South Philly Offers Fringe Festival Fun

Filed under: Entertainment,Featured News,Latest News,South Philadelphia |

by Victor Cappelletti

HAUNTING dancework, our poison, performs at Philly PACK on S. 4th Street.

HAUNTING dancework, our poison, performs at Philly PACK on S. 4th Street.

The FringeArts Festival, which has always prided itself on exploring the bonds between creative pioneers and their patrons, is marking its 20th season with dozens of daring productions, including 17 South Philly-based works, including Say NoS, our poison and Birdie’s Pit Stop.

Tonight through Saturday, the Jed Williams Gallery, 615 Bainbridge Street, will host Say No More, an adaptation of August Strindberg’s The Stronger. In making its second Fringe appearance, Wild Plum Productions will ponder the depth to which women often analyze and implement their career and life goals, notably the search for romantic longevity.

“It’s common to wonder if we are making the right moves and listening to the correct voices,” Katherine Mallon-Day said of the untimed chess match that many individuals contest with themselves. “For women, that can be pretty pressing, so we’re going after answers to the question of how we perceive ourselves and what obstacles there are to obtain answers that motivate us to lead more fruitful lives.”

The Paoli resident, whose rich employment history has seen her work with the South Philly-heavy theater entity The Bearded Ladies through Opera Philadelphia and has bred a 25-year relationship with Settlement Music School’s Mary Curtis Branch at 416 Queen Street, said the 1889 one-act play has been moved to the 1940s, and grants to the other female performer, played by Christine Emmert, a far more active part than the original text did. Promotional material notes the women are “locked in battle over one man,” played by Richard Emmert.

“We’re going to be in a great location through which we hope people will then head to cafés or wherever and have discussions on the action and their personal aspirations,” Mallon-Day said of the 30-minute piece. “That chance to compel people to look beyond a page or a stage and search for more meaning is why we do this.”

Name Your “poison”

Likewise enthused about tackling how harmoniously we can conduct our lives as pressures mount, Jessica Noel will tomorrow commence the second week of performances for “our poison” at Philly PACK, located at 729 S. 4th Street.

BIRDIE’S Pit Stop is a goofy comedy at The Pharmacy on S. 18th Street.

BIRDIE’S Pit Stop is a goofy comedy at The Pharmacy on S. 18th Street.

“This is such a subjective work,” the Pennsport resident and director of the Queen Village-based host site said of the dance theater project. “We want audience members to contemplate what their poisons are and how they manage or intend to attend to them because there’s strength in thinking about what we do and why we do it.”

The 30-minute creation finds Noel and fellow South Philly denizens Leslie Davidson and Carolyn Marcinkiewicz addressing the concept of addiction.

Noel is quick to note that any beloved object or concept – including money, control and toxic relationships – can commence a downward spiral for a person and his or her loved ones.

“It’s damaging to everyone involved, so our show is striving to explore how those struggles can really wreck us if we don’t do our best to consider our attraction to them,” she explained.

Noel and Davidson last year tugged at heartstrings through Philly PACK’s “Sit Down. Stand Up.” That analysis of discord among romantic partners relied heavily on the music of Noel’s favorite group, Radiohead, and the English foursome again appears in this show, along with The Beatles, Nina Simone and The White Stripes, among others. While thrilled that 2015’s brainchild faired exceptionally well, Noel relayed that this exploration of responsibility to self and others is far more touching and tearful.

“I think addiction of some kind or other has crept into all of our lives,” she said. “I think everyone can relate to that moment where we or someone close to us has tried, only to fall again, and again, and again to temptation. What do we do with ourselves when that strikes? Can we find sustaining light as the dark descends?”

For Lighter Fare…

While all of these shows are striving to promote synergy between performers and audience, Haygen Brice Walker knows that not every Fringe piece should attempt to accomplish that in such a serious manner. He and fellow South Philadelphian Elaina Di Monaco are courting camaraderie through comedy in presenting Birdie’s Pit Stop at The Pharmacy, 1300 S. 18th Street.

“It’s such a fun example of junk-food theater,” Walker said of the work that the Fringe guide tabs “A play about demonic possession, drag queens, sacrifice, stuffed deer heads and Jennifer Lopez.” “This is definitely a show that you will want to see if you’re looking for laughs and not hoping to come to some grand realization about life.”

SAY NO MORE, an adaptation of a Strindberg classic, plays on Bainbridge Street.

SAY NO MORE, an adaptation of a Strindberg classic, plays on Bainbridge Street.

The Point Breeze resident wrote and is serving as a co-producer for the two-hour endeavor, the second part of his Dead Teenager Trilogy. With Di Monaco as the director and fellow co-producer, the work – like its predecessor, “Spookfish” – deconstructs the horror genre and gives On the Rocks, the umbrella organization that unifies their creative impulses, another chance to have a great time and employ some wonderful talent.

“I think it all really works because of how dedicated everyone is,” Walker stated of the cast, which includes Barrymore Award-winner and fellow Point Breeze resident Campbell O’Hare. “The actors and actresses let their ambition come out with reckless abandon, and that’s been great to observe.”

The show’s action revolves around a dive bar in a downtrodden town’s most wretched section and runs through Saturday.

“It’s such a South Philly-dominant show, including the location,” Walker said. “The Pharmacy had not hosted a theater show before, so it’s felt great to be one of the people behind the first theatrical project there.”

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