Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Built to Impress Quantum Theatre's 'Master Builder' Is Set Well against Pittsburgh's Skyline

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Built to Impress Quantum Theatre's 'Master Builder' Is Set Well against Pittsburgh's Skyline

Article excerpt

A room with a view is a wonderful perk, but as a backdrop, it can be a distraction, or worse, competition for a work such as "The Master Builder." The play by Henrik Ibsen boasts themes enough for a skyscraper full of dramas, with regret on one floor, guilt on the next, and then destiny, and luck, and so on toward the clouds - about where you will find Quantum Theatre perched these days.

Stunning vistas serve as a complement to the sharp interpretation and keen performances playing out on the ninth floor of the new Nova Place, the building at 2 Allegheny Center where the four-sided views can be breathtaking in daylight or a dark skyline dotted with sparkles, as it was when night fell for Friday's opening performance.

The late 19th-century work here is set at a time in the 20th century when an older man might still wear a fedora and a young woman can wear a flannel shirt and jeans and not be scandalized. It also is a time when many of the buildings that are visible over the actors' shoulders were first making their marks on the Pittsburgh skyline.

It's a setting perfectly suited to "The Master Builder," a play that "moves almost everywhere between the everyday and the sublime," as it has been described by Oscar and Tony nominee David Hare, who recently created a new translation for the Old Vic.

John Shepard, an actor, educator and director of Quantum's brilliant "Tamara" last year, has the title role of a man hovering between control and madness. When we meet his Halvard Solness, the master builder of all he surveys, he is a lech who has mesmerized his much younger bookkeeper. Youth is ever on his mind - to seduce or be seduced by young women or to suppress an up-and-comer in his field.

The idea of youth at the door - as inspiration or usurper - is one of the threads that runs through "The Master Builder." So is luck, good and bad.

People are often telling Solness how lucky he is, but we learn that he has paid a terrible price for it. He has realized his dream of becoming a builder of "homes for human beings" from the ashes of a devastating fire. The family tragedy has sucked the life out of his mournful wife, Aline (Catherine Moore), who despite her husband's roving eye remains dutiful. …

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