COLLEGE PARK, MD. -- Last weekend, I was in NYC for theater, this week I was in Pittsburgh for theater -- so much to see, you had to choose. Chris Rawson and Bob Hoover covered the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts' finales, "The God That Comes" and "Measure Back." On Thursday I went to see Bricolage's "Midnight Radio -- Episode 2: The War of the Worlds" and on Friday, Point Park Conservatory's "Oklahoma!" Had to keep a date and run down to Maryland to spend Saturday watching college football in the cold sun, but here's a look back.
Bricolage's "Midnight Radio: The War of the Worlds"
The friendly folks at Bricolage are bringing back those nasty Martians from "War of the Worlds" and setting them loose in Western Pennsylvania for the 75th anniversary of the famed Orson Welles broadcast. The Howard Koch script (from the H.G. Wells novel) gets a PA makeover but it's pretty much the same formula that scared the heck out of radio listeners in 1938, reimagined as a live stage show with sound effects, musical accompaniment and some commercials spoofs of things like pantyhose to lighten the mood.
I didn't see Midnight Radio's first go at "WOTW" in 2010, but this one was fun from threshold to finish, with Bricolage's Liberty Avenue entry way remade as an archway of robotic legs. Once inside, there was a table set up for the craftsy kid in us to create our own little robots and set them on miniature cityscapes, plus Ryder Henry spaceship sculptures hovering throughout the lobby.
The cast of Paul Guggenheimer, Randy Kovits, Jason McCune and Sean Sears, with Tami Dixon providing most of the Foley sound effects, retells the tall tale of death and destruction by high-tech Martians and their horrifyingly efficient "heat rays." Directed by Jeffrey Carpenter and with musical accompaniment by the Ortner-Roberts Trio, the first half is very much the broadcast that leaves you wondering:
Could I have fallen for this back in the day? Without the instant updates of Twitter and instant communication, if I had tuned in after the intro in 1938, would I have been sucked in? I'd like to believe I would have though, "This is really realistic," rather than, "Aaaah!" If you've watched the trailers for "Ender's Game," they begin with Harrison Ford saying, "When the aliens invaded the first time, we weren't ready …" I think back in 1938, some people weren't ready for the power of the medium of radio.
The second half is mostly Guggenheimer as a scientist working his from McConnell's Mill to Downtown Pittsburgh through a post-apocalyptic landscape, and the resolution of the invasion, and he does a fine job, including a disturbing encounter with McCune as a survivor planning how the world will look if the aliens can be vanquished.
It's a fine way to spend time an evening this Halloween season and a relief for folks like me who like my chills to be thoughtful and not the gory, in-your-face kind. If you can't make it to Bricolage's Downtown home, "WOTW" broadcasts live on WESA 90.5 FM on Oct. 30.
Point Park University Conservatory Theatre Company's "Oklahoma!"
How cool to see so many kids from local high schools and the Kelly Awards making so good in a sparkling production of "Oklahoma!" by Point Park's conservatory students. Director Patrick Cassidy has picked a uniformly fine cast, with scene-stealers Amanda Lee Hawkins as Aunt Eller, Jorie Ann Kosel as Ado Annie and Ryan Gregory Thurman as Ali Kakim backing up talented leads Stanley Graham as Curly and Kirsten Lynn Hoover as Laurey. I can't help but think of Luke Halferty as Tevye for Central Catholic High and the Kellys when I see him playing the menacing Jud Fry and wonder at the range of the Point Park junior.
The volume was pumped up to the point of distraction when I saw the show on Friday -- certainly, Graham's powerful pipes didn't need the boost -- but otherwise, oh what a beautiful production. It includes a tight, athletic dance ensemble led by Zeva Barzell and a subtly changing skycape by Jessi Sedon-Essad, with everyone lit lovingly by Scott Nelson. Richard Rodgers' classic score also was in capable hands under music director Michael McKelvey, who conducted an unseen but appreciated nine-piece orchestra.
"Oklahoma!" continues at the Pittsburgh Playhouse's Rockwell Theatre through Oct. 27.
Image by Jeff Swensen: Amanda Lee Hawkins, Stanley Graham and Kirsten Lynn Hoover.