Watching Die Hard N’at, the latest live show from the Midnight Radio crew at Bricolage, made me think back to a Pittsburgh night in 2002 when I drove by a billboard featuring someone named Mario Lemieux, a man I guessed, from his wearing hockey gear and holding a hockey stick, was a hockey player.
“So what’s up with this Mario Lemieux guy?” I asked my then-boyfriend, a hockey fan. He looked at me as if lobsters were crawling out of my ears before explaining how “this Mario Lemieux guy” was a hockey legend.
This was news to me, a Central Pa.-raised country girl who had only lived in Pittsburgh for about a year and had yet to absorb the varied, mostly sports-obsessed aspects of the city’s culture.
But that was over a decade ago and, thanks to experience and some townie friends, I’ve since caught up on every notable Pittsburgh institution, sports figure, and local celeb peppered throughout Die Hard N’at. If you’re looking for exaggerated Yinzer accents and, as the performance itself points out, oddly specific Pittsburgh humor revolving around football, Mineo’s pizza, and the Greenfield Bridge, this is the show for you.
The show more or less follows the plot of the 1988 action hit starring Bruce Willis, but everything comes with a Steel City twist – for example, Nakatomi Plaza is now Yinzatomi Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh, and John McClane (Patrick Jordan) is a cop from the streets of Wilmerding, not New York City, trying to get back with his estranged wife, Holly (Lissa Brennan). The best parts feature energetic, fast-paced banter poking fun at the local dialect, including an uproarious running gag about the Pittsburgh pronunciation of “couch” and an extremely quotable moment when a shot security guard (played by the excellent Elena Alexandratos) yells, “Trish, I’m dahn!”
The cast was clearly having a grand time, even as each member pulled double duty playing multiple roles and doing sound work. The show never takes itself seriously, especially when actors Wali Jamal and Jason McCune, as the Die Hard villains, could barely contain their amusement at their own comically bad German accents. When Jamal, who plays Argyle, Sgt. Al Powel, and Hans Gruber (in this case he’s called Heinz because of course he is), breaks during one ridiculous bit, it only adds to the fun.
One consistently enjoyable aspect of Midnight Radio – or, as the cast puts it, “a radio show that’s not on the radio” – is the low-tech, DIY inventiveness of the Foley work. I went in wondering how the group, whose previous productions include spins on the less action-y Carrie, It’s A Wonderful Life, and, most recently, Frankenstein, would recreate all of the explosions, shattered glass, and gunfire of Die Hard. What unfolds is a fascinating experiment in noise, where machine gun shots are created with a piece of metal and a specially-outfitted drill and fight scenes are pulled off with a wiffle bat and well-timed belt snaps.
Still, it’s clear from the beginning that this is not a show for Pittsburgh newbies, as the many hyper-localized jokes will go right over their heads. It got me wondering how a similar show would play out in other cities, with Chicagoans going on about lake-effect snow and Da Bears, upstate New Yorkers joking about garbage plates, Bostonians constantly braying “Go Pats,” and Portlanders doing whatever it is they do. But in this case, Die Hard N’at is, for the most part, made by die-hard Pittsburghers for die-hard Pittsburghers.