Pittsburgh Quarterly Contributors
Stuart Sheppard

Stuart Sheppard

Stuart Sheppard is a novelist, critic, and management consultant. Follow him: @HamletsMachine

City Theatre’s “Downstairs” Showcases Pittsburgh’s Dazzling Acting Talent

The stage of City Theatre’s “Downstairs” is an open maw of things forsaken, a dirty basement stuffed with so many neglected and discarded items — tools and tires and crates and old clothes and worn-​out furniture — that it casts the audience in the dingy ether of pathos well before the lights go down. Tony Ferrieri’s overpowering…

PICT Conjures a Ghostly Godot with “The Woman in Black”

“The Woman in Black” is one of those rare creations, like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” that has found success in multivarious forms as a novel, play, and film. Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 book, PICT Classic Theatre’s production uses Stephen Mallatratt’s 1987 adaptation (an unusually safe bet for this company that…

Barebones Brings Sam Shepard’s “True West” to Life in a Stunning Production

We tend to think of the American West as director John Ford portrayed it: a vast, mysterious space as cosmic as the Egyptian desert, with the Rockies as our pyramids. The West is an ideal we all hold, a collective mythic dream, something verging on the spiritual the way our conception of patriotism…

Lear in the Furnace: A Review of Quantum Theatre’s “King Lear”

Attending a Quantum Theatre production can be like traveling to one of those crazy destination weddings where they make you climb up some precipitous volcano to reach the venue, while you ponder the wedding planner’s sanity. You know the view will be fantastic, but is the journey worth it? In the case of…

Tragedy in a Box: A Review of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)”

A refreshing pragmatism infuses Quantum Theatre’s production of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)” (2013) – a kind of low-​tech, iconoclastic exuberance that’s reminiscent of the early films of Godard. It’s a classic one-​man, story-​telling performance – with some audience interaction – that comes off somewhere between Spalding Gray’s “Monster in…

Soft-​Core Pathos: A Review of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “The Tempest”

Cleverness is not a Shakespearian trait. In fact, as we have found after more than 400 years, the more we try to shape him, using our own devices, the less he is able to tell us. This is because his chief mode of artistic engagement is the sublime – versus the allegoric, the…

An Exterminating Angel

Perhaps all drama should be analyzed as the Kabbalists interpret Torah — on many levels simultaneously, comprising the literal, the symbolic, the metaphoric, and the mystical. This might allow us to understand and enjoy what others may miss or dislike, without resulting in one conclusion that necessitates a myopic choice of perspective.

Barebones’ “Lobby Hero” Combines Comedy with Tragedy to Stunning Effect

Dichotomies in art usually succeed brilliantly or fail dreadfully. Bringing together disparate forms is inherently risky: it challenges the artist, but even more so, it challenges the audience.

Play Unlimited: The Public’s Ambitious “Hamlet” Rewards on Many Levels

“The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” is a monster of a play: at about 4,000 lines, it’s Shakespeare’s longest — full productions can easily run past four hours. (Hamlet himself has 1,500 lines, which alone would constitute an entire drama). And it’s monstrous not only in word-​count, but body-​count. By the end, the prince…

Rich Performances Buoy City Theatre’s “Ironbound”

Imagine “Waiting for Godot” set in a New Jersey bus stop. It’s hardly a rarefied trope, as I’m sure many of us have thought we might as well be waiting for Godot while marooned in some cold, lonely place, praying for a bus to appear. Playwright Martyna Majok has taken this conceit and…
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