November Theater Guide: Get ‘Em While They’re Hot

'Okay kid, you wait here for Santa while I check out the November theater lineup.' Actually this is an early scene from the touring production of 'A Bronx Tale,' one of many diverse shows on stage in Pittsburgh this month.

‘Okay kid, you wait here for Santa while I check out the November theater lineup.’ Actually this is an early scene from the touring production of ‘A Bronx Tale,’ one of many diverse shows on stage in Pittsburgh this month.

For Pittsburgh theater fans, a long intermission looms ahead on the calendar. December will bring mostly Christmas and holiday shows, followed by a lean January when many companies are in reboot mode. November is the last chance for a while to choose from a fully loaded schedule, and the selection this November looks wide and deep. 

Right after the touring-company visit of the Mean Girls musical comes a new non-musical at The Public—School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play. Meanwhile, the Pulitzer Prize finalist Dance Nation offers an extremely different sort of take on school girls. Also on tap are two new plays fictionalized from history: One Night in Miami, featuring Cassius Clay shortly before he became Muhammad Ali, and Shakespeare’s Will, which imagines his widow, Anne Hathaway, reflecting on the man after his death. 

The Woman in Black is one of the longest-running plays in London (30 years and counting); the Gothic horror mystery comes to the stage here this month. If you have never seen an opera sung in Spanish, that’s because there are not many, but Pittsburgh Opera stages Daniel Catán’s magical-realist Florencia en el Amazonas. Touring musicals include Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale and the latest, perhaps even greatest road-show production of Les Miz.  

Elsewhere among local productions, we have a new meta-theater adaptation of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Near month’s end, the first Christmas show of the season appears in the form of an offbeat musical, The Carols. Speaking of plays fictionalized from history, check the university theater circuit for Or, a very funny piece about a strange-but-true woman, Aphra Behn. And on the experimental circuit, try The Mon Valley Medium or The Ravages of Now.  

Shows are previewed in order of run dates, in three categories: spotlighted productions, others across the region, and (last but not least) shows continuing from October. 

Shows in the EC Spotlight for November:

THE SCARLET LETTER by Liam Macik, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel. Nov. 1 – 10, Prime Stage Theatre. 

Hester Prynne is a pariah, but at least one neighbor understands her plight in 'The Scarlet Letter.' Actors for Prime Stage Theatre are Kyle DePasquale and Allison Svagdis.

Hester Prynne is a pariah, but at least one neighbor understands her plight in ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ Actors for Prime Stage Theatre are Kyle DePasquale and Allison Svagdis.

Pittsburgh’s Prime Stage Theatre specializes in plays adapted from literature. They are typically plays that deal with social issues or controversies as well, and the company opens its 2019-20 season with a unique meta-twist on a classic. The stage version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter includes Hawthorne himself as a character. As you may know, the story is set in Boston during the 1600s. Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne a child out of wedlock, is reviled and shunned as an adulterer by her Puritan community. But she refuses to name the child’s father—who turns out to be a respected figure in that community. Themes of love, guilt, and judgment intersect. The adapted play is by Liam Macik, a Pittsburgh native and cofounder of the city’s Throughline Theatre. He has put Hawthorne on stage to add an underlying theme: As the story unfolds, the author tells us how and why he wrote it as he did. The Prime Stage cast has Allison Svagdis as Hester Prynne and Everett Lowe as Hawthorne. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. 

THE WOMAN IN BLACK by Stephen Mallatratt, from Susan Hill’s novel. Nov. 7 – 23, PICT Classic Theatre. 

Something unnatural is afoot in 'The Woman in Black,' and PICT has actors Martin Giles and James FitzGerald on the watch. (photo: Alan Stanford)

Something unnatural is afoot in ‘The Woman in Black,’ and PICT has actors Martin Giles and James FitzGerald on the watch. (photo: Alan Stanford)

The Woman in Black, adapted to the stage from a Gothic horror novel, opened in London in 1989 and proved rather popular. It’s still running there. Fans include Daniel Radcliffe, who liked it well enough to co-star in the 2012 film version. When you also consider that the author of the novel, Susan Hill, was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to literature, you can see that we’re talking serious credentials. Pittsburghers now have a chance to see the play, with PICT Classic Theatre’s production of The Woman in Black. The actors are two of the city’s best: James FitzGerald and Martin Giles. There are no others. The play is renowned for creating intense suspense and terror through the words and actions of only two characters (though they do get some help from stage effects). The woman of the title is a ghost. English playwright Stephen Mallatratt did the adaptation; directing for PICT is the company’s artistic director, Alan Stanford. In the Fred Rogers Studio at WQED, 4802 Fifth Ave., Oakland. 

SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY by Jocelyn Bioh. Nov. 7 – Dec. 8, Pittsburgh Public Theater. 

Markia Nicole Smith plays the reigning queen bee at a Ghanaian high school in The Public's new play. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Markia Nicole Smith plays the reigning queen bee at a Ghanaian high school in The Public’s new play.

Pittsburgh Public Theater may have another sleeper hit on its hands. Well, they’re not exactly “sleepers”—plays like Paula Vogel’s Indecent have won rave reviews in other cities before scoring with audiences here—but they’re not mass-market, household-name plays either, and The Public has staged several recently. The latest is Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls PlayA hit last year off-Broadway, it is set in a girls’ high school in Ghana. The students can be every bit as socially competitive as teenagers anywhere, except they do it in Ghanaian style, while borrowing doses of the American culture they all admire. There’s a ruling clique, ruled in turn by a girl who considers herself the queen bee, the hippest of the hip. But then a new girl arrives, who is actually from America, and the beehive comes abuzz. School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play has been praised as hilarious, insightful, and culturally multi-layered. Playing the leads at The Public are two actors with local connections: Markia Nicole Smith, a graduate of Point Park University, and Aidaa Peerzada, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon. At the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District.  

THE MON VALLEY MEDIUM (one-person play) by Alec Silberblatt. Nov. 8 – 9, off the WALL productions.

Alec Silberblatt deals with a cold case in 'The Mon Valley Medium.'

Alec Silberblatt deals with a cold case in ‘The Mon Valley Medium.’

New York theater artist and Pittsburgh native Alec Silberblatt visits our area with his one-man, dark-comic murder mystery. As in Rashomon, the deceased victim speaks through a medium—except in The Mon Valley Medium, it happens in yinzer territory, not Japan. Silberlatt is an alumnus of Winchester Thurston School and the University of Cincinnati. He first captured Pittsburgh theatergoers’ attention when he played the teenaged lead in the Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit Hole at The Public. Since then, Silberblatt has starred locally in plays ranging from A Skull in Connemara to the recent World Builders. His New York credits include roles in Chekhov’s Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. But the young man also writes, and The Mon Valley Medium—which premiered at New York’s Emerging Artists Theatre—may mark his true emergence in that realm. Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. 

SHAKESPEARE’S WILL by Vern Theissen. Nov. 8 – Dec. 1, Quantum Theatre. 

In 'Shakespeare's Will,' Shakespeare is dead but Anne Hathaway (Sheila McKenna) takes arms against a sea of troubles. (Photo by Jason Snyder; image treatment by BOOM Creative)

In ‘Shakespeare’s Will,’ Shakespeare is dead but Anne Hathaway (Sheila McKenna) takes arms against a sea of troubles. (Photo by Jason Snyder; image treatment by BOOM Creative)

This much we know: Anne Hathaway, the popular American actress, was named after the long-ago Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. About that Anne, only some basic facts and figures are known. She and the playwright married in their teens. Records suggest that Anne was already pregnant with the couple’s daughter Susanna, born six months later. They had a son, Hamnet, who died at age 11. Anne Hathaway survived her husband by several years. And, there are clues in Shakespeare’s will and elsewhere that perhaps he was not a perfect husband, nor the marriage one of perfect bliss. Those wishing further speculation can catch Vern Theissen’s new play, Shakespeare’s Will, at Quantum Theatre. It brings Anne Hathaway out of the shadows and into the spotlight—speculatively, of course. The actors are Sheila McKenna as Anne and young Simon Nigam as another character, perhaps Hamnet, or Hamnet’s ghost. Shakespeare’s Will is performed at West Homestead United Methodist Church, 515 W. 8th Ave., Homestead.   

FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS (opera) by Daniel Catán and Marcela Fuentes-Berain. Nov. 9 – 17, Pittsburgh Opera. 

A magical river cruise flows through 'Florencia en el Amazonas' at Pittsburgh Opera. This scene is from a 2012 production at Opera Colorado. (photo: Matthew Staver)

A magical river cruise flows through ‘Florencia en el Amazonas’ at Pittsburgh Opera. This scene is from a 2012 production at Opera Colorado. (photo: Matthew Staver)

The Spanish language has long been spoken worldwide, and it is rich in literature, drama, and song. Yet while Spanish speakers may enjoy European-style opera, they’ve created very little. Operas written and sung in Spanish are so rare that most of those produced at major houses tend to come from a single recent source, the Mexican composer Daniel Catán, who died in 2011. Pittsburgh Opera presents Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. His lush score is tuned to a libretto by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, which includes dreamlike elements of magical realism. The story concerns (of all things) an opera singer taking a cruise down the Amazon. When the ship encounters strange events, complications ensue. Pittsburgh Opera’s cast has soprano Alexandra Loutsion as Florencia. Baritone Craig Verm, fresh from the title role in the company’s Don Giovanni, is the ship’s mate and narrator Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI by Kemp Powers. Nov. 9 – Dec. 1, City Theatre. 

It can be hard today to grasp the public impact that Muhammad Ali had in his prime. Boxing was then a much more high-profile sport, and Ali was arguably the most charismatic and unusual athlete that any sport had seen. Everything about him, from his boxing style to his personal style and politics, defied convention. City Theatre presents One Night in Miami, a fictionalized play about an event early in his career. It’s set in 1964 on the night when Ali, only 22 and still using his birth name, Cassius Clay, had just won the heavyweight title. But he didn’t paint the town to celebrate. He spent that night in a private hotel suite with three other prominent African Americans: Malcolm X, football star Jim Brown, and gospel/soul singer Sam Cooke. All present (including the new champ) were in the midst of re-thinking their lives and identities—at a time when struggles and debates were erupting nationwide over the place of African Americans in our society. One Night in Miami, by playwright Kemp Powers, imagines what might have gone on among the four men on that eventful night. 1300 Bingham St., South Side.  

A BRONX TALE (musical) by Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, and Chazz Palminteri, from Palminteri’s autobiographical play. Nov. 19 – 24, touring company at Benedum Center. 

A Bronx Tale, the fictionalized-from-true-life story of actor Chazz Palminteri’s tumultuous youth, is known to audiences mainly as a 1993 film directed by Robert De Niro. It’s a gripping story, about a young fellow growing up in a neighborhood where he’s torn between organized-crime rivalries, racial tensions, personal loyalties, and the desire to come out of it all in one piece as an honest man. Critics loved the movie. Though not a box office smash, it became a cult favorite, launching De Niro’s career as a director while boosting Palminteri’s as a writer and actor. Now Palminteri has teamed with composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater to turn A Bronx Tale into a stage musical. The touring production visits Pittsburgh for a six-day, eight-show run at Benedum Center.  Palminteri himself isn’t acting in the production but you can expect a first-rate cast. Also expect violence, sharp-edged humor, tensely interwoven story lines … along with well over a dozen musical numbers, ranging from “Roll ’Em” to “The Choices We Make.” 237 7th St., Cultural District.  

DANCE NATION by Clare Barron. Nov. 22 – Dec. 15, barebones productions.

One may wonder why a serious, cutting-edge theater company like barebones productions is doing a wacky play about a team of preteen and young-teen girls entering a dance competition. But Clare Barron’s Dance Nation was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama. There just may be method (and even meaning!) behind the looniness. Playwright Barron is fascinated by the teenaged psyche, which can offer an uncensored view of the human condition: It’s teeming with drives and ideas that get muted down in adulthood. An earlier Barron play, the bizarre I’ll Never Love Again, had actors in choir robes singing passionate lines from Barron’s own teen diaries. Dance Nation goes psycho-nuclear in a different way. The young women on the dance team wrangle with every extreme emotion imaginable while hoping to win the Boogie Down Grand Prix with a routine about Mohandas Gandhi. The play includes dance moms and time travel, and casting isn’t age-appropriate—the New York production had one teen played by an actor in her 60s. Barebones’ cast includes Hope Anthony and Liron Blumenthal in two key roles, with Jerreme Rodriguez as the lone boy in the troupe. 1211 Braddock Ave., Braddock.

LES MISÉRABLES (musical) by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Jean-Marc Natel, from Victor Hugo’s novel. Nov. 26 – Dec. 1, touring company at Benedum Center. 

Red and black! sings Enjorlas (Matt Shingledecker) in the new touring production of 'Les Miz.' (photo: Joan Marcus)

Red and black! sings Enjorlas (Matt Shingledecker) in the new touring production of ‘Les Miz.’ (photo: Joan Marcus)

Which Broadway musical is the GOAT? Some people would argue for various old classics, and some for the recent hit Hamilton, but a strong contender straddling the worlds of old and new is Les Misérables. Just recall that Les Miz isn’t really a “Broadway” musical. It is French, having premiered in Paris in 1980. An English-language version didn’t appear until 1985—in London. Finally in 1987 came the Broadway premiere, and the rest (as far as we Americans are concerned) is history. Keep in mind, too, that Les Miz is seldom considered a perfect musical. Lead writer Alan Boublil and co-writer Jean-Marc Natel took tremendous liberties in cutting Victor Hugo’s epic novel down to performable size. There are key characters not fleshed out; places where the narrative feels rushed. The writers and the composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg, caught flak from critics who felt Hugo’s story had been oversimplified and sentimentalized. 

So then, what’s so great about Les Miz? It has songs and scenes that are unforgettable: Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream.” The brief but fiery appearances of the revolutionary, Enjorlas. Every fan has a list of favorites, and by the way, the original story by Hugo is pretty darn good. The musical, despite its cuts, dramatizes many high points powerfully, creating an experience that has moved millions. The latest touring production of Les Misérables stops in Pittsburgh for an eight-show run. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

THE CAROLS (musical) by Jennifer Childs and Monica Stephenson. Nov. 29 – Dec. 14, off the WALL productions.

Reunited for theatrical purposes, Elizabeth Boyke, Moira Quigley, and Mandie Russak once more play the title trio in 'The Carols.' (photo: Heather Mull)

Reunited for theatrical purposes, Elizabeth Boyke, Moira Quigley, and Mandie Russak once more play the title trio in ‘The Carols.’ (photo: Heather Mull)

In Pittsburgh theater circles, off the WALL productions is known for daring, unusual plays that are written by women or feature women as lead characters. Not often is the company known for putting on the region’s first Christmas play of the season—but lo and behold, in a run launched on the very night of Black Friday, off the WALL joins the pace-setters in this category. The Carols is a raucous musical comedy by Philadelphia writer/theater artist Jennifer Childs and Pittsburgh-based composer Monica Stephenson. The setting is a New Jersey town in 1944. Three young women (a gang known as “the Carols”) are dickering over whether to go ahead with the town’s annual stage production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. That could be tough, as the men who could play the male roles are away at war. But the gals forge ahead, with results that are said to be both humorous and heartwarming. The Carols played at off the WALL’s theater in 2017 and now it’s back. Probably by popular demand, although with this company, one never knows. At Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. 

Other Shows in the Region:

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW by Richard O’Brien. Through Nov. 1, Stage Right of Greensburg. 

Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania, first burst upon the scene in the 1973 London musical that preceded the movie. The Rocky Horror Show has been produced in languages from Icelandic to Japanese, and you can catch the English original done by Stage Right of Greensburg. The company performs Rocky Horror Oct. 31 – Nov. 1 at the Greensburg Garden Civic Center, 951 Old Salem Rd., Greensburg. 

THE RAVAGES OF NOW by Shannon Knapp and others. Nov. 1 – 16, Non-State Actors. 

In world affairs, “non-state actors” are people and paramilitary groups exerting influence without official connections to any country. In Pittsburgh, the Non-State Actors are a new theater company. Their play The Ravages of Now is a dysto-utopian fantasy about a campaign against the negative effects of today’s technology. It’s conceived and directed by Shannon Knapp, with parts devised by the various Non-State Actors involved. At the Glitterbox Theater, 460 Melwood Ave., Oakland. 

BLITHE SPIRIT by Noel Coward. Through Nov. 2, Little Lake Theatre.

Noel Coward’s British comedies of the 1920s to ’40s remain very funny, with Blithe Spirit being perhaps the best. A man who scoffs at the supernatural hosts a seance, which summons the spirit of his deceased first wife, who proceeds to wreak mischief upon his remarriage. Blithe Spirit materializes at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Dr. South, Canonsburg. 

2.5 MINUTE RIDE by Lisa Kron. Oct. 30 – Nov. 3, Duquesne University Red Masquers.

Before she scripted the musical adaptation of Fun Home, Lisa Kron wrote and performed a feature-length monologue about her own family, titled 2.5 Minute Ride. The intricate seriocomic show drew rave reviews in New York but hasn’t yet been seen in Pittsburgh. Now the Duquesne Red Masquers present 2.5 Minute Ride with Nancy Bach playing Kron’s role. Genesius Theatre at Duquesne University, 1325 Seitz St., Uptown. 

WIP CHOREOGRAPHY PROJECT (new dances, multiple choreographers). Nov. 2 only, 7 and 9 p.m., presented by Texture Contemporary Ballet.

WIP is an acronym for “works in progress.” Texture Contemporary Ballet hosts a recurring show, the WIP Choreography Project, this year featuring new short dances created or co-created by 14 Pittsburgh-area choreographers. Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie.  

TAJ EXPRESS: THE BOLLYWOOD MUSICAL REVUE. Nov. 6 only, 7:30 p.m., touring show at the Byham Theater.

Are you ready for some Bollywood, live on stage? Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue visits Pittsburgh for a one-night engagement that promises to be a spectacle in the highest Bollywood tradition. Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Cultural District. 

PATH OF MIRACLES (immersive modern dance) by ODC/Dance. Nov. 6 – 9, the company at Trinity Cathedral, presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council. 


San Francisco’s ODC/Dance, an innovative modern dance company, has created a feature-length piece inspired by a traditional Catholic pilgrimage in Spain. Ever since the Middle Ages, many thousands of people each year have made the spiritual journey called the Camino de Santiago, trekking over 500 miles from the high Pyrenees to a cathedral in the coastal city of Galicia. ODC’s dance piece is called Path of Miracles. The company comes to Pittsburgh to perform it within the walls of a historic church here. Trinity Cathedral, 328 6th Ave., Downtown. 

LEADING LADIES by Ken Ludwig. Nov. 7 – 10, Actors and Artists of Fayette County. 

Surely many of us have wondered what could happen if two disreputable Shakespeare actors, while visiting a Pennsylvania Amish community, dressed up in drag to pose as inheritors of a fortune. Ken Ludwig’s comedy Leading Ladies provides the answer, and Actors and Artists of Fayette County perform it. Geyer Performing Arts Center, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale.  

OVER THE TAVERN by Tom Dudzick. Nov. 7 – 23, Little Lake Theatre.

Tom Dudzick’s play Over the Tavern comically (but also seriously) revisits the tensions of Catholic working-class family life in Buffalo, New York during the 1950s. Shuffle back to Buffalo with the Little Lake Theatre production. 500 Lakeside Dr. South, Canonsburg.

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (musical revue) by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., with songs and music by many. Nov. 8 – 9, touring company at The Strand.

The gorgeous Strand Theater in Zelienople hosts a new national touring production of the 1978 Tony Award winner for Best Musical. Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a tribute to popular music from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s. The show brims with sly-energy songs ranging from “Your Feet’s Too Big” to, of course, Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” 119 N. Main St., Zelienople.

ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare. Nov. 8 – 23, Pittsburgh Classic Players.

Maybe you’ve seen the Baz Luhrmann film of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which presents the Montagues and Capulets as modern-day urban crime families. Pittsburgh Classic Players go further. The city’s intriguing new company does Romeo and Juliet with a punk-rock spin and an emphasis on the young lovers, as viewed “through a distinctly queer lens.” Spartan Community Center, 134 E. Elizabeth St., Hazelwood.  

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare. Nov. 8 – 17, Point Park Conservatory Theatre. 

With its bizarre plot, sarcastically sniping lovers, and the daffy constable Dogberry, Much Ado About Nothing is an all-time popular Shakespeare comedy. The poster for Point Park Conservatory Theatre’s production depicts a baseball made into a hand grenade, so expect an explosive treatment. PNC Theatre in the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. 

AND THE WINNER IS … by Mitch Albom. Nov. 8 – 17, McKeesport Little Theater. 

Detroit-based writer Mitch Albom, best known for his books Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, also wrote a rollicking play about a dead movie star hoping to return to life for one night so he can win and accept the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  McKeesport Little Theater presents Albom’s And the Winner Is … at 1614 Coursin St., McKeesport. 

CLUE: ON STAGE by David Abbinanti, from the film and board game. Nov. 8 – 24, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center.

Video games are recognized as art, and at least one board game has made the journey. The ever-popular mystery game Clue inspired a 1985 cult film, which then was adapted as Clue: On Stage, which you can see at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, 1 Lincoln Place, Midland.  

OR, by Liz Duffy Adams. Nov. 14 – 23, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. 

Never heard of Aphra Behn? She was a writer, activist, and English spy in the 1600s, and the Liz Duffy Adams play Or, (the comma is part of the title) gives Behn’s story a fictionalized, seriocomic look that’s well worth a look. Carnegie Mellon School of Drama presents Or, in the Purnell Center for the Arts, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland.  

MYTHBURGH (storytelling/performance). Nov. 10 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. 8 p.m. at Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield.

ENDEAVOR MIND by Kim Z. Dale. Nov. 14 – 23, Duquesne University Red Masquers.

Duquesne U’s Red Masquers present a play about a frustrated computer scientist who hopes to realize her potential by signing up for a high-tech brain-enhancement implant. Kim Z. Dale’s Endeavor Mind has been called a sci-fi version of the Faust story. See it at Duquesne’s on-campus Genesius Theater, 1325 Seitz St., Uptown.

THE WOLVES by Sarah DeLappe. Nov. 14 – 24, Pitt Theatre Arts.

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, in which the players must kick through myriad traumas on the path to growing up. Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts stages The Wolves in the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 

HAIRSPRAY (musical) by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Thomas Meehan, and Mark O’Donnell, from the John Waters film. Nov. 14 – 24, Stage 62. 

Hairspray took home the 2003 Tony Award for Best Musical. Adapted from the John Waters movie, it has become a global crowd favorite by mixing strong music and serious social themes into a sugary-sweet plot about a 1960s teenager turned hometown celebrity. Stage 62 performs Hairspray in the Music Hall at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie. 

RHAPSODY IN BLACK (one-person show) by LeLand Gantt. Nov. 15 only, 8 p.m., the artist presented by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. 

McKeesport native and Hollywood actor LeLand Gantt returns to Pittsburgh to perform his acclaimed one-man stage show.  Rhapsody in Black recounts his experiences and impressions as a black man making his way through the evolving landscape of a mostly white America. Presented by Pittsburgh Playwrights at the August Wilson Cultural Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

ALBUM (one-person performance) by Mariana Valencia. Nov. 15 – 16, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

Brooklyn-based dance artist Mariana Valencia creates distinctive multi-genre work—including her one-woman piece Album, which explores topics from the 1980s AIDS epidemic to present-day personal identity. She performs it in Pittsburgh as part of the QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) Arts Festival. At Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., East Liberty. 

WORDPLAY (“a new spin on storytelling”) by multiple creators. Nov. 15 – 16, Bricolage Production Company. 

Bricolage Production Company’s WordPlay is a hybrid event that invites Pittsburghers to submit stories in writing—as long as they’re true, because this is nonfiction, and nonfiction means “not not true.” A chosen few then tell their stories at each WordPlay, with a DJ on hand to accompany the tales by spinning utterly unpredictable music and sounds. 937 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

THE KITCHEN SINK (modern dance) by Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza. Nov. 15 – 17, Attack Theatre. 

Attack Theatre, the company that never dances defensively, has a new show evoking what culture vultures used to call kitchen-sink realism. The Kitchen Sink brings scenes of everyday life to theatrical life with a cast of eight dancers, original live music, and vocals by Rebekah Del Rio. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. 

NEWSIES THE MUSICAL by Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, and Harvey Fierstein, from the Disney film. Nov. 22 – 24, Stage Right of Greensburg. 

Now comes a musical about a real-life labor dispute that was won by the workers. Stage Right of Greensburg performs Newsies the Musical, adapted from the Disney movie and based on the New York Newsboys’ Strike of 1899. The Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. 

THE (CHRISTMAS) LAKE EFFECT by Sunny Disney Fitchett. Nov. 29 – Dec. 14, Little Lake Theatre.

Little Lake Theatre rings in the holiday season with a comedy written by former artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett. The lead character in The (Christmas) Lake Effect is an actor at the fictional Lakeside Theatre, and while preparing to do a play about Scrooge’s late-life change of heart, he’s having a midlife freak-out of his own. 500 Lakeside Dr. South, Canonsburg.

And Continuing from October …

PROJECT AMELIA (immersive theater) by Michael Skirpan. Through Nov. 3, Bricolage Production Company. 

'Project Amelia' has been greenlighted. (photo: Handerson Gomes)

‘Project Amelia’ has been greenlighted. (photo: Handerson Gomes)

If you enjoy high-tech mystery you are a candidate for Project Amelia. It’s the latest work of on-site immersive theater from Bricolage Production Company, which two years ago performed DODO in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Project Amelia is more concerned with the unnatural future. Conceived by Michael Skirpan, the play envisions a new AI product that will, says the promo material, “Replace all the disparate devices that clutter your life and streamline your physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological, spiritual, and time-management needs.” Since the experience is immersive, you participate. And once you reserve online, you even find out where to go. Project Amelia is limited to audience members 18 or older, with the location disclosed to ticket holders by email before they come. We can say only that it’s somewhere “in Pittsburgh’s South Side.”

MEAN GIRLS (musical) by Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin. Oct. 29 – Nov. 3, touring company at Benedum Center. 

Tina Fey, suited in grey, introduces The Plastics for the 'Mean Girls' tour visiting Pittsburgh: L to R, Jonalyn Saxer as Karen, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina, and Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen. (photo: Mary Ellen Matthews)

Tina Fey, suited in grey, introduces The Plastics for the ‘Mean Girls’ tour visiting Pittsburgh: L to R, Jonalyn Saxer as Karen, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina, and Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen. (photo: Mary Ellen Matthews)

Just about every high school has a clique of students who defy easy psycho-social analysis. They’ve been called, paradoxically, the popular kids nobody likes. And of course they’re the subject of Mean Girls, the very popular movie now made into a Broadway musical. Pittsburgh gets to be one of the first cities visited by the very first touring production, which means we are popular! Mean Girls plays at Benedum Center for an eight-show run, though it’s a hot ticket, so reserve promptly. Tina Fey adapted her movie script for the musical’s book, keeping the Fey humor intact. Notable changes: The teens now use social media to practice antisocial behavior. And the movie’s rock soundtrack is replaced by show-biz song and dance. Some critics have complained that the Jeff Richmond-Nell Benjamin numbers like “Meet the Plastics” and “Apex Predator” don’t rock the zeitgeist as fittingly as songs by Pink, Blondie, and others did in the film. But a stage show is a different animal, and the Mean Girls musical must roar and hiss in its own way. 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

FOREVER PLAID (jukebox musical) by Stuart Ross. Oct. 31 – Dec. 29, Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret. 

Forever Plaid is a retro jukebox musical that imagines the day the music didn’t die. The music is the kind that ruled the airwaves in the 1950s and early ‘60s, before rock took over utterly—back when Connie Francis was America’s Sweetheart of Song, and guy groups sang four-part harmony instead of playing electric guitars. Forever Plaid is set in 1964, when a fictional quartet called The Plaids don’t make it to a big gig. In an act of blatant symbolism they are killed by a bus carrying teenagers to The Beatles’ U.S. debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” But someone upstairs loves that harmony, as The Plaids are miraculously re-assembled to sing a deathless setlist. It includes The Four Lads’ “Moments to Remember,” The Four Aces’ “Three Coins in the Fountain,” change-of-pace songs like Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”… and if you’ve never heard “Scotland the Brave” without pipes and drums, you will now. The music is mixed with much clowning and topical humor. Pittsburgh CLO presents Marcus Stevens, J.D. Daw, Chris Crouch, and Joseph Domencic in Forever Plaid at the Greer Cabaret Theater. 655 Penn Ave., Cultural District.  

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

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