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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Government Inspector

I am originally from the New York City area and spent many years in Southern New Jersey NOT taking advantage of the proximity to the Philadelphia Arts district.

In 2006, I was invited to see a production of "Richard III," by subscribers of the Lantern Theatre Company. I loved the show so much that I went home and e-mailed all my fellow Literature students about the incredible performance this company had given. I did not become a subscriber immediately, though I should have. The next year, 2007, I went to see the all-male casting of the "Taming of the Shrew" along with my daughter, who was 12 at the time. When I was getting my Literature degree she had to listen to all his plays on audiotape as I drove her back and forth to summer camp. I thought she would enjoy seeing one of them live.

She absolutely loved it and talked about it to her friends for weeks. It was especially thrilling for her to have performers talk to her during the play. The Bianca character played by a puppet was inventive and allowed us to understand that theatre does not always need to be conventional to be understood and appreciated.

My daughter is a budding thespian and participates in a musical theatre company during the summer months. She told me that she NEEDED to go see as many productions as she could so she could learn how to be an actress. After that experience, we decided to become subscribers, her and I. It was affordable for us and actually saved us money, since we planned on seeing everything this theatre company has to offer. My son was 9 years old and didn't express interest and my husband is into sports and not theatre. Nevertheless, we dragged him to last year's performance of Othello and he enjoyed it. My daughter had an amazing English teacher, who was introducing her enrichment students to Shakespeare. We invited her to go along with us and some friends and parents from class. I also invited other teachers from my school. Everyone thought the theatre was interesting, the parking convenient, and the actors so talented. Now we have a whole group of people who come to see the Lantern Theatre Company perform.

As each production goes into tech week, we send out an evite to many of our friends inviting them to a night of theatre. We carpool or meet in the city, walk to dinner at Moriarty's or the Irish pub and always have a wonderful time.
A few months ago we caught Pinter's "The Hothouse," and loved the staging changes. I reviewed this play earlier in my blog and you can see that review here.

We recently enjoyed "The Government Inspector." The themes Gogol wrote about are timeless, and the characters are so funny, especially Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky. This play allowed my 14-year-old daughter and I to discuss the ridiculousness of people who believe they are above the law. The delusions of grandeur and self-importance displayed by the characters of the Mayor, Judge, and Anna made both of us chuckle and we were amazed that so few actors were able to play the entire cast convincingly. Even though the play was written in Russia in 1836, people don’t change all that much. The merchant’s bribery reminded us of the political machine that has so overwhelmingly taken over the media spotlight this past year. Since my daughter discusses such issues in her middle-school history classes, we had another way to interact and connect. Some of our favorite actors had returned for this production, My daughter thought that Sarah Sanford was the top player of the evening, while I preferred Anthony Lawton. To be honest, every actor in this company is gifted and we enjoy them in all their personas.

We cannot wait to see “Sizwe Bansi is Dead” in January. Although my daughter does not yet know about apartheid, she will soon have an understanding that cannot be taught from history books. I guess we will be extending an invitation to her social studies teacher as well for this production. We plan on eating at one of the dining partners next, since we have not yet graced their establishments. They all seem to be within walking distance.
This is Denise and Bill, they are the subscribers who took me to my first production here and we have been together for most shows, ever since!
A quick note about the Theatre location, we love the beautiful St. Stephen’s church. We had the luck to arrive early one Saturday and explore the beautiful choir loft and nave. Each time we drive in to see a production, we get to discover a new piece of Philadelphia around the theatre. Last week we caught the music and light show at Wanamakers (Macy’s) before the show. It was snowing and City hall was all lit up.
Beautiful! All this lovely shopping and sightseeing is right around the corner from the theatre.

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