Shuffle, Ball Change ... and Die! | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Shuffle, Ball Change ... and Die!

It's an embarrassment of bitches, so to speak

Comedy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. My spectacles aren't much use in discerning any fun in Shuffle, Ball Change ... and Die!, a fundraiser at and for the Gemini Theater Co., a worthy children's theater conveniently adjacent to the East End Food Co-op, if you want to sate your appetite.

My own tastes don't necessarily run to the vegetarian — I do enjoy a meaty, hearty laugh — and definitely not to the genre of unpleasant and/or stupid people being unpleasant and/or stupid. Yes, I hated I Love Lucy. An embarrassment of bitches, so to speak.

Local playwright F.J. Hartland can deliver clever wordplay and heartfelt emotion, but not in this 2010 outing. The premise is a clash of reality shows: any number of "true crime" dramas meets Dance Moms. Someone is knocking over/off the little students of a small-town dance school. Whodunit is obvious early on. Narration is handled by a series of videos. I'm sure I could better appreciate the multi-performances of Tim Syciarz as the townspeople of Quincy Falls, Iowa, if the screen were larger or in better focus.

The live action is in the parents' waiting room, an amazingly diverse bunch of mothers (and one father) for such an inbred little town, all irritating in their own special ways. Most sympathetic is a reluctant mom bravely played by Stephanie Cryor. Gina Preciado delivers a comic turn as a germophobe. But most suited for scenery-chewing is the trio of "dance" teachers (parodies of tap, modern and ballet), with director/set designer TJ Firneno winningly filling in for Tom Protulipac when I attended.

The production is pleasant, more demanding for the crew than for the audience. Shuffle, Ball Change ... and Die! is "comedy" in the very broadest sense of the word. But the philosophy "speak loudly and carry a heavy shtick" might click with many other theatergoers.

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