Murder in Philadelphia is the focus of playwright/performer Sean Christopher Lewis’ City of Numbers, currently being staged at InterAct Theatre Company. A solo work about the murderers, victims and politics associated with Philly’s alarming homicide rate, the play takes us behind the walls of Graterford Prison where Lewis worked with men sentenced to life. Although Numbers was developed in collaboration with city’s Mural Arts Program, the inmates work on the city’s murals isn’t the play’s central focus. Instead, Numbers is something we’ve seen before, a liberal-minded play that humanizes the murderers while simultaneously mourning their victims. Lewis attempts to use the idea of numbers to tie his piece together (the number of murders in “Killadelphia” and the inmate’s identity as a number, for example) but the idea never really takes hold. The only number of significance is two, as in two worlds that often collide: the poverty-stricken habitat that spawns the majority of the inmates and the more economically stable world inhabited by some of their victims. Both worlds are viewed objectively and at times Numbers feels more like an ethnographic study than a penetrating exploration of urban crime. Lewis struggles portraying the show’s multiple characters and with an expanded cast Numbers could be a strong play with an important message. At one point Lewis mentions that the post-show discussions are often longer than the performance (which is a brief 70 minutes). The impact of homicide on Philadelphia is a significant topic, but at the moment Numbers is more a discussion prompt than a fully developed play.
Through Feb. 21. $25-$29. Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. 215.568.8079. interacttheatre.org
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