Category: 2014 – 2015 Season

Momentum 15: New Works, Familiar Faces

June 4th, 2015

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / by SHARON EBERSON

Momentum 15, City Theatre’s annual festival of new plays in different stages of development, features works by familiar names in the company’s theatrical family, read by some of the most familiar faces in Pittsburgh’s acting community.

“The Human Court” by Jessica Dickey is about a man making the difficult decision to transition his wife, who is suffering with dementia, into an assisted living facility. He also is dealing with his adopted daughter’s desire to meet her birth mother, his unresolved feelings for a family friend, and a mysterious caregiver.

For the play by Ms. Dickey, who City patrons know from “The Amish Project” and “Charles Ives, Take Me Home,” the actors are John Shepard, Helena Ruoti, KK Moggie, Monteze Freeland and Laurie Klatscher.

In “Some Brighter Distance” by Keith Reddin, a German rocket scientist who has been instrumental in helping America win the Space Race is forced to face the consequences of his dark Nazi past.

Reading the play by Mr. Reddin (“Human Error,” “The Missionary Position”) will be Martin Giles, Rebecca Harris, Cameron Knight, David Whalen and Daniel Krell. “Some Brighter Distance” will have its world premiere during City’s 2015-16 season.

The festival will feature the interactive event “City Speaks,” featuring the writers in a conversation moderated by Clare Drobot, who has joined City as director of new play development. Another newcomer, artistic director Reginald L. Douglas, will direct the reading of “The Human Court.”

Momentum events at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side, are free and open to the public. Advanced reservations are encouraged by calling 412-431-CITY (2489).

The Momentum 15 schedule:

Friday: 7 p.m. — Reading of “The Human Court” by Ms. Dickey, directed by Mr. Douglas (Hamburg Theatre).

Saturday: 1 p.m. — “City Speaks” in the Gordon Lounge; light refreshments will be served.

3 p.m. — Reading of “Some Brighter Distance” by Mr. Reddin, directed by City artistic director Tracy Brigden (City Theatre rehearsal room).

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.

Stage Review: City Theatre Takes a ‘Midsummer’ Romp Into Rom-Com Territory

May 19th, 2015

The self-loathing pair meet down and dirty and kind of cute in David Greig’s “Midsummer,” City Theatre’s funny and touching season finale. The play with music brings to mind such frisky films as Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” and “This Is 40.” Like those movies, “Midsummer” is a rom-com with heart; as live theater, it’s also a wildly inventive showcase for two actor-singer-musicians.

Mr. Greig’s penchant for pop-culture infused romps set in his native Scotland inspires the playful side of director Tracy Brigden, who also helmed his “Monster in the Hall” at the South Side theater. For “Midsummer,” she has enlisted two multitalented performers who are game for whatever challenges the director and writer have in store for them.

Randy Redd and Carey Van Driest portray Bob and Helena, a couple bound for a weekend of debauchery and self-discovery. They each portray multiple roles and, when they are in an emotional tight spot, they are likely to grab guitars and break into song.

With no breaks in 90-plus minutes, the co-stars lean on each other as tag-team storytellers and partners in crime. We root for them as they make their way through a web of follies: They drink heavily, have sex, separate, reunite, drink some more, and then there’s that time at the fetish club … The actors have to be game for Mr. Greig’s kitchen sink of crazy, even that time when Bob has a conversation with his, um, genitalia.

Mr. Redd provides an easy musicality honed in roles that include Jerry Lee Lewis in Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet.” As nondescript “Medium” Bob, whose best years were in high school, we empathize with a man who has a Byronic soul but who has been conditioned to failure. Helena spots a desperation in Bob that matches her own and sets in motion their wild weekend. Ms. Van Driest shines as love-starved Helena, who is holding onto a potentially life-changing secret; she also creates hilarious quirks for a handful of characters.

Scenic designer Narelle Sissons places the action on a raked thrust stage against an art installation backdrop, from which the actors pluck guitars and props. The passage of time in “Midsummer” is represented by Andrew Ostrowski’s creative lighting, while clever staging and energetic acting provide transport to the play’s many locales.

Bob’s state of despair at turning 35 — and here I thought 55 was the new 35 — seems a bit much, but there’s joy in watching people of any age rekindle their faith in love. Their epic weekend, the kind Hollywood could have a field day with, is even better served live — a date-night rom-com for the theater-going crowd.

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.

Pittsburgh’s City Theatre’s ‘Midsummer’ wrap-up not conventional

May 14th, 2015

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / by DEBORAH WEISBERG

City Theatre will wrap up its 40th anniversary season with a two-actor “play with songs.”

“Midsummer,” written by David Greig and indie musician Gordon McIntyre — both of Scotland — will mark the City Theatre debut of New York-based actors Randy Redd and Carey Van Driest.

The play, which will open May 9 at the South Side theater, unfolds with divorce lawyer Helena meeting small-time crook Bob in a wine bar in Edinburgh, Scotland, after her married lover breaks their date. The unlikely pair embarks on a weekend of wild abandon that includes drinking with goth teens, Japanese rope-bondage, and a chase sequence from a mobster through Edinburgh streets.

What starts as a one-night stand develops into something more, and Bob and Helena discover that there are second chances at life and at love.

“Midsummer” is a rom-com without sappiness or sentimentality, says director Tracy Brigden, who also is City Theatre’s artistic director. She chose the play for its “wonderfully truthful script,” and because Helena and Bob will resonate with the audience.

“Despite their faults, the characters are charming and striving and hopeful, and everyone who sees the play will find them absolutely relatable,” Brigden says. “They’ll be thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, I know how that feels … been there.’ ”

In the midst of telling their stories, Helena and Bob, at unexpected moments, pick up a guitar, ukulele or tambourine and break into songs written for “Midsummer” by McIntyre, founder of the four-piece band Ballboy. But “Midsummer” is not conventional musical theater, Brigden says.

“The music doesn’t serve to move the plot forward. Its purpose is to expand upon the emotions of the characters or elucidate the moment. That’s why we call it a play with songs.”

Redd, who plays Bob, describes the play as “a weird, wacky story with a big heart at the center.”

If there’s a take-away for the audience, it is realizing along with Helena and Bob that life exists in the moment, Redd says. “They’re two people at the midsummer of their lives looking at where they have been and trying to figure out where they are going, only to have an epiphany that, ‘Wait a minute. This is my life.’ ”

For devotees of the stage, “Midsummer” is a special treat because it is purely theatrical, says Van Driest, a versatile actress whose credits include the Netflix drama “House of Cards,” numerous productions of Shakespeare plays and a national tour of “Annie.”

“Theater exists for plays like ‘Midsummer.’ It couldn’t be done on film,” Van Driest says. “It’s a storytelling piece in that we talk directly to the audience as if they’re sitting in a bar with us and we’re telling them how we met. But then, we step back into the weekend and become the characters in each other’s lives.

“There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of intimacy with the audience.”

Redd and Van Driest are solid musicians. Redd trained as a classical pianist until he discovered acting in college, and has appeared in numerous musicals, including, locally, a Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production of “On the Town,” and a national-tour production of “Parade” at the Benedum Center. He most recently appeared in the films “The Last Five Years” and “Beautiful Creatures.” Van Driest aspired to sing opera before turning to theater. They were chosen for “Midsummer” because they are accomplished actors able to meet the demands of the play, Brigden says.

In addition to the leads, Redd and Van Driest assume the roles of various supporting characters with few costume changes during the 90-minute, uninterrupted production.

“They’re playing 10 to 12 other characters — a goth girl in a bar, a gangster boss, a nephew with autism, Helena’s sister … mostly by changing attitude and voice — all with Scottish accents,” Brigden says.

The set is as lean as the cast, with just two chairs, a stool and a few props; yet, it carries the play through 28 locations in Edinburgh during the three-day adventure.

“I get to trust that the story can be told through our collective imaginations, and the audience can imagine with us,” Brigden says. “That’s the magic of theater.”

This is the third play by Greig that Brigden has brought to City Theatre, including “Outlying Islands” and “The Monster in the Hall.”

“I like his writing and his style,” she says. “David Greig is revered in Scotland and starting to catch on here.”

What is unique about “Midsummer” is that Greig does not assign dialogue to either Helena or Bob, so the director gets to choose who says what, Brigden says. “It’s exciting for me as a director because it lets me exercise real creativity.”

Because it is an uplifting play, “Midsummer” is the perfect choice for finishing the season, she says. “It’s a fun romp that has some smarts and some real emotion. Everyone who stopped in at rehearsal used words like ‘delightful, charming’ and ‘hopeful’ to describe it.”

Deborah Weisberg is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

Stage preview: City Theatre stage will heat up with musical ‘Midsummer’

May 14th, 2015

A troubled woman and a man in trouble meet in a bar and head back to her place for let’s-forget-our-troubles sex … and so begins an alcohol-fueled walk on the wild side.

Pile on a wedding disaster, a mobster with violent intent, and, oh yeah, the characters in “Midsummer” are apt to break into song, accompanied by each other.

That’s a quick look at the R-rated romp by David Greig, with music by Gordon McIntyre, now at City Theatre. Tracy Brigden directs, as she did the playwright’s “Monster in the Hall,” another imaginative play that graced City’s Mainstage.

The two-actor, multi-character play with music stars newcomers to Pittsburgh: Randy Redd, whose Broadway credits include pounding the keys as Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet,” and Carey Van Driest, an actress who has toured in “Annie” but whose resume is mostly classic fare. She will play instruments on stage for the first time.

Neither actor was familiar with the play, the writer or each other before preparing for auditions.

“I looked it up and saw it had a run in New York, but it’s the first time I’ve heard of his work,” Mr. Redd says. “You think of this play, and then you see that David Greig also wrote the book to ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ and you say, ‘Wait, what?’ But then it makes sense the more you get into this play. It is so ridiculously fun.”

“Fun” and “run” are two words that come up often when discussing “Midsummer.” The characters are running from an affair, a sibling’s wedding, a threatening mobster … and all roads seem to lead in the most unlikely direction — toward each other.

“There are so many versions of storytelling going on,” Mr. Redd says, and the director chimes in that she refers to certain interludes in “Midsummer” as “the specialty acts.”

“He wrote those into ‘Monster in the Hall,’ too,” she says, then points to one and then the other of her stars and says, “You’re the poodles; you’re the juggling clowns.”

It’s also fair to say Mr. Greig writes without a net. His free-form scripts come without stage direction, which is part of the allure for Ms. Brigden.

“This my favorite type of play,” the director says. “Anything where you have to take three trunks and make them a train compartment or two chairs and make them a car, those kind of things that give the audience a part in imagining the play, I love that.”

“Stepping into the complete freedom of it, it’s this wonderful daily challenge of remembering that this is why we do theater,” adds Ms. Van Driest. “I think Tracy said this the first rehearsal, that this kind of thing only exists in the theater. We can’t do it on film or TV, running around and making complete fools of ourselves. … Every morning I come in to rehearsal and put on my fool hat and enjoy that.”

The two actors play all the roles, which, for example, requires Mr. Redd to give voice to a child and Ms. Van Driest to play a tough mob boss.

They met for the first time on the plane ride to Pittsburgh, Ms. Van Driest’s first trip here. Mr. Redd had visited once in 2003, to see City’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” but he and Ms. Brigden have “a bizillion” acquaintances in common, he says.

The “getting to know you” part of prepping “Midsummer” happened quickly, necessitated by a hook-up that happens early on in the play.

“Tracy came into rehearsal one day and says, ‘Let’s start with the sex. Are you guys ready to make out?’ ” Mr. Redd says. Two weeks into rehearsals, the co-stars are already teasing like old friends.

The role has given Ms. Van Driest newfound affection for the guitars that had shared her apartment, mostly untouched, and while exploring what Pittsburgh has to offer, she set up guitar lessons with an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mr. Redd is accustomed to playing an instrument onstage, as he did in “Million Dollar Quartet” and more recently for director John Doyle in the off-Broadway run of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Allegro.” Mr. Doyle also directed the acclaimed Broadway revivals of “Company” and “Sweeney Todd,” in which actors doubled as musicians.

In “Midsummer,” having two actors play all the roles and provide the music adds to the impression that these two people are telling the story of the weekend they met and the craziness that followed.

“There was a moment when I thought, ‘Should we get a guitar player onstage, should we use recorded music?” Ms. Brigden says. “But it’s such a big difference in the DIY-ness of the play. They move the chairs around, they create the scenes, they create the characters, and if they also create the music, it makes it real storytelling.

“That’s why we said we had to keep looking until we found a brilliant duo,” she adds.

Brushing the compliment aside, Mr. Redd searches for a descriptive word imparted by Mr. Doyle.

“It’s like a hootenanny, but there’s also a Scottish word for it — oh, John used to use it all the time for what this is, where you all kind of come into a pub and start telling stories and a song happens to support this moment …”

He reaches for his cell phone and, after some frantic Googling, he finds the word: ceilidh, pronounced kay-leigh, a party with music, dancing and often storytelling.

The title “Midsummer” is a passing reference to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” although the play takes place in the author’s native Edinburgh. If he’s specific at all, it’s geographically, and there’s a map of the Scottish city hanging in the rehearsal room to help the actors picture where they are going as they dash from place to place.

“Plus, they are both panting and red-faced and exhausteCity d, because they drink and they smoke,” Ms. Van Driest says.

“It is about keeping the ball up in the air,” Ms. Brigden says, “because you drop a line and it’s, ‘Good night, ladies and gentlemen.’ So it’s like an extended game of volleyball. … We’ll call it the ‘Midsummer’ workout.”

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.

OBLIVION at City Theatre – It’s a lovely production

April 2nd, 2015

You can practically smell the kale chips toasting in the next room. The married couple at the center of Carly Mensch’s 2013 play Oblivion (now at City Theatre) so aggressively, if not stereotypically, epitomizes the moneyed urban hip that it’s surprising they’re not sitting around their Park Slope home eating gluten-free lavash crackers while swilling fair-trade coffee lightened with non-GMO almond milk.

He, Dixon, is a former high-powered attorney who, following a breakdown, sits at home smoking weed and working on a novel he’ll never finish. She, Pam, is a high-powered executive at HBO working through a rough parenting patch with their daughter, Julie. Both Dixon (Quentin Maré) and Pam (Lisa Velten Smith) are lapsed Jews, with Pam a bit more militant in her non-belief. The household is shaken somewhat when high schooler Julie (Julia Warner) starts going to a Baptist church with her boyfriend (who — of course! — is filming a grainy, black-and-white silent documentary to get into NYU film school).

Julie’s newfound faith upsets the family’s equilibrium, and some old scars are picked at slightly until — and this is hardly a spoiler — everyone returns to firmer emotional footing by the end.

Oblivion has a lot going for it; I’m not immune to the charms of smart people saying witty things (because that’s something that has almost disappeared from the culture). But I am surprised that Mensch has managed to manufacture two acts out of such a slight problem. My atheism is considerably more militant than Pam’s, but, as a father myself, I can say that there are far, far worse things a kid can do than go to a church.

City Theatre offers a lovely Pittsburgh-premiere production of Mensch’s work. Smith, Maré, Warner and Christopher Larkin are a wonderful cast, directed with grace and intelligence by Stuart Carden. There’s a wonderful moment during one of the dust-ups when Pam, perched on the arm of the sofa, does a slow quarter-turn away from Dixon. It’s barely perceptible, but indicative of the understated yet razor-sharp stagecraft on display.

‘Oblivion’ searches for faith in a world of uncertainty

March 27th, 2015

Pittsburgh Tribune Review / by ALICE CARTER

Pam and Dixon pride themselves on being progressive, liberal, open-minded parents. They have raised their 16-year-old daughter to follow her own path and think for herself.

But when Julie returns from a weekend trip and lies about where she was, this seemingly chilled-out couple go into meltdown.

The truth about where Julie has been and what she’s been doing leads everyone to re-examine their views of themselves and their world and their relationships to each other.

“It’s (theme is) universal: the search for where do you fit in,” says Julia Warner, who plays Julie.

Carly Mensch’s dramedy “Oblivion,” about contemporary parenting and how well you know yourself, your kids or your spouse, plays through April 26 at City Theatre on the South Side.

“What’s interesting is that the play resonates on several levels,” says Lisa Velten Smith, who plays Pam. “It raises the question of what I believe, what I want my children to believe.”

“Oblivion” made its debut in 2011 as a production of Chicago theater company Steppenwolf’s First Look Festival and was staged again in 2013 at Westport Country Playhouse. Mensch has worked as a contributing writer for Showtime’s “Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie” series.

“Carly’s script is really sharp,” artistic director Tracy Brigden says. “It’s full of that same irreverent humor you’d hear in her writing for television.”

No one gets a pass. Not the outspoken, judgmental Julie, nor Julie’s pot-smoking dad, who cashed out of his job as a corporate lawyer to become a novelist, nor her mom, Pam, who avoids her family by working overtime at her executive job at HBO, nor her clueless, aspiring filmmaker friend Bernard.

“What I take away from the play is an examination of faith from many different examples,” says Quentin Mare, the actor who plays Dixon.

As these four thrash about looking to restore balance and insight, they reach out to philosophical anchors that range from Friedrich Nietzsche to former New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael.

“It’s about the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world,” says Christopher Larkin, who plays Bernard.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

Preview: An act of faith puts family ties to the test in new City Theatre play ‘Oblivion’

March 20th, 2015

Pam and Dixon are having that experience many parents have when they look at their teenage son or daughter and think, “Who is this alien living in my home?”

Playwright Carly Mensch, a producer of the HBO series “Weeds,” titled her family comedy “Oblivion” — a title that functions in the sci-fi realm but works equally well when worlds collide unexpectedly inside a nicely gentrified Brooklyn home.

In the play’s Pittsburgh debut at City Theatre, Type A Pam is a TV documentarian, and her husband, Dixon, a dropout lawyer who writes fiction and enjoys his weed. They consider themselves to be open-minded until they learn daughter Julie has been lying to them: Instead of going on a planned college visit, she’s gone on a religious retreat with her friend Bernard. She’s finding her way to God instead of Wesleyan, and that couldn’t be further from her parent’s expectations than if she’d hopped a spaceship to Mars.

It’s enough to shake anyone’s faith in the things they believed to be self-evident.

“Oblivion’s” cast of four is made up of newcomers to City, among them Julia Warner, who plays high school junior Julie. Ms. Warner is a Point Park graduate now based in New York, and Lisa Velten Smith, who plays Pam, recently moved to Pittsburgh.

“My first read-through I instantly connected with Julie,” Ms. Warner said of the alienated teen who had been seeking a clique to call her own. “I too, played basketball in middle school, but I was extremely shy and awkward and didn’t have that many friends. It took me a while to find my niche, my group of friends. That’s how I fell into theater. I was instantly drawn to Julie and I think her journey is something everybody goes through.”

While Julie is finding herself, her parents are trying to maintain their liberal cool and figure out what to make of this unexpected turn of events — think what the hippie parents on “Family Ties” must have gone through when they realized their oldest son espoused the values of an investment banker.

In her New York Times review of “Oblivion” at the Westchester County Playhouse, Anita Gates wrote that the play has “sitcom leanings.” Quentin Mare, who plays Dixon, said, “It had me laughing out loud, which is something I don’t do often when reading.”

With the laughs, though, are the complexities of navigating parenthood and marriage when one person does the unexpected or disappoints the other. Family ties are tested, in particular the mother-daughter bond.

Ms. Smith was reminded of something that “Quentin mentioned early on in the process: Pam really speaks to Julie as if we are equals … and I believe there is something with mother and daughter, ‘You will follow down this path because this is the best path for you.’ And so it really is tense and very scary for Pam when she finds out what Julie is into. That’s when it becomes earth-shattering and her belief is shaken.”

Dixon also has taken an unexpected path in life, one that Mr. Mare can relate to “entirely.”

“I used to work in the bond market, and I, like him, left a ‘legitimate’ profession where there was lots of money to go pursue, and I got into acting,” the actor said.

Christopher Larkin’s Bernard at first is unaware he has abetted Julie in deceiving her parents. He’s on course to make a film with Julie that would please his idol, the film critic Pauline Kael.

“I never had that kind of idolatry growing up. I still don’t have a single person or especially a filmmaker of any kind that I worship,” Mr. Larkin said. “But I think Bernard’s self-doubt, being his biggest self critic, is something I easily relate to. It probably started somewhere around junior year in high school and it’s only gotten worse as time goes on. …”

“Our little ray of sunshine,” Mr. Mare teases his co-star, and everyone laughs. They are seated around a folding table in a City Theatre rehearsal room, well into the process of becoming a theater family under the guidance of Stuart Carden, a frequent director at City.

“I think the chemistry was there from the beginning,” Ms. Warner said. “I was so excited to work with these people just from the first day.”

“We all came in with open hearts and a willingness to trust each other,” said Mr. Mare, with Ms. Smith adding, “I think that speaks a lot to Stuart. He picked an amazing team.”

‘Elemeno Pea’ is snapshot of where classes collide

March 5th, 2015

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / by ALICE CARTER

The summer after she graduated from the Juilliard School with a bachelor’s degree in English, playwright Molly Smith Metzler moved to Martha’s Vineyard and got a job at the town’s exclusive Edgartown Yacht Club.

While tending to the needs of its elite and entitled members, she eavesdropped and ended up dating one of the one-percenters whose lives were very different from hers.

“I grew up in a very working-class family in Kingston, N.Y. My parents were school teachers,” Metzler says. “When my (family) came to visit, they were concerned I had been seduced by this world of people who lived life the way we all think we should live.”

Though she didn’t get much writing done that summer, her experiences became an unintentional research project for her witty, comedic play “Elemeno Pea,” being performed through March 22 at City Theatre on the South Side.

“Elemeno Pea” takes place in real time on a beautiful afternoon just after Labor Day as the last of the summer residents are in the final stages of departure and the staffs are beginning to close up the well-appointed beachfront estates.

Simone, a personal assistant with a six-figure salary, a preppy yacht-owner boyfriend and a generous clothing allowance, has invited her sister to spend the weekend in the exquisitely decorated guest house where the beach, the infinity pool and the wine cellar are theirs to use as they please.

But when Simone’s boss, Michaela, a beautiful but demanding and obsessive trophy wife, has a spat with her husband, everyone’s weekend plans are changed.

“Michaela is based on a real person,” Metzler says.

The first time she saw where her “Michaela” lived: “I thought it was the most beautiful house I had ever been in — and then I found out it was the guest house,” Metzler says. “By the end of the summer, I got an inside look at her life, and she is still the saddest person I’ve ever met.”

“Elemeno Pea” came to City Theatre artistic director Tracy Brigden’s attention after someone from the staff saw it performed as part of the 2011 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.

“It’s so relatable,” says Brigden, who is directing the production at City Theatre. “Molly’s writing is sharply funny one second, then incredibly human in the next. The play brings to life the ‘ninety-nine versus one percent’ conversation that is happening all around us.”

The version that City Theatre audiences will see has been revised since that original production at the Humana Festival, Metzler says.

“I went back and reread it. … I felt I wasn’t being fair to Michaela, so I worked on her character. … I wanted to work on having the same tone throughout,” she says.

“Pittsburgh is, in a way, seeing a new play, a new draft.”

Alice T. Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

CITY THEATRE PRESENTS OBLIVION BY CARLY MENSCH

March 3rd, 2015

CONTACT:
Andy Weier
Director of Marketing & Communications
412-431-4400 x230
aweier@citytheatrecompany.org
CityTheatreCompany.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

City Theatre Presents OBLIVION by Carly Mensch
March 21—April 26, 2015

Pittsburgh, PA (March 3, 2015) – City Theatre continues its 40th anniversary season with the comedy Oblivion, by Carly Mensch, directed by Stuart Carden, on-stage in the Hamburg Studio Theatre March 21 – April 26, 2015.

Uber-hip Brooklynites Pam and Dixon take pride in their progressive approach to parenting. But when their 16-year-old daughter Julie lies about where she spent the weekend, their cool façade crumbles. With the help of Julie’s friend Bernard, a budding filmmaker, this smart comedy takes a humorous look at Nietzsche, famed film critic Pauline Kael, and what it means to fight for the ones you love.

“Carly’s script is really sharp,” says Artistic Director Tracy Brigden. “It’s full of that same irreverent humor you’d hear in her writing for television. Anyone who is a fan of Weeds or Nurse Jackie will really love this play.”

In addition to Oblivion (Steppenwolf’s First Look Festival, Westport Playhouse), Carly Mensch is the author of Now Circa Then (Ars Nova, TheatreWorks), All Hail Hurricane Gordo (Humana Festival, Cleveland Play House), and Len, Asleep in Vinyl (2nd Stage/Uptown Series). Carly was also a contributing writer and producer for Weeds and Nurse Jackie, two original series on the Showtime network.

Oblivion features Christopher Larkin, Quentin Maré, Lisa Velten Smith, and Julia Warner, each making their City Theatre debut.

The creative team includes Gianni Downs (scenic design), Sarah Hughey (lighting design), Liz Atkinson (sound design), Ange Vesco (costume design), Jordan Harrison (projection design), and dialect coaching by Melanie Julian.

PRESS / OPENING NIGHT:

Friday, March 27 at 8:00 p.m.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE:
Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

SPECIAL EVENTS:
Sipping Sunday – March 22 (7:00 p.m.)
Sunday Talkbacks – March 29, April 12 and 19 (following 2:00 p.m. performance)

Greenroom Young Professionals Night – April 17 (post-show reception)

ACCESIBLE PERFORMANCE DATES:
ASL Interpretation
— April 19
Open Captioning & Audio Description
—April 12

WHERE:

City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)

TICKETS:

$36 to $61

BOX OFFICE:

412.431.CITY (2489) or citytheatrecompany.org

 Audiences under 30 may reserve $15 tickets in advance for all performances except Fridays 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays 5:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, rush tickets are available two hours prior to show time and based on availability. A limited number of Pay-What-You-Want tickets will be available one hour before the performance. Please call the box office in advance to check on availability. Mention “Pay-What-You-Want” pricing when purchasing. Seniors age 62 and older may purchase $22 rush tickets at the Box Office beginning two hours before show time. Based on availability. Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounts.  Call Kari Shaffer at 412.431.4400 x286.

City Theatre is now in its 40th anniversary season. Located on Pittsburgh’s historic South Side, City Theatre specializes in new plays, commissioning and producing work by playwrights including Daniel Beaty, Jessica Dickey, Christopher Durang, Michael Hollinger, Willy Holtzman, Tarell McCraney, and Madeleine George. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, Managing Director James McNeel, and a 45-member Board of Directors, City Theatre’s mission is to provide an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays of substance and ideas that engage and challenge a diverse audience.  CityTheatreCompany.org

###

 

 

Stage preview: Trappings of the wealthy is focus of ‘Elemeno Pea’ at City Theatre

February 28th, 2015

A summer working in Martha’s Vineyard gave playwright Molly Smith Metzler all the juicy material she needed for “Elemeno Pea,” but the play didn’t happen right away. She came at the piece from the perspective of 10 years that included motherhood and several award-winning works.

Back in the day, the 22-year-old daughter of teachers, with one playwrighting class under her belt, packed her car and headed not to grad school but to the gathering place of the wealthy. It was a move that “must have been horrifying for my parents,” she concedes. She became swept up in a world of old money and established rules of behavior, observed as a waitress at the Edgartown Yacht Club.

“I just kept thinking about it,” said the playwright. “But then I was really inspired to write a play about sisters and about class and about the seductive power of money, and of course I knew I had to set it in Martha’s Vineyard.”

Ms. Metzler conjured the opening scene of “Elemeno Pea” from a vivid memory.

In the play, Simone, the pretty, Yale-educated assistant of a trophy wife, Michaela, has been seduced by the trappings of the privileged. She is visited by her older sister, Devon, and together they stare out at a view from a house unlike anything in their working-class Buffalo world.

“I spent the whole summer waiting on people like Michaela and [her husband] Peter, the characters in the play, but also I was invited into their homes as a baby sitter and there were also actually a couple of people I befriended, so that realization that Devon has, that she’s in a guest home, that actually happened to me. I was invited over to this estate to baby-sit and I walked into the most magnificent house I’ve ever seen, and sure enough, it was the guest house.”

The play made its debut at the Humana Festival in 2011 and in the weeks since Tracy Brigden brought it to City Theatre, it has undergone many changes, including a “clearer, cleaner” explanation linking the title to the action of the play.

“Tracy is in the camp of developing new work and I haven’t looked at this for two years and when I read it again, I said, ‘I can really make this play better, I have a different perspective, I’m a little older and I’ve had a child.’ Once you’ve seen the play, you’ll see how becoming a mother can be an important change of perspective for this play,” Ms. Metzler said. “So when I called her and I said I want to dig in again, she said, ‘Great.’ ”

The nuts and bolts of the play is the relationship between two sisters who come from working-class Buffalo. The older sister has had a hard run of luck while the younger sister, who’s a little more accomplished, thinks she has it all, even while living at Michaela’s beck and call.

“We meet people like Michaela or read about them in People magazine and we think ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ” the playwright said. “Up close, behind closed doors, there can be some real darkness and cruelty in that world.”

City Theatre discovered the play at Humana, the new American play festival, but the author was well aware of the South Side company. During five years working for American Theater Magazine, she read the plays that were being done by regional theaters.

“I was continually struck by what great taste Tracy has and also she pushes the envelope. I think she’s doing the best plays in America, so of course I wanted to be on that roster — so much so that I called her and asked to be a part of this process because I want to be a part of the community.”

After a long stretch of hands off “Elemeno Pea,” the New Yorker returned to it with a fresh eye and has been in Pittsburgh with tweaks and changes for the cast, including someone who makes her feel right at home.

Michaela is being played by Pittsburgh-based actress Kimberly Parker Green, who played Simone in the first production of the play.

“She’s an extraordinary actress, so I feel so lucky, but also I think it’s interesting that we’ve both kind of grown up through the play,” Ms. Metzler said. “When I first wrote it, I came at it with a Simone perspective, and Kimberly, my friend, played Simone. But now I come at it more mature, with a more Michaela perspective. And so does Kimberly. I think it’s interesting that as writer and actress, we’ve both kind of grown up through the roles.”

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is a key reason that young woman back on Martha’s Vineyard went on to a career in theater. It’s the same reason that on the way to the airport, her husband will joke, “Could you not make friends? Could we just relax on the plane?”

“But I’m compulsive about it,” she said. “I love finding out what’s under the hood of people.”

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.