For years Bruce Graham wanted to write a play based on his cousin’s car repair shop. But he had to get hoppin’ mad first, before he found a story amidst the grease, metal and profanity.
“I would hang around the garage, meet the guys from the neighborhood. We would just sit there and laugh our asses off. The whole time I’m thinking, ‘oh my God, what great characters.’ Once I figured out what I wanted to use the set for, the play just wrote itself,” says Graham. “Anger seems to inspire my plays, especially the funny ones. And, to me, the average lower middle class and middle class people in this country are getting royally screwed. When I was growing up [in Philly] your dad worked at Boeing, GE, Westinghouse, or the Navy Yard… That’s just not here anymore, and people are peeved by that.”
“North of the Boulevard” begins previews this week at Theatre Exile’s Studio X in South Philly. Directed by Matt Pfeiffer, the play features longtime Philly actor Scott Greer as a mechanic presented with a get-just-enough-richer-quick scheme.
“It’s ‘Can I get north of the [Roosevelt] Boulevard?’ It’s not like you’re trying to get to nirvana or something,” says Graham. “It’s just like, ‘I want to get three miles away from here to a better school district for my kids, which is a pretty realistic goal in life, I think.”
An appropriate venue
Originally scheduled to debut in a Center City venue, “Boulevard” was moved to due to a scheduling conflict. As luck would have it, Theatre Exile’s South Philly rehearsal space is a converted auto repair garage. Award winning set designer Matt Saunders was brought in to reconvert the space into a garage again, and expand the seating capacity of the venue.