A week in review: three totally different, awesome evenings

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Like the postal carrier motto, neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night could postpone my reviews of three exemplary, yet very different events recently presented in Philadelphia. But illness did, so here is a short rundown of three great evenings in the theatre from March 8, 9, and 10.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Arden Theatre Company. Continuing their season, the Arden presented this Shakespeare work about impetuous youth, magic, and wonder set mostly in the wild forests.  The creative team (Paige Hathaway, Scenic Design; Olivera Gajic, Costumes; Thom Weaver, Lighting; and Alex Bechtel, Sound Design and Music) chose to set this midsummer idyll in a time and place that can be described as Rent meets Godspell, without a tree in sight.


We had our doubts during the beginning of the play, which only became more pronounced when the four young protagonists (Rachel Camp as Helena, Taysha Marie Canales, Hermia, Sean Close, Lysander, and Brandon J. Pierce, Demetrius) arrived on the scene. Some overacting (with bugging eyes and frozen pouts straight from the Sesame Street school of acting), and some careless diction did not help change our initial impressions. Then Dan Hodge as Bottom arrived on the stage. Slowly, he single-handedly seemed to change the entire play so that the actors relaxed, dropped their mannerisms, and even seemed to speak the long-breathed lines better. Mr. Hodge gave a fine performance in his role, and was overwhelmingly the audience favorite of the evening. With his other excellent roles at the Arden in Stupid +++ Bird and Equivocation, Mr. Hodge once again proves that he is well overdue for a Barrymore nomination.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream evolved on opening night into a true fairyland where anything and everything was possible. Allied with great acting on display after an unsure beginning, this is a must-see production. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be onstage at the Arden until April 9, so there is still plenty of time to see this wonderful play. Visit www.ardentheatre.org for information and tickets.


The following evening, March 9, something completely different was presented at the Wells Fargo Center: Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight. Based upon James Cameron’s mega-hit movie, Avatar, this was by any standards a spectacle, as it featured the Na’vi characters of Pandora with new (and of course, contentious) clans, animals and beasts which were all as spectacular as anything out of Lion King, with the giant flying puppet of Toruk. Think of Warhorse’s Horse meets Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and you get only a bit of the idea behind the spectacle. Combining theatre, cinema, song, acrobatics, creatures, and special effects, this narrative-driven story was a winner. Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight appeared March 8-12.


Pennsylvania Ballet presented Le Corsaire at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, which runs March 9-19. At the Friday evening, March 10th performance, Oksana Maslova was Medora, Sterling Baca was Conrad, Dayesi Torriente was Gulnara, Arian Molina Soca was the villain, Lankendem, Peter Weil was Conrad’s slave, Ali, and Albert Gordon as Birbanto, another pirate turned villain.


Balletomanes know the “Le Corsaire pas de Deux,” but may have never seen the evening-length ballet. In the usual pas de deux, Ali is often called Solor, which is how American Ballet Theatre so often presented it over the years. This evening’s audience was primed from the very start to love the ballet, showering the artists with numerous deserved outbursts of applause. Miss Maslova looked smashing, Mr. Baca looked stupendous in white tights (and danced very well, too), and Mr. Weil as Ali was properly self-abnegating while dancing up a storm.


 Pennsylvania Ballet’s Le Corsaire is at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music until March 19. For information and tickets, visit www.paballet.org

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