The “Theater Beat” column rounds up news and notes from the theater scene in and around Philadelphia.

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to get out more — and away from your screens — at the dawn of 2020? Philadelphia has an amazingly rich theater culture, with dozens of companies entertaining live audiences at familiar main stages like the Arden and the Wilma and at intimate quirky playhouses like the theater above the bar at the Latvian Society just off 7th and Spring Garden Streets.

In this week’s column, like last week’s, we reached out to Philadelphia theater pros for their suggestions to help you keep your resolution. (It’s more fun than dieting!)

Amina Robinson’s must-sees

Robinson, a Barrymore Award-winning director and Temple University theater professor, is directing a concert staging of Little Shop of Horrors starring the cast of The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon (Jan. 24-26). “It stands to be a great reunion for the cast and loads of fun. I definitely recommend it.” Beyond that, she’s eager to see:

  • “I am very into theater with a purpose and artist activism. Quintessence Theatre Group is doing a play called Rachel, which was the first all-black cast of a play, written by a black playwright, performed for an integrated audience in New York in 1917. I am so jazzed about seeing this production.” (Jan. 29-Feb. 16)
  • A Hundred Words for Snow at Inis Nua. “It is starring one of my former Temple students, Satchel Williams. It is a solo show and should be wonderful.” (Feb. 5- Feb. 23)
  • Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale at The Wilma Theater is most definitely on the list. I saw this show at Theatre Horizon a short time ago and it was simply amazing. Jaylene Clark Owens is a fantastic poet and actor. This piece is so important and addresses many issues surrounding gentrification and identity. (Feb. 26-March 3)
  • “I am definitely checking out and can recommend Is God Is at The Wilma as well. James Ijames is an artist in all ways, and he is directing it. I think it is worth the time to support anything with his name attached.” (May 16-June 14)

Scott Greer’s 2020 picks

Greer is a Barrymore Award-winning actor and 28-year veteran of Philadelphia theater – you’ve seen him everywhere. He’ll appear in The Best Man at the Walnut St. Theatre (March 10-April 26) and Pippin at Act II Playhouse. (May 19-June 14). Here’s what’s on his to-see list for 2020:

  • A Streetcar Named Desire at the Arden, directed by Terry Nolen. “The great Katherine Powell is playing Blanche. We did A Doll’s House and Three Sisters together. She’s magical. The rest of the cast is amazing as well.” (March 12- April 12)
  • “I’m obviously biased, but I can’t wait to see (his wife) Jen Childs’ new musical Tyndale Place at 1812 Productions. It’s about women in Levittown in the 1950s. I’ve seen various iterations in workshops over the last few years, and it’s fantastic. The music by Monica Stephenson is so good.” (April 23-May 17)
  • Interact Theatre Company’s Man of God directed by Maura Krause sounds really dark and funny. “I don’t want to give too much away about its creepy premise (based on real events), but Justin Jain and Claris Park head up a terrific cast.” (Jan. 24-Feb. 16)

Blanka Zizka recommends

Zizka, the artistic director of The Wilma Theater, will next direct Wilma’s production of Describe the Night (Jan. 28-Feb. 16) by Rajiv Joseph, the author of Broadway’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. The 2019 Obie winner for best play explores the blurred lines between lies, history, and conspiracy theories, as it tracks back and forth across 90 years of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia — “an astonishing ride,” Zizka said. On her list at other theaters are:

  • My General Tubman at the Arden Theatre Co. — a new play written by Philadelphia novelist and activist Lorene Cary and directed by James Ijames. “I’m eager to see the result of this exciting collaboration between Lorene and James, as they explore the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.” (Jan. 16-March 1)
  • Fool for Love at EgoPo (performed at the Latvian Society). “I’m excited to see the feminist director Brenna Geffers to take on the masculine writing of Sam Shepard. It will for sure be a dynamic encounter worth it to witness.” (Feb. 5-23)
  • The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe at Philadelphia Theatre Co. Nell Bang-Jensen, who has just become the Artistic Director of Theatre Horizon, directs the play. “I’m excited by Nell’s innovative thinking about theater and very curious to see how she will approach this fun play.” (April 10-May 3)
  • Babel at Theatre Exile. “This play is written by Jacqueline Goldfinger and directed by the fearless and talented Deborah Block. Jackie is a prolific local playwright, getting national attention. I loved her The Arsonists, produced at Azuka Theatre two years ago, and am looking forward seeing Babel.” (Feb. 13-March 8)

“I would also go see The Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Martha Graham Cracker in any of their pop-up performances around town," Zizka adds.