Monster Ink

Please welcome two new authors to IheartPGH – Wendy and Lance will be writing about theater in Pittsburgh.  And I apologize for taking so long to get this posted – but you still have a few more days to catch The Monster in the Hall at the City Theater.

So, you may ask yourself, what are those two doing writing theater reviews? Well, long story short, we wanted to celebrate the Pittsburgh theater community that has fostered us lo these many years, and the editor of this fine blog supported the concept. (Thanks Lindsay, you’re the goods.)

First assignment: City Theater’s The Monster in the Hall, by David Greig.

Returning to City Theatre, for us, is a lot like visiting with your edgy, provocative, collage paramour some twenty years later. We were both heavily involved in the productions back in the mid-1980s when the company was producing out of a converted bar in Oakland and the staff looked like members of The Doobie Brothers (before the Michael McDonald era, thank you very much).

But back to the show…

City Theater’s production is like a finely tuned Superbike barreling around the track. The play is a one act, day in the life of 16 year old Duck (Ducati Macatarsney), a motherless, myopic, daydreamer who is trying to prepare her home and her biker dad for a visit from social services. She is trying to hide that her dad is not well and that she has become his care giver instead of the other way around. This sounds like the makings of an angst-driven tragedy but Greig creates his tale as a frenetic, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World-like, play-with-music, comedy.

The cast of four play a humungous number of roles. Melinda Helfrich as Duck, and David Whalen as Duke, her dad, mostly get to stay in singular roles allowing Matt Dengler and Sheila McKenna to deftly ricochet between innumerable characters. However, Greig’s multi-style narrative allows Helfrich to show her chops in an exposition-turned-quiz show scene, and Whalen, as Duke’s avatar in an online role-playing game. But it’s McKenna’s quick transformations as both Agnetha and Mrs. Underhill that take the show into the comic ionosphere.

This is more, however, than just a play – – it is a piece of theatrical candy, with projections, movement, rock-show lighting, and sound design, all of which reinforce the frantic storytelling. Director (and the company’s Artistic Director) Tracy Brigden never release the accelerator on this bike, and her designers don’t let her down. Narelle Sissons’ “cyclorama of doors” set allows Larry Shea’s projections to support the tale without intruding. Eric Shimelonis’ sound design is seamless, but his original music sometime has the feel of a Wiggle’s concert. (Not that we’re ever been… Really). Andrew David Ostrowski’s lighting design was workin’ overtime – – lights were literally hanging all over the place: they were packed into the on-stage overhead truss, there were cute little 3½” instruments perched on the edge of the stage as footlights, and still more were hangin’ from the rafters behind the audience. (Nice gobo special on Duc as bookends at the beginning and end of the play, by the way). Angela M. Vesco wisely keeps the costumes simple, allowing just a coat or sweater to indicate a character change. (Gotta love those boots, on Duc, though!)

The pit crew for this piece has to be consummate to keep this hog running. We are both sure that with all the elements and moving parts in this production, Stage Manager Patti Kelly’s cue calling in the booth must be a grand show in itself.

Ultimately, our Superbike on a race course simile is realized. We both truly enjoyed the fun as the machine sped around but finally it ended were is started. The production is an entertainment that lacks the stuff to make the mind engage or allow the audience to ponder after exiting the building.

Which brings both of us back to that college reunion. That former paramour is now older, more respectable, and less edgy and provocative. Maybe that is how it should be. Ah, but it doesn’t stop us from pining for the fjords.

The Monster in the Hall, by David Greig
City Theater Mainstage

Running currently through April 1, 2012

  • Tuesday 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday Mar 21, 2012 1:00 & 7:00PM
  • Wednesday Mar 28, 2012 1:00 PM
  • Thursday & Friday 8:00 PM
  • Saturdays, 5:30 & 9:00 PM
  • Sundays, 2:00 PM

1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203

412 431 CITY

A California Girl Finds Tacos in Pittsburgh

Say hello to Sarah!  She has just moved to Pittsburgh from the west coast and will be blogging about discovering Pittsburgh

A recent misfortune that resulted in my getting lost for an hour around the West End Bridge led to a happy mistake: finding the California Taco Shop in Overbrook.

This place has been on my mind since I moved out here about two months ago from San Diego and it did not disappoint. And since I was the only person in the joint, I chatted with the owner, Gustavo, who’s also a fellow (former) San Diegan.

Gustavo opened the shop about three months ago and made it a point to serve “San Diego-style” Mexican fare, which means California burritos (meaning there’s a big-ole smack of fries thrown in), carne asada fries and the San Diego staple: the breakfast burrito.

Our friend Gustavo was born in Ensenada and because of this claims he makes a mean fish taco. I have yet to try one, but I can only imagine.

This place is pretty reasonably priced, a little out of the way along Route 51, but still worth it if you want to try a West Coast specialty.

I recommend my favorite, the pollo asado fries, they’re even great reheated the next day.

You can find the California Taco Shop on Yelp here.

California Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

Meet BlogLocal – Help Spread the Word About My New Project

I have been working on this for the past year and I am excited to share this with you.   I don’t think I have shared much about this project here on IheartPGH yet, I wanted to get the first version of the website working.  We still have alot more work to do on this – she is in need of a facelift but the site is functional.  I am eager to introduce you to BlogLocal.

BlogLocal is literally a map of local blogs, in the future you will also be able to sort and view blogs by topic as well.  Right now we just have the location feature working.

Please visit BlogLocal and check out the map.  If you have a blog that mostly focuses on a place – a food blog that reviews Pittsburgh restaurants, a Pittsburgh kids blog, a blog about Pittsburgh sports – please make sure to submit your blog to the list here.  You can also follow BlogLocal on Twitter and Facebook.

Here is where we need your help!

I have just submitted an entry to the Knight News Challenge – which is an international contest that supports projects around news and media run by the Knight Foundation.

Please check out the BlogLocal entry to the Knight News Challenge and leave feedback – ask questions, make suggestions.  Also – if you are a Tumblr user – please give us some love and reblog the post.



IheartPGH March Madness Bracket Challenge

If you would like to compete against fellow IheartPGH readers and basketball lovers – please enter your bracket in to the 2012 IheartPGH bracket challenge.  We moved over to Yahoo sports this year – the Yahoo site seems to be much easier to use.

March Madness kicks off right here in Pittsburgh this year with some of the games being held at the Consol Energy Center.  Tickets for these games are sold out but you can watch online.  Wednesday practices are free to attend.  A detailed schedule of practices and parking info is available here.

Round 2: Thursday, March 15 @ Consol Energy Center

Session 1, Game 1 – 12:40 PM: (truTV)
#8 K-State vs. #9 Southern Miss

Session 1, Game 2 – 30 mins following Game 1: (truTV)
#1 Syracuse vs. #16 UNC Asheville

Session 2, Game 1 – 7:20 PM: (TNT)
#7 Gonzaga vs. #10 West Virginia

Session 2, Game 2 – 30 mins following Game 1: (TNT)
#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Loyola (MD)

Click here to enter your bracket in the IheartPGH Challenge 

  • all brackets must be submitted by tip-off on Thursday, March 15, 2012
  • you may enter up to 3 brackets
  • if you want to tweet about it – please include your twitter name in your bracket

Raccoongaine III – Orienteering Scavenger Hunt

The Western PA Orienteering Club sent us an email about the upcoming scavenger hunt at Raccoon Creek State Park on March 25.  I know there are quite a of our readers who have participated in previous scavenger hunts, the Urban Hike folks organize one every fall.  This looks like a neat way to check out Raccoon Creek state park and patricipate in a scavenger hunt.  Raccoongaine III is limited to 150 entries – according to the facebook group for the event – 115 have registered thus far so there is still room to enter.

In a rogaine-style format, individuals or teams have a fixed time (3 or 6 hours in this event) to visit as many checkpoints as possible; walking, running and resting as they see fit. The checkpoints are spread over a large area, and are pre-marked on a map issued shortly before the start of the event. Point values for visiting each control vary (and are specified in advance) depending on such factors as distance from the start/finish area, elevation, navigational complexity.

Participants in a Rogaine come from diverse backgrounds: hikers, walkers, cross-country runners, trail runners, adventure racers, ultra runners, orienteers, hashers and family groups. Widely varying levels of competitive intensity are found, going from the casual stroller who wants a little variety added to the weekend hike to the serious athlete. Map reading skill is perhaps the most important technique needed. Route planning strategy is also very important since there won’t be time to get all the controls, so the choice of which to try for is crucial in maximizing scores.

Here is a video of the 2011 event…


Raccoongaine III
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Raccoon Creek State Park
Event starts at 10am, Maps will be handed out at 9am
Click here for complete event details