Philly Fringe Preview at Plays and Players (I)

by Walter Bender

The following is the first of 3 weekly articles about “On Stage Philadelphia – Philly Fringe Previews” at Plays and Players in Philadelphia.

Plays and Players Theater in Philadelphia hosts a very unique entertainment experience each year. “On Stage Philadelphia” is a preview of the very popular Philly Fringe Festival, which takes place every year in September and allows dedicated artists from every performance discipline the opportunity to display their talents over several weeks. Plays and Players have assembled some of the artists and organizations who are participating in the festival, and over the course of 3 Monday evenings audiences are treated to sneak-previews of the various productions.

August 16th’s offerings were varied, and represented theatre, opera, dance and performance art. The show is a very relaxed environment, hosted by Chris Morse of Rep Radio. Mr. Morse has a very easy going delivery and a ready wit, and performs his duties with a great deal obvious enjoyment. He introduces each preview, does announcements, and riffs when things go a bit awry, as in when an electric connection broke prior to one preview. Mr. Morse managed to keep everyone engaged until things were ready to go.

There were eight previews on this first night. Opening the previews was “Etty”, by EttyPlay Inc. Susan Stein did a monologue from the show, detailing some of the title character’s experiences during the Holocaust. Ms. Stein showed great range with her character’s wit, sensuality, and determination.

The second preview was “Sephro” by Quinn Compositions. Sephro is a fantasy opera. As it says in the program, “When a coven of pagan witches unite with beings from another planet, divine spirituality of mankind triumphs over evil.” We were treated to 2 solos and a duet from the opera. The first solo was performed a capella due to the electrical connection issue I mentioned, and the soloist performed beautifully. All of the singers have beautiful voices, and I for one am looking forward to seeing the entire opera.

“Mindless Drivel” by ReapProductions also did a preview. John Beecher did a monologue and sang a song accompanying himself on guitar. He shows a very nice range artistically and vocally.

The host theater did a 5 minute radio drama by their “Hear Again Radio Project”, where they perform old-time radio broadcasts on stage complete with Foley sound effects, era costumes, background music and even classic commercials. As a fan of old-time radio, I look forward to seeing more of these classics performed on their stage.

After intermission, we were “Between Trains” by Gas & Electric Arts. This was a very interesting combination of theater, music and dance. The choreography was very effective and the preview was fun to watch.

The Historical Theatre Acting Group did a scene from “Ben”, an original play (and world premiere) detailing the issues of slavery, women’s rights and independence. Michael Powell, Gavin Young, and Rocco Amato portrayed Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock respectively…and respectfully. I especially enjoyed Mr. Powell’s interpretation of Ben Franklin, displaying Mr. Franklin’s self-deprecating humor and great intelligence. This looks like a wonderful historical drama.

“Potential is Not Reality”…or so says Rita Lynn and the Found Objects, a synthesis of 1950’s style beatnik poetry, Chicago slam, improvisation exercises and performance art. A series of boxes and other objects are strewn about the stage, and the performers find inventive ways to use the objects as a 3-piece orchestra plays a background theme to the poetry of Ms. Lynn.

The evening’s previews concluded with a performance of “House Arrest/Watergate the Musical”. This looks like a very funny musical comedy. The lead character gets himself sentenced to house arrest so he doesn’t have to leave his apartment, and in order to keep busy he commits to write Watergate the Musical. We were treated to one of the songs from his musical after the setup scene. Special kudos to the director who had to step in for one of the performers who texted to quit the production ½ hour prior to curtain!

After the previews, the audience can interact with the various casts in the lobby of the theatre as well as the bar upstairs (for people who haven’t been to Plays and Players there is a bar on the third floor of the building.) There is also a raffle of tickets to each of the shows previewed after intermission.

All in all, this was a wonderful evening of entertainment. I will be attending the next 2 Monday evenings and will be back with reports on the previews. If you are in the area, come to Plays and Players and join me. I’m the one sitting in the back scribbling notes in a small pad and enjoying each of the previews.

2010 Phildelphia Fringe Preview
August 16, 23 and 30, 2010
Plays and Players Theatre
1714 Delancey Place
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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