Throughline Theatre' Saving the World | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Throughline Theatre' Saving the World

A wacky play veers between brilliance and sophomoric humor.

Casey Cunningham and Eric Leslie in Throughline's Saving the World.
Casey Cunningham and Eric Leslie in Throughline's Saving the World.

Throughline Theatre Company takes an absurdist look at protecting the environment with its latest production, Saving the World, by Jason Burkett.

Without spoiling too much, it's a play-within-a-play in which the actors run amok as the fictional playwright (also named "Jason Burkett") totally loses control of his opus.

It's wacky and zany. And when the real Burkett is at his best, the play has flashes of brilliance (like the recurrent references to a particular make of automobile). But at other times, it is reduced to sophomoric humor, as when one actor is senselessly beaten by a stage-crew member wielding a large pool float.

Act I is the stronger of the two acts.  Act II gets somewhat repetitive and the humor is not as sharp.

Director Kaitlin Kerr has been wise to keep the pace running at a breakneck speed, not giving the audience too much time to think.

Saving the World centers on three research scientists: Dr. Degot (Casey Cunningham), Dr. Healy (Ursula Asmus Sears) and Dr. Sharon (the always hilarious Everett Lowe). Cunningham does a fine job portraying the "boy genius," and Sears darts seamlessly between pregnant scientist and dominatrix. But it is Lowe who brings the most humor to the show, whether he is playing a Bible-thumping scientist or Satan. There is a (probably fictional) story of a great Polish actress who could reduce audiences to tears by reading the telephone directory aloud in her native tongue. Conversely, I am certain Lowe could find a way to read the phone book and have audiences rolling on the floor with laughter.

The talents of Michael McBurney (as "Jason Burkett") are wasted, as he spends most of the play prostrate on the floor.

Scenic designer Jessica Moretti has created a colorful "cartoony" set with skewed perspective that perfectly fits the insanity of Saving the World. Lighting by Liz Fisher has some severe dark spots, especially when characters move downstage.  And I know that Lowe is tall, but his face needs to be properly lit.

Throughline has found a way to continue its "Changing the World"-themed season in a slapstick way.