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Here’s the first thing I noticed about Waiting For Ganol, a Cannonball Festival entry in the Philly Fringe by Alex Marcus: it’s not trying to convince me of something. This is just a story about a family. I was free to interpret any societal issues that came up in any way that I wished, and more importantly, I got to apply my interpretations to this specific story in a meaningful way. That doesn’t mean this original play lacks its own point of view; unlike a lot of contemporary media, it just doesn’t feel like it’s trying to tattoo my mind.
Donnie and Marcia Cosentinos (Joe Falcone and Samantha Ricchiuti) are about to welcome a second child into their family. To celebrate, they are having a gender-reveal party in their South Philly backyard, culminating in the slicing of a giant cannoli, which will reveal either blue or pink filling. But family friend Maria (Maria Riillo), tasked with picking up said confection, is running late, and her ex-boyfriend, Donnie’s best friend Lou (Harrison Rothbaum), is at the party psyching himself up to see her again after a nasty breakup.
This Philly Fringe premiere crackled with wit and excellent characterization, thanks to solid direction by Arielle Sosland and a sharp script by first-time playwright Alex Marcus, a South Philly-based writer. Falcone and Rothbaum’s twitchy banter got the audience laughing right away. And in another bonus, the MAAS Building Garden’s pleasant outdoor stage placed the audience inside the Consentino’s backyard, with one downside: sometimes one-third of the audience, seated inches away from the set, got the back of an actor’s head for extended periods of time.
One of the early gags was an unseen son who was on punishment, banished from the festivities. He was represented periodically as a rattling of the MAAS Building door leading to the production’s backstage. Things got a bit darker once we found out why he was being punished and saw further evidence that this family was in the midst of a crisis that neither parent wanted to directly address. Donnie would rather put all of his hopes into his unborn baby being a girl because relying on gendered expectations is presumably easier than actively parenting a wayward child.
Marcia just wants to make sure her kids avoid the sterile upbringing that she had. To that end, she closely follows the TikTok trends, which gave her the idea for the gender reveal; she’s very invested in doing it “the right way.” Meanwhile, her friend Maria comes close to a revelation when she points out how limiting gender expectations are and asserts it should be called a “sex reveal” instead. Donnie remarks that that sounds a bit untoward. Despite her stance, Maria is an unwitting victim of gendered expectations as she fears being without a mate at the grand “old” age of 29. Should she settle for a cheating boyfriend?
The cast gelled well. Falcone and Rothbaum were believable as best friends, while Falcone and Ricchiuti felt like a married couple. Some of the biggest laughs came from Stu Sklar as Donnie’s hard-of-hearing father in serious need of a filter. This tight hour-long comedy gave us something to think about long after the curtain call.
What, When, Where
Waiting For Ganol. By Alex Marcus, directed by Arielle Sosland. $5-$50 on a sliding scale; $25 suggested. September 20 and 24, 2023, at MAAS Building Garden, 1320 N 5th Street, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or phillyfringe.org.
The MAAS Building Garden is a ground-floor outdoor space but does not offer an ADA-compliant restroom.
This event did not require proof of vaccination to attend or masks to be worn.
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