by Michael Buzzelli
When their mother dies, Christopher (Josh Reed) and Ginny (Megan Michaels) have to step up and be the adults. It’s not easy for either of them. Christopher is a failed filmmaker teaching at a nearby community college and Ginny, a young woman with Down Syndrome, has big dreams of her own in Will Arbery’s “Corsicana.”
Side note: Corsicana is a small city in Texas, fifty-six miles northeast of Waco.
A family friend, Justice (Victoria Murphy), suggests to Christopher that Ginny should study songwriting with her friend Lot (Karim Chebli). Lot, possibly suffering from agoraphobia and several other undiagnosed mental conditions, is a reluctant teacher.
Together Lot and Ginny learn from each other.
“Corsicana” is about love and acceptance. Lot has a lot to learn about love. He has to accept himself and open up to others. Ginny, it turns out, has a lot of love to give. She just doesn’t know where to put it. Christopher wants a bigger life than the one he can have in a small Texas town. Justice learns her own lesson about love and acceptance.
Chebli is marvelous as Lot. He plays a gifted man who is riddled with fear and self-loathing. Chebli manages to turn simple lines into agonizing truths. With a blazing charisma, he delivers them with wit and panache.
Director Alison Mahoney does an amazing job with her cast. She builds the tensions of Arbery’s play with a slow, steady pace, giving each character the space to breathe. “Corsicana” has a lot of little moments that build. It’s plot sneaks up on you. Its characters feel like real people living achingly real lives.
There is some clever scenic design by Gianni Downs. Lot’s living room pops with bright colors. The space is filled with a surplus of props from the Danny Pearson and the Prop Shop.
Note: “Corsicana” is a relaxed performance. There is a live audio description for the visually impaired. There are captions, ASL interpreters (Nick Miller, Alison Bartley, Jennifer Flaggs and Heather Gray depending on which night you go) and a quiet space, a nook in the Heymann’s lobby where you can camp out if things get overwhelming. It is a very inclusive environment. Those lovely touches to include everyone can, ironically, be distracting. Before you go, be aware that the space is for everyone.
On a personal note: At first, I had difficulty looking away from the captioning and found myself reading along with the play more than watching it, but, by the second act, I settled into a groove.
Arbery does not give any tired and trite responses, and, while things end happier than where they began, he doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat bow. He gets to deeper truths and reminds us to do and say the scary things. Make art. Say “I love you.” Feed your soul.
In “West Side Story,” Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim wrote a song called, “Somewhere.” In it, the lyrics read, “There’s a place for us. A time and a place for us. Hold my hand and we’re halfway there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.” That song is the spirit that embodies Will Arbery’s “Corsicana.” The show is for everyone who believes that there is a place for them in the world. The Pitt Stages production cast and crew holds your hand and takes you there.
“Corsicana” runs until November 17 at the Henry Heymann Theatre, 4301 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (inside the Stephen Foster Theatre, next to the Cathedral of Learning). For more information, click here.