Asparagus | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
click to enlarge Lori Maxwell (left), Amy Marsalis (center) and Judy Kaplan taste Asparagus at Open Stage Theater.
Lori Maxwell (left), Amy Marsalis (center) and Judy Kaplan taste Asparagus at Open Stage Theater.

The act of artistic creation, for anyone who's experienced it, can be a pretty amazing thing. Conversely, there's very little in this world more boring than watching that act. It's a paradox that, I think, gnaws at the innards of creators everywhere: The most essential fact of their lives is the one thing that can never be recreated.

With her play Asparagus, now at Open Stage Theatre, local playwright Jeanne Drennan attempts to dramatize the art of dramatization. We meet up with Emily who, in writing an indie film, has cannibalized intimate details of her life and the lives of people around her. Adultery, dismemberment, work situations ... it's all grist for Emily's mill, and she is as surprised at the outcome as anyone.

Drennan seems to be saying that writers are dangerous to know because, really, you're never more than material to them -- even if the writer herself is unaware of it.

Still, we've got to watch Emily grind her way through the process. Drennan's done a remarkable job of using just about every theatrical device there is to obscure the fact that the actual focus of her play is an inert stack of paper. Dramaturgically, the events Emily is living through exist solely to end up in the script she's writing -- and the "resolution" of the many plots happens, as it were, off-stage (i.e., in the latest draft of the movie script). Drennan's set a daunting task for herself, because I don't know that what she wants to do can, actually, ever be done.

Lofty Durham directs with a fair amount of speed, and Jeremy Rolla has designed an absolutely gorgeous setting for this mostly strong company of actors. I saw the show opening night, and hesitancy with cue pick-ups became an increasing problem. That trouble will probably work itself out, but I think Drennan's script has a bit farther to go.

Asparagus continues through March 11. Open Stage Theatre, 2935 Smallman St., Strip District. 412-394-3353.

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