best bets


by Cary M. Mazer

By George: The cast of Walker's Love and Anger

The local summer theater doldrums are decidedly over, and before you can catch your breath, there's actually too much to see. Once you've recovered from Performance Overdose at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival - if, that is, you even can recover from 24 hours of Ionesco's The Bald Soprano - there may still be time for you to catch one of the five local theater productions that had the misfortune of opening while the Fringe Festival was underway. One of these - George F. Walker's Love and Anger at the Wilma (Sept. 9-Oct. 18), directed by Jiri Zizka - is likely to be worth seeing even if it's only half as funny and offbeat as Zizka's production of Walker's Escape From Happiness three seasons ago; and two of the others begin my list of must-see productions this fall.

Hard Times

People's Light & Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern, through Oct. 30, (610) 647-1900

Director Lou Jacob recreates his off-Broadway production of Dickens' gritty urban novel, adapted by Stephen Jeffreys, with four of our best local actors - David Ingram, Mary Elizabeth Scallen, Peter DeLaurier and Marcia Saunders - playing all of the roles: clerks and whores, industrialists and miners, bankers and circus horseback riders.


McCarter Theatre, 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ, through Oct. 4, (609) 683-8000

British director David Leveaux directs this co-production (with the chic and adventurous Donmar Warehouse of London) of Sophocles' tragedy in a new translation by Frank McGuinness, with an amazing cast including Zoe Wanamaker (underappreciated on this side of the Atlantic), Claire Bloom, Pat Carroll and Stephen Spinella.


InterAct Theatre, The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., Oct. 7-Nov.1, 569-9700

Timing is everything, as InterAct Theatre learned a few years ago when they performed their play about MOVE during the Branch Davidian siege at Waco. By the time they stage Larry Gelbart's satire of presidential scandals and congressional committee hearings in October, we'll all either be sick of the subject, or else really in the mood for a good laugh. Mum Puppettheatre's Robert Smythe directs six actors and "a wide array of puppets."


McCarter Theatre, 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ, Oct. 20-Nov. 8, (609) 683-8000

Playwright (and McCarter Artistic Director) Emily Mann adapts and directs Isaac Bashevis Singer's love story set among Holocaust survivors. The title says it all. (See Toby Zinman's profile of Mann above.)

The Grapes of Wrath

Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. Second St., Oct. 22-Nov. 1, 922-8900

The Arden and director Terrence J. Nolen return to their roots - the company, in presenting adaptations of non-dramatic material which retain a strong narrative voice; and Nolen, to his days as an undergraduate at Northwestern, where adaptor-director Frank Galati taught (and, even after Ragtime, still teaches). Galati's staging of the Steinbeck novel for Steppenwoolf Theatre was a stunner; let's see if Nolen does his old teacher proud.

How I Learned to Drive

Philadelphia Theatre Company, Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey St., Oct. 23-Nov. 22, 735-0631 or 569-9700

Paula Vogel won the Pulitzer prize for this disturbing memory play about incest and child molestation. The director and company have not been announced.


Villanova Theatre, Ithan & Lancaster Aves., Villanova, Nov. 18-Dec. 6, (610) 519-7474

Sophie Treadwell's 1928 expressionist play, based on a real-life case about a woman who murders her husband because, she explains, she "didn't want to hurt him," has received several major revivals in recent years. Director James Christy tries his hand at it at Villanova.

More Grimm Tales

People's Light & Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern, Nov. 25-Jan. 3, (610) 647-1900

I'll always remember some of the images created through movement in Grimm Tales at People's Light three seasons ago, particularly one, at the top of the show, when Hansel and Gretel and their parents roll about in their sleep, silently screaming with hunger. Adaptor Carol Ann Duffy of London's Young Vic, director Abigail Adams and movement director Billy Yalowitz bring you more tales, and no doubt more images to hunger for.

Shortly after the season starts up again in the new year, the stage belongs to the playwright. Ken Marini directs Louis Lippa's new play, Sacco and Vanzetti, at People's Light & Theatre Jan. 13-Feb. 14 (we can find out then why Lippa calls it "a vaudeville"). The Philadelphia Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Lives of the Saints by David (All in the Timing) Ives (Jan. 22-Feb. 21). And the Arden stages Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence (Jan. 28-March 7). You'll have to wait until March for Thomas Gibbons' new play, Bee-Luther-Hatchee, at InterAct.