Who knew we were so hungry for dinner theatre here? Full house both nights at Trolley Car Cafe for “TURNPIKE,” an original play by Fallser Kathy Anderson and the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop. 

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When it comes to supporting local theatre, East Falls commits to the part: we show up in droves, we present full attention, we clap out culture-loving hearts out.

“We had an amazing time presenting our new play, TURNPIKE, at Trolley Car Cafe,” said Kathy Anderson, co-writer of the play with Bill Felty, who also directed the play. “The audiences were so wonderful, the best you could ever hope for.”

It was a first for both Philadelphia Theatre Workshop and Trolley Car Café – dinner and live theatre on the restaurant’s outside patio on August 21 & 22.

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Seated elbow-to-elbow under Trolley Car’s twinkling canopy, audience members tucked into loaded plates and then… Anderson & Felty’s homicidal plot unfolded around them.

Instead of a stage, the actors occupied the same space as the diners — which was actually quite fitting: the play is set in a turnpike diner in 1972. Performing so close to an audience creates a thrilling sense of immediacy, and also requires some nimbleness from the cast, who was more than up to the challenge.

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Sunday’s weather was initially a challenge, too, with heavy rains threatening to invade the patio tent but miraculously stopping minutes before the play began. Still, the canopy sagged with collected water at times, and waiters with poles would lift the billows, spilling them out as diners cheered.

“It was like a game,” said Jasmine Fields, general manager of Trolley Car Cafe, “Everyone really had fun with it.”

Audience members also played along during intermission, submitting their best guess for Who Done It.  In fact, one of the theatre company’s goals for the murder mystery was to keep the audience wondering:

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“A big highlight for the actors and playwrights was that the balloting on both nights was very evenly split among six characters as to who they thought was the murderer,” Anderson told us, “So we pulled off the mystery part of the evening.”

“Theatre is a very cool way to bring people together,” said Anderson, who has lived in East Falls for three years, and enjoys our welcoming neighborhood here:

“This play launch was especially great because people were not sitting alone and keeping their response to the play to themselves. Instead, it was a community experience with the audience eating together at long chef’s tables, making new friends, and talking about the play together.

“We even heard of people who just met sharing their BYOB wine with each other! Now that’s a friendly crowd.”

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Philadelphia Theatre Workshop is grateful to Ken Weinstein, Owner of the Trolley Car Café and Diner; Jane Walsh, Executive Assistant; Jasmine Fields and the staff of Trolley Car Café for a wonderful collaboration. (Also — bangin’ buffet, guys! Couldn’t have asked for better feedback from everyone raving about the food.)

To connect with Philadelphia Theatre Workshop for future performances, please follow them on Facebook and their website.