The playful creativity of Attack Theatre is once again irresistible in "The Chalk Line," starting even before the show begins.
The run of performances takes place at the company's rehearsal studio in the Strip District, less than a block away from the Pittsburgh Opera headquarters where it often performs.
Co-directors Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope had fun Nov. 2 with the standard welcoming talk before a performance, involving the audience in bits of conversation, and having everyone move their heads to their left and right shoulders to see changing perspective. Then "The Chalk Line" began with a body being brought in. It's placed on the floor and a chalk line is drawn around it by Dane Toney. The show will play off television crime dramas, but not a single episode.
Toney then moves to a large blackboard at the rear of the performing area, which will be used to set the context and sometimes to trigger action. Toney, who has considerable artistic skill with chalk, shows we've just seen the finale of the show's second season. Then he transports us back to the show's pilot.
Seen over a whole season or seasons, individual episodes reveal different aspects of the main characters' personalities and their relationships. That's the focus of "The Chalk Line," too.
Between flexible partnering, sweeping ensemble dancing and lots of physical humor, dancers Liz Chang, Kaitlin Dann, Brenth Luebbert, Ashley Williams and Toney create a provocative and fluid world of interactions. No one stays dead for very long.
Humor drives the elaboration of many scenes in Attack Theatre's new show. After Dann and Luebbert lie down together in bed, Toney goes to a blackboard on the right side of the stage and writes: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." He writes the line again and again, like a school student who's forced to repeat a lesson that must be learned. Then the fun really begins as he changes words in the commandment.
That blackboard on the right also is used for macabre humor in another segment, which begins with Luebbert hanging himself. Toney immediate starts a game of hangman, and when the dancers don't get all the letters, he writes a phone number on the board for a member of the audience to call in the final letter.
In addition to recorded music, "The Chalk Line" features superbly atmospheric harmonica playing by Stu Braun, who began the show by carrying in the first dead body.
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
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