At Fishtown theater, the rest of the season should be interesting

"Prob­lem Child," the latest play at Fishtown's Walk­ing Fish Theatre, is "a com­edy about things that aren't funny." It runs through Sat­urday.

A seedy motel room. Los­ing a baby to child ser­vices. Drug use and pros­ti­tu­tion. These are the top­ics at hand in The Walk­ing Fish Theatre’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion, Prob­lem Child.

Would you ever guess it’s a com­edy?

Maybe not, but the show is, in­deed, be­ing touted as “a com­edy about things that aren’t funny.” The show, part of Ca­na­dian play­wright George F. Walk­er’s six-part Sub­urb­an Motel series, takes place in the same “seedy” motel room as each of the oth­er five shows.

Prob­lem Child is the third in the series, which will con­tin­ue to run at the Fish through next year.

The show opened in pre­views on Nov. 1, and will con­tin­ue to run to­night and each day through Sat­urday. Each show is at 8 p.m. at the theat­er, 2509 Frank­ford Ave.

Tick­ets are $20, but to­night’s show, like every Wed­nes­day night show at the Fish, is a spe­cial “Pay What You Can” show — con­trib­ute whatever you can af­ford.

To­mor­row’s show is a “Brew­mas­ter Thursday” show; ar­rive at 7:30 to sample loc­al beers.

Prob­lem Child is dir­ec­ted by Stan Hel­eva, and stars Michelle Pauls, Matt Shell, Ar­u­mugavel Naga­ra­jan and Gina Mar­tino.

The show cen­ters on Shell and Mar­tino as R.J. and Den­ise, who lost their baby when Den­ise’s moth­er called child ser­vices be­cause of her daugh­ter’s il­li­cit activ­it­ies. The two clean up their acts a bit and work to con­vince their so­cial work­er, Helen — played by Pauls — that they can be good par­ents.

Pauls, man­aging artist­ic dir­ect­or for B. Someday Pro­duc­tions at the theatre, said the show’s sub­ject mat­ter makes it funny, yet poignant.

“Some of the hu­mor is pretty out there and wacky. It’s com­edy, with drama thrown in,” she said.

She said the char­ac­ters and the situ­ations in which they find them­selves are very true-to-life.

“A couple people have said to us [after shows], ‘I’ve been through that, that’s ex­actly what it’s like.’ We’re do­ing truth­ful work, something mean­ing­ful that mat­ters. That’s what theat­er’s all about.”

Shell, who plays R.J., said the Walk­ing Fish is a good ven­ue for the Sub­urb­an Motel series, since each play takes place in the very same “room” on stage.

“This is the per­fect set­ting,” he said. “I would de­scribe it as claus­tro­phobic … these people are really in their own pris­on.”

Shell said his char­ac­ter is frus­trated with Mar­tino’s char­ac­ter, Den­ise, be­cause she isn’t put­ting the same amount of ef­fort R.J. is in­to get­ting their daugh­ter back.

“This char­ac­ter got tough be­cause he dis­plays a lot of traits that people would shy away from,” he said. “I think he’s still do­ing just enough to get by. He’s a de­press­ive char­ac­ter; therein lies the chal­lenge, to be­come someone who clearly isn’t his best self.”

Mar­tino said play­ing Den­ise was a bit of a roller coast­er.

“Den­ise has so many fa­cets … [she goes] from com­plete ac­cel­er­a­tion to de­pres­sion,” she said. “I’m lucky to have such a sup­port­ive cast and dir­ect­or for that.”

She agreed that the Fish lends a cru­cial ele­ment of in­tim­acy to a show like Prob­lem Child.

“The audi­ence is a fly on the wall in­to these people’s lives,” she said.

The Walk­ing Fish will also be present­ing, in Decem­ber, a Christ­mas-themed bur­lesque spec­tacle that de­tails the, shall we say, “unique” com­ing of age of Santa Claus. The Bur­lesque Ad­ven­tures of Santa Claus: A Christ­mas Tale for Grownups will run from Dec. 19 through 31.

“The Christ­mas bur­lesque show is go­ing to be a lot more fun,” Shell said with a laugh.

Vis­it for more in­form­a­tion on all shows.

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­

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