Local actors in upcoming stage thriller

Inis Nua Theatre Company celebrates its 20th anniversary season with the east coast premiere of Once Upon a Bridge by Sonya Kelly, from March 6
-24, at Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, starring David Pica. Alice Yorke and Walter DeShields. Photo by Wide Eyed Studios

Three South Philly actors will share the spotlight in a new production by Inis Nua Theatre Company, which celebrates the company’s 20th anniversary season with the east coast premiere of Once Upon a Bridge.

Written by one of Ireland’s most popular current playwrights, Sonya Kelly, the play was inspired by a real incident where a jogger pushed a woman into the path of an oncoming bus on Putney Bridge in London.

It features Walter DeShields, Artistic Director of Theatre in the X, Alice Yorke of award-winning company Lighting Rod Special and popular local actor David Pica. The drama is directed by beloved Philadelphia artist Brett Ashley Robinson, who also directed Theatre Exile’s Abandon.

“I’m excited to introduce Philadelphia audiences to Sonya Kelly,” said Inis Nua Artistic Director KC MacMillan. “Sonya is red hot across Ireland right now but still new to Philadelphia and American audiences. Once Upon a Bridge is lightning fast, almost a thriller, but it’s also deeply human and funny. It offers the kind of magic only theater can do – the magic of a profound story, unexpectedly revealed, as audiences share intimate space with the performers.”

The show runs from March 6 through March 24, for a total of 18 performances. New this season – Inis Nua has added a Saturday matinee to meet demand as well as a mask-required, reduced capacity performance on Wednesdays. All performances will take place at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street. Tickets are on sale now for $23-$35 by calling 215-454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org. Discounted tickets are available for seniors and students.

Pica and Robinson are newly married and will work together for the first time.

“I am looking forward to this collaboration with my wife, Brett,” said Pica. “I’m overjoyed. They are a superb artist and I am excited about the many ways I’ve seen them work with other artists to activate theatrical text. I’m sure she’ll bring many unique offers to the rehearsal process and invite each of us in the room to make offers of our own. The script is based on an actual event and Brett is very well-suited to help us craft the lives of these characters.”

Once Upon a Bridge is inspired by the true events that shocked London in 2017. The lives of three strangers collide for a split second on a busy London bridge: the English jogger racing across the city and up the corporate ladder, the Irish barrister striding toward a prominent career and the Senegalese bus driver under pressure to finish his morning shift on time. Charged with tension, Once Upon a Bridge unravels a life-changing moment and its aftermath through three completely different perspectives, crescendoing to an exciting and shocking climax where class tensions collide with human decency, and a split-second decision can alter a life forever.

“There’s something so beautiful about the simplicity of Sonya Kelly’s language to tell this thrilling story,” said Robinson. “It’s got me thinking about the intersection of our desires with the frailty of our existence. The play focuses on a major event, but it’s almost three plays. Before the event feels one way and then the day of the event feels heightened and styled, and then the aftermath feels quite different. The audience is immersed in every reality.”

Robinson will direct a cast of local favorites and stars who include DeShields playing the bus driver, Yorke playing the woman and Pica playing the man. All three actors are familiar to Inis Nua audiences, having appeared on its stages previously.