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RED BANK: AN ELECTRIC RIDE AT TWO RIVER

Antoinette LaVecchia, Nick Lehane, Lizbeth Mackay, Lucy DeVito and Steven Skybell in THE ELECTRIC BABY, the ensemble drama by Stefanie Zadravec now onstage at Two River Theater. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

To enter Two River Theater is to find a portal into another world; a passage to places that range from England during the Hundred Years War; to enchanted places where the animals walk and talk; to ancient Greece, elegant Paris — and Pittsburgh. We’ll always have Pittsburgh.

The city of the Three Rivers has made its influence felt of late over on Bridge Avenue. It was the setting for Two River Theater Company’s recent production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running (and last season’s Jitney).  Pittsburgh also happens to be the locale for The Electric Baby, the new TRTC production that went up in previews on April 6. The drama by Stefanie Zadravec — an ensemble piece populated by characters young and old, black and white, living and dead, including a glowing infant with a mysterious rare disease — saw its world premiere last year at Pitt’s Quantum Theatre.

The TV/film actor turned playwright found herself spending even more time in the city when one of her twin sons was referred for treatment to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh — and Zadravec writes eloquently here on how being the parent of a seriously ill child served to illuminate the development of what was then a work-in-progress script.

Opening officially with a sold-out performance this Friday night, The Electric Baby is one of two shows running through the early part of May at Two River — and part of an exciting slate of events as the 2012-2013 season enters its heated homestretch.

Lucy De Vito (right) co-stars with Nick Lehane in THE ELECTRIC BABY, opening Friday, April 19 at Two River’s Marion Huber Theater.

While Baby‘s six actors do their thing in Two River Theater’s smaller “black box” Marion Huber space, the building’s mainstage Rechnitz auditorium will be the exclusive province of Lisa Kron, creator and sole performer of 2.5 Minute Ride, the one-woman show for which she won an Obie award in 1999. The “funny, complex meditation on tragedy, grief and family” offers up the first of five preview performances on Saturday, and reunites Kron with TRTC artistic director John Dias, who co-produced the Broadway production of her play Well in 2010.

Over in the Huber, director May Adrales (whose credits include TRTC’s world premiere musical In This House) helms a cast that features a veteran of the Pittsburgh production, Nick Lehane, with Oberon K.A. Adjepong, Antoinette LaVecchia, Lizbeth Mackay, Steven Skybell (TRTC’s Much Ado About Nothing) — as well as a young stage and screen player making her Two River debut, Lucy De Vito.

“She’s brassy, strong and fiery — but also very tortured,” says De Vito of Rozie, a waitress and sex worker whose friend Dan (Lehane in one of multiple roles) “dies right after they have a fight — and she’s haunted by him after that.”

As the L.A. native and daughter of actors Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito tells it, the various characters — a group that also includes a middle-aged couple whose marriage harbors secrets, as well as the Romanian mother and Nigerian father of the child who “glows like the moon” — are “all dealing with loss in their way…everyone has an arc, a journey that’s different from the others, and the play is about how they cope with it; how they repair things and grow.”

“Stefanie did a wonderful job layering in all the different stories,” says De Vito, who along with her castmates had the opportunity to work with the input of Zadravec, present in Red Bank throughout the previews.

“In the long run, it’s great to get to know the playwright, to figure out the play together,” she says. “It’s a cool ride to be on.”

The Electric Baby continues with a mix of matinee and evening performances through May 5. Meanwhile, 2.5 Minute Ride plays in previews through April 25, opens Saturday, April 26 (sold out), and continues through May 12. Tickets for both shows (ranging from $20 to $65 each) and full schedule details can be had right here.

Just announced for the later weeks of spring are two special benefit performances at Two River Theater, beginning on the evening of May 6 with Seth Rudetsky’s Spotlight: A Broadway Spectacular. The one-time event finds the “Mayor of Broadway” and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio personality hosting a cabaret presentation of “show-stopping performances, behind-the-scenes stories, and Broadway trivia.” Tickets start at $25 (with a $150 VIP option including an exclusive pre-show reception with the artists), and can be reserved here.

Then on June 10, the Rechnitz stage plays host to Frasier: Unplugged, a salute to the classic sitcom in which series co-creator David Lee (who directs the upcoming TRTC production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter) joins Frasier co-stars David Hyde Pierce and Peri Gilpin for an evening of anecdotes, insights and audience Q&A. Tickets for the 8 pm presentation start at $50 (with a $250 VIP option including pre-show reception with the stars), and you can get them right here.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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