PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Arden Theatre is wrapping up its mainstage season with a new work set in the early years of the John Wanamaker department store.

But there’s not much to the play, “Wanamaker’s Pursuit,” beyond the runaway imagination of its creator.

Author Rogelio Martinez, who arrived in this country from Cuba at age nine, says he is delighted to be basing his recent play on fictional and historical characters centered around the iconic center city Philadelphia department store.

The core of the play is a fictional journey to Paris by John Wanamaker’s son, presumably to obtain Parisian artworks for the Philadelphia shop.

But what we get for better than two hours is a sampling of the Parisian art scene (Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Cezanne, Renoir, and so on) and the young Wanamaker’s unsuccessful pursuit of the love of a Parisian beauty.

The staging is simple if not comprehensible: appropriate paintings, colorful costumes, some random fencing, and dialects reminiscent of fractured English.

It seems appropriate that a play titled “Wanamaker’s Pursuit” would be more about Wanamaker and less about the fussy French.

The current work inhabits the Arden’s “Arcadia Stage” through May 22nd.

The Arden Theatre is located at 40 North Second Street, in Old City Philadelphia.  For more information go to

Reviewed by Bob Nelson, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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