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Philadelphia Spotlight: February 2009

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Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in Rent
(© Joan Marcus)
Jonathan Larson's splendid rock musical Rent (February 3-8), the story of a community of intrepid artists at the height of the AIDS epidemic, has joined the ranks of legendary American musicals. If you missed Rent when it debuted, the new touring production (presented as part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway Series) reunites the show's original stars Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal and Gwen Stewart, the original soloist on Rent's signature tune "Seasons of Love."

The busy Kimmel Center's small Innovation Studio plays host to Neil Simon's hit comedy The Odd Couple (February 5-March 1). Starring Peter Rios and the always-amusing Tony Braithwaite, the work is the popular playwright at his best and the intimate Innovation Studio is the perfect setting for this classic comedy of contrasts.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company presents the local debut of Daniel Beaty's Resurrection (through February 22). Known for his compelling examinations of race in America (most notably in his spectacular one-man show Emergency), in his new play, Beaty focuses on a community of black men whose lives are transformed by an unusual ten-year-old boy. The Lantern Theater Company starts 2009 with a new production of South African playwright Athol Fugard's 1974 drama Sizwe Bansi is Dead (through March 1). Directed by Peter DeLaurier, the play is a powerful look at South Africa's morally indecent policy of apartheid.

Theatre Exile presents the Philadelphia premiere of David Harrower's controversial drama Blackbird (February 5-March 1), which focuses on a relationship between a middle-age man and a young girl. Director Joe Canuso's production stars Julianna Zinkel and Philly actor Pearce Bunting, who returns to town following a stint on Broadway in the musical Mamma Mia! Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Shinn's gripping drama Dying City (February 10-22) occupies the stage at The Playground in a new production from Amaryllis Theatre Company. The remarkable and troubling 90-minute play concerns a young widow whose husband died in Iraq, and her relationship with the husband's gay brother.

Philadelphia's home of absurd theater Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium is celebrating the 100th anniversary of playwright Eugene Ionesco's birth with the famed dramatist's one-act play The Lesson (L'Etage Cabaret, February 22-March 18). A daunting look at the dangers of fascism, Ionesco's 65-minute work concerns an overbearing professor and his frightened pupil. The Wilma Theater presents the first major U.S. production of Lebanese-born playwright Wajdi Mouaward's international hit Scorched (February 25-March 29). A story of family secrets, the play concerns twin boys who discover that their mother spent time as a prisoner of war in the Middle East.

The Arden Theatre Company is Philadelphia's foremost producer of children's theater, and is currently staging David Wood's stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's popular children's book James and the Giant Peach (through February 8). Wood's adaptation is especially fun for younger kids and adults will be dazzled by Jorge Cousineau's innovative visual effects.

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