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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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Associated Artists Show Opens Friday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 4:10 PM

The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh opens its Black & White show at Lawrenceville’s Framehouse/Jask Gallery.

Nancy McNary Smith's porcelain sculpture "Fruit and Veggies," part of "Black & White"
  • Nancy McNary Smith's porcelain sculpture "Fruit and Veggies," part of "Black & White"
The show features works in a range of media by two dozen of AAP’s 550-some members from the region. The exhibit – all work in black and white, naturally – was juried by Jeff Jarzynka, an independent creative director and consultant with a background in design and marketing.

The artists featured include Ruthanne Bauerle, Richard Claraval, Rae Gold, Paula Garrick Klein, Mark Panza, Christopher Ruane and Bob Ziller.

The opening reception runs 6-9 p.m. this Friday at the Framehouse/Jask Gallery. The building, located at 100 43rd St., is the IceHouse complex, which also houses AAP itself.

The show runs until April 17.

AAP, at 102 years old, is among the nation’s longest-running artist-member organizations.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“For the Tree to Drop” at PICT Classic

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Four performances remain of this striking premiere of a work by local playwright Lissa Brennan.

Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop" - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUELLEN FITZSIMMONS
  • Photo courtesy of Suellen Fitzsimmons
  • Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop"
It’s an interesting selection for PICT to launch its first-ever Downtown performance series: Inspired by Antigone, For the Tree to Drop finds common ground between Greek tragedy, psychodrama and experimental theater.

Like Antigone, the play depicts a woman who in the face of opposition by the authorities and her community insists on her right to bury her dead brother’s body. Brennan sets the action on a plantation in the pre-Emancipation South. But costumes aside, this doesn’t pretend to be an historical drama.

For instance, though Estella, the sister, is a slave (as was her lynched brother), she converses and disputes with plantation owner Edgar in a candid manner that – in any other historical or even fictional rendering – would surely get her whipped. The fact of Edgar’s “ownership” prevents them from being equals, and of course anchors the play’s power dynamic. Yet Brennan’s portrayal feels like an almost expressionistic way of insisting on the pair’s equality as humans. It's weirdly charged and quite effective.

The play lacks conventional narrative motion, and often feels more like a dream: a single moment stretched out for exploration, with a week or more of narrative time played out in one continuous scene, with night and day only mentioned, never portrayed. That impression is abetted by the fact that while all five actors are on stage for the whole show, at any given moment most of them neither speaks nor moves.

The production, directed by PICT’s Alan Stanford, features fine performances by the cast, led by relative newcomer Siovhan Christensen, as Estella, and PICT veteran David Whalen, as Edgar.

Still, the show’s biggest strengths just might be Brennan’s vivid, poetic dialogue and the play’s powerful portrait of resistance to injustice. (Full disclosure: Brennan’s a frequent contributor to CP’s visual-arts coverage.)

Here’s Colette Newby’s review of For the Tree to Drop for CP.

The show is staged in the Peirce Studio, the nicely turned-out basement space at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Trust Arts Education Center, at 805 Liberty Ave.

Tickets are $48 and available here.

One of the four remaining shows is tonight. Performances tomorrow and Saturday are sold out. However, standing-room tickets for those two are available at half-price – not a bad deal on a show that runs just 70 intermissionless minutes.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

August Wilson doc premieres tonight on WQED

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:11 AM

August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand is surely required cultural viewing – for everyone, but perhaps especially for Pittsburghers.

A 34-minute condensed version of this 90-minute PBS American Masters documentary was screened last night for an invited crowd of a few hundred at none other than the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

The full program airs at 9 p.m. tonight on QED. If the teaser was any indication, this is a respectful yet insightful look at the Pittsburgh-born playwright’s life, work and legacy, and by necessary extension at race in America. (This year is also the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, and the 10th anniversary of his death.)

The film is a co-production of WQED Multimedia and American Masters. It features interviews with copious experts including actors Viola Davis and Laurence Fishburne; playwright Suzan Lori-Parks; the late Wilson’s sisters Freda Ellis and Linda Jean Kittel; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette theater critic Christopher Rawson; Pitt history professor Laurence Glasco; and New York Times critic Frank Rich. Not to mention archival interviews with Wilson himself.

There are also vibrant video excerpts from stage and broadcast productions of plays from Wilson’s century-spanning Pittsburgh Cycle, including The Piano Lesson, with Charles Dutton (who’s also interviewed), and Fences, with James Earl Jones (ditto).

Continue reading »

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Artist's "homecoming exhibition" opens Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 12:53 PM

  • A painting by Cory Elder
Pittsburgh-born artist Cory Elder presents his homecoming solo exhibition, [of], at Artists Image Resource starting this Saturday.

Elder’s narrative paintings are somewhat Dali-esque, representing thoughts on faith, perception, truth and intent.

Elder studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated in 2013. He then worked as an assistant to both printmaker Stefan Hoffmann and visual artist David Ellis. He’s also worked under sculptor Robert Shure, in Boston, where he learned classical clay sculpting techniques and where his transition from realistic to abstract painting began.

Last summer, Elder returned to Pittsburgh, where he's a part-time AIR staffer while continuing his own professional practice.

According to press materials, [of] was influenced by Elder’s realist background and is a visual story of how his artwork evolved from a personal mythology into an invented language, and ultimately to abstractions.

The exhibit opens Sat., Feb. 21 with a free public reception from 6-10 p.m. Elder will speak at 7 p.m.

The exhibit will remain on display through Mar. 28. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Artists Image Resource is located at 518 Foreland St., North Side.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Last week for The REP’s "Prussia: 1866"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 3:12 PM

One of the more distinctive things about local playwright Gab Cody’s romantic farce is that its dramatis personae include the young Friedrich Nietzsche. If that scares you off, it shouldn’t: While it’s a hook of sorts, Nietzsche’s presence occasions a proudly non-biographical portrait of the philosopher while also being, narratively, a rather minor element.

Gab Cody (left), Drew Palajsa (in backgroun) and Philip Winters in "Prussia: 1866" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SWENSEN
  • Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
  • Gab Cody (left), Drew Palajsa (in backgroun) and Philip Winters in "Prussia: 1866"
That is, aside from a few sly references to Nietzsche’s future work (and some clever pre-show piped-in music), this “Fritz” is simply a type of the young male farcical lead: lovestruck, bookish, thoroughly self-involved. He just happens to also be a spoof of the guy who’ll eventually write On the Genealogy of Morals.

Cody’s wickedly smart writing brings Fritz to life along with such other types as the coquette; the pompous and vainglorious man of affairs; and the strident ideologue. (Here's my recent profile of Cody.)

True, Prussia explores — and lampoons — the literary life, early feminism, the upper class, and religious bigotry in 19th-century Europe. But don’t fear those themes any more than you should a character based on Nietzsche before his brow beetled: This is first and foremost a screwball comedy of quips, wordplay, sex jokes and pratfalls and other physical comedy.

And in fact, nobody excels at the latter more than Drew Palajsa, the talented young actor (and recent Point Park grad) who plays Fritz. He’s a rubber-limbed wonder, especially in the play’s second act.

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

Prussia: 1866 has five more performances at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, tomorrow night through the Sun., Feb. 22, matinee. Tickets are $7-27 and are available here.

The Playhouse is located at 222 Craft Ave., in Oakland.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Final Week for Quantum’s "Brahman/i"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 11:20 AM

Last year, Quantum Theatre turned a synagogue into a 1930s Italian villa. This month, the troupe has remade a former church (now a community center) into a comedy club for this singular show about a character with an unconventional gender identity.

Sanjiv Jhaveri in "Brahman/i" - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER MULL
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Mull
  • Sanjiv Jhaveri in "Brahman/i"
Playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil’s one- (technically, two-) actor work is billed as “a one-hijra stand-up comedy show.” It’s very smart, quite funny and, ultimately, rewardingly strange. However, it feels less like what you’d see in most actual comedy clubs — a series of bits strung together, with lots of feeding off the audience — than a cleverly scripted, evening-length comic monologue a la Eddie Izzard.

That’s the opposite of a complaint: I’m always up for unabashedly intellectual, humorously essayistic riffs on art, culture and history. The character Brahman/i weaves in an extended metaphor about the Indian subcontinent’s romantic relationship with China; an hilarious, illustrated take on saucy Hindu temple relief sculptures; and a quite Izzardian sequence on Galileo’s little tiff with the Church. (“Heliocentrism!”)

The amazing Sanjiv Jhaveri, a New York-based actor, brings it all to life, including the show’s rather moving concluding twist.

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

Brahman/i has five more performances, daily tomorrow night through Sunday. Tickets are $38-46.

The “Temple of Comedy” is located at 113 N. Pacific Ave., in Garfield.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jesmyn Ward speaks Monday at Carnegie Music Hall

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 3:44 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Tony Cook
When she writes, “he wanted more for himself, but he didn’t know how to get it,” in her 2013 memoir Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward is thinking about a black man she knew who died too young.

However, she might as well have been speaking about current events, and the explosive racial politics of the past year.

In a Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures literary evening at Carnegie Music Hall, Ward shares stories from her memoir, which follows her emotional state through the loss of five young black men, one of whom was her brother, and her relationship with her father.

Men We Reaped makes observations about race and masculinity in the American South, and touches upon police relations, drug use and infidelity. A portrait of the rural South, the memoir ask readers to examine the loss of young black men and how this tragedy can be avoided in the future.

Ward, a professor of English at Tulane University, won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction for her second novel, Salvage the Bones.

Ward speaks on Mon., Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Carnegie Music Hall is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

The event is presented in partnership with the United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh.

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