Monday, February 13, 2012

"Elder Hostages" from Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre

"Elder Hostages" is a collection of three short by local prolific Pittsburgh writer Ray Werner. The three pieces, all featuring "older" casts, explore the complex relationships, love and tenacity of everyday people who have been old enough to "find the jug, go 'round it, and find the handle several times".

The most striking quality of "Elder Hostages" has to be the brilliant performances of the cast. About two out of the three short plays, Mum's the Word (featuring marathon performer Roger Jerome and David Crawford) and Wandering Angus (Jerome, Crawford and the thoroughly worth-waiting-for Stevie Akers) tend to drag and go in circles that are enjoyable, but grow tiresome through flat plots, and "Why are we here?" situations. However, what makes these short plays more than worthwhile is the brilliant level of performance put out by the casts. While the writing may be thin, the relationships are thick as thieves. Whether the characters have known each other their whole lives or just met at the bus, the expert cast creates whole human beings that are great to watch.

The third piece of the night, Night Song, is dedicated to all Alzheimer sufferers and the people who love/care for them. In it, a husband (played by Jerome who is featured in all and excels fantasically as three very different characters) struggles to under is wife's disease as she (played so convincingly by Susie McGregor-Laine) struggles to understand him and be understood. While the piece has fantastic performances, what sets it apart is the way the story unfolds. The scene is a puzzle and the couple's past in the final picture. The writing is intriguing in its single-mindedness and portrays a beautiful juxtaposition of two people reliving the same past, but from two different perspectives, all in an attempt to discover the elusive "B" (See the show and insert own metaphor here).

The set is something seldom seen in small, intimate theatres, a full-stage revolve that is used extremely well to relaistically transform wherever the actors are supposed to be (all three scenes take place in drastically different locations). Adding to this is fantastic set dressing that really makes the space seem alive and lived-in. Adding to the charm are classic tunes that serenade the audience in between plays.

Every Sunday features a talk back with notable Pittsburgh members of the "Revivement" (this generation's uplifting replacement for "retirement") community. And come early any performance day to experience the lobby of the dowtown theatre which doubles as a gallery, featuring phorographs of some famous (and other just amazing) human beings who have made their old age another notch in the belt of an amazing life. Well done, as this is the tone of "Elder Hostages".

Tickets for "Elder Hostages" may be bought here:

 - The Eponymous Theatre Critic is over six feet tall and lanky. Epony was born in a log cabin, the 16th President of the United States and an Illinois state legislator though failed in two attempts to be elected to the United States Senate. Epony can be seen in move theatres later this year killing vampires...which is a bit of an irony.

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