Kinetic Theatre announces 2017 season – three exciting Pittsburgh premieres: Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, David Ives’ hilarious adaptation of Corneille’s The Liar, and Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love. Full summer casting announced: David Whalen and Joshua Elijah Reese star in The Christians, Ethan Saks, Erika Strasburg, & Sam Tsoutsouvas lead the ensemble cast in The Liar.
The Kinetic Theatre Company’s Executive Producing Director Andrew Paul has lined up three thought provoking, engaging, and, more importantly “very real” dramas that question relationships, religion, and ethics for the Pittsburgh area that are sure to leave theater goers deep in thought and maybe leave their sensibilities exhausted. Paul is beckoning audiences to: “come on down: this is your life!” A bit of realism for everyone.
Paul is back in Pittsburgh this year once again to leave theater goers entertained but questioning “who they are” and how they fit into the worlds he has chosen to explore. According to Kinetic Theatre’s press release: “the mission of Kinetic Theatre Co. is three-fold: to explore the issues facing our diverse and rapidly changing world through the language of theatre, to value text, both classic and contemporary, as our primary source of inspiration, and to honor, value, and respectfully compensate the artist.”
Rife with experienced and highly successful actors, Paul’s works this year will most definitely have audiences questioning their core beliefs. Not shying away from topics steeped in debates, Mr. Paul is very careful to remain loyal to his supportive Pittsburgh fan base by presenting them with tales that provide a spin on traditionalist thinking.
Those familiar with his work formerly as founder and artistic director of PICT (Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theatre) know him for his production of “risky” works, and, although he is no longer with PICT, it hasn’t stifled his willingness to move to the “next level” in challenging the sensibilities of his audiences. He is single handedly providing Pittsburgh with theater worth seeing, adding to the tried and true knowledge that Pittsburgh is “someplace special” with “someplace thoughtful.”
When looking at the three plays he will be producing and directing, I found Paul to be a fearless producer and director who is not afraid to pull the proverbial plug on traditional beliefs, and Pittsburgh audiences should applaud his selections.Meeting with Mr. Paul in person, it was easy to sense the excitement and anticipation for Kinetic’s upcoming season and, as always, Pittsburgh in the Round will be paying close attention to these upcoming performances.
In his first production The Christians, Paul is producing Lucas Hnath’s very timely, relevant, an unapologetic look at faith in America and challenge of understanding people’s belief systems. The Christians is a play loosely based on the life or Pastor Rob Bell who built a megachurch in Michigan. The play explores Bell’s – in this case named Pastor Paul (played by native Pittsburgher and fan favorite David Whalen) – disruptive life and his subsequent firing from his congregation because of his antithetical preaching. “Pastor Paul has spent 20 years successfully growing his church from a modest storefront to a gleaming megachurch, but he no longer believes in Hell; he (unrealistically) feels that his congregation will be happy to hear what he has to say. In a homily one Sunday morning that rocks the spiritual world of his congregation, which backfires and brings the congregation to its spiritual knees.”
Add to the drama is his troubled relationship with his Associate Pastor Joshua (played by another beloved Pittsburgher, Joshua Elija Reese) who feigns his proclamation and the church elders and congregation. This revelation rocks the foundations of the beliefs of his flock, which in turn is intended to disrupt the foundations of the audiences’ beliefs. This timely feature explores an attack on the very Catholic and conservative belief that, according to Paul, if there is no hell, what motivation do we have in this life to obtain a pathway to heaven?
Paul utilizes the role of the “chorus” in this play, which is actually the congregation’s choir, providing background to the action taking place in the lives of Pastor Paul and his family, along with Associate Pastor Elijah’s battle for the souls of the believers. Additionally, as in most church services, Paul has all of his principles speaking the play using handheld microphones to present the very real feel of a church service.
The Christians is running June 16 through July 2, 2017 at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Shore.
Kinetic Theatre’s second offering is The Liar, a David Ives comic production based on Corneille’s The Liar. According to Paul, The Liar is “a sparkling urban romance as fresh as the day Pierre Corneille wrote it, brilliantly adapted for today by All In the Timing’s David Ives. Paris, 1643.” In The Liar – which puts a modernist spin on a French classic – Dorante (Ethan Saks) is a charming young man newly arrived in the capital, and he has but a single flaw: he cannot tell the truth. In quick succession, he meets Cliton (Patrick Halley), a manservant who cannot tell a lie, and falls in love with Clarice (Erika Strasburg), a charming young woman whom he, unfortunately, mistakes for her friend Lucrece.
The entire play is replete with misunderstandings and a series of breathtakingly intricate lies and springs one of the Western world’s greatest comedies. Even when it serves no discernible purpose, Dorante compulsively and ceaselessly makes false statements. This sublimely funny adaptation, written in rhymed iambic pentameter, is packed full of verbal ingenuity and has thrilled audiences in New York and across the country. CMU Drama alums Ethan Saks and Erika Strasburg play Dorante, the title character, and Clarice, the object of his affections, with Kinetic associate artist Sam Tsoutsouvas as Dorante’s clueless father, Geronte. Sumptuous scenery by Gianni Downs and costumes by Kim Brown make this a visual feast to match Ives’ hilarious text.
The Liar runs from July 13 through July 30, 2017 at the Henry Heymann Theater on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.
With religion and ethics having been explored, Kinetic Theatre’s third and final production this year is Mike Bartlett’s comedy Love, Love, Love. The show serves basically as an indictment on the “baby boomer” generation. This offering, divided up into three acts, explores the lives of a couple who meet and marry in the era of the Beatles – 1967 – the years of drugs, sex, and rock and roll – to their lives in typical suburbia in 1990 raising two children who are antagonist to their parents, to the final scene which takes place in 2011 when their ungrateful daughter shows up and demands that her parents buy her a house because they “owe her a life” that they didn’t provide her growing up. The main characters advance from the ages of 19 to 64. Love, Love, Love, states New York Times critic Ben Brantley in his rave review of the play’s American Premiere last November at the Roundabout Theatre Company, “pulls you along through the decades with galloping satirical wit as Bartlett’s heat-seeking intelligence locates telling and authentic emotional detail.”
Love, Love Love has yet to be cast, but knowing how much talented actors are attracted to Paul’s ironic and satirical style, it certainly will be replete with branded thespians who are more than prepared to entertain.
Love, Love, Love runs from November 30 through December 13 at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 937 Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
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