Doug Shanaberger

Column Doug Shanaberger

Doug Shanaberger is an entertainment columnist for the Observer-Reporter.

‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’

Off the Wall tackles ‘Playground Injuries’

December 12, 2012

What’s happening at Off the Wall Theater in Carnegie? Or should I ask, what isn’t?

I closed last week’s column with an announcement about the special three-day run of “The Speed Queen,” and this week, I’m starting off with news about the company’s latest effort, “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which opens Friday night.

Rajiv Joseph’s play about a friendship that endures for 30 years – from childhood traumas to adulthood anxieties – makes its debut in the Pittsburgh area under the direction of Maggie Balsley, whose past good work for Off the Wall includes “Agnes of God” and “’night, Mother.”

It’s a busy season for the Carnegie theater group. And an exciting one for actors who can’t resist the challenge of bringing unknown plays to local audiences, the question always being, “Will they accept it?”

In this case, the actors are Erika Cuenca and Tony Bingham.

Cuenca you’ll recognize from several Off the Wall productions, including the popular “How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel, and Bingham gave his best performance to date in Edward Albee’s “The Goat” at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

For tickets to “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” which runs through Dec. 29, visit or call 888-718-4253

‘Grand Night’

The songs of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, from the familiar to the obscure, are celebrated by Pittsburgh CLO this season in the revue “A Grand Night for Singing.”

Under Jack Allison’s direction, the show runs through Jan. 20 at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret. And it has a sensational cast brushing off R&H staples such as “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “If I Loved You,” “I Can’t Say No” and “Something Wonderful.”

In “A Grand Night” are Bre Pursell, Kristiann Menotiades, Katie Oxman, Caroline Nicolian, Paul-Jordan Jansen, Quinn Patrick Shannon and John Wascavage.

For tickets, call 412-325-6766.

Mixing up Moliere

Speaking of actors worth seeing, you still have time to catch Nike Doukas, Leo Marks, James FitzGerald, Martin Giles, Helena Ruoti, Matt DeCaro, Joel Ripka and Robin Abramson in “The School for Lies” from Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre.

Chaos ensues throughout the play – and it should. Playwright David Ives reworked Moliere’s classic comedy, “The Misanthrope,” retaining the 17th-century setting, but giving it a more modern flavor in other respects.

The play continues through Sunday in the Charity Randall Theatre of the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland.

For tickets, call 412-561-6000.

One that got away

Like “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Legs Diamond,” “Leap of Faith” and “Taboo,” the musical “Catch Me If You Can” surfaced just long enough to serve as an example of the Broadway show that nobody wanted.

It flopped in New York, and it flopped on tour. It certainly didn’t generate much interest in Pittsburgh, where poor box-office sales forced the Broadway at Heinz Hall series to cancel the show’s Dec. 26-30 engagement.

If you’re holding tickets, call 412-392-4900 to arrange for a refund.

“Catch Me If You Can” looked like a winner when it opened in New York early in 2011. Terrence McNally, one of this era’s greatest playwrights, wrote a libretto based on the book that inspired Steven Spielberg’s movie of the same name, and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman collaborated on the score, working together for the first time since the phenomenal success of their “Hairspray.”

Yet despite the names involved and the usual pre-opening ballyhoo, the show fizzled out soon after it opened and limped on to give only 170 performances.

As the critic for Variety wrote: “The problem … doesn’t seem to be the book, but the source material. If there is a musical to be made from this tale of a bumbling FBI agent chasing a naively innocent charmer, the creators haven’t found it.”



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