A night at the theater at Allens Lane Art Center in Mount Airy isn’t like a night at conventional center city theaters. The audience sits at tables below the stage, sharing BYO food and drinks: wine in glassware, beer in solo cups, waters. Their model is different too. There’s no artistic director. Theatermakers pitch ideas; each show is helmed by a different director, with casts (non-Equity, paid stipends) drawn largely from outside the well-used roll-call of Philly actors.
The latest offering, KEELY AND DU demonstrates the charms of the unconventional methods. Written in the early 1990s, the political drama about a pregnant rape victim kidnapped by an anti-abortion Christian group still resonates. Jane Martin’s work thrives on the interaction between the titular women, hostage Keely (Andrea Rose Cardoni) and her matronly minder Du (Linda Palmarozza). Their relationship builds over the course of 90 minutes as the characters share long monologues about themselves and forge small, unlikely bonds.
Such an overtly political work risks becoming heavy-handed, but Cardoni and Palmarozza head off the worst potentialities by forging two rounded, imperfect individuals. As Keely adjusts to her circumstances, Cardoni cycles through her range of anger: seething at times, raging at others. Directors T. Patrick Ryan and Scott R. Grumling might have encouraged further exploration of the characters’ emotional range, and the production sags when other characters (orderlies, a fundamentalist preacher, an unwelcome visitor) enter the action, but KEELY AND DU remains an egaging look at two women’s unexpected friendship.
[Allens Lane Theater, 601 W. Allens Lane] March 6-22, 2020; allenslane.org