Yankee Tavern at Throughline Theatre Co. | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Yankee Tavern at Throughline Theatre Co. 

The play about conspiracy theories is tight and absorbing, with some serious contemplation of the risks of intimacy

Left to right: Bob Rak, Malic Williams and Ursula Asmus Sears in Yankee Tavern, at Throughline Theatre

Courtesy of Throughline Theatre/Rick Moore

Left to right: Bob Rak, Malic Williams and Ursula Asmus Sears in Yankee Tavern, at Throughline Theatre

’Tis the season to be scared. And so Throughline Theatre Co., keeping with this season’s theme of “Trust the Government?,” presents Steven Dietz’ conspiracy-fueled thriller Yankee Tavern, from 2007.

Since I hate spoilers, I won’t discuss the plot except to say that it involves four differently unlikable people in a derelict bar who find themselves questioning reality in various and ongoing 9/11 conspiracy theories. Seemingly a comedy when it begins, Yankee gets more and more chilling.

Conspiracy theories can be lots of fun if you like that sort of thing. I remember spending hours in 1969 following the “clues” that Paul McCartney was dead. My fellow truth-seekers even had a turntable that could play “Revolution 9” backward. We scared ourselves silly. Didn’t believe it, of course. It was just another form of entertainment that requires suspension of logic — like going to a “haunted house” that you know isn’t real, but you get spooked anyway.

Set in 2005, Yankee starts with a barrage of outlandish conspiracy theories from oldtimer Ray: Bob Rak as a credible blowhard with a tender side. The shrewish Janet, taken through some serious changes by Ursula Asmus Sears, disparages Ray — and also Adam, her fiancé. As the latter, Malic Williams is an odd choice for the heir to an Irish bar, but convincing as a scholar of international studies who warns of the dangers of 9/11 urban legends. Quite a complex character. And then there’s the man of mystery, Palmer; John Siciliano starts with a touch of whimsy, then gradually ratchets up the menace. Wow, you’re almost ready to sign up with the Truthers after his disquisition.

Directed by Vance Weatherly with assistant director Sean Sears, Yankee Tavern is tight and absorbing, with jolts and plot twists and some serious contemplation about the risks of intimacy. The “conspiracies” are nonsense, but let yourself be scared.



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