What’s most remarkable about Frank Gagliano’s “Voodoo Trilogy" (nearing the end of its run at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre) is how it came to be staged. Frank swears that PPW’s Mark Southers just phoned him out of the blue and said he’d like to take it on, the whole trilogy, and who ever does that? So Frank has been able to revisit material at least some of which has been around for more than two decades – I recall seeing “Congo Square (A Musical)” at the CMU Summer Showcase in 1989, when composer Claibe Richardson (now deceased) was there to work on it with Frank.
Having just reviewed the bloated but seductive “In the Voodoo Parlour of Marie Laveau (An Unsung Opera),” I returned Tuesday for the other two parts of the 3-show Mardi Gras marathon-with-party-to-follow. "The Commedia World of Lafcadio B (A Reading)" is a self-conscious piece, with the con man insufferably proud of himself. But “Congo Square” has considerable power and is often touching, even as pruned by director Marcie Woodruff.
No, probably because it’s been pruned. If I were Frank and wanted this material to have further life at professional companies, which it’s not necessarily certain he does, I’d cut the 95-minute “Marie Laveau” down to under an hour. (I’d even offer to cut it for him, if he can’t bear to.) Then I’d prune “Congo Square” to about 70 minutes. And presto, a New Orleans/Marie Laveau/mini-operatic (sung and not sung) "Voodoo Duo"!
Special kudos to set designers Tony Ferrieri and Vanessa German for their imaginative atmosphere, and to Mark for building a whole new, intimate “couch theater” for the occasion. And the party was great.