Advertisements, public murals and graffiti might be a bit more public than the inner 5-year-old's urge to grab some markers and have at a vertical surface, but they are all related in Walldogs. The new stage work offers a mix of stories examining the stuff people put on walls.
Walldogs, a play and art-making event from Pittsburgh's Hatch Arts Collective, shifts back and forth between four different stories connected by an 8-foot-tall wall that the characters paint on, graffiti and contemplate throughout the performance. They even give the wall a couple of awkward hugs.
The interwoven stories include: a 1920s "walldog" staking out homes along the highway for the prime place to paint a Campbell's Soup ad; a contemporary public-art muralist; a young graffiti artist with big ideas; and the Biblical King Belshazzar's infamous writing on the wall. Playwright Paul Kruse explores wall metaphors in comedic and intriguing ways throughout, heightened by director Adil Mansoor's transformation of a wall into a dynamic and reflective space.
The two-person cast of Mallory Fuccella and Parag S. Gohel offer seemingly effortless transitions between their characters and the relationships they build within each setting. Their talents particularly shine during the tension-filled scenes involving a high-strung non-profit arts coordinator and a subdued hipster artist who must create a mural under a four-day deadline. Fuccella and Gohel each have their turn at offering rants, breakdowns and playful jabs at working in the nonprofit world.
Walldogs runs at the North Side's Artists Image Resource, where audience seating will literally line the walls of the long printmaking studio. Each performance includes an invitation for the audience to stick around afterward for an art-making activity inspired by the play's wall art, led by Pittsburgh artists Katie Kaplan and Saric Feng.
Hatch Arts Collective was created three years ago by Kruse, director Mansoor and producer Nicole Shero. As its second full-length production (not counting workshops and other performance projects), Walldogs sticks to the group's mission of bringing together artists from different mediums to create collaborative works.
If you have ever used a Pittsburgh mural as a landmark, or been impressed by or annoyed with the sheer volume of CHU's graffiti around the city, you will certainly want to take a look at Walldogs.