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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, December 18, 2014

Final Week for Smart Blonde at City Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Five performances remain of this entertaining and poignant world premiere about mid-century stage and film star Judy Holliday.

Andrea Burns in Smart Blonde.
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover
  • Andrea Burns in "Smart Blonde."
It would surely increase your appreciation of the play to be familiar with Holliday — or at least her iconic portrayal of Billie Dawn in the 1948 film Born Yesterday. But playwright Willy Holtzman provides all the background you need to engage with the story of an intelligent woman typecast as a dumb blonde, who’s also victimized by the Hollywood blacklist after a McCarthy-era Congressional grilling about her alleged Communist sympathies.

The play’s set in 1964, near the end of Holliday’s cancer-shortened life, in a New York City recording studio where she’s come to sing some jazz numbers (including a couple she co-wrote with her husband, jazz great Gerry Mulligan). Holliday tells her life story in a series of flashbacks, and it’s catnip for anyone with an ear for show-biz gossip from old Hollywood, or for the American songbook (“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” Cole Porter, etc.).

Appropriately, it’s an enjoyably theatrical show. Holliday is winningly played by Broadway veteran Andréa Burns, and all the other roles, from members of Holliday (nee Tuvim’s) extended Jewish family to Hollywood moguls, self-righteous Congressmen and more, are played by the very capable Jonathan Brody and Adam Heller.

As Ted Hoover notes in his review for CP, Holtzman packs the play with so much incident that he’s unable to dig terribly deep into any of it. The blacklisting episode, in which the fiercely intelligent Holliday resorts to playing dumb blonde to save herself, is worthy of a play of its own

But this production (commissioned by City Theatre) has plenty of pleasures. Not least, in the intimate confines of City’s Hamburg Theatre, it’s especially easy to appreciate Tony Ferrieri’s great set, detailed down to the dirty ashtrays, vintage sound booth and parquet floor.

City Theatre is located at 1300 Bingham St., on the South Side.

Smart Blonde runs through Sunday. Tickets are $15-56 and are available here.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Final Week for L’Hotel at the Public

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 2:16 PM

This entertaining world-premiere production asks, what if some famous residents of a famous Paris cemetery spent the afterlife as fellow lodgers at a grand hotel? And what if some of them were egos like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Victor Hugo and Sarah Bernhardt?

Deanne Lorette (as Sarah Bernhardt) and Daniel Hartley (Jim Morrison) in LHotel
For good measure, playwright Ed Dixon throws in Isadora Duncan, composer Gioachino Rossini, one very flustered French waiter and a Ouija board.

As Dixon acknowledges, this isn’t the place to go to learn about the “real” Bernhardt, or anybody else he’s writing about. In fact, as CP’s Michelle Pilecki contends in her review, the play might well disserve some of its historical personages — Rossini hardly having been the buffoon Dixon portrays for laughs, for instance.

That grain of salt taken, the play’s a lively if curious mix of physical humor, sex farce and drawing-room comedy, capped by a perhaps-unexpected dose of existential enlightenment. And the cast is terrific.

L’Hotel has eight more performances through Sunday, starting with tonight’s.

Tickets are $15.75-56.

The Public’s O’Reilly Theater is located at 621 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mine Factory Show Opens Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Artists who work intimately with perhaps the most basic of media are the focus of I Just Want the Paper. The group show, curated by Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, Kareema Thomas and Sean Beauford, opens with a reception at this Point Breeze gallery.

The exihibit features work by seven artists, including Darrell S. Kinsel, Stephani Martinez, Suzanne Desbiens, Susan Goethel-Campbell, Gianna Paniagua, Kenturah Davis and Terrence Boyd. Pictured is work by Davis. Kinsel is Pittsburgh-based.

Art by Kenturah Davis
  • Art by Kenturah Davis
The Pittsburgh-based Onyewuenyi, a native of Nigeria, is a former gallery assistant at Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery.

According to a curatorial statement, the show was inspired by Gerhard Richter, who said: “Drawing or painting on paper is more impulsive than painting on canvas. … I found that the directness of the works on paper led to randomness and virtuosity. I didn’t want any of that.”

The opening reception for I Just Want the Paper runs 6-10 p.m. Sat., Dec. 6. Admission is free. The exhibit continues through Dec. 21.

The Mine Factory is located at 201 N. Braddock Ave.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Final Eargasm Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The open-mic series focusing on spoken-word artists ends its four-year run with a poetry slam — and a book-launch.

The book-launch is for Straightening Combs and Other Things That Changed My Life, by local performer and poet Kim El. The book incorporates material from her solo stage show Straightening Combs.

The slam, meanwhile, will feature eight competitors who have either battled in previous slams or who were featured Eargasm artists, all chosen by series organizer and host Leslie "Ezra" Smith. The winner gets a cash prize.

Smith is a seasoned poet, spoken-word performer and actor whose one-man show The Book of Ezra was recently staged by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.

The book-launch and slam are preceded at the Hill House Kaufmann Center by "The Uplifting and Beauty-Enhancing Workshop," organized by fashion-designer and make-up artist Cheryl El-Walker. The workshop, running 7-8 p.m. has a $10 cover.

The separate cover for Eargasm is $5. For more information, see here.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Opera company stages Aida this Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Opera fans who enjoyed Pittsburgh Opera's Otello (which itself has two more performances this weekend) can continue sampling Verdi thanks to Undercroft Opera.

The small but long-running company dedicated to featuring local singers and instrumentalists stages the masterwork for one night only, at the Campbell Memorial Chapel at Chatham University.

The opera, set in Egypt, features Kelly Fiona Lynch as Aida, Robert Frankenberry as Radames and Mary Beth Sederburg as Amneris. The show includes the Undercroft Chorus and a full orchestra, conducted by Walter Morales.

The show is at 7 p.m. Chatham is located in Shadyside, off Fifth Avenue.

Tickets are $25, with discounts for students, seniors and kids under age 12.

More info, including directions and ticket stuff, is available here.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Food-themed art exhibition opens Friday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 2:14 PM

We're entering the foodiest time of the year, complete with farmers' markets overflowing. Future Tenant celebrates with Bountiful, a group exhibition exploring human relationships with food.

"At best, food can be seen as a symbol of tradition, stability, and affection; at its worst, it can represent struggles with self-esteem, waste, and substance abuse," says a press release.

The show includes paintings, photographs, illustrations ... and gummy candies ... by eight artists, including Cayla Skillin-Brauchle, David Pohl, Diane White, Kay Healy, Ruby Wang, Stephanie Shulman, Taylor Preston and Terez Lacovino.

Shulman's wooden sculpture, for instance, depicts the "weight" of a slice of cake, "and her love/hate relationship with the subject." Preston's photos depict the slow destruction of a birthday-cake setting. And Lacovino offers an interactive installation that lets visitors "cook" their own images with a toaster.

The show opens with a reception this Friday, from 6-9 p.m., and runs through Dec. 7. The gallery is open 4-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon-8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays.

On Nov. 22, from 3-5 p.m., Future Tenant will host Bountiful Harvest, a sustainable-food panel and tasting. Local organizations and restaurants will share their interest in healthy and organic eating.

Future Tenant, a nonprofit art space run by the graduate arts-management program at Carnegie Mellon University, is located at 819 Penn Ave., Downtown. Admission is free.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Final Performances of The Book of Ezra at Pittsburgh Playwrights

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Leslie “Ezra” Smith’s one-man autobiographical stage show is notable for several reasons. It’s the first solo theatrical show for this longtime stage actor and stalwart of the local spoken-word scene. It’s also a chance to hear a story rare on local stages, the coming-of-age of a young black man.

Leslie Ezra Smith in The Book of Ezra
  • Photo courtesy of Tene Croom
  • Leslie "Ezra" Smith in "The Book of Ezra"
As I noted in my preview for CP, Smith frames the evening as an attempt to assemble his story for the benefit of his own 15-year-old son — the sort of story Smith never got from his own absentee father.

It’s a moving show, with a lot of interesting insights. For instance, as Tyler Plosia emphasizes in his review for CP, Smith’s stories about his formative influences delve into not only some you might expect — Maya Angelou, the speeches of Malcolm X — but also hip-hop music. As a source of information about the world, and adulthood, hip hop served Smith as the father he never really had.

I was also struck by a story that Smith, who grew up in Pittsburgh, tells in the show about another big influence on him: his grade-school music teacher, Ms. Hudson. “Miss Hudson was the first artist in my life,” he says, recalling her lessons about singing technique and the class’s rendition of “The Greatest Love of All.”

With cash-strapped schools cutting art and music classes, this should especially give us pause. Here’s an example of a kid who was most engaged at school — to the point that he cites it three decades later — not by an “academic” class, but by a dedicated teacher in a subject that many budget-makers declare expendable. And he went on to become a pretty fair artist himself.

The Book of Ezra has two more performances, tomorrow and Saturday, both at 8 p.m. at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

Tickets are $10-25 and are available here.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Festival of Free Plays Begins Tonight at CMU

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Carnegie Mellon University gets attention these days mostly for computers and robots, but the school has a long tradition in the performing arts, too. Get a taste of what’s up lately as a week-long program featuring three fully produced new plays by graduate dramatic-writing students there runs through Friday.

The plays are directed by John Wells MFA directing candidates at the school and feature CMU’s undergraduate acting company, in productions at the Purnell Center for the Arts.

The series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. tonight with The Recluse; or, The Rise and Fall of a Makeshift Pal, by Stephen Webb. It’s about a reclusive artist who builds himself a friend out of art supplies, and how this brings the outside world into his space. Andrew Smith directs.

Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., it’s Babylon, by Dan Giles, about three siblings surviving in a remote cabin in a post-apocalyptic world — and what happens when a stranger appears. Terrence Mosley directs.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, it’s Stupid Ghost, by Savannah Reich, and we’ll quote: “The Ghost lived in the woods, Minding Her Own Business, and definitely Not Haunting Anyone, until one day she saw a Pretty Girl and followed her home. It totally wasn’t even a thing. The Girl was probably not even going to notice.” This one’s directed by Ben Gansky.

On Friday, all three plays are staged, one after the other, at 4 p.m. (Stupid Ghost), 6:30 p.m. (Babylon) and 9 p.m. (Recluse).

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