At its best, art makes us take a step back from our lives and examine ourselves, giving us the space to confront ourselves and grow in meaningful ways. “Madagascar,” in an hour and a half, does just that, in a way that snuck up on me, but left me more than satisfied, if not a bit introspective.
What I’ve always loved about Quantum Theatre is the spaces they occupy temporarily. I’m continually impressed not only with the diversity of the locations they choose, but how they use those spaces to enhance the show. Quantum invited me down to The Carlyle, on fourth street downtown, a new space, and part of town, to me.
When I worked in town, I was closer to the other end of Grant Street, so often the blocks closer to The Point are new to me, but I always look forward to an adventure. I write this not as a deterrent, but as encouragement for anyone looking for something exciting off the beaten path. And besides, you’ll be taken care of, the entrance to the performance space was marked, as always, with a very visible “Q.”
I’ve always been impressed with how Quantum integrates itself with the local community. This time, they have partnered with Tavern 245 to offer patrons a discount. I actually ended up heading to Market Square afterwards, which is a short walk away, so you won’t be at a loss for food or drink before or after the show, or entertainment if you stop to watch the ice skaters at PPG Place.
The lobby of The Carlyle is regal, with three large columns filling your view of the stage. The space itself reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in Cleveland which occupied an old bank (considering it used to be a bank, this should not surprise anyone): tall ceilings with fancy, tiled ceilings and marble everywhere you looked. Most of the walls have been covered in cloth, but only about three quarters of the way up, evoking the headless statues mentioned in the show itself, what I thought was an ingenious touch.
Often I tend to judge things based on their soundtracks, the music added to the environment of the show, at the beginning and end, easing transitions between the characters, and at least in my mind, perfectly blending into the story and the scene. I wish we could have heard more, but the fleeting bits of that haunting piano only added to the air of mystery and helped to set the tone of the play. At night, that part of downtown is not overly busy, but you can easily imagine the cars and buses that you do hear as coming from the streets of Rome instead of Pittsburgh.
The story weaves between three characters, all telling one story that slowly assembles over the course of the evening. Watching the three characters, each in a different time, imposed over one another was a treat, and engaging as they spoke directly to the audience, posing questions not only to their own morality, but ours as well.
Once the plot clicked into place, previous comments by the characters stood out in sharp relief, highlighting some of the themes of the show in unexpected ways. Each of the actors gave a wonderful performance, and seemed to really enjoy being in this show, which always equates to more engaging and powerful performances.
Quantum is also heading to a new space on the Internet, specifically starting discussions with patrons after the show to talk about “Madagascar.” So far, a few guests have responded and rudimentarily interacted with each other. It’s a good start, but I had wished to see interaction with the cast and crew, but I hope that this is something they continue to develop for future productions, something unseen from other groups.
Many thanks to Quantum for inviting me down, and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see “Madagascar,” which has just been extended for another week. More information on this intimate show can be found here and be sure to make note of several special performances coming up:
- February 7 – Wine Tasting and light hors d’oeuvres
- February 8 – Post-show discussion with Psychoanalyst and Director
- February 12 – Pre-show happy hour for young professionals