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Philadelphia Spotlight: March 2011

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Dan Hodge, Paul Riopelle, David Hess and Joan Hess
in The 39 Steps
(© Craig Leaper)
If you can't find a show you like in Philadelphia this March, you are probably not looking hard enough. Area stages are overflowing with productions, making March perhaps the busiest month of the 2010-11 season.

The Walnut Street Theatre hopes to put a smile on your face with their staging of the runaway Broadway hit The 39 Steps (March 15-May 1). Part Hitchcock, part Monty Python, the play (adapted by Patrick Barlow from John Buchan's novel) is a high-octane whodunit featuring four actors portraying 150 eccentric characters.

The Wilma Theater presents Sarah Ruhl's Tony-nominated In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (March 2-April 3). For the first time since moving into their Avenue of the Arts theater 15 years ago, the Wilma's production will feature "salon-style seating" with the audience on either side of the stage. The new arrangement allows theatergoers to forge a more intimate relationship with the characters in a comedy that explores whether emotional pain can be healed with a simple press of a button.

The Arden Theatre Company continues their successful season with Tracy Letts' drama about the need for personal connection, Superior Donuts (March 3-April 3). The production is directed by Arden Associate Artistic Director Edward Sobel, who before joining the Arden in 2009, oversaw new play development at Steppenwolf Theatre where Letts developed this play, as well as his masterpiece August: Osage County, which debuts on the Arden's stage next season.

The Lantern Theater Company welcomes the first days of spring with Shakespeare's effervescent comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream (March 10-April 17). Perhaps the city's most consistent presenter of the Bard's work, the highly-physical production features four of the city's top comedic actors, including the amazingly talented Charlotte Ford.

Bristol Riverside Theatre gives theatergoers an insider's account of the Iraq War with their staging of The Eyes of Babylon (March 15-April 3). Written and performed by Jeff Keys, the solo play is based on Keys' personal journals from his military experience in Iraq before he was discharged from the service under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" police for acknowledging he is gay.

One of the most beloved films of all time gets new life with the local premiere of Disney Theatrical Production's stage adaptation of Mary Poppins (March 23-April 17). Based on P.L. Travers' stories and the classic 1964 Disney film, the family-friendly production features new songs and jaw-dropping choreography from Tony Award winner Mathew Bourne.

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