Current play production headlined by South Philly local

Steven Rishard and Ngozi Anyanwu in The Garbologists. | Photo courtesy of Ashley Smith and Wide Eyed Studio

A South Philly resident is starring in the latest production of a play that focuses on an odd couple in the sanitation business.

The Garbologists, which premiered at the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Nov. 11 and will run through Dec. 5, features South Philly’s own Steven Rishard in the lead role alongside Bensalem native Ngozi Anyanwu.

The play is centered around the relationship between Danny, played by Rishard, and his co-worker Marlowe, played by Anyanwu. The pair could not be more different: Danny is white, blue-collar and conservative, while Marlowe is Black, liberal and Ivy League-educated. Yet when the two sanitation workers are paired together on the same route, they are forced to find common ground and a steady rhythm despite their differences. 

“When I first read The Garbologists, the writing struck me as so deceptively funny, yet the themes of the play were really deep,” said PTC producing artistic director Paige Price. “I had no idea several years later this story would become so timely and relevant during the pandemic.” 

Rishard shared a similar sentiment, adding that while the characters contrast in many different ways, they are both trying to figure out how to maneuver through life.

“It’s about two people who are sort of putting their lives back together,” Rishard said. “And no one is able to do that all by themselves. And I think a lot of times when we are in vulnerable places, we reach out to whoever’s around to help us pick the pieces back up and help us move forward.”

Rishard first came across The Garbologists in 2018 when it was in Philly as part of PlayPenn, a local play development conference. He said he was especially struck by the combination of interesting storylines and characters developed by the play’s playwright, Lindsay Joelle.

He thinks that while his character, Danny, may have his fair share of flaws, he is just trying to develop into the best version of himself.

“He’s doing what all the rest of us are doing, which is taking in the changes in the world and trying to be a little better every day,” Rishard said. “And I thought that was a wonderful story to be telling.” 

Rishard, who has lived in South Philly for the last seven years, has had roles in the TV series Law & Order, Ed and Kings while also appearing in films such as 6 Souls and Joy de V. over the course of his 20 years in entertainment. 

He said that while audiences can expect a good number of laughs to go along with the play’s more poignant moments, they should also look forward to its feel-good nature.

“Ultimately, I think it’s a story about hope, and what can come when you open yourself up to people, especially people who you wouldn’t normally do that with,” Rishard said.