Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Archive: September, 2011

POSTED: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 10:28 AM

By Jim Rutter 

In No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre encapsulated the torment of existence in his line “hell is other people." Unlike the central character Tony in Kash Goins gripping Tonight?, Sartre never lingered 30 years on death row for murdering five women.

Sartre also didn’t suffer years of abuse from a drunken mother who locked him in a closet for days without food, or a priest who molested him from ages seven to 10. Over a 50-minute one-act, Goins’ memory play revisits each of these heinous events; in true existential fashion, what else would Tony do when all he can do is wait?

Jim Rutter @ 10:28 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 3:56 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield

The Philly Urban Theatre Festival’s second year brings Fair Son, a second production written, directed by, and featuring Kareem Rogers. Like Twice Loved, last year’s Rogers entry,  this issues-based living room melodrama skims the surface of a potentially deep pool. But  Fair Son — which takes on interracial families, racism,  civil rights, lynching, love and leukemia, tosses themonstage for  an hour or so and watches them scatter — is half as much fun and even less credible.

With a supporting cast that's sincere, if amateurish, Rogers, as patriarch Martin Stewart, brings laid-back levity to his role. His teddy-bear physique and earnest eyes put a spectator in his corner —  though he appears to be roughly the same age as his married attorney son, Malik (Michael Irvin). But while Rogers can charm an audience into overlooking this discrepancy, there’s no hiding his lack of research and simplistic approach to character.

Wendy Rosenfield @ 3:56 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 26, 2011, 3:23 PM
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From left, Chris Faith as Sancho Panza, Graham Smith as Don Quixote and Melanye Finister as his love, Dulcinea, in Kira Obolensky’s "The Return of Don Quixote" at People's Light & Theatre Company in Malvern. Photo by Mark Garvin.

By Howard Shapiro

If there’s one thing we all know about Don Quixote, it’s this: He dreamed the impossible dream. Sure, he was crazy and  fictional, but that's what he did, he reached for ideals no one could ever grasp.

Man of La Mancha, the musical adapatation of his adventures, laid this out in a song that has become a solid piece of the American musical theater canon. I thought the play The Return of Don Quixote, which opened at People’s Light & Theatre in Malvern over the weekend, might give us something different, some curve-ball insight.

howard shapiro @ 3:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 1:35 PM

By Howard Shapiro

Mama Turner has died, and she hasn’t been tucked away for more than a couple hours before the fighting between her two grown daughters begins. Her son tries to be the buffer, but old wounds still itch and burn, and aged Papa is too senile to understand what’s going on.

What’s going on is gentrification in the African-American neighborhood where the Turners built a family, raised their kids, watch their grandchildren — and then their great-granddaughter — grow. Some of the later generations also were raised in the house, the last house standing on a block that developers need.

howard shapiro @ 1:35 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 11:11 PM
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Ben Dibble as Pocahontas and Tony Braithwaite as Minnehaha, taking us through world history in 70 minutes in "The Big Bang" at the Kimmel Center.

By Howard Shapiro

In the beginning there was the Big Bang, and then free food and frontal nudity, also called the Garden of Eden. Or that’s how it goes in a zany 70-minute show called The Big Bang, settled into the Kimmel Center for an October run.

Any show whose lyrics rhyme Caesar and geezer has me as its sucker, but Jed Feuer’s music and Boyd Graham’s lyrics and script hooked me for much more than the show’s slick wordplay. The whole concept is a hoot. We’re all supposed to be sitting in the Park Avenue living room of a wealthy couple while two characters — named Jed and Boyd, like the authors — and their pianist hold what’s called a “backers’ audition.” They’re trying to get our money to back their new Broadway show.

howard shapiro @ 11:11 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 19, 2011, 4:01 PM
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Pete Pryor is the rotten boss, Jefferson Haynes is his foil in "Big Boys" at Montgomery Theater in Souderton. Photo by Bill Papula.

By Howard Shapiro

You’ve never had a boss as excruciating as Victor. And my guess is that even if you are a boss, and your staff thinks you’re a moron, you can’t come close. (I know, you’re a great boss, you’ve told the staff yourself.)

Victor is the boss, one of two characters in Rich Orloff’s play Big Boys, the amusingly dumb and strikingly well-performed production now at Souderton’s Montgomery Theater, with one of the region’s most seasoned actors, Pete Pryor, as the boss. The other character is young, newly hired Norm, played by Jefferson Haynes, also seen on several area stages.

howard shapiro @ 4:01 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 1:28 AM

By Jim Rutter

Don’t expect a dance documentary in Pink Hair Affair’s 1970s-styled One City Under a Groove. The decade defined by draft dodgers, disco and drugs saw only the last receive full treatment in the collaborative’s 10 pieces.

None of the Pink Hair girls were even born until the mid-1980s, and drew at least some of their Me Decade knowledge from movies. Christine Steigerwald and Ashley Wood’s playful “Space Magic” depicted two kids in a backyard light-saber battle. Jacklyn Koch donned an afro wig, blue denim jumper, and Pam Grier swagger in “Fluff That Fro,” a piece that crackled with sisterhood sexuality as her legs enveloped the floor in splits and straddles.

Jim Rutter @ 1:28 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, September 17, 2011, 12:59 PM
Fess Elliot in Whit MacLaughlin’s latest show, “Extremely Public Displays of Privacy.”

By Wendy Rosenfield

At long last, we reach Act 3 of New Paradise Laboratories’ Extremely Public Displays of Privacy. We followed the entanglement between forty-something Fess Elliot (Annie Enneking)--wife, mother, lapsed musician--and twenty-something internet sylph Beatrix Luff (Brittany Freece, voiced by Mary Tuomanen) from the moment they met by chance online, through seven podcasts featuring an exhibitionist’s walking tour of Rittenhouse Square, to the corner of 17th and Sansom Streets, where we are ushered into an undisclosed location, and presumably, all will be revealed. 

At first, when we pass Jorge Cousineau’s 10-foot-high video projections of Beatrix’s dreamy face and enter Fess’ sheet-metal-lined basement bunker, where she sits handcuffed to a desk, we think, “Ah, here it comes.” But it never does come.

Wendy Rosenfield @ 12:59 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

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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