Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Philadelphia Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Makoto Hirano and Claire Inie-Richards
Photo by Mark Garvin
Innovative, thought-provoking, and an emotional punch to the gut, Empathitrax is a truly extraordinary play and a powerful work of art. Making its Philadelphia debut at with the Philadelphia Theatre Company, this science-fiction romance-dramedy is maybe the perfect cautionary tale for our time. It is also a tremendous entertainment and seriously funny to boot.

Empathitrax is a raw and intimate story of a couple struggling to re-connect. To revive their relationship, the pair, known simply as Her and Him, turn to a pharmacological breakthrough: a pill that allows the user to experience the emotions of others just by touching them. Together they learn about the breathtaking possibilities and hard limits of emotional understanding. The play is focused on the power of emotions and what it means to sympathize with and understand each other, but it also thoughtfully addresses issues of mental health, personal autonomy, the impact of new technology, and the value and cost of long-term romantic relationships.

Claire Inie-Richards and Makoto Hirano are magnificent as Her and Him. Achingly vulnerable and unnervingly manipulative, Inie-Richards shows incredible emotional range. Makoto Hirano is well meaning and maybe just a little naive as Him. Both create characters that are fully realized and utterly relatable, their struggles and triumphs drawing the audience in and keeping them engaged throughout the play. Together they create a strange and beautiful magic. Matteo Scammell delivers deeply disturbing and absolutely hilarious performances as pharmaceutical sales rep Joe and honest but immature Matty D.

Playwright Ana Noguera's script is masterfully crafted, seamlessly weaving together moments of humor and heartbreak to create a rich and multi-layered narrative that is both intriguing and deeply moving.

The production values are top-notch, with the set design, lighting, and sound all working together to create a fully immersive theatrical experience. Chris Haig's set design is ingenious. Her and Him's sleek minimalist apartment living room is bizarrely scaled–that couch must be at least as big as two beds–in a way that contributes to the uncanny feeling of the production. Simple changes to the set completely alter the mood and tone. The staging is clever and dynamic, keeping the audience on their toes and adding to the overall sense of tension and drama.

Empathitrax is a testament to the power of live theater to surprise, challenge, and change us. It is also certain to leave a lasting impression on everyone who sees it.

Empathitrax runs in performance through March 5, 2023, at Philadelphia Theatre Company, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia PA. The show streams through March 19. For tickets and information, please visit, call 215-985-0420, or visit the box office on South Broadway Street.

Claire Inie-Richards: Her
Makoto Hirano: Him
Matteo Scammell: Joe and Matty D.

Crew: Nell Bang-Jensen: Director
Chris Haig: Scenic Designer
Jillian Keys: Costume Designer
Lily Fossner: Lighting Designer
Jordan McCree: Sound Designer