Music: 9 Shows to See in the Next 7 Days

Nightlands plays Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday. (Dustin Condren)

Macy Gray @ Ardmore Music Hall | Thursday, May 25
Macy Gray remains one of the most unique voices in R&B, and I’m not just talking about those fine sandpaper vocals. In case you missed it, her recent standalone track “White Man” is the kind of fierce you can dance to. Warning: 1 out 100 people who see this video will get offended. The other 99 will be into it.

Chris Kasper @ World Café Live | Thursday, May 25
The local folky/bluesy singer-songwriter celebrates the release of O, the Fool. They’re streaming it over at Folk Alley, and it’s giving me a classic, weary, early-Springsteen vibe. I can’t seem to embed anything from the new record, so here’s an oldie but a goodie. Read more »

Philly Actors Win Big at New York’s Prestigious Obie Awards

Obie award winners Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard in Underground Railroad Game.

If your aspiration is to be a big Broadway star, then it is a Tony Award that you seek. But in New York’s world of more independent, experimental, and DIY theater — the so-called “Off-Broadway” realm — the top prize is an Obie Award. And on Monday night, at Webster Hall, two Philadelphia actors got the prestigious Obie honors. Read more »

The Rickmobile Is a Small Price to Pay for Spider Peace

It’s getting weird. (Adult Swim)

Maybe it’s because I came of age in the alt/indie ’90s — where friends called their friends sellouts like kids diming out their parents to the Stasi — but I’m always a little wary when popular things explode into multi-platform franchises.

I’m okay with something subtle, like a Credit Dauphine tee or a Weyland Yutani mug. And I’m definitely cool with the Golden Girls Clue game (ignoring the creepy Sophia on the box), mostly because I want to accuse somebody of murder on the lanai. Read more »

Behind the Stunning Fountain Makeover at Longwood Gardens

Photo by Jess Fusco.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Pierre du pont had a thing for water. And gardens. The former kicked in when he was only six and found himself mesmerized by the fountains at the Centennial Exhibition in Fairmount Park; as he got older, the successful industrialist was enthralled by the gorgeous gardens of Italy and France. Eventually, du Pont did what any über-rich dude with an obsession might: He made his own magical place, establishing Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square and creating what has long been one of the Philadelphia region’s aesthetic jewels.

In May, du Pont’s masterpiece caps off a three-year-long face-lift with the unveiling of a completely redone Main Fountain Garden. The project, with a price tag of $90 million, was all about finding balance — between physics and aesthetics, between the gardens’ European influences and their American ones, between what du Pont built in the 1920s and ’30s and what he might have conjured up if he were alive today. (Turns out Pierre was an innovation sort of guy, so Longwood’s current leaders felt free to embrace the future.) Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: Absolute Brightness Is Absolutely Terrific

James Lecesne in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

There’s nothing small about James Lecesne’s, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (including the somewhat unwieldy title, hereafter shortened to Brightness), but its wonderfulness comes, frankly, with surprise and relief.

Sara Garonzik’s final season as Executive Producing Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company—after an extraordinary run of 35 years—had been set to end with a new play about Thomas Eakins that she helped to develop. The late-hour reshuffling that brought this substitution worried me. It sounded like the knell of financial gloom… and a one-actor, 80-minute show where PTC functions as mostly as a presenter seemed a let-down.

But Brightness is bold, daring, and large format. The show has a big heart, and Lecesne—who is both writer and solo performer—is a big talent. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: In Buzzer, It’s Location, Location, Location

Matteo Scammell, Alex Keiper, and Akeem Davis in Buzzer at Theatre Exile. (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

Location, location, location—it’s America’s real estate mantra. And with it comes the usual advice that the smartest and safest bet for new buyers is to choose a modest house in a good neighborhood. But there are always the pioneers—people who instead go for the fabulous property in an iffy area, hoping they’re at the start of an upswing.

The high-stakes, social-status-transforming metaphors of home ownership are so powerful, so connected to the American Dream, that it’s no wonder it’s a favorite motif in theater. Tracey Scott Wilson’s punchy, gripping Buzzer riffs on it in clever and unexpected ways. The pioneer here, Jackson (Akeem Davis) is a black man with a blue-chip education—he’s moving back to his old neighborhood, which is every bit as fraught as it sounds. Maybe a little bit selfish, too—for Jackson’s white girlfriend, Suzy (Alex Keiper), walking through the neighborhood is daily blitz of cat calls. And moving in with them as a semi-permanent houseguest is Don (Matteo Scammell), who should have been the success story in the group (he’s white and privileged), but drug addiction has destroyed much of his potential. Read more »

42 Things to Do This Weekend

Ty Segall plays the Troc on Saturday. (Denée Petracek)

FRIDAY, MAY 19

Happy Birthday @ Plays & Players Theatre
Says theater critic David Fox: “Marc Camoletti’s play, a huge hit in London in the ’70s, has acquired the patina of a period piece, something of a send-up on the silliness of middle-aged swingers. I’d say that only adds to the fun, especially when it looks as smashing as here, played on Lance Kniskern’s luxe living room set, which somehow manages to be both chicly elegant, and a louche bachelor pad. But the virtuosity of a farce really is in the performing. Director Trey Lyford has a masterful sense of staging and energizes the hell out of Happy Birthday; mostly, this pays off.” Through May 21.

Laura Marling @ TLA
It’s petty, but I never liked the idea of Laura Marling hanging out with that Mumford crowd. Those pedialyte folk-pop jingles, that grandpa fashion sense — it’s no place for a singer-songwriter with real promise. With each record, the British-born/L.A.-based Marling explores new territory and re-focuses her formidable, increasingly conversational songwriting skills. On the new Semper Femina, she explores the subject of womanhood, from friends to frienemies and beyond. P.S. It’s invigorating to hear this once rigidly delicate performer wrap her lips around the F-word on “Wild Fire.”

Read more »

Tonight: Hidden Figures @ Schmidt’s Commons

Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer star in the Best Picture-nominated film.

This sounds like a nice, nice-weather, family-friendly event. BYO blanket or lawn chair to a free, outdoor screening of the 2016 Best Picture-nominated film. And if you want a beer, there are a couple places nearby that’ll sell you one. (But I’m not seeing any fine print that says you can’t bring your own refreshments.)

Hidden Figures tells the true story of the African American women mathematicians who worked for NASA during some of the most crucial years of the space program. The film was a commercial and critical success last year, with Octavia Spencer earning an Oscar nom and a Golden Globe win for her portrayal of “human computer” Dorothy Vaughan. Hidden Figures also stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae (!), Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali. Read more »

14 Things to Do in Storytelling, Comedy, Movies, Burlesque and More

That movie you pretended to understand is coming back in style.

Dive Bar Secrets @ The Barbary | Wednesday, May 17
Comedy at the Barbary presents standup comic Chris Cotton. The dude recorded a comedy mixtape. Why don’t more people do that? Listen on Spotify.

Tell Me A Story @ Shot Tower Coffee | Wednesday, May 17
Hilary Rea’s storytelling series celebrates its sixth anniversary with true stories by Kathleen Ackert, Julie Hancher, R. Eric Thomas and more. The topic is “Six Degrees.” Read more »

Music: 12 Shows to See in the Next 7 Days

Scottish trio The xx — tragically conjoined following a hair product mishap in 2015 — plays the Mann’s Skyline Stage on Wednesday. (Alasdair McLellan)

The xx @ The Mann | Wednesday, May 17
Wouldn’t it all be so dreadful — the profound sparseness of the sound, the oft-declared shyness of the players, the lowercase — if The xx sucked? Lucky for them, and for us, this British electronic pop trio is kind of amazing. Released in January, their third record I See You pretty much cemented their status as a band of note, with singer Romy Madley Croft (omg that’s her middle name) reaching new emotional heights and depths. At this show under the stars, contemplative ecstasy will stream through the crowd like neutrinos.

 

Charly Bliss @ Boot & Saddle | Wednesday, May 17
Yeah, Charly Bliss is pretty ’90s. NPR nailed the namechecks — Weezer, Veruca Salt , Letters To Cleo — in its review of the band’s debut record, Guppy. But there’s too much joy in what Charly Bliss does do to dismiss them as merely retro. I’d been listening to The xx all morning before I put these guys on and it was a revelation: Oh yeah, rock ’n’ roll can be fun. Read more »

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