Jane M. Von Bergen rounds up news and notes from the theater scene in and around Philadelphia.
Time to binge on theater. Philly Theatre Week begins Thursday, Feb. 6, with 75 participating organizations offering 300 events at prices of $30 a ticket, $15 a ticket, and free. It’s a good, long week, ending Feb. 16.
So, what can you see? Main stages are offering $30 tickets for seats that often cost much more. Three examples: Describe the Night at Wilma Theater (full price $48-$52), Everything Is Wonderful at Philadelphia Theatre Company (up to $69 full price), and Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance at the Walnut Street Theatre (regular ticket prices range from $27-$87).
The $15 tickets are a sweet spot for checking out smaller companies you’ve been meaning to catch, with shows like Tribe of Fools’ semi-funny, semi-poignant take on depression, You Really Shouldn’t Be Doing What You’re Doing on That Ladder (performed at 200 Spring Garden, Unit C).
Oddly enough, two of the $15 shows involve beds. Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater’s In Bed (at Plays and Players) is improvised from audience submissions about “something memorable that happened to you in or around a bed.” Unattended Baggage’s $15 ticket The Bed Show is described as “an immersive site-specific talk show … performed in an actual bed in someone’s apartment." The location is emailed to ticket-holders 24 hours before the show.
Do you want theater with cream cheese? Try Ruth and Estelle’s A Sequins of Fortunate Events, also in the $15 tier, premiering at the Bagel Place in Queen Village.
Free events include readings of new plays like James Ijames’ Fat Ham (Feb. 15 from Azuka Theatre, at the Drake) and experimental theater like Jillian Jetton’s Heat Wave (Bartram’s Garden, Feb. 13 and 16).
Included in the theater week offerings are plenty of plays making their local premieres this season, including:
Yes, all the roles in King Lear at Bristol Riverside Theatre are played by women, but that wasn’t the plan — not at first, said Eric Tucker, founder and artistic director of New York’s Bedlam theater company, which is bringing William Shakespeare’s drama to Bristol in advance of New York productions.
“It was more about finding the actors who were available and who could be out of [New York], and that’s how it ended up all women,” Tucker said. “For me, the whole female thing isn’t the crux.”
Throughout Philly Theatre Week, tickets to King Lear are available for $15. King Lear and Theatre Week end Feb. 16.
Tucker said he has long been workshopping versions of the story of the aging king who loses his kingdom, his daughters, and his life in his quest for love and affirmation. What interests him is how the story and characters change whenever a new actor steps into the part.
In some versions, Tucker has had actors switch roles and take turns playing King Lear mid-performance to bring new perspectives to the characters. Not so in Bristol. “Everything comes down to people in the room — to the people in the rehearsal room,” he said. “I don’t stick to any preconceived notions.”
Typically, King Lear productions run three hours, but the Bristol show is an hour and a half, told strictly from the point of view of King Lear, minus many of Shakespeare’s added subplots, Tucker said.
He has cast Zuzanna Szadkowski as King Lear. You’ll recognize her from television, particularly in the role of the maid, Dorota Kishlovsky, on the CW Network’s teen drama series Gossip Girl, as well as The Sopranos, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Guiding Light.
The recent Temple University theater grad makes her professional debut in Inis Nua’s A Hundred Words for Snow, a one-woman show that runs through Feb. 23.
Williams, 22, plays a 15-year-old — just “a third off,” she notes cheerfully. “There’s something about reliving the craziest time in your life that makes you really grateful for how far you’ve come as an adult and to remember what it was like to be at that precipice of how much you know and how much you don’t know.”
Williams’ character, Rory, has suffered a tragedy — her father, a geography teacher, died suddenly. Rory decides to take his ashes on her father’s dream trip to the North Pole. “He can still go to the North Pole, if I take him,” Williams said. Williams said she has never suffered a similar loss, but she can relate to Rory’s love for her parents.
“What she’s doing is amazing and incredible. She takes on this whole adventure. It’s out of love,” she said. “Love and grief are closely connected.”
Philadelphia author Lorene Cary’s My General Tubman extends for a second time, now until March 15, at the Arden Theatre Co.