Avant-Garde, PA

From an epic Gatsby to naked Shakespeare at Philly's Live Arts Festival

A more sober production is Flamingo/Winnebago—a sweet, slight piece by Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, Thaddeus Phillips, and Le Chat Lunatique. It concerns a gas station owner's cross-country odyssey and Phillips's attempts to research his casino-managing granddad. What these narratives have to do with one another remains mysterious, but modish video projections and a live gypsy jazz band enliven their intertwining stories. Creator-director Phillips seems reluctant to pick a clear route. Though production notes suggest that the show will discuss "the excessive use of energy in the U.S., peak-oil theory, and the rapidly changing weather," detour and digressions abound. Though gentle and humane, Flamingo/Winnebago meanders.

A no-no for New York: Laurena Allan, Scott Shepherd, and Annie McNamara in 
Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center
A no-no for New York: Laurena Allan, Scott Shepherd, and Annie McNamara in Gatz


Philadelphia Live Arts Festival
Through September 15

Neither gentle nor humane, Pig Iron's Isabella is a deadly disappointment for a company that's created many excellent productions—Hell Meets Henry Halfway and Shut Eye among them. Set in a morgue, Isabella concerns a medical examiner who reanimates corpses and puts them through the paces of Measure for Measure. A desire to revive the dead is quite understandable; the wish to have them then enact Shakespeare is more obscure. Certainly, the sight of five naked, bruised bodies lurching about the stage and massacring the Bard is a considerable provocation. But if one watched the audience instead of the stage action, one saw reactions veer from shock to outrage to amusement, but then land on ennui with an hour of play yet to go. Despite some passably interesting movement work, this morbid game of Barbies doesn't sustain interest. At least Benjamin Franklin had some consoling words: "Do not fear mistakes," he wrote. "You will know failure. Continue to reach out." Perhaps Franklin should have added, "And next time, lose the zombies."

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