YT17-Feature-IronboundThe waiting in life takes up a lot of our time–waiting for the next big thing, the next job, the next person. Ironbound’s Darja reconfirms out that anyone who takes public transportation is captive to waiting. Her attachment to a significant bus stop represents her own continual anticipation of the right man and better times.

City Theatre’s Pittsburgh premiere of Ironbound depicts an important slice of immigrant life in America. It reminds us that everyone on the bus has a story, a reality perhaps most magnified in the dense greater New York-New Jersey metro area. Ironbound zooms in on one woman who could be anyone, but Darja is inspired for playwright Martyna Majok by both her own Polish immigrant mother and the notable absence of working class women in contemporary plays.

Rebecca Harris, in her 10th role with the company, captivates with impeccable realism as Darja. Harris is the constant force here along with a dark, menacing bus stop. Her solid and fierce portrayal is someone like many who endure wearing commutes to whatever job they can get to make rent while avoiding any unexpected financial catastrophes. They persevere and crave, as Darja says, “even the ugly jobs they don’t have no more.”

This Polish immigrant cleans houses in an upscale community two buses away, struggles to make ends meet following the loss of her factory job. Darja’s own crises are not just about being alone; she could easily become homeless due to a bad choice or broken relationship, perhaps more recognizable in hindsight.

Rebecca Harris as Darja
Rebecca Harris as Darja

On stage for all of the 90-minute piece (intensely performed with no intermission), the actress is either alone or interacting with three male characters. Harris’ powerful performance impresses with raw and honest craft as a character who is remarkable in her stamina, resilience, and lifeforce. She weighs her options in relationships and finances, bargaining to try to somehow gain some enhanced security.

City’s Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, who was eager to program this new play, said in the production news release that  Majok’s “unique point of view as the child of Polish immigrants ripples throughout her work. Ironbound is a truly American play—raw and alive from the very first words.” And we must agree as Ironbound so deftly depicts aspects of the immigrant experience that Brigden describes as “so vital to this moment in time.”

Ironbound debuted in New York at Rattlesnake Theater in 2016 before Brigden took the wheel to direct its next production. Pittsburgh audiences will recognize the ramifications of losing an industrial economy.

Brigden places the Elizabeth, New Jersey bus stop intimately in City’s thrust configuration.The centerpiece of Anne Mundell’s compact set is a giant graffiti covered steel girder appearing to pierce the top of the theater as it towers over the action, the litter, and a ubiquitous abandoned car tire. Lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski flashes from above as Eric Shimelonis’ sound effects are heard by the audience upon and arrival and continue to indicate the rattling of both New Jersey transit trains and traffic above and in in the house. If you know New Jersey and I-9, you can especially conjure the traffic, potholes, and smells. The stink of the paper factory where Darja once worked may be gone in this century, but the setting evokes the industrial Jersey of the late 20th century.

JD Taylor as Maks and Rebecca Harris as Darja
JD Taylor as Maks and Rebecca Harris as Darja

We wait with Darja at this dark and dirty bus stop where a lot happens but some things never change. As time shifts among scenes, her journey of relationships always brings her back to the bus stop near her former factory job and its associated memories.

In several flashback scenes, her first husband Maks is sweetly played by JD Taylor. Darja’s backstory is built through their alternately hopeful and bittersweet encounters. In 1992, she is pregnant with their son Alex as Maks dreams of making music in Chicago.

In his one scene with her, Vic, a young man played by Erick Martin, finds a battered Darja trying to sleep at the bus stop after her second husband has abused her. Vic provides an objective listening ear and a comedic rap. He reminds her that a shelter or motel room would be safer and offers some money to help her out. Pittsburgh’s Erick Martin’s Vic is the energetic parallel to her son Alex–the absent male in this version of Darja’s story. Martin is endearing in his portrayal of a kid who’s struggling with his sexual identity.

Rebecca Harris as Darja and Erik Martin as Vic
Rebecca Harris as Darja and Erik Martin as Vic

Don Wadsworth’s exacting dialect coaching supports Darja and Mak’s Polish slant. The characters’ sometimes muddled sentence structure also adds to the authenticity of Majok’s script along with her inclusion of some Polish.

Costumes designed by Robert C.T. Steele aptly convey the look of the implied decades from Vic’s track suit and sneakers and Tommy’s geeky postman shorts.

Ironbound reminds us how lives intersect–even if only for a few minutes on our respective commutes as everyone dreams and holds on to survive a new day.

Closing City Theatre’s 41st season, Ironbound runs through June 4 with tickets starting at $15 for under 30 with generous discounts for many patrons (seniors, military, etc.) as well as a “pay-what -you-want” option for the Sat., May 27 matinee. Special audience opportunities include a post-show talkback on May 24 and another with the playwright on Thurs., May 25. Greenroom on second Fri., May 26 provides a $25 ticket that includes beverages and a post-show chance to hang out with the show’s cast and team. Click here for more information. 

Photos courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover

Season 42 at City Theatre Brings Even More New Plays!

YT17-Logo-Square-e1465836196246You’d be hard-pressed to find a better representation of new and diverse theatre than City Theatre. For their upcoming 2016-17 season, City Theatre has lined up six newer plays by playwrights of varying backgrounds and ethnicities. Ranging from the outrageously absurd to the deeply personal to the soberly poignant, City’s lineup is guaranteed to take its audience on a fantastic journey. Artistic Director Tracy Brigden is more than thrilled to announce their 42nd season. Here is a brief peek at what to expect from them in the upcoming months.

YT17-Feature-Hand-to-GodThe season opens on an absurd note with Robert Askins’ Hand to God, a dark comedy that recently enjoyed a successful run on Broadway. The play is set in a small Texas town where a church’s youth group is really going to hell. The battle of good and evil is fought both externally and internally, instigated by a foul-mouthed hand puppet named Jerome. Seriously. “It isn’t all heresy and dark humor, though. Robert Askins is a fantastic new voice in the American theater” Brigden assures us.

Hand to God starts previews September 24th and runs through October 16th in City Theatre’s Mainstage.

YT17-Feature-DragonNext up is the world premiere of Sharon Washington’s new show Feeding the Dragon. A one-woman autobiographical piece, Ms. Washington will take her audience through an animated tale about growing up and her favorite place: the New York Public Library where her father worked. Family secrets and the author’s passion for words promise to capture the audience as she shares a piece of her heart. After seeing Washington’s work in progress at City’s Momentum Festival, we’re excited to see where she’s taken it in the last three months.

Feeding the Dragon starts previews on October 22nd and runs through November 20th in City Theatre’s Lester Hamburg Studio Theatre.

YT17-Feature-The-RoyaleStarting out 2017 is The Royale by Marco Ramirez. Jay Jackson is a heavyweight boxer with eyes on becoming the world champion, but the racist attitudes of 1905 may prevent him from reaching that goal. Jackson fights for his dream in spite of the lack of support and kindness, even if at times he finds himself standing alone. Inspired by the real life of boxer Jack Johnson, this drama is sure to be as intense as three rounds in the ring.

The Royale begins previews on January 21st and runs through February 12th on City Theatre’s Mainstage.

YT17-Feature-The-GuardFollowing that is Jessica Dickey’s The Guard, a time-twisting piece that gives lessons on seizing the day. An experienced museum guard explains to two young artists his personal connections to all the paintings and pieces he’s watched over for years. In doing so he begins a tale that weaves into different time periods, with the likes of Homer and Rembrandt coming alive and proving just how impactful art can be in one’s life. Brigden describes The Guard as “a captivating new work that is going to take you on a magical journey from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art back in time”.

The Guard will begin previews on March 11th running through April 2nd on City Theatre’s Mainstage. YT17-Feature-Wild-With-HappyColman Domingo’s Wild with Happy is next, a comedy that seeks to find the humor in grieving. An actor returns home to bury his mother but runs into conflicts while dealing with the antics of his friends and family. The complications lead to a hilarious chase from funeral homes to the “Happiest Place On Earth”, all the while showcasing the humor and madness that result from a loss. This particular show will be directed by City’s Artistic Producer, Reginald Douglas.

Wild with Happy starts previews on April 8th running through May 7th in City Theatre’s Lester Hamburg Studio.

YT17-Feature-IronboundFinally the season closes with Ironbound by Martyna Majok. This somber drama tells the story of a Polish immigrant woman trying to make a living in New Jersey. Set in various years but always at the same bus stop, the play shows a fierce determination and a cynical view of a world that, at times, can be cruel and unforgiving. Brigden considers Ironbound “a quintessential City Theatre play.”

Ironbound begins previews on May 13th running through June 4th on City Theatre’s Mainstage.

All information about dates, show times, company information, and more can be found at City Theatre website (tickets, of course, can be purchased there as well). Do yourself a favor: check out their exciting season. With such a variety of new shows there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. And click back here to find reviews of the shows as they premiere.

Check out the rest of our 2016 Fall Preview here! Follow along with our autumn adventures with the hashtag #FallwithPITR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!