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Philadelphia Spotlight: April 2011

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Jürgen Hooper stars in Wanamaker's Pursuit
(© Drew Daniels)
This April the big news in the City of Brotherly Love is the Kimmel Center's new Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (April 7-May 1), a citywide cultural extravaganza that includes among its many delights a healthy dose of local theater -- including The Arden Theatre Company's world premiere of Rogelio Martinez's Wanamaker's Pursuit (through May 22). Commissioned as part of the festival, the play is the story of Nathan Wanamaker, a prominent Philadelphian who travels to Paris in search of fabulous new fashions for his family's department store.

Also part of the festival is AUTO (April 16-May 1), the new site-specific dance-theater production from Kate Watson Wallace/anonymous bodies. A companion piece to the company's 2008 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival production CAR (which played to sold-out crowds), this new work investigates how we communicate while locked inside our various driving machines. For the performance, audiences will stroll throughout a large parking garage, and comfortable shoes are recommended as part of your theater attire.

People's Light and Theatre Company continues their tradition of reimagining classic works with their production of Henrik Ibsen's rarely performed drama The Master Builder (through April 17). The story of a dangerous encounter between a middle-aged man and a far younger woman, director Ken Marini's innovative production uses video projections to express the characters feelings at the same time their external actions are played out live on stage.

In the largest undertaking in the company's history 1812 Productions presents two productions running in repertory. Neil Simon's classic Laughter on the 23rd Floor (April 7-May 8) is based on Simon's early career as a writer for Sid Caesar's variety program Your Show of Shows. The play (which is set in the writer's room for a fictional TV variety show) is a witty recounting of how Simon and his fellow writers (which included Mel Brooks and Woody Allen among others) battled censors, deadlines, and meddling executives to produce one of the great programs in television history. The world premiere of Jennifer Childs' Our Show of Shows (April 21-May 15) is crafted specifically to run in repertory with Simon's play, as it is a humorous homage to the ground-breaking work of Sid Caesar. The production stars Childs and an ensemble featuring four of Philly's top comic actors including the always hilarious Dave Jadico.

Theatre Exile continues their successful season with their production of Noah Haidle's strange tale of love and longing, Saturn Returns (April 28-May 22). Haidle's offbeat comedy focuses on Gustin Novak, an elderly man who over the course of the play is forced to relive three pivotal days in his life. Director Brenna Geffers' production stars the magnificent Harry Philibosian, who at the age of 88 is still one of Philadelphia's most compelling actors.

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