Liz (Kate Czajkowski) and Charlie (Scott Greer) in Theatre Exile's THE WHALE by Samuel D. Hunter. Photo credit: Paola Nogueras.

THE WHALE (Theatre Exile): Intelligence and transformation moving under the surface

Not many plays have this kind of unmistakable resonance. When you encounter such a play, you know it. With works of consequence you can feel the pull of intelligence and transformation moving under the surface.

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UNDER THE SKIN (Arden): The boundaries of the body and the limits of love: It’s complicated

There’s little inherent humor in a guy needing a kidney, but evidently no one told that to Michael Hollinger.

Photo by Luis Fernando Rodriguez

HOT ‘n’ COLE: A Cole Porter Celebration! (Mauckingbird): What a swell party it is

Get yourself a glass of wine and enjoy Porter’s musical repartee and stylish insinuation, the swell costumes, and the sophisticated atmosphere.

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ALICE’s ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (Quintessence): Mystifying appearances and disappearances, levitations and mysterious goings-on at Mount Airy’s Sedgwick Theater

For the latest installment in their tradition of performing literary family classics for the holidays, Quintessence Theatre Group brings ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and its parade of beloved batty characters to Sedgwick Theater.

Clare Mahoney and Peter DeLaurier in Lantern Theater Company's QED (Photo credit: Mark Garvin).

QED (Lantern) No doctorate in theoretical physics is required to enjoy this production

But you don’t have to be an egghead to enjoy this play. It’s a great show for non-physicists, a category that includes a whole lot of us.

Raviv Ullman, Bill Pullman, and Holly Hunter in STICKS AND BONES. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

[NYC] STICKS AND BONES (The New Group): A revival with a local connection is attracting attention in New York

STICKS AND BONES vents Vietnam era fury against a war that sent an endless stream of young men home damaged or in body bags.

Aaron Cromie with puppets in Aaron Cromie and Mary Tuomanen’s THE BODY LAUTREC (Photo credit: www.plate3photography.com)

THE BODY LAUTREC (Aaron Cromie and Mary Tuomanen): Fringe Review 53.2

Aaron Cromie’s good-natured portrayal reflects the real Lautrec, who retained his artist’s eye and famed geniality even as he joined his friends in their sad retreat into alcoholism and the dementia of syphilis.

Chris Davis plays Vronsky in ANNA K (Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist)

Anna K (Chris Davis): Fringe Review 40.2

It would be fun to call ANNA K an irreverent romp through Tolstoy’s 1870s novel, Anna Karenina, but in fact playwright Chris Davis reverences the material in his own way. For all its comedy, and there’s plenty in his South Philly-style version, the play scans the storyline and retains underlying issues.

An image from Romeo Castellucci's THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT, featuring nudity.

THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT (Societas Raffaello Sanzio): Fringe Review 36.2

Romeo Castellucci has poured his personal inspirations and philosophy into this remarkable abstract production, but ultimately viewers must determine its meaning for themselves. To this viewer, the piece is a resounding “NO.”

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THE ADULTS (New Paradise Laboratories): Fringe Review 20.2

Whit MacLaughlin is going off the deep end with this one. Are you willing to jump in with him? New Paradise Laboratories’ handsomely crafted, meticulously acted, and totally weird production, is not easily accessible. Nothing much can be taken literally here, and the production doesn’t reward searching for specific meanings as it creates its own tilted world with its own skewed logic.

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SPLATTER (Manayunk Theatre Company): Fringe Review 24

This Neighborhood Fringe show, directed by Sean Connolly, transpires in the murky basement of an old church in Manayunk. The space lends an ideal sinister atmosphere to a play which, like many psychological thrillers, is more intimation and suspense than action.

Visitor tagging art at UNTITLED. Photo by Osenlund.

UNTITLED: WHAT YOU SEE OR WHAT DO YOU SEE (KrieArt): Fringe Review 19

This entry in the Visual Art category is an art exhibit based on the association between the person looking at the art and the meaning ascribed to the art itself. The artist, Krie Alden, who spoke to me at the event, is excited to be a part of FringeArts, and she loves the idea of “the Fringe being on the fringe, where they support the unexpected.”

Tribe of Fools, TWO STREET--A TALE OF STAR CROSSED MUMMERS (Photo credit: www.plate3photography.com)

TWO STREET: A TALE OF STAR-CROSSED MUMMERS (Tribe of Fools): Fringe Review 12.1

This love story, full of gags, comedic misunderstandings and lotsa heart, encompasses two smitten gay mummers, family devotion, and mummer-love.

Clio (Erica Nicole Rothman, center) with her sister Muses in Mazeppa Productions’ XANADU (Photo credit: Kelly Anne Pipe Photography)

XANADU (Mazeppa Productions): A campy, aMUSEing musical

Zeus has decreed that Muses from Mount Olympus are not allowed to fall in love with mortals – that includes the Muse Clio and a boy from Venice Beach. Therein lies a story of forbidden love, gumption, and sly swipes at certain Hollywood movies — especially XANADU (Universal Pictures, 1980).

Herringbone at Flashpoint Theatre Company

HERRINGBONE (Flashpoint Theatre Company): A remarkably strange solo musical, about a boy … with a problem

This mighty peculiar story opens with a grown up George looking back at 1929 and singing, “Did ya ever have one of those years?” His parents have one foot in the poorhouse, as their only prosperous relative has just stinted them in his will. When eight-year-old George has the chance to take performance lessons from the surviving member of an old vaudeville act, he shows inexplicable ability beyond his years. Parental hopes for financial resurrection ride on little George singing and dancing his way to Hollywood.

Annie Henk, Jered McLenigan, David Bardeem in RITU COMES HOME. Photo by Kathryn Raines

RITU COMES HOME (InterAct): Two gay men who practice Safe Charity become parents

Jason (David Bardeen) and Brendan (Jered McLenigan) ease the paucity of Ritu’s (Rebecca Khalil) existence by sending monthly checks through an aid organization. The last thing in the world they’d ever expect would be for their charity case to show up in their living room.

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTTERS (Lantern): 60-second review

The Lantern Theater Company’s remount of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C.S. Lewis is a sizzling show from hell. Kathryn Osenlund’s 60-second review

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RED-EYE TO HAVRE DE GRACE (Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental): New York Theatre Workshop sees a reshaped Philly Fringe hit

I have taken the train up from Philadelphia to the New York Theatre Workshop to see how RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE has fared since I last saw it. I had discovered it in the Philadelphia Live Arts workshop production in 2005. Between that iteration and the world premiere at Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2012, an evolutionary process took place.

Aetna Gallagher and Brian McCann in Curio Theatre Company's OEDIPUSSY.

OEDIPUSSY (Curio): Shenanigans, tomfoolery and ballyhoo reign

OEDIPUSSY isn’t something to analyze, it’s just something to enjoy— an antidote to life’s heavy stuff. Appealingly physical and comically overwrought, it’s tons of fun. The most amazing thing about this lunatic version is that the epic tragic story actually emerges through all the clowning, sight gags and laughter.

Victoria Rose Bonito and Akeem Davis in ROMEO AND JULIET

ROMEO AND JULIET (Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre): A Love to Die for

They’ve known each other for what—a couple of hours? Already they’re crazy in love, and they’ll steadfastly love each other against all odds. A love to die for. One of the world’s most celebrated and enduring love stories, ROMEO AND JULIET, is currently on stage at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.