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Philadelphia, Here I Come!
a Drama
by Brian Friel

VENUE : Georgia Public Broadcasting (Studio B) [WEBSITE]
ID# 4633

SHOWING : September 25, 2014 - October 05, 2014



In Friel’s fictional Ballybeg in Donegal, the night before he is to leave Ireland forever and emigrate to America, Gar O’Donnell’s life flashes before him as he contemplates what he will leave behind: his friends; his lost love, Katie; his beloved housekeeper, Madge; and his distant and aging father, S.B. ’Screwballs’ O’Donnell.

"Philadelphia, Here I Come!" gave Brian Friel his first Tony Award nomination. Now, 50 years on, it will not fail to leave you laughing and crying.

Director Robert Shaw-Smith
Madge Lynne Ashe
Gar - Private Kyle Brumley
Ben Burton Kyle Crew
Gar - Public Benjamin Davis
Senator Doogan Rial Ellsworth
Kate Doogan Stephanie Friedman
Joe Trevor Goble
Master Boyle Peter Hardy
Ned Brandon Partrick
Tom Chris Rushing
Lizzy Sweeney Mary Saville
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


by playgoer
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
"Philadelphia, Here I Come!" is written to have two actors playing the role of Gareth O’Donnell - a public version (Benjamin Davis) and a private version (Kyle Brumley). This sort of double casting seems to have proliferated across the male cast in Aris Theatre’s production. There are the two taciturn older men, Gareth’s father (Theo Harness) and a local priest (Evan Weisman). There are the two older Irish authority figures (Rial Ellsworth and Peter Hardy). There are the two men from America (Stuart Schleuse and Kyle Crew). And, in a bit of a twist, there are three chums (Brandon Partrick, Chris Rushing, and Trevor Goble), although two of them are interchangeably coarse, while the third (Mr. Goble) shows more in common with Gareth. It almost seems as if director Robert Shaw-Smith tossed a coin to determine which of the pair of actors essayed which of the pair of roles.

The female roles are more distinctly portrayed. Lynne Ashe makes a wonderful Madge, with a crusty exterior and an inside as gooey as melted cheese. Stephanie Friedman portrays one-time love interest Kate with sweet vulnerability that takes on a heart-breaking quality. Mary Saville plays Aunt Lizzy, a bravura role that requires the actress to be drunk, abusive, and loving in equal measures, and to be equal parts Irish and American. Ms. Saville’s performance doesn’t manage to fill the huge shoes Mr. Friel has written for the part.

Danyale Taylor’s set design uses doorframes, windowpanes, and an empty mirror frame against black curtains to delineate the space, which consists of an Irish kitchen downstage and a bedroom on a platform upstage, tucked into a corner of the playing space. It looks great and works well, with Harley Gould’s lighting and Margi Reed’s costume design enhancing the handsome production values. The uncredited sound design is also good, with a phonograph effect nicely coming from exactly the right part of the stage.

I remember reading "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" in high school and not being much impressed. Many of its points are subtle, and its timeframe is limited to the day before Gareth leaves his home in Ballybeg, Ireland for America (although there are several flashbacks). There are no big, emotional moments, for the dynamic between Gar and his father (and, indeed, all village inhabitants) is that what is left unsaid is far more eloquent than the few words that are exchanged. Aris Theatre’s production lets the play come through in its quiet way and at a somewhat-too-leisurely pace.

The performances of Lynne Ashe and Kyle Brumley are the main reasons to see this show. They both imbue their characters with heart and intensity, etching memorable, pitch-perfect portrayals of people with unfulfilled longings. Benjamin Davis and Stephanie Friedman also do fine work, their Irish accents and commitment to their roles grounding them firmly in the village of Ballybeg that Mr. Friel has created. Director Robert Shaw-Smith has gotten good performances out of the rest of the large cast, but the production as a whole doesn’t catch fire. There’s a certain sameness to the memorable moments in the show that flattens the arc of the story from a rainbow shining in the sky to a few scattered rays of colored light from a prism. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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