By Michael Buzzelli
Tami Dixon portrays a plethora of characters in “South Side Stories Revisited.” Whether you’re in the Flats or on the Slopes, or just an occasional South Sider, Dixon has recognizable characters spinning yarns about the colorful Pittsburgh neighborhood.
If you’ve seen “South Side Stories,” a decade (gulp!) ago, you should know that “South Side Stories Revisited” is a much different collection of stories than the original, much like the difference between a pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut, or a pierogi filled with potato, jalapeno and cheese.
P.S. There was an editorial decision made to use the more conventional Mrs. T’s spelling of pierogi and not the frequently seen on South Side church sign spelling, “pyrohi/pyrohy.”
The playwright/actor goes back out into the streets and speaks with members of the community. Some praise the neighborhood, others malign it.
Dixon makes the point that the South Side is not the same place it was ten years ago. It is not. In the last ten years, poisonous forces rolled into the neighborhood like an evil fog, Trump, COVID, gun violence. A new America arose after 45, and Dixon doesn’t shy away from making a political stand.
The playwright dives deep into the recent conflicts and controversy surrounding the beloved ‘hood. The added conflict and darkness add more depth and meaning to the subject.
Speaking of controversy, Dixon sings an ode to the mysterious and spooky South Side Burger King, the seediest of seedy (and we’re not talking sesame seed buns). It’s a veritable flame-broiled fever dream of a song, but it’s hilarious (because it’s true).
Dixon has always been a remarkable talent, but she is at an entirely new level here. Her character work is brilliant, turning from one accent to another, creating dialogue between different and disparate characters.
It should be noted that she worked with Sheila McKenna as her dialect coach. Yinz should know that both should now be considered experts in the much-maligned Pittsburghese.
David Pohl’s projection design is brilliant. He sets up quirky cartoon bits foreshadowing the upcoming character turns.
Kudos to DIxon and director Matt M. Morrow for finding the deepest, scariest parts of the South Side and putting them on full display.
Because MLK Day just passed, Dixon reminds us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only the light can do that,” and she has shone a light where it is needed most.
Sad Side Note: Stepping into the City Theatre so recently after the death of the Director of Development Dianne Duursma is a sad cloud hanging over the space. She was always a bright, shining bundle of joy at every premiere. She will be fondly remembered and always missed.
Fun Side Note: The lobby space was decorated with tiny folding chairs on each of the metal tables to delight patrons sipping cocktails waiting for the doors to open.
The show is a brisk 80 minutes but manages to cover a lot of ground, from Station Square to Arlington Heights.
“South Side Stories Revisited” is a must-see play for anyone in Southwestern Pennsylvania, or frankly, for anyone who has made the trek down Carson Street (sober or otherwise). To say more would spoil this magnificent piece of theater.
“South Side Stories” runs until February 18th, 2024. For more information, click here.