As the penultimate show of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre’s current season nears its final performance, the company announced its 2014 season — the first under newly hired artistic director Alan Stanford.
I wouldn’t call A Skull in Connemara — whose three concluding performances are tonight and tomorrow afternoon and evening— a great play, or even the best I’ve seen by playwright Martin McDonagh. Both The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman, themselves staged in recent years by PICT, were more interesting.
Still, this dark comedic sort-of-whodunnit about a seasonal grave-exhumer in rural Ireland isn’t a show you’ll soon forget, with its over-the-top, literally bone-crushing humor. (Most of the bones that get crushed belong to the dead, but — fair warning — watch out if you’re sitting near the Charity Randall stage.)
Meanwhile, McDonagh’s ear for dialogue seldom fails, and director Martin Giles and a hardworking cast skillfully wring the script for every drop of humor. Where else are you going to hear a character say of his late wife, “She’d be the first to defend me if she heard people saying I was the one who killed her”? (More details are in Michelle Pilecki's review for CP.)
Also this week, PICT announced its first season since the firing earlier this year of co-founding artistic director Andrew Paul — its first season ever, in other words, without Paul at the helm.
Everything here’s pretty much in keeping with PICT’s name and mission. And on the whole, the season announced by the Ireland-born Stanford , with its theme of “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” is a bit more Irish and a bit more classical than Paul’s choices had been in recent years. (This season, for instance, included a play by a Polish playwright and one based on a Tolstoy novella. Here's what Paul's up to nowadays.)
It opens in May with Blithe Spirit — a production that PICT claims, rather amazingly, is the first local professional staging of Noel Coward’s classic comedy since 1945, just three years after its Pittsburgh premiere. (The play is of course a community-theater favorite.) Stanford will direct.
In June, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot arrives, the first full local staging in some while. The director is Aoife Spillane-Hinks, who directed this year’s potent season-opener, Our Class.
PICT follows up with Woman and Scarecrow, Irish playwright Marina Carr’s 2006 play about the last moments of a woman’s life (a work some have compared to Beckett); Stanford will direct this show starring local favorites Nike Doukas and Karen Baum.
Next September comes Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, a 1985 work by Irish playwright Frank McGuinness — written during the height of Ireland’s “Troubles” but set amongst new recruits to the British army during World War I.
Just in time for next Halloween, it's Macbeth, directed by Stanford.
The season closes with an adaptation of Great Expectations. Stanford will direct this stage version of the Dickens classic, which Hugh Leonard originally adapted for him at the Gate Dublin Theatre.