Preview This: Sunset Baby from Azuka at The Drake, The Last Match from Lantern at St. Stephen’s

Previews are always meant for audiences, rather than critics, to watch a stage work at its birth, a nascent imagining of what a play will be. Know what, though? I don’t think I have ever been to a preview – at least not in this town – where a work shown before the show’s official opening didn’t beam with pride and professionalism. Usually, in preview, a show is cooked to rare perfection. Directors and theater companies just want to make certain it is well done. Or at least medium-rare, without the blood.

The Last Match at the Lantern Theater Company.

Lantern Theater Company’s Philadelphia premiere of The Last Match from Photograph 51 playwright Anna Ziegler – previewing starting November 7 at St. Stephen’s Theater at 9th and Ludlow – might be a dramedy about uber-competitive tennis stars looking to best one another, and the women who love them. But, for my money, The Last Match moves like a riveting, reconnoitering chess game. Plus, director M. Craig Getting and Philly actor Matteo Scammell – always devastating to watch in Wilma productions such as Romeo & Juliet, is the Russian player. Guaranteed for intensity.

Coming off of a very recent win (like the next day) as the first African-American woman to win a Barrymore for directing (that would be Theater Horizon’s “The Color Purple” which won a boatload of Barrys during their October ceremony at The Bok), Director Amina Robinson tackles Dominique Morriseau’s “Sunset Baby” for Azuka Theatre starting in previews on November 7 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake.

Sunset Baby at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake.

Here, a one-time Black Panther and political prisoner must make peace (or not) with his estranged and decidedly unactivist-ic daughter, Nina. That Nina is played by Victoria Aaliyah Goins, an actor in Robinson’s troupe for “Color Purple,” guarantees a connectivity in vibe that will push this “Sunset Baby” into the red.

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