Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

THEATER Review: “Evita” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 31st, 2015
Eva Peron

Eva Peron

Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: I’ve waited a long time for Evita to be performed in this area…

Larry Murray: It’s one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most interesting concept musicals because its jewel of a lead, Eva Perón (Joanna Russell) left such an impressive legacy that even an Englishman was inspired to make her life into a musical. People don’t think of the safety net she created in the middle of a brutal military dictatorship, but as Evita brings out, her story was propelled by her upbringing as a desposeído. She cared for the poor even as the government enriched itself to the point of bankruptcy.

Gail: Eva Perón (1919-1952) was an amazing woman, and like most amazing women her story is told and retold through various patriarchal lenses – political, religious, sexual and here artistic. Since she was only 33 when she died of cancer, there was not time for Evita to tell her own story.

And while this 1976 Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera is iconic and well known, this is the first time I have been offered an opportunity to see it since I bought a $10 seat in the nose-bleed section of the original Broadway production in 1979. (Yes, you could see a Broadway musical for $10 back then.) It’s a show everyone knows, and nobody does. For the tiny Theater Barn in New Lebanon to tackle it takes chutzpah!

Larry: I was impressed by both leads, Joanna Russell has a tremendous voice which she kept under control, building songs like “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from pianissimo beginnings to exuberant displays of vocal prowess. Her acting style was forthright, and not overwrought, whereas someone trained as an actor rather than a singer might have been tempted to burn up the scenery a bit, don’t you think? In a gorgeous glittering white dress, arms raised high on the balcony, she was every bit the Evita we have come to know from legend.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


THEATER Review: Tina Packer Stars in “Mother of the Maid” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 28th, 2015
Anne Troup as Joan Arc and Tina Packer as Isabelle Arc.

Anne Troup as Joan Arc and Tina Packer as Isabelle Arc

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

Ever heard of Isabelle Romée (1377–1458)? She was married to a man named Jacques d’Arc and they had a daughter named Jeanne, known in English as Joan. Joan d’Arc. Joan of Arc. The Maid of Orleans. Saint Joan.

I had always been presented with Joan of Arc (1412-1431) as a peasant girl, but in fact her family was what we today would consider solidly middle class. They owned and farmed several acres. Isabelle spun wool, while Jacques also held a minor position in the village government as a tax collector. Yes, they were illiterate; the majority of people were back then. After Joan went to court, the family was ennobled in 1429 by King Charles VII, the former dauphin who Joan had brought to the throne. After Joan’s death, Isabelle moved to Orleans, where she received a pension from that city.

Turns out the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. While Isabelle’s life was far less spectacular than her daughter’s, she was an intelligent and tenacious woman who devoted the second half of her life to clearing Joan’s name. This required her to learn to read and write so that she could petition a series of Popes and argue her case before church courts, and to travel internationally. Over the course of four years from 1452-1456, the posthumous retrial of Joan’s case involved clergy from all across Europe and concluded with her being cleared of all charges and labeled a martyr instead of a heretic. Incidentally, the crime for which Joan was burned alive was cross-dressing, and she wasn’t canonized until 1920.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

The Egg Announces Three New Shows

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The Egg in Albany has added three new shows to its 2015-16 performance schedule. Tickets are currently available to members of The Egg and will go on sale to the general public at 11am on Wednesday, September 2.

Here are the details of the three new shows:


“Engagements” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 24th, 2015
Adam Gerber, Robert David Grant and Amanda Quaid.

Adam Gerber, Robert David Grant and Amanda Quaid.(photo: Kevin Sprague)

By Larry Murray

The newest play at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield is the sexy, millennial world premiere comedy Engagements by Lucy Teitler, which runs through Sunday (August 30).

Engagements tells the story of Lauren, a very bright but slightly confused millennial who is spending her summer attending picture-perfect engagement parties. Lauren has no qualms when facing love’s trials, but may have met her match in her best friend’s boyfriend. As the unforgettable heroine of this pitch-black anti-romantic comedy, Lauren navigates this midsummer nightmare as she weighs the value of her romantic life against the real significant other in her life, her best friend.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Last Minute End-of-Season Berkshire Theater Picks [Berkshire On Stage]

Friday, August 21st, 2015
Audra McDonald (Josie Hogan). Photograph T. Charles Erickson.

Audra McDonald (as Josie Hogan) in Williamstown Theatre Festival’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten”

By Larry Murray
Photograph by T. Charles Erickson

The 2015 theater season has been full of surprises, and this Sunday (August 23) the curtain falls not only on the Williamstown Theatre Festival, but on many of the major productions in the Berkshires. There are several major exceptions. His Girl Friday runs until the end of August, and several productions at Shakespeare & Company play into early September. There is an encore, of sorts, in October as both the Berkshire Theatre Group and Barrington Stage Company mount additional fall productions.

This weekend is your last chance to see Audra McDonald and Will Swenson in Eugene O’Neill’s Moon for the Misbegotten on the main stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and An Intervention at WTF’s Nikos Stage. Tickets remain for all performances of both with the exception of the Sunday (August 23) matinee of Moon for the Misbegotten.

At Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, there are closings this weekend as both Hamlet which continues at The Mount until Saturday (August 22) and Comedy of Errors finishes up on Sunday. The Unexpected Man about a chance encounter on a train runs to Sunday, September 6 as does Mother of the Maid with Tina Packer playing the mother of Joan of Arc. Recently opened is Red Velvet about black actor Ira Aldridge with John Douglas Thompson which continues until Sunday, September 13.

Click here to read more at Berkshire On Stage

THEATER Review: “Red Velvet” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire On Stage]

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Review by Larry Murray

At the exact moment that Ira Aldridge stepped on the stage at London’s Theatre Royal Covent Garden, they were debating the Slavery Abolition Act in England. It was 1833, and until then white actors in blackface had always played the Moor in Shakespeare’s Othello. It was a racist custom that had begun in Shakespeare’s day and continued every day thereafter, holding sway upon the major stages until Aldridge stepped in for ailing actor Edmund Kean on that fateful night. He was the first black actor to play Othello on a major London stage. He was not a British actor, either. Less than a decade earlier he had emigrated to London from the US, where he was born, and had been limited up until then to a variety of roles in the small theatres in London.

The playwright Lolita Chakrabarti set down this history in the play Red Velvet, which recently opened at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. The play has been performed in America only once before this, in a limited engagement by the British Tricycle company at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in 2014. This production, directed by Daniela Varon, is the first American production.

It stars John Douglas Thompson who, in an extended interview with him last week, found many parallels between his life had that of Aldridge. From the first moment Thompson strode the stage as Aldridge, he dominated, nay, commanded our full attention. The force between Thompson and Aldridge is strong. You can feel it, see it and admire it, for it radiates from the thrust stage of the Tina Packer Playhouse.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire On Stage

THEATER Review: “An Intervention” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Review by Larry Murray

Because of visa problems the Williamstown Theatre Festival had to reluctantly cancel performances of Chewing Gum Dreams, which was scheduled to play with An Intervention. Michaela Coel, the author and key performer was unable to make the trip to the US from the UK.

This enabled the Festival to make some interesting arrangements with its two casts for An Intervention, and resulted in the doubleheader performance I saw this afternoon, with additional double performances slated for Wednesday (August 19) and Thursday (August 20) at 7:30pm and Friday (August 21) at 8:00. The final performances will be on Saturday (August 22) with Cast Two (Betty Gilpin and Debargo Sanyal) and Sunday (August 23) with Cast One (Josh Hamilton and Justin Long).

The play, as its title implies, is about friends and interventions – politically as in supporting going to war – and personally, as in trying to prevent a friend from drinking themselves to death.

In both iterations, it is the character called simply “A” (Josh Hamilton or Betty Gilpin) who love the sauce and “B” (Justin Long or Debargo Sanyal) who is trying to intervene. The differing opinions on the rightness of the war, whether too much drinking is going on, and a new girlfriend for “B” complicate matters.

Click to read more at Berkshire On Stage

THEATER: “His Girl Friday” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire On Stage]

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: A gleeful depiction of life in the pressroom at Chicago Police Headquarters, His Girl Friday has it all – comedy, farce, drama, tragedy and romance. It’s a super-sized tale that sweeps across the stage at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, boasting a huge cast of twenty. While set in 1939, the outing is filled with terrorists, crooked politicians and lazy journalists that could be told today. The story is as fresh as if was pulled from the headlines – those of a comic book or the headline crawl under a Fox News report. John Guare, who revisited the original play and film has mashed the two together for a delightful evening of serious romance with some of the funniest antics seen onstage in the Berkshires in a long time.

Gail M. Burns: The play is screwball romantic comedy layer on top of a most serious crime drama. In August, 1939, in Chicago, a Czech immigrant, now an American citizen, named Earl Holub (Ethan Dubin) is condemned to be hanged for killing a police officer. The press has assembled in the Criminal Courts Press Room overlooking the scaffold in the square below, waiting for the execution, which the Mayor (Robert Zuckerman) and the Sheriff (Rocco Sisto) have rushed through the courts to win the large German voting bloc in the imminent election. Even Walter Burns (Christopher Innvar), editor of The Chicago Record, deigns to put in an appearance, and so does his ex-wife and ace reporter, Hildy Johnson (Jane Pfitsch), who is passing through town with her fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Mark H. Dold), an insurance salesman, and his overbearing mother (Peggy Pharr Wilson), on their way to the Baldwin’s home in Albany, where Hildy and Bruce will be married the next day. The story gets going when Holub escapes and goes on the lam, and everyone suspects either the Dutch police officer Woodenshoes (Ben Caplan) or the prostitute Mollie Malloy (Anya Whelan Smith), neither of whom is the guilty party.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire On Stage

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