After the lights go down in the spacious Javo Studios in upper Lawrenceville, a woman walks onstage with a glass of wine and a deck of cards. She sits at a table and begins to deal out a game of solitaire (or “Patience” as she later calls it; she’s Scottish). She moves a few cards around before looking up and addressing the audience. Her name is Ciara (pronounced “Kira”, she’s Scottish), and she abandons her card game to start her monologue. The cards were a distraction for her, but now she’s decided to share her story. Quantum Theatre has brought Scottish playwright David Harrower’s play to Pittsburgh to share Ciara with all of you.
Ciara begins to describe her life in the city of Glasgow. She is the daughter of an infamous gangster, but now she operates an art gallery. Ciara is a woman of civility who takes pride in her work, but she is also the victim of a harsh environment. She starts off with a few amusing anecdotes, but eventually moves into darker territory when talking about the men in her life (namely her father, brother, and husband). While she has fun nicknames and voices for her characters, there is also a layer of pain hidden underneath.
The character is effortlessly brought to life by Mary Rawson. Her Ciara is sweet and endearing, but also a bit of a firecracker, yells expletives like the best of them. Her charm carries the audience through a tale that ends in a very emotional reflection, and Ms. Rawson makes it all look easy. It takes actors of a certain caliber to hold a ninety minute monologue and if you’ve seen her act before you know that she is among them. You’ll definitely know that by the end of this play.
The backdrop of the set is a collage of paintings and pictures described in Ciara’s stories. Images of faces, locations, and other paintings are projected onto it to construct her descriptions. Short musical clips pop up to change the tone from piece to piece, and together the tech elements construct one giant storytelling tool. Setup in the Javo Studios, the production is physically big but emotionally simple. Tech in a good one-man show supports the storyteller without overpowering them, and Quantum’s team certainly succeeded on that front.
Ciara is a lot of things. It is the story of a strong survivor. It is a woman trying to put a rough past behind her. It is incredibly Scottish. At times it’s too Scottish. The intent may be that Glasgow is similar to Pittsburgh in some ways, but it’s still a very specific piece about Glasgow. But mine from it what you will: anyone, no matter what nightmares they’ve faced in the past, can find the strength to overcome and decide their own future. That is what Ciara did and that is the story she needs to tell instead of staying still and playing cards by herself.
Directed by Karla Boos
Writen by David Harrower
Designed by Robert Qualters (scenery), Julianne D’Errico (costues), C. Todd Brown (lighting), Anthony Stultz (sound), Joseph Seamans (media)
Starring Mary Rawson (Ciara)