“Patrick Jordan and Wali Jamal are deliriously funny.”
By Ted Hoover
Pittsburgh Current Theater Critic
If the thoughts of one of more sugar plum, reborn Victorian curmudgeon or formerly-ostracized-now-heralded reindeer is giving you hives, Bricolage Productions rushes in with the perfect holiday gift.
As part of their ongoing “Midnight Radio” series, the company is presenting Die Hard N’at – a Western PA specific version of what has been called the greatest Christmas action movie of all time. (Although one imagines the competition to be less than robust.)
“Midnight Radio” is the ingenious way Bricolage has discovered to present staged readings to their audiences. The evening is a faux radio broadcast with the actors performing at microphones with scripts in hand and creating all the sound effects as well.
Die Hard N’at continues through December 22. Bricolage, Downtown. www.BricolagePGH.org. 412/471-0999.
Die Hard is, of course, the 1988 movie which made stars out of Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis. Local writer Gayle Pazerski has “yinzerized” the script – she’s moved the story from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and runs everything through a yinzer filter. The hero, John McClane, is now a cop from Wilmerding who comes to Pittsburgh to attend the Christmas work party of his estranged wife Holly.
The festivities are in full swing at the super deluxe Pittsburgh skyscraper “The Terrible Tower” (pronounced “tahr”) when German criminals break in and break up the party. As per the film, they’re there to commit a robbery but they do so by pretending to be terrorists. John has to save his wife, the partygoers and possibly the building all by himself while working with, but mostly against, an incompetent city police force.
The whole thing is just a nonstop barrage of jokes from beginning to end. Pazerski’s script is seriously deranged and extravagantly funny, lampooning our dialect, local customs and, especially, the Pittsburgh adoration of all-things-Stillers.
I’ve never actually seen Die Hard (a “Christmas action movie” contains two of my least favorite things in the world) so I can positively say that you don’t need to have watched the film to get all the jokes. Funny story – there’s a bit about McClane running through broken glass in his bare feet that seemed so unbelievably loopy I thought it was one of Pazerski’s more batty inventions, but my date for the evening assures me it’s actually from the film.
In the wrong hands, all this could have gotten pretty old pretty quick but Die Hard N’at has a number of things going for it; Pazerski’s humor is clever and consistently surprising. And with Pittsburgh’s resident comedy genius Sheila McKenna on hand to direct, Pazerski couldn’t want for a more professional partner in comedic crime. The evening moves like an express train and McKenna provides a deft, understanding and light touch, providing both space and boundaries for a first-rate cast.
Patrick Jordan in the Willis role and Wali Jamal as Rickman are deliriously funny taking their caricatures right up to the edge of over-the-top; Jordan’s combination of wise-cracking bluster and dim-wittedness are priceless and Jamal’s malevolent, methodical evil provides perfect counter point.
Lissa Brennan is a hoot as the “modern gal” ex-wife; her scene where she preps to go “mano-a-Pittsburgh-chick” with the villain is side-splitting. Jason McClune gets a chance to unleash a dazzling array of dialects and characters and hits each out of the park – I especially enjoyed the meddlesome police office and the oddly effeminate henchman. Elena Alexandratos as well plays a host of supporting characters; her building security receptionist is a stand out.
And a tremendous hand to Camille Rolla who is not only musical director but entire orchestra providing the mood-setting, constant underscoring to this whole evening of silly, inspired and holiday-themed fun.