By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Move over, Bucco’s, Pittsburgh just got another batch of Pirates in town. Shaun Rolly’s “A Pirate’s Tale” docked into Carnegie Stage on July 22. These pirates are a bunch of sword-carrying, swash-buckling, booty-hunting scalawags, and they’re a joy to watch.
Avast, Rolly’s pirates have traversed these Three Rivers before, during dinner shows on the Gateway Clipper. This was more than just a premiere performance for landlubbers. It is an extended feature-length yarn. It’s also a more robust tale with dark themes and sexual innuendo. While you could probably take children to the play, it’s not a strictly a kiddie story. The show is difficult to categorize. Parents should make the final determination as some material may not be suitable for all audiences.
“A Pirate’s Tale” has a complicated triangle at the center of the story. Tristan LaMarque (Ray Cygrymus) has promised a conquered vessel, the Raven, to both his first mate, Sebastian Palk (Michael Petyak), and to his lover, Cassandra McKaye, the Pirate Queen (Tiffany Joy Williams). Obviously, swords will be drawn and blood will be shed when a three-sided pirate war brews. A brawl set to a catchy score, with music and lyrics by Paul Shapera.
On opening night, the show was still finding its sea legs; there were few minor technical issues with lights coming up or going down at inopportune times. Despite a few glitches, the show was marvelous fun!
On a ship of thieves, head thief Tristan is the vilest villain of the bunch, but playwright Rolly adds nuance to the freebooter. Cygrymus is able to get at the depth of the character. Tristan hornswaggles his first mate and plans to sell prisoners into slavery. The scurvy dog! The final straw comes when he condemns his pirate queen to walk the plank. What a scoundrel! Yet, somehow, you feel empathy for him when he sings “Cassie, Losing You.” Cygrymus has a smooth vocal style and could probably sell ice to Eskimos if he sang about the deal.
One of the best songs in the show is “Hey Diddle-Diddle.” It’s all backstory on Cassie the Pirate Queen, beautifully rendered by Williams. There are a lot of great songs in the show and the cast performs them deftly. She is a charismatic lead and the stage comes alive every time she is on deck.
Another pirate, Abigail (Hope Anthony, last scene in “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” going from ho to “yo ho!”), does a jig, aptly named “Abigail’s Jig,” and it’s another showstopper. The distaff pirates (Sierra Zelmer and Sandi Oshaben joined with Williams and Anthony) sing an origin song together, and it’s not only a fun, little ditty, it has a powerful message about female empowerment. Note: While history books shows there were many real-life female pirates (Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Mary Crickett and more), it’s highly improbable that four women served on one ship and were treated equally, without having to disguise themselves as men (Mary Read became Mark Read in the 1690). Regardless, the women are central characters in the story.
P.S. “A Pirate’s Tale” passes the Bechdel Test with a flying colors.
The boys weren’t bad either. Palk is a meaty role and Petyak sinks his teeth into it. Enrique Bazan does a fine job as Eli and the rest of the crew of the Anne-Marie perform swimmingly. The entire cast is brewing over with enthusiasm (probably because it looks like so much fun). Shout out to Tim Tolbert’s Jonathan who provided the comic relief. Tolbert put the jolly in Jolly Roger, even when he has to deliver lines that would have made Rose Nyland seem like a Rhodes Scholar.
“A Pirate’s Tale” has a very minimalist set but Leah Klocko’s costumes bring the show to life. The show is finely choreographed by Lisa Moran Elliot, with fight choreography from Rolly and Fight Captain Jonathan Beckas.
Kudos for Catherine Gallagher for her bold direction and dramaturgy. Gallagher, with Rolly’s help, took the Gateway Clipper Fleet show and added depth and dimension, elevating the material.
When you see it, you’re going to want to grab a cutlass and join the crew! “A Pirate’s Tale” is a real treasure.
“A Pirates Tale” is at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.