Off the Wall's Looking for the Pony | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Off the Wall's Looking for the Pony

Three terrific local performers gets roles worthy of their talents

From left: Cameron Knight, Daina Michelle Griffith, Karen Baum and Theo Allyn on Off the Wall's Looking for the Pony
From left: Cameron Knight, Daina Michelle Griffith, Karen Baum and Theo Allyn on Off the Wall's Looking for the Pony

In brief, there are three reasons to see Looking for the Pony: Theo Allyn, Karen Baum and Daina Michelle Griffith. They are all local actresses. They are all preternaturally skilled. They are all prolific, vibrant and emotive. Off the Wall Theater has not only gathered three terrific local performers on the same stage, but also given them roles worthy of their talents. Attend, if only for them.

A fourth reason is Cameron Knight, the only non-female and non-redhead in the cast, who is nevertheless a magnificent character actor.

    As for the play itself, Pony is a peculiar ride. Playwright Andrea Lepcio writes about two sisters, one of whom endures some very belligerent cancer. Lauren and Oisie are also best friends, and each is a wonderful, well-adjusted person, which makes Lauren's grim prognosis so much sadder. She smiles through her disease, and Oisie helps her obsessively. Their sisterhood is legal, not genetic, but their bond is incandescent.

   Cancer haunts us all, and the sisters' story is hardly unique. So Lepcio uses unconventional writing to drive her script: The dialogue is quick and choppy, filled with patter and jabs and meaningful asides. It's as if Lepcio shredded a cancer brochure and a Gilmore Girls teleplay and Scotch-taped the trimmings together. In the first half, the pace is breathlessly fast; then Lepcio inserts bizarre bits of humor, like a kung-fu battle between an attorney and a health-insurance agent. Lepcio turns surgeons and assistants into caricatures, too incompetent and egotistical to do much good. In her world, only Lauren and Oisie are real people; everyone else is a tumor, malignant or benign, and you have a 50-50 chance of guessing which wins.

     Whether Lepcio's choices are brave or misguided, her intentions are pure, and the writing flushes with anger and sorrow. We fall in love with Lauren and Oisie from the get-go, per design. Griffith and Baum trade dialogue with telepathic precision, and Allyn and Knight brilliantly create every other character, building a dysfunctional universe around them. Director Robyne Parrish must have loved this project, given the vigor of her script and cast. For a story about an incurable plague, this production overflows with life.

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