Program Notes: Arts Blog |

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Final performances of “Between Riverside and Crazy” at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 2:15 PM

Just five more performances remain of this fine production of last year’s Pulitzer winner for drama.

From left to right: Dawn McGee, Drew Stone and Eugene Lee in "Between Riverside and Crazy" - PHOTO COURTESY OF PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER
  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • From left to right: Dawn McGee, Drew Stone and Eugene Lee in "Between Riverside and Crazy"
The playwright, Stephen Adley Guirgis, is arguably the hottest in the country right now. Earlier plays of his to cause a stir on local stages in recent seasons include The Motherfucker With the Hat and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (both at barebones theater); Our Lady of 121st Street (at Point Park’s Conservatory Theatre Co.); and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (at Throughline Theater Co.).

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Attack Theatre's "Unbolted"

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 4:15 PM

If you’re a dance fan in Pittsburgh, I probably don’t have to tell you about Attack Theatre. The city’s most tenured independent contemporary-dance company is also perhaps its most ubiquitous, with frequent site-specific shows, community performances, and collabos with other arts groups supplementing its own theatrical season.

Anthony Williams (foreground) rehearses Attack Theatre's "Unbolted" - PHOTO COURTESY OF RENEE ROSENSTEEL
  • Photo courtesy of Renee Rosensteel
  • Anthony Williams (foreground) rehearses Attack Theatre's "Unbolted"
But just in case you needed a reminder, the troupe’s latest full-length work served notice that Attack remains an important creative force in town, and arguably just keeps getting better. Unbolted is an ambitious yet accessible three-act show — as well as Attack’s first ever performed in the round, at its home base, at Pittsburgh Opera headquarters, in the Strip. (Here’s Steve Sucato’s preview for CP.)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Final Week for "The River" at Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 10:45 AM

When site-specific theater works well, it’s no gimmick: The real and the imaginary blend in ways that feed the themes of the play. That’s certainly the case with Quantum’s Pittsburgh-premiere production of this 2014 work by acclaimed British playwright Jez Butterworth, which runs through Sunday.

Siovhan Christensen and Andrew William Smith in "The River" - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER MULL
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Mull
  • Siovhan Christensen and Andrew William Smith in "The River"
The site here is the boathouse of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, albeit amended: Onto the open mouth of the building’s giant door, Quantum has appended a sort of expressionist version of a rural fishing cabin whose principal conceit is the artificial brook that divides the wooden floor in half. (The audience sits indoors, and blankets are provided in case you feel chilled.) It’s the setting for an intermissionless series of scenes between a man and each of two women (none of the characters is named) whom he’s taken for a fly-fishing getaway.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Associated Artists of Pittsburgh opens new-members’ show Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 6:18 PM

"Motherbird," a photograph by Joy Christiansen Erb - IMAGE COURTESY OF ASSOCIATED ARTISTS OF PITTSBURGH
  • Image courtesy of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh
  • "Motherbird," a photograph by Joy Christiansen Erb
"Desert Cranes," a hand-colored intaglio monoprint by Elizabeth Claire Rose - IMAGE COURTESY OF ASSOCIATED ARTISTS OF PITTSBURGH
  • Image courtesy of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh
  • "Desert Cranes," a hand-colored intaglio monoprint by Elizabeth Claire Rose
The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh holds an exhibit at the Mine Factory to showcase its newest members — those admitted during the spring screening or juried in for this year's annual, at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The new show includes about 65 works by 35 participating artists include such widely exhibited local names as Ivette Spradlin, Clayton Merrell and Ed Parrish Jr. Other featured talents include Travis Mitzel, Andrew Allison, Elizabeth Claire Rose, Cristin Millett, Glen Gardner and Seth LeDonne.

The AAP, founded in 1910, is the oldest continuously exhibiting artist-membership organization in the U.S.

The New Members exhibit runs through Oct. 29.

The free opening reception will be help from 6-9 p.m. this Sat., Oct. 15. More info is here.

The Mine Factory is located at 201 N. Braddock Ave., in Point Breeze.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: CorningWorks’s "Remains" at the New Hazlett Theater

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 11:38 AM

The show, which wrapped this past Sunday, was Beth Corning’s thoughtful and poignant reboot of her 2013 one-woman dance-theater work.

  • Photo courtesy of C. Walsh Photography
  • Beth Corning in "Remains"
Remains is largely about how objects can spark the tenderest memories of those no longer with us. Britton Mauk’s set was built around an upstage wall of brown cardboard boxes from which Corning drew items of clothing (father’s shoes, mother’s coat) and even, with a sort of theatrical sleight-of-hand, which she entered, only to emerge with two halves of a full-sized dining-room table.

A recreation of a long-ago family dinner, in fact, is an early highlight, with Corning assuming multiple roles, mostly in pantomime. The sequence sets the tone for a series of imaginary reunions built around discovered objects, including a tete-a-tete inspired by two wine glasses, performed on a square of light on an otherwise darkened stage. The hour-long work is accompanied by concise texts projected on the brown-box backdrop, and by music from several composers, often featuring darting violin passages.

Corning originally developed Remains with Minneapolis-based, Tony-winning physical-theater director Dominque Serrand following the death of her mother and a close friend, and last year returned to work on it further after performing an excerpt in Sweden.

The payoff for Pittsburgh audiences in five performances last week (I attended on Saturday night) was solid, and came to a point with the moving final image of a meal prepared but not yet eaten, evoking both loss and the welcoming of new memories.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hollywood Theater in Dormont to screen two classic Gene Wilder films

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 12:47 PM

  • By Warner Brothers/Tandem Production (eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When word came earlier this week that actor Gene Wilder had died, folks took to social media to declare their affection for such classic Wilder films as Blazing Saddles, The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

This holiday weekend, fans can honor Wilder's comic genius at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont, which is screening Blazing Saddles, the 1974 Mel Brooks's cowboy caper, and 1971's adaptation of Roald Dahl's delightfully weird and nasty kids' book, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Blazing Saddles screens: 9:30 p.m. Fri., Sept. 2; 4:30 p.m. Sun., Sept. 4; 9:30 p.m. Tue., Sept. 6; and 7 p.m. Wed., Sept. 7.

Willy Wonka screens: 7 p.m. Sat., Sept. 3; 2 p.m. Sun., Sept. 4; and 4 and 7 p.m. Mon,. Sept. 5.

UPDATE: Two other area theaters are running Wilder films in tribute.

Regent Square, in Edgewood, is showing Willy Wonka, at 8 p.m., Sun., Sept. 4, and The Producers, at 8 p.m. Sun., Sept. 11.

Row House Cinema, in Lawrenceville, has two screenings of Blazing Saddles on Sun., Sept. 11, at noon and 8 p.m.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Pittsburgh’s Revision Space Gallery Holds Final Opening Reception Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 8:55 AM

After two-and-half-years, Cindy Lisica’s gallery in Lawrenceville begins the process of closing up shop with a reception for its 16th and final show.

  • "Madler K," a painting by Eduardo Portillo
FTW is a group show including artists from the Pittsburgh area, Houston and Los Angeles and overseas.

Lisica had recently relocated to Houston, where she has opened a new gallery, and had been running Revision Space remotely. But with the lease expiring in April, she’s ending its run.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Lisica says of Revision Space: “We put the [Pittsburgh] gallery and its artists on the international map at art fairs in Houston and Miami, and we collaborated with C.A.V.E. Gallery from Los Angeles and brought artists from coast to coast and from Asia and Europe.”

“We have had a wonderful run and are very proud of our many accomplishments and the fantastic reputation we developed for expanding the contemporary art scene in Pittsburgh,” she adds.

FTW (signifying both “For The Win” and “Fare Thee Well”) includes work by such noted locals as Paul Bowden, Terry Boyd, Miss Dingo, Haylee Ebersole, Fabrizio Gerbino and Sarika Goulatia. The show also features Jamie Earnest, Masha Fikhman, Zack John Lee, Elizabeth Rudnick and Travis K. Schwab. Artists from outside the region (showing work courtesy of Houston’s Anya Tish Gallery and L.A.’s C.A.V.E. Gallery) include Nugent Kos, Felipe Lopez, Amanda Marie, Eduardo Portillo, Jeff Schwarz, SIT, and Barbara Smith.

Tonight's reception takes place 7-9 p.m. An invitation-only early-bird and VIP preview is at 6 p.m. (contact Lisica at 412-728-4916 or

The show can also be viewed from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily this Saturday and Sunday.

Revision Space is located at 5262 Butler St.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 11:38 AM

The winners of the 22nd annual contest, which involved about 1,300 students from more than 80 area schools, grades 4 and up, were announced last week.

  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • Sundiata Rice
This year's competition, actually a two-week affair, began with the preliminary rounds Feb. 4-12, at Downtown’s O’Reilly Theater. Teams of judges chose 42 finalists who competed at a showcase at the theater on Feb. 15.

In the Lower Division (grades 4-7), the monologue winner was Simon Nigam, of Falk Laboratory School, who performed a monologue as Shylock from The Merchant of Venice. The Lower Division scene winners were Will Sendera and Sophia Sousa, of CAPA, who did a scene as Romeo and Juliet.

In the Upper Division (grades 8-12), the monologue winner was Sundiata Rice, of CAPA, who did a piece from Henry V, as Henry. The scene winners were Laela Lumsden and Anna Ungarino, of Hope Academy, performing as Kate and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew.

  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • Sophia Sousa and Will Sendera
The contest judges were Ted Pappas, the Public’s producing artistic director; Rob Zellers, the Public’s former director of education and outreach, who founded the contest; local theater eminence Richard Rauh; and actresses Kimberly Doreen Burns, Linda Haston and Amy Landis.

The complete list of finalists is here.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Final Weekend for "Some Brighter Distance" at City Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 10:31 AM

Five performances remain of this world-premiere production of a play by Keith Reddin about a disturbing corner of 20th-century American history.

Elizabeth Rich, as Marta Rudolph, and Jonathan Tindle, as Arthur Rudolph, in "Some Brighter Distance." - PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTI JAN HOOVER
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover
  • Elizabeth Rich, as Marta Rudolph, and Jonathan Tindle, as Arthur Rudolph, in "Some Brighter Distance."
The story centers on Arthur Rudolph, one of the hundreds of German rocket scientists whose Nazi pasts the U.S. government scrubbed after World War II in order to avail itself of their talents — which were also, in that Cold War, space-race era, coveted by the Soviets. (For more background, here's my preview of the show for CP.)

As directed by City's Tracy Brigden, it's a fast-paced, 80-minute show that smartly combines docudrama and entertaining theatricality: Despite its dozens of jumps in time, between scenes ranging from 1934 to 1984, the show plays as one long, seamless act.

I can't say for sure how much Reddin's Rudolph shares with the historical one, but to me the play felt most like a cautionary tale about valuing ends over means, even in pursuing one's dreams.

For an alternate take, here's Ted Hoover's review of Some Brighter Distance for CP.

The five remaining performances begin with tonight's, and include evening shows tomorrow and Saturday, and two weekend matinees. Tickets are $18-56 and are available here.

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

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Attack Theatre’s "Remainder l Northside"

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 2:26 PM

By odd coincidence, Remainder l Northside was the second evening-length show I’ve seen this year that was based on in-depth interaction with everyday North Siders. But while City of Asylum’s fine spoken-word-with-music piece Stoop Is a Verb dug into cultural specifics about the North Side’s many neighborhoods, Remainder’s universality was grounded in its origins in local classrooms and children’s workshops.

Attack Theatre promo shot - PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG THOMPSON
  • Photo courtesy of Craig Thompson
  • Attack Theatre promo shot
Attack’s dancers and artistic directors conducted those sessions over 18 months, in schools and programs like the Manchester Youth Development Center, the Pittsburgh Project and Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy. The troupe emerged at the New Hazlett Theater this past weekend with three performances of a program of athletic yet elegant dance that reflected children’s world of imagination and sometimes (in the context of school) enforced regimentation.

The work (I went on Saturday night) was danced by Kaitlin Dann, Dane Toney, Anthony Williams and Ashley Williams, with contributions from Michele de la Reza, who co-choreographed with the dancers and Peter Kope. Their work was aided immeasurably by another Attack calling card, original live music. Multi-instrumentalists and composers Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer and Domenica Fossati supplied the sonic muscle and nuance, and at times even playfully joined in the dance themselves.

Highlights included a comic group sequence built around a magical treasure chest. A pre-show orientation had introduced some of the gestural language the dancers had gleaned from listening to and working with students (as in the ubiquitous action of packing and zipping one’s book bag, or the mannerisms of a mean teacher).

The scenes and people depicted could have been from anywhere, but it still felt worthwhile to stage it in a theater within a mile or so of the sources of its inspiration.

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