Lauren Weedman
Maybe prison volunteering isn't a subject that you've thought of as a prime candidate for a stage presentation. In that case, you'll be surprised as well as pleased by Lauren Weedman's compelling and funny—if a bit bumpy—one-woman play, Bust.

On Tony Ferrieri's multi-level maze of a set, and with vital contributions of sound (Mark Nichols) and lighting (Allen Hahn), Weedman and director Allison Narver present a quick-paced, not-sure-what's-coming-next story of what it might be like to volunteer in a women's correctional facility. Based on her own work as an inmate advocate in Los Angeles, Weedman inhabits dozens of colorful and distinct characters—volunteers, inmates and prison workers—instantly fleshed out through subtle yet effective vocal changes and body language, without stereotype. Considering each character's share of the 80-some minutes of stage time, the extent that we come to know and learn from these characters is amazing. Riding on the surface of comedy and pathos is a revelation of need: the volunteers tolerate an uncomfortable situation to do what they're doing because of something they need from the process; the inmates need favors as well as basic human attention.

The pacing, as well as Weedman's characterizations, keep us engaged from start to finish. If there is a weakness, it may be discovered afterward, upon reflection that a lack of throughline keeps this from being a completely formed piece. Something about the main character's "outside" career story doesn't really hold up and sets up a bit of a dead end by the time it's all over. That said, the ride sure is fun.

Bust at Pittsburgh's City Theatre through June 29. For performance and ticket information, call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org/.

See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.

-- Ann Miner

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