Merlin and Wart, A New Play at Tavern on Camac

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

We’ve all got our “spot.” The bar you feel most comfortable at, the bar that always provides a good time. Mine is Tavern (formally known as Tavern on Camac). I’m not sure if it’s the blend of live music, dancing and food or the fact that it’s guaranteed I’ll run into a friend, but after last night, I can add yet another reason Tavern is my favorite… LIVE THEATRE. 

FULL REVIEW BELOW, but in short;

Pros: Well thought out and written, wonderfully realistic set and costumes, impressive lighting for the venue, responsive audience, intense story that left me thinking post show.

Cons: I would have shaved off 20 minutes or so, around 3/4 the way through my mind started to wander and my ass hurt. 

It started with a message. Bobby Goodrich (aka Cleophatra) popped me a Facebook message and invited me to opening night of Merlin and Wart. I heard theatre and I was in, but I figured it was best to do a spot of research before stepping up to the Ascend lounge at Tavern. I was served with the following description:
“Set inside the faded halls of Byberry Mental Hospital on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Merlin and Wart is the story of two criminals’ fight for survival. Merlin, the older of the two, believes he is the famous wizard of Camelot, who ages backwards and has the ability to perform magic spells. His protégé, Wart, is an atheist who cannot believe in anything outside of hard science. When the two converse, much more collide with one another; it makes for two acts of pure enjoyment, agony, and ecstasy.” 

Alright, I’m sold, I love a dark story. I was nowhere near ready for the depths of darkness Merlin and Wart was ready to take me to. The upper floor of Tavern was transformed into a dark and dingy psychiatric ward, where the light of day was snuffed out for the duration of the play. The two actors show the audience the conditions of the country’s mental health facilities in the early nineties as each recounts their crimes that led to their arrest. 

The brainchild of regional playwright, Kevin Stackhouse, Merlin and Wart presents an interesting challenge for actors. “The play is written as a giant stream of consciousness. It is just two actors trying to outwit each other. Things mentioned five minutes earlier in the plot come back full swing in the middle of another conversation. The actors present a wide range of emotions with beats only separated by act, making for an interesting aesthetic,” says Stackhouse. 

Accompanying the text of the play are the brilliantly designed costumes of Bobby “Fabulous” Goodrich. Fresh from his Off-Broadway run of Divine/ Intervention, where he played the famous drag superstar, Divine, Goodrich makes the costumes reflect the grey and white matter of the brain, highlighting the convolution of thought and human error.  Goodrich’s altar ego, famed drag queen, hosts a series of local shows, including Gaybill: A Broadway Cabaret, at Tavern on Camac. 

 For more information on Merlin and Wart, an in-depth view of Byberry Mental Hospital, and a place to purchase tickets, view the Official Merlin and Wart web-site

VENUE: Tavern on Camac Street: 243 S. Camac Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107 
Thursdays, November 5th, 12th, 19th @ 9:00pm
Saturdays, November 7th, 14th, 21st @ 2:00pm
Sundays, November 8th, 15th, 22nd @ 2:00pm


Student Rush available ten minutes prior to performance. 


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