Cafe Witness

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Finally: A New Pittsburgh Play Worth Supporting!

Since my girlfriend is a theatre person, I see a lot more stage plays than I might otherwise. That's difficult, because Pittsburgh's theatre scene is regularly horrible.

Specifically, Pittsburgh fails to support new, envelope-pushing work. That's because 90% of its theatre-going audience are senior citizens, who prefer reimagined classics over anything that generates actual discussion or controversy. Thus, there's no audience for new works, so no one performs them, and therefore most under-40s in Pittsburgh believe that theatre is a medium that can't possibly speak to them.

Here's a play that will hopefully break that mold: David Turkel's "Key to the Field," being produced and performed by the Bricolage theatre group at 937 Liberty Ave. (Tickets $15 here -- don't worry, I make no commission.)

I saw it last night. It was wonderful, gripping, compelling and satisfying -- easily the best play I've seen in Pittsburgh in the past 2 years. Hopefully you'll agree.

I won't attempt to explain what the play is "about," because that's kind of the point -- this is a piece of art from which everyone will be able to draw their own conclusions. Double-casting, a non-linear narrative and a heavy dose of surreality create a story that's part modern allegory and part road trip nightmare. However, it's not so open-ended as to be aggravating for the more traditional theatregoers who require logic and closure.

Interesting side note: I originally saw "Key" during last year's Bricolage summer reading series, an annual (FREE) event in which 6 plays are read for an audience, one per month, to generate feedback for the authors. At the end of the reading series, the audience is asked to vote for the play they most enjoyed. The winner is staged by Bricolage the following year.

"Key" was last year's winner. It's almost entirely the same in most respects as it was during the reading, with a few structural changes that have tightened the plot and made the underlying themes more prevalent. IMHO, this is a great example of what can happen when a talented writer receives valuable feedback and applies his own common sense to the existing flaws in his story. With "Key to the Field," Turkel has produced a play he -- and Pittsburgh - can be proud of.

So, do yourself (and the city) a favor: go see "Key to the Field." Bricolage deserves our support, so they can be encouraged to continue creating new, relevant and engaging theatre. (And, if it works for them, maybe someone else will do it, too...)

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  • I go to a lot of theater in Pittsburgh, and I thought Key to the Field was the best production I saw last year. I'm almost 68. So drop the ageism, sonny!

    A lot of the new plays around don't push the envelope at all; they're formulaic and are about "happy people with happy problems," to quote Herbert Gold.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:14 PM  

  • Glad to hear it! And I agree, across the board (films, TV, stage), there's not enough experimentation. Of course, in this economy, maybe "safe" is the smartest way to go.

    As for ageism, I may be partially guilty, but I'd rather be pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming numbers of seniors flocking to cutting-edge theatre (when it *is* performed). Alas, the tiny size of the "Key to the Field" audiences speaks loudest. I don't know what Bricolage could have done to reach (and interest) more traditional theatregoers, but not enough of them found "Key" compelling enough to venture out for.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 1:47 PM  

  • It can't work in actual fact, that's what I think.
    Chicken and Sausage Stew

    By Anonymous Clement, at 6:01 PM  

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