Monday, May 14, 2012

Cast Shines In Intense Drama

In a South American country where a brutal dictator as just been disposed, a lawyer brings home a Good Samaritan, who rescued him from car trouble.  Unbeknownst to the lawyer, the helpful man turns out to be the brutal captor, torturer and rapist of his wife.
Mark Staley, Ken Bolden, Adrienne Wehr
This is the basis for Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, the current offering at Off The Wall Theater in Washington PA.
As you can imagine, this plot leads to an evening of intense, emotional drama.
And the strong cast is well up to the task.  Adrienne Wehr (as the wife), Mark Staley (as her husband) and Ken Bolden (as the sadistic torturer) wring the raw emotions from the script brilliantly.
Where the production seems to falter is with the direction.
Director Maggie Balsley had chosen to open the play with a video projection of the first scene between Wehr and Staley (all while the two actors move around the stage in a kind of “dumb show”).  I had no clue what it was supposed to mean. Consequently, I probably didn’t pay as close attention to the next few vignettes as I was trying to figure out the projection.
For a play that addresses such high-charged issues, there was a lot of sitting and talking.  Staley sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Then Staley goes to the balcony and sits and talks with Wehr.  Then Wehr comes in and sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Center stage got very little use.
What made matters worse is the balcony is far stage right behind a large sofa.  Very often all I could see of Wehr and Staley were their heads peeking over the top of the sofa.
Then the production ends with more baffling video (after a long pause for costume changes).
Designer Paul A. Shaw has once again transformed the small Off The Wall stage into a completely new look.  Unfortunately, Balsley groundplan does more harm then good.
But the cast preservers and doesn’t allow the odd videos or the stagnant blocking prevent them from delivering memorable performances.
Death and the Maiden continues through May 19.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And no is more desperate than unemployed factory workers in 1980’s Buffalo in the musical The Full Monty, the current production at McKeesport Little Theatre.
These down-on-their-luck fellows turn to stripping!
Up front, I give the men in the cast a great deal of credit.  I don’t even undress to take a shower, let alone strut my stuff on stage.
This production has good points…and not-so-good points.
There are some very strong voices as well as some very funny moments.
Unfortunately, Director Edward E. Bostedo, Jr. has failed to get the full potential from his cast.
While Bryan D. Padgett (as Jerry) and Timothy Doughtery (as his best pal Dave) have some laugh-out-loud moments, their deep friendship is never fully felt by the audience.  Likewise when Padgett has book scenes with his young son (played by Matthew Fedorek), you get the feeling they are just “marking time” to get through these lines so everyone can get back to singing or dancing or being funny again.
If audiences don’t buy these two crucial relationships, the heart goes out of The Full Monty.
It doesn’t help the cast that the blocking and stage pictures are weak.
Bostedo has also designed the set, which consists of what looks like Japanese screens.  It gives The Full Monty a peculiar “kabuki” look.  The screen panels are actually doors that open.  They could have been used effectively; however, they are not.
Choreographer Heather Yaksic Atkinson has created some very clever dance numbers, and the men perform them to the best of their ability.
Lamont Freeland nearly steals the show as “Horse” with his funny one-liners and the amusing song “Big Black Man.”  Anna Colecchi gets in some good wisecracks as “Jeanette,” the piano player.
Ryan Baker and Nathan Hough (as “Malcolm” and “Nathan” respectively) bring a great deal of charm to the production.
Act One moves along at a good pace.  Act Two tends to slow the production down.
Hats off to McKeesport Little Theatre for having the courage to attempt The Full Monty.  And it is a fun evening in the theatre.  With this talented cast, it had the potential to be so much more.
The Full Monty runs through May 20.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


It's all about belonging...
Dreams of Hope (a creative and performing arts group for queer youth and their allies) will present their new show Being In, Being OUT on April 1 at 2pm at Off The Wall Theatre in Washington PA.  The show explores the theme of belonging.  This will be the second time Dreams of Hope have performed at Off The Wall.

A children's classic
The Theatre factory in Trafford will be performing the children's theatre production of Ramona Quimby March 30 at 7:30pm and March 31 and April 1 at 2pm.  Bring the kids to enjoy some family friendly fare.

Monday, March 12, 2012


In praise of women...
It's back.  No Name Players presents SWAN Day, a celebration of women, on March 15 and 16 at 8pm at the Hazlett Theatre. on the Northside.   The stories of women from all over the state will be told through dance, music, poetry, theatre, art, fashion, and performance art.  Over 50 local artist in involved--and don't miss the opening night reception prior to the performance.

All the about the "V"...
Robert Morris will present The Vagina Monologues on March 17 at the Colonial Theater in Massey Hall.  Curtain is at 8pm and all proceeds from the performance, concessions and auction will benefit a local woman's shelter.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Transforming a classic film to the stage is never easy, but 39 Steps, the current offering at McKeesport Little Theatre, turns the Hitchcock thriller into a riotous evening of fun.

Director Mark Calla has assembled a brilliant cast to bring the film to life. 

Sean David Butler looks every inch the 1930's matinee idol as Richard Hanney, the bored Englishman who finds himself embroiled in espionage.  Butler's accent never falters.  His comic timing is spot on, and he excels at the physical humor.

Samantha Mitchell plays Pamela, Annabella and Margaret, and her physical transformations are wonderful.  However, her accents are not always consistent, and she is often hard-to-hear.

As the two clowns (who play multiple, multiple roles), Andy Coleman and TJ Firneno nearly steal the show.  They make costume (and character) changes at lightning fast speed...and change accents just about as often.   Their breathless transformations bring much of the humor to 39 Steps.  My only complaint that Coleman (who plays all the incidental women) doesn't make much of a distinction between them.  His men are clearly drawn, but this female characters could be almost interchangeable without their distinctive costumes.  But hats off to both Coleman and Firneno for taking on the challenge of playing so many characters--and playing them with such high energy and humor.

Calla keeps the pace fairly tight.  Act Two does slow a little, but, overall, the show moves very well.

On opening night there were some glitches with scenes changes (of which there must be at least 75), and sound levels could be adjusted up, but when the level of performances is this high, those things can be overlooked.  And I am certain that as the run continues, these difficulties will quickly be resolved.

It's a raucous blend of cornball humor, romance, slapstick, funny visuals, espionage and intrigue...and you'll laugh yourself silly.

39 Steps continues through March 25.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Solve the mystery...
McKeesport Little Theatre will present a stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 classic film The 39 Steps March 9-25.  Mark Calla directs a cast of four who plays dozens of roles.  Between the laughs, see if you can solve the mystery of The 39 Steps.

Third time's a charm...
See the third installment in the Pittsburgh Monologue Project Saturday, March 10 at the ModernFormations Gallery on Penn Avenue.  See some of Pittsburgh's best actors perform these solo shows.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Life's a Pitch

My great late Aunt Mimi used to say that if the Hartlands had to make our living selling things, we'd all starve.  If I ever doubted her wisdom (and I don't), then Claochlu Studios production of Hospitality Suite by Roger Reuff would convince me.

Clauchlu is a joint venture between Cup-A-Jo Productions and 72nd Street Films and their first venture looks at three salesman for an industrial lubrication manufacturer try to land the big sale.

The acting is superb. 

Matt Henderson plays the "new guy" Bob, who is a devout Christian.  Henderson (who specializes in milquetoast roles) shines. 

Everett Lowe is Phil, a divorced father of four daughters who is undergoing a mid-life crisis.  Lowe gives a quiet, underplayed performance of a man who is emotionally torn inside.

As the smug and obnoxious Larry, Jeff Monahan gives the memorable performance of Hospitality Suite.  Monahan becomes the smartass you just want to punch square in the face, but he is also able to capture the softer side of this arrogant salesman.

Director Joanna Lowe manages to keep the blocking in this production moving--which is no small feat considering this script is three men in a room talking...and talking...and talking.  A new slant on this production is that it is also being projected live on screen at the back of the stage.  I didn't really understand why this was done, especially when I was often distracted by them.

While I so enjoyed the outstanding performances, I still don't understand what the play is about as so many issues are discussed.  Is Hospitality Suite about business or religion or salesmanship or what?  Playwright Reuff goes on and on and on--but to what ends?  It make me glad I'm not s salesman.

Hospitality Suite continues through March 11 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

The talents of Joseph A. Roots are wasted in a small role of a drunk at the top of Act Two.  The role does nothing to move the play along, but Roots gives it his all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Double check your deductions...
Just in time for tax season, Greenburg Civic Theatre presents the outrageous farce Love, Sex and the I.R.S. March 2-4.  Directed by Patty Rafferty, the comedy will be performed at the Greenburg Garden and Civic Center.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Babies are born everyday.

But in Paula Vogel's And Baby Makes Seven, the current offering at Off The Wall in Washington PA, this everyday occurrence becomes anything but ordinary.

Ruth (Tressa Glover) and Anna, (Robyne Parrish)  a lesbian couple, is having a baby--with the help of their gay college friend Peter (Tony Bingham).

Trouble is, Ruth and Anna already have a family--three imaginary children who are their alter-egos: Cecil, a nine year-old genius; Henry, an eight year-old French boy; and Orphan who is 7 and was raised by wolves.

Peter believes that before their real baby arrives, these imaginary children have to go.

Under the direction of Linda Haston, the "offing" of these imaginary children is nothing short of a laugh riot.  First-nighters were complaining of sore sides and tired jaws from the non-stop laughs.

The cast is brilliant with pitch-perfect comic timing.

But it is Glover who gives the tour-de-force performance of the show.  She has three unforgettable moments.

First, she simultaneously plays both Henry and Orphan fighting over a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.

Next, she has a lengthy death scene as Orphan succumbs to rabies.

Finally, there is a very touching scene when Henri doesn't want to quietly into "that good night."

And, yes, it is an outrageous comedy--but And Baby Makes Seven does have some touching emotional moments.  Bingham portrays genuine, fearful doubts about his ability to be a good father to the child who is on the way.  Parrish has a funny emotional (but don't say "hormonal") breakdown, when pregnancy just gets to be too much for her.  However, Parrish never moves believable as a hugely pregnant woman.  She glides gracefully across the stage, never making the obvious padding convincing.

But that is just a minor complaint in what is otherwise a "do not miss" production.

Once again, set designer Paul A. Shaw finds simple ways to make the most of Off The Wall's small stage.

And while it is a play about the creation of a new kind of family, And Baby Makes seven is NOT family-friendly entertainment.  There is adult language and very adult situations--so leave the children at home!

And Baby Makes Seven runs through March 10.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


A new arrival…
Off The Wall in Washington PA is presenting Paula Vogel’s play …And Baby Makes Seven from February 24 through March 10.  Directed by Linda Haston, the comedy looks at a new definition of “family” as a pair of lesbians and their best gay friend decide to have a baby!  The production features Tressa Glover, Tony Bingham and Robyne Parrish.
Joint venture…
Cup-A-Jo and 72nd Street Films are joining forces to create a new company to combine live theatre with other forms of media.  The new company is called Claochu and will present its first venture Hospitality Sweet from February 24-March 11 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  Written by Roger Rueff, Hospitality Suite explores loyalty, life and death as seen through the eys of three salesmen.
Monologues…part two…
Catch the second installment of the Pittsburgh Monologue Project this Saturday, February 25.  The evening of solo performances will be performed at 8pm at the ModernFormations Gallery.
A little bit of Lanford…
From February 24-26 the Robert Morris Colonial Theatre will present Lanford Wilson’s play The Rimers of Eldritch.  Directed by Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre, the production will be in Massey Hall.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moliere, Money and THE MISER

The old proverb says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  For French playwright Moliere, the love of money is also the root of comedy, particularly in The Miser.
Presented by the Red Masquers of Duquesne University, director (and designer) John E. Lane, Jr. has transported this classic comedy from France in the 1600’s to New York City in the 1920’s.  This change results in a very handsome production.
Lane’s set is simple but lends itself beautifully to the action.  There is a black-and-white checkerboard floor, black walls with sconces and yard-upon-yards of red chiffon.  An old-fashioned stock ticker and mounds of ticker tape grace the edges of the set.
As a director, Lane has imbued the production with a great deal of physical humor and downright slapstick comedy.  It definitely reaches its most sublime with Daniel Jones as the Irish brogues Magistrate.  Jones (with Lane) wrings all the humor possible from a set of handcuffs!
Jay Keenan is wonderfully funny as Harpagon, the tight-fisted miser.  Keenan cuts a dashing figure in his tail coat and truly shines when he brings the audience into his confidence with his asides.  Keenan, too, proves himself adept at the physical comedy.
The production can be uneven, though, with all the performers not playing at Keenan’s level.
Sarah Weisel does a very amusing character turn as Maitriss Simone, and Jacob Wadsworth scores laughs with his slow-witted servant Brindavoine.
I had some apprehensions going to see a “classic,” but this production of The Miser blew the dust off all my misgivings.
The Miser closes February 18.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


In case you didn't notice, there's an article in today's (2/16/12) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announcing their 2012-2013 season.

Among the shows is the musical 1776 about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Artistic Director Ted Pappas notes that one of the "challenges" to doing 1776 is "finding housing for all the out-of-town performers."

I think I have a suggestion to solve this "challenge."

Why not cast some of the highly talented local Equity actorsd already in Pittsburgh?  There are hundreds of them!  And they already live here!  No need to house them!

Maybe if the Public did this, more of the local professional theatres would follow suit and hire some of the amazing talent Pittsburgh has to offer?

Just a thought...

Monday, February 13, 2012


The Heritage Players will perform the romp Bedroom Farce by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn from February 17-26.  Check out what's happening under the covers at the Bethel Park Community Center.

From February 17-25 the Three Rivers Theatre will perform a modern adaptation of Aristophenes' Lysistrata.  Women show their power over men in this classic sexual struggle.  Performances will be at the Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport.

Ron Ferrara directs Don't Dress for Dinner, a farce about a man, his mistress, the wife and a gourmet chef.  The comedy runs February 17 through March 14 at the Theatre Factory in Trafford.

Yes, February 14 is Valentine's Day, but it's never too late to say "I Love You."  Local chanteuse Cathi Rhodes presents An Apres Vantine Show with Cathi on February 18.  Enjoy dinner, dessert, drinks and love songs at Our Coal Miners Cafe in Jennerstown.

Sunday, February 5, 2012



The Pittsburgh Monologue Project launches its 2012 Season this week on February 11.  12 Peers Theatre will be presenting this series of original monologues at ModernFormations Gallery.  The first installment is called Yinzer Love and is directed by Vince Ventura.


The Red Masquers of Duquesne University will present Moliere classic comedy The Miser from February 8-18.  Noted Pittsburgh actor Jay Keenan will play the title role; John E. Lane, Jr. directs.  All performances will be at the Peter Mills Theatre in Rockwell Hall on the Duquesne University campus.


Out of the Can will mark the debut performance for One Mom Productions and Tinned Pineapple.  On February 9 and 10, they will perform a series of monologues by local playwright James Michael Shoberg.  The performances will take place at ModernFormations Gallery.

Monday, January 23, 2012


12 Peers, Pittsburgh’s newest theatre company, makes an impressive debut with a pulpy mix of comic books and horror in Roberto Aquirre-Sacaba’s The Weird.
Consisting of a series of varying vignettes, the play is reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone or (better yet) his Night Gallery.
Director Vince Ventura has assembled a very strong cast of some of the Pittsburgh’s finest actors: Brian Edward, Randy K Deshong, Naomi Grodin, Rebecca Steer, Jim Scriven, Sara Fisher and John Feightner.
All but Feightner play multiple roles.  He has the task of playing a Cryptkeeper-like character, who serves as the narrator between the playlets.  Feightner, who fully looks the part, embodies the role completely, interacting with the audience and making the most of the ghoulish humor.
Brian Edward again shows his range as an actor by playing everything from a milquetoast scientist to an oversexed repairman.
Grodin and Deshong supply many of the laughs in the show.  Steer, a new transplant from Chicago, makes an impressive debut, both as a research assistant and a sexy (but twisted) Southern belle gone bad.
Both Scriven and Fisher are engaging onstage and have great chemistry, particularly playing young lovers in both “Bloody Mary” and “10 Minute Play About Rosemary’s Baby.”
Utilizing simple sets, director Ventura keeps the pace lively, bringing the show in at ninety minutes (with no intermission).  Sometimes the writing helps him; sometimes, it hurts.  A few of the small tales move to surprising endings (in particularly “Bloody Mary” and “Swamp Gossip).  Others just seem to go no where (“Insect Love” and “10 Minute Play About Rosemary’s Baby’).  Fortunately The Weird is like the weather in Pittsburgh.  If you don’t like it—wait ten minutes.
There are no deep messages in The Weird, but it is a frothy and lively evening of entertainment.
If The Weird is any indication, 12 Peers has a great artistic future and will be a welcome addition to the Pittsburgh theatre scene.
The Weird continues through January 29 at the Greybox in Lawrenceville.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Pittsburgh newest theatre company 12 Peers makes its debut this week with The Weird by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa.  Described as six short, creepy plays that blend horror and a comic book sensibility, Directed by Vince Ventura, The Weird runs January 19-29 at the Greybox Theatre.  Call the 24 hour ticket hotline at 1-800-838-3006 or visit to reserve your seats for this Pittsburgh premiere.
The Theatre Factory in Trafford presents the children’s musical Alexander Who Is Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, Not Going to Move from January 21-29.  Originally commissioned by the Kennedy Center, this family-friendly show is about a little boy who does not want to leave his home.  Order your tickets at 412-374-9200.
It’s an Edwardian romp through the woods as Ted Pappas directs the classic As You Like It from January 19-February 19 at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.  The production will feature original music by Michael Moricz, who spent five years as the music director for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Book your tickets by calling 412-316-1600 or visit

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


It’s a New Year, and barebones productions is kicking it off with a bang.
Opening January 12 and running through January 29 is a play the New York Times called “a probing, intense portrait of lives behind bars.”  It is Stephen Adly Guigis’ Jesus Hopped the A Train.
Directed by Derrick Sanders, this intense drama will star OBIE Award winner Edwin Lee Gibson.
Performances will be at the Hazlett Theatre on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side.  Tickets are available at
If barebones productions’ earlier productions are any indicator, Jesus Hopped the A Train is sure to start the 2012 theatre season on an intense note!