Love, Love, Love

KINETIC-LOVE-LARGE-SQUARE-1Playwright Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love is damn fine theater, performed with great style, humor, pathos, bravery, and yes, love, by a damn fine ensemble, assembled and directed with intelligence and insight by Andrew Paul, producing artistic director of Kinetic Theatre Company.

At the grand old age of 37, Mike Bartlett is already one of Britain’s distinguished modern playwrights. His award winning plays on Broadway and across the pond include the much lauded King Charles III, Earthquakes, An Intervention, COCK, Bull, Game, 13, and Albion. Mr. Bartlett also boasts impressive radio and television credits, including the BBC series “Dr. Foster.”

Love, Love, Love was first produced in England in 2010, when Mr. Bartlett was only 30 years old – a fact I find particularly interesting since that makes him a member of Generation X….or Generation Y…or both…it depends on who you ask.

Since the distinction between the generations is so central to Mr. Bartlett’s play, I decided to take a look on the internet to clarify the ages attached to each generational label. There is not an absolute consensus about the division and categorization of the generations into distinct groups, but most people agree the Baby Boomers include people born between 1945 and 1964. Generation X encompasses people born between 1965 and 1984. There’s a nebulous Generation Y that may or may not exist that covers between 1975 to 2005, sort of. And then there are the Millennials born between 1982 to 2004. No one has come up with a name for the folks born after 2004 yet.

Mindy Woodhead and Darren Weller
Mindy Woodhead and Darren Weller

In Love, Love, Love Bartlett sends up the behavior of both the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers, demanding accountability for their mistakes, but always from a perspective of affection and sympathy. The play gives us three distinct, exquisitely distilled moments in time, each act expertly crafted into its own mini-play with its own emotional highs and lows, climax and denouement. Taken together, the three acts of Love, Love, Love let us witness the turning of the world over a period of 43 years – its politics, its economic conditions, its obsessions – through the microcosm of some seriously, yet endearingly, narcissistic people.

Through the actions of Kenneth (played by Darren Weller) and Sandra (played by Mindy Woodhead), we experience the Baby Boomer generation – their optimistic aspirations, their selfishness and self-obsession, their struggles with adulthood, the realities of marriage, money, and children, and the consequences of their life-long self-absorption for the next generation, as depicted through Kenneth’s and Sandra’s children, Rosie (played by Aviana Glover) and Jamie (played by Ethan Saks). This is all brilliantly accomplished by a remarkable acting ensemble. Darren Weller and Mindy Woodhead adroitly careen through the years as pot-smoking 19 year olds, 43 year olds feeling trapped by the obligations of adulthood, and then 62 year olds who are content to enjoy themselves and leave it up to their children to figure everything else out. Mr. Weller fares a little better as a 19 year old Oxford student than does Ms. Woodhead, but both performances are remarkable for their humor, subtlety, and no-holds-barred emotion throughout. Likewise laudable were the performances of Ms. Glover and Mr. Saks, who bravely played the whiny (often with good reason), bewildered, entitled children, who might be unhappy because they aren’t “rich and famous,” but also must look on with disbelief as their parents barrel through life blissfully unaware of pretty much anyone but themselves. Playing ages ranging from 14 to 37, both Ms. Glover and Mr. Saks manage to remain sympathetic in the midst of whining and shirking adulthood. Mr. Saks should be congratulated for also taking on the role of “Kenneth’s” slightly older brother, “Henry,” in the first act; Henry just missed out on the “summer of love” and represents the hard working, no non-sense, get-the-job-done generation known today as the Greatest Generation; he’s dead in the third act of the play, which I find emblematic.

Ethan Saks, Mindy Woodhead, Aviana Glover, and Darren Weller
Ethan Saks, Mindy Woodhead, Aviana Glover, and Darren Weller

The sets, costumes, and make up design of the show were almost universally successful. It was great fun watching the living room for each act getting bigger and nicer with each iteration. I was particularly fond of the 80s pastels and prints in Act II; it all hit the right notes for each time period. And let us not forget the amazing hair and wardrobe changes required of “Sandra” for each time period. Except for some minor technical problems with Ms. Woodhead’s Act I and Act II costumes, which I expect will be addressed as the play proceeds, all of the design work was spot on for this production.

And I love the Pittsburgh Playwrights theater space. It’s dirty and sweaty, small and unpretentious. The small space allows intimacy and immediacy for the audience that you miss in grander, more well-heeled spaces. It’s a space that says, “Come in. We love theater, and we’ll make it happen!” Just my kind of space. And it works perfectly for the immediacy of this play.

Kinetic Theatre Company’s production of Love, Love, Love runs through December 17, 2017 at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. You can find tickets at www.kinetictheatre.org. During this holiday season, if you’re looking for something more substantial than Nutcracker, but still want some humor and humanity, this is the perfect play for you.

Photos by Rocky Raco.

Winter Preview 2017

5A letter from the Editor:

Our dearest readers,

Winter is only 24 days away and we’re already dashing through Christmas decorations and Cyber Monday sales as 2108 creeps up on us. 2017 has gone fast and we at Pittsburgh in the Round are picking up speed too! So far this year alone we’ve reviewed 151 plays and written 84 feature articles, blowing last year’s statistics out of the water! Even though some of our long-time writers have moved on to greener pastures, our team has ballooned up to 17 regular contributors bringing you the most consistent coverage that we can. We even have our first high school intern!

Beyond this preview, we’ll be bringing you some insights on Ted Pappas’s final shows at the Pittsburgh Public, the Pittsburgh Opera’s World Premiere Ashes and Snow, and a few tips on theatre etiquette from some of the pros. We will also continue to introduce you to the people that make up Pittsburgh’s vibrant theater community through our Artist Spotlight series.

2017 has been a very big year for us and 2018 will be even bigger as Pittsburgh’s theatre community continues to grow with us. We want to thank those of you that have and continue to support us through your engagement with us and simply being readers. Most importantly, we want to thank you for supporting local theaters and companies and helping the arts grow and thrive in Pittsburgh. Remember, if you would like to sponsor us or purchase advertisements on the site, contact info@pghintheround.com.

We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #WinterwithPITR. To stay up to date on everything we’re getting into, click here to join our email list! Weekly updates straight to your inbox every Thursday.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Pittsburgh in the Round, now get out there and enjoy some theater!

Mara E. Nadolski


Let’s start off with the Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this winter:

KINETIC-LOVE-LARGE-SQUARE-1#5 – Love, Love, Love by Kinetic Theatre:  Produced in association with Cockroach Theatre in Las Vegas, we follow a London couple from the summer of love in 1967 through the peaks and inevitable downfall of their relationship through present day. Playwright, and Olivier Award winner Mike Bartlett forces us to think about the baby boomer generation and its effect on our current state of life. Love, Love, Love starts previews November 30 and runs through December 17. For tickets and more information, click here

CT1712_AbsoluteBrightness_573x437 (1)#4 – The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by City Theatre: Known for their commitment to producing new plays, City Theatre stays true to their mission with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. In this one-man show by Academy Award winner James Lecesne, a teenaged Leonard Pelkey goes missing and it’s up to one detective and a team of the town’s citizens to find out what happened to him. Inspired by Leonard’s absence, the locals start to question everything about their lives and realize that it’s okay to be different. Catch this heartwarming comedy at City Theatre starting January 20 through February 18. For tickets and more information, click here.

heat-of-the-night-IMG_7327-300x216 (1)#3 – In the Heat of the Night by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company: From a book to a movie to a TV series in the 60’s, In the Heat of the Night finally makes its way to the stage at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. First produced in 2010, the story follows that of the original novel and subsequent adaptations. Virgil Tibbs, a detective from California, is arrested and wrongly accused of a murder of a white man in 1962 Alabama but slowly becomes the town’s only hope of solving such a brutal homicide. In the Heat of the Night runs at Pittsburgh Playwrights’ downtown space from February 2 through March 11. For tickets and more information, click here.

Screenshot (22)#2 – Inside Passage by Quantum Theatre: Gab Cody has been a staple in the Pittsburgh playwrighting community for years. After producing her play Fat Beckett with Quantum during their 2011-2012 season she’s back with a more personal story. Cody was born in Juneau, Alaska. When she was five her parents divorced causing her to move back to the east coast with her mother, leaving behind three siblings and two Tlinget Indian foster siblings. In this mash up of documentary film, music, and performance, Cody goes on an adventure to reconnect with her long-lost foster siblings. Inside Passage opens at a yet to be determined location March 2. For tickets and more information, click here

2017Mast-EvilDead#1 – Evil Dead the Musical by Pittsburgh Musical Theater: First in their new “After Hours” series, Pittsburgh Musical Theater heads to the West End for their Pro Series in the Gargaro Theater. Based on the 1980’s movie franchise of the same name, five college students, led by our hero Ash Williams, head to a cabin in the woods for Spring Break. After some light basement exploration, they find the Book of the Dead and accidentally unleash a spirit that slowly turns them all into demons! Running in repertory with PMT’s We Will Rock You, Evil Dead runs weekends starting February 2. The show starts at 10:30pm so make sure you find a babysitter because this production is definitely not recommended for children. For tickets and more information click here.

For more on the musicals coming up this season, check out George’s list of the 5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Winter!

Christmas is coming soon and you know what that means? Christmas shows! Read up on this season’s offerings in Brian’s article here. 

Pittsburgh’s theatre community is constantly growing and morphing. A few new theaters have popped up recently and we got some insider info for you! Check out Eva’s talks with the Glitterbox in North Oakland and Meredith’s interview with Aftershock Theatre in Lawrenceville.

We broke some pretty big records this Fall! In case you missed out on any of our adventures, here are some highlights from the last three months:

Six a Breast: The Absurd Life of Women by Corningworks

Henry V by Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks

Boeing, Boeing at the Apple Hill Playhouse

Some Assembly Required by Attack Theatre

Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers by Real/Time Interventions

Belfast Girls by the Ghostlight Theatre Troupe

Romeo and Juliet by PICT Classic Theatre

Unhinged  by Cup-A-Jo Productions

HMS Pinafore by the Pittsburgh Savoyards

Equus at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

I Won’t Be in on Monday by off the WALL Productions

The Impresaria and Djamileh by Undercroft Opera

Arsenic and Old Lace at the McKeesport Little Theater

The Busy Body  by the Duquesne Red Masquers

All Quiet on the Western Front by Prime Stage

The Marriage of Figaro at the Pittsburgh Opera

The Liar

KINETIC-LIAR-SMALL-RECTANGLEClassical theatre has a reputation among the American public for being stuffy, cumbersome, and just plain boring.  Anyone who has seen a well-performed Shakespeare knows what hogwash this is, but if any more proof were needed, Kinetic Theatre Company’s production of The Liar, adapted by David Ives and directed by Andrew Paul, provides a stunning example of just how relevant and entertaining the classics remain.  A metatheatrical goose chase, it packs in seduction, dueling, and mistaken identities while uncovering a poignant truth under a mountain of lies.

The Liar, originally penned by the French dramatist Pierre Corneille, has been conscripted by Ives, a contemporary American playwright with a taste for the absurd.  Although the play takes a few twists and turns, the basic premise is this: a young man, Dorante (Ethan Saks), who cannot tell the truth adopts a valet, Cliton (Patrick Halley), who cannot tell a lie.  He quickly falls in love with an unknown woman, Clarice (Erika Strasburg), but fails to get her name and winds up getting the name of her close friend, Lucrece (Sarah Silk), instead.  He proceeds to pursue the friend, thinking only his beauty could be named Lucrece, and hilarity ensues.  Oh, and the whole play is written in verse, as the original was (Ives stretches some of the rhymes for comedic effect).

Patrick Halley as Cliton and Ethan Saks as Dorante in Kinetic Theatre's THE LIAR
Patrick Halley as Cliton and Ethan Saks as Dorante in Kinetic Theatre’s THE LIAR

Dorante tries to sum up the lesson tidily in his ending monologue: “How liars are punishèd by their own lies!/Was not the moral of this exercise -/But rather how, amidst life’s contradictions,/Our lives can far out-fick the finest fictions.”  But what Dorante goes on to say rings even more true: that although the entirety of the play has been a “lie,” this makes it no less full of truth, since that is the essence of theatre, finding truth in a fiction.  The performance has built up to this conclusion, since it has been self-aware from the start, and the characters constantly remind us that we are watching a play.  One of the more humorous instances comes about when Alcippe (Charlie Francis Murphy) exclaims in the middle of a fight with Clarice, “Is this a stage?!  Are these just props?!” and flips a plate of colorful macaroons that stay attached to the plate, shrieking in horror.

Erika Strasburg as Clarice and Sarah Silk as Lucrece in Kinetic Theatre's THE LIAR
Erika Strasburg as Clarice and Sarah Silk as Lucrece in Kinetic Theatre’s THE LIAR

Although he thinks himself quick and clever, and in spite of all the recurring references from Othello, Dorante is no scheming Iago.  He may have the skill to fool earnest Cliton, but his plots fall apart and he must constantly bolster his wild fabrications with more.  A self-centered troublemaker, Saks still plays Dorante with a charm that makes it impossible to dislike him.  He may not be the dominant figure on stage at the start, but by the end of the show, he somehow has everything well in hand.  Yet the cast as a whole work strongly as a unit.  They interchange the fast-paced verse convincingly and without faltering.  Saks and Murphy, though they have swords in scabbards, fight an intense and physical “air” duel with invisible blades, and even invisible lightsabers, brought to life with Angela Baughman’s sound design.  Strasburg and Silk give us feisty and quick-witted love interests in Clarice and Lucrece, who are no dummies, even if they are susceptible to a charming liar.

Julianne Avolio as Isabelle and Patrick Halley as Cliton in Kinetic Theatre's THE LIAR
Julianne Avolio as Isabelle and Patrick Halley as Cliton in Kinetic Theatre’s THE LIAR

Gianni Downs’s scenic design, Kim Brown’s costuming, and Johnmichael Bohach’s props all work together to convey just enough of a sense of seventeenth century Paris to ground the setting (intricate scrollwork, shoulder capes and rapiers, elegant furniture), and yet tweak these styles to make the production contemporary and playful.  Downs’s design of large blue-washed panels at skewed angles convey the sense of a maze or a puzzle appropriate for the confusing plot.  Brown’s costuming is tailored to each character.  Dorante is outfitted in an orange-peach color (perhaps as a wink and nudge to the Donald) with lace cuffs, setting him apart and lending him the air of a dandy. Cliton’s beggarly lifestyle is evidenced in his worn out jeans and a dirtied shirt.  Clarice and Lucrece at the start of the play are made the yin and yang of each other, the outgoing Clarice in a white gown with a black fan, and the introverted Lucrece in a darker gown with a white fan, a clever choice since the women are almost opposites in personality.  The various touches of anachronism onstage, like the jeans or the metallic pink of Clarice’s furniture, suit the anachronisms flying about in verse.

Kinetic Theatre’s production is a timely reminder of how twisted our lives can become with misinformation, but also how important theatre is for speaking the truth, even if through the means of a lie.  Ives’s source may be a couple hundred years old, but the cliché is right, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Liar runs at the Henry Heymann Theatre through July 30. Tickets and more information can be found here. 

Photos courtesy of Rocky Raco.

The Christians

KINETIC CHRISTIANS LARGE SQUAREKinetic Theater’s production of  Lucas Hnath’s The Christians is a terrific drama, but it’s heavily philosophical and thus necessitates a commitment towards an open, curious mind.

At first, I was locked into my seat thinking that I had been tricked into a sermon.  There’s a giant, looming cross suspended over the platform.  A choir comes out to sing.  A bunch of clean-cut church-leader types infiltrate the audience, begin shaking hands…then David Whalen’s Pastor Paul begins talking.

There’s that infinite vagueness of religious verse:

Because you have rejected this message,
relied on oppression
and depended on deceit,
this sin will become for you
like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
that collapses suddenly, in an instant.

That’s Isaiah 30, 12:13.  It’s imperative to theme of this play.  At first, not so clear.  You’re stewing in the sermon, not realizing the moral is marinating.  A religious question is but the scent for a main course which centers around the flawed humanity of conviction.

Director Andrew Paul describes where the motivation of this play originates:

“Hnath [the writer]’s goal was to write a play that opened with a sermon that a non-Christian could listen to and think, “well, maybe this preacher’s got a point.” ….He just wanted to get a decent number of audience members past certain assumptions about Christianity and hear what the characters are trying to communicate.”

David Whalen (center) and company
David Whalen (center) and company

So, this play dives into a difficulty of religion: its questions.  Whalen’s Pastor very much holds the kind, familiar but invariably patriarchal and commanding figure of a charming, friendly pulpit-monger: the storyteller, the guide, the man with a crystal connection to the Almighty in his heart. The part is Oxfords and khakis, with an always-smile and a discomfiting familiarity to the microphone always being two inches from his wise and prattling mouth.  Whalen carries this main character through the flight of his struggle.  It’s a blossoming affirmation.  We get to see the benevolent arrogance of a man blossom, then begin to torture itself to death.  He carries the tone of a man bred to lead led to the natural test of a religion’s vanity: the taboo of its inevitable doubts.

Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that this play centers around this pastor deciding that “hell” is a misinterpretation of the Bible.  The fear of hell, as postulated in the play, is an invention.  The reality Pastor Paul concedes is that god’s blessing bestows security onto and into everyone.  What a gip for the true-blue practicing Christians, eh?

What we then see is the unwinding of this man’s foundation.  His congregation splits and it’s kinda like the movie High Noon, but at the altar.  The man who conceives of a radical, new and challenging truth is shunned until he’s facing his doom completely alone.

Joshua Elijah Reese, David Whalen, & choi
Joshua Elijah Reese, David Whalen, & choir

The emotional power of this cast is outrageous.  Let’s start with Joshua Elijah Reese’s Associate Pastor Joshua.  A tightly-wound, normally restrained character who with his first lines begins to crack into a too-impassioned zealot.  We see the edges break, and Reese’s ability to show the exaggeration of this animated, emotionally vigorous man become begrudgingly distrustful.  We see a birth of his fundamentalism on stage, and it’s scary.  His conviction becomes a barb in a collection of facial tics:  reaction to the incredulous.  It’s awkward and it’s hairy.  But it’s real.  The emotion comes from a place of truth.  That’s what you end up watching—how disturbed this actor can make this character.

Same goes Robert Haley’s Church Elder Jay.  A man so self-possessed and clean-cut for life he boxes up with confrontation.  A hard-shelled animal encasing a soft-hearted man who knows better than to rock the boat.  I loved seeing the subtlety in this actor’s reactions.  He bites into silence with a clean, soundless gulp.  His nervousness has animation and it fed this character so much grave understanding and easily inferred meanings.

A realness too exists in Gayle Pazerski’s congregant Jenny.  Jenny comes alive with each question she asks, popping a new aspect of her character’s fortitude out with a terribly defensive logic.  Her curiosity is masochistic, because it dissolves one truth for another and thus her foundation quakes.   She becomes more emotionally wracked but stronger with each painful discovery and Pazerski trembles the level that a rational damning would do to her conviction.  She betrays some kind of human trust for dogma, but in so doing loses chunk by chunk bits of her trust in humanity.  Watching Pazerski’s portrayal of a harrowed woman come out of her troubles only to find existential doubt waiting in the road is pathetic. But somehow, she fiercely overcomes (sorry, spoiler).

David Whalen and Mindy Woodhead
David Whalen and Mindy Woodhead

What’s scary about this play is how innocuous the setting seems.  A church appeals as a refuge, particularly to the Christians.  But it comes with a contract: one that demands a certain tableau of assignations; such as, you accept Jesus.  But what if…that’s an option?  The whole system of consequence crumbles.

What is the weight of sin without consequence?

Mindy Woodhead’s Elizabeth is the Pastor’s Wife.  This part kills.  Man, she covers so much emotional ground.  So much power swept into the affirmative, once again, conviction of this self-strong woman disabling a broken skeptic with her righteous will.

I focus on the actors because that’s what this play delivers.  Woodhead’s performance brings up a staggering swell of emotional and self-righteous appeal.  This is a play about doubt and conviction.  But sometimes that it includes the conviction of doubt.

Besides the content and besides the subject matter, this play delves into a greatly human inquiry as to what drives us and how unrelenting is that need for absolute trust.  And with a 2000-year-old text filled with seeming metaphors that may or may not be literal, the fight ends up being two dogmas fighting it out in a ring.

The emotional fall-out should be illegal.  It’s the kind of grudge-making that begins wars.

Watch that match burn.  Watch serious people begin to fall apart and begin to become their true destined selves.

The Christians by Kinetic Theatre plays at the New Hazlett Theater through July 2nd. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Special thanks to Kinetic Theatre for complimentary press tickets. Photos courtesy of Rocky Raco.  

Winter Preview 2016

Snowflake 6
A letter from the Editor

To our beloved readers,

The countdown has begun; there are just 21 days left until the first day of Winter and we have put together a preview sure to prepare you for a holiday season of new and exciting theater experiences. Even though things start to slow down in the winter, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained during the cold, dark evenings as Pittsburgh’s warm theater community invites you to step in from out of the cold and catch a show. There is plenty of holiday themed fun and even a few new plays to choose from this Winter season!

Beyond this preview, stay tuned for continuous coverage of Pittsburgh theater. We will be checking in with local companies, some new to the scene and some seasoned veterans. We will also continue to introduce you to the people that make up Pittsburgh’s vibrant theater community through our artists spotlight series.

On a business related note, we are officially a legal entity (LLC) recognized by the government (AKA the IRS, OMG!). Remember, if you would like to sponsor the site or purchase advertisements on the site, contact info@pghintheround.com.

Again, we want to thank those of you that have and continue to support us through your donations to our previous fundraising campaign, your engagement with us, and simply being readers. Most importantly, we want to thank you for supporting local theaters and companies and helping the arts grow and thrive in Pittsburgh.

We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #WinterwithPITR.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Pittsburgh in the Round, now get out there and enjoy some theater!

Mara E. Nadolski

 


Let’s start off with the Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this winter!

#5 – Eugene Onegin by Undercroft Opera: Usually sung in French, 10 year oldOneginPoster Undercroft Opera will be presenting this Tchaikovsky masterpiece in Russian as a concert. Originally premiering in Moscow in 1879, this story of unrequited love and regrets was last produced in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Opera in 2009. Undercroft, a company known for giving performers “opera-tunities”, brings many opera veterans to the stage in this one night only event. Last seen in the Pittsburgh Savoyards’ production of Gianni Schicchi,  Eugene Onegin will bring Ian Greenlaw and Katie Manukyan together on the stage once again. For tickets and more information, check out Undercroft’s website here. 

#4 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Cup-a-Jo Productions: On the heels of their innovative 404501_10150601331240797_648691161_nproduction of Titus AndronicusCup-a-Jo brings us another twist on an old classic. A not-so-fun night of drinks with new colleagues turns dark and disastrous in the late Edward Albee’s absurdist drama. Starring company founder Joanna Lowe and Brett Sullivan Santry, Cup-a-Jo will drag us into an immersive universe complete with signature live music and of course, cocktails. Literally set within a living room, this production will give audiences “ultimate uncomfortable voyeuristic experience” says Lowe. Dates and more details to come, but for more information about Cup-a-Jo, click here.

#3 – The Lion in Winter by PICT Classic Theatre: The classic Christmas tale of King Lion-Final-WebHenry II and his dysfunctional family weaves through politics, conspiracies, and ruthlessness. The cast includes Pittsburgh favorites like Karen Baum and Tony Bingham, even PICT’s Artistic Director Alan Standford graces the stage as Henry himself in the company’s third production in their new space at the Union Project in Highland Park. As always, PICT is “committed to the creation of high-quality, professional thought-provoking theatre of substance” and we’re confident this production will be no different. The Lion in Winter begins previews Thursday December 1, for tickets and more information click here. 

#2 – Lungs by off the WALL: In the second production of their Mainstage scaled_256series, off the WALL brings us more of the quick-witted dramas the company is known for with Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs. On a mostly bare set, no costume changes, and little accoutrements, Sarah Silk and Alec Silberblatt will force audiences to focus on the important themes of the text, rather than superfluous theatrics in this production. This two person drama takes us on a ride over the course of a relationship as they battle with questions about their families, their aspirations and each other. Opening December 2 at Carnegie Stage. For tickets and more information, click here. 

#1 – The Royale by City Theatre: City Theatre continues to uphold its mission YT17-Feature-The-Royaleto be Pittsburgh’s home for new plays with their January premiere of The Royale. Known for writing and producing television shows like Sons of Anarchy and Orange is the New Black, Marco Ramirez’s Broadway debut play The Royale is inspired by the true story of turn of the century boxer Jack Johnson. DeSean Terry plays Jay “The Sport”Jackson in this drama about fighting more than just the other person in the ring. Jackson has eyes on the heavyweight championship but with the racial tension of 1905 that might be easier said than done. The Royale runs on City Theatre’s Mainstage January 21 – February 12. For tickets and more information, click here.

While we’ve got you, check out our Top 5 Musicals you don’t want to miss here!

In the mood for something a little more festive? Claire rounded up the Top 5 Holiday shows for you here.

Throughline Theatre Company has gotten a new Artistic Director! Meet Sean Sears here.

Speaking of new things, check out one of Pittsburgh’s newest theater companies, Jumping Jack Theater.

Curious about something a little more than theater? Check out Jason’s articles featuring slowdanger and The Space Upstairs.

Even Attack Theatre is loosening some screws in their upcoming show Unbolted.

We’ve been pretty busy this fall too! In case you missed anything, here are some highlights of the last three months:

Between Riverside and Crazy at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

Three Days in the Country by Kinetic Theatre

The Music Man by Stage 62

12 Angry Men by the McKeesport Little Theater

How I Learned to Drive by the Duquense Red Masquers

Salome by the Pittsburgh Opera

To Kill a Mockingbird by Prime Stage Theatre

Giselle by the Pittsburgh Ballet

Barefoot in the Park by The Theatre Factory

Prometheus Bound: A Puppet Tragedy at the Irman Freeman Center for Imagination

Pride and Prejudice by Steel City Shakespeare

Trial by Jury & Gianni Schicchi by the Pittsburgh Savoyards

The River by Quantum Theatre

The Toxic Avenger at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles

13510792_534822413395493_8031095847387694555_nOh, how does one describe Mr. Holmes? It’s seems like such a simple thing to do, but it’s so terribly complicated. To capture the man’s essence in a review would take too long and ultimately wouldn’t do him any justice. Similarly one could not capture the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles properly, so I’m reluctant to try. Normally one doesn’t want to ruin the plot of the play, but in The Hound’s case I don’t wish to ruin the punchlines. So your best effort would be to go the Pittsburgh Playwright’s Theater downtown and see Kinetic Theatre Company’s latest production.

The play is a follow-up to Kinetic’s production of Sherlock’s Last Case, although the only continuity is David Whalen returning as Sherlock Holmes, greatest detective in the world. This production brings a different stage, a different Watson, and a different feel altogether. While Last Case was humorous but also surprisingly dark, Hound is more of a high-energy farce. Three actors play a wide range of characters with the absurdity of a Monty Python movie. The stage is small, featuring only a few trunks stacked against a brick wall to serve as a backdrop.IMG_0493

I could go on and on about the cast and all they have to do and how well they do it. Whalen’s Sherlock gets to have more fun here, and is still appropriately arrogant. James FitzGerald is excellent as the world’s greatest sidekick Watson, who alternates being the straightman to being a bizarre creature himself, with a few violent tendencies to boot. Connor McCanlus is also terrific, bringing an adorable “well shucks” attitude to Sir Henry Baskerville while playing a slew of other characters.

One would be foolish to ignore the fantastic tech work in this production, because it seems like they have an awful lot to do for such a physically small space. There are so many lights, sounds, scenery flying in and out, and all of it has to time out perfectly to keep things flowing. It’s overwhelming trying to keep track of it all. Luckily one doesn’t have to, because one’s just in the audience. The crew has to keep track of it all, and they do a damn good job of it.IMG_0494

Jokes fly at a furious fast pace, and there seem to be enough of every joke to go around. There are a few cornball jokes, a few overly sexual ones, farce work, costume changes, red herrings, fourth wall breaking, dark humor. It’s a smorgasbord really. You may not laugh at all of them, but you’re guaranteed to laugh at something. Maybe even you’ll find yourself laughing loud while the rest of the audience is going “aww”…maybe….if you’re certain people….like me.

Have I said enough? Have I said nothing at all? Perhaps I’m being vague to create a sort of…”mystery”…about it all. Or really, why spend the time describing one of Sherlock’s more popular tales when I could just tell you to go see the production? And you should do just that. If you don’t like the BBC television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, good news: it’s nothing like that! By which I mean it’s not boring! (I’m teasing, don’t come at me about your precious Cumberbatch). Do yourself a favor and go see The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Special thanks to Kinetic Theatre for complimentary press tickets. The Hound of the Baskervilles runs at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre through August 7. For tickets and more information click here.

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