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Monday, November 7, 2016

Philly Theater Reviews, ICON Magazine November 2016

                                      (My)  ICON  Magazine Theater Reviews November 2016 

   ‘Impressive’ describes Interact Theatre’s production of George Brant’s Grounded, a one woman show directed by Kathryn Macmillan starring Kittson O’Neill as The Pilot assigned to operate a fighter drone in the Middle East from an office in the Las Vegas desert. O’Neill is brilliant as she takes us through The Pilot’s various mental states, from delirious boredom when nothing happens to Zero Hour mania when she presses the deploy button obliterating her human targets. O’Neill is even better conveying The Pilot’s slow psychological deconstruction while spending weeks tracking a major terrorist leader. Her obsession with the target affects her marriage and invites a nervous breakdown: she is ultimately unable to kill the terrorist because his daughter, a mirror image of her own child, awakens her mother’s instincts. An unsentimental male colleague is then forced to complete the execution. Feminists may hate this play because it shows the vulnerability of a mother when it comes to emotion and the language of the heart.

 The little theatres in The Drake on Hicks Street are attracting a fair amount of attention. The petite Louis Bluver Theatre hosted Azuka Theatre’s presentation of How We Got on by Idris Goodwin, an 80s ode to teenage angst and rap. The Proscenium Theatre will present another world premier. Douglas Williams’ Shitheads (February 22-March 12), about a once popular Manhattan bike shop that is losing its customers to a competing business across the street. In yet another world premier, Azuka will present Philadelphia playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger’s  The Arsonists (May 3-21), a Florida swamp based story about a father and daughter inspired by the Greek tragedy, Electra.  Azuka Theatre is the first theater company in Philadelphia (and the nation) to offer Pat What You Decide (PWYD) for the entire 2016-17 season.  

      When Bruce Graham’s RIZZO premiered at Theater Exile last fall, reviews were good but mixed. PTC’s production of the play with the same cast (Scott Greer as Rizzo) was much improved, thanks to PTC dramaturge Carrie Chapter. The new production incorporated many references to the current presidential race.  The PTC Rizzo was an even more divisive and controversial figure than his Theatre Exile counterpart. At the Rizzo press preview, Executive Producing Director Sara Garonzik, who will leave PTC after the 2917 season, introduced former Governor Ed Rendell, who reminded the audience that Rizzo was a product of his times and, like everyone, a combination of both good and bad traits.   Philadelphia will never see another Frank Rizzo. Intensely charismatic on a personal level, the former mayor was half in love with tyranny, police raids, and police wagons roaming the streets picking up anyone who looked suspicious or out of the ordinary.    


Jen Childs, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of 1812 Productions looks great in a fat suit, especially when she’s playing Chris Christie. Childs has also invented her own character, Patsy, a South Philly stoop lady who dispenses bits of wisdom in Philadeliaeese. Patsy illuminated 1812’s 2016 version of its oft repeated show, This is the Week That Is, when she compared Hillary Clinton to “the Iggles” and Donald Trump to “scrapple.” The bi-partisan spoof no doubt “upset” political ideologues who want satire to reflect a particular bias. The non-stop laugh-a-thon starred Scott Greer and Alex Bechtel as Trump, and had skits on Vladimir Putin, climate change and Obamacare,

 Sharr White’s plays include Stupid Kid, Sunlight and The Snow Geese. The award winning playwright’s The Other Place premiered at The Walnut’s Independence Studio on 3. The unsettling drama about a successful neurologist, Juliana, who battles a failing marriage and a crisis involving her daughter, holds yet another nightmare: the fact that she may have the same kind of brain tumor that killed her mother. Independence Studio 3 lightens up somewhat with the Irish Repertory Theatre of New York’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales (Nov. 15-Dec. 23).  The New York Times writes:  “Thomas’s work is a cavalcade of imagery and sensation — the snowy sights, smells and sounds that marked the Christmases of his boyhood. “  Figgy pudding for all!