Given that Pittsburgh was founded and, for a long time, run by Scottish-Irish immigrants, it’s not a stretch to imagine a link with the Glasgow depicted in Quantum Theatre’s latest production — David Harrower’s 2013 Ciara, in its North American premiere. One-time gritty industrial hubs going through the throes of gentrification are personified in the title character, a woman whose present and past are fragmented, and her future shattered.
The only daughter of a Glaswegian career criminal, Ciara claims success and respectability through the redemptive power of art. Except that it doesn’t work. She is not redeemed, nor repentant, but in the end transformed. Through the 85-minute monologue, we learn of how she has been used, and how she herself used others. It’s a fascinating evolution of character.
And it requires a consummate actor: Mary Rawson in a superlative-filled performance. Her Ciara by turns is fragile, cunning, clever, vengeful, entrepreneurial and strong, even in defeat. Rawson easily evokes the off-stage characters, most of them sharply drawn men, not by mimicry but by force of memory.
No offense meant, but this is not really a one-woman show. Directed by Quantum founder and artistic director Karla Boos, Ciara is a multimedia production, as dazzling visually as dramatically. The scene design by Robert Qualters (himself a superlative-filled Pittsburgh artist) is enhanced and manipulated by media/projection designer Joseph Seamans. Together with a talented production team, they bring light, color and detail to Ciara’s narrative dream-cum-nightmare. A hand, please, for stage manager Caitlin Roper; technical director David Levine; director of production Britton Mauk; assistant director Shannon Knapp; and designers Julianne D’Errico (costume), C. Todd Brown (lighting) and Anthony Stultz (sound).
As is often the case with both Harrower and Quantum — and even more so when they meet — Ciara is dense with meaning as well as difficulty. Dialect coach Don Wadsworth is so successful that the Weegie accent is occasionally incomprehensible. (It recalls the film Trainspotting, another work set in Scotland that required subtitles for American audiences.)
Accept and explore the challenges of Ciara, in all its humor and violence and depth. Not for the delicate-minded.