‘Take A Bow’ Part 1 in Philadelphia: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers

Here is the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ first series of ‘Take A Bow!’ Fall 2016 honorees in Philadelphia:

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Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and Chickabiddy, creators and performers of Exile 2588 at the Painted Bride Art Center.

Nick Gillette, Lauren Johns, and Ben Grinberg. Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Nick Gillette, Lauren Johns, and Ben Grinberg. Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Chickabiddy (Emily Schuman and Aaron Cromie). Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Chickabiddy (Emily Schuman and Aaron Cromie). Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Io, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrum’s principles of existential risk and human enhancement ethics, and the popular genre of science fiction, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre created an ingenious space epic that raised big issues about life, death, and the destiny of humankind in Exile 2588. The futuristic adaptation featured Almanac’s remarkably gifted ensemble of creators/performers (Ben Grinberg, Nick Gillette, Nicole Burgio, Mark Wong, and Lauren Johns), combining its signature style of dazzling acrobatics, engaging acting, and amusing wit with poignant and haunting original live folk music, narration, and commentary composed and performed by the supremely talented duo Chickabiddy (Aaron Cromie and Emily Schuman). – Deb Miller.

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 Tina Brock as Old Woman and Bob Schmidt as Old Man in Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs at Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium.

Tina Brock, Tomas Dura, and Bob Schmidt. Photo by Johanna Austin/AustinArt.

Tina Brock, Tomas Dura, and Bob Schmidt. Photo by Johanna Austin/AustinArt.

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s razor-sharp production of Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs presented a wildly sardonic view of life’s futility in hysterically funny, deeply disquieting, award-worthy performances by company Co-Founders Tina Brock and Bob Schmidt as the protagonists, and supported by long-time IRC member Tomas Dura as The Orator. Under Brock’s expert direction, every intonation, facial expression, gesture, and pose was spot-on and flawlessly delivered with a perfectly constructed rhythm, high-decibel urgency, and rapid-fire pace, as they tackled Ionesco’s message head-on, with full-throttle force and an unmatched comprehension of the absurd. – Deb Miller.

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Kim Carson as Chanteuse in Sleeping Beauty: A Musical Panto at People’s Light.

Kim Carson in 'Sleeping Beauty.' Photo by Mark Garvin.

Kim Carson in ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Photo by Mark Garvin.

The captivating Kim Carson was back at People’s Light as the villain once again in this year’s original reimagining of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty: A Musical Panto. Eliciting enthusiastic boos and hisses from the crowd as the wicked rock star Chanteuse, she had a spot-on English accent, the look of Keith Richards, the moves like Jagger, and was “Bad Just Because.” Along with her hilarious characterization, powerhouse vocals, and impeccable comic timing, she brought an unbridled sense of enjoyment to her deliciously evil role, as she strutted around the stage, took silly pratfalls, and interacted with the audience under the zany direction of Pete Pryor. – Deb Miller.

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Nick Cearley as Alex in Buyer & Cellar at Bucks County Playhouse.

Nick Cearley. Photo courtesy of Buck County Playhouse

Nick Cearley. Photo courtesy of Buck County Playhouse

Cearley plays all the roles in this comedy about an obsessive Barbra Streisand fan who ends up working for his idol. With a subject like that, Buyer & Cellar could have turned into an overblown campfest. But Nick Cearley never mimics Streisand; instead, with a few subtle gestures, he conveys her spirit. And he shows how her presence transforms an ordinary – well, extraordinary – fan. In a show about stardom, Cearley never lets you forget that what makes stars great is the way they inspire others.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Designers: Ed Chapman, David Neville, Stephen Gifford and Mary Folino behind The Wizard of Oz at Walnut Street Theatre

The Company of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by Mark Garvin.

The Company of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by Mark Garvin.

A true treat it is indeed to behold the technical wizardry performed in The Wizard of Oz. The transition from somber, dismal misty hues at the opening, into the terrific tempest scene that escalates where sound designed by Ed Chapman, and lighting by David Neville seem to carry the storm into the aisles, until the curtain rises on the Munchkinland where the vibrant costume colors, simply pop against a bright, spectacularly attired set devised by Stephen Gifford, is tremendous.

In other spots Monkeys and other characters do fly, fire shoots from the Wicked Witch’s finger tips and broom, echoes rebound from powerful beings, and light lifts and sets moods, shifting them splendidly. Scene changes and segues appear seamless, and the complexity of sumptuous, multi-textured, costumes fashioned by Mary Folino are a fascinating in of themselves. The layers and detail of the Tinman’s and Lion’s outfits, the Crows, gleefully played by Jesse Jones and Ben Liebert, the Lollipop Guild and more, are incredible and stunning. Watching these technical feats unfold is like adding a double rainbow to the show!-Lisa Panzer.

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Jace Clayton, Composer of Room 21 at The Barnes Foundation.

Ben Lee, Jace Clayton, and Gezachew Habtemariam (front), with violinists from the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra (behind), in ‘Room 21’ at the Barnes Foundation. Photo by Max Lakner.

Ben Lee, Jace Clayton, and Gezachew Habtemariam (front), with violinists from the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra (behind), in ‘Room 21’ at the Barnes Foundation. Photo by Max Lakner.

Composer Jace Clayton served as coordinator for the commissioned work Room 21, curating, crafting, and orchestrating its ten complex segments, and collaborating with his musicians in presenting new arrangements of existing works. The most beautiful and inspiring aspect of Clayton’s exquisite multi-layered piece, as with the Barnes collection that inspired it, was its spirit of adjacency. Though different traditions and eras were brought together in Room 21, the individual ingredients were not subsumed by the whole into one indistinguishable melting pot; each part retained its autonomy. There was integration without obliteration; harmony without homogeny. Jace Clayton achieved in music what we should all strive for in the world. – Deb Miller.

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Janis Dardaris as Mother Courage in Mother Courage and Her Children at Quintessence Theatre.

Janis Dardaris (as Mother Courage) and Forrest McClendon (as The Cook). Photo by Shawn May.

Janis Dardaris (as Mother Courage) and Forrest McClendon (as The Cook). Photo by Shawn May.

Janis Dardaris was an imposing presence as Mother Courage. As a war profiteer who is willing to switch sides when money calls, she was more fearsome than the strongest army. Dardaris’ powerful performance was up to the role’s epic demands.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Chris Davis in One-Man Apocalypse Now at the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Chris Davis. Photo courtesy of Chris Davis.

Chris Davis. Photo by Jen Brown.

Paying tribute to an iconic movie while poking fun at its excesses, Chris Davis captured the film’s sense of spectacle on a decidedly smaller scale. And in his performance, he lampooned the intensity of Brando, Duvall with the fervor of a true fan. Davis made a voyage into the heart of darkness seem like a whole lot of fun.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Jennie Eisenhower as Mother in A Christmas Story: The Musical at Media Theatre.

Randy (Aidan Crane) and his Mom (Jennie Eisenhower). Photo courtesy of The Media Theatre.

Randy (Aidan Crane) and his Mom (Jennie Eisenhower). Photo courtesy of The Media Theatre.

It’s nice to go to the theatre in a town where Jennie Eisenhower gets entrance applause. And she lived up that ovation in A Christmas Story: The Musical, playing a mother who wants no applause of her own – even though she’s the glue that keeps her family together.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Adrienne Eller as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at Walnut Street Theatre.

Bill Van Horn, Dusty and Adrienne Eller. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Bill Van Horn, Dusty and Adrienne Eller. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Adrienne Eller brings strength and sweetness to the role of Dorothy along with a strong, beautifully clear voice when singing or speaking. She graces Dorothy an overall touching sincerity that could pierce through the toughest core, particularly during “Over the Rainbow.” Her manner and interaction with other characters on stage appears perfectly youthful, unaffected and trusting. Toto, her dog, played by Dusty, a rescue, is adorable and amazingly well trained by William Berloni. Her interactions with the fabulously fun and talented Christopher Sutton as the plucky Scarecrow, Christopher Shin as the tender-hearted Tinman, Nichalas L. Parker as the ferociously funny Cowardly Lion, darling Dusty playing Toto, as well as with the entirely wonderful cast are ever endearing.- Lisa Panzer.

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Josh Hitchens as the Narrator in Masque of the Red Death at the Mütter Museum.

.Josh Hitchens. Photo by Ray Costello.

.Josh Hitchens. Photo by Ray Costello.

To commemorate the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death in October 1849, the ever spellbinding Josh Hitchens devised and performed a one-night-only immersive presentation of Poe’s spine-chilling short story The Masque of the Red Death. Narrating the unnerving tale in direct address, Hitchens–illuminating himself and the room with only a hand-held blood-red light–gesticulated with coiled fingers, moved up and down in the near darkness, and raised his increasingly agitated voice to a state of panic, as eerie noises, the strains of classical music, and the ticking of a clock provided an evocative background soundscape (lighting and sound design by Ken Jordan). – Deb Miller.

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The Ensemble (Kirsten Quinn as Molly, Ethan Lipkin as Frank, and Michael Toner as Mr. Rice) of Molly Sweeney at Irish Heritage Theatre. 

Ethan Lipkin, Kirsten Quinn, and Michael Toner. Photo by Jim Guckin.

Ethan Lipkin, Kirsten Quinn, and Michael Toner. Photo by Jim Guckin.

Filled with poetic language, engaging characters, and penetrating insights into the human condition, Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney represents the tradition of Irish storytelling at its very best. Told in the format of rotating direct-address monologues, the funny and heartrending three-hander requires a cast who can deliver all of the humor and pathos, hope and despair, enthusiasm and pain, and joys and hardships inherent in life. Irish Heritage Theatre’s production–directed by Peggy Mecham and starring Kirsten Quinn, Ethan Lipkin, and Michael Toner—did it beautifully, with thought-provoking acuity, profound sensitivity, and genuine humanity. – Deb Miller.

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Brenna Geffers, Creator and Director of Shadow House at the Philadelphia Opera Collective and PhilaLandmarks.

Brenna Geffers. Photo courtesy of the Artist.

Brenna Geffers. Photo courtesy of the Artist.

Spirits of the people who inhabited the Powel House at different periods in its history simultaneously moved through its rooms with an ethereal presence, as their paths crossed and they re-enacted in song, movement, and word momentous scenes from their lives. A collaboration between the Philadelphia Opera Collective and PhilaLandmarks (which administers the purportedly haunted 18th-century site), Shadow House was an exquisitely beautiful synthesis of opera, theater, and local history, created and directed by Artist-in-Residence Brenna Geffers. Designed as a fully immersive choose-your-own-adventure site-specific experience, audiences followed ten unearthly characters around the interior and grounds, and, under Geffers’ visionary direction, were transported to another realm. – Deb Miller.

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Laura Giknis in Working at Bristol Riverside Theatre.

Laura Giknis and the Ensemble. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Laura Giknis and the Ensemble. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Each member of the ensemble of the musical Working played multiple roles, and Laura Giknis was no exception – playing a personal care worker in one scene, a socialite fundraiser in another. But she gave a touching pathos to her performance of the James Taylor song “Millwork” as she portrayed a woman stuck in a dead-end job on an assembly line. As she stared off into space, she conveyed the despair of someone who knows that her job is killing her soul – and maybe more than that.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Zoran Kovcic as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Hedgerow Theatre.

Zoran Kovcic as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Hedgerow Theatre.

Zoran Kovcic as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Hedgerow Theatre.

Zoran Kovcic brings forth a believable and adorable Scrooge, one of the best ever. The changes in his demeanor as his miserly, curmudgeon character grows from initially inflicting pain, then having to endure it, to ultimately wishing to relieve it in others, reflects the talents of an immensely well versed artist. Through his captivating rendition of this central role, Kovcic brings the spirit of A Christmas Carol to life.- Lisa Panzer.

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Matthew Mastronardi, Musical Director and Vocal Director of A Child’s Christmas in Wales at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Clockwise from left: Matthew Mastronardi, Aaron Cromie, Scott Greer, Amanda Jill Robinson, and Maggie Lakis. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Clockwise from left: Matthew Mastronardi, Aaron Cromie, Scott Greer, Amanda Jill Robinson, and Maggie Lakis. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Matthew Mastronardi was a cast member and also the musical and vocal director of  A Child’s Christmas in Wales.  The production is a classic presented at many theatres but what made this one special were the superb musical numbers and the talented musicians. These actor/musicians were led by Matthew Mastronardi.-Celeste Mann.

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Ombelico Mask Ensemble, Creators and Performers of Omeletto: Like Hamlet, Only Scrambled at Liberty Lands Park.

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 Commedia dell’arte and Shakespeare were united in an irresistible concoction of “infinite jest” in an original world-premiere deconstruction of Hamlet. Created and performed by Ombelico Mask Ensemble, Omeletto: Like Hamlet, Only Scrambled synthesized all of Shakespeare’s dramatic characters with the comic archetypes from the 16th-century Italian genre in a madcap ensemble-devised work. Directed with flair by John Bellomo and presented al fresco per convention, an international cast–speaking a variety of languages and wearing traditional masks and costumes brought a wacky new perspective to the Bard’s tragic story, delivering all of the major plot points with exceptional wit and impressive physical agility. There were silly slapstick fight scenes, clever improvisations with the all-ages audience, and hilarious sight and sound gags, all of which made it a highlight of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. – Deb Miller.

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Eleni Delopoulos, Emilie Krause, and Adam Hammet. Photo by Katie Reing.

Eleni Delopoulos, Emilie Krause, and Adam Hammet. Photo by Katie Reing.

 The Ensemble (Emilie Krause as Jill, Adam Hammet as Ollie, and Eleni Delopoulos as Miss Dee) of Radiant Vermin at Inis Nua Theatre Company.

The pace of Radiant Vermin was lightning fast, the sardonic humor never stopped, and the cast of three was absolutely hilarious. Emilie Krause as the excitable Jill and Adam Hammet as the more considered Ollie captured all of the couple’s laughable feelings of entitlement, misguided enthusiasm, and clueless self-delusion in side-splitting performances, using only a few essential props and miming the rest, in their animated recollections, episodic re-enactments, audience interactions, and direct-address storytelling. Prodded and rewarded by the devilishly persuasive, mysterious, and mercurial Eleni Delopoulos as Miss Dee (her send-up of an aggressive real estate agent was priceless!), Krause and Hammet remained completely likeable and engaging, despite the outrageous actions and familiar excuses of the ethically-challenged and increasingly greedy characters. – Deb Miller.

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Matt Reher as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises at the Ritz Theatre Company.

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It can be hard to win over an audience when you’re playing someone who compromises his integrity for a chance at a promotion. But Matt Reher’s charming persona did the trick, and his fine baritone was up to the challenge of Burt Bacharach’s tricky melodies.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Michaela Schuchman in the one woman show Scarlet Letters in the 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Michaela Shuchman. Photo by Madeline Charne.

Michaela Shuchman. Photo by Madeline Charne.

Michaela Schuchman successfully pulled off a one-woman show, which is not an easy feat. In a small room in the Christ Church Neighborhood House she was less than 6 inches from members of the audience and spoke to us as if we were part of  her character’s life; and involved the audience in an interactive play.  We could see her every move and expression—not all actors are comfortable working so close to the audience. She portrayed a tortured soul who worked as a psychic. Initially her character was confident and in control but she became more disturbed and confused as the reading progressed. She convincingly interpreted a gamut of emotions and a ghost who was splayed across centuries.-Celeste Mann.

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Jessica Wagner as Patsy Cline in A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bristol, PA.

Jessica Wagner. Photo by Tori Repp.

Jessica Wagner. Photo by Tori Repp.

For the second time in two years, Jessica Wagner was onstage at BRT playing Cline, the pioneering country crossover star. It’s a perfect role for Wagner, allowing her to show off her rich voice and sparkling personality. She captures all the nuances of what made Cline special – and that’s what makes Wagner special in her own right.-Tim Dunleavy.

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Haygen Brice Walker, Playwright of Birdie’s Pit Stop (and the tribe of queers who fucked everything up at On the Rocks.

Playwright Haygen Brice Walker. Photo courtesy of his website.

Playwright Haygen Brice Walker. Photo courtesy of his website.

 Camp and kitsch reigned supreme in On the Rocks’ Birdie’s Pit Stop (and the tribe of queers who fucked everything up), an outrageously funny world-premiere parody of the horror genre and the second installment in “The Dead Teenager Trilogy” by hot young Philadelphia playwright Haygen Brice Walker. The over-the-top story of drag wars, dive bars, and demonic possession had a fast pace and a keen eye for saucy characterizations, biting humor, and insightful observations about outsiders. Along with all the big laughs and mock frights, the show contained a provocative undertone about the rampant violence and bigotry, and the resultant excess of political correctness, which have taken possession of our society. – Deb Miller.

LINK:
An interview by DCMTA’s Henrik Eger.

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One Response to ‘Take A Bow’ Part 1 in Philadelphia: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers

  1. HenrikEger December 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    Thank you, Haygen. I’m glad you liked my interview and Deb Miller’s review and congratulation on DCMetro, a great website. Keep up your good work.

    Henrik
    http://www.DramaAroundTheGlobe.com