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New cabaret show relates to any relationship

By Sara Payne

Point Park News Service

Robin Abramson left Pittsburgh, the place she grew up, to follow a boy to Israel.

“I just wanted to have an adventure,” Abramson said while sitting in a Downtown Starbucks on Sunday. “There was a time when I really thought I was going to leave it all and live with him.”

tomatoThis is the opposite of what Annabelle Gurwitch, who Abramson will be playing in her most recent theatrical role, would do, according to Abramson.

In “You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up” at the Cabaret at Theater Square Jan. 31 to May 5., Abramson will be acting alongside Gregory Johnstone as he plays Gurwitch’s husband Jeff Kahn.

Robin AbramsonThe play is based off of a book of the same title written by Gurwitch and Kahn, which is a memoir of their marriage.

“In the play, I play a woman who is pretty pragmatic,” Abramson said. “But in real life, I’m the romantic one, and I want to be swept up off my feet.”

The book and play recount the couple’s journey in a he said, she said style. While Gurwitch is “pragmatic,” Kahn is considered a hopeless romantic, so their two versions can be very different, according to Abramson.

The written version spans from when the couple met to when they finished the book, which was published in 2010, according to the book’s website. Abramson and Johnstone play the couple on their 10th wedding anniversary.

“It’s a comedy about love and marriage and the difficulties involved in a relationship, but it’s done with a light-hearted touch,“ Johnstone said. “ They’re much harsher to each other in the book. They’re brutally honest.”

Greg Johnstone

Both actors believe anyone seeing the show will be able to relate. Abramson thinks married couples with children will be able to relate best.

“If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’re going to see something. You’ve probably had a boyfriend or girlfriend, even if it was in fifth grade,” Johnstone said. “It’s going to make you feel good about being in love.”

The 70-minute show could be longer, Abramson said, as she told a story from the book.

“After a year, Jeff wakes up in the middle of the night and sees a weird animal in the kitchen,” Abramson said. “They lived together a year, and she never told him she had another cat.”

While much of the material is funny, Johnstone thought a more serious part of the book could have been included in the play. Gurwitch and Kahn’s son was born with VACTERL, which is a serious of birth defects, according to Johnstone. It is mentioned in the play, but not to a detailed extent.

“He was close to death a lot of times, and that’s really hard on a marriage, as well,” Johnstone said. “I kind of wish there had been some of that, but I understand why it wasn’t.”

Abramson and Johnstone were only acquaintances who met through the Pittsburgh theater scene before they were cast to play husband and wife. Abramson said getting to know someone really well is one of her favorite parts about the rehearsal process.

“It’s hard. On day one of rehearsal, [there’s] someone you don’t know that well, and you have to sit next to [him] in a chair and you have to kiss him,” Abramson said. “It can be intimidating at first, but once you ‘ve done it, it’s such a rewarding experience to know how comfortable you can become with a person in such a short period of time.”

Abramson has heard the real-life couple might come to see the show. She said it will be “nerve-wracking” because she feels “star-struck” after reading the book and getting to know them so well.

“They’re immensely funny people, and it makes me nervous that they’re going to watch us be them for an hour,” The show will be playing at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Regular tickets range from $34.75 to $44.75 depending on the time. Student tickets are available for $15. For more information and to buy tickets go to www.pittsburghclo.org.

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