March Theater Guide: Power Plays


The touring production of 'The Band's Visit' has star power in the co-leads. Here, Broadway luminary Chilina Kennedy expounds to Sasson Gabay, who starred in the film on which the musical is based. 'The Band's Visit' is one of many powerful shows in Pittsburgh this month. (photo: Matthew Murphy)

The touring production of ‘The Band’s Visit’ has star power in the co-leads. Here, Broadway luminary Chilina Kennedy expounds to Sasson Gabay, who starred in the film on which the musical is based. ‘The Band’s Visit’ is one of many power-packed shows in Pittsburgh this month. (photo: Matthew Murphy)

The great advantage of live theater over film or video is simply that it’s live. There is no “medium” between you and the performers—they are real, not virtual images—and live theater in Pittsburgh this month is highlighted by shows that put powerful experiences right in your face. Some pack emotional clout, some of them dramatize vexing social issues, and some do both. Others just have the provocative quality called “attitude.” 

The Band’s Visit, which visits in a touring production, seems to be everyone’s favorite sneaky-powerful musical. In American Son (at The Public), an African-American woman confronts the police about an incident with her son. Lissa Brennan’s Hoard (at off the WALL) features a woman gone out of control, and the supposedly level-headed woman sent to straighten her out. The Outsiders (Prime Stage) is adapted from the gang-war novel by S.E. Hinton. 

Advance ticket sales are strong for Corningworks’ The Tipping Point, an immersive dance piece that simulates a refugee crisis. For a night of dance with attitude, Pittsburgh Dance Council brings in new-wave flamenco artist Rocío Molina, whose work has been described as “not flamenco for the faint of heart.” And for opera with attitude it’s hard to beat the fiery saga of Carmen, at Pittsburgh Opera.  

March is also the month to get a double dose of outrageously altered Shakespeare. Magnificent Bastard Productions, creators of the Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare franchise, drench the Scottish play in Scotch in Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth, while Actors and Artists of Fayette County imagine Shakespeare on speed in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

There’s more—including the surreal musical Pippin, a performance of August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned, and some experimental multimedia pieces. Shows are previewed below in order of run dates, with spotlighted shows first, followed by a generous selection of others. 

 Continuing from February:

THE LAST AMERICAN HAMMER (opera) by Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi. Through March 1, Pittsburgh Opera. 

Would you trust this man with your toby jug? Baritone Tim Mix is the militant museum invader in 'The Last American Hammer' at Pittsburgh Opera. (photo: Roy Cox)

Would you trust this man with your toby jug? Baritone Tim Mix is the militant museum invader in ‘The Last American Hammer’ at Pittsburgh Opera. (photo: Roy Cox)

Contemporary operas have been written about subjects that Mozart couldn’t have imagined, from the civil rights movement to climbers on Mt. Everest. Now Pittsburgh Opera is staging The Last American Hammer, about a conspiracy theorist in a toby jug museum. This is a satirical chamber opera, with a cast of three and a seven-piece musical ensemble. The central character, an unemployed hammersmith in a down-and-out town, believes the U.S. government has no legitimate authority and has betrayed the country. Clad in militia gear, he protests by conducting a solo “occupation” of the town’s toby jug museum. We are not making this up—librettist Matt Boresi and composer Peter Hilliard did—but, a toby jug is a ceramic jug or mug in the shape of a person, and there is a real American Toby Jug Museum in Evanston, Illinois. Pittsburgh Opera’s production of The Last American Hammer has baritone Tim Mix as the irate militant, soprano Caitlin Gotimer as the museum director, and mezzo-soprano Antonia Botti-Lodovico as an FBI agent on the case. At Pittsburgh Opera headquarters, 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District. 

CATS (musical) by Andrew Lloyd Webber, from T.S. Eliot’s poems. Through March 1, touring company at Benedum Center. 

If you've had them, you know that cats can be very guilt-inducing when they desire attention, as Grizabella does here in 'Cats.' (photo: Matthew Murphy)

If you’ve had them, you know that cats can be very guilt-inducing when they desire attention, as Grizabella does here in ‘Cats.’ (photo: Matthew Murphy)

It’s unclear whether T.S. Eliot would be amused, or has rolled over in his grave. Eliot received the 1948 Nobel Prize for Literature. He once was lionized for revolutionizing modern poetry with works such as “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land.” And yet now, most people know of Eliot through a Broadway musical based on a little book of doggerel that he wrote for his godchildren. “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter / It isn’t just one of your holiday games / You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter / When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES”: So begins Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. You’ll hear the lines (and many more) verbatim in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, now visiting Pittsburgh in a touring production. Cats was supposed to arrive here riding momentum from the recently released movie version. Unfortunately the movie pretty much laid an egg (or, let’s say, a hairball). But the stage musical remains phenomenally popular, and some good seats could still be had in the final shows of the run. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

CRY IT OUT by Molly Smith Metzler. Feb. 29 – March 22, City Theatre.

Julianne Avolio (L) and Sarah Goeke play women with new babies and new predicaments in City Theatre's 'Cry It Out.' (photo: Kristi Jan Hoover)

Julianne Avolio (L) and Sarah Goeke play women with new babies and new predicaments in ‘Cry It Out’ at City Theatre. (photo: Kristi Jan Hoover)

City Theatre, devoted to producing plays not yet seen in Pittsburgh, gives us a new one about the adventures of early-stage motherhood. Molly Smith Metzler’s socio-comedy Cry It Out imagines three women with newborns who meet and exchange experiences. They’re all working moms on maternity leave, which puts each of them in the unusual position of being housebound with a wee one. But they’re from quite different backgrounds: one a corporate professional woman, one a low-income single mom, and one a fabulously wealthy jewelry designer. As a synopsis from the play’s publisher puts it, Cry It Out examines “the absurdities of being home with a baby, the power of female friendship, the dilemma of going back to work, and the effect class has on parenthood in America.” City Theatre’s cast has Julianne Avolio, Sarah Goeke, and Rebecca Hirota as the moms, with Pittsburgh-area favorite Tim McGeever as the lone guy in Cry It Out. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. 

Shows in the EC Spotlight for March:

THE SOUND OF MUSIC by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. March 5 – 15, Pittsburgh Musical Theater.   Canceled*****

Leaving the convent for a life of adventure, Lara Hayhurst plays Maria in PMT's 'The Sound of Music.' (photo courtesy of the company)

Leaving the convent for a life of adventure, Lara Hayhurst plays Maria in PMT’s ‘The Sound of Music.’ (photo courtesy of the company)

Some Broadway musicals become so identified with their movie versions that it’s hard to even think of them as live stage shows. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical, well before it went to the big screen in 1965. Yet the Oscar-winning film proved so popular that even today, in the minds of millions, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are Maria and Captain von Trapp. Either way, the story is a dramatization of true events. There really were a Maria and Captain who fled from Austria, along with the von Trapp children, after the Nazis took over in 1938. And the musical is strong on stage, where songs like “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” send a palpable thrill through the audience. Therefore you may want to see Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production of The Sound of Music at the Byham Theater. 101 6th St., Cultural District.

AMERICAN SON by Christopher Demos-Brown. March 5 – April 5, Pittsburgh Public Theater. Canceled*****

Bianca LaVerne Jones plays the wrenching role of a worried mom in The Public's 'American Son.' (photo courtesy of the artist)

Bianca LaVerne Jones plays the wrenching role of a worried mom in The Public’s ‘American Son.’ (photo courtesy of the artist)

Pittsburgh Public Theater shifts from wacky to serious, following up Little Shop of Horrors with a play about a horror many have gone through, Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Son. An African-American woman, distraught that her teenage son is missing, visits the local police station. All she can learn is that the young man was involved in an “incident” with the police. Tensions multiply when her estranged husband shows up to help, for while they’ve been sharing custody of their teen, they do not share much common ground otherwise. American Son was a sensation on Broadway in the 2018-19 season. A Netflix made-for-TV movie version didn’t do so well, but the play is said to be quite moving when performed live. The Public presents American Son with Bianca Laverne Jones as the mother, David Whalen as her husband, and Michael Patrick Trimm and Guiesseppe Jones as police officers. At the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District.  

THE OUTSIDERS by Christopher Sergel, from S.E. Hinton’s novel. March 6 – 15, Prime Stage Theatre. Canceled*****

Pittsburgh’s Prime Stage Theatre presents the live version of a classic young adult novel, The Outsiders. It’s a violent but moving tale of class warfare escalating into deadly gang warfare among teens at an Oklahoma high school during the 1960s. Author S.E. Hinton wrote the book when she was only 16, inspired—if that’s the right word—by actual tensions in her school between the “greasers” and students from wealthier homes. The Outsiders struck a chord with readers by virtue of its realistic scene-setting and rich character depictions, then won an even wider following when it was made into a 1983 movie by Francis Ford Coppola (who also filmed Hinton’s subsequent novel, Rumble Fish). Fans who loved The Outsiders in their teens often retain warm feelings toward it, so expect a crowd of various ages at Prime Stage. The adaptation is the standard one by playwright Christopher Sergel. The cast, a mixture of young working actors with high school and college actors, includes Carolyn Jerz as Cherry, Dakoda Hutton as Johnny, and Dominic Raymond as Ponyboy. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side.  

HOARD by Lissa Brennan. March 6 – 21, off the WALL productions.  Canceled*****

Boxed in by the detritus of the past, two women seek a way forward in Lissa Brennan's 'Hoard.' Virginia Wall Gruenert, at left, plays the hoarder and Erika Cuenca is her visitor. (photo: Heather Mull)

Boxed in by the detritus of the past, two women seek a way forward in Lissa Brennan’s ‘Hoard.’ Virginia Wall Gruenert, at left, plays the hoarder and Erika Cuenca is her visitor. (photo: Heather Mull)

Pittsburgh theater artist Lissa Brennan has written a new play, and to many fans who know her incisive wit, that’s reason enough to go. The play also has unusual subject matter and some impressive artistic backing. Brennan’s Hoard revolves around a late-middle-aged woman who is a hoarder, living in an obscenely cluttered home with barely room to move. When a younger woman is sent to clean up the place, surprising interactions occur, making it clear that both women face deeper concerns than good housekeeping. Hoard is staged by off the WALL productions in collaboration with the cell, an incubator for new theatrical works in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Directing the play is Kyra Simring, artistic director of the cell, with dramaturgy from her associate Brian Reager. Playing the hoarder and cleaner-upper are Virginia Wall Gruenert and Erika Cuenca, executive and associate artistic directors at off the WALL. All that plus Brennan makes quite a lineup. See Hoard at Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. 

THE BAND’S VISIT (musical) by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses, from the movie. March 10 – 15, touring company at Benedum Center.  Canceled*****

On Broadway, The Band’s Visit won a staggering 10 Tony Awards in 2018, including the so-called Big Six: Best Musical, Book, Score, Direction, and Leading Actor and Actress. The show is also a fine example of the recent wave of offbeat, smaller-scale musicals, as it differs from traditional Broadway hits in several respects. The score has no big stand-up-and-cheer numbers. Nothing changes dramatically in the story (although it bristles with seriocomic intrigue). And the setting is far from America. The title group in The Band’s Visit is an Egyptian policemen’s band on a cultural visit to Israel. When a band member mispronounces the name of a city where they are to play, they wind up on the wrong bus, which leaves them stranded in a remote town in the Negev desert. The locals greet them by singing “Welcome to Nowhere” (video above)—and the rest is a series of interactions between unexpected Egyptians and isolated Israelis. What audiences find deeply moving is how the two groups find common ground: They’re all humans longing for connection in a fragmented world. The touring production of The Band’s Visit now arrives in Pittsburgh. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

PIPPIN (musical) by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson. March 12 – 22, Point Park Conservatory Theatre. Canceled*****

Long ago in early medieval France, there lived a prince who hoped to be king. He couldn’t have guessed that his ultimate fate was to be the subject of a Broadway musical. Pepin, a son of Charlemagne, aspired to his father’s throne but lost out in the intrigues of the time. Centuries later, composer Stephen Schwartz and his collaborators turned the story into Pippin, a surreal musical tale about a young man’s quest for identity and meaning in life. An initial version played at Carnegie Mellon in 1967 when Schwartz was a student there. Extensively reworked for Broadway with the help of librettist Roger O. Hirson and director Bob Fosse, Pippin became a hit in the 1970s. A later production won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The story unfolds in play-within-the-play fashion, as if enacted by an old-time troupe of traveling performers. It offers many opportunities for stage artistry and a rare experience for theatergoers. Point Park Conservatory Theatre performs Pippin in the PNC Theatre at Pittsburgh Playhouse. 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. 

HOW I LEARNED WHAT I LEARNED by August Wilson, with Todd Kreidler. March 13 only, 8 p.m., performed by Wali Jamal. Postponed*****

Wali Jamal has acted in all of August Wilson's 'Cycle' plays; now he's Wilson in 'How I Learned What I Learned.' (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Wali Jamal has performed in all of August Wilson’s ‘Cycle’ plays; now he’s Wilson in ‘How I Learned What I Learned.’ (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Unlike the plays in August Wilson’s renowned Pittsburgh Cycle, How I Learned What I Learned is a one-man show of tales from Wilson’s life. The playwright was known as a world-class talker who could keep people spellbound with stories of things he’d seen and done. So, after years of toying with the idea, he teamed with friend and dramaturg Todd Kreidler to write a stage show from the material. Wilson himself performed the play only once, for a benefit event in 2003. After his death in 2005 the script lay dormant until revivals done by actors began a few years ago. How I Learned has been praised as both a portrait of a great artist and good theater in its own right. The definitive Pittsburgh version is performed by Wali Jamal—who has acted in all 10 Pittsburgh Cycle plays as well as How I Learned—and now there’s a one-night chance to see him do the one-man. The national August Wilson Society presents Jamal as Wilson in How I Learned What I Learned. This show is part of the Society’s 2020 colloquium, titled August Wilson on the Margins: Understudied & Underrepresented. At the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

THE TIPPING POINT (immersive dance) by Beth Corning. March 18 – 29, Corningworks, in collaboration with Doctors Without Borders.  Postponed until September 16 – 27*****

'The Tipping Point' dramatizes the precarious lives of refugees worldwide. (photo: Corningworks / Frank Walsh)

‘The Tipping Point’ dramatizes the precarious lives of refugees worldwide. (photo: Corningworks / Frank Walsh)

It’s rare for a modern-dance production to draw much advance buzz among the general public, but The Tipping Point is more than a typical dance performance. This is immersive dance/theater—meaning it happens all around you, not on a stage in front. And it’s meant to evoke the experience of refugees fleeing a conflict zone. Corningworks founder/director Beth Corning conceived the piece out of her contact with a Kurdish refugee family from Syria. To design the immersive aspects, Corning teamed with Gab Cody of Bricolage Production Company, who serves as co-director. Content is drawn, in part, from the interactive traveling exhibit Forced from Home, put together by Doctors Without Borders. But The Tipping Point is theater in motion, not an exhibit. It has a cast of 12 dancers and actors, along with a group of resettled refugees. The venue is 25 Carrick Ave, a community arts center in a former church building. Audiences are limited to 20 persons per performance and some dates sold out far in advance, so reserve quickly. 25 Carrick Ave., Carrick. 

CAIDA DEL CIELO (FALLEN FROM HEAVEN) modern dance, by Rocío Molina. March 25 only, 8 p.m., Molina and company presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council. Canceled*****

Do not try to dance like Rocío Molina does unless your medical and liability insurance are up to date. Her explosive style is flamenco mixed with hip-hop, martial arts, and what might be called power mime. Molina visits Pittsburgh to perform the U.S. premiere of her feature-length piece Caida del Cielo (Fallen from Heaven). Tickets are selling briskly, and with the cheap seats only $10, anyone who loves dance is advised to bring opera glasses (a.k.a. binoculars) and take advantage of this bargain. Flamenco music and dance evolved centuries ago in Andalusia, along the southern coast of Spain. Given that Andalusia was long a melting pot of various European, Moorish, and other peoples, flamenco may well have begun as a cultural hybrid with many roots. Molina and her musicians are in the vanguard of modern Spanish artists adding new branches. They’re presented here by Pittsburgh Dance Council. The performance includes partial nudity. At the Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Cultural District.  

CARMEN (opera) by Georges Bizet, Henri Meilhac, and Ludovic Halévy. March 28 – April 5, Pittsburgh Opera. Cancelled*****

'Carmen' features a sweet-looking woman who packs a mean punch. This photo, courtesy of Pittburgh Opera, is from a previous production.

‘Carmen’ features a sweet-looking woman who packs a mean punch. This photo, courtesy of Pittburgh Opera, is from a previous production.

One of the most famous title characters in opera almost didn’t make it to the stage. Carmen, the antiheroine of Georges Bizet’s 1875 masterpiece, is a knife-wielding factory girl determined to live and love freely. Her drive carries her into territory that is amoral, illegal, and destructive. In Paris opera circles during the 1870s, this constituted a problem. Theater managers fought bitterly over whether a high-art venue should present such a low-life tale. Bizet and his librettists, Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, were pressed repeatedly to water down the hot stuff in the script. A prominent diva refused the title role. And after Carmen finally opened—to critical scorn and audience indifference—Bizet died suddenly, at the age of 36. He never knew that Parisians would change their opinion of his final opera, or that it would score a spectacular success in Vienna and then become a cherished part of the repertoire worldwide. Pittsburgh Opera presents Carmen with mezzo-soprano Aleks Romano as Carmen, tenor Scott Quinn as the lovesick soldier Don José, and baritone Michael Todd Simpson as the dashing toreador Escamillo. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

Other Productions in the Region: 

I AM A HAUNTED HOUSE (dance and multimedia) by Scott Andrew and Jesse Factor. March 6 only, 8 p.m., the artists at Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios. 

“Cutting edge” is a cliche, so let’s just say that performance events at the Kelly Strayhorn’s Alloy Studios are worth seeing. The latest, I Am A Haunted House, comes from a collaboration by two artists active nationwide. Multimedia artist Scott Andrew creates dynamic virtual environments using video projection and other tools. Dancer/performer Jesse Factor, whose works include Mommie Queerest, riffs on topics related to gender and personal identity. Together they’re staging I Am A Haunted House in the Studios at 5530 Penn Ave., East Liberty.   

THE BOOK OF MERMAN (cabaret musical) by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro. Through March 8, Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret.

The Mormon missionary (Jerreme Rodriguez) and Broadway diva Ethel (Christine Laitta) have their signals crossed in CLO's 'Book of Merman,' but they'll soon engage in cultural exchange. (photo: Matt Polk)

The Mormon missionary (Jerreme Rodriguez) and Broadway diva Ethel (Christine Laitta) have their signals crossed in CLO’s ‘Book of Merman,’ but they’ll soon engage in cultural exchange. (photo: Matt Polk)

Rumor has it that some people think The Book of Merman is a musical about the aquatic man from The Shape of Water. Not so. The truth is stranger. The Book of Merman imagines two Mormon missionaries visiting Ethel Merman. And to those who ask “Who’s she?” we reply: Ethel was once the ebullient, comically naughty queen of Broadway divas. Her singing and acting in Depression-era shows like Anything Goes (as seen in the movie version) made her the poster woman for musical theater as a spirits-lifter. She went on to star in other shows and cheerfully guest-star on postwar TV, while headlining in the gossip columns with her flings and multiple marriages. Then long after Merman’s death came The Book of Mormon, which by way of wordplay inspired the idea of the two guys ringing Ethel’s doorbell. The resulting show, by writer DC Cathro and composer Leo Schwartz, has drawn hoots at smaller venues in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere. Pittsburgh CLO stages The Book of Merman in the Greer Cabaret Theater, 655 Penn Ave., Cultural District. 

THE WOLVES by Sarah DeLappe. Through March 8, Point Park Conservatory Theatre. 

Emerging playwright Sarah DeLappe scored a near miss that’s actually a hit when her play The Wolves was named a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s about a female high-school soccer team called the Wolves, whose players must kick through myriad traumas on the path to growing up. The play has won an ardent fan base. Point Park Conservatory Theatre performs The Wolves at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. 

RHYTHM OF THE DANCE (Irish dance and music). March 8 only, 4 p.m., touring company at The Palace.

How true to its roots is the supposedly authentic Irish music and dance that we get? Maybe it’s best not to care, for as Louis Armstrong once observed, all music is “folk music”—horses don’t create it. The touring show Rhythm of the Dance, which has been circling the globe for the past 20 years and evolving as it goes, is a case in point. Produced by an outfit called National Dance Company of Ireland, the show features traditional Irish step dancers, and musicians with traditional instruments playing for the dances and songs. But there are many touches of modern showmanship as well, and it all seems to work out. Judge for yourself when Rhythm of the Dance visits The Palace Theatre for one performance only. 4 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.   

NIGHT WATCH by Lucille Fletcher. March 13 – 22, McKeesport Little Theater. 

During the 1940s, American writer Lucille Fletcher was known as the “queen of screams” for her spooky radio mysteries. Fletcher didn’t write much after radio drama died out, but one of her late plays for live theater was made into a 1973 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, and it’s still a psycho-chiller on stage. McKeesport Little Theater presents Night Watch, about a woman who claims she saw murders taking place while looking out her window at night. Is she delusional or is foul play truly afoot? 1614 Coursin St., McKeesport. 

WORDPLAY (“a new spin on storytelling”), multiple creators. March 13 – 14, Bricolage Production Company. Canceled*****

Storytelling is probably the oldest narrative art (although early humans may have danced or pantomimed stories, before they learned how to talk them)—and Pittsburgh’s Bricolage Production Company is totally on the case in terms of the modern-day storytelling revival. Bricolage’s participatory theater event WordPlay is billed as “a new spin on storytelling.” You are invited to submit a story in advanceas long as it’s true, because this is nonfiction, which means “not not true”—and if you’re chosen to perform, you’ll actually be paid for the gig. Co-producer Alan Olifson will also put a spin on each story by having a DJ on hand, to accompany the tales by spinning music and sounds. WordPlay runs several times per year; the DJ for the March iterations is Fadewell. 937 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

SWING! (musical) by Paul Kelly, with music by many. March 13 – 15, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. Postponed*****

Swing enthusiasts can see the popular music of the 1930s and ’40s expertly played, sung, and danced at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, where the creative team is staging the little-known but once-lauded Broadway musical Swing! Conceived as an homage to the big-band era, the show is more in the style of a nightclub revue than an actual musical with plot and dialogue, though it drew several Tony nominations (including for Best Musical) in 1999. Swing! showcases tunes by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and many others, from “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B).” One Lincoln Place, Midland.

Did Shakespeare know he'd be 'Abridged'? (Painting: possibly by John Taylor, 1610, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London)

Did Shakespeare know he’d be ‘Abridged’? (Painting: possibly by John Taylor, 1610, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London)

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Whitfield. March 19 – 22, Actors and Artists of Fayette County. 


If you haven’t seen The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), you may think you know what you’re missing, but you’re missing it nonetheless. The show was created by the founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, who by the way are American. It combines all of Shakespeare’s comedies into a single quick one, on the grounds that they’re all the same anyway. The show briefly samples a bunch of tragedies and such, gives very short shrift to the sonnets—remember the sonnets?—and pays some in-depth attention to Hamlet, gradually cranking it down to see how fast the play can be run (the record is under one minute).

Actors and Artists of Fayette County perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at Geyer Performing Arts Center, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale. 

SH!T-FACED SHAKESPEARE: MACBETH by Magnificent Bastard Productions. March 20 only, 8 p.m., touring company at the Byham. Canceled*****

Declaiming while intoxicated, the players depicted here perform 'Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth.' (photo © Rah Petherbridge Photography)

Declaiming while intoxicated, the players depicted here perform ‘Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth.’ (photo © Rah Petherbridge Photography)

Attention, fans of drunk humor: A touring cast of U.K.-based Magnificent Bastard Productions visits Pittsburgh to perform a play from the company’s Sh!t-faced Shakespeare® repertoire, Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Macbeth. To quote from the Magnificent Bastard website: “Each night … one carefully selected cast member is charged with drinking for 4 entire hours prior to showtime. The remaining sober cast are forced to fight their way through the show while incorporating, rectifying, justifying and generally improvising round their inebriated castmate.” The company promises “foul language, partial nudity, simulated acts of a sexual nature,” and more. 8 p.m. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Cultural District. 

PERSONAL & POWERFUL (contemporary ballet), evening of multiple works. March 20 – 22, Texture Contemporary Ballet.  Postponed****

Dancers Erin Patterson and Rachel Harman strike a balance of power in Texture's 'Personal & Powerful.' (photo: Mark Simpson)

Dancers Erin Patterson and Rachel Harman strike a balance of power in Texture’s ‘Personal & Powerful.’ (photo: Mark Simpson)

Texture Contemporary Ballet, the company whose name says it all, returns to action with a program of four original pieces. The show is titled Personal & Powerful, as all the dances explore themes of resourcefulness, interpersonal tensions, and connection. Three of the four pieces are new, choreographed (respectively) by guest artist Shana Simmons, Texture dancer Alexandra Tiso, and Texture’s Kelsey Bartman and Madeline Kendall. The fourth—”Unchanging Change,” by Texture artistic director Alan Obuzor—is danced to a mixture of neoclassical music, hip hop, and spoken word. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. 

HERE + NOW (ballet & dance), evening of multiple works. March 20 -29, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and August Wilson African American Cultural Center.  Canceled*****

Dancers Grace Rookstool and Corey Bourbonniere glide gently in the 'Here + Now' show presented by Pittsburgh Ballet and the August Wilson Center. (photo: Duane Rieder)

Dancers Grace Rookstool and Corey Bourbonniere glide gently in the ‘Here + Now’ show presented by Pittsburgh Ballet and the August Wilson Center. (photo: Duane Rieder)

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre teams with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to present Here + Now, a program of contemporary dances by three distinguished choreographers. “The Quiet Dance,” by Pittsburgh CAPA graduate Kyle Abraham, is set to Bill Evans’ quietly jazzy arrangement of “Some Other Time.” Dwight Rhoden, cofounder and artistic director of New York’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet, provides a more exuberant piece: His “Simon Said” is danced to the songs of Paul Simon. The third piece is “Skin + Saltwater,” a new ballet by Staycee Pearl, artist in residence at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. In the August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

DANCE SHORTS, multiple works by various Pittsburgh-based artists. March 22 only, 5:30 p.m. Presented by Texture Contemporary Ballet.  Postponed*****

Maybe you’ve seen a showing of selected short films at an art-house cinema. Now you can have the same experience with contemporary dance, except live and in person. Dance Shorts, at the New Hazlett Theater, will give you an overview of what Pittsburgh choreographers and dance groups are up to lately. The Sunday sampler is hosted by Texture Contemporary Ballet, with each short piece danced by the artist or company that created it. 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. . 

MYTHBURGH (storytelling/performance). March 22 only, 8 p.m. 12 Peers Theater.

The Mythburgh series is a periodic getting-together of local theater artists who turn strange Pittsburgh stories into short performance pieces. The stories can be serious, illogical, true, or apocryphal; the unifying theme is that they have a mythical, urban-legend quality. Presented by 12 Peers Theater, these events occur several times per year and it’s time for another Mythburgh. At Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield.

WHAT \WASHED ASHORE// ASTRAY by Benjamin Benne. March 25 – 27, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama.

Up-and-coming playwright Benjamin Benne has won awards for writing on Latinx themes, but Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama is staging one themed around an experience that everyone shares: mortality. Benne’s What \Washed Ashore// Astray features two sisters reminiscing and conversing—in free verse—in a seaside cabin where death is not far. This is a “Director’s Series” production with free admission. Purnell Center for the Arts on campus, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 

THE DRAGON OF POLISH HILL by Dave English and Will Schutze. March 26 – 27, the artists at the New Hazlett. Cancelled*****

Now for something completely different. The Dragon of Polish Hill is a live multimedia comedy, with puppets, about urban culture clash between two fictional characters. Stanley Onion, the neighborhood’s oldest man, is made of onions and he’s irked by a new arrival, a performance artist with rabbit’s ears. Two experienced puppeteers are the perpetrators: Dave English, president of the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh, and Austin, Texas-based Will Schutze. They present The Dragon of Polish Hill at the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. 

THERE’S NO ONE NEW AROUND YOU by Evan W. Saunders. March 26 – April 5, Duquesne University Red Masquers. 

The Red Masquers are Duquesne University’s student theater group, and they claim to be the oldest amateur theater company in Pittsburgh—founded in the late 1800s and operating under the Red Masquers name since 1914. Now the Masquers premiere a play called There’s No One New Around You. It’s by Duquesne graduate Evan W. Saunders, who writes about the existential predicaments faced by today’s young people. There’s No One New features college students contemplating the onset of so-called real life, and is described as “a comedy about being young, dumb, and lonely in the 21st century.” At the Genesius Theater on campus, 1225 Seitz St., Uptown. 

Mike Vargo, a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer, covers theater for Entertainment Central. 

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