Bricolage's Bootleggin' and Bathtub Gin | Program Notes

Bricolage's Bootleggin' and Bathtub Gin

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The troupe's Midnight Radio series is a good chance to see local stage talent let their hair down. That might seem a funny thing to say about old-school-radio-style plays where sound takes precedence over image. But watching/hearing folks you've seen do Shakespeare or Stoppard break out their cartoon voices and bat around potty humor (in spoof commercials) is its own good time.

This month's edition is especially notable for the return to the stage of Jack Erdie. I first met Erdie back in the '90s, when he was co-founder of edgy little New Teeth Productions; highlights, if memory servies, included a production of American Buffalo at the Brew House.

Erdie, who grew up in West Virginia, later left Pittsburgh for what he calls (in the Bricolage program notes) "a ship-wrecked three-year attempt to launch a career in movies." He's been back here for several years now, and in fact he still acts in movies, including a role in the Pittsburgh-shot Abduction, which stars Taylor Lautner and opens today. (He's among a number of local stage actors with a sidelight in bit parts in locally shot films.) Erdie is also an estimable singer-songwriter who's just completed his third CD of original music.

Midnight Radio shows typically feature a cast of a half-dozen or so voicing maybe three times that many roles (with others helping out on sound effects and live music). Bootleggin', written by Matthew Adams and Bricolage artistic director Jeffrey Carpenter, is loosely based on the true-crime story of a gangland slaying in Prohibition-era Pittsburgh, and it gives Erdie a chance to do several roles -- at least two of them, not surprisingly, heavies.

On film, Erdie's wiry build, angular features and penetrating stare often gets him cast as a bad guy. His Midnight Radio roles include one of the Volpe brothers gunned down in the Hill District. Given the series' unstaged quality -- the actors just stand at mikes to read their lines -- it's a treat to focus on how Erdie and the other actors use their voices, rather than their faces or bodies, to evoke rage, guile, glee and fear.

Or even just how they use a miked manual typewriter to evoke machine-gun fire.

Bootleggin' continues with performances tonight and tomorrow (www.webbricolage.org).

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