Inside Passage

27503396_10155225034222997_5192671526678861700_oInside Passage is the touching story of the search for beginnings, lost family members and lost ways of life told in an exciting and compelling way. It is an exciting and different evening of theatre well worth the investment of your time.

For a Quantum show, the experience begins as you leave home to find the performance space. Our isn’t a trip to the familiar turf of the Public or New Hazlett theaters but an adventure to perhaps discover an unfamiliar new community in a city of so many neighborhoods, isolated and yet connected by rivers and roads. As you make your way through the Troy Hill neighborhood, perhaps guided by GPS, there are reminders of Pittsburgh’s working-class roots; the mill towns along the rivers and the families that immigrated here in search of the American dream. Who made it to America, who was left behind?

Inside Passage takes its name from the coastal route that oceangoing vessels take along the pacific northwest from Washington State through British Columbia to Southeastern Alaska. Over the years thousands of people have taken this route in search of adventure, and fortune. Pittsburgh playwright Gab Cody’s search is a different one, the true story of the quest to find foster siblings separated from her at a very young age.

Inside Passage takes the form of a biographical documentary in thirty-three acts. Cody is the researcher, playwright, narrator and initially central character of the story which is referred to just as Gab.

Gab’s mother rescues. She takes in foster children, unwanted donkeys, stray goats and other homeless creatures. She is no a nonsense Mom, just doing what needs to be done, with limited means. Gab’s mother becomes divorced and has to move away. Unfortunately, by Alaskan tribal rules, her foster children, who are from the Tlingit clan, must stay in Alaska.

Thirty-five years later Gab sets out to find them. Her search is hampered lack of details as to her sibling’s current whereabouts.

The performance space is a former plain vanilla room, previously a chapel, that has been converted to a black box style theatre. A single relatively modest projection screen hangs in front of a full-width black curtain. The show opens with a campy 1950’s style travel film about our Trip to Alaska, which is eventually interrupted when two late grizzly bears arrive in the theatre who are trying to find their seats in the dark. In the ensuing scuffle the bears rip down the screen, the curtain is then drawn aside to reveal Kellan Anderson’s simple and effective set design. There is shredded paper for snow, sheets of blank white copy paper for snow-covered mountains in the distance. The set, devoid of color but rich in texture, features a rugged wooden dock-like structure forms an I -beam on edge running side to side and front to back.

Gab comes on stage and introduces herself, and then another actor introduces himself as Gab, and another and another. All total the troupe is composed six actors all different ages, genders, and ethnicities. They each play Gab as well as the other characters that form Gab’s personal “herstory.” Perhaps a reminder, that but for the grace of God, they could represent any of us. We don’t choose our parents, gender, looks, or where we were born.

Inside Passage draws you into Gab’s search as it morphs into the story of her biologic and foster siblings. The show captures the impact of a multi-cultural family broken apart by well-intended rules with adverse outcomes.

A vital element of the production is the family photographs and home movies taken when the family was together. There is also recently shot documentary-style footage by Film Collaborator Rob Long, which captured the trip Cody and her husband, Director Sam Turich, took to Alaska find her siblings. The images are seamlessly integrated into the action on three different screens, moved into position by the ever-helpful Grizzlies who also serve as stagehands and some needed comic relief.

Inside Passage is an interactive an immersive experience that eradicates the fourth wall between audience and actors. As narrator, Gab frequently addresses the audience both to move the story forward and to provide the audience with a needed “think break” to process the previous scene. Director Sam Turich has created a kind of verbal ballet as actors switch between characters with ease. Inside Passage demands you pay attention, and you want to. There is music, pathos, comedy and tragedy, longing and perhaps a touch of resentment. The story and characters can be a mirror to everyman.

Director Sam Turich melds a group of seasoned Pittsburgh actors, John Shepard, Laurie Klatscher, Kyle Haden, Kelsey Robinson along with Shammen McCune, and Skyler Ray Benson Davis (a Tlingit actor) into a touchingly brilliant ensemble cast. Costumes by Rachel Vallozzi each grab a snippet of Gab’s persona and the other character the actors portray. Lighting and Projection Designer / Film Collaborator Rob Long’s work, critical to the storytelling seamlessly integrates into the overall production.

Quantum Theatre has built its reputation in part by staging new works in unconventional places.  Inside Passage continues and builds on that tradition of innovation.

Inside Passage by Quantum Theatre Performances Wednesdays through Sundays, now until March 25th at Provident Charter School, 1400 Troy Hill Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For tickets visit https://quantumtheatre.secure.force.com/ticket  or call 412-362-1713.  More details at http://www.quantumtheatre.com/inside-passage/

Categories: Archived Reviews

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