Quantumn’s ‘The River’ Running Smoothly; ‘Hand to God’ Onstage at City (Wed., 10/12/16)

Siovhan Christensen (L) and Daina Michelle Griffith play the eerie, unnamed women in Quantum Theatre's "The River." But don't be overly spooked: theater on tap this month includes shows that span a rich variety of moods and genres.

Siovhan Christensen (L) and Daina Michelle Griffith play the eerie, unnamed women in Quantum Theatre’s “The River.” But don’t be overly spooked: theater on tap this month includes shows that span a rich variety of moods and genres.

1) Quantum Theatre has pulled off some surprising feats over the past few years—such as turning one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, The Winter’s Tale, into an astounding, psychedelic comic opera. Now the company is going after another potential sleeper hit with Jez Butterworth’s The River. Butterworth is a highly regarded English playwright, so there’s no question of author cred here. But whereas his previous play, the 2008 Jerusalem, was a raucous blockbuster that won several big awards, The River is a smaller, intimate drama that has drawn what you might call perplexed praise from reviewers. The male character is a mysterious and reclusive trout fisherman (played on Broadway two years ago by Hugh Jackman). Two women round out the cast. The fisherman is prone to philosophical musings upon his pastime, but apparently he’s up to something more. The nature of it cannot be revealed because the play comes bristling with spoiler alerts. Quantum is staging The River on the shore of a river that must be revealed: it’s the Allegheny. 8 p.m. Performances through October 30. At Aspinwall Riverfront Park, 285 River Ave., Aspinwall. (MV)

2) Plays with puppets in them are not just for children, and some are not targeted to small children at all. The musical Avenue Q set an adult tone a decade ago with its depictions of puppet sex and drunkenness, and now Hand to God raises the bar. This dark comedy by Robert Askins is set in a small Texas town where a church has started a faith-based puppet club for teenagers. Things literally get out of hand when an evil hand puppet takes on a life of its own—spewing foul obscenities, oozing lust and rebellion, and otherwise acting out (one suspects) the repressed impulses of the shy teenaged boy who made him. Hand to God was a smash hit off-Broadway, then moved last year to Broadway, where it was nominated for five Tony Awards. Here in Pittsburgh, City Theatre opens its season with the play. 1 p.m. Performances through October 22. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. (MV)

3) When Lynn Nottage first made her mark in theater, it was a mark that often had niches specified. She was hailed as an up-and-coming female playwright, a promising African-American playwright, and, not surprisingly, a writer of plays about black women. Now, after a Pulitzer Prize and other high honors, it’s time to just call her one of our leading playwrights. Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts is performing the Nottage play Intimate Apparel, regarded by many fans as perhaps her best. Set in New York in the early 1900s, Intimate Apparel traces the story of a seamstress who makes fashionable undergarments for ladies who can pay. Her clients run the gamut from wealthy white women to a prostitute. The men in her life include a friendly (but ultimately verboten to her) Jewish dry-goods dealer and a hard-driving construction worker intent on marriage. What unfolds is a panorama of life, hopes, and limitations in the big city during a formative time. 8 p.m. Ends Sunday. In the Henry Heymann Theatre at the Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (MV)

4) Switchfoot, an alternative rock quintet from San Diego, California, digs deep when searching for lyrical and sonic inspiration. 2009’s Hello Hurricane and 2011’s Vice Verses are albums about, respectively, Katrina and San Diego’s homeless youth. Their newest, this year’s Where the Light Shines Through, responds to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino as well as the national election and Isis. It’s a response of hope, however. 10 albums into their career, and Switchfoot’s optimism is unwavering. They are on the Looking for America Tour with Relient K, a punk rock band from Canton, Ohio. Relient K achieved mainstream success when their 2004 album, Mmhmm, debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 chart. It included the single “Be My Escape.” In 2014, the band celebrated the 10th anniversary of that album, a celebration that included a sold-out show at the late Altar Bar. This year, Air for Free, featuring the single “Bummin,’” was released. Both bands headline Stage AE this month. Doors open at 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)


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Rick Handler

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