Reviews

Arlen Hancock in Ellie Brown's DEAR DIARY, BYE. Photo: Ellie Brown.

DEAR DIARY, BYE (Ellie Brown): Schoolyard scraps and crushes galore

And maybe that’s what makes Ellie Brown’s DEAR DIARY, BYE such a fascinating show. The play, directed by Seth Reichgott, presents her 1984 diary. Brown wasn’t so different from any other ten year old – she liked boys, she got sick of her parents, she was teased, and she liked more boys. There’s a pleasure in this kind of uncensored presentation, a la Nature Theater of Oklahoma.

photo by Jessica Giacobbe

ALL THIS HAPPENED, MORE OF LESS (Subcircle): Scenes from a dance marriage

Multimedia theater designer Jorge Cousineau is moving abstract objects under the rustic dance studio in the Maas Building in Northern Liberties. Niki Cousineau is rehearsing with her Subcircle dancers for new piece  All…

Keith J. Conallan in DON JUAN COMES HOME FROM IRAQ, Wilma Theatre, photo by Alexander Iziliaev

DON JUAN COMES HOME FROM IRAQ (Wilma): A Disparate Jigsaw

Call it Don Juan or Don Giovanni, the Don Juan story, handed down through time, is pre-loaded with a mix of serious and comic elements and a supernatural dimension. DON JUAN COMES HOME FROM IRAQ, from theater luminaries Paula Vogel (playwright) and Banka Zizka (director), has the gravitas down and doesn’t lose sight of humor, but extra pieces lodge within this puzzle’s slippery treatment of time and reality.

BE/LONGING I: LIGHT/SHADOW (Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers): A review of the world premiere

We could be at a yoga studio, or a modern dance class, or even just Whole Foods (which might explain why everyone is so good looking and in such great shape) but the tableau onstage at Drexel’s Mandell Theater is the latest creation of choreographer Kun-Yang Lin. Be/longing: Light/Shadow is a world premiere based on a summer of research in Indonesia.

Grace Gonglewski as Masha, Kraig Swartz as Vanya, and Deirdre Madigan as Sonia in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE (Philadelphia Theatre Company): Absurdist Farce on Russian Angst

The angst-laden work and gloomy characters of Anton Chekhov provide funny fodder and apropos appellations for Christopher Durang’s VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, now in production at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. The Bucks County playwright set his Tony Award-winning comedy where he lives, making for a decidedly quirky yet familiar combination of current local references and recurrent allusions to the Russian classics in a zany family reunion filled with adult sibling rivalry and childish temper tantrums.

Alex Bechtel's The West

THE WEST (Alex Bechtel): Billy the Kid Reimagined

Alex Bechtel’s world-premiere production THE WEST is packing the house at the Off-Broad Street Theater in its short six-performance run. The ensemble-devised work, with Bechtel as the lead creator and director, features a cast of twelve emerging Philadelphia theater artists and an absurdist reinvention of the last days of the notorious Western gunman Billy the Kid.

The fault, dear Brutus, Act II: Interview with Makoto Hirano about “Super Racist” Julius Caesar

You may have seen the Lantern Theater Company’s JULIUS CAESAR, which recast Shakespeare’s political tragedy in Feudal Japan. You may also have seen the open letter that local playwright and performer Makoto Hirano hand-delivered to The Lantern on “How to Stage Your Show Without Being Super Racist,” which he signed “Makoto Hirano, Dance-theatre artist, actual Japanese person, and actual Samurai descendent,” reposted on Phindie with Hirano’s consent.

Gina Martino (Shelly) and Luke Moyer (Bradley) in Iron Age Theatre’s BURIED CHILD (Photo credit: Randall Wise)

BURIED CHILD (Iron Age): Decay and Dysfunction in America’s Heartland

From the moment you arrive, Iron Age Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s BURIED CHILD, directed and designed by John Doyle and Randall Wise, thrusts you into a deeply disturbing world of grime, decay, and depression. Mounds of barren dirt, wood chips, and dried-out stalks surround and invade a tumbledown farmhouse with a rusted old mailbox that hasn’t seen a delivery in years. Inside, a filthy stained sofa with torn-up upholstery and torn-out stuffing is held together by black duct tape, as huge gaps between the rough-hewn wall slats let in the pouring rain and dreary darkness of a relentless storm.

Benjamin Lloyd (on floor), Bruce Graham, David Edwards, Carl Wallnau, and George Deihl (back) in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR (Photo Credit: BRT Staff)

LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR (Bristol Riverside Theater): The Humor and Hysteria of 1953

Neil Simon’s autobiographical comedy, LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR, offers an intimate, insightful, and uproarious glimpse into his experiences as a junior writer for Your Show of Show—the influential TV program that ran on NBC from 1950-54, and was the first to incorporate sitcom sketches into the traditional variety-show format.

Walnut Street Theatre, Arsenic and Old Lace, Damon Bonetti and Jennie Eisenhower

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (Walnut Street Theatre): Macabre Madcap Comedy Classic

The historic Walnut Street Theatre celebrates two milestones with its mainstage presentation of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, written by New York playwright Joseph Kesselring in 1939: the play’s 75th anniversary and its own 205th landmark season. Directed by Charles Abbott, the Walnut Street’s crackerjack production (in association with Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA) whips up the perfect concoction of murder, mayhem, and misplaced “mercy,” topped with a large dollop of macabre madness, in this delectable recipe for hilarity.

Note to Self, Figment Theater.

NOTE TO SELF (Figment Theater): Improv at Its Finest, with a Twist.

Upon entry into the theater space, I was directed to a setup off to the side with slips of paper and pens. Little placards told us to write a NOTE TO SELF and drop it in the metal can, examples offered including “get donuts for the office.” I had received the inside scoop from one of the other theatergoers that they’ll be used as a formative part of the show. As NOTE TO SELF is improv comedy, I didn’t want mine to be too mundane to work with so I chose a simple, sadly relevant, yet ripe for humor note: stop eating in bed. The conversation and jokes with strangers, all ruminating on what their contribution would be, set a fun, friendly and upbeat tone for the performance.

Passion and Art in the Philadelphia Flamenco Festival

What better way to welcome the coming spring than with flamenco? Flamenco, which means “flame-colored,” is a genre of Spanish folk dance and music traditionally characterized by sensual choreography and bold, complex guitar rhythms. In Philadelphia, dance company Pasión y Arte is bringing the spirit of modern flamenco to the Philadelphia Flamenco Festival, which runs from March 1st through March 16th.

DANCING AT LUGHNASA (Curio): Casting Disaster

The summer of 1998, I permanently moved out of my mother’s house. (My mother moved down to Nashville abruptly and without me.) So I traveled to Ireland and saw Brian…

Jo Mei and Ruibo Qian in a production of You for Me for You. Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Asian Arts Initiative’s THE WAY HOME continues with You for Me for You

The National Asian American Theater Festival and Conference is coming to Philadelphia this October, and Philadelphia’s Asian Arts Initiative and InterAct Theatre laying the groundwork with a reading series of new plays this Spring. Directed by visiting artist Rick Shiomi, founder of Minneapolis-based Mu Performing Arts, “The Way Home” features contemporary works exploring what “home” means to Asian Americans.

SKIN AND BONE (Azuka Theatre): SoGoth Reinvented

In a culture that places heavier value on test scores than on the individual capacity for critical thought, you’re taught to associate. It doesn’t much matter if you’ve read the…

PRIDE & PREJUDICE (People’s Light & Theatre Company): Structure and Snobbery in Regency England

PRIDE & PREJUDICE, Jane Austen’s classic tale of class, courtship, and decorum in 19th-century England, celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2013. People’s Light & Theatre Company continues the celebration with…

HYBERNATE (Gunnar Montana): 60 Second Review

Gunnar Montana presents a jaw-dropping winter wonderland that is part art installation, part theatrical dance performances in HYBERNATE. After his sold-out BASEMENT (see Phindie’s review here) at the 2013 FringeArts…

HINCKLEY (New City Stage): Life, Death, Celebrity

“Anything’s possible in a world where media rules all.” In 1981, John W. Hinckley Jr. fired into president Ronald Reagan’s entourage, hitting four men, including the president. Reagan’s press secretary…

CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION (Theatre Horizon): All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women…

Life doesn’t imitate art as much as combine with it as Baker’s play, and Matthew Decker’s production of it for Theatre Horizon, sneaks up on you and moves you.

THE SUIT (Prince): Balancing cruelty and kindness in pre-apartheid South Africa

If Philadelphia is a tightly wound city wearing a permanent scowl, Sophiatown is tightly wound with a broad smile. Sophiatown was a cultural hub for black South Africans until 1954,…