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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


The Monster in the Hall
City Theatre

Monster in the Hall
Melinda Helfrich (center), Sheila McKenna, Matt Dengler and David Whalen
Now on stage at City Theatre is David Greig's Monster in the Hall, which has been called "an indie comedy-musical." It's a Scottish indie comedy-musical. A Scottish indie comedy-musical about a teenaged girl named Ducati, nicknamed Duck, who's a writer, and her father Duke, who has multiple sclerosis. They barely get by in their little apartment, but as Duck says, they cope. Each has an out-of-reality life as well—and the memories of Duck's mother who died in a motorcycle accident. What sparks the greatest amount of high energy in the show, of which there is a lot, is the impending visit by Mrs. Underhill, who may take Duck away from her home, in which she is the caretaker for her father. Duck is also dealing with normal teenager stuff, including crushes and performing a sex act on a friend so he won't be perceived as gay. OK, maybe not so normal. But this is Duck's world.

Greig's play was commissioned by Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and was performed there with minimal production elements. What the City got is a rough script with unassigned dialogue and lyrics with no music. Composer Eric Shimelonis has written the music for the kick-ass set of songs that add spice to the play. On Narelle Sisson's set of random architectural pieces—doors, windows, etc.— with effective projections (Larry Shea) and lighting (Andrew David Ostrowski), a show is assembled that looks a bit like a traveling acting troupe's cobbled together play in the park, yet it perfectly presents the reality, the emotion, and the humor in Duck and Duke's life. Credit director Tracy Brigden for her best work; Greig is out of the box with this play, and Brigden joins him there, putting disparate pieces together in an inspired way.

Melinda Helfrich is an awkward, bespectacled Duck. She drives this show and we're all cheering inside for our brave yet apprehensive heroine. David Whalen is Duck's do-ragged father, becoming debilitated by MS but still high spirited. Matt Dengler makes a fine turn as Lawrence, the boy Duck dreams of, and in a few minor parts. And Sheila McKenna nearly steals the show as Mrs. Underhill and as Agnetha, Duke's Norwegian game-world girlfriend. The comedic talents of Ms. McKenna and the perfect staging allow her to play both roles nearly simultaneously. These actors form a solid, bound ensemble which allows us to see the sad aspects yet feel the love. It's really a thrilling ride we take.

Monster in the Hall by David Greig, at City Theatre through April 1. For performance and ticket information, call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org/.


Photo: Suellen Fitzsimmons


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-- Ann Miner



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