Remember Me – A Review of “Good Grief”

by Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

N (Elise Dorsey) lost her young, best friend MJ (Ivan Bracy Jr.) in a car accident. They grew up together, sharing dreams, confidences and aspirations. Devastated by his loss, she withdraws from med school and puts her life on hold.

N’s parents Papa (Pierre Mballa) and Nene (Mia Sterbini) emigrated from Nigeria and settled in Bucks County where N and her brother Bro (Tim Judah) were born and raised. The family is instrumental in their support of N as she deals with MJ’s death.

Old school friend JD (Alex Fetzko) offers support. MJ’s mom (Malle Winters) and N attempt mutual consolation.

But N’s way of dealing with this tragedy is by splicing pieces of her memories with MJ to fit what she needs in order to cope. Thoughts, flashbacks, remembrances are arranged in her mind non-sequentially as she envisions moments with MJ – their first meeting, his teaching her how to kiss. The kiss lesson centers on N’s interest in JD, a student she likes. Kiss training leads to what might have led to a personal relationship between N and MJ. At times her file of memories pulls folders from her past that have nothing to do with MJ’s death but bring her some solace (reliving when Papa taught her to drive).

As N struggles with her loss, she remembers something MJ told her a long time ago. “You won’t let me disappear.”

The cast of “Good Grief.”

Dorsey is powerful as she tries to deal with her friend’s death. Sometimes using humor and often enlisting anger, we relate to her turmoil.

Bracy delights as we see him develop from a young, self-conscience youth to a man full of hope. He shows unique comedic skills but also a serious side in his evolving friendship with Dorsey.

Fetzko’s bed scene with Dorsey is hilarious. He has great movements and spot on timing.

Judah transitions from the brother who lovingly spars with his sister to a common sense sibling intent on providing guidance.

Mballa is serious and wise. He’s also adroit at injecting low key humor, all with a western African dialect.

Sterbini is the perfect mom. She is willing to console at any time but gives her daughter space to mourn alone.

In a brief encounter Winters transitions from a crazed, grieving mother to a gentle woman to being mad at God.

Credit to Fight Director Shannon Donovan for the choreographed fight scenes that are physical but well-controlled.

Another Note: In this black box theater, it is sometimes difficult to hear the dialogue when the actors’ backs are to the audience.

“Good Grief” was written by Ngozi Anyanwu and directed by Reginald L. Douglas.

“Good Grief” is a production of Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse, Rauh Theatre, 201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 and runs from October 18 to October 27, 2019.

For more information, click here.





Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit – a review of “Blithe Spirit”

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

The Condomines are hosting an unusual dinner party. Charles (Eric Leslie) and Ruth (Stacey Rosleck) have invited the Dr. & Mrs. Bradman (Rick Bryant and Aleta Richmond) and the eccentric Madame Arcati (Ina Block) to hold a séance in Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.”

Charles, a skeptic, is researching mediums for a new book he’s writing. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural, nor does his colleague Dr. Bradman. The moment their nervous nelly maid, Edith (Sydney Turnwald) opens the door and invites in their guests, all hell – literally and figuratively – breaks loose.

And Charles’s opinion on the existence of supernatural forces changes when the ghost of his dead wife, Elvira (Rebecca MacTaggart) shows up. Only Charles can see and hear Elvira which makes for a few awkward conversations. Mr. Condomine yells at either former or present Mrs. Condomine, both ask, “Which one are you talking to?”

It’s confusing for the haunted couple, but it’s hilarious for the audience.

Things take a misfortunate turn when Elvira decides his late wife should join him in the afterlife. But the best laid plans of specters and ghosts, of go awry.

Madame Arcati summons the spirits in “Blithe Spirit” Photo credit Carina Iannarelli

“Blithe Spirit” is delightfully directed by Rachel Pfennigwerth.

MacTaggart wonderfully brings the ghost alive as Elvira. She glides around the scenery in an ethereal way- aided by her flowing white dress constructed by Jessica Kavanagh.

Leslie is a terrific Charles. At first, the model English writer, witty and intelligent, prim and proper – until his ectoplasmic wife shows up – then, he’s reduced to a bewildered and blathering simpleton. Watching the supercilious Charles get his comeuppance is half the fun.

Block’s Arcati is a charming loon. She speaks in her own parapsychological language, which also confounds the Condomine’s and befuddles Bradman’s. It would be easy to tire of Arcati’s eccentricities, but Block does it with such style and grace you crave more of her craziness – as much as she craves cucumber sandwiches!

“Blithe Spirit” is a fantastic part for the leading lady, Elvira, but it’s also a fantastic part for her counterpart, Ruth. One can be considered the villainess and one the heroine – until it’s difficult to tell which one is which. Rosleck manages to parry and thrust witty bon mots with Leslie’s Charles and scathing jibes at MacTaggart’s Elvira. Rosleck does it with aplomb.

Turnwald does a great job as the scattered and ditzy maid.

Coward’s comedy is long, but its packed with witty repartee and rambunctious laughs. It’s a lengthy but thoroughly enjoyable evening.


“Blithe Spirit” runs till November 2 at Little Lake Theater, 500 Lakeside Drive South (across from the Mad Mex), Canonsburg, PA 153017. For more information, click here.



Don’t Rub Me the Wrong Way – a review of Disney’s “Aladdin Jr”

By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

In the town of Agrabah, Aladdin (Joseph Stater) and his group of pals Babkak (Ben Heavner), Omar (Max Peluso), and Kassim (Joshua Price) verge on the edge of “badness.” Aladdin steals loaf of bread at the local market. Even though he’s hungry and has no money, he gives the loaf of bread to someone really in need. Aladdin and his friends attempt to make money in a more honorable way by singing and dancing. They are not successful.

Nearby at the palace – but miles away socially, Jasmine (Miralhi Taylor-Martin) the daughter of the Sultaness* (Emily Chambers) is frustrated. Her mother wants to select her daughter’s future spouse.

*Note: The leader of Agrabah in this production is a female! Nice touch!

Jafar (Jordan Coury), the Sultaness’ evil advisor wants to marry Jasmine. Then, he would become the next Sultan. Along with his loyal assistant Iago (Joshua Clark), they conspire to make that happen.

Jasmine is frustrated by her mother’s demands to choose a husband in 24 hours. If she doesn’t her mother will do it for her. Encouraged by her attendants to see how the other half lives, Jasmine disguises herself in everyday clothing and wonders into the market place. She in entranced with a life she’s never experienced.

The marketplace brings two worlds together – Aladdin and Jasmine meet.

Aladdin’s adventures continue as he finds himself in a cave. He unknowingly frees Genie (Adam Stater) from a small, not very impressive lamp after gently rubbing it. Genie indicates that Aladdin has three wishes but there are three wishes that he can’t fulfill: he can’t kill anyone; he can’t bring anyone back from the dead and he can’t help in finding love.

But Aladdin is looking for love, or, at least, looking for Jasmine.

Aladdin and his Genie (brothers Joseph and Adam Stater) pose before the show.

Joseph Stater is delightful as Aladdin as he grows from a penniless, unstructured individual to one more disciplined and morally mature.

Taylor-Martin plays Jasmine as both an insulated captive in an unreal world and a sensitive human as she experiences the real world.

Joseph Stater and Taylor-Martin’s beautiful rendition of “A Whole New World” was magical, along with the simplistic setting that suggests their airborne adventure.

Adam Stater has great comedy timing moves, sings well and does a great tap dance.

Coury as the bad guy is especially realistic as he throws his head back and bellows out a blood curdling laugh.

A well-done production by a multi-talented cast of young thespians.

“This production was put together in four weeks” according to Music Director, Lynne Spatafore. She also relayed that the actors are all in school (from many school districts in the area). The youngest students are in 5th grade and the oldest are seniors.


Aladdin Jr” is a production of Comtra Theatre, 20540 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA. 16066 and runs from October 4 to October 19, 2019.For more information, click here.


ALEC SILBERBLATT – actor, playwright

Actor and playwright Alec Silberblatt returns to Pittsburgh for cocktail conversation on ‘Burgh Vivant and for his new show THE MON VALLEY MEDIUM, a darkly comedic murder mystery set in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. THE MON VALLEY MEDIUM will have two performances only, November 8 and 9 at Carnegie Stage. For tickets and more information, visit www.carnegiestage.comContinue reading “ALEC SILBERBLATT – actor, playwright”

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ALEC SILBERBLATT - actor, playwright

Our House – a review of “Next to Normal”

Tiffany Raymond, ‘Burgh Vivant

When you think of musicals, one tends to think of lighter fare. There’s nothing light about the musical “Next to Normal” (book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey). This modern-day “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” unflinchingly delves into the world of mental illness. The most compelling thing about this musical is its refusal to over-simplify. The show doesn’t shy away from intricacy, demonstrating how mental illness is bigger than the individual. It’s also a harsh reminder that solving for mental illness isn’t just swallowing a pill. That’s easy to forget when drug company commercials portray and cure depression in the span of 30 seconds.

“Next to Normal” centers on Diana Goodman (Meg Pryor), a wife and mother who’s battled mental illness for nearly two decades. Her family has both borne witness to and been collateral damage in her struggles. The play makes you feel the weight of their constant renegotiation. In the opening song, “Just Another Day,” her husband, Dan (Ricardo Vila-Roger) sings about how he has to “hold the house together.” He seems clueless that his wife has just humored him with sex, so there’s an almost laughable quality to this utterance. In that moment, he’s easily dismissible as a dude with an overinflated perception of his centrality in the household mechanics. In fact, it’s foreshadowing how the caretaker shoulders the household burdens. Vila-Roger appropriately exudes both fatigue and hope as well as an always-on vigilance that comes with constantly gauging a mentally ill partner. Director Niffer Clarke has Vila-Roger poignantly straddle the desire to protect his wife while also helping her get the care she needs without always knowing the right path.

Treatment often seems like a spinning roulette wheel. The treatment cycle ironically mirrors Diana’s own bipolar manic-depressive episodes. There’s a renewed hope with each new treatment plan that cascades into despair as it fails. This is most tellingly captured in “Who’s Crazy”/”My Psychopharmacologist and I” as Dr. Fine (Pedar Garred) sings about various pill combinations and their attending requirements and restrictions. The ensemble chimes in with “just a few of my favorite pills,” a takeoff on the song “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.” One musical borrows from another.

Dan (Ricardo Vila-Roger) tries to “hold the house together” as the patriach in “Next to Normal.”

Garred lacks the vocal punch of the other actors and is often drowned out by the music. This is particularly noticeable with he’s paired with Pryor who is a vocal powerhouse, but sometimes sings too loudly, even when she’s not manic. Her near-shouting at times can cause her words to lose emotional resonance. Achieving consistency around vocal projection levels ends up being a miss from Clarke. Clarke does do a stellar job of utilizing the stage. During this number, Dr. Fine’s pill catalog becomes dizzyingly overwhelming, as intended. Clarke visually reinforces that by having Pryor spin in circles across the stage on a wheeled stool.

The Goodman’s children, Natalie (Isabel Descutner) and Gabe (John A. Habib), are both adequate in their roles without being noteworthy. Descutner doesn’t feel totally authentic as Natalie, but her concerns about her mother’s behavior negatively influencing her burgeoning high school romance are genuine. It’s a reminder we’re all products of nature and nurture. Mental illness lacks contained boundaries and spills out, staining those beyond it in ways we can’t easily see.

Laura Valenti’s scenic design paired with TJ Hays’ lighting design creates a memorably remarkable stage. The set is clearly a house. However, Valenti thoughtfully chooses a color palette of sterile white and unfeeling gray that Hays outlines with harsh fluorescents to heighten the institutional feel. The uncompromising lighting makes the specter of mental illness visual and omnipresent. The house is a home, but the institutional lighting beautifully highlights the ways in which mental illness is not confined to a hospital or doctor’s office.

“Next to Normal” is an emotional journey and sometimes hard to watch as it brings light to those who suffer from mental illness. The production’s program includes a list of national and local resources for mental health, connecting the artistic to the real world. “Next to Normal” is a heart wrenching reminder that people are fighting all kinds of battles we can’t always see. It inspires empathy for our fellow humans. We can all be kinder.

The University of Pittsburgh’s production of “Next to Normal” plays through October 13th at the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre, 4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Fleeced – a review of “Not Medea”

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh

In 431 B.C., Euripides shocked theater-goers in Athens with a sympathetic portrayal of one of Greece’s great mythological characters, Medea, a woman who decides to enact vengeance after her husband spurns her for another woman. But playwright Allison Gregory revisits this story in a unique and unusual way in “Not Medea.” Though, Gregory’s story also shocks its audience.

The story is hard to explain without giving away huge swaths of the plot, but a Woman (Drew Leigh), who is definitely not Medea, enters the theater and settles into her seat, excited to see the play,  until she realizes what she’s about to see.

Hail the conquering hero!

Jason (Allan Snyder), returns to his hometown of Corinth with his “barbarian” wife after capturing the Golden Fleece. We get the “Behind the Music” version of the Homeric tale, and it isn’t pretty. The leader of the Argonauts isn’t the courageous captain of those Ray Harryhausen movies (in Dynamation).

Medea tells her tale. While the Woman in the audience intrudes with her own tragic tale. The Greek Chorus (Elizabeth Boyke) wails and shrieks. Is she merely the chorus? Does she know she’s in a play? It gets weird, if fun and fantastic ways.

When the Woman starts texting her ex (also named Jason), the texts get metatextual, and the events of 431 B.C. and events in the present get very, very blurry.

(from left to right) Jason (Allan Snyder) stands over an angry Woman (Drew Leigh) as the Chorus (Elizabeth Boyke) tries to stop her from attacking the Homeric hero.

“Not Medea” is a theatrical Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it starts riotously funny and ends in Hell thanks to Gregory’s meta manuscript.

Side Note: Seriously, the Disney ride starts as a whimsical drive through a magical land and ends up in frightening hellish landscape. It’s pretty twisted.

The actors excel under Allison Weakland’s direction. Apparently, it takes two talented Allison’s put on a terrific play.

Leigh is marvelous in her (still a secret) role. She commands the stage. She is bright and beautiful, harried and horrifying. Sliding up and down a scale of varying emotions.

Snyder’s character is comical and cartoonish, but some additional layers are peeled back by the end. He does a great job.

Boyke takes on several roles as the Chorus, and she does it with aplomb.

All the action is carried out on a beautiful set by Adrienne Fischer who produces spectacular scenes on shoestring budgets.

Sapphire and cerulean scarves drape over the set, creating the warm blue feeling of the Grecian isles. A king-sized bed, layered with pillows, encompasses the stage. It’s the focal point for a reason. Off to the side, a bird tweets in a gilded cage. It’s later accidentally strangled by the hero because he doesn’t know his own power (METAPHOR).

Kim Brown recreates Athenian fashion with Allan and Elizabeth’s costumes. The Woman’s costume is a maroon unisex pullover scrub top and matching drawstring pants.


“Not Medea” runs until October 18th at the Carnegie Stage, 25 West Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.







Inked in Blood – a review of “Evil Dead: The Musical”

by Tiffany Raymond, ‘Burgh Vivant 

Pittsburgh Musical Theater brings “Evil Dead: The Musical” to life – or is that to death?

Evil Dead: The Musical” (book and lyrics by George Reinblatt) was first performed in 2003. It’s an amalgamation of the four-film series written and directed by Sam Raimi, which spanned 1978 to 1992. Not everything holds up in the modern era. There’s a reference to the Columbia Records CD club, which is either a flashback or headscratcher moment, depending on one’s age. The more troublingly dated material is Scott’s (Adam Fladd) repeated shouting at his date: “What a stupid bitch!” While it’s supposed to be humorous, the audience’s laughter falters here. This sort of demeaning sexism and verbal abuse is no longer raucous in the #MeToo era, even within the context of a comedic horror musical.

Scott’s date, Shelly (Mandie Russak), is a walking stereotype of a blonde bimbo. We learn Scott picked her up at a truck stop. Russak embraces the limited confines of her role from the onset as she deep throats a can. Director Nick Mitchell intensifies the moment by having her seek Scott’s approval with sultry upturned eyes. Costume designer Terra Skirtich amps the camp factor with Shelly’s red stripper heels, skintight jeans, and cropped buttondown that ties between her breasts. Russak lifts her top in a “Girls Gone Wild” homage as the show’s five college kids head to an abandoned cabin in the woods for spring break. What could go wrong? Plenty, of course. The vacationing quintet accidentally unleash demons they subsequently spend the show battling.

The cast has a bloody good time singing and dancing their way through the death and dismemberment. Photo credit: Melissa Wallace

The songs are full of one-liners and poke easy fun at the genre itself. Cabin late-comer Ed (Connor Bahr) gets to belt out “Bit-Part Demon” and sings that he’s “forgettable #39, the one killed by the hero.” It’s a reminder that everyone has their role in these shows. Even the taxidermy comes to life. A demonic, red-eyed Bullwinkle and Rocky bob their heads and sing, an unexpected twist. It’s the first time I’ve seen taxidermy with song credits.

Central character, Ash (B.A. Goodnack), and his girlfriend, Linda (Kait Descutner), sing a memorable ballad entitled “Housewares Employee.” It traces their love story, which commenced at S-Mart where she’s a checker, and he’s in housewares. Yet, as Ash sings, “I was the one checking you out.” Ash has a stack of one-liners, and Goodnack accentuates them without overdoing it.

As Pittsburgh Musical Theater, song and dance is their bread and butter. Not only are the acoustics poor, their sound system is in desperate need of an upgrade. The solo numbers work better, but the group numbers get a bit garbled. There is also some metallic grinding in the sound mix that doesn’t sound intended by sound designer Kevin Kocher. The vocalists, all capable, power through it, and the campy nature of the show is an asset. Stronger direction from choreographer Sarah Misko would have been useful. The actors’ movements during the songs often feel random and unguided.

The show is rife with laughable zingers, and the audience is forgivingly receptive to the kitsch factor. There’s an irresistible Rocky Horror-esque vibe to the whole production that sweeps you along, whether you want to be or not. At one point, a voice warns that the book of the dead is “inked in blood,” but that also applies to the seating. The front rows are a Sea World splash zone with fake blood spraying out over the audience. Get swept away, and wear a little bit of “Evil Dead” home!

Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” plays through October 19th at the Gargano Theater, 327 S. Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15220. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Review: CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, City Theatre

Lonnie the Theater Lady rocks out to CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, by Lauren Yee, directed by Marti Lyons, performing at City Theatre through October 6, 2019. For tickets and more information, visit Continue reading “Review: CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, City Theatre”

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Review: CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND, City Theatre

Semper Fi – a review of “A Few Good Men”

By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

Lance CPL Harold Dawson (Ryan Patrick Kearney) and PFC Louden Downey (Michael Patrick Trimm) are in jail, accused of murdering one of their fellow marines, PFC William Santiago (Ryan Bergman). Santiago dies as a result of a hazing meant to “get him back in line,” not to kill him in Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men.”

Lawyer Daniel A. Kaffee (Doug Harris) is assigned to take the case. Kaffee leans toward plea bargaining. In prior case, his motto, “Let’s get this situation concluded as soon as possible” kept him from digging too deep. Lawyer and analyst Joanne Galloway (Alison Weisgall) looks at the crime in a different light, believing that there is more to this story. The investigation widens as Kaffee and Galloway dive deeper, peeling off the layers of the initial crime, looking for its core.

Sam Weinberg (J.Alex Noble) is Kaffee’s right hand man in preparing their case.

The trial involves all levels of the military, including commander, Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup (Burke Moses).

Did Dawson and Downey act on their own or were they coerced? Is this a basic case of a beating gone very wrong or is there more to this than meets the eye? Will they reveal the truth? Can they handle the truth?


Kearney and Trimm are strong as the two accused marines who stand behind “unit, corps, country and God.”

Harris evolves from a flip lawyer who uses his wit as a tool to come to an easier, faster solution to a (still flip) but grown up taking responsibility and believing in his decisions.

The first reference to Weisgall as the “lady lawyer” sets the tone for how she initially responds to the male-dominated environment she finds herself in. Her character develops as she interacts with Harris in working together on the case.

Moses plays Jessup consistently as a tough, no nonsense commander, a manipulator and controller.

Weinberg adds comedy relief during his interaction with the defense team.

An excellent production with a well-balanced, talented cast!

Scenic Designer Ryan Howell creates a subtle backdrop of a wooden wall and a few desks and tables as needed in various corners of the stage. Minimal scenery and props allow the characters to be the focal point of the production.

Note: A large sign positioned above the stage, flashing the date and location of an upcoming scene is welcome when the location and time changes frequently from Washington, D.C. to Cuba.

Kudos to choreographer Mariel Greenlee for interspersing the military ensemble drills at various points in the production. These drills provide action to the production and reinforce the regimentation and obedience inherent in the military.

Excellent direction of the first production of Public’s 45th season by Marya Sea Kaminski.


“A Few Good Men” is a production of Pittsburgh Public Theater at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222 and runs from September 12 to October 13, 2019. For more information, click here.

Opposites attack – a review of “True West”

By Tiffany Raymond, ‘Burgh Vivant

In a city where people are oddly resistant to crossing bridges, it’s easy to wonder if a drive to Braddock for theater is worth your time. Barebones Productions unequivocally affirms the answer is a resounding “Yes!” with their newest production, Sam Shepard’s “True West.”

Their Black Box Theater is an intimate space that compactly heightens the familial tensions of Shepard’s drama, making it feel almost claustrophobic.

Shepard’s play focuses on two estranged brothers. Austin (Gabriel King) is a polished, successful Ivy League educated screenwriter. Lee (Patrick Jordan) is an alcoholic ne’er-do-well with a trendline of breaking and entering. They meet for the first time in five years at their mother’s house (Heidi Mueller Smith) in southern California where Austin is housesitting and working on a screenplay.

Patrick Jordan is both director and leading man as Lee. However, his dual roles don’t compromise the play’s quality. From the opening scene, the tension between the brothers is palpable. Lee crushes a Miller Lite can and pops another one as he rambles. King’s tight facial expressions, which play so well in the compact space, revealing his thin tolerance at the unwelcome distraction as he tries to write. Sound designer Dave Bjornson heightens sounds like the can-crushing, making it as intrusive as a wrecking ball. Costume designer Ali Roush visually reinforces the brothers as polar opposites. In the opening scene, Lee is clad in a faded trench coat with missing buttons and frayed cuffs, a foil to Austin’s fitted baby blue polo shirt and khakis.

Patrick Jordan (Lee) and Gabriel King (Austin) bicker in Sam Shepard’s True West. Photo credit: Jeff Swensen

The brothers may be opposites, but they romanticize each other lives. This is only possible because they don’t really know each other. To Austin, Lee represents a sort of unchecked freedom Austin has never allowed himself. As a chronic hustler, Lee envies the perceived ease of Austin’s college-educated life that pays him to imagine. At one point, Lee talks about a house he’s casing with “blonde people coming in and out of rooms,” and Jordan has an almost wistful expression. It’s his perception of Lee’s life, even if it’s inaccurate.

While the bulk of the play has the two brothers steeping in the maternal kitchen together, Austin’s producer, Saul (Randy Kovitz), also makes an appearance. Kovitz convincingly evokes the walking stereotype of an aging Hollywood producer, complete with faux orange tan and gold chain. With his casually smug smoothness, it’s easy to imagine a past rife with #metoo moments.

If there’s a weak link, it’s Heidi Mueller Smith as the mom, but luckily, she has the smallest role. In an otherwise strong cast, she comes across as uncertain, and Jordan could have used stronger direction to help her character find a path.

Kovitz isn’t just the smarmy Saul. Like Jordan, he also has a production role; Kovitz serves as the play’s fight director. As tensions build, the quick-tempered Lee takes a swing at Austin with one of Saul’s golf clubs. It’s a moment that takes you aback as an audience member because Kovitz makes it genuine and spontaneous. It’s both shocking and realistic, conjuring a mental reel of domestic violence stats. It’s not the play’s only hands-on fight scene, and Jordan bravely explores the precipices of familial violence without ever sanctioning it.

Set designer Tony Ferrieri does a masterful job with the small stage space. Ferrieri’s “mom” kitchen is an AARP magazine’s homage to a youthful elderly aesthetic complete with mauve paint, a braided rug, and wall-mounted plates and baskets. Ferrieri wisely includes a large bank of windows along the back of the set that opens up the small space. They’re curtained with sheers that permit a delicate range of subtle lighting. Lighting designer Andrew Ostrowski creates beautifully diffused light to convey the play’s wide-ranging early bird to night owl hours.


Barebones Productions’ presentation of “True West” plays through September 29th at the Barebones Black Box Theater, 1211 Braddock Ave, Braddock, PA 15104. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.