Pittsburgh Playwrights' Acting Out | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Playwrights' Acting Out

The timely festival showcases local playwrights and LGBT themes.

Kyle Bogue (left) and Philip Anthony Wilson in "Defense of Marriage," part of the Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival.
Kyle Bogue (left) and Philip Anthony Wilson in "Defense of Marriage," part of the Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival.

After five years of dormancy, the Pittsburgh Pride Theater Festival has awoken for two weeks of "best of" revivals. The festival showcases local playwrights and LGBT themes, and despite its brevity (four one-acts in total), it couldn't come at a better time, given recent courtroom events. The festival is uneven, but Pittsburgh Playwrights is, as ever, an incubator of talent, and there's a lot to enjoy.

"Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?" Adam owes money to a kingpin, and he can't pay it. When hit man James arrives, Adam pleads for his life. Yet as James prepares to execute Adam, their conversation turns intimate, and they redefine the long kiss goodnight. Carol Mullen's play is a witty noir, and Monteze Freeland directs a sharp production. Kevin Donahue and Billy Mason are positively adorable as the star-crossed lovers: Their chemistry alone offers a wonderful opening to the festival.

"The Session." In Dr. Proctor's demented mind, secretaries are sluts, lesbians are trashy bitches, and office sex is standard fare. But is this Dr. Proctor's daily life, or a gross fantasy that occurs in his homophobic dreams? Wali Jamal's think piece is surreal and confusing, and last weekend's performance struggled from line-drops and sluggish pacing. But given how many shrinks once diagnosed homosexuality as a "mental illness," I suppose the profession deserves a potshot.

"Sibling Rivalry." There's nothing Lisa does that her sister Denise doesn't mimic — so when Lisa comes out as a lesbian to her mother, so does Denise. Kathryn Miller Haines' script is already funny, particularly Denise's distinct impressions of what a lesbian should act like. And as the competing siblings, Sarah-Ann Paulson and Ellen Michelle make the play even funnier. And fancy that: They actually look like sisters.

"Defense of Marriage." I caught "Defense" at the 2004 festival, and I was fascinated to see how Jeffrey M. Cordell has updated his script to incorporate the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The play — a realistic dialogue between a fastidious young man, Timothy, and his drag-queen partner, Joshua — is very long, and their fight about marriage and gender roles gets repetitive. But Cordell ends the festival with prescient thoughts and sophisticated characters. "Defense" is a fine reminder that theater, like life, is an ongoing conversation.

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