Theatre Review: The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage

It is said that great things come in small packages. If this is so, then Pittsburgh’s quaint Future Tenant’s art space offered a gift of gigantic proportions. With its walls adorned in maps from various European locations and the stage a mere wooden shelf and lounge chair, one would wonder what entertainment could be provided with the bare minimum, especially surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh. However, those who had the pleasure to witness Robert Isenberg’s journey through comedy and sincerity while traveling through the Balkans realized they found the right place.

Robert began the tale of the journey, as written in his recent Autumn House Press book, The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage, with a traveler’s nightmare: ostracized in a foreign country with nothing more than an unstamped passport and an American smile. Yet this circumstance does not halt our fearless leader neither in Croatia nor on the stage. He cleverly reenacts the diction of security guards and the awkwardness of being taken for questioning, aiding the audience in feeling as if they were right there beside him in this moment of confusion. Isenberg is so entertaining that we can’t help but hang on his words, waiting for the next story to unfold. At one point, he climbs on a chair to re-enact climbing a mountainside. At another point, he re-enacts a conversation with his landlord, capturing the Bosnian accent perfectly.

The performance, directed by Don DiGiulio for the No Name Players (, was entertaining in its presentation and educational about the history and geography of the Balkans, but it was Isenberg’s portrayal of the people he encountered in his journey that made the evening memorable.

Filed under: Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts