Enter to Win Two Tickets to the Uproarious ‘Book of Liz’

The No Name Players offer the summer’s most fun theater experience

The standard season for most theater companies opens in the waning summer months and runs through early spring, allowing actors and the like to take a proper summer vacation, or something. I like to imagine all the world’s theater professionals spending July running through sprinklers and chasing the ice cream truck, and please don’t tell me if that’s not the case. The point is that most theaters are dark during the warmer months.

Fortunately, we’ve got a couple of bold companies in town that ignore convention. Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre reverses the normal pattern, running their season from April to December, and Bricolage offers their irresistible Midnight Radio series on hot summer nights. And most of the offerings from the mavens at No Name Players have shown up under warm skies, starting with their August 2004 debut (a powerful interpretation of the underrated drama Big Love, which bears no relation to the TV show of the same name).

2011 has been the first calendar year with three offerings from the still-young company. They’ve already staged an adaptation of local writer (and PM contributor) Robert Isenberg’s book The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage, and hosted their third annual Celebration of Pittsburgh’s Women Artists, moving up to the New Hazlett Theater for this year’s installment. Completing an incredibly strong trio of productions is The Book of Liz, a farcical comedy by siblings Amy and David Sedaris, which opened at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre last weekend.

The endlessly clever and frequently uproarious play follows the exploits of Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, a devotee of the aptly-named Squeamish faith. The brethren reside in a cloistered, technology-free community known as Clusterhaven; Liz supports the tiny faith largely through the sale of her signature cheese balls (available in both traditional flavor and smoky). When the jaded Reverend Tollhouse puts a new arrival in charge of the cheese ball operation, however, Liz is reassigned to the chive fields (“You know I have no temperament for chiving!”) Disillusioned, she sets off for the world beyond, taken in by a Ukrainian/Cockney woman in a Mr. Peanut outfit. Somehow, it actually gets a bit more outrageous from there.

The passion and love for theater that the No Name Players bring to their productions is pervasive, and infects the cast just as easily as the audience. Five performers tackle the 15 characters of The Book of Liz, and bring an excited abandon to every portrayal. It’s clear that they’re having a good time; in fact, you can feel the production environment that the Players and director Don DiGiulio created in every scene. These are people that believe in what they’re doing, that are happy to be doing it, and—most importantly—remember why it’s called a “play.” You’re supposed to have fun out there, after all.

Gayle Pazerski brings an earnest sense of wonder and innocence to Liz, and couldn’t be more likable. Long-time local improv performer John Feightner proves that the has the chops to handle scripted material as well in a variety of roles, most prominently the smug interloper Brother Nathaniel Brightbee. And the scenic design by Alanna James must be mentioned as well—after all, it stretches all the way to the front door.

The Book of Liz is not to be missed. It’s the perfect diversion for a busy summer and a great night out, especially if you follow the production with drinks on Six Penn Kitchen’s rooftop, right across the street from Playwrights Theatre. Passion and love of the theater occasionally disappears from the stage of more established companies; with groups like the No Name Players, such qualities are never lacking.

And hey, would free tickets sweeten the deal? Enter now to win two complimentary tickets to The Book of Liz, courtesy of Pittsburgh magazine and No Name Players! Winners will be notified Monday (6/20) at noon, and the tickets will be good for any performance from June 20-25. (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 542 Penn Ave, Downtown. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 25, 8 PM. Additional performance Monday, June 20, 8 PM. $15 advance, $20 night-of-show.

Info and tickets: http://www.showclix.com/event/TheBookofLiz

Categories: After Dark