ALBANY -- Storyteller Jay
O'Callahan was raised on "Pill Hill," a rise of fine, big houses in
the Boston suburb of Brookline, mostly populated by
the doctors who gave the neighborhood its nickname.
noticed the little things, and the big things, too, that went on in Pill
talked about some of his memories Tuesday night at Capital Repertory Theatre,
where he opened a one-week engagement of "Pouring the Sun" and
"Pill Hill Stories."
didn't spend any time in Bethlehem, Pa., as a youth, but he told tales of the steel
town as well.
the Sun" was actually commissioned by Lehigh University, which asked O'Callahan to come in and
preserve some of the region's history in his art.
did just that, and his performance on Tuesday was galvanizing.
the Sun" takes place on the same stage set as Pamela Gien's "The
Syringa Tree," which is now finishing its run at the theater with a week
of daytime school shows.
rusted steel panels make an even better backdrop for O'Callahan's story of
Ludvika Waldony, a woman who emigrated to America at 18, and whose husband and sons helped make
the steel that went into the New York skyline, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Golden Gate Bridge.
stage microphone was an unnecessary accouterment that proved even more
troubling when it sputtered on and off throughout the performance.
that distraction, he was fascinating.
Waldony, he went back in time to speak of a city that was a melting pot in
every way, from the Slavs and Poles and Puerto Ricans who worked the steel,
to the glowing, molten metal itself.
story is filled with hard times, and O'Callahan doesn't stint. She outlived
many of her children, only to become as hard as the beams that were cast
work is more overtly theatrical than the term storyteller might suggest, and
he prompted laughs, gasps and tears as he burrowed deep into Waldony's life.
the second half of the program, he stayed on Pill Hill and stuck closer to
his own memories.
told of two boys growing up divided by classic schisms of class, one a
"richy," the other a "toughy." If the idea of them coming
together as unlikely friends sounds cliched, the telling wasn't.
elaborate, deadly serious playground game of tag becomes a metaphor for
O'Callahan and a linchpin for his story.
he didn't shy away from the hard stuff, and the laughter was tempered with
closed his lengthy program with "Equations," a grinning memoir of a
Harold Lloyd-like dinner party thrown by eccentric neighbors.
is only in town for a week. Catch him now.
Eck, a local freelance writer, is a regular contributor to the Times Union.
THE SUN" and "PILL HILL STORIES"
reviewed: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
· Where: Capital
Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
· Running time: 2 hours,
15 minutes; one intermission
· Continues: 7:30 p.m.
today and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m.
· Tickets: $25
· Info: 445-7469
· Web site: www.capitalrep.org