runt | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


My main point is that Michael Phillip Edwards is an electric performer who can ignite theatrical fireworks, as he demonstrates in his one-man show runt, presented in its local premiere by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

But dazzling pyrotechnical moments are not Edwards' only talent. He is also blessed with the gift of stillness: When he is standing motionless on stage, following a shower of emotional sparks, the power of Edwards' silence is shattering.

The hyphenate actor-writer-director-producer has written this piece about his crime scene of a father and their early life together in Jamaica and the United States. Edwards has toured extensively with runt, and in 2005 turned the story into a film.

But runt isn't your typical linear storytelling, the "and then when I was 7, the world I knew came to a crashing halt" sort of thing. Edwards hop-skips around time and geography, touching down now and again to summon up a particularly arresting memory of his father.

And he has several.

Edwards' dad is a nightmare of a man: a rage-filled alcoholic addicted to adultery as much as he is to chaos. This is a man who, out of sheer boredom it seems, plays emotionally terroristic games with his children. Though he may never have harmed his son physically, the psychological damage is heartbreaking.

Most of runt is Edwards just trying to survive his father's cruelty and mend the (pardon an '80s phase) "inner child" that the dad has decimated.

The flaw of runt -- well, maybe "flaw" isn't the right word -- but the sticking point is that Edwards, as main character and writer, can never bring himself to reject his father, can never step away from the poisonous trap his father has laid for him. It's not merely that when he tries to please his father he fails; the mere fact of wanting to please him means the father wins. This is Stockholm Syndrome on steroids.

Or perhaps it's like listening to a battered wife run though the history of abuse meted out by the husband ... without ever once mentioning she should leave him.

The fact that Edwards is so much better a person than his father could ever be doesn't seem to have occurred to him -- which may be his father's greatest victory.

If nothing else, however, there's no question Edwards a better performer than most everybody else.


runt continues through Sun., Dec. 12. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Art Education Center, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

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