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)

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Two local businessmen have found a worthwhile weekend job –– flying dogs in need of rescue.
Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

The Steelers coach says he has just the right role in mind for the Pirates outfielder.
Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

But the plan from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority may have some strings attached.
Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

The boxing drama "Southpaw" is set to arrive in theaters in late July.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

Each trail has been lovingly constructed and maintained, using old infrastructure to reconnect disparate communities.
A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa will draw on a fierce work ethic, community goodwill and faith in his own vision for Superior Motors, the progressive American spot he plans to open this year.
Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Adoration for PNC Park is near-universal. But would the park be the cherished baseball palace it is today if a few early proposals instead had become reality?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Two local businessmen have found a worthwhile weekend job –– flying dogs in need of rescue.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

Stand proud, Pittsburgh: Our brand of quirky is a good thing — positive, uplifting, fun, colorful, imaginative.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino assembled locally and nationally recognized chefs for Wednesday's James Beard Foundation dinner.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

You don’t have to be a handyman to be handy with those spring projects, if you have the right equipment.

Comments


Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

The Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport's new bar & restaurant wants to be more than just a hotel joint.

Comments


10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

Get the lowdown on one of the best food events of the season.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Spring Fling

Spring Fling

Add some warmth to your table with these nature-inspired plates and bowls from artist Lisa Neimeth.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

On Sunday, find out why the Daily Dot in 2012 declared Takei the most influential person on Facebook.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

When the bride and groom hail from different backgrounds, a planning balancing act ensues. Here are two weddings that incorporate Hindu culture with style.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Tailor knobs and pulls to each room in your home.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

With backing from UPMC, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh on Monday announced a three-way collaboration to use the digital data to revolutionize health care.

Comments


Thinking outside the box (score)
Death to the NFL Salary Cap

Death to the NFL Salary Cap

It doesn’t provide parity or competitive balance. The salary cap just steals millions from players who, rightfully, want to retire before hits to the head could ruin their life.

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