It's no less fun than remarkable to see an established performance troupe that seems to get better almost every time out. But that's what it feels like is happening with Attack Theatre.
The group's latest combines the sophistication they've taught audiences to expect with a good deal of accessibility and humor. And it reaffirms Attack's position as surely the Pittsburgh performance group most committed to incorporating live music into its shows.
Last weekend's performances were notable for being the first in Attack's new space, in the Pittsburgh Opera's headquarters, in the Strip. The actual studio is on the second floor; the first-floor performance space (which the Opera has been renting out for shows and events) is splendid, big and high-ceilinged.
The work was set by Attack co-founders Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza on a company featuring them, Liz Chang, Dane Toney and Ashley Williams, with live original music performed by Dave Eggar, Charles Palmer and Tom Pirozzi.
Act one suggested a series of encounters, performed by various combinations of dancers, typically intense and affecting. Especially memorable was a trio featuring Kope, Toney and Williams, all in close, bodies folding over each other, with a surprising sequence of erotic pairings. The act was bracketed by a couple nice theatrical touches -- the skateboarder who weaved among the dancers to start things off, and the dancers' exit, through the doors they flung open, wordlessly inviting the audience back to the lobby while themselves disappearing into the dressing rooms beyond.
Act two was even more theatrical -- the first sign being that during intermission, all the chairs had been carried from the risers and lined up on the floor so we could watch the dancers turn the risers into the stage. Following a dream-narrative outline leavened with comedy, the troupe first cleverly mimicked an audience, then employed a series of devices including barred wooden dividers, a chair that rose into the rafters, and a good deal of nudity (discreetly tempered with the pages of One of America's Great Newspapers).
Just a bit more on the music. Eggars is an acclaimed cellist and pianist who's played solo at Carnegie Hall (the New York one) and the Kennedy Center, and performed and recorded with The Who, Wynton Marsalis, Evanescence and Yo-Yo Ma, to name a few. He's now done several shows with Attack (the first I recall is 2005's Games of Steel), composing original music for all of them, from drivingly artful rock to yearning cello solos.
In Incident[s], he also sings while fronting the combo of bassist Pirozzi and wizardly percussionist Palmer (who doubled as the skateboarder). Incorporating the Opera space's staircase, catwalk and risers, the musicians and their instruments dramatically expanded the possibilities for striking stage pictures. And Eggar even pitched in as comic relief, drawing his bow across the strings of the world's smallest cello, just for you.
Incident[s] in the Strip continues at 8 p.m. nightly Tue., Nov. 17., Fri., Nov. 20, and Sat., Nov. 21; 412-281-3305 or www.attacktheatre.com