Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: NORTH OF THE BOULEVARD

By Toby Zinman For the Inquirer Funny and gritty and deeply troubling, Bruce Graham’s courageous new play, North of the Boulevard, continues the playwright’s dramatic examination of the really tough issues of our times. In this play he tackles nothing less than Right and Wrong and the shifting ethical ground underfoot. Act One plunges us right into a world; a beat-up auto body shop with a partially dismantled car taking up much of the floor space and a branch growing through the plaster wall (“Last tree in the neighborhood and it’s gotta come through my wall”). This is Trip’s place, a hangout for his pals (Brian McCann, Bill Rahill and Lindsay Smiling) most of whom owe him money. The four guys all share a lot of history and a lot of disgruntled desperation; their refrain is, “This used to be a nice neighborhood.” Scott Greer, as Trip, gives us a remarkably complex and nuanced portrait of a moral struggle. They also remember when men had jobs for life (“the dock, Westinghouse, G.E.”) where it was possible for a man to earn a decent living and protect his family. The whole social fabric has come undone, ripped to shreds by racism, borderline poverty, drugs, random urban violence. When an opportunity to cash in on a grotesque development (no spoilers!) arises, we watch how years of resentment—cruel fathers, corrupt mayors-- and profound anxiety over the future—an autistic son, children never seen who live in Florida, a terrified son beaten up at school—can overwhelm principles. It is a pleasure to watch these four strong actors perform under Matt Pfeiffer’s excellent direction. It is also extraordinary to be able to see a world premiere by an important playwright in a 60-seat house. Matt Saunders’s detailed set seems a perfect reversion to origins, since Studio X was an old garage before it became a theatre. =========================== Theatre Exile at Studio X,1340 South 13th Street (13th and Reed Sts.). Through May 19. Tickets $10-37. Information: 215-218-4022 or www.theatreexile.org

Review: NORTH OF THE BOULEVARD

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By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
 
Funny and gritty and deeply troubling, Bruce Graham’s courageous new play, North of the Boulevard, continues the playwright’s dramatic examination of the really tough issues of our times.  In this play he tackles nothing less than Right and Wrong and the shifting ethical ground underfoot.
 
Act One plunges us right into a world; a beat-up auto body shop with a partially dismantled car taking up much of the floor space and a branch growing through the plaster wall  (“Last tree in the neighborhood and it’s gotta come through my wall”).  This is Trip’s place, a hangout for his pals (Brian McCann, Bill Rahill and Lindsay Smiling) most of whom owe him money. The four guys all share a lot of history and a lot of disgruntled desperation; their refrain is, “This used to be a nice neighborhood.” Scott Greer, as Trip, gives us a remarkably complex and nuanced portrait of a moral struggle.  
 
They also remember when men had jobs for life (“the dock, Westinghouse, G.E.”) where it was possible for a man to earn a decent living and protect his family. The whole social fabric has come undone, ripped to shreds by racism, borderline poverty, drugs, random urban violence. When an opportunity to cash in on a grotesque development (no spoilers!) arises, we watch how years of resentment—cruel fathers, corrupt mayors-- and profound anxiety over the future—an autistic son, children never seen who live in Florida, a terrified son beaten up at school—can overwhelm principles.
 
It is a pleasure to watch these four strong actors perform under Matt Pfeiffer’s excellent direction. It is also extraordinary to be able to see a world premiere by an important playwright in a 60-seat house. Matt Saunders’s detailed set seems a perfect reversion to origins, since  Studio X was an old garage before it became a theatre.
  ===========================
Theatre Exile at Studio X,1340 South 13th Street (13th and Reed Sts.). Through May 19. Tickets $10-37. Information: 215-218-4022 or www.theatreexile.org

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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