“Repulsing the Monkey” focuses on Jablonski’s Bar on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes, inherited by siblings who are in a quandary about how to dispose of their neighborhood property and are faced with out-of-town offers threatening to change the nature of their parents’ bar and the surrounding area. It is a timely tale of Pittsburgh and neighborhoods in transition and was written by Michael Eichler (MSW ’86). A reading of the play was sponsored by my Community Organizing class and Alumni Relations at the School of Social Work in 2015. The play recently made its off-Broadway debut at the historic White Horse Tavern, which has been in operation since 1641 in the heart of New York’s Financial District, and I was fortunate to represent Pitt Social Work at the debut.
Eichler and I had a chance to catch up in New York to talk about the play. More than 500 people auditioned for the play’s six acting roles. Eichler also hired a team of professionals, including producer Ali Kennedy Scott and director Daniel Leeman Smith. The play’s off-Broadway debut will lead to an opportunity for the play to be taken on and produced in other locations.
I loved the play and thought that it authentically represented Pittsburgh and how residents struggle to deal with the issues of neighborhood change and gentrification. Pictures of Pittsburgh were all over the bar. The main characters, Danny and Janey, not only sounded like real Pittsburghers (Eichler hired a voice and dialect coach) but also genuinely felt like them. Theater reviewer Jon Sobel said, “‘Repulsing the Monkey’ is a funny and captivating ride down the spiraling destiny of gritty neighborhoods that are ‘found’—and then ruined, for most of us—by moneyed invaders from richer parts of town or distant wealthy burgs.”
So listen up, Pittsburghers: Let’s bring this play back to Pittsburgh in a venue on the South Side! If you are interested, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.