Teenie ("Toyer") isn't always small

Friday, 03 August 2012 07:04 PM Written by
Yesterday I had fun doing my weekly (no, make that occasional) Thursday morning gig on KDKA-TV’s “Pittsburgh Today Live,” this time talking about grandiose, big and teenie. You can watch it if that’s your taste, but you have to get through an ad first. Here’s the link.

Grandiose is “The Addams Family,” the tour thereof, concluding the season this weekend at the Benedum for the CLO. I couldn’t get to it, which I understand has been tightened up and considerably rewritten, but I do remember Broadway, and for all its schlock (I expect that hasn’t changed) it’s a lot of fun – even for Chas Addams fans who would probably rather think of him as a cult taste, not a great big Broadway/Benedum show.

Big, or rather medium, or maybe medium big, is the Chekhov Festival at PICT. I liked “Three Sisters” a lot, because, after all, it is a very great play, somewhere between soap opera and classical tragedy, and PICT does it proud. Those Prozorov women always break me up, but they’re always different, too, as the play reflects different facets in different productions. This one is big because it’s a big play, but it’s part of an even bigger Chekhov Festival, one of four major productions, right through the end of August. (There’s even a vodka tasting tonight. Too bad we missed it.)

By the way, I want to brag that I knew the translator, Paul Schmidt, in college, and even acted with him – a brilliant, funny man, who accomplished a great deal and still died too young.

TOYERTeenie is as teenie as they get, “Toyer,” a melodrama from about 20 years ago by Gardner McKay, directed by Charlie Wein as what can only be called living room theater. It’s a noir thriller staged in the living room of a South Oakland apartment, just 10 chairs and the two actors, right there with you.

The story is that there’s been a serial terrorist, a man doing things to women that I don’t want even to describe. Our hero is a psychiatrist (the beautiful Morgan Wolk) who has been trying to work with the surviving women, and then Peter (the very plausible Jamie McDonald) worms his way into her apartment. Is he the Toyer himself, or is he a Toyer copy-cat, or (for example) an actor who sees his encounter with her as an ambitious scene, or is he something else? And what is she, in relation to all that?

This same combo staged the show a year ago and brought it back because the demand exceeded the available seats (well, duh) and also because they wanted to make some changes in a rather klunky script. They’ve done that, and although I saw it last year, I was even more impressed this time, and properly intrigued and terrified, even though I sort of remembered how it would turn out.

I recommend seeing it at the 11 pm show. Shudder. A very intimate encounter with some fine acting.

Aug. 3 and 4, 8 and 11 pm; Aug. 5, 8 pm. $10. Reservations required: 412-334-2633.

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CuccioliCLORobert Cuccioli, the Tony-nominated star of "Jekyll and Hyde," was in residence with Pittsburgh CLO last summer as the director of "Jekyll and Hyde" and a star of "The Sound of Music" (Captain von Trapp, right) and "Jesus Christ Superstar" (Pontius Pilate). This summer, he's back on Broadway in a dual role that goes from good intentions to mean and green. Cuccioli will take over as Norman Osborn and The Green Goblin in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" starting Aug. 7 at the Foxwoods Theatre, 213 W. 42nd St.

Patrick Page, who originated the role, will play his final performance Sunday, Aug. 5.

"There aren't a lot of actors out there who can pull off utterly likable and totally terrifying at the same time, and so we feel extremely lucky that the great Robert Cuccioli has agreed to take on this role," producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said in a statement.

Cuccioli also is working on his debut solo album "The Look of Love," to be released in October (more at www.robertcuccioli.com).

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Rent_PosterAlumni Theater Company, the local performing-arts program for grades 6-12, presents "Rent" this weekend at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. Shows are 8 p.m. July 27-28, and 7 p.m. July 29.

"Rent" is the Jonathan Larson rock opera about a year in the life of young bohemians who form a community in New York's East Village. Find details and ticket info for the ATC production at alumnitheatercompany.org.

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Six middle and high school students were named contest winners for City Theatre's 13th Young Playwrights Festival Oct. 2-10. The one-act plays by Western Pennsylvania students, chosen from 225 submissions, will be developed in collaboration with theater pros for productions on City's Lester Hamburg Studio Stage.

The contest winners are:

Middle school — "The Journey Through Gulompae Forest" by Marin Exler, Carlynton Junior-Senior High School; "Elizabeth's Revolution" by Brigid Stuart, Brentwood Middle School; "Sherbert Homes and the Diamond Deception" by Claire Zalla, Fort Couch Middle School.

High school — "The Stranger" by Liam McInerney, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School; "Roost" by Lana Meyer, Carlynton Junior-Senior High School; "Five Generations" by Alexis Payne, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12.

Each script was read by at least two members of the Literary Committee, comprised of 45 theater professionals from across the United States. Writers who submit a play receive constructive criticism and encouraging suggestions for continued revisions. The full festival schedule, including performances and workshops, will be announced in late August. Details: citytheatrecompany.org.

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Chicago, Tuesday, June 12: What a great city – to arrive in the Loop by train (subway? what do they call it?) from the airport is like discovering what a city can be, lively, vigorous, young, brawny (as the poet says), a real urban city. I don’t really know anything about Chicago, but the several times I’ve been here it’s always felt like the grownup city that Pittsburgh hopes to grow up to be.

And to arrive today, amid gorgeous weather, and find my way to a classy little hotel right on the north edge of the Loop, looking out over that canal they call the Chicago River, is like coming home to a dream. Back home in Pittsburgh there are a few blocks Downtown in what we call the Cultural District where you get this feeling, the urban essence – just why cities were invented -- but here it extends outward in every direction.

I had to head out to a farther reach of the city for an afternoon meeting, and after trying to find the right train stop and making a couple of mistakes, I knew I’d be late. But when I called ahead to say so, I was told I had an extra hour. Call it the Phileas Fogg effect: I hadn’t yet reset my watch to account for the time zone. Extra time! I love Chicago.

I’m here for a five-day annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association, so of course I’m feeling good – I have all that theater to look forward to, along with old friends from 28 years of ATCA gatherings. I’ll blog when I can, mainly about the plays. But today, it’s all about arriving and the excitement of this great city all around me.

-- Chris Rawson

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I was rooting for Audra McDonald just on general principles, as I have ever since I met her backstage at what I think was her first Broadway show, "Carousel" at Lincoln Center -- where she also won a Tony. I think "Porgy" now gives her 5 Tonys out of 6 nominations. I can't check that, because iBdb isn't responding, presumably because of post-Tonys traffic; anyway, it's an astonishing rate, sort of like the Pirates scoring 5 runs on 6 hits the other night.

Apologies for the late appearance of all these posts, which stacked up unposted for a while. I think I lost a couple, too, until I fugured out the glitch. Eventually I got caught up closer to real time, but then the post before this didn't even post until I gave it a post-show kick in the arse. And then I decided to watch the sports news and ended up with the Reds-Tigers game, rooting for the Tigers to put the Pirates in first place, even if only for a bit. And they did!

But back to the Tonys, where I eked out a 13-13 tie, and there are no extra innings. The predictable best musical win for "Once" (so predictable that I predicted it) saved me from total embarassment, getting me back to .500 (to continue the baseball analogy). Pretty bad. I guess my wheels are getting rusty. Obviously one problem is that I didn't see "Once" and thus couldn't imagine that it would win those design awards I missed.

I loved Neil Patrick Harris' final song, playing with the whole time deadline business. Theater may not measure up to film, TV, pop music and who knows what other pop/arts realms, not commercially, but it beats them in wry. Ham on Wry, as we used to say.

See you next year. By then I expect to have a decent laptop, so I can actually blog in front of the TV and do it right, instead of running across the hall to my home office.

Next week I'm in Chicago for the American Theatre Critics Association annual conference. If all goes well I'll be posting from there.

-- Chris Rawson

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Tonys: 11 out of 23, with three to go

Sunday, 10 June 2012 10:28 PM Written by
This is embarassing: normally just about anyone can get 2/3 or 3/4 of them right, and here I am holding on, hoping to break even. . . . Congratulations to Michael Kahn whose Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. was the deserved winner of the regional theater Tony, which is awarded based on a recommendation by my group, the American Theatre Critics Association. We can be proud of this one, it's a worthy choice, as with 90% of our picks over the years. . . . Was Hugh Jackman really surprised when his wife slipped out to go to the loo and suddenly appeared on stage to give him a special Tony? Really? And yet he gave such a lovely speech, without missing a beat? Is he really that articulate and smart, in addition to being so handsome? The rest of us better give up.

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Tonys: Help, I'm drowning . . . !

Sunday, 10 June 2012 10:23 PM Written by
And that's not just because of that totally unnecessary (how much of a fee did they collect?) remote of "Hairspray" from the cruise ship (but it's always fun to see/hear Harvey Fierstein, especially in shorts), but because I just caught up with all the design awards, where I got slaughtered, scoring only 3 out of 8. So my overall score now stands at 11 out of 21, making me a candidate to rank with the Pirates of last year and the years before . . . . I'm glad "Clybourne Park" won, and I bet Ted Pappas is, too. But I thought it was awful that they gave puny 15-second snippets of the best play nominees, in such a great year for plays on Broadway. -- Chris Rawson

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