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Book of Tricks

Alex Galatic's clearly a writer of enormous potential

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Alex Galatic has a tremendous gift for writing impeccably natural dialogue. In his play Book of Tricks, this Pittsburgh playwright crafts whole scenes in which a false note is never sounded. There are times during the Throughline Theatre Company premiere production that you feel as if you're watching someone's home movies, made even more intimate by an utter lack of artifice.

What's even more amazing is that Book of Tricks is Galatic's first play. I know playwrights who've spent their lives trying to write with this sort of sincerity.

And so, for you students in the back, there's an important lesson here about theater and, specifically, about the nature of theatrical truth.

Galatic's play, about a family raising a son with Asperger's syndrome, couldn't be more heartfelt. Daniel's parents, Beth and Jim, have organized their lives around their son and constructed a safe, loving environment. This could have been an angst-filled, bruised and wounded sort of a play, but Galatic has avoided that.

And that's the problem. As natural as Galatic's writing is, as truthful as it may be, it remains surprisingly uninvolving. Theater is about the illusion — as opposed to the actuality — of truth. These characters may sound like real people, but theater isn't real people. Theater is dramatic people struggling against obstacles, enduring great changes and getting the emotional shit kicked out of them.

>But though the "plot" of Book of Tricks may be one of difficulty, Galatic has filled it with nice people doing nice things for other nice people, in a very low-key, uninflected style.

Which doesn't give director Briana Tierno and her cast a lot of dramatic room in which to maneuver. David Santiago leads the company as the father and tries to add complexity to the proceedings, but there's only so much he can do. Galatic attempts to supply conflict with an absent-father subplot but, to tell the truth, it's extraneous and illogical; Sarah Bartley, Cain Alexander and Bob Rak take this aspect of the play and run with it, but only get so far.

Galatic's clearly a writer of enormous potential and I look forward to what he comes up with next.

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