Neal Zoren’s Shows to See in Philadelphia This September

Excerpted by kind permission from Neals Paper.

Photo by Bruce Jackson.
Photo by Bruce Jackson.

September is most active month in Philadelphia, one that indicates companies were chomping at the bit to begin another year. Besides bringing forth the dawn of a new season, September in Philadelphia is a time for hyper-activity because of the Fringe Arts Festival. Tina Brock’s Come Back, Little Sheba is part of that, as is Dan Hodge’s production of John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Sea Voyage for Philadelphia Artists Collective at the Independence Seaport Museum. Hodge, Damon Bonetti, and others at PAC have been treating us to Shakespeare’s contemporaries and successors for several seasons. The Sea Voyage is a Jacobean drama about a group of privateers who think they’ve landed on a island inhabited by a lone castaway.

Other Fringe offerings including Commonwealth Theatre’s one-man adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V featuring Paul Parente; Actually from Half Key Theatre Company, primarily because it’s by Photograph 51’s Anna Ziegler; EgoPo’s presentation of Tennessee Williams’s And Tell Sad Stories About the Death of Queens; The Wooster Group’s The B-Side: Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons, which is a live documentary about a 1964 recording made in a Texas jail; Lanie Robertson’s The Insanity of Mary Girard, the first work by a Philadelphia playwright to catch on and develop a following, at Allens Lane; and There: In the Light and the Darkness of The Self and The Other, devised by Blanka Zizka, Rosa Barba, and the Wilma HotHouse, at the Wilma and based on Etel Adnan’s book-length meditation.

Outside the Fringe, there’s the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Mel Brooks’s underrated Young Frankenstein; Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s provocative novel, Orlando, directed at Villanova by James Ijames, who did a wonderful job with Ruhl’s Eurydice a few seasons back; and the Arden production of one of the great recent American musicals, albeit more than 20-years-old, Ragtime.

September is also the occasion for two festivals of note, a Synge Festival, during which Quintessence Theatre Group presents the writer’s full-length The Playboy of the Western World in repertory with Synge’s three major one-acts — Riders to the Sea, In the Shadow of the Glen, and The Tinker’s Wedding—and an extensive, impressive Opera Festival (O19) from Opera Philadelphia.

Sort of a microcosm of the general Philadelphia season, Opera Philadelphia’s fall extravaganza features a quartet of works of all stripes from all periods, Handel’s romance between the mortal and divine, Semele appearing next to Joseph Keckler’s collage of operatic demise, Let Me DieProkofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges with its prince, witch, and curse opposite Philip Venables and Ted Huffman’s contemporary-as-you-can-get story of two Russian runaways, Denis & Katya, all performed in festival fashion with simultaneous performances in different venues from September 18 to 29. Alek Shrader, Daniela Mack, and Tim Mead, all of whom have been impressive for Opera Philadelphia, and Shrader even surviving the Orchestra’s hideous Candide, appear in Semele. Sienna Licht Miller, so wonderful in last season’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is in the double-cast Denis & Katya.

Teatro Del Sol expands a play it gave a reading last year, Iraisa Ann Reilly’s Good Cuban Girlsinto a full production at the Latvian Society. Theatre Horizon offers a concert version of a past hit, Into the Woods from September 27 to 29.

Read Neal Zoren’s complete 2019/20 season preview >>>

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