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A CurtainUp Review
Hearts & Soles

Are we married or something? Because you don't believe a fucking thing I say. — Dave to a pal in Full Figured, Loves to Dance
Aptly titled and appropriate for February and Valentine's Day, this compilation is part of the Philadelphia New Play Festival (Feb 8—18). Theatre Exile showcases five short plays by three celebrated local playwrights. Artistic Director Joe Canuso says, "Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger, and Arden Kass are truly Philadelphia originals whose works have challenged and entertained audiences for over twenty years."

The first offering is part 1 of Bruce Graham's play, Full Figured, Loves to Dance, which will punctuate the program. It is followed by two other plays. Part 2 of Full Figured comes right after intermission. After one more play, Graham's part 3 wraps up the whole package. Got it? It does work.

While the set for the first play features the grunge look encountered in many a watering hole and many a small theater, crisp modular units accommodate the other three plays, which are set in a pristine space that sparkles with bright lighting and sharp set design. Staged on the perimeter of the central performing area, Full Figured, a two-monologue play, takes place in what may be a slumming, cheater bar. Dave (Peter Pryor) is a big-talking loser: "B is used to taking A's hand-me-downs. B is what we call a pilot fish." For comic delivery, it is hard to beat Pete. Whereas his Dave believes he's hiding his loneliness, Donna (Karen Getz) is more upfront, with her ads in the personals and her desperation. The beauty of this cleverly worded production is in Graham's handling of these comic denizens of a cruel bar scene world. The barfly loser Everyman and the pathetic Everyman-ess are completely understandable and deserving of empathy.

Hollinger's wonderfully funny play, Senior Moment, follows. It is about a son's hesitant, awkward visit to a father in a nursing home. Starring Allen Radway and Harry Philibosian in sensitive portrayals, it's as realistic and everyday as the pathetic pair in the bar in the first play. Or is it??

Arden Kass's little jewel, Kick Me, follows. Two women (Julie Czarnecki as Michelle and Amanda Schoonover as Amy) address the audience in between snipes at each other. Desperation, a common thread in all the plays, surfaces. Amy whines, "I'm a 34 year old woman whose biological alarm clock wakes her up every morning with taps." Things get crazier when Marcos (Allen Radway), the anything-but-average business client and love interest appears in this perky and fresh Designing Women Meets the Outer Limits.

Sole Searching, also written by Arden Kass, obviously will have shoe issues! Not as piquant as Kick Me, it is a long conversation in a taxi between devout cabbie Bakir (a funny Harry Philibosian) and a steady rider, Claire, who espouses fashion as faith. Claire is played by Julie Czarnecki, whose fine performances at Villanova University I still recall.

Michael Hollinger's Truth Decay is a scream. Literally. Shoes do come up again, but the focus is on the impossible pairing of two people with problems. A phobic woman encounters a Pinocchio figure. Allen Radway and Amanda Schoonover are priceless in a Zeno's Paradox meets an irresistible force comedy.

Hollinger's two cunning offerings, directed by Deb Seif, share a double trap structure. Kass's work, directed by Deborah Block is uneven—one play is sharp as a tack, while the other is a little awkward. Graham's piece, directed by Joe Canuso, certainly talks the talk, but alas, it is made of monologues, which don't admit interaction.

The five plays are directed with tongues in cheek and just enough hustle in the bustle. Not a night of heavy drama-- themes of shoes, desperation, and longing for love mingle with bright comedy in this valentine of a show which provides a very enjoyable evening.

Hearts & Soles
By Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger and Arden Kass
Directed by Joe Canuso, Deb Seif, Deborah Block

Cast Julie Czarnecki, Karen Getz, Harry Philibosian, Pete Pryor, Allen Radway, Amanda Schoonover
Set Design: Matt Saunders
Lighting Design: Stephen Keever
Costume Design: Susan Schaeffer
Sound Design: Christopher Colucci
02/02/07- 02/25/07 Opening 02/07/07
2 hours, 20 mins with one 15 min intermission
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 02/08 performance at Christ Church Neighborhood House. N. American St.
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