Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Wine in the Wilderness
Also see Rebecca's review of A Streetcar Named Desire
Amidst the chaos of Harlem's 1964 race riots, Bill is looking for a model he can paint into the last panel of his triptych on Black Womanhood. His friends Cynthia and Sonny-Man bring by spunky Tommy, a woman whose home been destroyed in the riots. Bill thinks he knows everything there is to know about Tommy as soon as they meet, but he could not be more wrong.
Wallace has gathered a top-notch cast for his first solo directing project at the EgoPo: Monroe Barrick is funny and sympathetic as neighborhood character Oldtimer; Andre G. Brown is wonderfully quixotic as Bill; Brennen S. Malone is authentically hip as Sonny-Man; and Cynda Purnell's interactions with Malone are fun to watch. But Ontaria Kim Wilson steals the show and takes the entire production to the next level. Along the way she pulls off a fantastic transition from unpolished schlub to smoking hot siren.
Marie Laster's immersive set design is effortlessly inviting. The spectacular ensemble is remarkably natural in their interactions and emotional arcs. Together they create a truly intimate experience. Most of the evening feels marvelously like relaxing in a good friend's apartment.
The 1964 riots loom large in Wine in the Wilderness, but violence never takes center stage. This is an intimate portrait of growth and love, full of positive energy. A defiant joy. And something to commiserate about. If Bill and Tommy can evolve and connect in such difficult times, perhaps we can too.
If you've been waiting for a show worth coming back to in person, this is the one.
EgoPo Classic Theater's Wine in the Wilderness runs through January 30, 2022, at The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks St., Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit www.egopo.org or call 267-273-1414.