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Philadelphia Spotlight: March 2007

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Joilet F. Harris in Caroline, or Change
(© John Flak)
In February, the local theater landscape was dominated by world premieres, but March brings a spate of proven shows, several of which will be making their local debut this month.

At the Arden Theatre Company, you'll find the Philadelphia premiere of the Olivier Award-winning musical Caroline, or Change (March 8-April 8). Created by librettist/lyricist Tony Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori, the story focuses on Caroline, an African-American maid working for a Jewish family in 1960s Louisiana. Director Terrence J. Nolen had previous success with Tesori's Violet and with the wonderful Joliet F. Harris cast as Caroline; the production appears poised to become one of the season's hottest tickets.

The Blue Ridge Theatre Festival teams with Azuka Theatre to present Lee Blessing's Two Rooms (March 9-24), co-directed by Bev Appleton and the talented Deborah Seif. The play tells of a woman's desperate attempts to remain in touch with her husband, an American professor in Beirut who has been abducted by a Shiite militia. The distressingly relevant production stars Appleton, Catharine Slusar, Julie Czarnecki, and the versatile Steven Wright.

While the innovative rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening currently garners rave reviews on Broadway, local audiences will have the rare opportunity to see Wedekind's startling drama in its original form when EgoPo productions presents the local premiere of Spring Awakening (March 9-25), which is staged with a cast of 11 actors clad in a variety of grotesque masks.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company will host Primary Stages and Perry Street Theatre's production of the widely-acclaimed In the Continuum (March 16-April 15). Created and performed by Danai Gurira (who gave a memorable performance in PTC's 2005 production of Tracey Scott Wilson's The Story) and Nikkole Salter, director Robert O' Hara's Obie award-winning production focuses on a single weekend in the lives of two HIV-positive women, one in Africa and one in Los Angeles.

Philadelphians will finally get a chance to revel in the silliness of Monty Python's Spamalot, which is making its local debut at the Academy of Music (March 20-April 8) as part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway at the Academy series. The winner of three 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, director Mike Nichols' stage adaptation of the uproarious film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.

The Walnut Street Theatre celebrates the oncoming of spring with the uplifting Enchanted April (March 13-April 29), based on the 1922 novel about a proper Englishwoman and a mysterious socialite who spend a luxurious holiday in an Italian villa. This irresistible tale of love, friendship and transformation stars Ian Merrill Peakes, Dan Olmstead, and Alicia Roper.

Last, but definitely not least, the acclaimed Pig Iron Theatre Company delves deep into the human mind in their new work Chekhov Lizardbrain (March 28-April 15). Based on Paul D. MacLean's "three brain" theory that supposes human beings possess a trio of brains representing various levels of neurological evolution, the show employs elements of Anton Chekhov's masterpiece Three Sisters in a comic quest to discover the origins of human behavior.

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