Explore All the Names With Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre
The ringing sound of a gong reverberates through the vast halls of the former Northside library adjacent to the New Hazlett Theatre. The building is dense with theatrical history; the former home and set of A&E’s original series, “Those Who Kill.” The front lobby of the reconstructed library is still masquerading as the head office of Pittsburgh’s Homicide Department, complete with plaster bricks lining the walls and embroidered glass doors to match.
Spectators quickly scarf down the rest of their complementary wine and finger sandwiches and follow the head usher’s hand as she leads the crowd up a massive spiral staircase. The audience was trained at the beginning of the performance to understand that the sonorous ring of the gong means it is time to switch rooms, the intermission is over and the exploration continues.
Nearly all of the second floor is devoted to the performance of this season’s production by Quantum Theatre. Titled “All the Names” and based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same name by José Saramago, this new project presents a cleverly balanced combination of 40 percent theatre and 60 percent artistry that literally encapsulates the audience in the action.
The set is completely interactive. Constructed with the help of Northside neighbors at The Mattress Factory, the numerous rooms are ardently dripping with gallons of modern symbolism and ingenious installations. Following the usher to an overlooking balcony of the performance, the audience is paused temporarily to overlook the life of Senhor José, a clerk for the Central Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, as he bends the rules of his position for the very first time. Performances are just as interactive as the set. Players will speak directly to nearby audience members when it behooves them to do so, and though the set is aesthetically disjointed and unorganized, every upturned ladder and box holds the potential to be used as a prop or stage by the expertly assembled four-man cast.
As the play unfolds, more chimes from the gong direct audience members to different and more intricately designed rooms housed by the second floor. It becomes more and more clear that this play, though officially an adaptation, has become exclusively unique under the direction of Quantum Theatre. In this vein, the characters and story have become no less than clever homages to the original work, and actively project their own themes of identity, love, and loneliness among countless other interpretations.