Stand Up Horror

Stand-Up Horror

Stand-Up Horror

How do you define Stand up Horror?  This past Saturday I once again found myself at Modern Formations: a small gallery locked in the heart of the East End on Penn Avenue within a community screaming for revitalization.  The Beat Cabaret answers that call and this Saturday they presented Michael McGovern’s fantastic program titled, “Stand Up Horror”.  Would you call it stand-up comedy? Could you call it a play?  Perhaps you could if you wished, but you would be shortchanging his talent and skill as a performer if you did.  This show stands out as something quite different and unique.

I became perplexed as I search for a definition of the term “Stand Up Horror”.  I have researched all over, but no where do I find an answer.  Hence, I went to the source of the term itself, I asked Mr. McGovern.  The solution: “In the late 1980’s I had an interview with IN PITTSBURGH.  The writer commented that my work seemed to be a mish-mash of poetry, horror and comedy.  Then she asked me what did I call what I do.  I had to think a minute then blurted out off the top of my head: “It’s kind of like stand-up horror.”  And I’ve pretty much been using that moniker since” he says.

With that being said, the show came into focus as being just that: an entertaining mish-mash of poetry, one man horror skits, knifing jokes that jab you quick and hard, a bit of song and even a little rap.  It really stands out as something very unique.  Given this type of status, a one of a kind performance, everyone should try and attend one of his upcoming shows.

I think it takes a great deal of courage to do what he does as he moves about the stage in the hope of dragging out smiles and laughs from an audience most often filled with strangers.  I suppose most any actor, or comedian who performs alone goes through something similar.  Standing alone on a stage could be incredible as well as terribly frightening, and Michael steps into uncharted territory with his Stand Up Horror.

The lights dim as the stage ignites with bright light preparing the way for the performer.  All eyes are glued forward when from behind the audience the snapping of fingers can be heard as our star breaks into song, but he carries no ordinary tune, no, tonight in keeping with the flavor of horror he croons “Drac the Knife”.  As he moves down the aisle bellowing the bars of the song he twirls, smiles, and laughs with us as he gradually takes the stage.  Although, he pauses to sit and explain a bit of what the night will be like and how the show plays out, the audience understands and applauds.

As he proceeds he takes us on a journey into our memories of terrors from childhood digging up iconic bits of old horror movies that are tied so tightly to our culture.  We learn about Rosemarie’s Rabies and what it might be like if a Werewolf found itself in a girl’s dormitory. It doesn’t always lead to blood and gore, or so we discover.  McGovern’s genius introduces us to the man who had Linda Blair for a Prom date, and we meet Dracucat and Zombiesquirrel.

All of these are manifestations of McGovern’s imagination and one by one we discover their value, their color, and their charm as he takes us into this journey of laughter and odd twisting of American horror icons.

The last piece of the show, the crescendo if you wish, breaks into virgin territory taking the audience into an area that few have dared tread.  He performed Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” but he did it in a way one would never imagine.

Sitting here now creating this article I smile at the memory.  He gave us a night to remember.  I wonder though, would it be better if he used a real turntable, tossed in fake lightning and thunder at particularly campy moments.  I don’t have that answer.  After all, Michael McGovern put all of this material together and memorized its entirety.  That alone must be a shocking feat.  If you haven’t seen “Stand Up Horror” then you need do so and do it soon.  His effort and his works makes people laugh.  What more can you ask for?

Catch “Stand Up Horror” one more time at Modern Formations this Saturday, October 3rd and again at Max’s Allegheny Tavern October 23rd, get tickets here!

Performance Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program C

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I recently had the privilege of attending The Carnegie Stage where The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Pittsburgh New Works Festival defines itself as a non-profit organization dedicated to the encouragement and the supporting of the writing and production of original, one act plays.  The scripts are brought in from a diverse pool of talent from far and wide. To make it to a silver anniversary is nothing to be scoffed at, and stands as a testament to the quality of the offerings that the festival has brought to the stage. I attended last Thursday’s opening of Program C, featuring three original, world premiere plays. Each of them brought an energy, a magnetism, and a subtle beauty all their own.  I felt that each one built atop of the previous one until arriving at the finality that brought a number of people to their feet.

The first play, Gravity Between Us, written by Josie Rush and presented by the Red Masquers, detailed the dynamic relations between two sisters, Raye (Michelle Flynn) and Grace (Leenie Baker). Like so many sisters in the real world these two always had each other, as well as a third player Jake (Stephen Wilson) the boyfriend. The play moves quickly and the story develops at a rapid pace.  These are problems faced today, and the play reflected the antics and woe that they can cause as well.  In the end, the play had promise, but could use a bit more time developing the characters, and building to perhaps a stronger ending.  However, I cannot say that I did not enjoy myself.

Next up was Rules of Discovery, as written by Andrew Ade and presented by the Summer Company, brought to the audience the dynamics of a homosexual relationship and the stresses put upon them by society. I believe that Dan Brisbee in the role of Dana established a firm anchor for the other players to rally around and he worked well with Zachary Romah did a good job of presenting said stresses through his role. The remaining players, Vernee Smith, in the role of Mel and Lesa Donati in the part of Teri completed the ensemble and carried the play to fruition. This play forces the audience to face the possibility and reality of suicide and makes people look at their lives and consider that maybe one last remark or a kiss may be the difference between life and death. I loved what this play had to say and how it attempted to build out the social statements of today’s lifestyles and careless stereotyping that we still are guilty of.

In its appropriate slot,  Phase 3 Productions presents a play written by Jeffry W. James’s, The Man That Got Away. I loved the power of this play.  It made me laugh and it had me thinking, what? Who? How? For real? It really stood out as something terrific. It erupted on the stage like a volcano bursting colors, noise, and fiery power that covered the audience in joy.  It starts with a stockinged leg that shoots through the curtain.  Of course you expect it to be attached to a woman, but don’t be so foolish.  Out comes the one man show in the form of Craig Russel dressed to kill in drag, He extracts laughter from the audience with his jokes, makes them wince and he sings! He happens to be the Man That Got Away, and he is a riot.

All the shows were presented wonderfully; the directors and stage managers did an excellent job bringing these plays to life and smoothly doing so throughout the night. The deep darkness that fell about the stage and then, as if by magic, everything changed and the lights shined and a new world and play began..

Like those days of the first technology bubble, there were those places that called themselves the incubators of fledgling talent.  These were the places where the pioneers could come to build their technical marvels and wrap and bind together the organizational underpinnings that would take their innovations to the world. This festival serves as another kind of incubator for the area and has made me aware of one thing for sure: there exists a vast sea of incredible talent in this region.  I can say, that I would have welcomed the opportunity to see all of them as there really can be nothing like seeing a play for the very first time.

For tickets and more information on the Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s final weekend, please check out their website.

Performance Date: Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dead Accounts

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deadaccounts03

This past Thursday brought me to one of my favorite venues The Little Lake Theatre, located in Canonsburg.  The place has a special ambiance to it that few others in the area can achieve.  First, the plays are always in the round, which I enjoy as it places the audience into the midst of all the happenings of the play.  Furthermore, the seating takes many in the audience to within but a few feet of the actors.  You can see everything in amazing, up front, and personal detail.  The actors are left with very little room for mistakes so they are on point at all times.  This provides the audience with something special, something to enjoy.

This past week brought the opening night for Dead Accounts, and as I have said before, the magic of the first night once again hung heavy in the air as the cast and audience anxiously awaited the lights to dim.

The play, written by Theresa Rebeck, found its first production on Broadway. This current production found its director in the favorite son of Little Lake, Art DeConciliis.  As luck would have it, my wife knew Mr. DeConciliis and after a brief introduction he explained that the show had not well received in New York City, due in large part to poor casting in his opinion, but should prove to provide for a fantastic evening, nevertheless.  We were not led astray.

As the play unfolds, we meet Jack as played by the Little Lake Theatre’s beloved star Gregory Caridi.  I have had the fortune to watch him perform a couple of times now and he plays a great protagonist.  He serves as the anchor to the action on the stage sweeping the audience away into the tumults of the conflicts within the story.  Caridi has a charisma that at times might seem larger than the stage he’s on, but he no doubt feels at ease in the roles he has been cast in.  If you haven’t seen him perform, well, don’t let the opportunity slip away.

The protagonist’s mother, Barbara, as played by Marianne Shaffer brought me to the edge of fantasy as I could see in her every mother who ever worried, within her a simplicity that defines the American mom of years gone by.  Sure there are many of them still around, but fewer and fewer.  These are the women whose sole responsibility had been to raise the family, assure that all the children ate, as well as their husbands, maintained a household, and performed every single detail to the nth degree.  All the bases were covered.  No one came up short, and she did this without ever complaining.  She didn’t need a duel career. If she had tried she would have been hospitalized with exhaustion.  This had been the character I saw.  A proud American mother.

There were three other characters as well, Lorna, Jack’s Sister, as played by Danette Marie Levers. We had Phil, Jack’s friend, played to completeness by Vincent Marshall, and of course we cannot forget Jenny, Jack’s soon to be ex, as played by Rebecca MacTaggart.  All of the cast has been fitted well into their roles.  If such casting had been accomplished in other productions, then perhaps the play itself would have met with much greater success.

In total, The Little Lake Theatre has provided the complete package.  They deliver a fantastic bit of theater with top notch, dedicated actors, who provide flawless performances, after all this happens to be their 67th season, and they have good food and drinks to top it off.  You can’t find a single thing wrong with this production.  I know I have said it before as I have had the good fortune of attending performances here prior to this last Thursday, but if you are in the mood to take in a play then take a ride to Canonsburg.

Special thanks to the Little Lake Theatre for complimentary press tickets. For tickets and more information check out Little Lake’s website.

Performance Date: Thursday, September 10, 2015

King Lear

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Summer draws to a close and we will soon feel the fall air tumbling down upon us. The trees will don their magical vestments of gold, orange, yellow, and red in a deluge of colors that will dance in our eyes.   Being Pittsburghers and those who live in the surrounding areas, we can yet enjoy blazing days, and lazy weekends.  In an effort to provide additional joy the Pittsburgh Parks have opened their green meadows and lush fields to Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks.

This organization has been striving to bring quality renditions of various Shakespearian gems to the denizens of the region since 2005.  This year they have taken on the ambitious effort of presenting King Lear.  Over the next several weeksKing Lear will be seen at several of the urban parks that provide a lovely respite from the steel, tar and concrete that dominate so much of our lives.  If you have a chance to get out and see the effort directed by Jeffrey Chips and Jennifer Tober then you will have topped off your summer with a taste of culture that should be as refreshing as a plummet into the cool waters of any of our public pools.

For those of you who do not know, King Lear provides a look into the life of an aging King who has three daughters.  He intends on going into retirement essentially, and wishes to divide his kingdom between the three.  The daughters need only profess their love for their father and the prize would be theirs.  However, if this were to go off without a hitch then there could be no tragedy on which to rest the play.  Hence, one of the daughters refuses to take part in such foolery and simply states her love as opposed to the excessive patronizing statements of her rival sisters.  The King does not appreciate this and exiles this daughter and so the play unfolds building and developing until a climax leaving numerous characters dead with a wreck of a tragedy to behold.

The venues are the parks themselves, and the plays are completely outside hence, the controlled environment of the theater does not exist.  The players and the director do a very good job of setting the ambiance of the play with live music, and some simple special effects.  All in all the setting, though different, only adds to the enjoyment.  The one matter that I found unsettling, had to deal with outsiders who were not there to see the play and yet they chose to disrupt the play with phone calls, and general discourse in a clear display of disrespect, but a play outside of the confines of the traditional theater can be exposed to such variables.

Of special note, the play that I saw at Frick Park had been performed in the round.  I will assume that all performances will be the same.  We, the audience, surrounded the space and either sat on the ground, blankets, or on chairs brought along for that purpose.  Hence, prepare yourself accordingly and enjoy this method of presentation as I thought it added to the joy of the show rather than as a detraction.

The actors themselves are clearly a very dedicated group.  This year’s cast includes Ronald Siebert, a highly regarded actor with a tremendous list of professional accomplishments that have taken him throughout the America’s and beyond.  He plays the key role of King Lear lending his talents to the character and providing a stage presence that should not be missed.

Nicholas Benninger, plays one of the King’s daughters as well the Fool.  I found it interesting that he played a female, but in Shakespeare’s day this would have been common place as the female roles were reserved for teenage boys.  This being said, Nicholas played his roles well including that of Cordelia the exiled daughter of Lear.  He did a fine job at making us believe in him.  There are many actors who perform a great many roles, but as always space for the words of adulation are limited, but I wanted to mention Jennifer Tober who played two characters and performed the duties of Artistic Director.  Given her roles, little doubt can be left as to her dedication to Shakespeare in the Parks.  I don’t know a lot of the inner dynamics of the organization, but I do know I enjoyed myself this past Saturday.  This enjoyment I owe, in part, to Jennifer Tober.  We who attended need thank her and Pittsburgh needs to thank her and all of the other actors as well for their roles in bringing the tragedy of King Lear to life under the beautiful summer skies.

There are several more performances in the forth coming weeks.  Don’t miss this opportunity to get out and enjoy these last days of summer.  Take a chance and go see a wonderful play amidst the beautiful scenery in the depths of an urban setting.  Many of us have never enjoyed these parks.  Take advantage of the free offering and go and enjoy yourself and take home a memory of a summer gone by.

For information on Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks, check out their website here.

Performance Date: Saturday, September 5, 2015

Exit Laughing

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Thursday’s have come to mean more than the day before Friday, or the day that the checks come in from clients.  It has come to be so much more.  I find it often brings opening night at a new venue with electricity seething through the air covering the audience and players alike.  As for me, I get to meet new characters as they are brought to life on the stage by dedicated performers, visit new locations as unusual and imaginative tales are told.

This past Thursday provided another chance to see a first as I attended another opening night at the South Park Theatre where they presented Paul Elliott’s whimsical theatrics, Exit Laughing.  The South Park Theater, as always, put up a class performance with comfortable seating, powerful settings, wonderful actors and a perfect selection of shows to perform.

Exit Laughing, a fitting name and a lesson we all know and should never forget.  The story accounts the tale of four women, we have Connie, the boring mom as played by Mary Quinlan, Millie as portrayed by Lynne Martin-Huber who in many ways steals the show if not our hearts and laughs.  Of course, we cannot forget the stripper Policeman Bobby, as played by Noah Zamamiri.  The story needs a Leona, as depicted by Renee Ruzzi-Kern, a woman who refuses to face her fading beauty but hides instead within a glass of wine, and at last we have Connie’s daughter, Rachel, played by Katy Grant.

These five actors come together weaving chemistry, scripts, emotions, and conflict taking us on a journey of growth and change that dances like the Golden Girls, and makes a promise of adventures to come like Thelma and Louise (but minus the violence and climactic driving off of a cliff) and yet it leaves us hopeful that we remember to smile throughout it all as each day must be considered nothing but a gift to never forget.

The play unfolds as we are introduced to each actor as they come together for their weekly bridge game, but this time things are different.  One of their friends, Mary has died and they mourn her passing.  Millie, however, in her limited wisdom, decides to break into the funeral home on the way over and steals, or as she claims borrows, Mary’s urn filled with her ashes.  The fun breaks out from there as Mary with her foresight had set into motion her plan to change lives.

The first phase of the show plays out with the arrival of Bobby, a stripper dressed like a Policeman, and the love interest of Connie’s daughter. Why a stripper you ask, and how does he figure into a plot of change?  Why, simple of course, but you have to go see it all unfold. The subtle plans of the deceased Mary were all designed to make her friends, new and old think on the true meaning of their live.  She wants them to dream and to live and that will be the message she sends from beyond the dark of death.

Each player on the stage has a message for the audience, from the simple Millie to the complex Bobby and the energy that they bring sets the audience to commotion.  The stripper scene takes the show to places you would never expect, and Millie as she elaborates on the sexual encounters of her youth.

Exit Laughing will take you on a summer ride of fun and as always the South Park Theatre provides a setting and show to remember. Come and enjoy while it lasts and maybe take away a bit of the moral of the story and never forget to laugh.

Special thanks to the South Park Theatre for complimentary press tickets. Exit Laughing continues its run through August 29, for more information check out their website.

Performance Date: Thursday, August 13, 2015

Be My Baby

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Be-My-Baby

This past Thursday took me to the Apple Hill Play House in Delmont, PA.  Opening night had come for Ken Ludwig’s Be My Baby as performed by the Orchard Performing Arts Co.  Haven’t heard of Delmont or don’t know how to get there?  It really can be simple to find as you need only make one left off of Route 22 and you are there.  To be honest, I used my GPS and that makes travel something simple and nothing to be concerned with.  Hence, you can enjoy the ride to this out of the way venue.

For me, this marked my first time at the Apple Hill Play House and I did not know what to expect.  Sure, I looked to their website, but nothing can prepare you for reality, but I can say that I found the atmosphere enjoyable.  Like any opening night, the play opened to a full house and as always the energy of excitement raced through the air as everyone rushed about making final preparations and assuring that the guest were set and comfortable.  To my surprise the playhouse has been created from a refurbished barn.  Now, don’t let this fool you as you will be hard pressed to take notice as they have done a fine job in transforming the location, and in spite of it being August the place had more than sufficient cooling.  Be assured that the theater has good seating, fine acoustics, proper lighting, and everything you should expect a small independent theater to have.

The lights went out and the actors took the stage as the show began.  It brings a smile to my face as I think back on it now. You see, the opening scene had Maud Kinch, as played by the very experienced Shirley Ratner and Maude’s niece Gloria, as played by, Madison Nick sitting in two chairs, side by side, as they pretended to bounce as they drove an imaginary vehicle into the country.  Their destination?  The residence of John Campbell who gets played so very well by Dennis “Chip” Kerr.  John has raised Christy, played by D Palyo, who makes his Apple Hill Playhouse debut. Christy and Gloria will be married kicking off a key underpinning of conflict.

As time pushes on, Gloria gives birth to the tragedy of a still born infant, but fate falls in their favor as a relative in faraway San Francisco has a child she must put up for adoption.  Maude and John, who go together like oil and vinegar, decide that they will make the journey to retrieve the child for the young couple. They depart Scotland and the two mismatched characters are on their way.

The chemistry between the Maud and John unfolds perfectly upon the stage for these two veteran actors as they have worked together many times. This familiarity plays out well, as they provide great laughter for the audience as we are made to believe that somewhere amidst the differences are two people that care a great deal for each other.

Back in Scotland things are not going so well.  The immaturity of the young couple poses problems.  Gloria cannot settle down, and Christy plays the part of a rather boring individual who just cannot satisfy his new wife.  Gloria leaves the audience to wonder of possible infidelities between her and her cousin whom we never meet.  The two go out night after night, and although an odd relationship by American standards, Gloria professes that nothing scandalous has occurred and that everything about the relationship remains innocent.

Laughs abound as the two in San Francisco go about the effort of adopting the sweet child.  Tragedy strikes Maude and John, but at last they return to Scotland, with twists of irony abound.  The audience enjoyed the show and were captivated by the charm portrayed through Maude and John. Gloria provided the person to dislike and Christy played a character who falls short of expectations, but that without doubt had been the intent of the screen play.

In total the show Be My Baby as played out by all of the actors this past Thursday performed admirably and provided a realistic portrayal of the possibilities that can occur when different personalities come together unexpectedly.  You will find the show a series of laughs that are shore to break the monotony of these waning days of summer.  Some might be deterred by the distance to Delmont, but the drive goes quick and the actors efforts are indeed worth your while.

Be My Baby runs through August 29th. For more information, click here.

Performance Date: Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Winter’s Tale

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ProgramAdWinter02-683x1024

Friday night marks the end of the week and a time to unwind, a point to refresh and enjoy. What to do?  Do we partake of drink at a bar, or pub?  Perhaps we see a movie?  These are the typical things we have come to consider as the way to best entertain, but we are mistaken.  There are those who devote themselves to bringing to life plays from long ago.  They bring to our region the great works from that master of the stage from the past, William Shakespeare.

This past Friday marked the first presentation of The Winter’s Tale as directed by Dana Babal, and presented by the Poor Yorick’s Players.  The opening of The Winter’s Tale marks the second and final show of the troupe’s 15th season.  The Players have made the Tall Tree Amphitheater in Monroeville their home since its opening in 2008.  This motley group of actors has dedicated itself to the delivery of sensational artistic productions while maintaining a special emphasis on brining the work of William Shakespeare to the people of the area.

I realize that for many Pittsburgher’s the idea of traveling from the North Hills or perhaps from the South Hills all the way to Monroeville may appear daunting, but it does not take long on a Friday or Saturday evening, and your return on the investment will be immeasurable as you will be presented the gift of Shakespeare in all of his tragic imaginings. The Tall Tree Amphitheater stands amidst a grassy depression, and behind it rests a sea of green trees. You can bring reclining chairs or a blanket or two to rest upon and allow yourself to “slip the dogs of war”, or perhaps “Exit, pursued by a bear”.  There can be no doubting the joy that will unfold for you as you dabble in the bedazzling language and power of The Winter’s Tale.

What a troupe of players they are, as each member of the cast brings to life the memorable lot of personalities as described by the genius of Shakespeare, they are so often tragic figures of literature.  We have the mighty King of the Scilians, Leontes, as played to his glory by Tim Zeddies, and his lovely, if not scorned wife, the Queen Hermione portrayed by the incomparable Olivia Vadnais.  In this tale, being one of children believed to have been born out of infidelity, we have a third party in the triad of love.  This triad only exists within the delusions of Leontes.  Polixenes, King of Bohemia, has the misfortune of standing accused and his character, as played by Adam Rutledge, assures us of his innocence. There simply flows an array of characters each brining their power and presence to the stage.

As the play unfolds we are given a unique look into the multitude of emotions that ebb and flow through the lives of the characters.  We are brought to laughter, anger, scorn and despising as the plot unfolds and the players grow in their roles.  By no means will you find The Winter’sTale something dry and boring. No, not at all.  In fact, many of the players move amongst the audience drawing us in as the exploits of Kings and Queens develop, but not all the characters are of the privileged class of royals. No, we meet lowly shepherds, rogues, jailers and mariners, there are characters for everyone to enjoy.

If you thought that Shakespeare would bore you, or your last exposure to his works had been in high school then you would be most wise to meet anew the antagonists, protagonists, heroes and common folk nestled within his tales. Take the time to locate the Tall Tree Amphitheater and take in the upcoming shows by The Poor Yorick’s Players in the twilight of a summer night.  You will be transported to another era and you will appreciate the masterful genius that echoes down to us from long ago.

The Winter’s Tale continues through August 15, all perfomances are free. For more information click here.

Performance Date: Friday, August 7, 2015

Outside Mullingar

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mullingar14

This past Thursday, the Little Lake Theater held its opening presentation of John Patrick Shanley’s, Outside Mullingar. My wife and I arrived with only moments to spare; we were shuffled to our seats which, as expected, consisted of a table with two chairs.  The Little Lake Theater, for those who do not know, offers theatergoers a light menu that ranges from a Fruit and Cheese Platter to desserts that change with the show, this time: their famous Black and Tan Cupcake.  Being an evening show, you may enjoy the benefit of this simple, yet tasteful cuisine, and the prices are more than fair, hence, partake.

Being opening night of Outside Mullingar, the first-nighter’s were eagerly awaiting the dimming of the lights.  It did not take long before the theater went black and the audience hushed as the characteristic melodies of Ireland began to dance about the theater transporting our imaginations unto the beautiful greenery of the ancient island of Ireland.

The lights ignite brining to life the home of Anthony and Tony Reilly as brought into being by Eric Leslie and Bill Bennett, respectively.  These two, Son and Father bring fireworks to the stage with their bickering and battling that takes the audience to hysterics.  The biggest point of contention between the two, revolves around the farm.  The two clearly love the family acreage, and yet the father refuses to believe his son holds it dear.  Anthony, stands as a simple man who reveals little of the passions that rage beneath the surface.  His father accuses him of not loving the land, of not being a part of the land.

He says, if you cannot love the Land then you cannot be a Reilly. The old man accuses him of being a Kelly, his now deceased wife’s maiden name. He claims he has the Kelly face, and as a result he’ll not be leaving him the farm.  The tension between the two rises and the neighbors Aoife and Rosemary Muldoon, as played by Martha Bell and Jennifer Sinatra respectively, are sucked into the discordant household.

The Farm, the tension, the life and the death of loved ones, and subsequent love denied between Rosemary and Anthony are set as the main conflicts of this very emotional play.  As the dynamics unfold laughter abounds, as do tears from the heart.  The audience remains glued to the stage throughout the play.  The actors offer up imaginative and powerful performances.

As the action unfolds, the older generation passes from life leaving the two, Anthony and Rosemary, to their devices.  They spend their time hiding the love they hold for each other.  In the end, dramatic twists involving a metal detector and a lost ring figure prominently in the resolution of the conflict of their romance.  At one point, Anthony enters Rosemary’s home, and surprising, the metal detector malfunctions.  It begins squeaking and squawking, and thoroughly disturbing the actors as they attempt to deliver their lines.  Now, many actors could falter at this point, but not these two as they simply ad-lib bringing the crowd to roars of laughter and saving the show.

Outside Mullingar takes a raw look into the unknown lives of traditional Irish folk.  The show takes the audience through a panacea of emotions, and they do it with exquisite perfection.  Everything about the show made me feel that I had traveled to Ireland, they even brought the gloriously hypnotic sound of rain on a tin roof created with real water into the theater.  The sound added so much realism to the show, but the thing that brought the greatest joy for me had been when I turned to my wife where I fell into her amazingly emerald eyes that were puddled with tears as she took in the movements and lines of the actors.  They had brought the glory of the story to life for her, and for that I can never thank them enough.

If you haven’t yet made your way to this Little Lake Theater then make this August your month to do so and Outside Mullingar should be the show you see. Enjoy your travel and bring a rain coat.  You might be surprised how real the rain can be.

Special thanks to the Little Lake Theatre for complimentary press tickets. For tickets and more information click here.

Performance Date: Thursday, July 30, 2015

How To Be a GoodPerson™

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New blood must always be brought into the mix.  The elders who hold the reigns are meant to pass them onto the next generation.  It becomes the responsibility of those who have come before to assist those who come after, and accept the fresh ideas that youthfulness, with its incredible vitality, will always bring.  Sometimes, if those who hold hegemony can forget their pride they may even learn a few powerful and new ideas as well.  No matter, as I for one have seen the future and they presented their work for free which in itself comes as something as a unique offering that breathes freshness into a weary world.

This past Thursday I had been asked to attend a show, “How To Be a GoodPerson™” at the Maker Theater, produced by Lamplighter Productions.  What I saw can only be described as the beginning of the changing of the guard.  I saw youth at its finest as they built, funded, created, directed and performed a powerful play that enunciated the speed, cynicism, and ethical quandaries faced by Generation Z.

Lamplighter Productions, founded by Jordan Sucher along with his partners obtained funding for this current show through non-traditional sources.  In the past, investment money has traditionally been limited to the following three sources: Friends and Family, Banks, and Angel Investors. But now, thanks to the internet, the world has access to a fourth source of new money.  By definition Crowd Funding can be described as the practice of obtaining funding for a project through small amounts of capital supplied by a very large number of people.  Such efforts, will typically be processed through internet sites devoted to this effort.  One of the largest, and most successful, being Kick Starter, where Lamplighter obtained the cash to bring the play to life.  Furthermore, the funding has allowed the company to bring the play to the people of Pittsburgh at no cost.

Pittsburgh should be proud of these young actors and actresses as they fight to build their careers, to express their art, and to hone their skills.  Many of them are their sons and daughters, and those who are not have been brought here with the promise of superior education at one of our city’s fine schools such as Carnegie Mellon University.  Jordan Sucher finds himself in his last year at CMU, and we can only hope he will continue to work his art in our city for years to come.  Will he?  Hard to say, but you can be sure of one thing this article, and the others that are sure to be written about “How To Be a GoodPerson™” are just the beginning of what promises to be an awe inspiring career.  I’d say good luck, but he does not need it as he has been born with all the gifts he will need to carry the day!

I asked Jordan how he received the funding for all of this as I often wonder how the men and women who do this type of work pay the bills.  For sure it can’t be easy.  The world hasn’t labeled the starving artist as such without good reason, but Jordan has other methods to obtain funds other than simple crowdfunding.  He explained to me in brief, that they had attempted to teach acting for local high school students but that simply didn’t play out.  I believe that they will revisit this effort and bring acting to the masses of children who would be thankful to receive their training.  Jordan and the members of this troupe are not limited in the imaginative ways they will use to obtain the resources they need to promote their shows.

I believe that so many people do not attend plays around Pittsburgh because they are priced out.  In today’s economy, money can be in short supply, and food and bills take precedent overtop of a play, and I see that as a sad thing.  If you find yourself able to make it to a venue where the Lamplighter production company has booked their shows, then maybe you might just be able to explore the meaning of a play and see something you just might enjoy at no cost.  I for one am proud and surprised by the free offering they have made. In the upcoming week they will take their show to New York next and their finest days have just begun.

The Play “How To Be a GoodPerson™” provided something unique in that they asked for and solicited the audience’s feedback.  They express this as a continuous part of the show, or a sort of continuous feedback loop.  The members of audience were engaged, and gone had been the immaterial wall that separated the stage from the crowd.  They asked the question, how do you define a good person?  A difficult question with an even more complex answer.  I doubt if they, the actors, know and I doubt anyone can truly answer, but we all do try, don’t we?  We all do this in context of today’s society with all of its mad rush at the senses.  At times, as the play unfolded, I felt as if I had fallen into a YouTube video and all I need to do to complete my experience would be to click and make everything full screen.  I believe they intended this affect and if so it felt, well, peculiar.  It definitely allowed us the time to churn through the material they delivered and ponder their meaning and intention.

The show had components of technology as larger than life video of the players would explode upon the screen and then as the actors took the stage there would be moments where they expressed sorrow and scorn at society, and then other times they laughed and sang. Just when you thought you comprehended what would happen next, the troupe would stop, step out onto the stage and engage a bit with the audience. Yet, then an alarm would sound and lights would dim as an explosion of activity would blast through the stage and the cycle would repeat.  Perhaps all of this, and so much more created the strange effect it had upon me, but at the least they made the audience stop and think, and if that can be their only claim, then they have succeeded in their effort.

Overall, the show stands out as something different, something new, and unique. Will they change the way plays are done in the future?  Will they revolutionize theater?  I haven’t a crystal ball to tell, but if they continue to cut new territory and force audiences to look hard at the society we have made then they will do something, and it can only be good thing!  There are so many definitions of what it takes to be a good person, but I know one for sure, and that has always been the legacy that you leave when you are gone.  I for one, believe that this troupe of actors will achieve such a legacy.  Whether they do this collectively, or individually only time will tell.

“How To Be a GoodPerson™” will be playing this week back in New York City. For more information and to follow along with Lamplighter Productions’ journey check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Performance Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015

Brewed

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On Friday evening I had been afforded the honor of attending opening night of the playBrewed written by Scott T. Barsotti, and Directed by Steven Wilson.  This production, performed by the No Name Players at the Off The Wall Theater in Carnegie, PA, presented an intriguing look into the powerful dynamics, loyalties, stressors, and the potential for tragedy that can come about when six sisters are reunited. Family, at the best of times, can cause tremendous conflict, but toss in powerful women, obstinate personalities, and a we bit of the magic and you, no doubt, have the perfect recipe for disaster.

The play, details the reunification of six sisters who at last are all reunited after two of the sisters had left home to explore the world and themselves.  One of the sisters, Roxette, complicates matters by bringing her newest love interest Lee into the mix.  Nanette, a strong hearted woman defies traditional female roles; she has broken into Nascar racing, becoming a successful female driver. Now, after a time pursuing her dreams, she returns home to visit the sisters she had left behind.  You see Paulette, Juliette, and Collette remained at home and struggled with the responsibility of taking care of their sister, Babette, who happens to be an amputee.  Furthermore, a large crucible sits in the middle of the house that contains a concoction that must be continually stirred or Babette will die.  The brew in the cauldron has apparently been magically enamored by the sisters’ necromantic parents.  The conflict, as detailed, would be enough on their own without the magic, but in its totality we get to watch as the suspense builds until ultimate tragedy occurs.

As so often can be the case, there are many actors and actresses who perform admirably, but their just can never be enough room to pay reverence to them all.  There are however some standout performance that mandate mention.  Babette as played by Tressa Glover won me over in an instant; I honestly felt her disturbed mind as she played the part to perfection.  At times I almost forgot that I watched a play and an actor. She mesmerized me that night, and I thank her for convincing me that something twitched within her mind.

Paulette as played by Sol Crespo made the audience laugh as did I. She refused to allow the concoction brewed within the cauldron to stop being stirred. She slaved over it relentless in her efforts. She firmly believes that Babette’s existence depends upon it.

Apparently, the six sisters have a tradition of issuing challenges and then going head to head: one winner and one loser. These battles were tightly choreographed, and without question, a surprise.  Fighting women, definitely break the traditional barriers and Paulette/Sol seemed to hold hegemony as the toughest of the brood, and are always ready to scrap if required.  The audience shed a gasp of surprise as the first struggle unfolded, but soon accepted it as the norm.

And then we met Roxette as played by Kelly Trumbull.  From the moment she hit the stage she began breaking the barriers; she loved gadgets and machinery.  She explained how she always had been tinkering away with machines and devices, and furthermore developed an acumen for such works. As for her skills with devices, well, she reached her crescendo when she combined her technological prowess with anatomy to bring her girlfriend, Lee, back to life, more or less. More or less?  I will leave that for you to decide, and to perhaps intrigue you enough to force you to see the play.  The audience will never forget that she creates a miracle for her sister Babette as well.  Safe to say that Kelly did a stupendous job in her role and performance.

All of the players did quite the job at keeping us entertained.  There were laughs, and drama, and suspense that needed cut with a sharp knife. In the end, the play gave us a look into the typical dysfunction of the family, and twisted it with the shattering of traditional female roles.  Stereotypes be damned.  If you get the chance to take in this play do so.  The players do a fantastic job, and the twists and turns are varied.

Brewed continues at Off the Wall until July 11th. Tickets and more information can be found at the No Name Players’ website here.

Performance Date: Friday, June 26, 2015