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Philadelphia Spotlight: February 2007

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Leslie Uggams
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
Philadelphia is always a busy theater town, but it is difficult to recall a month boasting the sheer number of productions that can be found on area stages this February.

A chief reason for the feast of shows is the debut of the Philadelphia New Play Festival: Where Theatre Begins (February 8-18). Presented by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the festival features world premieres from nine of the area's leading companies as well as symposiums and discussions.

The most anticipated offering is from Prince Music Theater, which presents the world premiere of Stormy Weather (February 10-March 4), about the trailblazing African-American legend, Lena Horne. Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams heads the cast of this bio-musical, which features such classic songs as "The Lady is a Tramp," "You Do Something to Me," and of course, "Stormy Weather."

The Wilma is presenting the world premiere of Enemies, A Love Story (February 7-March 11). Adapted by Sarah Schulman from Isaac Bashevis Singer's celebrated novel, the story takes place in 1949, New York City. It revolves around Herman, a Holocaust survivor who marries after the war, and then finds his first wife is still alive -- and finally takes a third bride!

One of the plays in the festival that has already opened is the Interact Theatre Company's strong production of Thomas Gibbons' A House with No Walls (running through February 18). Fluidly moving between the 18th and 21st centuries, Walls debates the influence of slavery on African-American identity.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dance up a storm in the Philadelphia Theatre Company's production of Nerds://A Musical Software Satire (though February 25). The show is the latest effort from Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner, who teamed on the off-Broadway smash The Bomb-itty of Errors, while composer Hal Goldberg's irreverent score boasts tunes with such unlikely titles as "The Window Rap" and "Stroll through the P.A.R.C."

Theatre Exile joins the new play festival with the company's collection of short plays, Hearts & Soles (February 2-25). Shining a spotlight on local playwrights, the evening features Bruce Graham's Full Figured/Loves to Dance, Michael Hollinger's Senior Moment and Truth Decay, and Arden Kass' new works Sole Searching and Kick Me.

Instead of mounting a new play, the Lantern Theater Company is staging a new translation of Arthur Schnitzler's classic drama La Ronde (February 2-25), a stylish and erotic look at relationships that ignited a scandal when it appeared in 1921.

The Walnut Street Theatre gets involved in the new play festival with the company's world premiere of M.J. Feely's Bookends (February 6-25), which concerns two best friends whose promising theater careers are thrown into turmoil when one of them is summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Continuing their commitment to new work, the Vagabond Acting Troupe is staging the first full-length production of Eric Singel's delightful solo play The Wedding Consultant (February 7-24), which debuted as a 15-minute monologue at the 2005 Philly Fringe Festival. In this outrageous and touching comedy Singel performs five characters, the most notable of which is Iris Holcombe, an experienced wedding planner who on the day of the ceremony discovers (along with the groom's family) that the soon-to-be-wed couple are the same gender.

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