Nichole Canuso says that “dance is by nature a time-based art form,” so she found much to be inspired by while creating Return Return Departure, a new work of movement-based reflections of the exhibition Tempus Fugit: Time Flies at the American Philosophical Society. Canuso dug into the artifacts and art of the exhibit, based around how we try to measure, capture and find meaning in the passage of time, to create a series of duets that she’ll perform with John Luna. During each performance (portions happening in an outdoor garden), each dancer will also shoot POV video. “Each time we perform, we add the new video to the installation, and the video accumulates,” says Canuso, “so we can really see the dance change over time.” —Deni Kasrel
Wed., Sept. 5-Fri., Sept 21, $12, American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St.
Don’t take the title too literally — this original musical is directed by Dibble’s wife, Amy Dugas Brown. If you aren’t involved with the Philly theater scene, the titular targets are local stage dynamos who often play lead roles at the Walnut Street Theatre and the Arden — and they do not actually appear. Their presence is only in the minds of Mike (Michael Doherty) and Greg (Greg Nix), actors stymied by pathetic audition failure. In a fit of musical-theater logic, they decide the road to success begins with bumping off the two most popular actors in town with the help of Bechtel (Alex Bechtel), a “psychotic theater buff and freelance assassin.” Any resemblance of these fiendish characters to the show’s creators and performers (themselves Barrymore Award winners, in their new performance group Los Jarochos) is, of course, purely accidental. —Mark Cofta
Wed., Sept. 5-Mon., Sept. 10, $15, Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey St.
Theatre Exile’s 50-seat Studio X space in South Philly seems appropriately claustrophobic for Adam Rapp’s intense monologue The Edge of Our Bodies. Director Matt Pfeiffer entrusts the darkly poetic coming-of-age piece to Nicole Erb, who soared as another teenager struggling with first love in Lantern Theater’s Romeo and Juliet last season. Her 16-year-old Bernadette both yearns to be heard and aches to disappear. “I am living someone else’s life,” the prep school student confesses, “the life of some stupid, desperate girl in a raincoat who likes to tease and lie to strangers.” Pfeiffer starred in Exile’s hit production of Rapp’s Pulitzer finalist Red Light Winter in 2006, a similarly provocative, intimate and unforgettable drama. —Mark Cofta
Thu., Sept. 6-Sun., Sept. 23, $20, Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St.
A bed, a man, a woman — and a mouse mask? That’s how David Ireland’s comedy begins, as an awkward post-coital conversation between two lonely Belfasters leads to an incisive, explosive and hilarious exploration of unrealistic female body expectations, the masks we hide behind and the pitfalls of modern urban mating. A gem from Tiny Dynamite’s terrific A Play, A Pie, and A Pint series of dinnertime one-acts; no pizza at these shows, says Tiny Dynamite’s artistic director Emma Gibson, but plenty of beer to toast performances that were among last season’s underappreciated finest. —Mark Cofta
Fri., Sept. 7-Fri., Sept. 21, $15, Off-Broad Street Theater, 1636 Sansom St.
Edgar Allan Poe achieved his chills via minimalism: a sense of dread, an obsessive compulsion, the slow advance of a horrible fate. The writer’s mystery-shrouded final days are, then, a surprisingly well-suited topic for Thaddeus Phillips, though his theater pieces tend more toward droll physical comedy than existential terror. Phillips’ work with Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental is frequently a festival highlight — particularly known for inventive, effective use of minimal sets. Red-Eye retells Poe’s final days as an action opera, taking the ill-fated author on train rides, into bars and hospitals and even on a visit to the Philadelphia Waterworks. —Shaun Brady
Fri., Sept. 7-Sun., Sept. 16, $28-$35, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St.
Face it: You’re never going to look as good as you do right now. Heck, by the time you finish reading this, you’ll probably have sprouted your first gray hair, and your boobs will be that much closer to their goal of bitch-slapping your knees. Thankfully, local photog R.A. Friedman is offering locals a chance to immortalize their present forms in an innovative participatory photographic adventure. For the project, 10 to 15 volunteer models will strip down and pose in a pitch-black room as Friedman crawls around on the floor “painting” them with a 200-watt lightbulb and reflector that will be picked up by his “primitive,” tiny-lensed camera. The result will be a “ghostlike and dreamy” group shot of distorted naked folks that recalls those creepy superimposed spirit photos from the Victorian Age. —Josh Middleton
Mon., Sept. 17, $20, The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Here’s your chance to catch two fierce actresses in a Brat Productions doubleheader of totally rockin’ shows. Start with Popsicle’s Departure, 1989, a sharp — albeit twisted — love letter to the late-’80s punk-rock scene that’s searing, irreverent and poetic. Winner of numerous awards, it’s a one-woman show written by and starring the fabulous Madi Distefano, who goes all-out inhabiting her characters while dropping whip-smart lines. Pause for intermission — a perfect time to hit the Festival Bar (conveniently located on-site) — then groove to Eternal Glamnation, a glam-rock cabaret theater extravaganza, conceived by and featuring Jess Conda. The musical mash-up has a loose narrative concerning a nuclear family that kinda blows up, after which, as Distefano tells it, “The glam angel comes down from on high, in his Bowie-esque alien kind of way, and helps everyone … find their inner awesomeness.” Are two Brat shows in one night too much? Heck no, assures Distefano. “It’s no longer than a regular night at the theater, with a nice, leisurely intermission.” Meanwhile, don’t wait to hear the inevitable buzz before buying tickets; odds are good RockPile will be among the early Fringe sellouts.—Deni Kasrel
Fri., Sept. 7-Wed., Sept. 26, $19-$35, Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St.
After a yearlong reign as Pro-Mania champion, it’s time for young Philly comedian Joey Dougherty to get back in the ring and put the title on the line. With classic Pro-Mania wrestlers returning — like local indie stars Tim Donst and Bryce Remsburg (of Chikara micro-fame) — plus a flood of new blood, it’s anybody’s guess who will rise to the challenge and take Joey down. Can we expect more people being thrown through tables? Will there be boobs again? Will it be funny? Find out at this year’s very BYOB, audience-participation-charged four-night frenzy (every Friday in Fringe plus the final Saturday). It’s an ongoing storyline, so every night is a new hot mess. —Ryan Carey
Fri., Sept. 7-Sat., Sept. 22, $12, Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom St.
The Philadelphia Opera Collective’s mission to shatter the form’s undeserved reputation for stodgy staginess continues with their third production of an American opera in English. POC, committed to visceral, story-based opera for young, diverse audiences, joins forces with one of Philadelphia’s most innovative young theater directors, Brenna Geffers, who staged EgoPo’s edgy 2010 Fringe hit, Marat/Sade. The Consul — Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winner, which premiered in Philadelphia, is an eerily modern tale of political refugees suffering under a bureaucratic government. “It has some of the most beautiful, gritty, working-class characters I have ever had the pleasure of creating a world for,” says Geffers of her first opera production. “It’s a nightmare portrait of our country as it continues to turn human beings into numbers, and lives into case studies. During a festival that asks artists to go beyond their normal routine, I couldn’t think of anything more ‘fringey’ and experimental for myself than to delve into opera.” —Mark Cofta
Fri.-Sat., Sept. 7-8 and Fri., Sept. 14, $20. Jolie Laide Gallery, 224 N. Juniper St.
The Divine Hand Ensemble advertises that their upcoming concert marks “the first time in 250 years that funerary music will be performed publicly and the first ever in America.” If that claim, dubious on several levels, smacks a bit of carny braggadocio, it surely jibes well with a Gothic-leaning classical ensemble fronted by a theremin player who goes by the name of Mano Divina. Along with an eight-piece string ensemble featuring harp, guitar, glockenspiel and voices, Divina will perform music purportedly composed for the dearly departed in the 16th century on an instrument concocted in the 20th. The musical oddity quickly became the eccentricity of choice for horror and sci-fi film composers, which the ensemble embraces with in-costume performances of material like Elmer Bernstein’s theme from Ghostbusters. The Fringe audience will be mostly appropriate, however, as the dead will far outnumber the living at Laurel Hill Cemetery. —Shaun Brady
Sat., Sept. 8, $25, Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Ave.
These difficult-to-categorize improvisers create “spontaneous theater,” cutting-edge shows that feel more like plays than traditional joke- and game-structured improvisation. This year, the six-year-old troupe premiere a new original format — its sixth! — called WHO. The audience shares, anonymously on note cards, one-sentence responses to the question, “Who are you?” Artistic director Bobbi Block’s tight ensemble (Fred Andersen, Beth Dougherty, Jennifer MacMillan, Ed Miller, Fred Siegel and Carrie Spaulding) instantly creates scenes, monologues, online conversations and dating situations inspired by the uncensored, randomly chosen answers. “In addition to creating authentic characters, we also want to explore disguising who we are,” Block explains, “so we’ve designed the show to include online chatting and speed dating, situations in which we manipulate who we are based on what we feel the other person wants to hear.” An April preview of WHO showed me that the new approach inspires soul-baring revelations, brought to life with Tongue & Groove’s characteristic emotional honesty, empathy and humor. —Mark Cofta
Sun., Sept. 9-Wed., Sept. 19, $15, The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St.
The Philadelphia Artists Collective focuses on classics, so their productions typically require large casts and big spaces. That’s the ambitious streak that led the company’s founding quartet of theater artists to choose August Strindberg’s groundbreaking 1889 psychological drama as this year’s Fringe project. Creditors features soon-to-be-wed real-life couple Krista Apple and Dan Hodge trapped in a teetering marriage. “We’re planning a wedding by day,” Apple notes, “and destroying one onstage every night.” They’re drawn into a deadly love triangle by a mysterious stranger played by Damon Bonetti, whose real-life wife Charlotte Northeast directs. This vicious game of betrayal proposes that lust, psychology and emotional debt are stronger than the traditional ties of class, money and society — a shock for Strindberg’s time, and still provocative today. The action occurs in the site-specific library of the Franklin Inn Club, with the audience unnervingly close. —Mark Cofta