PNWF Program C: 2018

39102623_1878968452140523_468639339253858304_oWhy am I here? Who should I be? What am I allowed?

Program C was three shows in total, with less than a 2 hour total run time, and in case you’re the type to only read the first few sentences of a review, here’s the most important one of the article.

Go see C.

The first piece I Forgot to Worry written by Lawrence Paone, and directed by Joe Eberle; is a philoso-comedic think-piece that takes a look at some of the more common, and painful facets of the human experience. With a healthy side order of existential dread and confusion. Yes, I did say comedy.

It also asks some other not-quite universal but still FAQ’s…

Why has this man been kidnapped?  Who put this kid in charge? Should I address my feelings for my therapist to my therapist? Does God care about me? Should I be worried?

The writing is honest, earnest, and punchy with some excellent one-liners. The plot is intriguing, and while bizarre, is by no means inaccessible.

That said, when one character made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sinatra, and Abbott and Costello references fluidly in conversation, I momentarily judged the author for being unrealistic about any real person incorporating all those topics… until realized that I do things like that all the time and after a brief moment of “Oh no, what if I’m not real?”  the next onstage gag brought me back in. I feel like this was intentional, and I applaud it.

Joe Eberle did a wonderful job with casting and incorporating some truly fine physical comedy that never failed to land with the audience.

Well done to the kidnapee, ably and empathically played by Dave Joseph, who brought a wonderful character arc to such a short wacky piece. Well done to the kidnapper(s?) Jake Berlin, the eerily funny baby-boss. Mary Kay Riley, and Kaitlin Cliber, gave excellent performances which I would love to elaborate on, but my editor says we’re not supposed to give spoilers.  Mark Yochum (by this point a welcome fixture of the NWF) as The Priest, evoked one part “The Exorcist’s” father Marron and one part Jack Benny. Mark Connor Sr. playing the motivational speaker we all so desperately need, delivers (thanks to what I found was an open prompt in the script) a “freestyle” rap about hopelessness, which was truly touching.

This was an excellent choice for the lead into intermission, as I heard plenty of conversations about how fun the show was, and how much they identified with its final central theme. Well done all.

The next piece was When Romcoms Go Bad written by Ken Levine and directed by Linda Haston.  While lighter in the theme of the evening this piece exhibits a lot of the same sense of humor and developed ear for comedic dialogue. In it, we get to see what happens when the Archetypes of the Romcom Genre get fed up with their lot in life. All your favorites, the  “Beautiful Female Lead” Roz, played by Emilie Catherine, did a fine job of walking the dagger’s edge between ditziness and acidity. Her obligatory “pretty but not AS pretty but SO FUNNY best friend” Molly, played by Lee Lytle, who gave the strongest performance in this piece. (anyone who can seem like a fully invested and present character in a farce, with such limited rehearsal time is someone to watch)

On the male side we had the “Good guy fiancee” Ralph, played by Ian Scully-Szejko, who portrayed the script’s, at first ambiguous, but by the end, a clear parody of  “the nice guy”. It’s hard to play bland and make it land in comedy but this was a success. Finally, we had the standard “Bad Boy Ex” Cary, played by Lawrence Karl, who did a great job of being that guy we love to hate but are still dangerously attracted to with insouciance and charm. This piece moved well, and the laughs landed. This show had a few people in the audience seriously invested, as I heard a few audible gasps and expletives throughout its runtime. (Yes mam, we heard you!)

The final piece was Malum by Ashley Rice ( a PGH native now living in Colorado) Directed by and starring, due to a sudden illness,  Nicole Zalak. Malum is a fun and thought-provoking re-framing of Genesis. Where Lucifer (“Call me, Lou.”) challenges our concepts and beliefs. What is knowledge, good and evil, and where do apples come from? Lou was played with style, grace, and the devil’s own shiny black shoes by PNWF Festival Director Dek Ingraham, also stepping into the role suddenly just prior to the play’s opening. Nicole Zalak did a wonderful job filling in as Eve and did the best staging of the evening. The layout of the stage and the blocking of the actors was the cleanest of the evening. The star of this show, however, was not the beautiful thoughtful writing or skillful directing, but rather the wonderful face of Beck Seaman, whose range and sincerity of expression was truly captivating. Nicole took advantage of Beck’s skills in this area, by placing him upstage center for most of the show, and that is much to his credit. It was a joy to watch. What a lovely fall.

All in all, this is a great block, and you need to go see it! Carnegie Stage til the 22nd! Tickets and more information here!

**A previous version of this review contained an incorrect pronoun due to an editing issue. The problem has since been fixed, we apologize for any offense or confusion this may have caused**

Categories: Archived Reviews

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