12 Peers tries a show with no rehearsals; Quantum takes Ibsen to the ninth floor | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

12 Peers tries a show with no rehearsals; Quantum takes Ibsen to the ninth floor

It’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit’s Pittsburgh premiere, and the first Master Builder staged here in years

At its most basic, theater is an actor with a script. And that’s just what you’ll get in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, a striking work that shuns directors, sets and rehearsals — and even prohibits the lone actor from seeing the script before stepping on stage. Or really, “actors,” because as the play requires, each of the 17 performances in 12 Peers Theater’s Pittsburgh-premiere production features a different performer.

12 Peers is the latest in an international array of troupes to attempt this work by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. The narrative featuring allegorical animals tells a story about social conditioning. London’s The Guardian called it “a global hit” and “a tense, entrancing piece of theatre.

Although Soleimanpour wrote the play during a period when he couldn’t leave Iran, he insists that White Rabbit is not about his home country, but rather is universally applicable.

The actors, meanwhile, are in for a 65-minute adventure at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.’s intimate space. “They’re experiencing the piece for the first time, as the audience is,” says 12 Peers artistic director Vince Ventura.

The 17 performers include such local luminaries as Jeff Carpenter (of Bricolage Productions), Alan Stanford (PICT Classic), Wayne Brinda (Prime Stage) and Hayley Nielsen. 

April 7-24. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Pay-what-you-desire. 12peerstheater.org

click to enlarge 12 Peers tries a show with no rehearsals; Quantum takes Ibsen to the ninth floor
Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
Hayley Nielsen and John Shepard in Quantum’s The Master Builder

“Castles in the air”: Ibsen’s iconic architect, Halvard Solness, wants to build them. Fascinated by the younger generation, the aging Solness is also threatened by it, even as he’s reinvigorated by the appearance of a younger woman named Hilda.

Quantum Theatre’s artistic director, Karla Boos’ longstanding affinity for Ibsen’s plays — “They leap off cliffs wildly,” she says — is giving Pittsburgh its first production of The Master Builder in years, possibly decades. Fellow Ibsen-admirer Martin Giles directs a cast of seven including John Shepard as Solness, and Hayley Nielsen as Hilda.

But the production significantly co-stars its venue: Quantum, which makes site-specific theater in nontraditional spaces, is reanimating the ninth floor of the North Side’s former Two Allegheny Center, now known under new ownership by Faros Properties as Nova Place. Working with the Heinz Architectural Center of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Quantum translates Ibsen’s Victorian-era setting to the mid-20th century, and emphasizes this former office building’s unornamented mid-century-modern style — and 360-degree view — as an analogue for Solness’ grandiose architectural visions.

April 8-May 1. Nova Place, Two Allegheny Center Building, North Side. $18-51. 412-362-1713 or www.quantumtheatre.com