Tag Archives: Philadelphia Theatre Company

PTC mounts Graham’s The Outgoing Tide

The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham, directed by James J. Christy, Philadelphia Theatre Company at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, March 28-April 22, 2012, Review of March 28 for WRTI, 90.1 fm.

During one of his lucid moments from Alzheimer’s, Gunner, the indefatigable hero of Bruce Gunner’s The Outgoing Tide, announces he is not going to spend the last days of his life in assisted living let alone in diapers. He has a plan. Gunner, a retired trucker and Philadelphia Teamster is a braggart, a bully and likeable for all the warts and wonders of Richard Poe’s brilliant portrayal.

Graham’s new play produced by The Philadelphia Theatre Company, takes a look at a grim subject with the playwright’s customary working class wit. A family tries to come to grips with Alzheimers’s and the mistakes parents have made with their only child. Son Jack, played by Anthony Lawton may be the The Outgoing Tide’s least realized character, though as the gifted Lawton plays him there are many layers. Jack is sensitive, gifted, the son who can’t measure up to the dominant Gunner and who’s been misinformed and mollycoddled by mother.

Jack at his father’s request visits Gunner, who doesn’t recognize him and tells awful tales about this son, the chef. He’s unaware Jack’s given up his restaurant- we are never told why.  Gunner had said “Don’t tell your mother”  when he invited Jack to come. Jack’s spent his life keeping secrets from one parent or the other.  His mother Peg, who wants to put Gunner in a home, is also requesting Gunner not be told things, and so the schemes and secrets will accrue

The Outgoing Tide is funny and it’s poignant. Credit Graham’s  writing, credit the acting, credit long-time Graham collaborator James Christy’s direction. Robin Mosely who plays Gunner’s wife is a pistol as the obstinate Peg, once meek, now sure, now vulnerable about the man who hugely irritates her (and whom she deeply loves.)

The exterior of desginer David Gordon’s Chesapeake cottage is almost too magazine perfect for these people but the interiors are just right. R. Lee Kennedy’s lighting is sublime….Tough truths on stage at the Suzanne Roberts through April 22 with The Outgoing Tide.

Scottsboro Boys – who knew? and now that we do ….

The Scottsboro Boys, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Susan Stroman; Philadelphia Theatre Company, Suzanne Roberts Theater, Jan. 27-Feb. 19. Review of Feb. 15 & post-show talk for WRTI, 90. 1 fm.

One performance has been added to the riveting, disturbing, powerful The Scottsboro Boys by the Philadelphia Theatre Company Sunday evening. It follows (2/19) the scheduled final matinee at the Suzanne Roberts Theater.  PTC would like to extend the successful musical much longer but Forest McClendon who doubles as Mr. Tambo and Samuel Leibowitz is unavailable after Sunday night. And McClendon is pivotal in the Kander, Ebb and Susan Stroman musical about the Alabama youth who in 1931 were wrongly convicted of a sex crime they did not commit. PTC’s ensemble (which employs many from the original Broadway cast) is a marvel but McClendon who was up for a Tony for the Broadway production of The Scottsboro Boys must be seen. A black man playing a white Jewish lawyer with an Al Jolson accent. That’s rich.

The irony in this musical which switches from vaudeville to minstrel and dances into heartbreak. Ron Holgate plays the Southern Interlocutor who’s clueless instructing ‘his’ men.  Nile Bullock is the youngest Scottsboro, an 11-year- old wonder-dancer. Rodney Hicks gives an inward portrayal of Heywood Patterson who dies in prison but not before writing the Scottsboros’ story.

Philadelphia Theatre Company usually offers good post-show discussions but Wednesday’s “Race, Justice & Wrongful Convictions” was exceptional. A panel included the Honorable Louis Pollack and leaders of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project… Pollack’s father, Walter, was the presiding Supreme Court advocate  in the landmark cases that arose out of the Scottsboro tragedy.

Louis Pollack is himself history for (among other extraordinary credits) he worked on the Supreme Court’s case, Brown vs. Education.  Wednesday’s presentation as long as the Scottsboro musical itself, was packed. It’s heartening to hear the good work being done (pro bono) to change the system – but so much more needs doing. Men of color are falsely accused every day.