The dress code doesn’t require black and gold, but Alec Silberblatt might appreciate it if you arrived sporting those colors. Silberblatt, a New York City native who grew up in Forest Hills, was bar mitzvahed at Temple Sinai and graduated from Winchester Thurston School, is bringing his darkly comedic monologue, “The Mon Valley Medium,” to the Carnegie Stage on Nov. 8 and 9.
The 70-minute murder mystery concerns the story of an abducted and murdered girl, a character’s reliance on a local medium and what to do with knowledge acquired.
“I can’t say enough, it is funny,” said Silberblatt, who plays Mack, “a drinking buddy — he might be the guy who comes over with your uncle who might be a bit too loud but it’s fun to hear his perspectives on the world.”
Apart from learning from “a lot of little tangents” that Mack goes on, there’s a value in how they’re shared, explained Silberblatt. In deference to the setting and character, Mack speaks yinzer.
Silberblatt employed the pronunciations in “The Mon Valley Medium” for obvious reasons, but he’s also relied on them for larger goals. The one-time Applachian dialect that’s come to embody elements of Pittsburgh’s culture has aided his process. Four years ago, about three years after arriving in New York, Silberblatt began writing plays set in the Steel City with characters that spoke the beloved dialect.
“That’s really what solidified what my voice is,” he said.
Around the time Silberblatt was refining his niche, the 2016 election transpired. There was a trend where plays were becoming more political, after “the big DT was elected,” he said. “I had an idea the summer after the election to talk about a con man, or find a way to tell a story about someone who was lying to people who were willing participants in that lie because that’s how I saw the election and what has followed.”
Silberblatt was intrigued by what he described as people’s complicity and began to write. He initially drafted the material as a short film, then rewrote it as a feature film.
“It didn’t work until I wrote it as a long first person monologue,” he said. There was this need to investigate “why people believe what they believe, why they believe it so heartily and why they act on it in ways others find deplorable or reprehensible or morally ambiguous.”
“The Mon Valley Medium” was performed twice in New York, but being able to bring it back to Pittsburgh is special, he explained.
“I grew up in Forest Hills. I went to school in Shadyside and spent a lot of time in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside and downtown.” Apart from attending college in Ohio and now living in New York, “my professional career really started in Pittsburgh.”
After receiving his “first shot” at PICT (formerly Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre), Silberblatt worked with regional companies and venues, including Quantum Theatre and Carnegie Stage, and continued the relationships throughout his seven years in New York.
“I feel very much a part of [Pittsburgh’s] artistic community and especially the theater community and am very grateful for that,” he said.
Because of the city’s centrality to “The Mon Valley Medium,” it was important to bring the act back.
“When we did the show in New York, all of the jokes translated but no one knew the accent. People were surprised by the articulations and wondered whether it was a bad Boston accent,” said Silberblatt. “It’s really important to show the accent off. A lot of people think it’s ugly. I think it’s quite beautiful. The rhythm and music of it is conducive to great dialogue.”
Between the accent and captivating plot, audience members should have an entertaining evening, he said.
“It’s fun and exciting and it’s not preachy,” said Silberblatt. “You are going to have fun and will have something to talk about on the way home, if you feel like it.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.