Perfect Wedding

By: George Hoover
HomepageCarousel_740x420_PerfectWedding-LogoLast week's Perfect Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was the expected model for British royalty, but with a strong American influence. It was deliberately conservative, and it ran like clockwork. Perfect Wedding at the Pittsburgh CLO's Cabaret Theatre was totally opposite. It is a hilarious and raucous romp as the wedding train derails completely. Director Michael Barakiva has slightly “Americanized” British playwright Robin Hawdon's comedic farce (that's French for slamming doors and misplaced identities) to bring it closer to the American model of a wedding. (Let us hope every Yank's marriage doesn't come off like this one!) Imagine on the day of the wedding the bridegroom wakes in his own bridal suite and finds a strange girl in bed beside him in a compromised state. She is somewhat familiar, yet he can't remember who she is, how she got there and what transpired under the sheets. As he panics to get the stranger dressed and out of the way, Bill begs his Best Man to pretend he knows the girl. When the bride arrives to prepare for her big day, the girl is trapped in the bathroom, add the maid, an overbearing mother of the bride, an out of control never seen Dad and the plot twists and turns as fast as the slamming of the doors. [caption id="attachment_7022" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Michael Greer and Julia Geisler Michael Greer and Julia Geisler[/caption] CLO veteran Michael Greer (Up and Away, and twenty-five other CLO shows) plays Bill, the very hungover and confused amnesiac groom. Greer's Bill is a likable, handsome guy who skipped the logic portion of life skills in favor of a couple of doses of a great smile and charming grin. If there is an opposite to "Control Freak" that's Bill, he doesn't seem to be able to control anything. There is always a danger in type casting an actor, but Greer is a master of playing the loveable, handsome doofus. Second to come out from under the sheets is the statuesque Julia Geisler as Judy. As you would expect Judy is very put off by Bill's severe cased of liquor-induced amnesia regarding their night together. At first, Greer and Geisler's banter seemed a little stilted but her performance begins to shine as the play progresses and her character’s real feelings emerge. From both a style and acting perspective she keeps the show from entirely running amok. These things need at least one sane person to hold it together. [caption id="attachment_7021" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Michael Greer,  Julianne Avolio and Tim McGeever Michael Greer, Julianne Avolio, and Tim McGeever[/caption] Tim McGeever's Tom is the loyal all around good guy Best Man who would do just about anything for his buddy. McGeever is one of those actors who always seems to conjure a little bit of business, stance or gaze that draws the audience's focus. He has some brilliantly played and hilariously funny scenes and rants as he wields a carving knife. It would be easy to lose track of the excellent performances with all the shtick and commotion going on, but this farce is well cast. Julianne Avolio is Julie the good-natured and kooky chambermaid who gets “drafted” to be Tom's girlfriend by Bill. Avolio starts her character out as a very helpful but inquisitive accomplice for the boys and morphs into a raging maniac as she becomes the hotel's last employee left who hasn't quit, trying to reign in the insanity. [caption id="attachment_7023" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Christine Laitta,Hope Anthony and Tim McGeever Christine Laitta, Hope Anthony, and Tim McGeever[/caption] Hope Anthony as Rachel, who clearly, but doesn't necessarily want to, wears the pants in the relationship with Bill. Last but not least, Christina Laitta is Daphne, Rachel's over-bearing Mom who is focused on the dress and more importantly getting Rachel married today. Slapstick farce is harder to pull off than it seems. Director Michael Barakiva keeps the comedic timing and pacing flowing smoothly while all the while letting his actors show off their skills. He holds the throttle tight to keep it from going totally over the top, but it can border on shrillness at times. Between the witty dialogue, the repartee between the characters, and other funny bits the audience for Perfect Wedding laughed the night away. Perfect Wedding at the CLO Cabaret has all the ingredients for a royal good time! Perfect Wedding at the CLO Cabaret in the Cultural District runs now through August 12th, 2018. For tickets click here.  Thanks to the CLO for the complimentary tickets. Photos by Matt Polk

Advertising Sales Representative

By: Mara E. Nadolski
13301488_621325654686464_1113001799449979133_oPittsburgh in the Round is seeking an Advertising Sales Representative to help fund and grow our company to better serve the theatre community in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. This position will start out as a part-time, commission only position but as our company grows, the position will too. You will work closely with the founder of the magazine to write advertising plans, sales pitches, and sponsorship proposals. Ideal candidates have a Bachelor’s in Business, Advertising, Communications, or a similar field along with at least one year of advertising sales experience. A passion for theatre and grant writing experience is also a plus. Our Advertising Sales Representative will need to establish, develop, and maintain positive business relationships with all companies we sell advertising space to. Please send resume and cover letter to info@pghintheround.com

A New Brain

By: Brian Pope
29983500_851451298371610_831338097070728606_oFor the first of two shows in their season entitled “Real People, Real Stories”, Front Porch presents an autobiographical musical. Composer William Finn began work on A New Brain after recovering from some trouble in his brain. Finn enlisted his Falsettos collaborator James Lapine to create the book for the show and focus his songs. It turns out that brain damage can be excellent fodder for musical theatre! Don’t believe me? Add the musical episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs to the queue of your favorite streaming service. Both of the special installments from those long-running medical dramedies feature patients diagnosed with life-threatening brain injuries. For our entertainment, the main side effect of those injuries is vivid hallucinations of the characters singing and dancing down the halls of their hospitals. Naturally, Grey’s and Scrubs executed this concept very differently (i.e., a harrowing cover of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” and a tuneful ditty called “Everything Comes Down to Poo”, respectively), but both stand out as landmark episodes. [caption id="attachment_7006" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Cast of A New Brain Cast of A New Brain[/caption] If like me you’ve rewatched those episodes hundreds of times, you can get your fix of head trauma-induced musical theatre magic at the New Hazlett Theater where Front Porch Theatrical’s production of A New Brain opened recently.  It’s a piece that boasts both the tear-inducing pathos of Grey’s and the side-splitting laughs of Scrubs. In this positively pristine production, those elements are balanced masterfully by thoughtful design, lucid direction, and a mind-blowingly talented ensemble. From its Off-Broadway premiere in 1998, A New Brain has gone on to become something of a cult favorite for musical fans. Both the original production and the 2015 New York City Center Encores! revival were preserved on cast albums featuring the talents of Kristin Chenoweth and Jonathan Groff. I think when it comes to the group of singers/actors assembled here, it’s time for a third cast recording.   [caption id="attachment_7007" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Becki Toth and Jeremy Spoljarick Becki Toth and Jeremy Spoljarick[/caption] It takes a lot of focus from the audience and the performers to follow all the trippy twists and turns of this story. Occasionally, some lyrics in the nearly sung-through score are lost due to the overamplification of Music Director Deana Muro’s rich orchestra, but the dramatic moments and intentions always come through loud and clear.   Composer Finn’s surrogate, Gordon Michael Schwinn (John Wascavage), intends to write a song about spring for the children’s show he works for. While at lunch with his best friend Rhoda (Meredith Kate Doyle), a particularly dramatic moment puts both his life and career in jeopardy.  After falling face first into his meal, Gordon is rushed to the hospital and eventually diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. In the face of potential death, he must fight for the will to live long enough to write all the songs in his heart. [caption id="attachment_7008" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Jeremy Spoljarick, John Wascavage, and Drew Leigh Williams Jeremy Spoljarick, John Wascavage, and Drew Leigh Williams[/caption] Mimi (Becki Toth), Gordon’s mother, breezes in to “make things fine” for her son in his hour of need, but ultimately breaks down a little herself. Roger, Gordon’s boyfriend (marvelously sung by Jeremy Spoljarick), sweetly offers his lover intimacy as solace for his present predicament, only to be turned away by Gordon repeatedly. A trio of hospital staffers (Lauren Maria Medina, Pierre Mballa, and the especially hilarious Brady D. Patsy), a minister (David Ieong), Gordon’s antagonistic boss/frog puppeteer Mr. Bungee (Matthew J. Rush), his assistant (Mei Lu Barnum), and an enterprising homeless woman round out the cast of Gordon’s various medical procedures and visions. As Gordon, Mr. Wascavage's is immensely charming from his initial creative and sexual frustration through his emotional and neurological depression. His Gordon is a compelling protagonist in the truest sense, one that you genuinely hope the best for when the curtain falls. Ms. Toth’s shrewd comic timing brings a refreshing nuance to Mimi, the overbearing mother stereotype. Late in the show, she delivers a spellbinding rendition of “The Music Still Plays On.” Drew Leigh. Williams as the homeless woman nearly blows the roof off the theater when she implores the audience for literal and metaphorical “Change.” It’s impossible to take your ears off of her whenever she’s on stage. [caption id="attachment_7009" align="aligncenter" width="656"]John Wascavage John Wascavage[/caption] In addition to assembling an all-star ensemble, Director Connor McCanlus has created a colorful, multi-dimensional world where Andrew David Ostrowski’s kaleidoscopic lighting design and Frank Blackmore surrealist scenic design are naturally occurring elements. The show is constantly pivoting between moments of levity like the pseudo-lament “Gordon’s Law of Genetics” to moments of honesty like the actual lament “And They’re Off.” The shifts are rarely ever dizzying because of Mr. McCanlus’s surgeon-like precision at the helm. Front Porch’s A New Brain is a triumph over the show’s challenging material, its relative obscurity, and the sad realization that it can no longer be taken for granted that a theatre company in this city allows queer characters to get fair and realistic representation on stage. If this production doesn’t cure what ails you, you should probably see a doctor. Front Porch Theatrical's A New Brain runs at the New Hazlett Theater through May 27th. For tickets and more information, click here. Photos by Martha Smith

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