Navin Rawanchaikul has created an epic portrait of the history of Philly’s historic Plays and Players Theater. Hundreds of faces have been painted with photographic realism in dynamic, often silly attitudes. This mural-sized work is truly astonishing, entertaining and outlandish. Many of the centenarian theater’s most memorable shows are etched here, too, with the actors who played them. This Is Not a Theater is a memorial / christening ceremony for the work, where members of the Plays and Players family who inspired the painting for Rawanchaikul tell their stories. The stories illuminate the scenes in the painting, electrifying the connection between the viewer and the work. For anyone who has had a treasured experience at P&P, this is likely a must-see show.
In Rawanchaikul’s epic painting, P&P is set like a jewel in the center of Philly. It might follow that viewers not directly connected to the P&P community would find themselves wishing that these stories, and the work of P&P, would in some way become connected to Philly at large. They never do, mostly revolving around loves found on stage and in the upstairs Quig’s pub, the unfortunate result being that, for outsiders, this might feel exclusivist or irrelevant, like an awards ceremony without any awards, or a dedication for someone you do not know.
This Is Not a Theater runs about sixty minutes and is double-billed with either All The Sex I’ve Ever Had or The Living Newspaper. [Plays and Players Theater]. September 11-14, 2013. fringearts.com/