(PITTSBURGH, PA) – Quantum Theatre, known for its deep experimentation, produces the regional premiere of British playwright Jez Butterworth’s 2008 play Parlour Song, which originated on Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Co. and London’s Almeida Theatre. Acclaimed (and Olivier Award-winning), its Broadway cast included Emily Mortimer. Critic Ben Brantley said, “Now this is adult entertainment… the affecting accomplishment of Parlour Song is that it peels its characters down to emotional nakedness without ever violating the mystery of people who remain mysteries even to themselves.” Butterworth’s more recent play Jerusalem has subsequently won the Tony Award for Mark Rylance as Best Actor in a Play (2012).
Butterworth was mentored by Harold Pinter, and clearly influenced by that great writer; his plays deliver Pinter-like sharpness of dialogue, dark humor, and menace beneath the surface. The surface here is an affluent suburban community where things tend to look alike – giving Parlour Song a John Updike flavor as well. It’s about two couples, friends living side-by-side – though only three members of this foursome appear – an unholy trinity. Think sinuous, tightly controlled, in terms of the lone woman, and guys with an often hilarious bravura that covers increasing desperation. One is a demolitions expert; Ned’s job is to blow things up, like banal, disposable shopping centers (to make room for, say, a shopping center eerily similar to the first.) Dale runs a car wash and keeps himself fit. Another hallmark of Butterworth’s work is the presence, below the surface but ready to assert itself, of nature, the things we think we control but don’t, like the powerful forces of the earth and our animal instincts, there to be reckoned with. Joy, especially, takes the play to a dark and primal place by its end. She has her eye on a very dangerous and existential escape from this affluent, pseudo-paradise. Along the way… things are disappearing, things as small as cuff links, as large as lawn mowers, and as strange as a stuffed badger and a bust of Aldous Huxley.
Quantum casts Cameron Knight, recently come to Pittsburgh to teach acting at Carnegie Mellon University, whose credits include the Oregon, Michigan, Texas, and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Milwaukee Rep, and the Kennedy Center; Brendan McMahon, trained at Lecoq’s famous Ecole Lessaad, with credits including Mabou Mimes, Lincoln Center, NY Classical Theatre, Cherry Lane, and St. Ann’s Warehouse; and Sarah Silk, a former Pittsburgh actress now living in NY where she works frequently at the Flea Theater. The Waterfront provides a slick commercial location for the project (and such modern conveniences as real bathrooms, heat, and parking). Director Martin Giles collaborates with designers Tony Ferrieri (set), Scott T. Nelson (lighting), Richard Parsakian (costume), and Bill Stankay (sound).
Special events in the run include: Community Night, for invited Homestead residents on October 31; Ladies Night on November 6, a women’s-only viewing with a pre-show gathering; Grapenuts Night on November 8, which will include a special pre-show wine-tasting; Post Show Discussion with cast on November 10; Social Q Happy Hour, a pre-show happy hour for young professionals on November 14; and Quantum on the Couch, a post-show psychoanalysis of the play’s characters led by analyst David Orbison, Ph.D., on November 15. For restaurant partnerships, parking information and more, visit quantumtheatre.com.