New Theater Group Wants to Get Weird With You

12 Peers Productions brings Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s horror-kitsch to Lawrenceville.

There are people in the world who would prefer Christmas to be a year-round event. They leave Santa Claus paraphernalia in their homes at all times, they decorated their freshman-year dorms with strings of blinking lights and they’re liable to bust out renditions of “White Christmas” (or, somewhat more tolerably, Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”) in mid-summer. Aside from the fact that they’re helping spread the intolerable Christmas Creep further and further into the autumn, who can blame them? They love their holiday, and why not celebrate year-round?

I’m exactly like that, but with Halloween. I need something creepy, campy and macabre around at absolutely all times. I’m sitting in my office as I type this, and just within sight, there’s a small jack-o-lantern votive holder, a series of cryptozoology action figures (Loch Ness Monster, Jersey Devil, Bigfoot, Chupacabra and Mothman,) a signed sketch of Doug Bradley of the Hellraiser films, a postcard of a West Virginia penitentiary electric chair … the list goes on. What’s the farthest you’ve driven in a day to attend a haunted house? Maybe an hour? I’ve done a seven-hour round trip.

Point is, I like creepy stuff. All year long.

So it brings me great pleasure that brand-new theater group 12 Peers Productions chose Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's The Weird as their inaugural production. Aguirre-Sacasa is a playwright and comic book writer, known for his over-the-top, imaginative stories, always featuring a bit of horror kitsch; one of his early plays was called Say You Love Satan, a romantic comedy revision of The Omen. Somehow, penning issues of Fantastic Four and psuedo-spooky off-Broadway hits has led to gigs writing for “Big Love” and “Glee.”

The Weird returns Aguirre-Sacasa to his wheelhouse, though. The show is a collection of short plays in the style of horror anthologies like “Tales From the Crypt” or Creepshow; these vignettes are more humor than terror, however. A scientist and his secretary explore their feelings across the specimen jars in “Insect Love”; an undergrad goes to find his lover deep in the bayou in “Swamp Gothic”; a disgruntled housewife gets an assist from the undead in “Morning Becomes Olestra.”

The skits are funny, original and fast-paced. All contain a dose of sheer ridiculousness, a send-up of horror convention and a surprising moment or two of genuine emotion and insight. The ensemble cast, who all play multiple roles, deftly balance the extreme characterizations and absurd scenarios with genuine, heart-on-a-sleeve emotion.

The presentation, though, is a big part of the appeal. Artistic Director Vince Ventura—who also served as Director for this production—will usher you in to a dimly lit Grey Box Theater, directing you to rows of chairs lined with dollar-store headstones, encouraging you to grab a box of popcorn before you settle in. Themes from Halloween and The Shining pulse through the air before the first scene, “Bloody Mary”, commences; at its conclusion, you’ll be introduced to your host for the evening, the zombified M.T. Grave. Played uproariously by local improv all-star John Feeightner, Grave is a low-rent Beetlejuice, cackling and creeping throughout the evening to tie the stories together.

Taken on its own, The Weird is a fun, refreshing night at the theater, from a company stripped of pretension and eager to please. As the debut of 12 Peers, though, it’s yet another sign that the theater scene in Pittsburgh is getting more bold and diverse by the minute. The company instantly joins the ranks of young groups in the area worth your immediate attention and attendance, and I’m eager to see where they’re headed from here.

(3595 Butler St, Lawrenceville. Thu-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m. $15; students and seniors, $10. Info and tickets: 12peerstheater.org)

The 412

Love Cheetahs? Get to the Zoo

Love Cheetahs? Get to the Zoo

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is home to four cheetahs who particularly like to move around in the morning.
All That You Need to Know about the Pirates’ Wild Card Game

All That You Need to Know about the Pirates’ Wild Card Game

Think you’re ready for Wednesday? You will be after reading our rundown on the matchup.
Does Pittsburgh Have the Nation’s Best Riverfront?

Does Pittsburgh Have the Nation’s Best Riverfront?

Then help the Steel City to earn that title by voting in an online poll.
Watch: The Cooking Channel Goes Inside Pittsburgh Kitchens

Watch: The Cooking Channel Goes Inside Pittsburgh Kitchens

Several restaurants along Penn Avenue will be featured in tonight’s episode of “Chuck’s Eat the Street.”

Hot Reads

Made in Pittsburgh

Made in Pittsburgh

The city of steel always has been known for its industry – what we make. Today, that defining characteristic expands beyond manufacturing into every aspect of modern life.
Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Ed Piskor is Pittsburgh's Hip-Hop Historian

Comic-book artist Ed Piskor continues to win critical acclaim and international fame with his “Hip Hop Family Tree” series of graphic novels.
Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Love Cheetahs? Get to the Zoo

Love Cheetahs? Get to the Zoo

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is home to four cheetahs who particularly like to move around in the morning.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

Food trucks. Pizza boats. Bagel Clubs. The best on-the-run food in town.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl Declares She's Breaking up with the NFL

PittGirl Declares She's Breaking up with the NFL

Given recent developments, our resident fan of Pittsburgh — and football — says enough is enough.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments


Ask a Foodie: Is Cereal Really the Breakfast of Champions?

Ask a Foodie: Is Cereal Really the Breakfast of Champions?

Short answer: No. But we’ve put together a list so that you may change that.

Comments


Bar Exam: Wheelhouse at Rivers Casino

Bar Exam: Wheelhouse at Rivers Casino

The casino's popular sports bar gets a long-overdue review.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Find Your Flair

Find Your Flair

Hit the fall chill head on with style.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
This Just In: Crested Duck Available Across the Country

This Just In: Crested Duck Available Across the Country

For a limited time, genius chef Kevin Costa will share his cured meats with the rest of the nation.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

This weekend, the PBT presents its annual production at Hartwood Acres under the night sky.

Comments