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Barebones Delves Into Family Drama With New Play ‘The Animal Kingdom’

By SHARON EBERSON

The family drama The Animal Kingdom, which had its United States premiere in February, comes to Braddock for its Pittsburgh debut starting June 14, via Patrick Jordan’s barebones productions.

Daina Michelle Griffith will star in The Animal Kingdom for barebones productions.

Artistic director Jordan directs a play he describes as “more than just a play — it’s a raw, unfiltered exploration of human relationships laid bare on stage.”

The New York Times review said, “Conflicting ideas of guilt, identity and genetics do battle in this quietly galvanizing play by Ruby Thomas.”

The Animal Kingdom stars Daina Michelle Griffith (Rita), Juan Rivera Lebron (Daniel), Greyson Taylor (Sam), Alexandria Casey (Sophia) and Darren Eliker (Tim). Griffith appeared with Jordan in barebones’ The Motherfucker With the Hat in 2013, the year she was named the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Performer of the Year.

Taylor was a 2022 Jimmy Awards nominee from Michigan’s Sutton Foster Awards, and is now studying at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Rivera Lebron (City Theatre’s Native Gardens) is a “special visiting faculty in acting” at CMU, and you may know Eliker’s voice from audiobooks or theater work in seven Pittsburgh Public Theater productions.

Director Jordan (the PG Performer of the Year in 2014) created the scenic design for the upcoming drama, and noted that this will be the first use of three-quarter staging in the intimate Braddock Black Box Theater.

“This whole season really takes us as barebones out of our comfort zone,” Jordan says. “This show is a perfect example of that: The Animal Kingdom is so precise that it has the audience literally in the room and on the stage with the actors.”

When the drama debuted in the U.K., four-star reviews included, “A thrilling portrait of a family in collapse” (The Guardian) and, “A fast, furious, family drama” (The Times, London). For its U.S. premiere at the off-Broadway Connelly Theater Upstairs in February 2024, the Gay Times wrote, “The Animal Kingdom is a smart consideration of queerness and mental health.”

“I love this piece because it exposes the communication and cultural breakdowns between close generations – something we experience every day as we move through life. This is all coupled with family dynamics and mental health,” Jordan said.

TICKETS AND DETAILS

The Animal Kingdom is at barebones’ Black Box Theater, 1211 Braddock Ave., Braddock, Thursday-Sunday, June 14-30, 2024. Tickets: visit . The first Thursday performance is a “pay what you want” night. Reservations are set to be available at Braddock Public House by BG Brewing, opening this summer in the main dining room of the theater building.

NOTABLE 

  • The Saturday, June 22, performance of The Animal Kingdom will be at 2 p.m., after which, Griffith will head from Braddock to Carnegie and the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall for Saturday Soirées: “Leading Ladies of Yesteryear” with Daina Griffith. Tickets and details:
  • Reservations are set to be available at Braddock Public House by BG Brewing, opening this summer in the main dining room of the theater building.