Reviews

The Goodbye Girl

By: Mark Skalski
goodbyeYoung Americans are fascinated by other young Americans struggling and making it in New York City. At times, it feels like every sitcom on television is some variation of this plot. Millennials, more than any generation, are obsessed with the grit and grime behind that fantasy. Girls can afford to rent a living room and a half because of their upper middle class privilege, whereas Friends pleasantly enjoy entire coffee shops and spacious two bedroom apartments. Aziz Ansari sacrifices his acting career to host a reality show, whereas Jerry Seinfeld’s life is so quietly successful I’m not entirely sure he’s ever so much as frowned onscreen. Yadda yadda yadda. The Theatre Factory’s The Goodbye Girl, therefore, appeals to just about everybody. Based on the 70’s film of the same name written by Neil Simon, the musical follows Paula McFadden (Chelsea Bartel), a struggling single mother who is bounced from relationship to relationship by actors eager for a quick thrill. Her career as a dancer on television – the kind of dancer that peps up TV advertisements for dietary supplements – yields similar results. The musical opens with Paula once more on the outs. Her latest ex left unceremoniously in the night and rented out their apartment to fellow actor Elliot Garfield (Nick Mitchell), who is more or less a total jerk. But Paula isn’t alone: Lucy (Amelia Bender), Paula’s wise-beyond-her-years preteen daughter, is a more adult figure than any of Paula’s prior flings. The struggle is real, in other words, and the first act is almost merciless in how few wins it allows Paula. The Theatre Factory’s latest is in some ways a reminder of how much popular perception of struggling in the big city has changed. Being a production of a Neil Simon script it is relentlessly positive, but thanks to the energetic sarcasm of its performers it also feels in line with more contemporary comedy-dramas. However, some subplots that worked as funny goofs in the 1970s play different in the 2010s. Elliot – who we are unsurprised to see develop into Paula’s latest love interest – shows up late in the night to the McFadden’s apartment, makes it clear he can legally evict his newfound roommates at any point, and quickly makes good on his promise that he likes walking around his apartment in the nude. With a young girl around. I can’t entirely blame the source material on my discomfort with the character here. Nick Mitchell doesn’t soften Elliot’s edge so much as sharpens it, and in another play could be framed as a scary dude. Chelsea Bartel’s Paula, meanwhile, is in a perpetual state of emotional exhaustion, but always feels like she’s ready to give the audience a laugh. She’s a very grin-and-bare-it type, but her pain is visible all the same. There is a moment in the second act in which Elliot’s entire career is put at risk during a disastrous performance as a multi-gendered Richard III. We’re meant to be enjoying his misfortune, but even in such a humbling moment The Goodbye Girl seems to be insisting we reframe Elliot as a beleaguered eccentric worth cheering for. I wasn’t sold, and therefore never fully bought into the romance between the two. More believable is Paula’s relationship with Lucy. Amelia Bender performs Lucy with a fun mix of earnest spirit and a touch of early onset irony, making her a perfect fit. Bartel plays Paula like a woman who caught on fire a minute ago and is the last one to realize it. She bleeds imperfection, but we never question her determination to make a good life for Lucy, and as a result have an easy time laughing along. I can’t help but feel The Goodbye Girl is tonally inconsistent. I’ve seen Mitchell before, as an aggrieved survivor in a production of The Birds, and found his ability to be a caring partner one minute and an angry mess the next unsettling in how believable it was. I believe him here, too. I’ve seen Bartel’s work at The Theatre Factory before during a production of Next To Normal, where she played a mother suffering from schizophrenia. I saw it with a friend whose parent was afflicted by a similar condition, and the performance shook her. What I’m saying is, these are good performers, but the tone of the show changes depending who is taking center stage. If it’s Mitchell, it’s the New York City from Girls; if it’s Bartel, it’s the New York City from Friends. The dissonance is only exacerbated by The Goodbye Girl’s musicality, which was uneven during the show’s premier. Mitchell nailed the Richard III fiasco, which is the play’s greatest scene. He really leans into Elliot’s narcissism and his constant, desperate asides to stage hands and ridiculous physicality really sells the moment. Placed next to Bartel’s doe-eyed optimism and bright, dynamic vocals, however, Elliot needs to shift hard towards warmth, or perhaps Paula needs to learn harder into the playful sarcasm from earlier scenes. The Theatre Factory’s The Goodbye Girl can be uplifting, and I found myself wanting to escape into Scott Calhoon’s colorful, Hollywood soundstage-esque set design. True to life, however, the world it’s built around is too erratic to be fantasy. The Goodbye Girl runs at The Theatre Factory in Trafford through September 24. For tickets and more information, click here. 

Jekyll and Hyde

By: Eva Phillips
20108255_1597843823593695_7924084507636953916_nThere is something to be said for the succulent, somewhat indulgent wave of hyper-camp that is necessary to successfully execute a musical adapted from seemingly unfitting source material. Musicals like Carrie, Batboy!: The Musical, Heathers and others of that ilk must evoke and maintain a certain degree of precise ludicrousness and poignancy to be enjoyable (or even bearable). The cast and crew responsible for McKeesport Little Theater’s musical adaptation of Jekyll & Hyde—originally conceived by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden for the stage based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous novella “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”—are certainly aware of the level of camp necessary for reproducing something as absurd as a melodramatically symphonic, at times vaudevillian, reconstruction of a story of the prototype “mad” scientist on his blind quest to reveal humanity’s dichotomous spirit. While on the whole enjoyable and self-reflexive, some of the finer points of the execution could have been strengthened in the staging. Certainly, the musical, as is the case with the book, is heavily dependent on strong individual performances that give life to characters who are intensely caricatured. Director Edward Bostedo clearly took this to heart, making sure characters like Jekyll/Hyde, Spider, Lucy Harris, and the lecherous Minister were illuminated in extraordinarily seedy light. Eric Sciulli, responsible for playing the dangerously transcendentalist titular doctor, is very aware of the dramaturgical task he is beset with—and his impressive vocal range and power helps to give the doctor an air of unbridled passion that makes the familiar character feel unique. Additionally, Randi Walker, portraying the sex worker Lucy Harris (a character that is woefully sublimated in most iterations of the story) is an absolute scene stealer. Having seen Walker in other performances, it was by no means a surprise to be thrilled by her impassioned performance, but she truly did revitalize some of the slower moments of the play. At times, the play would rely too heavily on hackneyed or absurdist performances or quirks rather than character development or cohesion, but a great deal of credit should be given to the ensemble interactions and the expertise of the stage manager, Elizabeth Civello, and director and other crew members for guiding these interactions from behind the scenes. Set designer Edward Bostedo deserves a tremendous amount of credit for capitalizing on a very small, fairly limiting space and creating entire, compelling settings on a macro and micro scale in each scene. Jekyll & Hyde at times falls short of the balance of consistent preposterousness and subtle poignancy that is necessary to keep the play going on all cylinders at all moments. That being said, the actors and crew impressively translate the essence of the source material while adding their distinct flair to the show that captures the audience and highlights their individual talents. The play shows promise for the ongoing caliber for the staggering 57th season of McKeesport Little Theatre. Jekyll & Hyde runs at the McKeesport Little Theater through September 24th. For tickets and more information, click here. 

PNWF 2017: Program C

By: Tiffany Raymond
PNWF LOGOThe 27th season of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival at Carnegie Stage continues with a trio of new one-act plays in Program C. The first show is Julie Zaffarano’s Destiny is a Careless Waiter, as presented by R-ACT Productions. The stage is set with two café tables. Flowing red tablecloths drape the tables like melted red wax on the sides of a Chianti bottle. Champagne flutes on each table reinforce this is a destination of romance. destinyOf course, things are not always what they appear. However, the romantic restaurant seems fitting when the show opens with the high-pitched squeals of Bria (Brittany Bara). She shrieks with excitement after discovering a ring atop her dessert. Bria possessively pushes on the ring, not even pausing for her newly betrothed to slip it on, extending her arm and admiring her finger, all while rattling on incessantly. Her new fiancé, Justin (Spencer Whale), looks befuddled, and one suspects he’s just the inert type. It’s an intimate restaurant where tables almost kiss. The couple at the next table reacts to the engagement. The man (Sean, played by Travis Ascione) finds it sweet and tries cajoling his girlfriend (Emily, played by Carley Adams) into the same response. Emily’s nonstop texting and cynical eyeroll indicate she is not impressed by the trite textbook proposal. Beyond that, she casts dubious glances at Bria, clearly finding her overzealous reaction extreme. While it’s a play of couples, the women assume the primary roles, and their costuming establishes them as opposites. Emily is tall and willowy, a brunette with severe bangs who wears a classic little black dress. Adams plays Emily with a resting bitch face when she’s dealing with Sean, but it’s not a one-note default as she warms and softens in other interactions. Bria’s evergreen perkiness is made manifest by a colorful floral skirt and vibrant fuchsia cardigan. Bara’s energetically fresh interpretation of Bria is a pleasure to watch, and Bara flips some cynicism when needed, not limiting herself to an always on mode. It turns out Justin’s confusion is genuine. He had no plans to propose. It’s a madcap rush, reminiscent of a 1930’s screwball comedy, but director Mike Nelson is careful not to speed through the plot twists. The play ends with Justin and Sean making eye contact as they simultaneously shout “Server,” although it sounds more like “Serve her,” advice we learn both men failed to take. r and jRelationship drama, albeit offstage, also forms the cornerstone of the second play, the Actors Civic Theater’s presentation of William Sikorski’s Romeo and Juliet: Epilogue. Director James Critchfield’s set choice is appropriately austere for an interrogation room: a folding table and three chairs. The play opens with Friar Lawrence (Eric Mathews) slumped over the table in his brown habit. There’s immediate juxtaposition. Two modern detectives come into the room, one clutching a donut bag. They start rapid-fire questioning the startled-looking friar. Just when one thinks it’s because he’s a man of God who’s wrestling with being questioned by the police about his role in the dead bodies found in a tomb, he responds in Elizabethan English. Detective Sam Davis (Candice Fisher) bristles offensively at the Elizabethan response. Fisher plays the detective with limited range; Fisher’s two modes are smartass and shrill as she gets in the friar’s face. Detective William Stanley is played by Joel Ambrose who brings more nuance to his performance and pushes beyond stereotypes. However, Stanley is like an American abroad who speaks more slowly and loudly, hoping that will solve the communication gap. Sikorski’s narrative misses the mark and is tied up a bit too abruptly and neatly. Ultimately, the detectives’ forceful abrasiveness seems questionable, but Critchfield doesn’t explore that thread, which is a missed opportunity for relevance given ever-present stories on police brutality. Instead, the two detectives just break into the donuts. Cops will be cops. branniganDomestic drama provides a through line connecting the third and final play, Lezlie Revelle’s The Wrong Brannigan (presented by McKeesport Little Theatre) to its two Program C predecessors. The action unfolds in a living room, lived in but warmly pleasant. A champagne-colored brocade couch behind a green area rug provides the focal point of the room. A chair nestled on each side and a wet bar across the room completes a scene of domestic tranquility. This tranquility is reinforced by the play’s opening as occupant Ronnie Brannigan (Randy Berner) enters the room. Berner perfectly channels a very nice, but immediately forgettable, mid-50s male. He enters the living room with an open book and settles on the couch to read. His tranquility is short-lived as a man ringing the doorbell ever more incessantly breaches Ronnie’s peace. The breach turns out to be of more than just solitude. The man, Bill (Chris Cattell), pulls a gun on the perplexed Ronnie. Ronnie’s wife Jerri (Jane Scutieri Tinker) arrives home to a tense scene as the gun-brandishing Bills faces off with a confused Ronnie who’s wrestling with the tension between spousal loyalty and troubling new revelations. Tinker struggles to make her character believable throughout, leaning towards the comedic easy laugh as an escape valve. Relationship drama continues to escalate when the Brannigan’s college-age daughter, Katie (Kaitlin Cliber) arrives home for the holidays. Her costuming marks her as a girl still trying on identities, dark hair chopped short with blonde tufts and a long burgundy sweater with swinging fringe. The number of secrets and twists unravels at a near-dizzying frenzy. Director Catherine Gallagher fails to still the pacing at critical moments, leaving one feeling a bit like a hapless passenger on a roller coaster ride. While the tone remains comedic, Ronnie clearly surprises himself when he taps into his own dark side a bit, raising questions about the lengths we’ll go to in protecting the ones we love. Program C of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival runs through September 23 at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more details, click here.

The Homestead Strike of 1892

By: Yvonne Hudson
LatestLatestFlyerThe voices and stories of Pittsburghers bring the Battle of Homestead to life in Mark Clayton Southers’ The Homestead Strike of 1892. Dramatic historical interpretation by some of the region’s leading actors recreate vivid moments from one of American labor’s most significant management vs. workers incidents. The world premiere was created as part of the Battle of Homestead Foundation’s 125th anniversary commemoration of the clash between unionist steelworkers and mill owner Andrew Carnegie and his plant manager Henry Clay Frick. The script introduces some of those who experienced the strike and its outcomes. The historic Pump House in Homestead is the setting for the action that took place right there on the Monongahela River and its shores. The characters include some of the workers at the Homestead Steel Works, employees of the Carnegie Steel Company. They were members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (forerunner to the United Steelworkers). Southers himself was a steelwork for 18 years, so his perspective on the heat, dangers, and physical labor of steel making is first-hand. “I really understood the sacrifices those workers and their neighbors made for the cause of labor and fair wages,” says Southers, who is the founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. The Foundation program describes the events, which were reported around the world: “The Battle of Homestead began July 6, 1892, when thousands of locked-out steelworkers and townspeople clashed with Pinkerton guards hired by Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie. Management fortified the steel mills and both sides fired guns and cannons at each other. The Pinkertons surrendered and townsfolk, including women and children, rained blows upon them and tore their clothes, then burned the barges they floated in on.” [caption id="attachment_5679" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Scene from attempted assassination of HC Frick (L-R Matt Henderson, Arjun Kumar, Paul Guggenheim, Michael Sullivan as Frick) Scene from attempted assassination of HC Frick (L-R Matt Henderson, Arjun Kumar, Paul Guggenheim, Michael Sullivan as Frick)[/caption] Regional social activist Mel Packer portrays Andrew Carnegie who turns management of the mill over to Henry Clay Frick, personified by Michael Sullivan, in his absence. While Carnegie retreated to Scotland, Frick brought in the Pinkerton detectives to take back the mill. The hiring of scab labor further fueled the animosity and the National Guard was also summoned. Overall, seven workers and three of the some 300-400 Pinkerton agents were killed with some 60 people wounded. The action is set in the mill, the nearby Bost Building (the union’s headquarters on Eighth Ave.), the riverfront and Frick and Carnegie conduct business, among other locations. The audience needs to accept that the Pump House is not a theater, but a historical site accommodating a story that runs a bit more than one hour. Arrive assuming to take on the role of listener than to be entertained. For this show, expect to hear a story not a hi-tech production. This is a site-specific piece about the often unheard voices of those who lived and died during these significant events. Listen and learn more about the industrials whose names are one our museums and libraries. You’ll get to know some of the townspeople of Homestead, a place that deserves our attention and respect for its role in planting the roots of the labor movement and how the steelworkers and their descendants have survived all that’s happened here since. [caption id="attachment_5680" align="aligncenter" width="656"]The Battle guns are heard (L-R Jonathan Visser, Susie McGregor-Laine, Paul Guggenheim) The Battle guns are heard (L-R Jonathan Visser, Susie McGregor-Laine, Paul Guggenheim)[/caption] The cast members are stellar storytellers in multiple roles. Their characters share a stark historic drama in the Pump House where raised platforms and a small audience area creates an intimate experience. The scenes are connected by major story points read by narrator Paul Guggenheimer. The actor and broadcaster provides a contemporary viewpoint while also interacting with the historical action. He’s internationally anachronistic but it’s a way into another time and the place in which the audience sits and once shows up as a reporter questioning Frick. As Frick takes over, the narrator says: “They called it Fort Frick. After all, he was the one behind it. While Carnegie shot quail in the Scottish Highlands, Frick had his sights set on the working man right here in Homestead.” Mel Packer portrays a rather stoic Andrew Carnegie and Michael Sullivan appears as the cold and calculating Frick. For balance, Southers adds a character of his own, Raymond Washington, created by Wali Jamal provides an eyewitness account. David Crawford’s description of his work as a “puddler” in the mill is a fascinating look at steelmaking tasks that required much strength and stamina. He shares that a reformer said to him: “It’s an outrage that men should have to work like this.” “They don’t have to,” he replied. “Nobody forced me to do this,” the puddler explains. “I do it because I would rather live in an Iron Age than live in a world of ox-carts. Man can take his choice.” Crawford appears later as Robert Pinkerton with the chilling account of what the guards’ at first secret but somewhat doomed mission. Juggling the roles of Carnegie Steel’s John Alfred Potter, steelworker John McLuckie, Ed Spear and others is the capable Jonathan Visser who creates a handful of memorable characters and their stories. His Ed Spear captivates as he describes the “trap” set for the arriving Pinkertons who traveled to Homestead on a barge but were not told their destination. Marcus Muzzopappa portrays Pastor James J. McIlyer, one of the local clergy who eulogized slain workers and called for unionization as the solution for worker’s rights. [caption id="attachment_5681" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Would-be assassin Alexander Berkman takes aim at Frick ( Arjun Kumar) Would-be assassin Alexander Berkman takes aim at Frick ( Arjun Kumar)[/caption] Susan McGregor-Laine takes an authentic turn as the Irish keeper of the Rolling Mill Tavern and a leading organizer Margaret “Mother” Finch and also Meredith Davies. The cast also features Kan Champion as union president William Weihe and James Howard who appears as Frick’s porter and others. Matt Henderson provides strong support in multiple roles. When Russian activist Emma Goldman, played by Sara Fisher-Ventura reads of the strike in a New York newspaper, she rallies her colleague Alexander Berkman, portrayed by Arjun Kumar, to get involved. Following the strike, he attempts to assassinate Frick by shooting and stabbing him in his Pittsburgh office. Frick lives, but the strike dies. The characters gather on stage to share the epilogue and reinforce the importance of this history. Southers concise dramatic retelling deserves long life as an educational and theatrical piece in our region and beyond. His script provides the Battle of Homestead Foundation with vignettes full of potential as stuff of interpretative history for future programs and docent-driven work. The Homestead Strike of 1892 plays Friday and Saturday, September 22, and 23 at 7:00 pm, with matinees Friday at 1 pm and Sun. at 2:00 pm. More tickets have been made available for all remaining performances as the opening weekend sold out. Tickets are on sale for $20 at directly at: eventbrite.com The Pump House is located at 880 East Waterfront Drive, adjacent to the Waterfront complex in Munhall (15120), past the Lowe’s side of the shopping area. Southers’ play is part of a yearlong series of offerings to honor the Homestead battle and related history. Visit battleofhomestead.org for details. Events are funded in part by The Waterfront, The Rivers of Steel Heritage Area, United Steelworkers, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Read more about the strike and local labor history at Battle of Homestead Foundation Photos by Lynne Squilla and Rosemary Trump

Boeing, Boeing

By: George Hoover
21427438_10154733323486976_7798150765565575284_oA funning thing happened when I got home from the airport! Set in a Paris flat, this Mad Man era play was written by French playwright Marc Carmoletti. The lying lothario Bernard (Justin Mohr) has managed to acquire three fiancés with associated benefits. How do you ask? They are all flight attendants and by carefully studying their flight schedules, Bernard has gotten engaged to all three without them knowing about each other. Yet. His not so willing accomplice in this misrepresentation is his housekeeper, Berthe (Shelly Spataro). She dutifully changes out the pictures and cooks their regionally appropriate meals in step with Bernard’s master schedule, complaining all the while. All this seems to be working out perfectly until Bernard’s old college friend Robert shows up unannounced for a visit at a most inappropriate time.  All three of the stewardesses have short layovers in Paris the same day. Not to worry, Bernard and Berthe have the liaisons planned out like clockwork. If you are wondering where the title Boeing Boeing comes into play, the dawn of the jet age and speedier travel looks like it could throw a monkey wrench into this well-orchestrated scheme. First to arrive is Gloria (Sarah McKee) a Savanah girl in search of a husband. She’s no sooner out the door than the spirited Italian Gabriella (Ashley Harmon) arrives for lunch and a quickie, before her flight out. Scheduled for dinner is the German fräu·lein Gretchen. The well-laid plans start to fall apart as Robert becomes increasingly unable to keep the women and their schedules straight in his mind and he starts to slip up in front of each of them. Despite Robert’s best efforts to run interference, once their flights start to get delayed, arrive early or are flights canceled, the prospect of the three women meeting each other becomes inevitable. As the catastrophe looms, director Ron Ferrara ramps up the physical comedy in this charmingly funny farce. By playing up both the historical stereotypes of the characters and the innocent physical comedy, Boeing-Boeing won the Best Revival of a Play Tony in 2008. Ferrara continues that approach in his direction. Ten years after the Broadway revival, the sweet and sexually adventurous southern girl, sexy Italian babe, German dominatrix and complaining servant could be considered offensive stereotypes. Ferrara and the cast navigate that concern with the right mix of silliness that doesn’t quite get to the level of slapstick. At the end, everyone comes out very happy, by means you wouldn’t have imagined. The journey to resolution is what makes this farce so satisfying. The are several standout performances.  Shelly Spataro as Berthe brings great gestures and facial expressions to the extremely competent, frustrated and underappreciated housekeeper. Her interplay with Bernard is priceless.  Chris Patrick’s Robert is the perfect combination of hapless innocence, fascination, and envy. His kissing scene with Gloria is perfection, not to mention his lust for Gretchen. Chris Patrick as Robert carries the bulk of the dialogue. There are a few tongue twisters there that caught him on opening night but recovery was good.  His character is believable in part because he comes across as actually caring for each of his fiancés. Sarah McKee, Ashley Harmon and the over the top Pamela Farneth, as the three stewardesses, all capture the essence of their characters. Richard Caugherty set design serves the production well. Clark Stewarts lighting is perfect in its functional simplicity. Matt Mlynarski’s costumes capture the stylized airline uniforms of the day. All the design elements support the production without distracting from it. For a nostalgic and fun look back at the pre-feminist 60’s, this production of Boeing-Boeing is a great trip. Fasten your seatbelts, turbulence is expected! Boeing-Boeing by Orchard Performing Arts Company is at the Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont with evening performances at 7:30 pm on September 15, 16, 21,22, 23 and a matinee performance September 17th at 2 pm For tickets e-mail boxoffice@applehillplayhouse.org or call 724-468-5050

The Scottsboro Boys

By: Patricia Thornweilder
20863574_10155638855594464_1555720063175253618_oAs we began to write The Scottsboro Boys, it was immediately apparent why it was so important to tell their story.  Behind the headlines, the spectacle, the ongoing trials, the histrionics of politicians and lawyers was the story of nine young African American boys, determined to prove that they mattered... --Composer, John Kander Black lives matter.  Let's consider also that the immensity of any individual life has to be looked at directly to show how and why—to enable a life to sing.  Pittsburgh Playhouse's production of The Scottsboro Boys traps you into looking with its first breath, it opens on the silent chorus: an African-American woman, beginning to hyperventilate. From the start, this is a violent twist of emotions.  It rings with the insanity of a culture whose proud integrity has been entirely and hypocritically forsaken.  It brings us to face nine individuals who are smacked suddenly with the fake virtue of a fiction called Justice and the humor of nonsense as horror. The bitter irony of displaying this trial as a minstrel mimics the level of absurdity existent in Alabama's justice system in 1931—Everything is a righteous farce.  Everybody is a clown. [caption id="attachment_5669" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Ivy Fox as The lady Ivy Fox as The lady[/caption] We get to see this reflected in the eyes of that silent muse; the one woman chorus, Ivy Fox's Lady.  Her silent acting does something for this show that manages it, conducts it.  It's a powerful and strange tool, to have an emoting chorus who says almost nothing and yet says absolutely everything with her emanating presence. Welcome to this world, a psychotic other dimension led by superstar showmen Billy Mason and Jr Whittington as Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo.  These hosts are exceptionally powerful guides through the odyssey.  They fill ironic roles: the minstrelsy, fools.  Mason's side-eye as he performs the tasks of Sheriff WhiteMan or Whittington's haphazardness in his role as lawyer Johnny Walker; they are a strew of characters, diving into a critically injured American psyche that is in denial until satire can see it.  And they both lead sensationally. Susan Stroman, the original Director and choreographer, remarks, Typically minstrelsy uses white actors to portray African Americans in ways that are negative and disrespectful.  But we asked ourselves, 'What if it were a group of African Americans playing white people?'  It would allow these nine actors to play white women, white prison guards, white sheriffs, white judges: it would allow them to play parts they would otherwise never play. 21457457_10155695876934464_8669559662130794580_oThis power gives credence to a performance like Joseph Fedore's Eugene Williams, a 13-year-old boy who was sentenced to death for a crime he doesn't even understand; tap dancing a song about the electric chair as he suffers the terror of having persistent nightmares about it.  The twisted and beautiful take on a holocaust moment where a terrified teenage boy and two corpses (Steven Etienne and Scott Kelly) can suddenly breakout into truly whimsical movement reflects a splendid, musical softness within such a deep, destitute lostness: Hey little boy look over there that's what they call an eleca-tric chair Or perhaps the same minstrelsy is reflected in performances like Jared Smith and Lamont Walker II's as two Alabama ladies who accuse the Scottsboro Nine of a false rape.  So there are two of the Scottsboro Nine, then also playing their villainous false victims: what a quandary.  This preys upon the mercy for rape victims and satisfies the salvation of one at the expense of the many others who, with this false testimony, did not matter.  How to perform this on stage and yet still execute the joke of the substance, the sickness? It's done camp, with panache and with diva flare.  Charles Weems plays the hoot of his Victoria Price, the hammed up damsel in distress, playing on the rich cream of a woman's successful acting causing nine men to be imprisoned and tortured for nothing.  The haunt of her success story is the catastrophe of these innocent men.  Or Walker II's Ruby Bates, who within her song “Never Too Late” attempts to retract her testimony only to be met with a justice system who refuses her repentance.  Oh, how Lamont Walker II plays this woman up!  He brings her fully fledged, over-the-top to a place which takes the drag of it to a new level: he divas this woman, this false, redemptive victim into her breach into the mythology of the story: women are victims too.  It's society that's not real, that allows for this breach of trust.  And it's a sorrowful farce, that rape culture can immediate the dramatic purging of nine black men, but the reality is we live in a cruel world with no clear answers and no promise of true justice.  So what do you do?  You sing. 21367051_10155695876799464_1080342176479291535_oThe entire ensemble carries so much precision and talent.  This show truly empowers in a creepy, disturbing way.  It irks to the point of inspiration.  It compels by getting under your skin.  Director and Choreographer Tomé Cousin leaves not a second of this two-hour show untapped for its active involvement with the audience.  It is so well-played, well-cast and harrowing. I give special credence to Lighting Designer Andrew David Ostrowski whose seamless touchings of the characters provides a wealth of world within the limited stage frame.  The set was absolutely stunning within its minimal capacity, in that with almost nothing it does nothing but provide.  The brilliance of the chair set pieces, which construct and deconstruct so many levels of staging, show the capacity for a musical to be simple and so contained.  I loved those damn chairs. This was an amazing, aggravating, horrifying and explosively powerful show.  I just wish it didn't feel so relevant too.  I've never seen a tragedy so comedically charged, ironic and desperate; and so beautiful and horrifying as this. The Scottsboro Boys plays at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland through September 24. For tickets and more information click here Photos by John Altdorfer.
A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing
By: Mark Skalski
Henry V
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Six a Breast: The Absurd Life of Women
By: George Hoover
PNWF 2017: Program A
By: Mark Skalski
Schoolhouse Rock Live
By: George Hoover
PNWF 2017: Program B
By: Megan Grabowski
Red Hills
By: Eva Phillips
Annie
By: Ringa Sunn
Big Fish
By: Mark Skalski
The Audience
By: Eva Phillips
Go Back for Murder
By: George Hoover
Billy Elliot
By: George Hoover
Cloud 9
By: Brian Pope
Little Shop of Horrors
By: Mark Skalski
Million Dollar Quartet
By: Brian Pope
Mamma Mia
By: Eva Phillips
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
By: Jason Clearfield
Rumors
By: Mark Skalski
Avenue Q
By: George Hoover
Macbeth
By: Eva Phillips
Resounding Sound
By: Roxy Lillard
Spamalot
By: Megan Grabowski
Wonder of the World
By: George Hoover
Intermezzo
By: George B. Parous
Newsies
By: Brian Pope
Peter Pan
By: Emily Koscinski
The Liar
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Xerxes
By: George B. Parous
Seussical: The Musical!
By: George Hoover
Pippin
By: Mark Skalski
In the Heights
By: Brian Pope
One Man, Two Guvnors
By: Mark Skalski
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
By: George B. Parous
A Night of Mini Splendors at the Glitterbox!
By: Eva Phillips
The Tempest
By: Ringa Sunn
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
By: Eva Phillips
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By: Emily Koscinski
The Christians
By: Patricia Thornweilder
The Little Mermaid
By: Brian Pope
Clue: The Musical
By: George Hoover
A Gathering of Sons – World Premiere
By: George B. Parous
Proof
By: Eva Phillips
An Act of God
By: Brian Pope
Chicago
By: Stephen Arch
Thom Pain (based on nothing)
By: Patricia Thornweilder
An American in Paris
By: George Hoover
The Next Stop
By: Eva Phillips
Watch: A Haunting
By: Jason Clearfield
The Philadelphia Story
By: Mark Skalski
Undercroft Opera Presents Puccini’s “La Rondine.”
By: George B. Parous
Violet
By: Brian Pope
Ironbound
By: Yvonne Hudson
Anything Goes
By: George Hoover
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: George Hoover
Resonance Works Presents Verdi’s “Falstaff.”
By: George B. Parous
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By: Mark Skalski
Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water
By: Victor C. Leroi
Sive
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Tarzan
By: Brian Pope
Death of a Salesman
By: Eva Phillips
Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical
By: Stephen Arch
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: Nicole Tafe
Wife U
By: Jason Clearfield
The Summer King – The Josh Gibson Story
By: George B. Parous
True West
By: Brian Pope
What’s Missing?
By: Eva Phillips
4.48 Psychosis
By: Megan Grabowski
Wild With Happy
By: George Hoover
The Three Musketeers
By: Stephen Arch
Collaborators
By: Yvonne Hudson
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Or The Most Popular American Play You’ve Never Seen
By: George Hoover
Lights Out
By: Jason Clearfield
Baltimore
By: Mark Skalski
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: Brian Pope
Oedipus Rex
By: George Hoover
Turandot
By: George B. Parous
The Guard
By: Mark Skalski
Sweet Charity
By: Yvonne Hudson
Daddy Long Legs
By: George Hoover
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
By: Alex Walsh
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
By: Ringa Sunn
Dreamgirls
By: Kellie Gormly
Polish Joke
By: Stephen Arch
Forever Plaid
By: Mark Skalski
1984
By: Jason Clearfield
Findings
By: Brian Pope
Patience
By: George Hoover
Ragtime
By: Jason Clearfield
Big Love
By: Stephen Arch
Rust
By: Ringa Sunn
As One
By: George B. Parous
The Pink Unicorn
By: Mark Skalski
The Complete History of America (abridged)
By: Stephen Arch
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
By: George Hoover
Pump Boys and Dinettes
By: Victor C. Leroi
Woody’s Order!
By: Kellie Gormly
Twelfth Night
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Royale
By: Jason Clearfield
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
By: Mark Skalski
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By: Kellie Gormly
Cabaret: The Musical
By: George Hoover
Richard the Lionheart (“Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra”)
By: George B. Parous
Into the Woods
By: George Hoover
A Christmas Carol
By: Mark Skalski
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical
By: Victor C. Leroi
A Musical Christmas Carol
By: Megan Grabowski
The Nutcracker
By: Claire Juozitis
A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas
By: George Hoover
The Lion in Winter
By: Isaac Crow
Unbolted
By: Eva Phillips
Lungs
By: Victor C. Leroi
Midnight Radio Holiday Spectaular
By: Kellie Gormly
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
By: Mark Skalski
Mr. Marmalade
By: Jason Clearfield
Between Riverside and Crazy
By: Patricia Thornweilder
The Rover
By: Mark Skalski
Three Days in the Country
By: George Hoover
The Sea
By: Eva Phillips
The Music Man
By: Megan Grabowski
Hair
By: Jason Clearfield
12 Angry Men
By: Mark Skalski
How I Learned to Drive
By: Meredith Rigsby
The Merchant of Venice
By: Yvonne Hudson
Salome
By: George B. Parous
To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Kellie Gormly
Yankee Tavern
By: Eva Phillips
Giselle
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Feeding the Dragon
By: Victor C. Leroi
Midnight Radio’s Night of the Living Dead N’at
By: Claire Juozitis
Barefoot in the Park
By: Victor C. Leroi
Prometheus Bound: A Puppet Tragedy
By: Yvonne Hudson
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By: Mark Skalski
Carrie: The Musical
By: Eva Phillips
The Who’s Tommy
By: Isaac Crow
Pride and Prejudice
By: Yvonne Hudson
Jekyll & Hyde
By: Kellie Gormly
An Accident
By: Yvonne Hudson
Trial by Jury and Gianni Schicchi
By: Nichole Faina
The River
By: Mark Skalski
Intimate Apparel
By: Eva Phillips
The Fantasticks
By: Isaac Crow
La Traviata
By: George B. Parous
The Playboy of the Western World
By: Jason Clearfield
Avenue Q
By: Eva Phillips
I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard
By: Victor C. Leroi
Hand to God
By: Yvonne Hudson
Titus Andronicus
By: George Hoover
The Toxic Avenger
By: Isaac Crow
PNWF Program D
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Censor
By: Eva Phillips
Next to Normal
By: Mark Skalski
PNWF Program C
By: Victor C. Leroi
Beauty and the Beast
By: Mark Skalski
PNWF Program B
By: Eva Phillips
Wig Out!
By: Isaac Crow
Remains — A One Woman Show
By: Jason Clearfield
Shirley Valentine
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Comedy of Errors
By: Jason Clearfield
PNWF Program A
By: Megan Grabowski
Floyd Collins
By: Nichole Faina
A History of the American Film
By: Eva Phillips
This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
By: Megan Grabowski
Loot
By: George Hoover
Driftless
By: Mark Skalski
Peribáñez
By: Jason Clearfield
The Birds
By: Mark Skalski
Seven Guitars
By: Yvonne Hudson
South Pacific
By: George Hoover
Aida
By: Drake Ma
American Idiot
By: Isaac Crow
Jesus Christ Superstar
By: Drake Ma
Julius Caesar
By: Nichole Faina
The Hound of the Baskervilles
By: Isaac Crow
A Pirate’s Tale
By: Megan Grabowski
The Silent Woman
By: George B. Parous
Night Caps
By: George B. Parous
Come Back, Little Sheba
By: Jason Clearfield
Shrek: The Musical
By: Isaac Crow
A Midsommer Nights Dreame
By: Mark Skalski
Julius Caesar
By: George B. Parous
Anything Goes
By: Nichole Faina
Anna in the Tropics
By: Mark Skalski
Eff.UL.Gents
By: Megan Grabowski
Kiss Me, Kate
By: George B. Parous
Damn Yankees
By: Isaac Crow
Krapp’s Last Tape/Not I
By: Jason Clearfield
Church Basement Ladies
By: Mark Skalski
Bloody Hell
By: Mark Skalski
SummerFest’s Tour of “Carmen the Gypsy” is On!
By: George B. Parous
Judgement at Nuremberg
By: Jason Clearfield
Venus in Fur
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Theatre Festival in Black and White, Delivering Fantastically
By: Jason Clearfield
The Consorts
By: Victor C. Leroi
The Spitfire Grill
By: Isaac Crow
The 39 Steps
By: Isaac Crow
Undercroft Opera Sinks Its Teeth into Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
By: George B. Parous
The Lion
By: Drake Ma
Assassins
By: Drake Ma
The Giver
By: Yvonne Hudson
Cock
By: Drew Praskovich
Two Tales of Terror
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Musical of Musicals
By: Drake Ma
Autism and the Arts: Bricolage Creates Sensory-Sensitive Immersive Experience
By: Jack Lake
Spring Awakening
By: Isaac Crow
Tru
By: Drew Praskovich
The Rake’s Progress
By: George B. Parous
Grease
By: Drake Ma
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
By: Isaac Crow
Laws of Attraction
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Last Match
By: Isaac Crow
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
By: Drew Praskovich
The Master Builder
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Flick
By: Isaac Crow
The Barber of Seville
By: George B. Parous
Sister Act
By: Drake Ma
Sex with Strangers
By: Drew Praskovich
The Drowsy Chaperone
By: Isaac Crow
Disgraced
By: Isaac Crow
Miss Julie, Clarissa, and John
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Pirates of Penzance
By: Megan Grabowski
The Bluest Eye
By: Jack Lake
Sister’s Easter Catechism
By: Jack Lake
The Full Monty
By: Drew Praskovich
“27” (“Twenty-Seven”)
By: George B. Parous
First Date
By: Isaac Crow
Saturday Night Fever
By: Drake Ma
Guys and Dolls
By: Drake Ma
Some Brighter Distance
By: Yvonne Hudson
Mother Lode
By: Megan Grabowski
Ciara
By: Isaac Crow
Little Women
By: George B. Parous
The Sisters
By: Megan Grabowski
Oliver Twist
By: Drake Ma
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
By: Nathaniel Quinn
Macbeth
By: Drew Praskovich
Scared of Sarah
By: Megan Grabowski
Yinz’r Scrooged
By: Nathaniel Quinn
Chickens in the Yard
By: Nathaniel Quinn
The Rocky Horror Show
By: Megan Grabowski
Sunset Baby
By: Isaac Crow
A Servant to Two Masters
By: Isaac Crow
The Wild Duck
By: Drew Praskovich
Così fan tutte
By: George B. Parous
1984 (Midnight Radio)
By: Isaac Crow
Oliver
By: Drake Ma
Brainpeople
By: Drew Praskovich
Into the Woods
By: Drake Ma
The Night Alive
By: Jack Lake
Iolanthe
By: Drew Praskovich
Nabucco
By: George B. Parous
Altar Boyz
By: Drake Ma
Death of a Salesman
By: Megan Grabowski
The Diary of Anne Frank
By: Drew Praskovich
Dulcy
By: Drake Ma
Stand Up Horror
By: John Nau
Choir Boy
By: Isaac Crow
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program D
By: Drake Ma
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program C
By: John Nau
The Winter’s Tale
By: George B. Parous
Games of the Mind
By: Drake Ma
Dead Accounts
By: John Nau
King Lear
By: John Nau
Educating Rita
By: Isaac Crow
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program B
By: Drew Praskovich
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program A
By: Megan Grabowski
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Staged Readings
By: Megan Grabowski
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Staged Readings
By: Drake Ma
The Light in the Piazza
By: Isaac Crow
Exit Laughing
By: John Nau
Be My Baby
By: John Nau
The Heart of Shahrazad
By: Drake Ma
The Winter’s Tale
By: John Nau
The Merchant of Venice
By: Jack Lake
Kinky Boots
By: Isaac Crow
Outside Mullingar
By: John Nau
It Could Be Any One Of Us
By: Chloe Detrick
Capriccio
By: George B. Parous
The Wedding Singer
By: Isaac Crow
Strength and Grace
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Sharon’s Grave
By: Isaac Crow
Medea
By: Isaac Crow
“New Kind of Fallout” – World Premiere
By: George B. Parous
The Drowsy Chaperone
By: Megan Grabowski
How To Be a GoodPerson™
By: John Nau
Sherlock’s Last Case
By: Isaac Crow
Much Adoe About Nothing
By: Chloe Detrick
Damn Yankees
By: George B. Parous
Gypsy
By: Isaac Crow
The Marriage of Figaro
By: George B. Parous
Brewed
By: John Nau
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
By: Chloe Detrick
Man of La Mancha
By: Isaac Crow
Lucky Guy
By: John Nau
Out of This Furnace
By: Dale Hess
The Ruling Class
By: Chloe Detrick
Mary Poppins
By: Isaac Crow
Buyer and Cellar
By: Isaac Crow
How the Other Half Loves
By: John Nau
The Best of Everything
By: Justin Sines
Knickers
By: Tyler Plosia
Midsummer
By: Corey Hawk
The Last Five Years
By: Isaac Crow
Fences
By: Chloe Detrick
Saints Tour
By: Isaac Crow
Detroit
By: John Nau
American Falls
By: Justin Sines
Someething’s Afoot
By: John Nau
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
By: Mara E. Nadolski
“Daughter of the Regiment” (La fille du régiment)
By: George B. Parous
The Whale
By: Sarah Beth Martin
My Way
By: John Nau
Peter Pan
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Othello
By: Isaac Crow
A Streetcar Name Desire
By: Jack Lake
Lunch Lady Cabaret
By: John Nau
Lovecraft’s Monsters
By: Chloe Detrick
All the Names
By: Chloe Detrick
The Rocky Horror Show
By: Isaac Crow
Oblivion
By: Justin Sines
Endless Lawns
By: Tyler Plosia
The Disappearing
By: John Nau
Carmen
By: George B. Parous
How I Learned What I Learned
By: Jack Lake
Animal Farm
By: Dale Hess
Elemeno Pea
By: Jack Lake
The Mikado
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Young Frankenstein
By: Isaac Crow
Ghosts
By: Isaac Crow
The Boyfriend
By: Isaac Crow
The Wiz
By: Chloe Detrick
For the Tree to Drop
By: Jack Lake
Wolves
By: Dale Hess
Boeing, Boeing
By: Isaac Crow
Existence and the Single Girl
By: Justin Sines
Prussia: 1866
By: Jack Lake
Brahman/i
By: Isaac Crow
Mr. Joy
By: Chloe Detrick
My Fair Lady
By: Jack Lake
The Little Mermaid
By: Chloe Detrick
Rodelinda
By: George B. Parous
Or
By: Isaac Crow
Christmas Star
By: Chloe Detrick
Urinetown
By: Isaac Crow
It’s a Wonderful Life
By: Jack Lake
The Santaland Diaries
By: Isaac Crow
A Streetcar Named Desire
By: Isaac Crow
L’Hôtel au Purgatoire
By: Isaac Crow
Evita
By: Jack Lake
Avenue Q
By: Isaac Crow
As You Like It
By: Isaac Crow
Otello
By: George B. Parous
Murder for Two
By: Justin Sines
SCarrie: The Musical
By: Jack Lake
The Last Day of Judas Iscariot
By: Justin Sines
The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs
By: Jack Lake
Outside Mullingar
By: Isaac Crow
The Glass Menagerie
By: Jack Lake
Macbeth
By: Isaac Crow
Sons of War
By: Isaac Crow
Doubt: A Parable
By: Justin Sines
Of Mice and Men
By: Isaac Crow
Bus Stop
By: Corey Hawk
Parade
By: Isaac Crow
Tamara
By: Isaac Crow
Romance
By: Isaac Crow
Fixing King John
By: Corey Hawk
“Ariadne on Naxos” (“Ariadne auf Naxos”)
By: George B. Parous