"Back by popular demand" is a tiresome cliché, but it's accurate concerning Ray Didinger's memory play Tommy & Me (August 3 through 20), premiered by Theatre Exile last summer to sold-out houses and critical acclaim, including BSR’s. My review lauded the unlikely but successful pairing of theater and sports and heaped praise on Didinger's touching true story of befriending his childhood hero, Eagles wide receiver Tommy McDonald. Tom Teti and Ned Pryce return to play the mercurial McDonald (older and younger versions), while Matt Pfeiffer and Simon Pryce again play adult and child iterations of sports journalist and NFL Hall-of-Famer Didinger. Exile founder Joe Canuso directs. The 2017 Eagles play their first preseason game on August 10, so the timing is right: are you ready for some theater about football?
Heroes on the horizon
Theatre Horizon returns to summer production with a new play for kids of all ages (including supposed "adults"), Hero School (August 4 through 27). Philadelphia playwright Jeremy Gable's new play, just 40 minutes long, is an interactive adventure that casts the audience as superheroes in training who must thwart a mysterious villain. We're encouraged to arrive early for activities and crafts. Emmanuelle Delpech directs.
New Hope drama and ‘Hear Me War’
The busy Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, which just closed Guys and Dolls, hosts Patricia Richardson of TV's Home Improvement in Jon Robert Baitz's drama Other Desert Cities (August 18 through September 2). She plays a matriarch whose daughter (Liza J. Bennett) writes a tell-all memoir about their powerful family. Christmas in Palm Springs just won't be the same. Richardson starred in last summer's BCP hit, Steel Magnolias, and director Sheryl Kaller staged Mothers and Sons at BCP before it moved to Broadway.
One reason for August's relative quiet is the loss of GayFest!, the daring summer festival of gay-themed plays, readings, and cabarets from Rich Rubin and Quince Productions. GayFest! didn't fail, however — founder Rubin moved to California, taking his unstoppable energy, optimism, and vision with him. Stepping up to fill the void is the third annual Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival (August 4 through 6), anchored by a production of Sarah Galante's new musical Hear Me War, as well as staged readings of new plays by local writers Robin Rodriguez and Stephanie Walters. (Here’s our WNWN look at the fest.)