Duffy, Wheeler Return

Wheeling native Michelle Duffy is appearing in the cast of “Sweat,” a drama opening this week at Pittsburgh Public Theater.

She portrays Jessie, a factory worker at Olstead’s Steel Tubing, in the contemporary play, which is set in Reading, Pennsylvania.

This production is the Pittsburgh premiere of “Sweat,” written by Lynn Nottage, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play opens Thursday, with performances running through Dec. 9, at the O’Reilly Theater in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

This role also marks Duffy’s Pittsburgh Public Theater debut. Duffy, a graduate of Wheeling Park High School and Kent State University, launched her three-decade career at Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Daughter of Laurel Myers of Wheeling and the late Joe Duffy, she has originated roles on Broadway (“Leap of Faith”), Off-Broadway (“Heathers: The Musical”) and pre-Broadway (“Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” “First Wives Club” and “Unexpected Joy”). She has worked extensively in regional theaters and has had roles in television series.

∫∫∫

Another Wheeling Park High School graduate, Leland Alexander Wheeler, has returned to an off-Broadway stage to reprise his role in the acclaimed drama, “Daniel’s Husband.”

The official opening for “Daniel’s Husband.” took place last Sunday at off-Broadway’s Westside Theatre. The play by Michael McKeever debuted with the same cast at the Cherry Lane Theatre, also located off-Broadway, in 2017.

Wheeler is the son of Phyllis Sigal and Bruce Wheeler of Wheeling. His proud parents, plus his sister, Amanda Wheeler Seidler, and her husband, Chris Seidler, were on hand for opening night.

Also in the audience was actor and gay rights activist George Takei (of “Star Trek” fame). He appeared on Howard Stern’s show on Monday morning and discussed gay marriage.

During the conversation with Stern, Takei mentioned that he saw “Daniel’s Husband” and said “it really underscores the importance of it (marriage).” Takei also told listeners to “go see that play and you see how important documentation is.”

∫∫∫

In the darkness of the past week, it has been difficult to see light. Reeling from the horror of the senseless slaughter of worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last weekend, we have witnessed signs of brightness, though, in the outpouring of love, sympathy and unity in that neighborhood and in communities across the region, the nation and the world.

Sadly, no one can undo the murders and wounding of innocent victims, but, as a society, we can take steps to prevent future tragedies. As thousands embrace the new slogan of Pittsburgh — “stronger than hate” — people’s actions are speaking volumes about humanity’s capacity for goodness. Countless examples of kindness and love are being demonstrated as the general public seeks to counter the lone gunman’s hate-filled, anti-semitic crimes.

In the heart of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, a community noted for its welcoming embrace of diversity in all forms, residents and visitors reacted with sorrow and with resolve to rise above the violence that had invaded the neighborhood. Led by students from nearby Taylor Allderdice High School, a candlelight vigil was organized quickly in the streets near the synagogue, and a Presbyterian church opened its doors for a community service last Saturday night. Another community service drew a large crowd to Sailors and Soldiers Hall in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section last Sunday.

Kindness and charity crossed religious boundaries. Muslim groups in Pittsburgh began collecting donations for their Jewish neighbors and, within hours, they had raised enough money to cover the cost of the victims’ funerals and to provide aid to their families. Children from a Jewish day school took cookies and hand-written “thank you” notes to a police station in the neighborhood to thank officers for their bravery and heroism during the attack.

Similar outpourings of love and unity were expressed in Wheeling. A large crowd, from all faiths and all walks of life, filled Temple Shalom for an interfaith prayer service last Sunday, with more people standing outside the temple’s open doors to listen to the speakers and to join in the prayers.

Rabbi Joshua Lief did a tremendous job in organizing the interfaith gathering and leading the service. His words were wise, powerful and moving. Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott’s written message was eloquent and profound.

Interfaith services also were held in Charleston, Huntington and other cities in West Virginia. Members of the Krishna community at New Vrindaban in Marshall County also lit candles and offered prayers for the Tree of Life victims.

Let’s ensure that our communities truly are “stronger than hate.” As we honor the victims, may their memory be a blessing.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net.

COMMENTS