Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Show of Shows

Anthony :Lawton, David Jadico, Jenn Childs,David Ingrim

Our Show 0f Shows, the 1812 Productions companion piece to Laughter on the 23rd Floor is playing at Plays and Players Theater, 17th and Delancey Street through May 15, 2011. As some shows have two titles, perhaps this one should as well: Our Show of Shows or Laughter on Delancey Street comes to mind. Thanks to the brilliant creation of Jennifer Childs and the outstanding comedic ensemble of David Ingram, Anthony Lawton, Dave Jadico, and Jennifer Childs aided by guest stars Mike Doherty and Kelly Vrooman, the theatre rollicked with non-stop laughter. Based on the format of Sid Caesar’s original hit 90 minute variety series, this is another 90 minute smash hit. From the opening minutes of the show when Anthony Lawton is “picked” as a reluctant audience member to participate in a special version of This Is Your Life, the audience is hooked.   A technique little used by contemporary comedians but effective none the less is the well paced repetition. The sword fight among Anthony Lawson, Jennifer Childs and Kelly Vrooman is comic not only for the intricate choreography but for Jennifer Child’s repetitive threat of “If you don’t watch out I’ll get your belly.” In another skit, Jennifer shows her agility when she literally becomes as limber as a rag doll after accidently taking 4 vallium. The four men in the cast are surprisingly good as members of a barbershop quartet. To tell what happens each time they sing would certainly spoil the surprise but suffice it to say the audience roared. Don’t miss this show.  It will be one of the best 90 minutes you’ve ever spent! For tickets or more information call 215-592-9560 or visit online at 1812productions.org. Be sure to check the dates as it is running concurrently with Laughter on the 23rd Floor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

In the writer's room

Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor is being produced by 1812 Productions at the Plays and Players Theater, 17th and Delancey Streets, Philadelphia, through May 8. Although this is a mythical version of Neil Simon’s experiences as a member of the writer’s room for Sid Caesar’s comedy variety program, the two act show endeavors to relate how writers Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbert and others matched their wits to come up with some of the best comedy on television. The writers and entourage of the fictional Max Prince Show must overcome censors, network politics, and McCarthyism. It is not enough for the actors in this production to be able to deliver a funny line. They must actually be funny. And funny they are. Laughter is not only on the 23rd floor but on the first floor of  17th and Delancey Streets as well. It rings throughout the theater during the entire performance. The cast of this show works together extraordinary well. Their timing is excellent. The ensemble members constantly play off of each other’s lines and the audience is given a real treat as they get a glimpse of what occurs when a group of very talented people are gathered together in one spot.  The play also has its poignant moments as it is revealed that everything in life can not be “goodness and light” and sometimes that which brings the greatest personal happiness can cost the greatest personal sacrifice. This show will continue to play in repertory with its companion piece Our Show of Shows which will open Wednesday, April 17. For tickets or further information call 215-592-9560 or visit online at www.1812productions.org. .  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Jews Walk Into A War


Two Jews Walk Into A War… has walked into InterAct Theatre at 2030 Sansom Street  and will remain through May 8, 2011. Run, don’t walk to see this hilarious production. InterAct’s Artistic Director, Seth Rozin, has written a blockbuster loosely based on Zeblyan Semantov and Ishaq Levi, the last two Jews left in Afghanistan. Zeblyan is brilliantly played by John Pietrowski and Ishaq is superbly played by Tom Teti. Both of these fine actors performed the first reading of Two Jews… in 2009.  As the show opens with the two men on either side of a casket in a  shattered synagogue, it is apparent that they can not even look at each other, let alone converse. And thus starts the beginning of the myriad of problems confronting the two men who want to find a way to remain in Afghanistan and repopulate without having to encounter each other. The play runs 95 minutes without an intermission but frequent blackouts give the illusion of the passage of time. In one such brief interlude the two get into an argument about who was more badly treated by the Taliban. A typical exchange between the two men includes: “They tied me up and bound and gagged me.”  “Well I was I was put on a slab of concrete and tortured for two days” : “Oh yeah? That was nothing. I was thrown into a hole and given no food or water for three days…”  “Oh you think that was bad?  For four days….” (blackout)  The story that is told is poignant as well. The two men,  forced to co-exist without a mediator, develop a symbiotic relationship. Ishaq is very learned and has memorized  the Torah. Zeblyan is good with his hands and has many questions about God and man’s interpretation of his word. To save their Jewish community, they enter into a debate similar  to the principle of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Their question becomes, “Which should come first, a Rabbi or a Torah?”  In answering this question and working toward the fulfillment of their individual dreams, the two men not only almost kill each other (literally) but also come to  a better understanding of “the greatest story ever told.” For tickets or more information call  215-568-8079 or visit online at www.InterActTheatre.org.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wanamaker's Pursuit

Discussing painting in Paris

Wanamaker’s Pursuit, a new work commissioned as part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, can be seen on the Arcadia stage of the Arden Theatre, 40 N. 2nd Street, through May 22, 2011. In 1911 young Nathan Wanamaker, played by Jurgen Hooper, is entrusted by his father to go to Paris to discover new fashions for his family’s department store. Fashion designer Paul Poiret, played by Wilbur Edwin Henry, gives a strong performance. Struggling writer Gertrude Stein, played  by Catherine K. Slusar, gives some much appreciated comic relief. Her brother Leo Stein, played by David Bardeen and Picasso, played by Shawn Fagan join Poiret and Gertrude in immersing Wanamaker in the dazzling world of the artists’ side of Paris. With the unwitting aid of pretty and charming Denise Poiret, fashion inspiration and flirt, played by Genevieve Perrier, Nathan discovers something even more important…himself. The set  is comprised of  a very cleverly designed system of sliding screens which allows the actors to enter and exit the stage A slide of the screen turns a clothing designer’s workshop into Picasso’s apartment and a few flicks of the wrist have the audience inside the Louvre. Jurgen Hooper works well as both Nathan Wanamaker the character and Wanamaker the narrator. This double role is not easy to carry off. The purpose was a bit confusing in the beginning of the first act, but by the play’s end, the growth of Wanamaker’s character is evident and he no longer  needs to rely on his alter ego which ties him to his past. For more information or tickets, call 215-922-1122 or visit online at www.ardentheatre.org.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In the Next Room or the vibrator play

 Dr Givings at work

In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, seen at the Wilma Theater at 265 S Broad St. in Philadelphia was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and The Tony Award for Best Play and one need only to see it to understand why. Set in New York in the 1880’s, the Victorian mores of the characters not only give comedic value to the production’s first act which carries over into its second act, but bring a sense of Greek tragedy as well when, at one point, it seems as if no one is going to be satisfied by what life has meted out to them. Jeremiah Wiggins is a very convincing Dr Givings, whose life work is to perform “electricity experiments” on hysterical patients. He is so involved with the success of his vibrator treatments on others that he is oblivious to his wife and her needs. The “hysterical” and demure Mrs. Daldry, played by Kate Czajkowski, does not want to admit recovery for fear of losing her “treatments”. The wet-nurse Elizabeth, played by Opal Alladin gave a brilliant monologue near the end of the play in which she displayed the heart-wrenching  pull of caring for another’s child after losing one of her own. Far and away the most empathetic character was Catherine Givings, played by Mairin Lee. Married to the doctor who satisfied all his patients but refused to satisfy her, she was lonely and despondent, not only because of his stubbornness, but because of her lack of ability to connect with her child. The audience cheered her resilience. Costume designer Oana Botes-Ban did a wonderful job in creating period costumes as the characters were frequently dressing and undressing and had many pieces of clothing to share with the audience. Alexis Distler did an outstanding job with the set design. The theatre was transformed into salon style seating on both sides of the stage to allow the audience to observe the intimate relationships in the play. A door separated the doctor’s office from the living quarters of the home and a small desk designated the doctor’s working space away from patients. The d├ęcor set the mood of the late 19th century. Barrymores are on the horizon for both of these designers.This play is sure to return to the Philadelphia area in a year or two.  If you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, make sure you plan to see it when it comes back.