Theater for the Holidays!

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by Debra Miller

I’m posting a quick holiday reminder about some of the terrific plays in Philadelphia this month.  As you probably already know, with the present state of our economy, many of the small theater companies in Philadelphia are in extra need of support.  I have seen several outstanding productions in December, some sold out, but some with half-empty audiences, so I’m hoping that all of you can find the time to attend one or more of these, to keep the theater companies going strong in this time of recession. Check out their websites for tickets; you’ll be glad that you did!

“Just Married” scene with the cast of actors and puppets from Scapin, Lantern Theater Company; photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge
“Just Married” scene with the cast of actors and puppets from Scapin, Lantern Theater Company; photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge

Scapin – Lantern Theater Company (at St. Stephen’s Theater; ) – hilarious and inventive reinterpretation of Molière, set in Venice, using hybrid human/puppets; even the Inquirer raved about this one!  Great fun for all ages–kids will love the magic and slapstick, adults will get the clever gags and sophisticated humor, and everyone will appreciate the witty set design of Nick Embree and the unique puppetry of Aaron Cromie.  This is not to be missed; I saw it twice.  Extended through 1/10.

This is the Week that Is
“Game Show” scene with Dave Jadico, Brian Anthony Wilson, and Steven Wright, from This Is the Week that Is: The New Administration, 1812 Productions; photo by Mark Garvin

This Is the Week that Is:  The New Administration – 1812 Productions (at Plays and Players; ) – annual political comedy with a script that’s updated nightly based on the day’s news; includes audience participation, question-and-answer improvisation.  Jennifer Childs, Dave Jadico, and the entire changing cast are spot-on with their insightful analyses and transformations as some of the world’s movers and shakers.  They kept me laughing for the entire 2 1/2 hours; this is the best Week yet.  Extended through 1/3.

Robert Da Ponte, Russ Widdall, and Maria Panvini in When you comin back, Red Ryder?, New City Stage Company; photo by Jessica Lynn Reed
Robert Da Ponte, Russ Widdall, and Maria Panvini in When you comin back, Red Ryder?, New City Stage Company; photo by Jessica Lynn Reed

When you comin back, Red Ryder? – New City Stage Company (at the Adrienne; ), masterfully directed by Lantern co-founder Michael Brophy – intense and disturbing drama, with a brilliant cast of Philadelphia favorites; Russ Widdall’s compelling performance as the psychopath Teddy is Barrymore worthy.  Not your average holiday fare, but outstanding theater, and something different for this time of year.  Runs through 1/10.

Frank X as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Arden Theatre Company; photo by Mark Garvin
Frank X as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Arden Theatre Company; photo by Mark Garvin

Peter Pan – Arden Theater Company (at the Arden; ) – part of the Children’s Theatre series, yet with a cast that includes several of Philadelphia’s best adult actors (Chris Bresky, Sarah Sanford, and the ever-popular Frank X as Captain Hook), and directed by one of our finest young directors (and new fathers), David O’Connor.  Bring the whole family, or go with your grown-up partner and friends (as I did)!  Extended through 1/31.

Buddy the Dog, Anthony Lawton, and Janine Di Vita in Oliver!, Walnut Street Theatre; photo by Mark Garvin
Buddy the Dog, Anthony Lawton, and Janine Di Vita in Oliver!, Walnut Street Theatre; photo by Mark Garvin

And although they don’t have a play running this month, don’t forget to look for upcoming productions by our friends at Theatre Exile, EgoPo Productions, Luna, Inis Nua, and Flashpoint, or any of the other excellent theater companies in our city.  As one of his Christmas presents, I’m taking my husband to see Oliver! (featuring Scott Greer, Mary Martello, and Tony Lawton) at the Walnut Street Theatre for New Year’s Eve (runs through 1/10).  If we don’t support the arts in Philadelphia, who will?

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