Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Attack Theatre’s "Remainder l Northside"

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 2:26 PM

By odd coincidence, Remainder l Northside was the second evening-length show I’ve seen this year that was based on in-depth interaction with everyday North Siders. But while City of Asylum’s fine spoken-word-with-music piece Stoop Is a Verb dug into cultural specifics about the North Side’s many neighborhoods, Remainder’s universality was grounded in its origins in local classrooms and children’s workshops.

Attack Theatre promo shot - PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG THOMPSON
  • Photo courtesy of Craig Thompson
  • Attack Theatre promo shot
Attack’s dancers and artistic directors conducted those sessions over 18 months, in schools and programs like the Manchester Youth Development Center, the Pittsburgh Project and Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy. The troupe emerged at the New Hazlett Theater this past weekend with three performances of a program of athletic yet elegant dance that reflected children’s world of imagination and sometimes (in the context of school) enforced regimentation.

The work (I went on Saturday night) was danced by Kaitlin Dann, Dane Toney, Anthony Williams and Ashley Williams, with contributions from Michele de la Reza, who co-choreographed with the dancers and Peter Kope. Their work was aided immeasurably by another Attack calling card, original live music. Multi-instrumentalists and composers Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer and Domenica Fossati supplied the sonic muscle and nuance, and at times even playfully joined in the dance themselves.

Highlights included a comic group sequence built around a magical treasure chest. A pre-show orientation had introduced some of the gestural language the dancers had gleaned from listening to and working with students (as in the ubiquitous action of packing and zipping one’s book bag, or the mannerisms of a mean teacher).

The scenes and people depicted could have been from anywhere, but it still felt worthwhile to stage it in a theater within a mile or so of the sources of its inspiration.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Final Weekend for "Water by the Spoonful" at Pitt Stages

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 2:38 PM

If Pitt’s drama productions aren’t a regular part of your theater diet, make an exception for this show. Pitt Stages, which utilizes mostly student actors, has scored a real coup as the first company in town to produce Quira Alegria Hudes’ 2012 Pulitzer-winner, a searching drama that weaves multiple strands of contemporary life into a tough-minded yet poignant narrative.

Christopher Collier and Anna Chen in "Water by the Spoonful" - PHOTO COURTESY OF VINCENT NOE
  • Photo courtesy of Vincent Noe
  • Christopher Collier and Anna Chen in "Water by the Spoonful"
As Ted Hoover points out in his review in this week’s CP, Hudes’ formal innovation copes with the fact that much of the interaction between at least four of the play’s six main characters takes place in an online chat room. She does this by having them address the audience, as if we were the other characters, with the dialogue they’d otherwise be typing. Nonetheless, one of the play’s themes is the dicey nature of online life, which can bring people together – in this case, as a support group for recovering crack addicts – but can take human relationships only so far.

As pleasingly theatrical in its execution as it is realistic in its action, Spoonful also explores race, class, ethnicity, family, community and the cost of warfare on warriors (and their victims). If that sounds complicated, well, it is, but the struggles of Hudes’ sharply etched characters still feel universal. (She is best known for her book for the hit Broadway musical In the Heights.) Ricardo Vila-Roger's direction keeps the focus sharp.

Three performances remain of Water by the Spoonful, at 8 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Sunday. The show’s at the Heymann Theatre, 4200 Fifth Ave., right by the Cathedral of Learning, in Oakland.

Tickets are $12-25 and are available here.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Final Performances for Quantum’s "The Winter’s Tale"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 7:09 AM

While reporting a preview article on Quantum’s 25th-season opener – a world-premiere operatic adaptation of this play scored mostly with famous Baroque arias — I wondered whether combining Shakespeare’s notably dense verse with Baroque’s heavily ornamented sounds might not be a bit much.

A scene from "The Winter's Tale" - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • A scene from "The Winter's Tale"
Artistic director Karla Boos assured me that it wouldn’t. And indeed, as I discovered when I saw the show last week, Boos’ heavy pruning of the text, as required by the “song” format, maintains basic plotlines while simplifying the rhetoric greatly (though all those cuts might displease Shakespeare purists).

In other words, you’ll easily follow this opera’s story, if only because all the sung text flows across the top of the stage as supertitles (just like at Pittsburgh Opera).

Do be prepared, however, for a bit of sensory overload anyway: Quantum’s outdone itself, and for this adventuresome troupe, that’s saying something.

In the auditorium of the gilded-age Union Trust Building (which odds are you’ve also never seen before), the gilt stage is occupied by 11 singers and four Attack Theatre dancers, all outrageously costumed by Susan Tsu. The singers vocalize in trained operatic tones to the sounds of a 10-piece period orchestra, led by Chatham Baroque and including the crazy-looking stringed instrument known as the theorbo.

Meanwhile, the dancers pose, cavort and clown. And if that’s not enough, you’ll get an eyeful and more of Joseph Seaman’s gorgeous projected video, which is active for a good portion of the show and ranges from here-be-monsters maps to clouds skimming the face of the moon, animated vines twining skyward, and cherubs wafting from heaven.

It would all be plenty to look at, even if you weren’t listening at the same time. But it also somehow all fits together very well, and holds your attention for its nearly three-hour running time (including intermission).

While tickets are $48, few will say they didn’t get their money’s worth of spectacle, or talent on display.

Here is Michelle Pilecki’s review of the show for CP.

There are three more performances, including tonight’s Ladies’ Night show, and this Friday and Saturday.

The Union Trust Building is at 501 Grant St., Downtown.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Stand-Up Horror Opens Tomorrow at ModernFormations

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 1:58 PM

Halloween comes a little early as local performer Michael McGovern reprises his Stand-Up Horror show, reportedly a favorite at this year’s Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.

McGovern, a performer with a taste for the macabre, offers this blend of stand-up comedy, horror movie and cabaret show.

McGovern, also known for his Beat Cabaret variety shows, takes the stage at ModernFormations to channel characters including “a two-headed killer, a college girl who majors in horror, Linda Blair’s prom date, … Renfield, Hitler’s brain [and] Drac the Knife.” Hannibal Lecter's in there, too. All those bits were from the Fringe performance, and McGovern is adding “an unconventional rendition of Poe’s ‘The Raven,’” a scene backstage at a nightmare, and more.

It’s a one-man production, complete with music, sound effects and lighting.

“All done severed tongue-in-cheek!” McGovern promises.

The first performance is at 8 p.m. tomorrow. A second show is at 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 3. Tickets are $15 at the door.

ModernFormations is located at 4919 Penn Ave., in Garfield. 

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Art Opening Friday at Trundle Manor

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 9:44 AM

Pittsburgh’s house of the odd and the macabre (think bizarre tourist-trap taxidermy, gothic themes, etc., all offered with a slightly unnerving grin) hosts an opening reception for an exhbition of paintings by Shawn Beeks.

"Tender Hearts," a painting by Shawn Beeks
  • "Tender Hearts," a painting by Shawn Beeks
Beeks, writes Mr. Arm, the lord of Trundle Manor, “explores those moments in your dreams where you feel your insides telling you to flee but your feet are cemented with fascination.

"That is the theme of his September show opening September 4th at Trundle Manor; a fitting location for depictions of miserable caricature that present themselves as beautiful artworks too fascinating to run from.”

The event starts at 7 p.m.

Trundle Manor is located at 7724 Juniata St., in Swissvale.

Learn more here.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pop-Up Gallery at Arts Fest Through Sunday

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 6:22 PM

A dozen artist-members of Lawrenceville studio space Radiant Hall are showing work at PPG Place Wintergarden Building through Sunday.

The artists, selected by Ikechukwu Oneyewuenyi, include such prominent local names as Seth Clark, Mia Tarducci Henry, Ryan Lammie and Madelyn Roehrig. The studio-tour preview exhibition, which opened today, is happening in conjunction with the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

The Wintergarden space is open for viewing from noon-8 p.m. daily through Sunday, concluding with the festival itself.

Admission is free. More info is here.

The Wintergarden is located at 1 PPG Place, Downtown, off Fourth Street near Stanwix.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Final Weekend for Kinetic Theatre's "Dance of Death"

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 2:45 PM

August Strindberg is considered one of the progenitors of contemporary theater, and you can get a strong taste of his work in the Pittsburgh premiere of a new translation of this play.

Sam Tsoutsouvas and Helena Ruoti in "Dance of Death" - PHOTO COURTESY OF KINETIC THEATRE CO.
  • Photo courtesy of Kinetic Theatre Co.
  • Sam Tsoutsouvas and Helena Ruoti in "Dance of Death"
Kinetic's Andrew Paul explained in this CP preview piece why he thinks Dance of Death is important if seldom produced. But in the adapted translation by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, the dark comedy feels like it could have been written yesterday (or at least by Edward Albee) rather than in 1905.

The show's three actors, Helena Ruoti, Sam Tsoutsouvas and Mark D. Staley, make the words sing — and cut — at the specially outfitted New Hazlett, where most of the usual seating is shrouded and the audience sits in chairs on the stage itself.

The show has three more performances tonight through Sunday. 

Tickets are $20-38 and are available here.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East on the North Side.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Final Week for Quantum’s "All the Names"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 2:45 PM

Most estimable works of literary art are arguably “about” everything — or, at the very least, they’re about life and death.

From left: Cameron Knight (background), James Fitzgerald and Mark Conway Thompson in Quantum's "All the Names" - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER MULL
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Mull
  • From left: Cameron Knight (background), James Fitzgerald and Mark Conway Thompson in Quantum's "All the Names"
So it is with Jose Saramago’s All the Names, as well as Quantum Theatre’s terrific adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning 1997 novel.

The story — about a clerk who quietly (and fearfully) defies the gigantic bureaucracy that employs him to go on a sort of latter-day knightly search for a mysterious (and anonymous) woman – is fairly slight. But Saramago’s vision, as faithfully translated to the stage by Quantum, is large enough to encompass questions about identity (how it’s formed, what it is), epistemology (what it means to “know” something) and more.

More than simply inhabiting an old building, the show is truly site-specific, with the decommissioned Carnegie Library of Allegheny standing in for the government hall where “all the names” are kept. And this original production, a collaborative creation of Quantum’s Karla Boos, Barbara Luderowski of the Mattress Factory and other artists, makes imaginative and expansive use of several rooms in this old North Side landmark (so be prepared for a little walking).

Here’s Tyler Plosia’s review for CP.

There are four more performances beginning with tonight’s. 

Tickets are $38 and available here. Expect thematically appropriate snackies and a little drink at the intermezzo.

The former Carnegie Library of Allegheny is located on Allegheny Square on the North Side (part of the same complex as the New Hazlett Theater). 

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Point Park Connections Dance Show This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 8:34 AM

Point Park Connections, a showcase for Point Park University's student dancers in new short works choreographed by adjunct dance faculty, has four performances Downtown starting tomorrow.

From Shanna Simmons' "Crunch" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SWENSEN
  • Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
  • From Shanna Simmons' "Crunch"
Students in Point Park’s nationally known dance program will perform in works including: “Descent,” by Daniel Karasik; “Crunch,” by Shana Simmons; “Libertango,” by Sarah Everhart; “Paiju,” by Matt Pardo; and “Cello Molto Espressivo,” by Ernest Tolentino.

The shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The venue is the GRW Performance Studio, at 201 Wood St. (Wood and the Boulevard of the Allies).

Tickets are $18-20 and are available here.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

"At Once There Was a House" at the New Hazlett Theater

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 10:51 AM

Beth Corning finds something both very adaptable and very compelling about her concept for At Once There Was a House.

Beth Corning in a promotional still for "At Once There Was a House" - PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANK WALSH
  • Photo courtesy of Frank Walsh
  • Beth Corning in a promotional still for "At Once There Was a House"
The veteran performer and choreographer has revived and revamped the show multiple times since its first showing, in 2005. The last time was a few years ago, with Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theatre. But the current production, which runs through Sunday, has a new cast and evening-length scope, and is to a large extent a new show.

The clever premise remains: It’s “whatever happened to Dick and Jane,” the treacly juvenile protagonists of the old grade-school readers. Corning and the five guest performers of her Corningworks’ Glue Factory Project (for performers over age 40) frame the show as a high school reunion where the graduates are still preening, still vying for attention, but still unfulfilled.

It’s dance-theater partly in that the show’s multiple vignettes let the cast's four professional dancers do some acting, while the two non-dancers engage in some movement work. One draw is the cast itself. Corning; Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza; Squonk Opera artistic director and keyboardist Jackie Dempsey; and actor John Gresh – all familiar faces on local stages – are joined by former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal dancer Tamar Rachelle Tolentino and Yoav Kaddar, whose resume includes Paul Taylor Dance Company and Pilobilus.

The overall effect is both comic and dark, and cast is used to fine effect. Highlights of the 70-minute show include: Kaddar and Tolentino’s emotionally charged duet (set to a passage from Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist); Gresh’s funny interpretation of Larry Siegel’s The Dick & Jane Hamlet; and a piece choreographed to Dempsey’s rendition of a rock classic on accordion. The evening is bookended by pieces set to Tom Waits’ “Table Top Joe.”

Four performances remain of At Once There Was a House, from tonight’s at 8 p.m. through this Sunday’s matinee. Tickets are $25-30, although admission to Friday night’s Corningworks 5th-birthday bash are $50, and Sunday’s show has a pay-what-you-will option at the door.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East, on the North Side.

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