There was a great deal of great theatre in Pittsburgh in 2011. Unfortunately, I didn’t see as much as I usually do (mostly because I was busy actually doing theatre), but looking back, there were some memorable contributions. Instead of trying to choose “a best,” I have decided to recognize all the work that remains pleasantly in my memory…
Scenic designers transformed local stages into London, the deep South, Amish country and the living room of a college professor.
The brilliant Tony Ferrieri made it rain—and also featured a pool of water—in City Theatre’s The Secret of Sweet. Bob Frawley’s set for Mary Poppins took the audience all over early 1900’s London—both in color and stunning black-and-white. No name’s The Book of Liz featured stunning set by painting by Alanna James. And T.J. Firneno beautifully captured a 1960’s home in the Summer Company’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Supporting actors are amazing to me. Given fewer lines and less stage time, they work hard to make the leads look good. And 2011 saw some excellent examples of this…
Daina Michelle Griffith was outstanding as the perky New York transplant “Theresa” in the Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation. As “Lucy” in Jekyll and Hyde, Elizabeth Stanley brought her amazing vocal talents to the production. Todd Betker gave the performance of his career so far as the bath tub-bound brother in no name theatre’s production of The Mistakes Madeline Made. The same production also featured Don DiGuilio as the lovable geek “Wilson.” Not only did he give a very funny performance—but Mark Yoachum also transformed himself into a rhinoceros in the Summer Company’s Rhinoceros. And I can’t talk about supporting performances without mentioning the powerful star turn of Curt Hanson as “Gabe” in the musical Next to Normal.
There were also some very memorable performances by lead actors this past year.
Havon Burton as “Fiona” in Shrek, the Musical was a true delight. Rachel Downie was hysterically funny—and played a mean timpani—in Off The Wall’s production of boom. Stealing the Public Theatre’s Gods of Carnage was Deirdre Madigan as crazed mom “Veronica.” Mamie Parris gave a memorable (and musical stunning) performance as “Judy” in the musical 9 to 5. Jamie Slavinsky answers a stranger’s cell phone and is beautifully sucked down a rabbit hole as “Jean” in Organic Theatre’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone. And John Lane, who is usually behind the scenes, stepped into the limelight to give an incredible performance as “George” in the Summer Company’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Overall, shows that truly entertained me during 2011 include the musical Next to Normal, Off The Wall’s very funny boom, the well-acted One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at McKeesport Little Theatre, Organic Theatre’s unusual Dead Man’s Cell Phone and no name’s quirky The Mistakes Madeline Made.
I am looking forward to more great theatre in Pittsburgh in 2012!