Matthew Neenan

BalletX’s Matthew Neenan downshifts for THERE I WAS

Earlier this month BalletX dancers had their pointe shoes ready for a rehearsal for Matthew Neenan’s ballet There I Was. The piece showcases how inventive, within and out of specific pointe shoe classicism, Neenan can be. Even though it is weeks before the opening There I Was looks ready, Neenan only moved around to cue a specific music change, apologizing to the dancers for the pause.

Photo: Kathryn Raines

FALLING INTO HERE or THE IMPORTANCE OF NORMAL (The Naked Stark/ First Person Arts): Dance review

Fractured. Awry. Akilter. There is frighteningly little cohesion and order (or shall we call it normalcy?) in the dark visual and kinesthetic world that Katherine Kiefer Stark presents in Falling into Here or The Importance of Normal. The performance is a welcome dance work among the talking heads presentations of the 12th annual First Person Arts Festival, a 10-day affair dedicated mostly to autobiographical narrative expressed through storytelling and song.

Christopher Sutton as Buddy, with a supporting ensemble of elves, in the Walnut Street Theatre’s ELF (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

ELF (Walnut): A family-friendly feel-good musical for the holidays

Based on the 2003 hit film of the same name, ELF, this year’s annual Christmas-time extravaganza at the Walnut Street Theatre, offers popular feel-good entertainment for the whole family. The amusing musical comedy is filled with magic and spectacle for the kids, wry jokes and innuendo for their grown-ups, and a familiar sentimental moral that is relevant for all ages. It’s a cute and snappy start to the holiday theater season that could make even the meanest Grinch smile.

THE DEVIL'S MUSIC.

THE DEVIL’S MUSIC (People’s Light): 60-second review

This hybrid of monologue and musical chronicles the life of Bessie Smith. Although Smith experienced troubled times in her life, THE DEVIL’S MUSIC is mostly upbeat—chock full of raunchy innuendo and humorously sexual dance moves. This makes for a perfectly lovely evening of theater…

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HANDS ACROSS VERONICA (Walking Fish/Nakedfeet): 60-second review

Lunging onto the stage with the gusto of 1000 aerobics classes, HANDS ACROSS VERONICA sets the tone for a high energy, neon fueled performance. A joint production of Walking Fish Theatre and Nakedfeet Productions, HANDS ACROSS VERONICA is primarily concerned with how women relate to food and deal with their body image,

Joo Won Park

OPERATIC OR NOT, a review of THINGNY IS BACK, the third night of fidget’s 4th Annual Fall Experimental Music Festival

Adam Vidiksis’s legs are completely still like a concert violinist’s. He barely bends except to lean over the snare as he burrows the tip of a single drumstick into it. Using…

Dan Hodge and Joe Guzmán star in Passage Theatre’ TRUE STORY (Photo credit: Mathias Goldstein)

TRUE STORY (Passage): A Multi-Layered World-Premiere Whodunit

Though EM Lewis’s 80-minute thriller TRUE STORY pays homage to Raymond Chandler’s detective-story and film-noir tradition of the 1930s and ‘40s, the play offers a more current (cell-phone era) exploration of the genre. It combining the twists and turns of a gripping murder mystery with the profound human issues of coping with loss, assuming responsibility, the nature of truth, and the desire for justice. Passage Theatre Company’s world-premiere production, directed with wit and suspense by Damon Bonetti, succeeds in delivering all the surprises, humor, emotion, and psychology inherent in the script.

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MAKESHIFT (Murmuration Theater): A play not just about cake

Ten seconds into Murmuration’s inaugural production of Jessie Bear’s brand spankin’ new play, MAKESHIFT, Brian David Ratcliff, stands like a little boy by his lonesome on stage in what he describes as a devastated post-apocalyptic earth donning a royal blue super hero cape, goggles strapped to his head, holding a tape recorder up to his mouth declaring: “I, Michael Bolton will save the world.” I thought: “Wow, we are really on the edge of a cliff here, and Oops, I think we fell off into—I don’t know what.”

Seth Reichgott and Earnest L. Phillips in ADDRESS UNKNOWN.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN (Meadowbrook Productions): Letters from the edge of history

Reading history is like watching a familiar play: the fascinating thing is that the characters don’t know what’s going to happen. But sometimes you come across a work of fiction written on the cusp of great historical events imbued with a clear sighted vision of how the epoch is unfolding. Adapted by Frank Dunlop from a 1938 novella by Kathrine Kressman Taylor, ADDRESS UNKNOWN is one such work.

Charlie DelMarcelle. Photo by matthewjphoto.com

I AM MY OWN WIFE (Theatre Horizon): A story of perserverance

In Berlin in the wake of German reunification, American John Marks writes to his friend “Doug Wright” (I AM MY OWN WIFE’s playwright) about the eccentric Charlotte. Having “grown up gay in the Bible Belt”, Wright is fascinated by the transgender Berliner and spends grant money and savings to pay her a series of visits, hoping to turn his interviews into a play.

As related in act one of this short two-act piece, Charlotte’s tale fascinates Wright (and the Theatre Horizon audience).

Dan Kern and Jered McLenigan star in THE WOMAN IN BLACK at Act II Playhouse. Photo by Mark Garvin.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: A GHOST PLAY (Act II): 60-second review

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: A GHOST PLAY is a cleverly constructed stage production by Stephen Mallatratt based on a novel by Susan Hill. It is a story within a story with Arthur Kipps (Dan Kern) seeking the assistance of an actor (Jered McLenigan) to tell his terrifying and sorrowful tale he’s compiled into a five hour manuscript. The actor encourages Kipps to tell the story through acting; the actor playing the role of Kipps and Kipps playing the roles of the people he encountered during his experiences.

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MAKESHIFT (Murmuration Theater): 60-second review

Strange games are afoot upstairs at Plays and Players. Not light or fun games, either—we’re talking full-on Don’t-talk-about-our-son-Martha! games here. Murmuration Theater’s new play MAKESHIFT throws us right into the middle of two different stories, and figures we’re smart enough to figure out what’s going on. The show doesn’t dole out much information, and when it does, it’s timed for maximum effect. Once you get enough to realize the show’s central conceit (which is quite nice, and unfolds so organically that I’d hate to spoil it), the earlier scenes come into better focus and make more sense.

Photo by Yi Zhao

THE GARDEN (Nichole Canuso Dance Company): Offer your hand…

Six audience members isn’t an empty house; that’s the full load for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s THE GARDEN. The basement below us is an expansive concrete stretch, a network of small rooms and squared pillars, and we’re sent down into a smallish room scattered with chairs. We’re invited to sit wherever we like.

Photo © Jacques-Jean Tiziou / www.jjtiziou.net.

And the winners are….

The Barrymore Awards are on hiatus this year, returning in all their splendor for the 2013/14 season, but on November 4, 2013, Theatre Philadelphia gave out several awards recognizing local theaters and artists.

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RFK (New City Stage): An American tragedy

Director Ginger Dayle and sound and video designer Ren Manley intersperse audio and visuals from the 1960s in New City Stage Company’s RFK, complementing Widdall’s powerful performance with a great soundtrack and contextualizing video clips. Following pre-show newsreels from JFK’s assassination, the play begins in 1964—eight months after the fateful day in Dallas.

U.R. as Flip LeVay and Julianna Zinkel as Kimber in Arden Theatre Company’s production of Stick Fly. Photo by Mark Garvin.

STICK FLY (Arden): An inventive, relentlessly funny look at race and class

The immaculate Martha’s Vineyard home of the African American LeVay family is the set for Lydia R. Diamond’s STICK FLY at Arden Theatre Company. Plush sofas and pristine white cabinetry are the trappings around which the evening’s drama unfolds. The audience has a window into the kitchen, living room and porch where at times multiples scenes take place at complementary intervals; sometimes echoing their counterparts in the next room. The characters in the play are a complex set, all with different but overlapping backgrounds—some more than they realize.

RED40CARD

Screw the Barrymores, Get Some Clown Funk

The Barrymore Awards, Philadelphia’s bastard stepchild of the Oliviers or Tonys, took something of a hiatus for the 2012/13 season, as the downfall of the Theatre Alliance meant no annual…

Emily L. Gibson and Steve Lippe in MAKING the WORLD a BETTER PLACE through MURALS.

NICE AND FRESH November (SmokeyScout): Get punched in the face by art at SmokeyScout Productions’ NICE AND FRESH

SmokeyScout is named after artistic director Josh McIlvain’s cats: Smokey and Scout. The program of the November NICE AND FRESH thanks them, along with Moving Arts of Mount Airy (MAMA), the intimate,…

Russ Widdall as RFK.

Revisiting New City Stage Company’s RFK

Since my original review of New City Stage Company’s stellar production of RFK in October 2012 (reprinted below), the show was featured in Washington, DC’s Capital Fringe in July 2013,…

Raphael Xavier. Photo by Brian Mengini.

Raphael Xavier’s THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO AUDIENCE WATCHING PERFORMANCE at the First Person Arts Festival

Published by The Dance Journal. Reprinted by kind permission. Like many artists, dancer Raphael Xavier has a difficult time describing exactly what he does for a living.  “I usually say…