Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Masha and Vanya and Sonia
The Philadelphia Theatre Company, housed in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at Broad and Lombard Streets is producing the 2013 Tony Award winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike through April 20.  Playwright Christopher Durang acquired names from Chekhov and carefully interwove some of Chekhov's most common themes such as illness, disillusionment, lack of communication and the importance of the cosmos into an extremely funny comedy. Members of this incredibly talented ensemble cast of Kraig Swartz as Vanya, Deidre Madigan as Sonia, Grace Gonglewski as Masha, Alec Shaw as Spike, Kianne Muschett as Cassandra and Clare O’Malley as Nina have won multiple Barrymore Awards and have been seen on Broadway and TV as well. Laughter abounds throughout the show as the characters deliver humorous lines with straight faces, but you can hear a pin drip during Vanya’s rant in the second act.  Lighting designer Dennis Parichy and set designer David Gordon have done a phenomenal job with the set - a country home in pastoral Bucks County with trees aplenty and blue skies peering through the skylights.  This is a play with many messages, but perhaps the most important one is to come see it and enjoy yourself, for you surely will delight in this performance.  For more information or tickets, call 215-985-0420 or visit online at  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

The Writers' Room
The Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street, is presenting Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor through April 13. Based on his experiences writing for Sid Caesar with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Sid Caesar himself, Simon’s comedy is set in the writers’ room for the fictional comic, Max Prince. Jason Silverman does an excellent job of portraying Lucas, an alias for Neil Simon. He serves as the narrator as well as the newest addition to the comedian’s cadre of writers.  Crazy antics and comic lines are delivered by the entire first-rate ensemble cast which also includes Bruce Graham, Carl N. Wallnau, Megan McDermott, Benjamin Lloyd, David Edwards, Kenneth Boys and K.O. DelMarcelle. This production gives us a rare opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes of a successful comedic series and what transpires  when the star and his writing family and the studio “bigwigs” don’t see eye to eye.  Although some of the gag lines are a bit dated, they are true to the time period and come spinning across the stage at such a rapid pace that you scarcely have time to notice.   This piece evokes a bit of nostalgia for those who remember “The Show of Shows” and straightforward fun for those who don’t.  For more information or tickets, call 215-785-0100 or visit online at  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Arsenic And Old Lace

The Walnut Street Theatre, located at 825 Walnut Street, is presenting Arsenic and Old Lace through April 27th on its mainstage.  Mary Martello and Jane Ridley give us a delightful portrayal  of two sweet, kind, and generous little old neighborhood ladies in Brooklyn. But one must not forget that this is a farce.  The Brewster women are truly charming but more than a little crazy, as are two of their nephews. Jonathon Brewster, played by Dan Olmstead, has escaped from a prison for the criminally insane and compellingly has no intention of hiding his mean streak, while his brother Teddy, portrayed by Ben Dibble, is convinced that he is President Theodore Roosevelt .working on the Panama Canal.  What sane person would want to get involved with this family?  Neighbor Elaine Harper, portrayed by Jennie Eisenhower, has fallen in love with the third brother, Mortimer,played by Damon Bonetti. While Mortimer shares her feelings, he tries to discourage her because he is afraid his family’s genetics might catch up with him. As a good farce should be, this production is a labyrinth of twists and turns before reaching its ending and produces many laughs along the way. The set is magnificent. Kudos to the entire design staff for a job well done: Scenic designer Robert Klingelhoefer, lighting designer Shon Causer, costume designer Colleen Grady and sound designer Jacob Mishler have produced a brilliant mansion parlor and staircase, with many egresses. The lighting and sound add to the tension that builds and the costumes add to the hilarity. Arsenic and Old Lace is not a new show but this production is very well done. If you have never seen it before, you must see it now.  If you have seen it in the past, come and refresh your memory and laugh anew at the antics on Walnut’s mainstage. For more information or tickets, phone 215-574-3550, 800-982-2787 or visit online at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Happiest Song Plays Last

Staged reading
In conjunction with its production of Water By the Spoonful, The Arden Theatre Company, located at 40 N. 2nd Street, conducted a staged reading of the first and third plays in the trilogy written by the very talented playwright Quiara Algria Hudes. The first one, A soldier’s Fugue, was set prior to the events occurring in Water By the SpoonfulThe Happiest Song Plays Last follows two of the major characters after the death of a family member.  As the staged reading occurred on a Monday night, the theatre was “dark.” but Water… still in production.  It is very appropriate that the reading occurs on this set as characters can be set apart with their chairs and script stands on two different levels, delineating Philadelphia and Jordan.  This was very helpful to the audience    Armando Batista who plays Elliot in Water…. and Maia De Santi who plays his cousin Yaz read those parts in the reading. Yaz speaks from her old neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Elliot is adding his soldier's expertise to a movie role in Jordon. An appreciative audience also enjoyed the reading of Rasha Zamamiri who portrayed Shar, an actress on the set in Jordon with Elliot.  Damien Wallace gave an incredible performance as a slow-witted person that Yaz had adopted.  Hudes’ third play in her trilogy is currently playing in NYC at the Second Stage Theatre where Water By the Spoonful played before it.  Hopefully the Arden will be able to bring it to Philadelphia sometime in the near future.  Be sure to watch out for it.