One of the hardest things about moving from Atlanta was leaving behind my theatre friends — I worked for 6 different theatres in the 8 years I lived there, so I knew most of the artists working in theatre in town. I knew what to see and what not to see, got in free most places, and always knew where to grab a drink afterward.
Philly theatre isn’t the same as Atlanta by a long shot (I’ll never get past missing my puppet friends, not ever), but it ain’t too shabby either. I saw my first production here on Friday night, and it was delightful. Well, for values of delightful including strangling, stabbing, wax body parts, a lecherous cardinal, and everybody dead at the end.
The Philadelphia Artists’ Collective put on The Duchess of Malfi, a 17th century English revenge tragedy, at the Broad Street Ministry. The space itself is gorgeous and perfect for the piece; it’s a working church, with a lofted room used as a thrust stage theatre, adorned with thick wooden doors and lined by balconies. The minimalist production didn’t even need set pieces in a setting this rich. The intimacy made the tragic tale that much more affecting — the audience literally couldn’t get away from the murder and madness (and priest near-sex) happening onstage.
The play is long, even with some juicy bits cut out, but the quality of the acting and the craziness of what happens kept it from dragging. The actors didn’t so much revel in the lines as spit them out full force. A play like this requires that kind of intensity. And seriously, it had some of the most realistic death scenes I’ve ever seen put on a stage.
The show runs through next weekend. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend going to see it.