Entertainment Central Pittsburgh – Is it possible to take the extraordinary for granted? When Quantum Theatre announced its 30th anniversary season recently, the big 3-0 came as a stunner. Quantum, one of the nation’s most adventurous regional theater companies, has been active in Pittsburgh since the days when you couldn’t reserve tickets on the website because the web did not yet exist. Founded in 1990 by Karla Boos, who still leads the company as artistic director, Quantum has achieved continuity without stagnation. Whereas some avant-garde artists and companies get stuck in repeating the stuff that made them avant-garde to begin with, this outfit keeps imagining and experimenting.
Many people came to know Quantum for its practice of producing plays in unusual locations. Therese Raquin, about a woman trapped in the pit of her own passions, was staged in the deep end of an empty swimming pool. Kafka’s Chimp, based on the Kafka short story about a talking, civilized chimpanzee, was performed at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The venue-hopping continues but is not the company’s only defining feature. The plays are the thing. They range from seldom-seen modern masterpieces to world premieres, to adaptations so original they’re essentially new creations.
Other Pittsburgh companies do cutting-edge theater, too. Together they make up an ecosystem that we’re fortunate to have. Among them, Quantum has stood out by focusing the resources to mount increasingly ambitious productions, sometimes on a spectacular scale. John Krizanc’s Tamara, a landmark work of immersive theatre, is intricately hard to produce and thus rarely attempted. Quantum pulled off Tamara superbly. And for those who enjoy preposterous, mind-bending spectacles, Quantum set the bar high with its remake of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as a baroque comic opera.
Three for the Road
The upcoming 30th season consists of three plays. This may seem a modest number, but when every production is a major undertaking, one does not produce in quantity. The chosen three—An Odyssey, Chimerica, and Plano—promise a fine sampling of both Quantum’s capabilities and the breadth of contemporary theater…