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Time Remembered
Photograph: Johanna Austin

What to see at Philly Theatre Week 2018

The very first Philly Theatre Week kicks off in February with dozens of shows, readings and panels. Here's what to see.

By Josh Middleton, David Fox and Jason Peters
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The first-ever Philly Theatre Week hits venues across the city and a little beyond in February to spotlight the artists, playwrights and theater companies in Philadelphia that make this city one of the top destinations for theater in the country.

What is Philly Theatre Week?

The 10-day festival for all things stage-centric in Philadelphia is a collection of 75 shows, play readings, discussion panels, concerts and networking events happening around the Greater Philadelphia region. Offerings include musicals, straight dramas, comedies, concerts and more.

When is Philly Theatre Week?

Philly Theatre Week 2018 runs from February 8 to 18, with events happening across the region at various times every day.

How much is Philly Theatre Week and how do I get tickets?

You could think of Philly Theatre Week as an event similar to Philadelphia Restaurant Week, because you’re essentially getting a buttload of theater for a set, three-tier pricing option: most shows cost either $15, $30 or—best of all—$0. Tickets can be purchased or RSVP’d at phillytheatreweek.com. In some cases, Philly Theatre Week events include productions that are part of a local companies’ regular season, so specially priced tickets are limited. That means you need to act fast if you want to nab discounted entry.

What should I see at Philly Theatre Week?

With more than 75 different shows on the roster, picking what to see can be tricky. We offer some of the top must-sees below.

What to see at Philly Theatre Week

Broadway hit The Humans comes to Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre
Photograph: Jenny Lynn

1. The Humans

Theater Drama

This gorgeous play by Stephen Karam’s won the 2016 Tony and was a Pulitzer finalist as well as a major New York hit. This show demands virtuoso stagecraft and great acting. Walnut Street has the necessary scenic resources and an extraordinary cast with some of Philly’s best actors, including Mary Martello, Greg Wood and Alex Keiper.

EgoPo presents all three parts of John Guare's epic Lydie Breeze Trilogy
Photograph: Dave Sarrafian

2. Lydie Breeze Trilogy

Theater Drama

Hats off to EgoPo Classic Theater, which is pulling off the theatrical coup of the Philly theater season: mounting John Guare’s epic Lydie Breeze trilogy, a fascinating historical panorama of an American utopian society. Guare will be working with the company as they remount and revise these works, which he began 35 years ago and has never seen staged all together. Distinguished composer Cynthia Hopkins is also involved.

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Stew musical Passing Strange comes to Philadelphia's Wilma Theater
Photograph: Dave Sarrafian

3. Passing Strange

Theater Musicals

Singer-songwriter Stew created this odd work: a loose autobiography told through music in collaboration with Heidi Rodewald and Annie Dorsen. The piece was an immediate cult hit, but probably deserved a longer run on Broadway. Its edgy sensibility, abstract construction and international feel should ideally suit the Wilma, where it receives its first major revival, helmed by director Tea Alagić.

Anthony Roth Constanzo stars in Written on Skin at Opera Philadelphia
Photograph: Talarico

4. Written on Skin

Music Classical and opera

Called a “thrilling portrait of godliness and lust,” this local premiere transports you to the world of a wealthy landowner who employs a young artist who ends up in an affair with his wife. A choir of angels hovers above as the harrowing story unfolds to expose the sometimes treacherous cruelty of a man scorned by love.

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Lantern Theater Company presents Copenhagen
Photograph: Mark Garvin

5. Copenhagen

Theater Drama

The stakes could hardly be higher in this nail-bitingly tense historical drama by Michael Frayn that follows atomic physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg as they meet to potentially determine the future of the world. Lantern’s intimate setting is ideal for this cerebral, conversation-driven piece, and the theater has a fine company on hand: Charles McMahon, Sally Mercer and Paul L. Nolan, under Kittson O’Neill’s direction.

A Doll's House at Arden Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy Arden Theatre

6. A Doll’s House

Theater Drama

Henrik Ibsen’s classic play about a marriage tested by a sudden crisis still feels relevant, even radical. In theater history terms, the shutting door at the end of the show was the sound heard around the world in 1879. (Indeed, earlier this year, playwright Lucas Hnath had a big hit with his “sequel” on Broadway.) Arden’s production features a promising cast, including Akeem Davis, Joilet Harris and Scott Greer.

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7. Doppelbanger

Theater Experimental

What’s a theater festival without a good gay show? There are actually a few of those during Philly Theatre Week, but this sounds like a particular standout. In an original solo performance, local physical theater artist Nick Jonczak‎ takes audiences through a cabaret-style Tarot reading in which he takes a look back at ex-boyfriends to ask the questions: Do I want to be with them? Or do I just want to be them? Through songs and personal narrative that tackle gay obsession, identity and trauma, he slowly transforms himself using his favorite body parts of these ex lovers.

Theatre Exile presents Really
Photograph: Robert Hakalski Visual Machinery

8. Really

Theater Drama

In this latest by Jackie Sibblies Drury’s play, a photographer prepares to shoot a portrait of her deceased boyfriend’s mother. The two women mourn his sudden disappearance from their lives, but his spirit maintains an active presence throughout the performance, showing that we leave a lot behind. Directed by the acclaimed Brenna Geffers (most recently, the force behind EgoPo’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), Theatre Exile’s local premiere is certain to provoke.

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9. The Revolutionists

Theater Comedy

Theatre Horizon presents The Revolutionists,a new piece that focuses on four women in the French Revolution—with resonance for our own troubled times.

Time Remembered
Photograph: Johanna Austin

10. Time Remembered

Theater Drama

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium artistic director Tina Brock has a particular knack with 20th-century French plays of the symbolist/absurdist/oddball variety. Jean Anouilh’s Time Remembered—performed 60 years ago on Broadway—is a perfumy, evocative adult fairy tale with a poignant message. It should be a great fit for this imaginative group.

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ReVamp Collective presents Close Your Legs, Honey during Philly Theatre Week
Photograph: Shamus Hunter McCarty

11. Close Your Legs, Honey

Theater Comedy

ReVamp Collective takes you inside the crazy-pants world of a Southern beauty pageant to find Mama and her daughter, Honey, fighting tooth and nail to snatch that crown and meet the grandest of all prizes, Dolly Parton.

Game of Thrones Parody, Musical Thrones, comes to Philadelphia Theatre Company
Photograph: Timothy Norris

12. Musical Thrones: A Parody of Ice and Fire

Theater Comedy

This sendup to the popular HBO show Game of Thrones is currently touring the country, but makes a stop in Philly for three performances that promise many of the things you love about GOT—dragons, fight-to-the-death power struggles and tawdry love affairs—all done here with a dash of humor (and a puppet or two).

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Tiny Dynamite
Photograph: David Grieg

13. One-Night Stands: Three Comedies About Love and Sex

Theater Comedy

Each evening of the three-night romp features local actors reading a different “grown-up comedy.” What it doesn’t tell you? It’s part of Tiny Dynamite’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint series, so you’ll get a free slice of pizza and a pint of beer with every performance.

The Savannah Sipping Society at South Camden Theatre Company
Photograph: Courtesy South Camden Theatre Company

14. The Savannah Sipping Society

Theater Drama

Head across the Delaware to check out this how that follows four Southern ladies attempting to get back on track after myriad mishaps. They meet for a happy hour that revitalizes their enthusiasm for life—and teaches them that it’s never too late to reconnect with old friends. You’ll leave feeling like you’re one of the girls no matter who you are.

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Valentines Day poetry reading at Free Library of Philadelphia
Photograph: Pixabay

15. Shakespeare in Love: Open Mic Poetry Night

Things to do Literary events

The Free Library of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre hosts this event, which invites folks to swing by to hear—or maybe even recite—some of history’s most passionate lines, whether from a poem, monologue or play. Need an extra incentive? The event takes place in the library’s Skyline Room, which offers excellent views of a twinkling Philly at night.

Want to learn more about theater in Philly?

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