by Michael Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
On Sunday, August 19, the City of Pittsburgh declared Bingo O’Malley Day in a special proclamation issued by Mayor Bill Peduto. Via video, the mayor called the iconic actor, “A true son of Pittsburgh” at a special reception held at barebones productions black box theater in Braddock.
Bingo O’Malley has appeared in film, television and theater. He’s known best for his performances in “Out of the Furnace,” “Love and Other Drugs” and “My Bloody Valentine.” He has a lengthy IMDb page, listing a multitude of credits.
O’Malley’s long and varied career started with very humble beginnings. He was once a parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima in Hopewell in the late 60s, and spent thirty years as a juvenile probation officer and school social-worker. He honed his craft working in theater in his spare time.
In 2004, Andrew Paul, now the artistic director of Kinetic Theatre, drove a van around Ireland (both North and South) with O’Malley with a production of “The Faith Healer.” Paul said, “It was the single most transformative and life-affirming experience I ever had in theatre. Life imitating art – imitating life. Bingo brought something authentic to the play – a genuine spirituality. We would sit in pubs after performances for hours discussing the play and his performance in it with the audience members.” Paul added, “He had a cousin in every town – all of his Irish relatives came out to see us.”
Rich Keitel, a local director/actor/Point Park Professor, said, “Someone once asked the great Director Elia Kazan what was the most important thing about directing. What is the first thing that you should do? He replied ‘Get Marlon Brando.’ Well, I’ve been acting and directing in Pittsburgh for the past 35 years and when anybody asks me the first thing a director should do, I reply ‘Get Bingo O’ Malley.’ I had the privilege of directing Bingo in City Theatre’s ‘American Buffalo’ in 1989. Bingo was brilliant as always. What makes Bingo such a great actor is there is no bullshit in his performances. You can not catch him acting when he acts. He acts with lightning bolts of honesty and truth.”
In 2006, O’Malley worked with Founder and Artistic Director of barebones productions, Patrick Jordan, in “The Grey Zone,” a drama is set in a Nazi concentration camp among the Sonderkommando – Jews who staffed the crematorium in exchange for better treatment and a few extra months of life. O’Malley played Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish doctor who experiments on children to save his own wife and daughter.
Jordan recalls the first time he met O’Malley. “It was in the lobby of the city theater in probably 1999 or 2000. We hit it off right away, bonding over Pittsburgh, plays, playwrights and movies.”
He said, “Although we hit a speed bump when I told him I thought ‘Road House’ was an American classic, and that Sylvester Stallone was a genius. But we got past that thankfully. ” Jordan added,
“I still believe those things.”
He said, “I was lucky enough to work with Bingo several times. The first time I worked with him was on Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons [for Starlight productions].’ I had a small part, but I would come into rehearsal just to watch Bingo work – even when I wasn’t on call. I admired they way he dealt with director and the other actors, and how he treated everyone else on the crew. It was amazing. I learned a lot!”
Jordan celebrated Bingo O’Malley Day with a gathering of family and friends that included live music and testimonials by fellow actors and directors. Near the end of the evening, Jordan presented the actor with a portrait, created by director and teacher Melissa Martin. Then, he dedicated his stage to O’Malley.
Keitel said, “Patrick Jordan put together a beautiful tribute to Bingo. It was a magical evening culminating with Patrick renaming the barebones black box Theatre to the Bingo O’Malley Stage.”
Jordan founded barebones productions was founded in 2003 to facilitate the growth of local theater artists through the production of challenging, entertaining and thought-provoking plays. The company has garnered a reputation for producing high-quality, risk taking plays such as “Motherfucker with the Hat,” “Small Engine Repair,” and “Hir.”
Paul said, “Bingo is a special human being. I have never known or worked with anyone so kind, patient, wise and passionate about art and justice. I’m so pleased that Patrick is naming his new space in Braddock for this wonderful man!”
The barebones productions’ Bingo O’Malley Stage shares its space with Kevin Sousa’s restaurant Superior Motors on the spot of a former Chevy dealership in Braddock.
You can attend a performance in the newly christened Bingo O’Malley Stage at Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” which runs from September 28 to October 20 at barebones productions, 1211 Braddock Avenue, Braddock, PA 15104. For more information, click here.