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Saturday, January 28, 2017

                                    ICON Magazine Theater January 2017

Found. This PTC millennial song fest celebrates the story of Davy ( F. Michael Haynie) and his magazine of the same name that publishes random notes found in the city. With his roommates Mikey D (Juwan Crawley) and Denise (Alysha Desloreieux), Davy’s gimmicky, substance-starved magazine soon lands him an interview on NPR. Success is assured when a beautiful Hollywood female producer, Becka (Erika Henningsen) offers to transform Found into a TV show. Davy flies to LA, leaving Mikey D. and wannabe girlfriend Denise in the dust although his dreams of major celebrity crash when the Hollywood project fails and the affair with Becka ends. Davy then resurrects the magazine after a profound apology to Denise, whereupon everyone begins dancing and breaking out the Pabst. Found is based on the real life experiences of Davy Rothbart and his magazine of the same name and theme with music and lyrics by Eli Bolin. The music is charming although a few of the numbers don’t connect to the story at all. Part After School Special, main stage Walnut Street Theater, and SNL skit, the enthusiasm of the cast is contagious and Crawley’s falsetto is arresting, even if many in the cast look like they could use six months at Planet Fitness.     

  Black Nativity. New Freedom Theatre kicked off its 50th anniversary with this colorful, drum enhanced production. The traditional epic of Mary (Leedea Harrison) and Joseph (Jordan Dobson) and the manger in Bethlehem included classic Christmas songs mixed with African drumming and dancing. The dazzling effect and brilliant costumes electrified an old story. Under the direction of Freedom’s new artistic director, Rajendra Ramon Maharaj, Black Nativity also blended the story of another Mary (Lauren Morgan) and Joseph (James Pitts, Jr.) from Africa’s war torn (and atrocity ridden) Darfur area. While Mary and Joseph #1 escape Herod’s hunt for Jewish first born sons, Darfur’s (pregnant) Mary contemplates suicide after presuming Joseph has been killed. “There is no God in Darfur!” she laments, as soldiers rape and murder local villagers.  The parallel stories merge gracefully when Darfur Mary looks into the eyes of the Bethlehem babe, after which Joseph returns and Mary gives birth to a son. While the melding of the two stories has some clumsy moments, by the end of the musical the juxtaposition is at perfect pitch.

 Last of the Red Hot Lovers.  The Walnut Street Theater takes us back to 1969 with Neil Simon’s seminal hit about a 47 year old married Manhattan fish restaurateur who wants his share of the Sixties sexual revolution despite the fact that he has to use his mother’s studio apartment for his assignations. Can this Mamma’s boy get any satisfaction?  (January 10-February 5).

Constellations.  It’s boy meets girl again at The Wilma as Director Tea Alagic brings us the convoluted love story of physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland whose relationship falls into the vagaries of quantum physics or a universe filled with more questions than answers and too many ‘maybes.’ This 3 hour, 15 minute drama has two 10 minute intermissions, so buckle down. Jake Gyllenhaal of Brokeback Mountain fame and Ruth Wilson played the Constellation lovers to great acclaim on the off-Broadway stage. If you can get over an aversion to physics, bee stings, and millennial angst, then Constellations might be a good antidote to winter. (January 11-February 5)   

John.  The season of the long plays continues with the Arden Theatre Company’s 3 and a half hour story of Brooklynites, Elias and Jenny, a feuding married couple (Jenny once had an affair) who visit a Gettysburg B&B and get talking with a blind woman who has  other worldly perceptions. Slate describes John as an “examination of the murkiness of human relationships.”  When the play first ran at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre, large numbers of subscribers walked out because of the protracted silences onstage. John has since been reconfigured.