Disclaimer: In exchange for this review, I received a pair of tickets to ‘South Side Stories’ from City Theatre. All opinions are 100% my own.
When you step into a small black box theater, you are certain of one thing – the show is going to be moving and intimate. Tami Dixon’s “South Side Stories” was exactly that.
To be fair for the review, I opted to not read up (much) on the play before my cousin and I attended. It was clearly a play based in Pittsburgh, the South Side to be exact, and I knew it was based on interviews that Dixon conducted with residents of the area. Other than that, I had no idea what would happen in the play.
We sat in the second row, very close to the stage without feeling like we were on top of the actors. Looking at the play book, I was shocked to read that Dixon would be the only character in the play. She would engage the audience for 80 minutes (no intermission) with her stories. I was impressed (and the play hadn’t even began).
Entering the theater singing a song about Pittsburgh, Tami immediately had the attention of every single audience member (for me it was the song, for others it may have been the warnings about “turning off yinz cell phones and opening them mints now, n’at”–a hilarious rule introduction that I’ve clearly paraphrased). She began the story with a story line that laced itself throughout the other story lines, one of finding personal meaning and belonging.
Each story had me associating the characters with someone I knew. It was “that accent” or “that experience” or “that place” that made the connection for me. I’m certain that someone who lived in the Southside would have connected better, but I am also just as sure that someone who was not a Pittsburgher (or didn’t know one-does anyone like that exist?) would not have connected to the play at all. And that’s an okay thing in my book – if you don’t get this city, well, then, too bad for you n’at.
What was best about the play was the way Tami was able to convey the different characters through voices, expressions, and body language. There was even a scene (Mikey, the Catholic school bad boy) where I thought she forgot who she was, but no, she just moved into another character in the line (Mikey’s mom). This was just incredible, and something you’d have to witness.
If you’re interested in checking out Dixon’s “South Side Stories”, you have until January 26 to get tickets from City Theatre. The play is in the Hamburg Studio with open seating (but there’s not a bad seat in the house). This is at least the second running of Dixon’s collection of stories gathered right on the South Side. I invite you to check it out and find your place in the story, too.