Theater in the Round (Up): ‘Hadestown’, ‘The Good Person of Setzuan’, Carole King musical

‘Hadestown’ is on stage at the Academy of Music from April 10 to 14.
T Charles Erickson

Here’s the latest on Philadelphia’s theater scene.

Philly Theatre Week

Theatre Philadelphia’s 7th Annual Philly Theatre Week revs its engines April 4 to 14 with local companies and a “Pay What You Can” price structure to guide it. Sabriaya Shipley, Theatre Philadelphia’s new Executive Director, added that inclusion was essential to Philly Theatre Week in more ways than one with Temple Theater’s annual Raise Your Voice event celebrating diverse voices, a partnership with First Person Arts for a student-focused story slam on April 6 at the Adrienne Theatre (“Theatre 215: I Hope You Get It”) and tie-ins to National Poetry Month with short films such as “Creative Fire: For Audre and Beyond, featuring Philly poets and comedians released on April 10.

“We’ve had the added pleasure of partnering with different organizations in storytelling and supporting future theatre storytellers and leaders through our Ubuntu Young Artist Fellowship,” stated Shipley about emerging artists joining in on the wealth of Theatre Philadelphia events, podcasts and programs. “Through our fellowship, everyone expressed clear connections and care for the Greater Philadelphia community, especially when it comes to its future. These projects represent their intersections in geography, gender and sexuality, and community demographics.”


Playwright-composer Anaïs Mitchell’s unearthly Tony-winning musical, ‘Hadestown’, takes the topic of Orpheus and Eurydice, and turns it on its head, at the Academy of Music, from April 10 to 14. And while it is lofty enough to play the titans of Greek mythology, what could it mean to play the ephemeral role of Fate, especially after your last gigs were ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘West Side Story’?

Ask Allentown’s Lizzie Markson, who plays Fates for the ‘Hadestown’ hitting Philly next week with an underground setting that’s as monumental as its music.

“Visually, the world that the designers have created for ‘Hadestown’ is iconic, grittily reflective of machinery, capitalism, and uniformity,” said Markson. “There’s not a lot of color in this show. Like Fate’s costumes are either leather or this tissue-y chiffon – hard and soft – in shades of grey and brown, so that when there is color, it’s a feast for your eyes.” 

As ‘Hadestown’ borrows liberally from the folk and jazz idioms, Markson is right at home as she grew up as a Joni Mitchell fan and “singing the songs of my Jewish faith.”

As for playing the nebulous Fates, Markson admits that the concept is “hard to wrap our brains around, because I don’t think of them as people,” she said. “I think of them as amorphous. Formless. Conceptually, as an actor, as soon as I get it, they slip through my fingers. But the Fates are the voices in our head that lead us to the road to ruin.”

‘The Good Person of Setzuan’

When Hothouse Company member-director Justin Jane and installation artist-turned-set designer Steven Dufala re-do Bertolt Brecht’s social-satire ‘The Good Person of Setzuan’, running April 4 to 21 at the Wilma Theater, the Philly artists found common ground in an all-recycled, zero waste production and environmentally-friendly set.

“When I was researching ‘Good Son’, interested in building this world, I was intrigued by the language in Brecht’s text that referred to this city as a ‘slum,” stated Jain. “As an Asian-American theater artist, I wanted to go back and see what Filipino slums looked like and how to represent that on stage. Steven works in recycled materials, can think how these characters think and how one object can be many objects.”

Dufala said that he is skilled at making bold new objects from waste materials, and that he was curious as to what such “sustainable practice means when it comes to theater.”

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’

Local actor and vocalist Fran Prisco has been part of Philly’s theater scene for so long, audiences can’t remember when he wasn’t on stage. That’s particularly true of his work with the Walnut Street Theatre which – starting this week with the opening of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ – celebrates Prisco’s 40th go-round for Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard’s WST.

“After 6 years of auditioning, the first show I got at the Walnut was ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, in 2000 in the ensemble,” said Prisco.

The singer-actor stated that the “Walnut is very loyal to its performers. You’ll see a lot of the same people in many shows here. Now, when you’re struggling for work, you hate the regulars, but once you become one of them, it’s pretty great,” he laughed. “I’m happy for everything the Walnut has afforded me, and my talents are right for what they do.”