Leave Your Pain in the Pan – a review of “Clyde’s”

By Michael Buzzelli

Everyone has a favorite sandwich. Point me toward a Caprese with heirloom tomatoes, burrata, fresh basil, a splash of Extra Virgin olive oil, a drizzle of a dark, tangy balsamic with a dash of coarse sea salt on a crusty French baguette. You might not like my sandwich. I might not like yours. You might like a turkey with mayo on sliced white bread. We all have different tastes.

While this is a review of a play and not a restaurant, the two are intrinsically tied together. 

“Clyde’s” takes place in a sandwich shop, a truck stop, where ex-cons prep and cook the food. The short-order cooks are short-tempered, too, except for zen master and sandwich artiste Montrellous (Khalil Kain). The staff is bossed around by the titular Clyde (Latonia Phipps), who is more of a supervillain than restaurantuer. She’s the Kingpin of the kitchen, terrorizing and sexually harrassing her beleaguered employees. Doc Doom of the diner. Her staff, chiefly Letitia (Saige Smith), Rafael (Jerreme Rodriguez) and new hire Jason (Patrick Cannon) are frightened of her. 

The ex-cons are afraid that working at Clyde’s is their only option, but Montrellous tries to keep hope alive by challenging the crew to come up with the perfect sandwich. There are a lot of breads, cheeses, meats and veggies mentioned in the play. Don’t go on an empty stomach. 

The show has some weird supernatural elements to it as well. Things get spooky wherever Clyde gets near a sandwich, and she breaks the fourth wall once, ordering the effects to cease on command. At one point, Clyde pulls a Magneto and causes Rafael to press his hand on the grill with her mind. His palm sizzled like a frozen hamburger patty. It may have been a dream sequence. The metaphysical and metatextual elements were served up in heaping portions. 

Rafael (Jerreme Rodriguez) confronts Jason (Patrick Cannon) about his jail time in Lynn Nottage's "Clyde." Photo Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover.

Smith is a standout here. Her character of Letitia (Tish) is sympathetic and charming, even when she is not always being kind to her fellow sandwich makers. 

There’s a lot of intrigue about Cannon’s Jason. Nottage parses out the details about Jason like breadcrumbs. Wisely, she doesn’t give us the full story. It’s not necessary. Cannon plays him as big, bold and brash. His delivery caused a riotous uproar of laughter. 

Phipps is, however, too far over the top. Director Monteze Freeland lets her off the chain. Clyde is played for laughs. She gets huge guffaws from the audience, but the character has no depth. Phipps doesn’t bother to give her any either. 

For a run-down truck stop kitchen, the set is perfection. Tony Ferrieri is planning on going out with a bang. Every detail of the diner was meticulously planned between Ferrieri and the props department, right down to the fluorescent, yellow squares of American cheese.  

Side note: On opening night, there was a standing ovation for the beloved and talented set designer who is retiring in December after decades at the City Theatre’s Director of Production and Resident Scenic Designer. Special shout out to the set of “Elmenopea,” the Hope Diamond among a treasure chest of jewels. 

When I heard the clamor of applause for Lynn Nottage’s play, “Clyde’s,” I pictured that turkey sandwich. People love turkey sandwiches. It just wasn’t for me. In all fairness, my expectations ran high, because a few years ago, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitizer Prize-winning play “Sweat” came to Pittsburgh, and it was and still is one of the most fascinating plays I’d seen in a long while. 

– MB 

“Clyde’s” runs through October 16 at the City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. For additional information and tickets go here: CLYDE’S – City Theatre Company



One Step at a Time – a review of “The 39 Steps”

by Dr. Tiffany Raymond, PhD

South Park Theatre takes on The 39 Steps, Patrick Barlow’s 2005 parodic adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film by the same name, which was based on a 1915 novel by John Buchan. The Hitchcock connection signals the production may be one of suspense, and that yields to truth. The 39 Steps proves classic Hitchcockian complete with plot twists as Richard Hannay (John Herrmann) is an innocent man on the run who’s not sure who to trust. When a stranger (Misty Wilds Challingsworth), who claims to be a spy, is murdered his apartment, events are set in motion. He’s unjustly accused of the crime and wanted for murder. Richard runs from the law to carry out her instructions, hoping to clear his name.

In his portrayal of Hannay, Herrmann perfectly embodies a sort of Inspector Clouseau haplessness, less the director of his own fate than a mostly lucky bystander. Herrmann is the only one of the four actors to play a single role, and director Lora Oxenreiter’s wise casting creates a strong quartet. Challingsworth very capably takes on the primary female roles, from the Russian-accented seductress spy to the stranger on the train.

Photo credit: @Hawk Photography and Multimedia LLC.

Noah Kendall and Gavin Calgaro are both billed as Clowns. While often comic relief, that naming doesn’t do justice to the immense number of roles they take on. Both make it look effortless, despite the fact mere seconds sometimes elapse between roles with the presence of a hat or a quick pivot in direction signaling a character change. Wisely, Oxenreiter doesn’t let them rush through their roles, even those that are more physical comedy driven. Kendall and Calgaro’s many roles are made more impactful and memorable by the differentiation of each character through changes in costume, tone and/or physicality. The Clowns play women as well as men, reminding us of the artifice and fluidity of gender. Costume designer Annabel Lorence creates easy differentiators that complement the multitude of characters. With the flip of a wig, Challingsworth’s raven-tressed spy becomes a blonde train passenger.

Oxenreiter plays both director and set designer. Her strength is clearly as a director. While the small stage must accommodate a wide variety of settings, the mostly bare stage leaves little to center or capture one’s eye. It’s also a missed opportunity for lighting designer Eve Bandi to overlay some projections that could heighten the suspense and differentiate scene changes. Sound designer Bryce Jensen elicits laughter and lets us know early on that this version of Hitchcock bends to the comedic by inserting the Jeopardy theme music.

The geologic layers of adaptation that this production represents remind us of the malleability of the arts over time. A novel that’s now over a hundred years old turned Hitchcock film turned 21st century play. Hitchcock’s 1935 film came out after the creation and enforcement of Hollywood’s Hays Code that created censorship guidelines for the cinematic arts. Not only are the arts malleable, but the themes of trust and not knowing who to trust are just as relevant in 2022 with the easy spread of misinformation. The media’s broadcasted assumption of Hannay’s guilt and his efforts to clear his good name are just as timely and resonant today, if not more so.

The 39 Steps runs through October 8th at South Park Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://sites.google.com/…/sout…/south-park-theatre/home


“That’s just a little bit of History Repeating” – a review of “What Kind of Woman”

Mike Buzzelli

-Michael Buzzelli

In “What Kind of Woman” by Abbe Tannenbaum, an unexpected phone call from her estranged son, sends Nora (Virgina Ginny Wall Gruenert) into a state of panic. In the final moments of their first conversation in years, Nora invites her adult son and his wife to come to her very cluttered apartment in Chelsea.

During a DIY scroll through YouTube, Nora finds Anne (Abbe Tannenbaum), an actor and personal organizer, and Nora realizes it’s time for a deep clean. Anne undertakes an archeological excavation through Nora’s life, and, suddenly, every item in her life is divided into the keep or pitch piles. Nora is forced to give the keepers a definitive “Hell, yes,” or Anne sticks it in the donation bin.

The tiny apartment is crammed with junk, a trumpet, a feather boa, books, a one-eyed teddy bear named Walter and, most importantly, a bundle of hand-written letters. The letters are a treasure trove, Anne and Nora uncover twenty letters from the 1970s, when Nora worked at the Women’s Health and Abortion Project in Chelsea in the days when the medical procedure was illegal.

While working in New York City as an actual personal organizer, Tannenbaum, the playwright, found the letters in a client’s apartment. The story is a fictionalized account of that true-to-life experience.

There are a myriad of twists and turns in “What Kind of Woman,” and they’re not all pleasant, but the story borders on brilliant. It is a play about women’s reproductive rights. While the play was written several years ago, it seems prescient, but it is not a heavy-handed melodrama about a woman’s right to choose. Every time the play leads down a preachy, “On a very special episode of ‘Designing Women’” corridor, it veers off into new territory. As a playwright, Tannenbaum swerves deftly without judging her characters or their choices.

Abbe Tanenbaum as Anne and Virginia Wall Gruenert as Nora Photo credit: Heather Mull Photography

Gruenert brings an emotional gravitas to the production. She breathes Nora’s character into life. It is a powerful performance with a full range of emotions on display.

Tannenbaum’s Anne is joyful, wacky and a more sympathetic character. She does get to explore some darker moments, but she brings it back to comedy every time. One of laugh out loud moments in the play (and despite the subject matter there are quite a few) is watching Tannenbaum’s Anne attempting to escape a big, dark green garbage bag, hulking out of it in a fit of rage.

Tucker Topel’s set looks like it was transplanted to Carnegie from an episode of A & E “Hoarders.” The stage is stuffed with knick-knacks, tchotchkes, gewgaws, trinkets and trifles.

Stagehands swiftly removing items between scenes. Said scene changes are filled with interstitial video material from the alleged YouTubeification of Nora’s decluttering.

Director Kira Simring keeps the pace fast and increasingly fastidious. The show is guaranteed to spark more joy than a Marie Kondo special.

– MB

“What Kind of Woman” runs from September 23 to October 1 at the Carnegie Stage before moving off to the cell theatre in NYC from October 19 to November 19. Catch it here so you don’t have to go there. Off The Wall Productions at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information and tickets, go to www.insideoffthewall.com

Say It Ain’t Sew – a review of “Nana Does Vegas”

By Claire DeMarco

What is the relationship between 80-year-old seamstress Sylvia “Nana” (Lynne Martin Huber) and Dino (Andy Cornelius), an alleged mobster?

One of the following might apply:

      1. They’re romantically involved!
      2. She sews some of his clothes.
      3. Nothing. Surely you jest?
      4. See the show and find out.

Nana is in Las Vegas with her best friend Vera (Ina Block). Engaged as a seamstress for Las Vegas entertainers, Nana anxiously waits for her granddaughter Bridget (Jill Buda) to arrive from New York for Bridget’s bridal shower.

Fiancé Tom (Nick Redford) remains in New York since he is new at his job as a NYPD detective. He promises Bridget that he won’t work too hard, and he’ll concentrate on writing their wedding vows while she’s away.

Tom, however, actually works for the FBI and is on his way to Las Vegas for an undercover job with his supervisor Jo (Renee Ruzzi-Kern). Their assignment is to investigate a case concerning Dino.

Bridget has no clue that Tom works for the FBI nor that he will be in Las Vegas. Tom gambles that he will succeed in keeping this secret.

Spoiler Alert: He doesn’t!

When all the characters find themselves in the same Las Vegas location, subterfuge is finally exposed, misdemeanors explained and innocent misunderstandings resolved.

Vera (Ina Block) doubles down at table. Photo credit: @Hawk Photo and Multimedia, LLC

Block is a treasure! Her delivery is matter of fact, direct, sarcastic and hilarious, reminiscent of “Golden Girls”’ Sophia. All of this is done while she’s dressed in sequins and flamboyant finery, at times while pushing a lighted walker.

Huber’s facial expressions and general movement enhance her comic delivery. Vocal delivery adds favorably to the mix.

As the play evolves, Buda transitions effectively from a rather quiet person into one more assertive.

Redford’s gymnastic movements highlight his role as an insecure, bumbling spy.

Cornelius shows us both the rough side of a mobster and the kinder human underneath that facade.

Lighting is critical and is used effectively to identify different action locations. With this small stage lighting seamlessly segues from one location to another.

This is a delightful farce meant simply to entertain and it does.

The answer to the question initially posed above is D.

Go see the show and find out!

Directed by Kathy Hawk.

“Nana Does Vegas” was written by Katherine DiSavino.


“Nana Does Vegas” is a production of Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg, Pa. It runs from September 22 through October 1. For more information, click here. https://www.littlelake.org/

Morning at Carnegie’s Art Museum Dawns a New Directorship

By Gina McKlveen
The grand opening of any art exhibition, even one that has been regularly exhibited since 1896, has that quintessential anticipation for what will be displayed or what new thing will be discovered. It is a similar feeling of anticipation that we may feel when we wake up in the morning at the dawn of a new day and silently wonder to ourselves “What will this day hold?” before returning to our usual routines.

This year, the Carnegie Museum of Art will hold its 58th Carnegie International, beginning on September 24th and running through April 2nd of next year. At its inception in 1896, the Carnegie International exhibition was selected by the Carnegie Museum of Art’s inaugural director, Mr. John W. Beatty, and several foreign art advisors. In 1895, Mr. Andrew Carnegie—an industrialist and philanthropist—founded the Carnegie Museum of Art and wisely appointed Mr. Beatty, the Pittsburgh-born silver engraver turned prominent painter and illustrator, to carry out the mission of discovering the next great masters among those currently practicing artists.

Mr. Carnegie’s vision for the Museum and related International exhibition was to make the so-called “Steel City” as famous for the arts as for its steel. Since then, the Museum has seen a steady growth and expansion in the arts within its own collection, having added the Hall of Architecture at the turn of the 20th century and acquired works through the years by artists like James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Sigmar Polke, Chris Ofili, Edward Hopper, Isa Genzken, Mary Cassatt, among many others. Now, 126 years later, the Carnegie International (the longest-running exhibition in North America) once again opens its doors in Oakland for visitors to enter in and explore the world of art with the newest Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art and Vice President of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Mr. Eric Crosby, encouraging all who see the exhibition to engage in “both local and global creative conversations.”

At 10:00 in the morning the day before the grand opening, these conversations in a diverse range of languages have already started to fill the Museum’s spaces. This year’s Carnegie International is titled Is it morning for you yet?, named after a commission for the exhibition by featured artist, Edgar Calel whose work has a corresponding title which was inspired from a Mayan Kaqchikel expression where it is customary to ask, “Is it morning for you yet?” rather than assume and say “Good morning” to someone who may be in a different time zone. The overarching theme of this exhibition points to the idea of acknowledging the different places and times people come from, while focusing on those common threads that bind us together. Specifically, the exhibition traces a timeline of the United States from 1945 to present day in order to contextualize the “international” in a local setting.

Climbing the stairs to the Heinz Galleries, a gaze out the glass windows to the right features an outdoor installation by Rafael Domench—its locally sourced scaffolding draped in hues of red and blue mesh soaked in early sunlight. Dividing an edge from an ever (pavilion for Sarduy) (2022) was installed this summer in the Museum’s Sculpture Court as a part of the Museum’s Inside Out program, a free outdoor event hosted on regular Thursdays throughout the summer season, as an effort to welcome locals from various regions into community with the arts and adhere to Mr. Crosby’s directorial vision for the Carnegie International.

At the top of the stairs, entering though the glass doors to the galleries, earth tones and natural matter decorate the white floors and walls. In this space is Édgar Calel’s Oyonik (The Calling) (2022), a 75 ceramic vessel collection, organized in scattered rows upon the floor and filled with water, roses, fruit tree branches. Like artifacts unearthed from the civilizations of the past, Calel’s Oynoik is a visual depiction of the Mayan Kaqchikel healing ritual for those who are lost, asking the heart of the sky and the heart of the earth to reconnect body and spirit to discover, or rather rediscover, oneself. Here, the artist and the Carnegie International by extension, confronts the histories that are not only on our walls, but also right under our feet. There is a graceful reminder here, too: sometimes one must get lost in order to be found.

Nearby, Sanaa Gateja’s handmade bead paintings on barkcloth surfaces exude the natural order of the earth with patterned organic designs. Seeds of Joy (2022) and Together (2019) face opposite walls, made from various sources like magazines, old school textbooks, and prior political pamphlets, but compose one clear theme of unity. Another homage at this year’s Carnegie International to the collection of diverse backgrounds that weaves together a unifying tapestry. Gateja relays words of wisdom that inspired the artist and the artwork: “A dot is a dot it is your village a community a voice in the hills.”

In the Hall of Sculpture, works of art from around artists located around the world line the balcony walls. Thu Van Tran’s Colors of Grey (2022) confronts the chemical agents used by the US Military in Vietnam that altered the people of Vietnam and their land across generations. Neither does Pacita Abad shy away from depicting the toil of social and political strife. Her paintings of the Jakarta riots of 1998 are conveyed with her unique global citizen perspective. Similarly, Mohammed Sami’s works of art depict everyday belongings and settings that exude the rupture of war’s disruption on the once ordinary life. Patricia Belli’s role as a leading figure in Nicaragua’s feminist art movement brings a relationship component to the global conversation with an intimate homage to her late mother using scraps of fabric, wire and bone figures to communicate the fragmentation of grief and loss.

From the balcony of the Hall of Sculpture the weight of grief does not deflate the significance of golden balloon structures weighed down to the floor by kettle bells. Banu Cennetoglu’s right? (2022) spells out the first 10 articles of the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in clusters of giant balloon letters, undoubtedly embodying the fragility of the international human rights framework. Along the walls next to this towering display, are photographs from Hiromi Tsuchia’s Hiroshima Collection which has been a decades-long endeavor to capture the particles and remains left behind after the United States indiscriminately dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city during World War II. Captions at the bottom of some of the photographs reiterate the tragic ending “body not found” over and over.  A watch, gifted from son to father, reads 8:15 while it’s owner died on August 22, 1945. Another copy of this photograph is featured in the Scaife Gallery’s “Refractions” exhibit, among other works that bring together the historical and political struggles of the United States with countries from around the world.

Mr. Crosby’s Carnegie International directorial debut accomplishes the essence of what the Museum’s founder and inaugural director had envisioned for the city of Pittsburgh, being both a local actor and global participant. Kathe and Jim Patrinos Curator of the 58th Carnegie International Curator, Sohrab Mohebbi, executed this mission and vision with pristine purpose, bringing together artists from across the globe while selecting and curating an exhibition with works that also combine culture and communication. Associate Curator, Ryan Inouye and Curatorial assistant, Talia Heiman part in engaging this community makes this Carnegie International all the more worth visiting. Is it morning for you yet? Is an exhibit that meets anyone exactly where they are at. A morning, noon, or evening visit to the Carnegie Museum of Art to see this exhibition will break up the monotony of the day like breaking dawn, there is so much more here to discover.