What to do tonight: All's fair in satirical play 'Off the Record'

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Since our objective in this space is to suggest something for you to do tonight, I have no qualms about pointing you in the direction of the Byham Theater, Downtown, for "Off the Record XII."

This, in spite of the fact that I wrote the opening song and play a couple of ancillary characters in various skits.

Conflict of interest, say you? I scoff at such accusations.

I turn to my longtime colleague Gary Rotstein, Post-Gazette reporter, editor and columnist, to explain.

"We thought it would be great if Pittsburgh had an event that celebrated its own unique culture and personalities," said Mr. Rotstein, whose creative brain serves as the springboard for the shows. "So we put on a show sort of in the tradition of Don Brockett's old 'Forbidden Pittsburgh,' while giving the unions involved a chance to raise money for a good cause."

The unions are our own Newspaper Guild/CWA and SAG-AFTRA (theater people). The primary beneficiary of the production has been the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, which has collected more than $330,000 in the 12 years.

The scripts, written by Mr. Rotstein, consist of a dozen separate skits in which Pittsburgh muckety-mucks get raked by the muckrakers. Each scene ends with a song parody sung by members of the cast.

The songs -- humorous lyrics set to popular show tunes or radio hits -- are written by several people. For years, this was the extent of my contribution.

Several years ago, however, I dared to join the Post-Gazette employees who make up the ensemble. I have played a gambler, an "all-you-can-eat" Pirates fan, an anarchist, golfer John Daly, and a South Side drinker with three arms.

This year, I play a jail cop.

Those involved with Off the Record boast that all bets are off and anyone can be a target to be poked.

"I like to think that anyone is fair game," Mr. Rotstein said. "It's all in good fun. We don't seek to be nasty."

And there are no sacred cows.

"For example, because it's put on by unions, some might have thought, 'Well, they'll never make fun of unions.' But this year, one of our funniest characters is what one would describe as sort of a 'union hack,' who supposedly works for the Allegheny County Assessments Office, and does everything possible to avoid doing his job while citing union seniority."

Each year, the audience averages around 800 people.

"It's a little bit of a cult instead of something the average Pittsburgher is aware of," Mr. Rotstein said. "But for those who follow the news of Pittsburgh, because they're regular newspaper readers or 6 o'clock news watchers, they seem to really appreciate having something that both parodies and honors the traditions and foibles that are unique to Pittsburgh."

Even those being targeted join in the laughter.

"I would say some of those who have enjoyed it the most have been those who we felt we were parodying in a potentially harsh way on stage," Mr. Rotstein said. "I was delighted to find out that Pittsburghers, in general, seem to be great sports about themselves."

Such as Range Resources, the gas-drilling company that was the butt of last year's jokes. The company leads the corporate community in supporting the show.

The politicians take it in stride. In fact, City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and former Councilman Sala Udin play parts this year.

And before the show begins, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Tim Stevens, chairman and founder of Black Pittsburgh Empowerment Project, will have the chance to take shots of their own.

Showtime is 8 p.m., with tickets available for $70, $45 or $25.

It's well worth it to see Jon Delano, playing the part of Jeffrey Romoff, sing and dance.


If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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