Jane M. Von Bergen’s “Theater Beat” column rounds up news, notes, and deals from Philadelphia’s theater scene.
In the end, Norio Ariumi couldn’t do it. The Chestnut Hill hairstylist who runs Norio’s of Tokyo Hair Salon just couldn’t make himself razor Grace Gonglewski’s rich chestnut hair to create the sort of buzz cut a woman half her age with piercings might request.
He turned Gonglewski over to an assistant.
“I would never do this to my hair,” Gonglewski, a longtime Philadelphia actress, said, laughing. “It’s humorless. It’s edgy. It’s dangerous.”
But, ah, in the name of theater, specifically the Philadelphia premiere of Jen Silverman’s dark comedy, The Roommate, Gonglewski made the cut. Staged by 1812 Productions, The Roommate runs through Oct. 20 at Plays & Players. Gonglewski and her real-life best friend, Jennifer Childs, another longtime Philadelphia actress, play female Oscar and Felix types in their 50s, thrown together by circumstances.
“She’s butch. She’s gay. She’s hilarious," said Gonglewski of her character.
In her play, Silverman, who is in her 30s, raises the flag for “badass women in their 50s,” she said. “When I go to the theater, I rarely see any roles for women of that age range that are not supporting roles. When I do see older women onstage, or women in their 50s or 60s onstage, those women are generally just there; the play’s actually about younger people but those women are there to, you know, have a couple of jokes or have a couple of jokes made about them.”
Gonglewski, in her 50s, said she is already experiencing some of that older-woman invisibility. “People look right through you. They don’t take you in.”
Despite Gonglewski’s long list of credits — she has played on just about every stage in town, including 28 roles at the Arden Theatre Co. alone — she sees Silverman’s point about theater. “It’s a brutal life,” said Gonglewski, “and the older you get, the less kind it is.”
But, she said, in this play, she and Childs (their daughters, born a month apart, are also best friends) reflect the audience. “The median age of people going to see theater is this age, and they are women.”
Look for locals Shafiq Hicks and Lexi Greene in the national Broadway touring production of Rent, playing at the Merriam Theater Friday through Sunday in a quick return engagement after spring’s sellout run.
Hicks studies voice at Temple University, but is taking a break to tour with the company. A graduate of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), he has sung background for Estelle, Andrea Bocelli, and Aretha Franklin. He plays Tom Collins.
Greene, most recently seen in the world premiere of Click at Simpatico Theatre, earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of the Arts in 2019. She plays Mrs. Cohen.
The story of Falsettos rings true to Jennie Eisenhower, who directs 11th Hour Theatre Company’s production of the Tony-award winning musical, on stage through Sunday at Christ Church Neighborhood House.
“As a parent in a queer, blended family, I personally love that Falsettos explores the complications of navigating an unconventional family structure — and how it isn’t blood alone that makes a family, but love, friendship, and even shared adversities and trauma,” Eisenhower said.
Main character Marvin appears to have it all – perfect life, perfect wife, loving son. Then Marvin falls in love with another man and leaves his wife, forcing all of them to redefine what it means to be a family.