Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Two World Premieres Open the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s 2015 Season [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
(L to R): Estelle Parsons (Mrs. Bennet), Kyra Sedgwick (Faye Garrit) and Mary Wiseman (Julia Conroy) Photo: Paul Fox.

(L to R): Estelle Parsons (Mrs. Bennet), Kyra Sedgwick (Faye Garrit) and Mary Wiseman (Julia Conroy) Photo: Paul Fox.

Williamstown Theatre Festival hosts the opening night celebrations for its first two shows of the 2015 season at 8pm on Thursday (July 2): on the Main Stage, Off the Main Road, world premiere play by Pulitzer Prize-winner William Inge, and on the Nikos Stage, Legacy, a world premiere play by Daniel Goldfarb. A special opening night celebration will follow the performances.

On the Main Stage, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner Krya Sedgwick makes her WTF debut in Inge’s Off the Main Road. As the second wave of feminism crests in America, the elegant but emotionally fragile Faye Garrit (Sedgwick) seeks refuge from her husband, a former professional baseball player, by checking into a run-down resort on the outskirts of St. Louis with her 17-year-old daughter. The future for mother and daughter may look hazy, but personal, political and sexual awakenings allow them to move forward with new and heartbreaking clarity. Directed by Evan Cabnet, this gripping and powerful drama deepens Inge’s legacy of penning rich, emotionally hard-hitting stories populated by complicated and truthful human characters.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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REVIEW: “Moon Over Buffalo” Is a Five-Star Hit at Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
(l to r) Alyssa Chase and Joan Coombs in Moon Over Buffalo at The Theater Barn through July 5, 2015.

(l to r) Alyssa Chase and Joan Coombs in “Moon Over Buffalo” at the Theater Barn through July 5.

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Set in 1950’s America with nonstop laughs that barely gave its opening night audience at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon a chance to catch its collective breath, Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, which was written in 1995, proves that its timeless combination of satire, slapstick and sight gags still make for an immense crowd-pleaser. His earlier turns at farce – Lend Me a Tenor and Fox on the Fairway – have established him one of the most popular purveyors of light comedy to summer and community theater. Moon Over Buffalo spoofs the theater, television and film, as well as families, sweethearts, egos and even your local weathermen. Nobody escapes his gaze unscathed.

Gail M. Burns: I love how Ludwig’s humor is simultaneously low-brow and literate, and the cast here does a great job of being broadly physical as well as bringing home the speeches from Shakespeare, Rostrand and Coward. George (Phil Rice) and Charlotte Hay (Mary Nichols) are a married couple of B-grade actors. We meet them in Buffalo, NY, touring Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Edmund Rostrand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in rep. Her stone-deaf mother, Ethel (Joan Coombs) is their costume mistress and a bit player, and Paul (Noah Mefford), the man they thought would be their son-in-law, is also an actor/administrator with the company. Their daughter Rosalind (Alyssa H. Chase) has recently left Paul, and the theater, in search of a “normal life” and arrives with a new fiancé, a local TV weatherman named Howard (Caleb John Cushing), in tow. Another interloper amidst the mayhem is Richard (Sky Vogel), a wealthy and successful “lawyer to the stars,” who has come to woo Charlotte away to that fabled land of normalcy. On the day that famed film director Frank Capra is coming to see the matinee to consider George and Charlotte for leads in his new Scarlet Pimpernel movie, George learns he has knocked up the ingénue Eileen (Clara Childress) and goes on a bender. Chaos ensues.

Larry: I don’t know who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this superb production, the director or the actors, but the entire creative team went the extra mile to make this fast-paced story go by in a flash. It proves that Theater Barn has retro screwball comedy chops. There are no small roles in this play, making casting the key to a good production, which is why Joan Coombs was a real standout for me. She plays the mother-in-law who is deaf as a post, thereby setting up many of the play’s awkward situations as she putters about as wardrobe mistress and bit player. Coombs plays her with steadfast determination and total obliviousness as she picks up the pieces the others leave behind, including Cyrano’s floral trousers which always seemed to end up in two pieces.

But the real trouper in all this is Phil Rice, the show’s director who, due to the illness of the original actor, ended up playing the central role of George as well. And it’s a juicy role, too, the star turn. I had some rare-for-a-critic full belly laughs during his second-act drunk scene in which he gets to drop his drawers, recite Shakespeare and, literally, come out of the closet. The only straight man in the show is the lawyer, Richard (ably and subtly played by Vogel), who tries to woo away Charlotte.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

COMEDY: Unitard’s “House of Tards” @ Stageworks/Hudson on Saturday [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, June 26th, 2015
The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) perform “House of Tards” (photo: Tom Ackerman)

The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) perform “House of Tards” (photo: Tom Ackerman)

It’s been described as “incredibly vicious and relentlessly hilarious,” and has recently played LA, SF and New York City’s legendary Stonewall Inn. The acclaimed show House of Tards by the comedy trio Unitard returns to Hudson’s Stageworks/Hudson for one night only on Saturday (June 27), directed by Paul Dobie (assistant director for Broadway productions of Cabaret, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wicked, Thoroughly Modern Millie).

Unitard – the NYC sketch comedy trio formed by Mike Albo, Nora Burns and David Ilku – is wildly twisted, outspoken and fabulous. For over 15 years, they have performed from coast to coast at such venues and festivals as We’re Funny That Way, the Aspen Comedy Festival, Toyota Comedy Festival, Joe’s Pub, HBO Workspace, PS122, Highways, Sketchfest, the Andy Warhol Museum, Theater Offensive and more. Some of their work has been featured on, CNN, Bravo, VH1, Logo TV and Comedy Central.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “Shining City” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, June 25th, 2015
L to R: Mark H. Dold as Ian and Wilbur Edwin Henry as John (photo: David Fertik)

L to R: Mark H. Dold as Ian and Wilbur Edwin Henry as John (photo: David Fertik)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Synopsis: A Dubliner seeks help from a counselor after claiming to have seen the ghost of his recently deceased wife. As their sessions unfold, secrets are exposed as a simple tale turns out to be anything but. Burns and Murray had decidedly different views on this Tony nominated play, with her thumb up, and his thumb down

Larry Murray: Shining City by Irish playwright Conor McPherson was nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Play when it opened on Broadway in 2006. We saw it performed on Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield with a superlative cast including a brilliant Wilbur Edwin Henry as John, a mess of a man filled with insecurities, guilt, confusion and regret. The production gets high marks, but the play itself – for all its rhapsodic reviews across the country – failed to excite this observer. You know that saying about how bored the shrink must be listening to everyone prattle on about their FDI’s (Fears, Doubts, Insecurities)? Well, this play proves there is a lot of truth to that jest.

Gail M. Burns: I think you’re missing the point here, Larry. Shining City isn’t about what is being said much as it is about what is being heard and felt, and not by the audience, but by the central character of Ian (Mark H. Dold), a former Roman Catholic priest starting his new career as a therapist and his new life as a sexual being – with all that that entails, including fatherhood – in modern day Dublin. A therapist’s job is to listen, but Ian not only listens to John, he absorbs him and subsequently reenacts his sad, repressed life as his own.

Larry: Trying to be rational about my dislike of this play, it comes down to the playwright whose dialogue, while perhaps reflecting how people actually talk, was full of tentativeness and uncertainty, with eruptions of monologues laced with periodic f-bombs. These were delivered with marvelous Irish accents, and a credit to dialogue coach Wendy Waterman. Lots of pseudo meaningful conversation filled with endless “ers” and “ums,” with frequent “you knows” to dazzle the audience with its authenticity, and perhaps for the playwright to prove he could write like Harold Pinter. All that embellishment got in the way of the story for me.

Of course, Dold is an ex-priest who couldn’t find God, may have homosexual tendencies and is now continuing in a job that continues to require him to repress his own ideas and feelings. Interesting stuff. But we mostly hear him recite clinical dialogue like “I understand,” and “That’s ok” from him as he encourages his patient to share more information while trying to keep him calm. John claims he has seen the ghost of his wife, who was recently killed in a car accident, and talks about their unsatisfying relationship.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“I Know I Came in Here for Something” Lights Up Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
Cathy Lee-Visscher and Dierdre Bollinger with Brian Litscher and Monk Schane-Lydon.

Cathy Lee-Visscher and Dierdre Bollinger with Brian Litscher and Monk Schane-Lydon.

If you’re of a “certain age,” you know the feeling well — you walk in to a room and stop and say, “I know I came in here for something.” Well, you’re not the only one, and now there’s a musical comedy that proves it: I Know I Came in Here for Something… (The Middle-Aged Musical!), being performed at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham tonight (June 22) and July 13.

The team that brought you last summer’s smash hit The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County, Carl Ritchie and Wayne Moore, have put together clever lyrics and catchy tunes (“The Baby Boomer Blues,” “You Haven’t Changed at All,” “Try Our Pill,” “Who Wants to Be Middle Aged?” and more) to tell the story of four folks wandering through the mazes and amazements of middle age. Columbia County, Los Angeles and Las Vegas audiences roared with delight and so will you as they tell it how it is about the dangers and delights of “getting on in years.”

Diedre Bollinger and Cathy Lee-Visscher play Woman One and Woman Two. Both were featured in last year’s Housewives, which played to non-stop laughter as a Mac-Haydn Monday show. Ms. Bollinger has a wide range of performance credits, including roles in all of Carl Ritchie’s revues, and at area and Off-Off-Broadway theaters.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Mark H. Dold Returns to Barrington Stage in “Shining City” [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Wilbur Edwin Henry (John) and Mark H. Dold (Ian) star in Conor McPherson’s “Shining City” at Barrington Stage’s St. Germain Stage from June 18 through July 11, 2015 (photo: David Fertik)

Wilbur Edwin Henry (John) and Mark H. Dold (Ian) star in Conor McPherson’s “Shining City” at Barrington Stage’s St. Germain Stage from June 18 through July 11, 2015 (photo: David Fertik)

Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company is presenting Conor McPherson’s Shining City from June 18-July 11 with a press opening at 3pm on Sunday (June 21).

Directed by BSC Associate Artist Christopher Innvar (BSC’s The Other Place, The Whipping Man), the production stars Mark H. Dold (BSC’s Breaking the Code) as Ian and in their BSC debuts Wilbur Edwin Henry (Off Bway: Our Town; Bway: Is He Dead?) as John, Patrick Ball as Laurence and Deanna Gibson as Neasa.

Set in present-day Dublin, a man seeks help from a counselor, claiming to have seen the ghost of his recently deceased wife. However, what begins as just an unusual encounter becomes a struggle between the living and dead – a struggle that will shape and define both men for the rest of their lives. In this contemporary ghost story, Conor McPherson explores what it means to lose faith – in God, in relationships and in one’s self.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

David Adkins Debuts His “Thoreau or, Return to Walden” @ Unicorn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

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Berkshire Theatre Group presents a new play, Thoreau or, Return to Walden, a world premiere written and performed by David Adkins, at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Opening night is Saturday (June 20) at 8pm. Preview performances begin on Thursday (June 18) at 7pm, and the production closes Saturday, July 11 at 8pm.

In this world premiere, BTG alum David Adkins takes the stage as New England Transcendentalist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Long-time BTG artist Eric Hill, who most recently wrote and directed Adkins in the wildly well-received Poe, directs the production.

The writing of Henry David Thoreau comes to life in this dramatic and uplifting tale as he battles with himself, with his own thirst for blood and for the soul of our American conscience. It’s 1859. The Union is on the verge of civil war over the issue of slavery. Passion, politics and prose collide on the shores of Walden Pond when beloved American naturalist and prophet of peaceful resistance learns that freedom fighter and abolitionist John Brown has been sentenced to hang. How did the beloved poet and naturalist, hero of children’s books, inspirer of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and writer of Walden and Civil Disobedience come to write, “I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable (A Plea for Captain John Brown).” When you come to your final moment, will you know that you have truly lived?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: Jeff McCarthy Illuminates a Darker, More Visceral “Man of La Mancha” [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
L to R: Sean MacLaughlin, Rosalie Burke, Jeff McCarthy, Tom Alan Robbins, Todd Horman

L to R: Sean MacLaughlin, Rosalie Burke, Jeff McCarthy, Tom Alan Robbins, Todd Horman (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: Director Julianne Boyd has picked the perfect musical to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Barrington Stage Company’s move to Pittsfield. Man of La Mancha is an American musical classic that packs a big story into a small package and proves the perfect star vehicle for Artistic Associate Jeff McCarthy, who has been playing this role on various stages for the past six years. McCarthy has had a long and successful association with BSC since its early days staging shows at Mt. Everett Regional High School.

Larry Murray: Hard to believe it’s been 50 years since I first saw this audience pleaser with Richard Kiley in the lead role. It played for 2,328 performances in New York and won five Tony Awards including Best Musical. Under Boyd’s direction it is both intimate and spectacular as it engulfs you with its magic and imagination. Richard Kiley wowed them in the original, but it’s clear that Jeff McCarthy redefines the role for any who follow him. And right up there with him are the incredible Tom Alan Robbins as his sidekick Sancho Panza, Felicia Boswell as Aldonza and Ed Dixon as The Innkeeper. The cast – including the Muleteers who helped him tell his story – was well nigh perfect.

Gail: I was all of eight when Man of La Mancha opened in New York, but my parents bought the cast album, and I quickly memorized the score and started begging to see the show. It took them five years to decide I was “old enough,” and I was presented with tickets as a 13th birthday present in 1970, so I have always been very glad the show had such a long Broadway run!

Larry: McCarthy first took on the role of Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) and his “mad knight” Don Quixote in 2009, and has been tilting at windmills ever since. The original novel was published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, so 2015 marks its 400th anniversary. The two volumes are very different in style, but both comment satirically on the outdated traditions of chivalry and life in 16th century Spain. The play starts as Cervantes is thrown into jail to await his trial by the Spanish Inquisition and his fellow prisoners are recruited to tell his tale.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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