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Philadelphia Spotlight: July 2006

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Alda Cortese and Mark Lazar in The Foreigner
(Photo © Mark Garvin)
In Philadelphia, it used to be that July was a slim month in terms of local theater. Now, the area's theater scene is every bit as sizzling as the weather outside.

Malvern's well-respected People's Light and Theatre Company is mounting Larry Shue's acclaimed farce The Foreigner (through July 23). The sly comedy concerns a pair of Brits whose vacation in small-town Georgia takes a number of humorous and eventually sinister turns. Playpenn, the city's only professional new play development organization, offers staged readings of Gina Barnett's farcical A Scream, local playwright Peter Morris' comedy Bad for the Jews, Eric Pfeffinger's drama Malignance, and Scarcity, Lucy Thurber's examination of small-town USA as part of its New Play Development Conference (July 14-16).

At this month's Spark Showcase Festival (July 11-23), presented by the Greater Philadelphia Theatre Alliance, 20 small troupes will each stage a single 10-minute play reflecting the company's style and aesthetics. Some organizations like Theatre Exile, which is producing Barrymore Award winner Michael Hollinger's Naked Lunch, are well known, while others, such as Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, which is staging Samuel Beckett's Catastrophe, are making their local debut. The showcase is split into two programs of 10 plays each (July 11-16 and July 18-23).

For the past several summers the historic Hedgerow Theatre in nearby Rose Valley has mounted a work from British playwright Ray Cooney, one of the world's leading writers of farces. Director Penelope Reed's productions have been unfailingly joyous, ridiculous fun, so hopes are high for Reed's production of Cooney's West End hit Out of Order (July 6-Sept 3), a shrewdly constructed farce about a government official who gets into hot water after a romantic evening with his opposition's young typist.

Over at Center City's Theater Catalyst's 2nd Stage is local playwright Michael Friel's The Children of Fatima (July 12-August 6). Set in 1959 Philadelphia, Fatima concerns an excitable Catholic school adolescent who becomes fixated on the Letter of Fatima, a document that supposedly foretells the end of the world. The heartfelt memory play stars promising young actor Keith J. Conallen as the frisky teenager Jerry.

The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival offers a pair of classics for theatergoers this month when the company mounts Shakespeare's Othello (July 12-August 6) on the Arena Stage and the musical My Fair Lady on PSF's larger Main Stage. Both productions boast casts loaded with nationally-recognized talent.

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