Straightening Combs at Pittsburgh Playwrights

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In the way of many solo shows, Kim El’s new work is a tour de force.

In this full-length autobiographical play, the local performer and playwright portrays eight characters, only two of whom are explicitly versions of herself. And she’s a strong enough performer and storyteller that the more didactic aspects of the show seldom seem too heavy-handed.

There’s plenty of humor, too. If El’s portrayal of her grandmother coming to terms with a naked Barbie isn’t alone worth the price of admission, it’s close.

And if the show’s heart is El’s struggle with clinical depression, there’s much more to it than that. Particularly engaging is the protagonist's evolving relationship with the Hill District’s projects — from the downscale place she dpesn’t want to live as a kid but had to when her parents broke up, to the neighborhood she ardently defends as a college student when a clueless Duquesne University student advisor puts it down.

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for CP.

There are three more performances of Straightening Combs this weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $15-25.

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