Mark Cofta’s theater picks: Ibsen, Sherlock Holmes, and exciting premieres

Katharine Powell stars as Nora in the Arden's 'Doll's House.' (Photo by Mark Garvin.)

The Arden Theatre Company produces its first Henrik Ibsen play, the Norwegian's venerable A Doll's House (January 11 through February 25). Producing artistic director Terrence Nolen directs Katherine Powell as sheltered wife Nora, whose stunning choices inspired many feminists. This honest portrayal of marriage brought serious social concerns into late-19th-century theater. The production, co-conceived by Nolen and designer Jorge Cousineau, will play in the upstairs Arcadia Stage in the round. The 1879 play is still relevant and stirs controversy, as shown by last year's Broadway success of Lucas Hnath's sequel, A Doll's House, Part 2.

People's Light showcases its veteran resident ensemble in the American classic Morning's at Seven (January 10 through February 4). Abigail Adams directs Paul Osborn's 1939 family comedy, which features four sisters played by Carla Belver, Alda Cortese, Janis Dardaris, and Marcia Saunders. This who's-who of Philadelphia actors also includes Peter DeLaurier, Stephen Novelli, Graham Smith, Pete Pryor, and Teri Lamm.

The Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3 season continues with Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (January 2 through February 4), a faithful yet funny adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1902 novel. Ian Merrill Peakes plays the titular detective, with Bill Van Horn, who also directs, as his sidekick Watson. Dan Hodge, Jered McLenigan, and Sarah Gliko play nearly forty other characters. Baskerville, the eighth annual Walnut production to hit the road, will tour nationally and internationally.

New work for the new year

InterAct Theatre Company premieres Philadelphia playwright MJ Kaufman's social satire Sensitive Guys (January 19 through February 11), with an ensemble including Barrymore Award winner Bi Jean Ngo. The timely play is set at a small liberal-arts college coping with sexism, male dominance, and "rape culture." InterAct partners with Women Organized Against Rape for post-show discussions and social-action happy hours during the run.

Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists (PAPA), the area's first (and long overdue) Asian-American theater company, presents its first full production, TIGER STYLE! (January 24 through February 4). Mike Lew's raucous comedy features Stephanie N. Walters and Richard Chan as siblings whose adolescent achievement through aggressive "tiger parenting" has led to adult failure. PAPA's founders include Bi Jean Ngo and Cat Ramirez.

The Walnut's next mainstage production, The Humans (January 16 through March 4), marks the Philadelphia premiere of Stephen Karam's 2016 Tony Award winner. Producing artistic director Bernard Havard directs Philadelphia favorites Greg Wood, Jennie Eisenhower, Alex Keiper, and Mary Martello in this Thanksgiving-set family drama.

Jackie Sibblies Drury's Really (January 25 through February 18) reunites director Brenna Geffers and designer Thom Weaver, who often collaborate for EgoPo Classic Theatre and their company Die-Cast, at Theatre Exile. The 2016 drama, a Philadelphia premiere, features Nancy Boykin, Jessica Johnson, and Matteo Scamell in a generation-spanning collage about two women and a man important to both. 

At right: Bill Van Horn and Ian Merrill Peakes in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. (Photo by Mark Garvin.)

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