Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre isn’t content with just having a mainstage season in 2000-01; the company has added a two-play series, under the blanket title “Wilma2.” All told, six shows will fill the Pennsylvania venue, Sept. 20, 2000-June 24, 2001, including one American premiere.
Here’s the Wilma mainstage line-up:
• Sept. 20-Oct. 22: Spin, a satire by Robert William Sherwood, directed by co-artistic director Blanka Zizka. The piece tells of two spin doctors locking horns on the night before a major presidential debate. Other Sherwood plays include Absolution and Thugs.
• Nov. 22-Dec. 31: the one-acts Black Comedy, by Peter Shaffer, and The Real Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard. Co-artistic director Jiri Zizka will direct the two zany pieces, the first about a party where all the lights go off (though the audience sees the reverse), the second about a pair of detectives who stumble into an Agatha Christie style mystery play.
• Feb. 28-April 1, 2001: Perfect Pie gets served up by director Blanka Zizka. Canadian playwright Judith Thompson’s drama tells of childhood friends reuniting, one having become a wife and mom and the other now a famous actress. Other Thompson plays include Lion in the Streets and White Biting Dog. • May 16-June 24, 2001: Passion, Steven Sondheim’s last Broadway musical to date, tells of a handsome army captain wooed, and ultimately won, by a gloomy, homely woman. Jiri Zizka directs this sombre work by the composer of Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Assassins.
As for the Wilma 2 series, two well-received New York solos will make their way to Philadelphia: Velvetville (Jan. 10-14, 2001) and The Gimmick (April 4-15, 2001).
Velvetville which played at OOB’s P.S. 122 in January, features "an array of cheesy black velvet paintings." These artworks, commissioned by Zaloom and featuring such kitschy characters as the Smurfs, trolls and card playing dogs (as well as the obligatory Elvis), occupy one of the arenas in Velvetville's three-ring circus, which promises "breathtakingly cheap special effects."
In ring one, Zaloom's stage is an overhead projector, on which he works a menagerie of puppets made out of food products and "99-cent store junk." Ring two spotlights the velvet paintings, an art form which Zaloom claims is 2,000 years old. Finally, in the third ring, a puppet drama is enacted in which rubber rats play humans and an L.A. bus is represented by a gas mask.
All of the above somehow has to do with a bad dream Zaloom had one night. As for Zaloom, the star of TV's "Beakman's World" -- he’s dressed at each performance in mismatched pajamas and a nightcap.
Performance artist Dael Orlandersmith’s The Gimmick has played at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre (July-August 1999) and New York Theater Workshop (April 1999). The Gimmick tells of two childhood friends from East Harlem. Together they dream of careers as artists and the elusive "gimmick" that will take them out of their current surrounding into the life they desire. With the help of a kindly librarian, the young girl poet sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Her friend gets his chance through painting, but the siren song of drugs too often pulls him in the wrong direction.
Orlandersmith's past works include Monster and Beauty's Daughter.
For subscription information and ticket sales for the Wilma Theater, Broad & Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, call (215) 546-7824.
In other Wilma news, David Strathairn, last seen in New York in Harold Pinter's enigmatic Ashes to Ashes, is starring in a more forthrightly dramatic work. David Gow's Cherry Docs, a drama about a Jewish lawyer who has to defend a neo-Nazi. It’s running May 3-June 4 at the Wilma. Directing the U.S. premiere of this Canadian play, officially opening May 10, is be co-artistic director Jizi Ziska.
In Cherry Docs, Strathairn plays a legal-aid attorney defending a skin-head, who resents that his life is in the hands of his biological enemy.
Strathairn's New York credits include David Hare's Hapgood and Sam Shepard's Eyes for Consuela, while his film resume includes "Eight Men Out," "Lost in Yonkers" and "A League of Their Own." Jason Field will play Mike the neo-Nazi.
Designing the show are Jerry Rojo (set), Sarah Iams (costumes), Jerold R. Forsyth (lighting) and Adam Wernick (sound).
-- By David Lefkowitz