Pitt Rep’s City of Asylum

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City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which shelters writers persecuted in their home countries, has done a pretty good job over the years representing itself and its guests. Since its founding, in 2004, its several guests from around the world have participated in numerous public readings and other events, and at least one went on to teach at Pitt.

Still, especially if you don’t know about COAP, the representative sampling of guest writers in this new stage work is worth a look before it closes Sunday.

The energetic student cast, directed by playwright and Pitt faculty member Cynthia Croot, are not for the most part close physical matches for the four writers, and, probably wisely, they don’t attempt impersonations.

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In fact, current writer-in-residence Israel Centeno, of Venezuela, is portrayed by a woman, Lucy Clabby. Weiqi Li, however, captures a good deal of the signature wild energy of Chinese dissident poet Huang Xiang, the first COAP guest. Connor Shioshita Pickett evokes Salvadoran novelist Horacio Castellenos Moya’s acerbic wit, and Melissa Italiano and Chelsea Faber share the role of Burmese writer Khet Mar.

The show, consisting largely of staged vignettes from each writers’ work, is vividly staged. Here's Michelle Pilecki's review in this week's CP.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the play could have paid a bit more attention to the organization that it’s named after. Audiences unfamiliar with the group (which is Pittsburgh’s independent incarnation of an international network of COAs) could easily leave with a good sense of the writers’ writings but only a fuzzy notion of the organization that, after they’d suffered years of threats, torture or imprisonment, let them work in peace.

Performances of City of Asylum continue nightly through Sunday at the Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, in Oakland. Tickets are $12-25.

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