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Philadelphia Spotlight: August 2008

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A promotional image for Disco Descending
(© Matt Clowney)
August in Philadelphia is a whirlwind of theatrical performances highlighted by the gigantically popular Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe (August 29-September 13). Now in its 12th year, the festival is a two week extravaganza featuring some of Philly's and the world's most innovative theater companies. With nearly 200 artists participating in the dual festivals there are plenty of enticing productions to choose from.

Dance-theater fans can enjoy choreographer and director Karen Getz's latest time-warping production Disco Descending (August 28-September 7). A follow up to Getz's 2006 Live Arts hit Suburban Love Songs, Descending sets the myth of Orpheus in a Saturday Night Fever universe of disco balls and dangerously high platform shoes. If you've ever wanted to star in a festival show, the English company Rotozaza gives you the opportunity in Etiquette (August 29-September 13). An intimate interactive work, at each performance two festival-goers will perform a half-hour drama fed to them through headphones while seated at a table in the quaint Last Drop Coffeehouse.

Looking ahead to September, not-to-miss Festival highlights include Emmanuelle Delphech-Ramey's Oedipus at FDR (September 4-6). One of the area's most unique performers, Delphech-Ramey updates the Greek tradition of outdoor performance by setting Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus in the concrete jungle of FDR skate park. And for theatergoers who missed Temple Theaters' acclaimed world premiere production In Conflict last fall, the show makes a return appearance at the Philly Fringe (September 3-13). Adapted for the stage by Douglas C. Wager (who also directs) from Yvonne Latty's book of interviews with Iraq War vets, the show offers a variety of perspectives on America's involvement in Iraq and war in general. Sparked by a spectacular cast of Temple University students, In Conflict was not only the best new play to debut in Philly last year, but also arguably the most important.

In non-festival news, this past season the Mauckingbird Theatre Company made an auspicious debut with the company's bewitchingly clever all-male production of The Misanthrope. For its sophomore production, Mauckingbird is presenting Joe Calarco's Shakespeare's R&J (August 1-23), an involving adaptation of Shakespeare's tragic tale of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The play focuses on the burgeoning sexual desires of four schoolboys, and stars mesmerizing young actor Evan Jonigkeit as Romeo.

Finally, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table gallop into town with the return visit of the Tony Award winning best musical Monty Python's Spamalot (Academy of Music, August 14-31). A riotous musical adaptation of the classic motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail featuring a wonderfully silly score by Eric Idle and John Du, director Mike Nichols' production is an inspired bit of ridiculousness that will have even the most staid theatergoers quaking with laughter.


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