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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Charles Ives Take Me Home
City Theatre

Also see Ann's review of True West


Drew McVety, James FitzGerald and Tressa Glover
Photo by Kristi Jan Hoover
Good storytelling makes good theatre, and Jessica Dickey is a damn good storyteller. What really works is her creative approach to the story, and she is two for two with The Amish Project (produced by City Theatre in 2011) and Charles Ives Take Me Home, on the City's boards through December 15. I suppose many playwrights could find a story to tell in the life of composer Charles Ives (1874-1954), but Dickey takes Ives and applies his passions to a modern-day father and daughter in poignant fashion.

In addition to being a well-regarded experimental modernist composer, Ives loved sports, having played varsity football at Yale. The father and daughter of Dickey's play represent the two ends of Ives' spectrum of interests: John is a Julliard-trained violinist who struggles to reach his career goals and Laura is a bright basketball-obsessed young woman. As the composer enjoyed creating unusual combinations of instruments and harmonies, he is the perfect conductor of the oil-water combination that John and Laura must work out in order to express the love and respect they have for each other and each other's passions.

James FitzGerald is Charles Ives, our host—he even delivers the pre-show list of suggestions and warnings. We learn a good bit about the real Ives and about the fictional John and Laura, played by Drew McVety and Tress Glover, respectively. Ives was an inspiration for John, and a meeting between the two when John was 20 came at a critical time in his life. That inspiration becomes part of the relationship between John and Laura, though it is some time before she really understands it and can be inspired by it herself. Dickey makes it all clear, as we go from Ives to John to Laura in numerous time shift scenes.

Adding depth and connective tissue to the play is the lovely violin-playing by McVety; with his acting chops and musicianship, it's easy to see why he has played this role more than once. Glover is making her mark in Pittsburgh, as an actor and as an artistic director (No-Name Players). She sets a good foundation in her portrayal of Laura, showing the character's drive as well as the love and disjointed but sincere admiration for her father. And she can dribble a basketball just fine.

FitzGerald's Ives is folksy, quirky, and a little mysterious—just what I would expect from this versatile and always interesting actor. He is one of the city's best.

Director Matt M. Morrow pulls the whole thing together in a tidy 80 minutes. I found the ending to be slightly less satisfying than hoped, but the play as a whole is quite fulfilling, particularly with its main theme of father-child relationships.

Tony Ferrieri has done another magical job of outfitting the Hamburg Studio space in ways both practical and metaphorical. The rest of the design team—Angela M. Vesco with costumes, Ann G. Wrightson with lighting, Katie Down with sound, and Attack Theatre / Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza on movement—make fine contributions.

Charles Ives Take Me Home by Jessica Dickey continues at the City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, through December 15. For tickets and performance information, please call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit citytheatrecompany.org. Also playing through December 22 at the City is 2 Pianos 4 Hands with ob Stillman and Christopher Tocco.


See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.


-- Ann Miner



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