-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
photo by Wide Eyed Studios
The Philadelphia Theatre Company continues its season with a Philadelphia Premiere of Empathitrax, an eerie and comical exploration of the consequences of one pharmacological breakthrough in the romantic life of one couple. The play is written by East Falls native Ana Nogueira, whose play, Which Way to the Stage, recently opened to critical acclaim Off-Broadway, and has also appeared as an actress on The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.” Empathitrax marks Nogueria’s Philadelphia debut, and is brought to life by a team of Philadelphia artists and creatives. The production is directed by Nell Bang-Jensen, the Artistic Director of Theatre Horizon, who previously directed PTC’s well-received virtual production of The Wolves. Empathitrax runs February 10-March 5. Opening Night is Wednesday, February 15 at 7pm. All shows are performed at PTC’s home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146. Tickets are on sale now and start at $25 and up. Tickets are available at www.philatheatreco.org, by calling 215-985-0420, or by visiting the Box Office.
“It’s so exciting! This is the first time I have one of my plays going up here. I love Philly,” said Nogueira. “I love the people, I love the culture. I’m proud to have been raised here and it means so much to me to be able to bring my work home.”
PTC is thrilled to provide a home to Nogueira’s work in her hometown. “Empathitrax is a fascinating, funny, and deeply human play that asks universal questions about romance and companionship, plus it has a fun science-fiction premise that wouldn’t be out of place in a Black Mirror episode. It’s a smart, heart-felt 90-minute show we think Philadelphia will really love,” said PTC Co-Artistic Director Tyler Dobrowsky.
The futuristic Empathitrax is a searing, darkly funny sci-fi story of a young couple who turn to a breakthrough in pharmacology to save their fractured relationship. When “Empathitrax” (/em·path·i·traks/) hits the market promising instant emotional intimacy by divining what others feel, one couple takes the leap to eliminate all boundaries between them. Like any new drug, there are unforeseen side effects which in this instance have catastrophic and poignant consequences.
Nogueria feels the play may resonate differently with audiences after the events of 2020. “I guess, unfortunately, the play will feel more universal now since we all experienced the sort of isolation that the main characters in this play live in,” said Nogueria. “They aren’t in quarantine but they might as well be. So many relationships were tested over the past two years, and mental health issues have been on the rise for very understandable reasons. So yeah, I think the play will hit closer to home for people who maybe wouldn’t have related to it prior to 2020. But this play is ultimately about love—love being an action, something you have to show.”
Nogueira also reminds audiences not to be afraid of the funny in the play. “There is a lot of levity to the story… so don’t be afraid to laugh,” she said.
The couple at the center of the story, known as Her and Him, are played by Claire Inie-Richards and Makoto Hirano. They are joined by Matteo Scammell as pharmaceutical sales rep Joe and Him’s bro-ish friend Matty D. Inie-Richards is making her PTC debut. She is a company member at People’s Light, and appeared in their Summer 2022 production of The Vinegar Tree. Hirano returns to PTC, after a recent appearance in Theatre Exile’s Wolf Play. Scammell returns to PTC after appearing in Sweat in 2018. He was also seen in Wolf Play at Theatre Exile and is currently in Charlotte’s Web at The Arden Theatre Company.
“One of the elements I love about this play is that Nogueira has brilliantly crafted an entertaining and poignant piece about something as untheatrical as mental health,” said Bang-Jensen, the Director. “The theater is so much about what’s spoken and what’s seen, that I think it is an amazing challenge to work on a piece that is largely about the internal life of two characters. It’s a great adventure for our cast and creative team to figure out how to represent mental space in a theatrical way. I don’t want to give away the ending, but at moments, we do see elements of an internal/ dream life made manifest onstage.”
This production marks Bang-Jensen’s return to PTC after she directed the 2020 virtual production of The Wolves, which was widely well-received by publications including The New York Times. Chris Haig is the Scenic Designer responsible for creating the apartment that Her and Him live in. He is making his PTC debut; other work includes Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto at People’s Light, and The Last Parade at InterAct Theatre. Jillian Keys is making her PTC debut as the Costume Designer. She is a Barrymore nominated designer who has designed over 50 shows in Philadelphia. She also has designed the beer garden at Eakins Oval and holiday bars including Tinsel in Center City. Lily Fossner is making her PTC debut as the Lighting Designer. She recently designed Hedgerow Theatre’s The Pillowman and A Christmas Carol Comedy. Jordan McCree is the Sound Designer. He recently worked on TOWN (Theatre Horizon) and This Is The Week That Is (1812 Productions). He is a member of the Philadelphia hip-hop collective ILL DOOTS.
“My vision for the piece is largely centered around that transformation—the moment when we go from everyday life to something more fantastical, and see what is in these characters’ heads finally actualized,” said Bang-Jensen. “This is really the job of theater makers in general—imagining new worlds and finding ways to communicate them to an audience through the power of transformation. It’s satisfying to watch two characters in a play get to enact a parallel journey.”
PTC will host two talkbacks after the Sunday matinees on February 12 and March 5. On February 12, invited talkback guests include Karleen Gardner, the Sherrerd Deputy Director for Learning and Engagement at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; John Detre, Director of the Brain Science Center and the Center for Functional Neuroimaging; Arjun Raj, Professor of Genetics and Head of the Raj Lab at Penn Perelman; and Nell Bang-Jensen, Director of Empathitrax. Ana Nogueira, the Playwright, will join the March 5 talkback. Both talkbacks will be led by PTC Artistic Directors Taibi Magar and Tyler Dobrowsky, and are open to all Empathitrax ticket holders.
Support for Empathitrax comes from PECO Energy Company. Tickets for Empathitrax are on sale now. They start at $25 and are available at www.philatheatreco.org, by calling 215-985-0420, or by visiting the box office. The season concludes with PTC Resident Director Jeffrey L. Page’s production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill running April 7-April 30. Connect with Philadelphia Theatre Company for the latest updates on social at @philatheatreco on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and @philatheatre on TikTok.