Thursday, April 24, 2014


Ulysses & Emma together after 20 years
Theatre Exile, located at 1340 S 13th Street, is presenting the Philadelphia Premiere of Sharr White’s Annapurna through May 11.   Annapurna takes its name both from the intriguing mountain chain that Ulysses, played by Pearce Bunting, can observe from his trailer window and from the epic poem he has written to his ex-wife whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Catherine Slusar portrays Emma, Ulysses’ ex-wife. It is difficult to determine which one of them is more surprised when she appears unannounced at his doorstep with several pieces of luggage. He, because she reappears after having walked out on him 20 years ago, or she, because he is nude, except for an apron, and is living in almost total squalor in a beaten-down trailer.  What ensues is a tribute not only to Sharr White’s flawless writing but also to the superb performances of Barrymore Award winning actors Bunting and Slusar. The play is not without humor.  There are chuckles throughout, but this is by no means a comedy.   Emma cautiously investigates the foundations upon which her life with Ulysses had been based before she was forced to leave him.   With delicate precision Ulysses morphs from a craggy, self-absorbed hermit to a man more attuned to others’ reality. The production is greatly enhanced by the original music provided by sound designer Daniel Perelstein who works in conjunction with set and lighting designer Thom Weaver to provide prominent breaks in the dialogue with blackouts and music intervals. Sometimes it is tough to let go.  Come see this engaging production which will have you involved in grappling discussions the entire ride home from the theatre.  For more information or tickets call 215-218-4022 or visit online at                  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Train Driver

Kirk Wendell Brown,
Peter DeLaurier
The Lantern Theater Company, located in St. Stephen’s Church at 10th and Ludlow Streets, is presenting the Philadelphia Premiere of The Train Driver through May 4.  Based on true stories of  “’suicide by train” in South Africa, this drama explores the disturbing remnants of apartheid.  Peter DeLaurier, a long time and well honored favorite at the Lantern and other theatres as well, portrays Roelf Visagie, a white South African train driver. Unfortunately, a young black woman with a small child tied to her back has chosen to leap upon the tracks right in front of his train. With not enough time to stop, the ensuing damage not only pulverizes the woman and her child, but wrecks the life of the train driver as well. He seeks some sort of redemption while visiting Simon Hanabe, the Black Man who buries the unknown.  Portrayed by Kirk Wendell Brown, Simon tries to be a calming influence on Roelf.  Having survived  his job in the dangerous surroundings of the buriel grounds for many years, Brown very effectively displays an attitude of cautious wariness. He tries to help Roelf by offering him food and shelter in his shack in the graveyard, but Roelf continues to be tormented.  DeLaurier brings despair to a whole new level. His anguish is palpable. You will leave the theater asking yourself, “Where would I be without hope?”  .For more information or tickets for this powerful production, call 215-829-0395 or visit online at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Down Past Passyunk

Vince Turati ,Nicky Grillo. Iggy Guerro
  InterAct Theatre Company, located at 2030 Sansom Streets, is producing the world premiere of A. Zell. Willams’ Down Past Passyunk   through January 27.  Williams has loosely based the central theme of his work on the controversial sign “This is America. When Ordering, Speak English.” which appeared in the window of Geno’s Steak’s and caused a national maelstrom. William Zielinski convincingly portrays an angry Nicky Grillo, third generation South Philly owner of Grillo’s Steaks. He is both unable to cope with the newly diversified neighborhood that has sprung up around him and unwilling to accept modern changes that his spit-fire daughter Sophia, passionately played by Alex Keiper, tries to bring into the business. Mild-mannered Iggy Guerro, portrayed by  Bobby Plasencia, is a new owner of a nearby steak shop and thinks there is plenty of room for both businesses .   Mired down by his stubbornness which even his best friend Vince, aptly played by William Rahill can’t dissuade, Nicky is trapped by his resistance to change.  Brian Cowden effectively plays a rookie cop on the beat.  Kittson O’Neill successfully portrays Tambrey Walker, an in-your-face Eye Witness News Reporter.  Alice York, as Emma, is a delight.  Kudos to the entire design team: Costume Designer Allison Roberts for her authenticity, Sound Designer Christopher Colucci for his special touches,  Lighting Designer Drew Billiau  for special effects, and Set Designer Ian Guzzone who, in effect, had to design multiple sets.  This is a must-see show for all those who remember the precipitating event.  It is also an important production for those who don’t remember but just enjoy good theatre,  for this piece is sure to earn a place in history. For more information or tickets, call 215-568-8079 or visit online at .

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three Sisters

ensemble cast in dining room
The Arden Theatre Company, located at 40 N. 2nd Street, will be presenting an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters through April 20.  A star-studded ensemble cast plays the multitude of characters in Chekhov’s 4 Act play.  Acts  1 and 2 have the effect of a  play within a play with wide angle and close-up camera shots of the characters on stage being directed and filmed, then projected onto a large screen. This effect is not used after intermission.  Perhaps because of this, the second half of the play is easier to follow, or perhaps it is easier to follow because the characters have become more familiar. Chekhov writes three dimensional characters and the actors do a brilliant job of portraying them. Rebecca Gibel convincingly gives Natasha an acerbic tongue.  Luigi Sottile, as Andre, brother to the three Prozorov sisters, displays two personalities-one drunk and one sober. Sarah Sanford portrays the oldest sister Olga.  Usually stoic and straight-laced, she can display a venomous temper when crossed. Katherine Powell portrays the middle sister Masha who is unhappy but changes personality completely when she finds happiness. Younger sister Irina is portrayed by Mary Tuomanen.  Her character changes the least.  This is a play depicting great longing and unrealized dreams.  Discontent lives within almost every character;  each one wants something she does not have.   Returning to Moscow   and what was once a more aristocaratic life appears to be a panacea for the three sisters but somehow, it is always just a little bit out of reach . Marriages occur, marriagies fail, liasons are thwarted…is there no way out of this malaise?  Ask Scott Greer who plays the doctor.  He claims he’s forgotten everything he has ever known and he just doesn’t care anymore. Surely the play can’t end on such a dismal note.  It really doesn’t, but you’ll have to come see that for yourself. Much acclaimed scenic designer Eugene Lee has made excellent use of partitions on the stage, creating two rooms and steps leading on and off the stage as actor leave and enter with great frequency.  Three Sisters is an epic piece and one review can’t do it justice. You must come to the Arden and see for yourself what the creative team had done with this masterpiece. For more information or tickets, call 215-922-1122 or visit online at