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Meet a hot Philly playwright — and a really big stork

Meet a hot Philly playwright — and a really big stork

by Jane M. Von Bergen, For The Inquirer, Updated: February 11, 2020- 9:15 AM

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Jane M. Von Bergen rounds up news and notes from the region’s theater scene.

Philadelphia playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger was pregnant with her twins when a prenatal test came back with a little bit of an odd result. Everyone’s fine now — the twins are 7 — but the episode, along with the research Goldfinger did at the time, eventually gave birth to her new play, Babel.

It’s having its Philadelphia premiere Feb. 13 through March 8 at Theatre Exile.

Babel tells the story of two couples, one a lesbian couple, one a straight couple, who receive the results of prenatal tests and then wrestle with decisions.

They do get some assistance from a “talking stork who wants to be a stand-up comedian,” Goldfinger said. “He gives his insight because he has carried so many babies.”

Courtesy of Theatre Exile

Anita Holland and Frank Nardi Jr. as the stork in Jacqueline Goldfinger’s “Babel,” playing at Theatre Exile from Feb. 13-March 8.

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Goldfinger’s play gets into the ethics of reproductive technology, which can be uncharted territory here in the U.S. “It’s scary,” she said. In Europe, there are already protocols about what is ethical, but not so here. “We’re going to be the testing grounds for many of these new technologies.”

“That’s what’s wonderful about theater,” said Goldfinger, a rising star nationally. “We can take these huge terrifying ideas and put them into active stories that make you laugh and also make you think.”

Theater, pizza, beer, and love

You can lift a glass to Philadelphia’s theater community at Manayunk Brewing Co. this Friday as the third annual Philly Theatre Week (though Feb. 16) starts winding down.

A beer and a slice of pizza come with the price of a $15 ticket for a Valentine’s Day production that’s part of the series “A Play, A Pie, and A Pint,” presented by the theater troupe Tiny Dynamite. Grab a bar stool for 80 minutes of love scenes, poems, and (oddly) pet appreciation.

Philly Theatre Week — with tickets priced at $30, $15, and free — continues through Sunday, meaning there’s still lots of time to check out shows like the Philly Theatre Week One-Man Nutcracker at the event space Radio Kismet (448 N. 10th St., $15, last performance Saturday afternoon).

There’s much more where that came from. Babel, for instance, is offering $15 Philly Theatre Week tickets on Saturday and Sunday.

Theatre Philadelphia, which orchestrates Philly Theatre Week, offers an online tool at theatrephiladelphia.org that allows sorting by day, theater company, or keyword, as well as a downloadable guide organized by price.

Last week’s “On Theater” roundup gave the wrong dates for Jillian Jetton’s Heat Wave at Bartram’s Garden, an indoor-outdoor production. The correct dates are Feb. 15 and 16, and tickets are free.

A lesson in forgiveness

A play about the Amish is going to be interesting before the horse and buggy even get out of the barn, but it would be a mistake to think of Chelsea Marcantel’s Everything is Wonderful (Feb. 14-March 8) at the Philadelphia Theatre Co. as a mere anthropological study.

“I think there is an instant allure — I may have a stereotyped perception of what I’m going to see. There may be some exotic intrigue, or a pastoral notion that is fetishizing the culture,” said director Noah Himmelstein, who also directed the play in Baltimore, where it was a major hit.

More deeply, Everything is Wonderful is about forgiveness, including self-forgiveness. “I was gobsmacked at how vigorous forgiveness is in the Amish community,” Himmelstein said.

The story begins when a young man who crashed his car into an Amish buggy, killing two brothers, shows up on the doorstep of the brothers’ parents. They take him in. As the plot unfolds, others also need to forgive and be forgiven.

Himmelstein found himself intrigued with the Amish, “their faith-based society and their extraordinary tolerance. And, on the other hand, they can be incredibly cruel to their own.” That theme also shows up in the play.

Everything is Wonderful opens Feb. 14 with a weekend of $15 tickets as Philly Theatre Week finishes its 10-day run on Feb. 16.

Extended

“Describe the Night” at the Wilma Theater with (from left) Sarah Gliko, Steven Rishardi, and Ross Beschler.

Wilma Theater will continue its run of Describe the Night, Rajiv Joseph’s play about lies, love, conspiracy theories and the origins of Vladimir Putin’s power, through Feb. 22. Theatre Week tickets for this one are $30.

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