October Theater Guide: Music, Spook Shows, and Drag

In Pittsburgh Opera's 'Don Giovanni,' the night is alive but someone soon will not be. (photo: Cory Weaver for Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The production is being re-staged here with a new cast.)

In Pittsburgh Opera’s ‘Don Giovanni,’ the night is alive but someone soon will not be. (photo: Cory Weaver for Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The uniquely themed production is being re-staged here with a new cast.)

Pittsburgh’s live theater scene reaches full form during October, with major resident companies plus the universities now in action. The selection is wide—and especially attractive if you like music. Notable musicals include the touring production of Tina Fey’s Mean Girls, and a Pitt Theatre Arts production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal. Pittsburgh Opera opens its season with Don Giovanni done in film noir style. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dances into its 50th(!) season with the haunting classic Giselle. 

Speaking of “haunting”: Since the dark light of Halloween looms at the end of October’s tunnel, the month would not be complete without spooky-slash-humorous shows. Pittsburgh Musical Theater has Evil Dead: The Musical. Two, count ‘em two, community theater groups are doing The Rocky Horror Show. For non-musical, avant-garde spookiness, try Not Medea at off the WALL productions. It’s a meta-modern takeoff on Euripedes’ grisly Greek tragedy. And for a spooky look at the future of artificial intelligence, try the Bricolage immersive extravaganza Project Amelia.  

Other shows of interest range across the map, from the vintage antiwar play Tiger at the Gates to the vintage jukebox musicals Forever Plaid and Million Dollar Quartet. But perhaps the most interesting question is: Have we entered the age of drag? Three touring drag shows visit the Cultural District this month. RuPaul’s Werq the World tour (at Heinz Hall) is the nameplate draw, though connoisseurs are also talking up the one-queen shows by Bianca Del Rio and Sasha Velour.  

All productions are previewed in order of run dates. Spotlighted shows come first—the ones that, for various reasons, merit some in-depth commentary—followed by briefer highlights of the rest.     

Continuing from September:

EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL by George Reinblatt, Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla, and Melissa Morris. Sept. 27 – Oct. 19, Pittsburgh Musical Theater.

Front-row seats for ‘Evil Dead: The Musical” are in the splatter zone, where stage blood may fly. Bring a poncho or ask for a company-issued loaner at Pittsburgh Musical Theater. (photo: Melissa Wallace)

So far, over 500 productions of Evil Dead: The Musical have been staged worldwide. Think of what this has required in human terms. Hundreds of talented actors, fluent at using their hands gracefully on stage, had to learn how to play a character whose right hand is replaced by a chainsaw. Yet the role is a coveted one, for Ashley “Ash” Williams is not your average bionic hero. In the Evil Dead films on which the musical is based, he duels with deadites in settings from the present-day U.S. to medieval Europe. Ash is a complexly flawed hero who bumbles through everyday life, but excels in matters such as fighting the Kandarian Demon. The British cinema magazine Empire ranked him the greatest horror movie character of all time. Pittsburgh Musical Theater—which presented one of those 500+ productions, just last year—resurrects Evil Dead: The Musical by popular demand. B.A. Goodnack stars again as Ash in a run of late-night performances. Exuberant audience response is welcome but leave your chainsaws, and children, at home. Preferably not in the same room. Gargaro Theater, 327 S. Main St., West End.

CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND by Lauren Yee. Through Oct. 6, City Theatre. 

Actor Aja Wiltshire plays two roles in a multifaceted time-travel tragicomedy; here she's belting a tune as a 1970s rock star. (photo: Kristi Jan Hoover)

Actor Aja Wiltshire plays two roles in a multifaceted time-travel show; here she’s belting a tune as a 1970s rock star. (photo: Kristi Jan Hoover)

Chicago is a big theater town, so when a play gets rave notices like “the best show you’ll see in Chicago this spring. Maybe all year,” it’s probably pretty good. Cambodian Rock Band  is now at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, where the early returns have been strong as well. (See our review for details.) The play is an unusual hybrid. It deals with a grim subject, the reign of terror imposed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia during the 1970s, by telling a story of rock musicians who’ve been targeted for death as enemies of the people. That story is bracketed by another one, a father-daughter seriocomedy set in today’s Cambodia. Cambodian Rock Band is fictional but includes true events, characters based on real people—and plenty of live music. Written by Lauren Yee, the play is co-presented by City Theatre along with Victory Gardens Theater, which staged it in Chicago a few months ago, and Merrimack Repertory Theatre of Lowell, Massachusetts. 1300 Bingham St., South Side.

WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE PANIC BROADCAST by Joe Landry. Through Oct. 5, South Park Theatre. 

After his too-realistic ‘War of the Worlds,’ Orson Welles—wide-eyed at center—met the press for some carefully scripted ’splaining. (photo: unknown news photographer, 1938)

South Park Theatre presents a history play framed as radio meta-theater inside meta-theater. The subject is Orson Welles’ legendary 1938 adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds. Done live on national radio, in the style of breaking news reports about a Martian invasion, it led off with a this-is-fiction advisory but still alarmed listeners who tuned in midway. Modern playwright Joe Landry has developed a piece called War of the Worlds: The Panic Broadcast. Done live on stage, it re-creates an imaginary 1940s radio show re-creating Welles’ 1938 show and the hubbub that followed. Got that? It’s said to be fun. Brownsville Rd. at Corrigan Dr., South Park Township.

A FEW GOOD MEN by Aaron Sorkin. Through Oct. 13, Pittsburgh Public Theater. 

A serious, and strange, case is on the docket in 'A Few Good Men' at The Public. (photo: Michael Henninger)

A serious, and strange, case is on the docket in ‘A Few Good Men’ at The Public. (photo: Michael Henninger)

Pittsburgh Public Theater goes into a new season shifting gender gears. Last season, the company’s first under artistic director Marya Sea Kaminski, featured plays highlighting women as playwrights and/or lead characters. Now the company opens with a macho number: Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men. Sorkin is best known as the creator of TV’s “The West Wing” and screenwriter for films including The Social Network, but his career was kick-started by this military courtroom drama of the 1980s. Fictionalized from true events, A Few Good Men crackles with tension and sharp exchanges. Two U.S. Marines are charged with inadvertently killing a fellow Marine in a hazing incident. Although it looks like an open-and-shut case, the court martial reveals more to the story. The 1992 movie became iconic for Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” tirade. The Public’s cast includes a couple of good men who aren’t primarily actors—Rocky Bleier, and KDKA Radio news host Larry Richert—plus notables such as Ken Bolden, Monteze Freeland, Burke Moses, and Cotter Smith. Alison Weisgall, in a key role, plays the lone female character. At the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District.

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.”

Shows in the EC Spotlight for October:

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (jukebox musical) by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott. Oct. 1 – 13, Mountain Playhouse. 

Elvis back when: looking like a million. (photo: Sun Records, 1954)

Elvis back when: looking like a million. (photo: Sun Records, 1954)

The musical Million Dollar Quartet is set in the 1950s, when a million dollars was a lot, so ignore the fact that today it won’t buy a decent backup quarterback. The show dramatizes a legendary event in rock and country music. On December 4, 1956, four notable persons happened to show up at Sun Record Studios in Memphis: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. They met; they jammed. Tapes of the impromptu session, lost for years, were eventually found and formed a series of albums. The stage musical followed in 2006. Million Dollar Quartet fictionally re-creates the meeting and music-making of the four greats. But whereas the tapes caught them harmonizing mostly on country and gospel songs, the musical is heavy on their jukebox hits of the period: “Hound Dog” by Presley, Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” etc. Mountain Playhouse, which scored with the show last year, once again presents Million Dollar Quartet at 7690 Somerset Pike, Jennerstown.

NEXT TO NORMAL (musical) by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. Oct. 3 – 13, Pitt Department of Theatre Arts.

One of Broadway’s most striking musicals began as a 10-minute sketch about electroshock therapy. Writer Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt had learned of the therapy’s effects from a TV news segment. They wrote the short piece “Feeling Electric” as a workshop exercise. Then a larger subject beckoned: the conditions that could lead someone to seek treatment in the first place. Next to Normal tells a fictional story of mental illness in a suburban family. The woman of the house apparently has bipolar disorder. She’s also delusional, as a hair-raising scene reveals. The musical traces her ventures in and out of various treatments (including electroshock), along with the impacts of her erratic behavior on her husband’s well-being, her teenage daughter’s life, and more. Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s been praised for exploring many dilemmas and ironies faced in mental illness. The best-known song, “I Miss the Mountains,” is a lament sung when medication takes away the manic highs of bipolar disorder. And the show has neither a happy or tragic ending, just a realistic one. Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts performs Next to Normal in the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 

NOT MEDEA by Allison Gregory. Oct. 4 -19, off the WALL productions. 

She's not really Medea, but sure looks like Medea raging at Jason while the Chorus restrains her in 'Not Medea' at off the WALL. Actors, L to R are Allan Snyder, Drew Leigh Williams, and Elizabeth Boyke. (photo: Mark Simpson Photography)

She’s not really Medea, but sure looks like Medea raging at Jason while the Chorus restrains her in ‘Not Medea.’ Actors, L to R are Allan Snyder, Drew Leigh Williams, and Elizabeth Boyke. (photo: Mark Simpson Photography)

Too bad “edgy” is a cliché, because it sums up the kind of live theater you’ll see at off the WALL productions. The company produces plays by or about women, always choosing ones that push the envelope in terms of subject matter, style, or both. Last season included Sarah Kosar’s riotous Mumburger, in which a dead woman has willed her remains to be eaten by next of kin, and Johnna Adams’ World Builders, a love story of two mental patients who have clashing fantasy worlds. This season kicks off with a meta-theater takeoff on an old classic: Allison Gregory’s Not Medea. A frazzled working mom attends a performance of the Greek tragedy Medea—about a jilted sorceress who lashes out in murderous revenge—and sort of identifies with her, but figures the play could use some alterations. Not Medea was a hit of the 2016 American Contemporary Theater Festival. Allison Weakland directs it for off the WALL. Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. 

MATILDA: THE MUSICAL by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly (from Roald Dahl’s novel). Oct. 4 – 20, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. 

Roald Dahl ranks with Lewis Carroll and J.K. Rowling in the category called “British authors of children’s literature that adults love, too.” A mercurial man, Dahl engaged in fierce combat as a fighter pilot during World War II, then turned to writing wild stories for kids and grown-up kids. Those made into movies include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (twice), and Matilda—a surreal tale of a five-year-old girl with telekinetic powers. Danny DeVito’s 1996 film used “Send Me on My Way” by Pittsburgh’s Rusted Root as its theme music. Playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian Tim Minchin then adapted Matilda as a full-blown stage musical, premiered in 2010 in England by none other than the Royal Shakespeare Company. Journey with us now to Midland, Pennsylvania, where Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center presents Matilda: The Musical. 1 Lincoln Park, Midland.

DON GIOVANNI (opera) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. Oct. 12 – 20, Pittsburgh Opera.

Too handsome to trust: baritone Craig Verm has the title role in 'Don Giovanni' at Pittsburgh Opera. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Baritone Craig Verm has the title role in ‘Don Giovanni’ at Pittsburgh Opera. (photo courtesy of the artist)

When Mozart composed an opera about the seducer Don Juan, he had an apt librettist. Lorenzo Da Ponte was a renowned wit, and a Catholic priest with many lovers and children. Mozart’s brilliant music worked beautifully with Da Ponte’s story and sharp lyrics. Don Giovanni premiered in 1787 and it is this season’s opener at Pittsburgh Opera. In its time, Don Giovanni was a genre-buster. Operas of the 1700s were either serious or comic—seria or buffa—but Da Ponte and Mozart mixed the two, producing a dark comedy that has an eerily modern feeling. Don Giovanni sees himself as a wild joker, yet he does serious harm to the women he’s after, commits a murder, and finally pays the price. Tarantino? Pittsburgh Opera had a better idea, recruiting director Kristine McIntyre to stage the opera in film noir style. McIntyre has done the production in other cities and it’s said to be a knockout. The Pittsburgh cast features baritone Craig Verm as Don Giovanni, bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana as his sidekick Leporello, and sopranos Rachelle Durkin, Corrie Stallings, and Antonia Bocci-Lodovico as the women. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. 

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (modern dance) “by six women of a certain age.” Oct. 23 – 27, Corningworks.

Dance artist Charlotte Adams performs one of the six solo pieces in 'The World As We Know It.' (photo: Jacob Rosenberg)

Dance artist Charlotte Adams performs one of the six solo pieces in ‘The World As We Know It.’ (photo: Jacob Rosenberg)

Women dancing professionally into late middle age are rare. Pittsburgh’s Beth Corning is one who dances on, and this month, she’s pulled together five other female modern dancers of her generation from New York City and the Midwest for a group show titled The World As We Know It. They’re a prestigious crew, including dance-company heads and university department chairs. Each will dance an original solo. And, the event continues a unique collaboration. Two years ago, Corning and several of the women did a similar show called Dancing on the Ceiling at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (where Simone Ferro chairs the dance department), then reprised it at the UW main campus in Madison (where Li Chiao-Ping is professor and past chair). Media reviews used words like “fabulous.” For The World As We Know It, Corning, Ferro, and Li are joined by Charlotte Adams of Charlotte Adams Dance, Dance Theatre of Harlem alumna Endalyn Taylor, and Heidi Latsky, formerly with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane company, now head of her own troupe. Expect a show that’s daring and surprising. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side.  

A LIFE BEHIND BARS (one-man play) by Dan Ruth. Oct. 24 -26 at Carnegie Stage. 

In case you missed it in January, A Life Behind Bars returns to the Pittsburgh area, and it’s not a prison drama. Theater artist Dan Ruth created this solo play about his previous life tending bars and drinking in them. The real-life scenes that he re-enacts transpired over a couple of decades in New York City, where Ruth premiered the show in 2015, winning praise (and various awards) for both its dark-comic tales and how deftly he presents them. His subjects range from the bizarre patrons he served to the social evolution of Brooklyn, once an affordable haven in the pre-man-bun era and now Gentrification Central. In a sense, A Life Behind Bars is a panorama of New York life from the saloon perspective. But it’s also a story of altered consciousness gone wrong, as Ruth relates his own tainted love affair with intoxicating beverages. He’s been in recovery for a while and intends to show up sharp as a straight-edge razor when he performs A Life Behind Bars at Carnegie Stage. 25 W. Main St., Carnegie.

GISELLE (ballet) by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, with music by Adolphe Adam. Oct. 25 – 27, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. 

Drawn from dark ghost legends, 'Giselle' has spooked, and delighted, audiences since 1841. Diana Yohe casts a spell in Pittsburgh Ballet's production. (photo: Rich Sofranko)

Drawn from dark ghost legends, ‘Giselle’ has spooked—and delighted—audiences since 1841. Diana Yohe casts a spell in Pittsburgh Ballet’s production. (photo: Rich Sofranko)

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is such an institution in the city that it’s hard to believe the company is only 50 years old. Since 1969, PBT has often interspersed modern ballets with the classical repertoire—last season included the world premiere of Jorden Morris’s The Great Gatsby—but to launch its golden anniversary season, Pittsburgh Ballet dances a golden classic, Giselle. The slang expression “the willies,” meaning a spooky sensation, may have come from this ballet. Giselle was inspired by Slavic folk tales of forest spirits called the Vile or Wilis. In one telling, the Wilis are ghosts of young women who died after being spurned by the men they loved. They seek retribution by cornering men and dancing them to death. The ballet’s title character is spurned and dies, but her spirit rebels at the cruel mission. Giselle premiered in Paris in 1841. It was a sensational success, hailed then and ever since for its haunting beauty. PBT presents Giselle with the original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, danced to music by Adolphe Adam. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District.  

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. 

Pop hits of the 1950s and early '60s included ethnic and folk-inspired songs from artists such as Harry Belafonte. The boys in 'Forever Plaid' appear to have their stereotypes on wrong but they give it a lot of energy. (photo: Matt Polk)

Pop hits of the 1950s and early ’60s included ethnic and folk-inspired songs from artists such as Harry Belafonte. The boys in ‘Forever Plaid’ appear to have their stereotypes on wrong but they give it a lot of energy. (photo: Matt Polk)

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.  

Other Shows in the Region:

BLOOMSDAY by Steven Deitz. Sept. 26 – Oct. 12, Little Lake Theatre. 

Bloomsday is a literary romance play set in Dublin. That’s where a young man and woman once met during the annual June 16 celebration of James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, and where they re-meet decades later after going their separate ways, to reflect on what might have been. 500 Lakeside Dr. South, Canonsburg.    

BLITHE SPIRIT by Noel Coward. Sept. 26 – Oct. 6, Apple Hill Playhouse, and Oct. 17 – Nov. 2, Little Lake Theatre.

Noel Coward’s British comedies of the 1920s to ’40s remain pretty darned 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 two local theater companies: Apple Hill Playhouse, 275 Manor Rd., Delmont; and then Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Dr. South, Canonsburg. 

DOCTOR FAUSTUS LIGHTS THE LIGHTS by Gertrude Stein. Oct. 2 – 6, Pitt Department of Theatre Arts. 

Gertrude Stein's works included 'The Making of Americans.' She also wrote 'Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights,' an electric tale of fate and folly, on stage this month at Pitt. (photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1935)

Gertrude Stein’s works included ‘The Making of Americans.’ She also wrote ‘Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights,’ an electric tale of fate and folly, on stage this month at Pitt. (photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1935)

Gertrude Stein was born in Allegheny (now Pittsburgh’s North Side) at the dawn of the modern industrial age, so naturally her take on the Faust legend includes updates. In Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, the Doctor invents electricity but seems unable to cure a woman or women bitten by a viper, while the Devil lurks and a talking dog says “Thank you.” At the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 

TIGER AT THE GATES (a.k.a. The Trojan War Will Not Take Place) by Jean Giraudoux. Oct. 3 – 12, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. 

The First World War broke out swiftly and escalated madly, slaughtering millions. French writer Jean Giraudoux was a twice-wounded veteran. In his 1935 play The Trojan War Will Not Take Place—translated by Christopher Fry as Tiger at the Gates—Hector tries to persuade his fellow Trojans that fighting to let their prince keep an abducted woman would be madness. Will common sense prevail? Purnell Center for the Arts at Carnegie Mellon, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland.  

CLEO PARKER ROBINSON DANCE ENSEMBLE (modern dance). Oct. 4 – 5, the company at the August Wilson Cultural Center. 

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, based in Denver for 40 years and counting, is one of the foremost African-American modern dance companies. Cleo’s ensemble comes to Pittsburgh with a show that includes their signature high-energy pieces set to brassy jazz. 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District.  

THE BLOODLESS JUNGLE by Peter Lawson Jones. Oct. 4-5, Duquesne University Red Masquers. 

A man running for U.S. Congress faces a choice— he could get involved in a court case to possibly save an old friend from wrongful conviction, but doing so could ruin his political career. Whereas many politicians might just say “Too bad, old chum,” the hero in The Bloodless Jungle wrestles with the dilemma. At the Genesius Theater, 1225 Seitz St., Uptown. 

 IT’S JESTER JOKE (one-person drag comedy) by Bianca Del Rio. Oct. 8 only, 8 p.m., the artist at the Byham Theater. 

Newsflash: New York magazine has ranked Bianca Del Rio the Most Powerful Drag Queen in America. If you’re interested in comedy rather than power, there’s even better news, as the Clown in a Gown brings her It’s Jester Joke show to Pittsburgh. 101 6th St., Cultural District. 

CATAPULT: THE AMAZING MAGIC OF SHADOW AND DANCE (modern dance and theatrics) by Catapult. Oct. 10 only, 7:30 p.m., the company at the Byham Theater. 

The Catapult shadow dancers were finalists on “America’s Got Talent” a few years back, but not as amateurs aspiring to the big time. They’re a skilled professional company led by founder/director Adam Battelstein, formerly of the groundbreaking Pilobolus dance troupe, and their latest U.S tour visits the Byham. 101 6th St., Cultural District. 

THAT GOLDEN GIRLS SHOW! A PUPPET PARODY. Oct. 11 – 12, touring production at the Byham Theater. 

There is no such thing as too much Betty White. Especially not when you can see Betty and her fellow actresses re-created as puppets in a parody-slash-tribute that samples peak moments from the NBC-TV sitcom “The Golden Girls.” 101 6th St., Cultural District. 

RUPAUL’S WERQ THE WORLD TOUR. Oct. 12 only, 8 p.m., at Heinz Hall. 

Best RuPaul quote: “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” He sends a cavalcade of queens to Heinz Hall on a mission dubbed the Werq The World Tour. 8 p.m. sharp at 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. 

MYTHBURGH (storytelling/performance). Oct. 13 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.

GOOD GRIEF by Ngozi Anyanwu. Oct. 17 – 27, Point Park Conservatory Theatre. 

Good Grief, an introspective play with an odd title, received rave reviews in New York last year with playwright Ngozi Anyanwu in the lead role. It’s about a young woman who loses her school-days best friend and would-be lover when he dies in an auto accident. Point Park Conservatory Theatre performs Good Grief in the Rauh Theatre in the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, 350 Forbes Ave., Downtown. 

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW by Richard O’Brien. Oct. 17 – 19, Actors and Artists of Fayette County, and Oct. 25 – 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 at two Pittsburgh-area theater companies this month. Actors and Artists of Fayette County stages it Oct. 17-19 at the Geyer Performing Arts Center, 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale. Stage Right of Greensburg performs Rocky Horror Oct. 25-26 at The Lamp Theatre, 222 Main St., Irwin, and Oct. 31 – Nov. 1 at the Greensburg Garden Civic Center, 951 Old Salem Rd., Greensburg. 

THE OFFICE! A MUSICAL PARODY by Bob and Tobly McSmith. Oct. 18 – 19, touring production at the Byham Theater. 

Patrons must be advised that this is an unauthorized parody. But writers Bob and Tobly McSmith are veteran parodists, and they surely have good lawyers, so it’s probably OK to see their musical send-up of the TV series “The Office” at the Byham Theater. 101 6th St., Cultural District.   

COWBOY by Layon Gray. Oct. 18-20, New Horizon Theater. 

The picture is grainy but the eagle eyes are sharp: Western lawman Bass Reeves, real-life subject of 'Cowboy,' always got his man. (photographer and date unknown)

The picture is grainy but the eagle eyes are sharp: Western lawman Bass Reeves, real-life subject of ‘Cowboy,’ always got his man. (photographer and date unknown)

Born into slavery in 1838, Bass Reeves escaped his owner during the Civil War, and then served over 30 years as a deputy U.S. marshal in the wild West—the first African American to do so. He was known as a fearless and effective lawman. Playwright/director Layon Gray brings his new play about Reeves, Cowboy, to Pittsburgh’s New Horizon Theater company. At the Kelly Strayhorn. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. 

DARK SKINNED PAVEMENT (staged reading of a new play) by TJ Parker-Young. Oct. 19 only, 7:30 p.m., Throughline Theatre.  

Throughline Theatre is one of Pittsburgh’s adventurous smaller companies. Up-and-coming playwright TJ Parker-Young has a gritty urban drama in development. The staged reading of Dark Skinned Pavement includes refreshments and a talk-back with TJ. At the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, 5006 Penn Ave., Garfield.  

SASHA VELOUR’S SMOKE & MIRRORS (drag performance and magic). Oct. 29 only, 7:30 p.m., the artist at the Byham Theater.

Sasha Velour has been hailed for taking drag to new dimensions, which maybe she does. Her new one-queen show Smoke & Mirrors combines lip-sync song and dance with multimedia and magic, such as sawing herself in half. 101 6th St., Cultural District. 

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

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