Strange Tenants
Arresting in its weirdness and impressive in its quivers, jerks and writhing, "Strange Tenants" is about the way the show feels as much as — maybe more than — storyline. Four women visit the lakeside home of their childhood friend for their first reunion after some horrible hinted-at incident came between them about nine years back. Send bygones packing! Let's celebrate the good times!

You know how that'll go, even before the second scene. But then, you're supposed to — witnessing the descent of this homecoming is the point. And also the pleasure. The women begin by observing social conventions but in no time, they're consumed by their teenage girlhood jealousies, infatuations with each other, insinuations and grotesque dreams: the good old days.

Along the way, they relive the games they played and the stories they told — but not the way you might think. "Strange Tenants" is the theatrically inventive creation of its ensemble, put together in a script by Jeremy Gable and staged by Sam Tower, who directs what her bio calls "feminist physical theater in unconventional performance spaces." In fact "Strange Tenants" is in a basement of a building on little Bread Street in Old City and is self-described "a dance theater psycho thriller," a sterling example of truth in advertising.

The four main players — Nia Benjamin, Tess Kunik, Merri Rashoyan and the accomplished Bi Jean Ngo — move in and around a house framed in simple cord by set designer Kevin Meehan. When the women sleep or dream or think in the present and in flashbacks, they express themselves in wild movement and synchronized jerks, managing to speak volumes without a single word. The program notes for "Strange Tenants" list no single choreographer, astounding given the complexity of the cast's movements.

As for the psycho thriller part, the show is satisfyingly strange and in its way, gripping. Richly acted, too. For a really florid weekend, your high school reunion committee may consider taking notes.
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"Strange Tenants," produced by Sam Tower + Ensemble, runs through Sept. 17 in the basement of Power Plant Productions, 233 N. Bread St.

The Hand Job
It happens everyday at exactly 5:20 p.m.: A white-gloved hand appears from a window across from Jean and Tim's apartment. It's holding a lit cigarette. Just who belongs to the hand and what's it doing there?

Jean (Laura Barron) is a student getting a scholarship for her studies of conspiracy theory — and she ought to be studying more and theorizing about the hand less. But she's obsessed. Tim, her live-in boyfriend (Chris Monaco) is pretty fed up with the hand's attraction to his girlfriend — that is, when he's not cheating on her with another student, Claire (Annelise Pajewski). The hand in question belongs in real life to Meghan Winch.

Manayunk Theatre Company makes this new 70-minute play by Sean Connolly, who directed it, a tense evening in a small production. I sense that Connolly intended some of it to be funny — "I think we're getting a little out-of-hand about this," says Tim — but at the performance I saw no one in the tiny audience was laughing. We were, however, paying attention because the plot carried us along. "The Hand Job" is solid playwriting, and the production fits it, uh, like a glove.
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"The Hand Job," produced by Manayunk Theatre Company, runs through Sept. 16 at St. Josephat's Roman Catholic Church, 124 Cotton St. in the Manayunk neighborhood.

Gatz
Harrison Stengle's show, produced by a company called Macho Goat, is billed as a parody based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." But it's nothing more than an adaptation of the book's major scenes, strung together and presented without any of the Gatsby bling. It's set in the Philadelphia area in the future and after a nuclear apocalypse in New York, but that's all scantly detailed and to no effect. Much of the acting is sincere but substandard (sometimes painfully) and the production, bare-bones and amateurish. That is, if you can hear it: PROJECT, people! And what's this about stagehands changing scenery in front of the actors before they've finished their scenes? Next thing you know, we'll have the audience sitting with our backs to the stage. Hmmm...
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"Gatz" runs through Sept. 24 at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St.

The Philly Fringe Festival runs through Sept. 24. For more information: fringearts.com.