friel, who died in 2015, was for more than 40 years one of our most prolific playwrights; also one of our best. Yet, although many of his works have been staged in New York, they are not seen enough in American regional theater. Some of this is cultural—Friel, who was Irish and wrote very specifically about his country, may be considered far afield for American audiences.

But as this fine production of Making History reminds us, Friel’s plays have relevance beyond their own world and time. We’re fortunate to have such strong advocates in the Irish Heritage Theatre. Read more »

Music: 14 Shows to See in the Next 7 Days

Galactic Empire plays the Troc on Saturday.

The Veldt @ Boot & Saddle | Wednesday, May 31
Back in the ’90s, Chapel Hill band The Veldt — a heavy-ish shoegaze band fronted by twin brothers Daniel and guitarist Danny Chavis (two Dans!) — were kind of a cult favorite. Now it seems like the band is finding its audience (again). This gig will sort of double as a record release show for The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation which drops a couple days later.


Frightened Rabbit/Torres @ Union Transfer | Thursday, June 1
With last year’s Painting Of A Panic Attack, Frightened Rabbit may have unlocked the Perfect Album Title achievement. On this album, and all albums, Scott Hutchison and his fellow Scots use dramatic lyrics and music create pretty pictures of angst and ennui. In these uncertain times, we need an uncertain band. P.S. Make sure you get there for the strangely dreamy Torres. Read more »

It’s Memorial Day and You Don’t Have Plans

Future Islands plays Union Transfer tonight. (Tom Hines)

Memorial Dei Family Picnic and Festival @ Sexton Sideshow | 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sexton Sideshow of Queen Village presents its festival and picnic featuring food trucks, vendors, family activities and live music on multiple stages by Sweetbriar Rose, Kuf Knotz, Pawnshop Roses, Alison Wadsworth, Emmett Drueding and more.

Summerfest @ Rivverrink | 1 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
It’s opening weekend for the party down by the river. Roller skating, mini-golf, food, drinks, etc. Read more »

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