Mark Cofta’s theater picks: Hollinger season, Hella Fresh, and more

Dito van Reigersberg stars in Jonathan Tolin's 'Buyer & Cellar' at 1812. (Photo by John Flak.)

Nine of Philadelphia playwright Michael Hollinger's plays have premiered at the Arden Theatre Company. Their tenth is the musical TouchTones (October 19 through December 3), co-written with local composer Robert Maggio and directed by Emmanuelle Delpech. Set in 1999, it's a romantic comedy about a couple played by Alex Keiper and Michael Doherty discovering how new technology can change their love lives — and themselves.

Meanwhile, Act II Playhouse in Ambler stages one of Hollinger's Arden successes, Red Herring (October 24 through November 19), a comedy in which six actors including Rachel Camp and Charlie DelMarcelle play 18 roles in a wacky Cold War espionage story. David Bradley directs.

Hollinger premieres two more plays this season: Sing the Body Electric at Theatre Exile (April 19 through May 13) and Hope and Gravity at 1812 Productions (April 26 through May 20), so get ready for a full season of one of Philly’s favorite playwrights.

Cross-country collaboration

Hella Fresh Theater was, for a few brief years, the most exciting theater outside the Fringe that no one ever heard of. Playwright and tireless DIY producer John Rosenberg would mount his smart, outrageous scripts, often directing and/or acting in them, in a little Kensington space. Then he moved to Culver City, California, occasionally sending short plays to Automatic Arts for their Nice and Fresh series.

Now, Rosenberg returns — sort of — with But Next Not This (October 21 through 29), a new play co-produced with the Hum'n'bards Performance Troupe (and editing and consulting from Philly’s Automatic Arts), performed simultaneously in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Via headphones, the audience in each city listens to a live phone call between sisters, but also witness actions and reactions not expressed on the phone. The Philadelphia cast features Anna Michael and Alexis Pozonsky.

Soaring solos

Two one-person shows — and the superb actors performing them — deserve special mention. Dito van Reigersberg, aka Pig Iron Theatre Company co-founder and beloved cabaret queen Martha Graham Cracker, stars in 1812 Productions' Buyer & Cellar (October 5 through 28). An out-of-work actor plays shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in her private mall, located in her Malibu mansion's basement. But is his friendship with Babs real? Daniel O'Neill directs.

At Theatre Horizon in Norristown, Lisa Kron's 2.5 Minute Ride (October 6 through 29) receives its area premiere. Kron, a three-time Tony Award-winner best known for the Broadway musical Fun Home (which will be produced by the Arden Theatre Company, May 17 through June 17) shares tales about riding roller coasters with her father, a Holocaust survivor, and their visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland — plus her life as an out-and-proud lesbian. Barrymore Award winner Leah Walton plays Kron, directed by Elaina Di Monaco of Fringe darlings On the Rocks.

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