The upcoming theater season is bigger and more diverse than ever. What follows is our attempt to compile some of the most interesting productions happening on Philly’s many stages.
Aspects of Love
Walnut Street Theatre, the city’s oldest and largest company, kicks off its 203rd season with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic chamber musical Aspects of Love. The story follows Alex, a young man in 1940s Europe who falls madly in love with an enchanting actress, Rose. Swept off his feet, Alex takes Rose to his uncle’s gorgeous villa for a passionate affair. Unfortunately for the teenager, the handsome uncle is likewise smitten with the gorgeous actress, leading to a confrontation and a complicated love story that spans both a continent and several tumultuous decades in European history.
Through Oct. 23. $10-$95. Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St. 215.574.3550. walnutstreettheatre.org
August: Osage County
The best American play since Angels in America comes to town with August: Osage County , an epic story of family dysfunction from playwright Tracy Letts. The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama is as big as it is bold. A return to the time when large casts and grand sets ruled the American stage, Director Terrence J. Nolen’s production at the Arden features an all-star Philly cast led by Carla Belver and the inestimable Grace Gonglewski.
Sept. 29-Oct. 30. $29-$45. Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St. 215.922.1122. ardentheatre.org
Mistakes Were Made
The best playwright you’ve never heard of (Craig Wright) returns to 1812 Productions—which enjoyed a huge success with Wright’s Recent Tragic Events—with Mistakes Were Made. Fresh off his lovely performance in Pig Iron’s Twelfth Night, Scott Greer stars as a Broadway producer who abandons his usual mindless fare to mount an innovative and risky play. Director Matt Pfeiffer’s production is a good bet to become the season’s sleeper hit.
Oct. 6-30. $20-$36. Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey St. 215.592.9560. 1812productions.org
Philly Urban Theatre Festival
It doesn’t get as much attention as the Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe, but last year 3,500 patrons enjoyed a host of new plays at the city’s first Philly Urban Theatre Festival. Showcasing works from predominately black artists, this year’s PUTF features work from 14 playwrights including festival founder Kash Goins’ one-man show Tonight?, which examines the effects of juvenile abuse on a serial killer, and Amiri Baraka’s classic play The Slave, which is receiving a production from one of Norristown’s leading companies, Iron Age Theatre Company.
Through Oct. 9. $15-$20. The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. putf.org
Bound to be the season’s longest title, Lantern Theater’s production of New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 concerns a groundbreaking philosopher forced to defend himself against a charge of atheism during the darkest days of the Inquisition. The favorite son of a small Jewish community who flees the Inquisition in Portugal only to encounter more intolerance in supposedly liberal Amsterdam, Spinoza soon finds himself facing excommunication from the Jewish faith. Structured as a courtroom drama, the play explores the Jewish experience in 17th-century Europe, and Spinoza’s lasting influence on Western art, literature and ethical philosophies, many of which had a profound impact on America’s Founding Fathers.
Oct. 6-30. $20-$36. St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th & Ludlow sts. 215.829.0395. lanterntheater.org
The Wilma heads in another direction with the U.S. premiere of Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s Our Class. If you don’t speak Polish, fear not: The Wilma’s production utilizes Ryan Craig’s English version so you will understand every word of Slobodzianek’s drama that chronicles the lives of 10 schoolmates from the 1920s to the dawn of the new millennium.
Oct. 12-Nov. 13. $39-$66. Wilma Theater. 265 S. Broad St. 215.546.7824. wilmatheater.org
Dear culture vultures: For months we scoured the city to bring you the best of what Philly has to offer this season, and we think we’ve done a damn good job of bringing something for everyone. Into art? You should know that curators and artists everywhere are doing their best to take art out of their galleries and into your community. Want theater? We found a scrappy, independent circus troupe whose stunts you should never try at home. There’s also a roundup of what’s on tap for our favorite stages. If comedy is your thing, we've got a list of the season's best events (like a tribute to the late Mitch Hedberg, he of the famous one-line zingers). Music? Check. Dance? The Russian ballet awaits you on. We even examine the state of storytelling, which, of course, is the world's oldest favorite pastime yet somehow a "novelty" in today's world. Enjoy all this and more!