Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

THEATER REVIEW: “Broadway Bounty Hunter” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
Annie Golden and Alan Green (photo: Scott Barrow)

Annie Golden and Alan Green (photo: Scott Barrow)

Review by Larry Murray

Broadway Bounty Hunter is having its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield as part of its Musical Theatre Lab (MTL) where Tony-winner William Finn introduces the most promising new musical writers to Berkshire audiences. The exuberant new musical overflows the stage of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center and brings the audience into the world of blaxploitation and martial arts movies of the ’70s.

Curiously, its composer, lyricist and co-book writer Joe Iconis never experienced the arrival of the black hero and Hong Kong chop-socky aesthetic directly: he was not born until 1981, long after the form had been bled dry by the Hollywood film industry. Even so, his ability to turn these formulaic movies into a satirical musical is a wonder.

With Julianne Boyd sitting in the director’s chair, Broadway Bounty Hunter matched the awesome energy level achieved by BSC’s earlier mainstage musical Pirates of Penzance directed by John Rando. And in a theater as intimate as the St. Germain, the intensity of the choreography by Jeffrey Page matched the incredible volume of the musical and vocal sounds from its perfectly cast ensemble. Ensconced in the rear fifth of the stage were the six musicians of the band, the largest in memory for a MTL production. The score is rich with R&B and funk and not a little of plain old ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll.

With those elements in place, Iconis added one more: Broadway, in the person of Annie Golden, an aging actress who gets no respect, and who clings on to her fading identity even as a younger generation tries to replace her. She goes through auditions with an old headshot, determination and an old star-shaped off-Broadway award she received decades ago. (Little does she suspect, at the outset, that it will come in handy later in the show as her secret shuriken throwing star.)

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Shakespeare & Co. Presents Henry VI.six [Berkshire On Stage]

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Shakespeare & Company will present a day-long marathon of work derived from and inspired by the vast, rich tapestry of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays. Through staged readings and movement pieces the company will explore the wars, struggle and influence of Henry VI, including a love triangle, a popular uprising, plotting and deceit. The one-day Henry VI.six event takes place on Tuesday (August 23) on stages and in studios of Shakespeare & Company’s campus in Lenox and includes some free sessions in addition to the six-part reading series.

Shakespeare’s razor-sharp account of England’s War of the Roses, which also inspired the hit cable series “Game of Thrones,” drives toward the thrilling conclusion of one of his greatest cycles. Company members including Kristin Wold, Peter Andersen, Jonathan Croy, Gwendolyn Schwinkle and others use performance, movement and discussion to delve into a thorough exploration Shakespeare’s Henry VI, parts 1, 2 and 3. With pieces that examine themes of gender, violence, religion, power and politics, performers connect Shakespeare’s plays with our own modern political drama.

“Shakespeare’s Henry VI is some of the best Shakespeare text you’ve never heard — except ‘first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers,’ people quote that line a lot,” says Henry VI.six curator Jenna Ware. “These three plays are politics at their worst. With a weak leader, people are driven by an incessant need for power, control and revenge, and in all that struggle there are individual people trying to do what’s right, trying to do their best. It’s easy to see how this time period spawned the character of Richard III – in these plays we get to see the ‘winter of our discontent’.”

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OPERA REVIEW: “Madama Butterfly” @ Hubbard Hall [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
Bei-Bei Guan

Bei-Bei Guan

Opera review by Gail M. Burns

When Alexina Jones founded Hubbard Hall Opera Theater in 2008, one of her goals was to “engage and build rural audiences for opera through offering affordable, intimate, high-quality musical and theatrical performances.” This she achieved immediately when HHOT’s premiere production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte started out playing to 85 percent capacity its first few performances, and then it sold out.

This year, which is Jones’ last at Hubbard Hall as she is moving on in her arts management career, 25 people were turned away from the open dress rehearsal of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly that I attended. The Hall only seats 120. A “rural audience” for opera has not only been engaged, they have been enthused. In case you are not sufficiently impressed, Jones is well under age 40.

Jones started out producing truncated, comedic, family-friendly operas – although the singers and musicians have always been professionals – on the theory that full-length grand opera might scare off first-time opera-goers. And now they are packing the house for full-length productions of Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly.

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THEATER REVIEW: “And No More Shall We Part” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Reviewe by Macey Levin

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s American premiere of And No More Shall We Part by Australian playwright Tom Holloway is a challenging piece to write about. It offers so much in its content that requires great tolerance and that is played with outstanding theatrical energy and insight.

Pam (Jane Kaczmarek) and Don (Alfred Molina), middle-age parents of a son and daughter who are out on their own, live a simple and loving life. Pam has had a disease, never identified, for a period of time. Since treatments will no longer help her, she has decided to end her life to save Don and the children the agony of watching her deteriorate into unbearable pain. Told in flashbacks, we see the couple argue about the process of unassisted suicide. He can’t allow her to do it; she insists it is the best thing to do. He wants to be there when she takes the pills; she says he can‘t because that will implicate him in her death. Little by little he reluctantly acquiesces to everything she asks or demands.

Those of us of a certain age have faced, in one way or another, the traumas they are going through. Facing the loss of a loved one is a test of our own strength for it is not an easy realization that one’s life will be severely changed. This is part of Don’s reaction. He does not want Pam to leave him; he decries her actions as being selfish. He tells her to think of what she is doing to the family by taking herself away. To her, it is an act of love. Watching them is heart-rending.

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Last-Minute Change of Directors for “Broadway Bounty Hunter” [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 15th, 2016
Broadway Bounty Hunter‘s creative team remains essentially unchanged: (l to r) Joe Iconis, Annie Golden, Lance Rubin, Sweet Tooth Williams (photo: Stephen Sorokoff)

The “Broadway Bounty Hunter” creative team: (l to r) Joe Iconis, Annie Golden, Lance Rubin, Sweet Tooth Williams (photo: Stephen Sorokoff)

Just days before opening night, director Leah C. Gardiner has parted ways with Barrington Stage Company’s production of Broadway Bounty Hunter due to creative differences.

Julianne Boyd, Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company, has stepped in to handle direction for the musical’s world premiere.

The first preview on Friday, August 12 was cancelled. Previews began on Saturday, and the opening night world premiere performance is slated for 7:30pm Friday (August 19). The new musical starring Annie Golden (former lead singer with new wave band the Shirts and currently featured in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” will run through Sunday, September 4.

Founded in 2006, the BSC Musical Theatre Lab is overseen by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd and Artistic Producer William Finn.

Under the leadership of Julianne Boyd, Broadway Bounty Hunter will continue essentially unchanged. The hot new musical features music and lyrics by Joe Iconis (Be More Chill, The Black Suits, Bloodsong of Love), book by Joe Iconis, Lance Rubin (author of Denton Little’s Deathdate) and Jason SweetTooth Williams (Off Broadway: Once Upon A Mattress) and choreography by Jeffrey Page (Broadway’s Violet). Joel Waggoner (BSC’s Presto Change-O, Southern Comfort) serves as music director.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Constellations” @ the Unicorn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 11th, 2016
Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat in “Constellations,” BTG, 2016. Photos by Emma Rothenberg-Ware.

Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat in “Constellations.” Photos by Emma Rothenberg-Ware.

Review by Macey Levin

Life is full of serendipity. A chance remark, meeting a stranger, missing a train, making a decision, all contribute to the arc of our lives. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next moment that will redirect us immediately or in the future. We review and dissect our experiences to determine the why of the path we have chosen. This is the core of Nick Payne’s engrossing play Constellations now at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge.

Marianne (Kate Baldwin) and Roland (Graham Rowat) meet at a mutual friend’s barbecue. That moment, like others throughout the script, is played again and again with the actors using different inflections and timing to give each replay a different quality. We follow them through their growing relationship, marriage and separation. Each important moment of their lives together and apart is explored as they contemplate why they are where they are.

Marianne is a cosmologist who facilely refers to string theory, relativity and quantum theory. She says that in a parallel universe everything one does is not always what it seems. A beekeeper, Roland informs her that bees have a strict utilitarian purpose; the workers, drones and queen know their predetermined responsibilities. Their different occupations are a severely opposite to each other but also a description of the two lovers. In addition to their contrasting professional worlds, they also have a problem in communication. Or is it that they hear what they want to hear, another of playwright Payne’s thematic statements. To further express the communication content, one of the scenes is performed entirely in sign language, a fitting dramatic complement.

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THEATER REVIEW: “An American Daughter” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016
Pictured (L to R): Jason Danieley, Kerry Bishé, Richard Poe, Stephen Kunken, Roe Hartrampf, Deborah Rush and Diane Davis. (photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

Pictured (L to R): Jason Danieley, Kerry Bishé, Richard Poe, Stephen Kunken, Roe Hartrampf, Deborah Rush and Diane Davis. (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Review by Macey Levin

Almost 20 years ago Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter was produced by Lincoln Center Theater; it received mostly mixed reviews and had a relatively short run. Not being one of Wasserstein’s major plays – i.e. The Heidi Chronicles or The Sisters Rosensweig – it has seldom been revived. The Williamstown Theatre Festival has taken a chance to bring it back in the midst of the current, very ugly presidential campaign. A number of the issues addressed in the play are, regrettably, still with us and, in some cases, exacerbated.

Lyssa Dent Hughes (Diane Davis) has been nominated to become the next surgeon-general. She is the daughter of Senator Allen Hughes (Richard Poe) from Indiana and is married to Walter Abrahmson (Stephen Kunken), a PhD. sociologist who is living in his past. Lyssa is well-equipped to fill the position given her background as a crusading physician whose major cause is women’s health. This does seem to be something of a hindrance (sound familiar coming from today’s political arena?)

Walter lets slip the fact that Lyssa ignored a summons to jury duty. The very plausible explanation in light of her professional responsibilities and being the mother of young twin boys is that it was misplaced. A participant in this conversation is an old self-involved, highly conservative friend Morrow McCarthy (Roe Hartrampf). He is invited to a brunch the next day in Lyssa’s home that is going to be filmed by television commentator Timber Tucker (Jason Danieley) and his crew for a news program.

Morrow, not so inadvertently, mentions the jury duty foul-up. When it is brought up in the interview a brouhaha develops which endangers Lyssa’s appointment. In addition, she refers to her mother as “an Indiana housewife” who made ice box cakes and canapes. This results in her being criticized as being condescending. Her “favorable” ratings go down (has this happened recently?), and she is given advice by everyone on how to handle the situation. The best and simplest advice comes from her father’s fourth wife Charlotte “Chubby” Hughes (Deborah Rush), who tells her to recognize the error and, more importantly, protect her family.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

THEATER REVIEW: “Cry ‘Havoc’!” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Review by Macey Levin

Stephan Wolfert is a veteran having had a seven-year career in the army. In the late ’90s, a chance viewing of Shakespeare’s Richard III led him into the life of an actor. He has combined these two threads into a calling to inform the public of the difficulty veterans have to re-integrate themselves into society. Cry “Havoc!” at Shakespeare & Co.’s Bernstein Theatre in Lenox is an autobiographical, one-man show. It is harrowing, hilarious and uplifting.

On a bare stage, different worlds come alive by Wolfert’s story-telling and sound effects that he orally mimics. He tells us that the military creates a population of killers, which is why they are in the service, but when their terms are over they are discharged without the support needed to rejoin society. This is the cause of severe depression. This is the cause of alcoholism. This is the cause of 20 suicides by veterans each day.

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