Review: Bricolage’s ‘Saints Tour’ is creepy, on-the-move theater
Most of the time, when you show up to the theater, you’re handed a program, then find your seat in a quiet theater, sit back and relax.
At a production in Braddock, you get the program — after the show. Before the show, you have to sign an “assumption of risk” form. And there is no relaxing in this physical, tactile experience.
While Bricolage’s “immersive theater” concept is not for everyone, those game for a mixture of fact and fiction will dig Molly Rice’s “Saints Tour” — literally.
This is hands-on, participatory theater, inviting you to grab a shovel and dig into a mound of fresh earth.
Location of that mound? The edge of the Monongahela Cemetery.
Purpose of digging? To fill a pail and take it down to Braddock Farms.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand why you’re doing it, the layered concept or even where you’re going. There to artfully describe some complicated themes is Bricolage veteran Bria Walker as the Tour Guide.
Indeed, this production is as much a tour of Braddock as a play, maybe even more. After a brief introduction by the Tour Guide, the audience boards a school bus for a slow, winding tour of Braddock/North Braddock.
Along the way, the Tour Guide mixes fact-based stories of real-life characters, notably Andrew Carnegie and Gen. Edward Braddock, with fantastical tales of Braddock’s “saints.”
Don’t let Walker’s intensely dramatic delivery fool you. This is a whimsical work of art that is not afraid to have fun and be a bit silly.
“Saints Tour” is filled with artistic, unpredictable moments, such as the circus-like performer swinging from the tree in the cemetery, then dashing across the graves, trailing a red silk cape.
This show is enjoyably creepy, at times seeming like a haunted-house tour, or the best Halloween party ever.
Rice’s script wanders like a ghost, meandering from historic Braddock to modern times. Most of the writing is interesting, with Walker’s breathless delivery heightening expectations, although there is, perhaps, a lack of overall cohesion. The storyline is questionable, and, for the most part, this tour works best when it is showing, rather than telling.
Highlights include a young woman singing a gospel song in the cemetery, a green-haired fairy with wild garden enthusiasm and a well-timed and -executed moment involving a pile of letters.
There is a nice, musical quality to “Saints Tour,” as Cara Garofalo adds lovely (though, again, creepy) violin music. A walking tour of a vine-covered, train-track bridge leads the audience to a saxophone player. He is joined by a drummer, and soon a slow-motion, New Orleans-style dirge is under way, the audience having made the transformation to performers in this urban, outdoor show.
Near the end of the bumpy, creaky bus ride, the Tour Guide talks of an innocent boy turned into a mound of flowers. In the background, rising from a nearby factory smokestack is a rush of steam …
Or are those souls of saints?
“Saints Tour” continues through June 14 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The tours begin at 722 Braddock Ave., near Braddock Carnegie Library. Admission: $60. Details: 412-471-0999 or bricolagepgh.org
Tom Scanlon is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.