Donna Dougherty, Daniel Robaire,and Arrie Callahan in Move over Mrs. Markham
Donna Dougherty, Daniel Robaire,
and Arrie Callahan
in Move over Mrs. Markham
A tradition in Philadelphia is that summer belongs to the small companies -- a tradition that has allowed several organizations to get some much-deserved attention for what has turned out to be some of the year's most original productions.

For the past three summers, the Hedgerow Theatre in Media has produced a play by British farceur Ray Cooney, and his work suits the company's talents perfectly. This year's offering, Move Over Mrs. Markham, involves a publisher and his wife who have lent their apartment separately to friends, each of whom intends to use the residence for an extramarital affair. At the same time, the couple's interior designer has plans to use the flat for his own surreptitious rendezvous. Markham's wit and Hedgerow's bucolic setting and historic theater make this the perfect summer treat (through August 28).

On a more serious note, when Mathew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten to death on a hill outside of Laramie, Wyoming, the crime alarmed the nation, leading to renewed calls for hate crime legislation. The Tectonic Theater Project's The Laramie Project uses interviews with Laramie residents to show us an ordinary town that after the murder suddenly finds itself the center of a maelstrom of religious indignation and media attention. Theatre Horizon mounts this hugely theatrical play with a cast including Barrymore winners Mike Dees and Christine Mazzarini and with inventive director K. C. Nocero at the helm (August 5-13).

Coincidentally, the Simpatico Theatre Company's production of Diana Son's much-celebrated drama Stop Kiss revolves around an incident of gay-bashing. The play concerns the budding relationship between Sarah, an idealistic schoolteacher from St. Louis, and Callie, a street-savvy New York traffic reporter. Son's depiction of the women's unspoken attraction to each other may be a bit outdated for some, but the scene in which an innocent kiss leads to their attack is still deeply upsetting. The play suits Simpatico's mission of promoting "positive social change" and with Carol Laratonda directing, this should be a sensitive and insightful treatment of this compelling work (August 4-26).

The Lenape Regional Arts Center will try to accomplish what the Center City companies Brat Productions and Tapestry Theatre could not manage this spring: to put on a production of Grease that the show's licensing agent, Samuel French, doesn't object to. Helmed by the talented Jen Childs, Lenape's production includes four songs from the film version, which gives audiences a chance to hear such gems as "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "You're the One that I Want," in addition to the show's original score (August 20-September 11).

Mum Puppettheatre welcomes Jim Napolitano to its tiny Old City stage with his contemporary adaptation of the Appalachian folk tale Jack and the Beanstalk. Presented in four parts, Napolitano's version has Jack going to market to sell his cow Moo-Moo. Along the way he meets a fast-talking fellow named Homeboy with magic beans. So begins an adventure in which Jack finds himself with a steady job in the land of giants. It's not your grandma's Beanstalk, but the little ones will find it equally entertaining (August 6-28).

Finally, we're looking ahead to next month's Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe. Although these two concurrently run events don't begin until September 2, tickets are available beginning August 5 and several of the shows are certain to sell out. Some particularly popular productions will be New Paradise Laboratories' Planetary Enzyme Blues, which was inspired by Philadelphians who made the 1960s a hotbed of progressive experimentation; the Obie-winning Pig Iron Theatre Company's new work Pay Up, a gigantic installation/site-specific work in which audiences will move through 10 "chamber pieces" where they will be faced with the decisions and moral dilemmas that arise from the exchange of money; and a revamped version of Patio Plastico, the acclaimed dance-theater production about a family searching for nature on their synthetic patio.