Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Plum Bun
EgoPo Classic Theater / Theater in the X
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of Red Riding Hood

James Kern and Alexandria Orr
Photo by Jon Bradley/Bradley Visual
I was feeling a little skeptical as I ran into the last performance of Plum Bun, presented by EgoPo Classic Theater and Theater in the X, at the Christ Church Neighborhood House in Philadelphia. I knew that the subject of the Jessie Redmon Fauset 1928 novel on which the play is based was serious and that the runtime for this production was over three hours. Would the play be depressing or difficult to sit through? I walked out feeling emotionally moved, deeply thoughtful, and totally incredulous that the time could have passed so quickly.

This excellent adaptation of Fauset's novel was created by Lane Savadove and the show's director, Walter DeShields. Plum Bun centers on the character of Angela Murray, a light-skinned African American woman who decides to pass for white in order to gain access to opportunities and privileges that are otherwise denied to her due to racial discrimination. After her parents pass away she abandons her sister, changes her name to Angel, and moves to New York City where she can pass without fear of being recognized. The play explores themes of race, identity and class, and raises important questions about the price of assimilation and the complexity of navigating multiple identities in a society that is structured around racial hierarchies.

DeShields' confident direction kept the audience engaged and the pace brisk. Alexandria Orr was phenomenal as Angela Murray, appearing understandably frustrated or simply misguided at some moments, and then downright self-centered if not completely evil at other times. Taylor J. Mitchell played Angela's dark-skinned sister Virginia with a sort of steady optimism that never veered into self-delusion. The Murray sisters' light-skinned mother was played by the talented June Patterson with beautiful sincerity. Kyson A. Martin was unassuming yet graceful as their father. Other excellent performances came from James Kern as Roger, the privileged jackass and oh-so-detestable villain, and Kylie Westerbeck who played jaded New York dilettante Paulette with buckets of authenticity and good humor. The entire ensemble was excellent, creating the intimacy of a small, tight-knit family and all the epic glory of being a young artist in New York City.

Dirk Durossette's minimalistic scenic design was dynamic, clean, and impressively evocative. Pamela Hobson's lighting design almost functioned as a part of Durossette's set design, adding a dramatic flare to the production. The terrific costumes were thoughtfully designed and executed by Don Allen.

EgoPo Classic Theater is a Philadelphia-based specializing in producing classic plays and adaptations of literary works. With Plum Bun, EgoPo was putting out exactly the kind of work that they do best. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Plum Bun ran through May 6, 2023, at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St, Philadelphia PA. For more information, visit

Alexandria Orr: Angela Murray
Taylor J. Mitchell: Virginia Murray
June Patterson: Mattie Murray
Kyson A. Martin: Junius Murray
Ray Wrightsone: Anthony Cross
James Kern: Roger Fielding
Kahlil A. Wyatt: Matthew Henson
Tariq Kanu: Arthur Sawyer
Alexander Brown: Franky Porter
Kayle Byrd: Rachel Powell
Kylie Westerback: Paulette Lister
Kelly McCaughan: Martha Burden
Lauren Ackermann: Rachel Salter
Maggie Brennan: Esther Bayliss
Grace McGory: Mary Hastings
Alec Lacher: Ladislas Starr
Dannielle "Danni" Shaw: Mother Powell
Ciarra Ingram: Miss Andrews
Paul Harrold: Haynew Brookinaw

Production Staff:
Direction and Co-Adaptation: Walter DeShields
Movement/Ensemble Staging and Co-Adaptation: Lane Savadove
Dramaturgy: Dr. Lisa Bratton
Scenic Design: Dirk Durossette
Costume Design: Don Allen
Lighting Design: Pamela Hobson
Sound Design: Ava Weintzweig