Quantum Theatre's Pantagleize | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Quantum Theatre's Pantagleize

An enthralling satire pokes at revolution, right-wing despots, left-wing dreamers and the world at large

Tony Bingham (left) and Weston Blakesley in Quantum's Pantagleize
Tony Bingham (left) and Weston Blakesley in Quantum's Pantagleize

Quantum Theatre's enthralling production of Michel de Ghelderode's Pantagleize mixes media, politics, comedy, pathos and a subversion of the space-time continuum. The Belgian playwright subtitled his 1929 work "a farce to make you sad," a pretty good description of the political process at any time.

This world premiere, a very free adaptation/collaboration between playwright Jay Ball and director Jed Allen Harris, uses the original as a framework to poke at revolution, right-wing despots, left-wing dreamers and the world at large.

Don't expect realism. The ever-optimistic title character (the name means "ever shining") of Harris-Ball's iteration is supposedly based on beat poet Allen Ginsberg, especially his pomposity. As charmingly portrayed by Randy Kovitz, Pantagleize is a hippie parasite and aggressive heterosexual, in a teddy-bear sort of way. He lives an astonishing adventure. Perhaps he learns. 

Let's not spoil the plot, which doesn't make much sense anyway. Much of the show is the tour de force by Tony Bingham, primarily as the right-eyed Prezidente of the unnamed Eastern European micro-state that provides the setting and intrigue. But Bingham also has to play against himself in his video portrayals of four 1980-ish historical figures, supposedly his cronies in extreme-right rule. Bingham's characterizations range from a brutally coarse Idi Amin to a solipsistic (and absolutely hilarious) Margaret Thatcher.

There's a lot to admire: Lisa Ann Goldsmith as a femme fatale with a past; Erika Strasburg as the achingly innocent idealist; Abdiel Vivancos as a would-be revolutionary leader and fantasist; Sam Turich as the blunt commie; and especially Weston Blakesley as the Prezidente's bumbling enforcer and pawn. The design team has made much of the former North Point Breeze office space/warehouse: scenic designer Tony Ferrieri and assistant Jeff Fuga; Kevin Ramser, video; C. Todd Brown, lighting; RJ Romeo, production; and Elizabeth Atkinson, sound. Costume designer Susan Tsu and assistant Emily Chalmers relieve the Iron Curtain gray with a mix of Ruritania, Carnaby Street and Haight-Ashbury.

The political commentary aims at the past several decades, with the occasional bullseye, but Pantagleize also delivers plenty of real chuckles.