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barebones' American Falls

The one-act whips through time and space

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The cast of American Falls, at barebones productions - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • The cast of American Falls, at barebones productions

One is tempted to read the title American Falls as a sentence, with the second word a verb. In a sense, that's the truth about barebones productions' presentation of Miki Johnson's 2012 play about a slice of Americans falling — in and out of love, through life, through tough decisions, through death.

Set in a Midwestern small town named American Falls, the Pitt grad's first full-length play is often described as an Our Town (Thornton Wilder's 1938 masterwork) for the 21st century, though even kinkier. The stories meander across decades, but under the direction of barebones artistic director Patrick Jordan, the one-act whips through time and space with eight characters (two of them ghosts).

At the center, much like OT's Stage Manager, is Billy Mound of Clouds (heartily portrayed by Leandro Cano), shoe salesman and Native American seer, narrating and commenting on the action. The two ghosts are rather lively, especially Samantha (sweet and lusty, as only Cary Anne Spear can play) recalling an enthusiastic but ill-spent life of booze, sex and kids — of all of which she had way too much. As the wistful Lisa, Liz Hammond maintains a center of attention despite being perched over everyone's head. The so-cute Gunnar Bjornson's Isaac could as well be a ghost, a child who barely comes to life for most of the play.

Much of American Falls hinges on the transformation of a character related to both of the ghosts: Samuel. Once again Connor McCanlus, seemingly channeling both Steve Buscemi and Carrie, combines comedy and chills. If there is a "hero" or at least protagonist, it's probably the decidedly non-heroic Eric (a sympathetic John Steffenauer). Completing the cast as here-and-now buddies are Dave Mansueto and Sarah Silk.

Inaugurating the company's new space, in Braddock, barebones founder Jordan has set the scene (literally, in this case) for intimate but polished productions. Try to take advantage of the Friday-Saturday pre-play receptions starring small plates by chef Kevin Sousa, coming attractions from his new restaurant Superior Motors, the theater's upstairs neighbor.

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