Seanachai Theatre presents IN PIGEON HOUSE. “Fit-ups” were traveling shows in early twentieth century Ireland. The rural countryside was the theatrical landscape for vaudeville touring companies. Basher, Masher, Rasher and Dolly are actors. They live for the stage. And stage where they live. In this tribute to grassroots plays and cinema, the foursome interacts. It’s a montage of sketch bits, film clips and life moments. The past and present collide with drama onstage and offstage. What’s really happening? And what’s a drug induced hallucination? I’ve often wondered what’s going through an actor’s head during a performance. IN PIGEON HOUSE dissects actors to show their creative prowess, competitive drive and crazy impulses during, before and after the curtain.
Playwright Honor Molloy’s father started his own career in “fit-ups.” The play’s context comes from personal knowledge of working artists. It has an insider feel as the dark, zany path to curtain is explored. The dialogue has a theatrical flair. The language is poetically whimsical. Molloy also plays with time and characters and genre. She helps the audience connect the puzzle together by repeated elements, like a needle hidden in a lipstick. Director Brian Shaw paces it with constant movement. With no visible stagehands, the actors playing actors play stagehands and move scenery for a plethora of scene transitions. Scenic Designer Patrick McGhee created a multi-functional, transformer-like set. A wall pulls out and spins around to become toilet stalls. It’s impressive and reminiscent of ye ole traveling troupe’s all-in-one, pack-and-go stages. Although Shaw masterfully uses every possible angle of McGhee’s structure, the constant schlepping of scenery changes was exhausting. It was a clunky speed bump in this well-acted production.
In a play focused on actors, IN PIGEON HOUSE effectively illustrates the struggles of actors past and present. The four actors wholeheartedly commit to ambiguity. Skits go buffoon. Songs go maudlin. Lives go into the television set. It’s a showbiz hodge-podge. John Mossman (Basher) makes a memorable entrance and then goes into a disturbing rant on Charlie Chaplin. In white-faced clown make-up, Mossman establishes himself as the disconcerting leader of this ragtag crew. In character and presence, Mossman guides the quirky antics of Katherine Schwartz (Dolly), Barbara Figgins (Masher) and Ira Amyx (Rasher). The tight ensemble come together in real life to portray a cast coming a part. This is definitely an actors' showcase.
IN PIGEON HOUSE is a surreal peek into the actor's studio and living room.
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee
Written by Honor Molloy
Directed by Brian Shaw
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 18th
Buy Tickets at www.seanachai.org