James Ijames’ World Premiere of Abandon Wraps Theatre Exile’s Season

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Paola Nogueras

South Philly’s Theatre Exile currently presents the world premiere of Abandon by Philadelphia based Pulitzer Prize-winner James Ijames. The show, created in partnership with the theatre’s New Play Development Program, Studio X-hibition, is directed by 2021 Pew Fellow Brett Ashley Robinson. If you haven’t been to Theatre Exile yet this season, there’s no time like the present. Abandon is the show you need to see there.

At the center of Abandon is Luella- played by the always fantastic and versatile Melanye Finister- an older woman who lives alone, yet still speaks to her dead son, Gabriel (Brenson Thomas) as if he physically shares the space with her. As the play unfolds, we learn more about their strained and unresolved relationship. Much of Luella’s life is a mystery, but her neighbors speculate the worst. In a parallel setting, the hardened Christopher (Carlo Campbell) finds out a secret about his younger brother Joshua (Jared Chichester) which forces the latter to run to safety. That safety, via a botched break-in, is Luella’s home. Joshua and Luella slowly find comfort in one another through similar experiences, but their newfound friendship comes with a price.

Abandon wraps up this season at Theatre Exile, a season that highlighted broken family relationships and the hope we search for in one another. Personally seeing Ijames’ Fat Ham go from the Wilma Theatre’s digital screen to the Broadway stage (and earning a couple Tony nominations this season), I have no doubt that Abandon could be on the same path. The quick dialogue and intense situations will shock you, but still throw in moments that make you smile. It’s a perfect piece of theatre that shouldn’t be missed during the Philadelphia run. Tickets, through this weekend only, are available here.

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