THEATER REVIEW: “At Home at the Zoo” in Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

August 18th, 2017, 11:00 am by Sara
(from left)Joey Collins, Tara Franklin and David Adkins.

(from left) Joey Collins, Tara Franklin and David Adkins

Review by Macey Levin

Edward Albee burst onto the theater scene in 1957 with his stark and multi-layered The Zoo Story leading into a celebrated career that includes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice, A Delicate Balance, Seascape, The Goat and many others. He is known for his thematic concepts regarding the relationship amongst families, communication or lack of it and analytical introspection. Many of his characters are unsympathetic. The audience may understand their perspectives but not empathize with them. This is the case in At Home at the Zoo currently at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge.

Almost since The Zoo Story was written, people have wondered where Peter was before he arrived at the park for the impending confrontation with Jerry. This play is in two acts: the first is titled Home Life, which shows Peter earlier that day; the complete The Zoo Story is second.

Home Life opens when Peter’s (David Adkins) wife Ann (Tara Franklin) enters the living room and says “We should talk.” Being absorbed in a text book his company has published, he doesn’t respond. As she urges him to speak about their marriage they reveal secrets of their past lives and insights into their relationship. Peter is more reluctant to discuss their issues while Ann’s ferocity pushes him into confronting the ailments within their marriage. This upper middle class couple with two daughters and two parakeets living in an expensively decorated high-rise apartment building don’t know each other’s needs. Becoming agitated but hiding his emotion, Peter leaves to go sit and read on his favorite bench in a deserted spot in Central Park.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Monty Python’s Spamalot” @ Mac-Haydn

August 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Barbara Waldinger

To find the Holy Grail, it seems that the legendary King Arthur was required to produce a Broadway show; at least that’s Monty Python’s conceit. And the production of Monty Python’s Spamalot now playing at Chatham’s Mac-Haydn Theatre is more than worthy of the Grail — it is a genuine extravaganza! On a tiny stage in this theater-in-the-round in a bucolic setting with props and set pieces visible outside and along the walkways into the performance space, we meet a huge cast of young people who sing and dance their hearts out (often at the same time), adorned with the most fabulous costumes imaginable.

Monty Python’s Spamalot, very loosely adapted from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” premiered on Broadway in 2005, directed by Mike Nichols. Winner of three Tony Awards including Best Musical, and two Drama Desk Awards, the play spawned international productions and tours. A madcap parody of Broadway musicals as well as the Arthurian and Camelot legends, the show recounts how King Arthur recruits knights to join him at a round table in Camelot, where they embark on the God-ordained quest for the Holy Grail, encountering ridiculous obstacles and outrageous characters along the way.

This production, like its Broadway counterpart, stuffs everything but the kitchen sink into its jam-packed song and dance numbers. Lunacy reigns throughout, beginning with the first song, which illustrates life in Finland, though the helpful projections on two walls show a map of England in 932 A.D. The energetic ensemble, in colorful Finnish costumes and blond wigs, gaily smack one another with fish, in what purports to be a native folk dance. At length, King Arthur admonishes them: this is England, not Finland, whereupon they morosely vacate the stage, having misheard or misunderstood the narrator.

Camelot, it turns out, is a Las Vegas resort with showgirls in sexy outfits and a strip tease by the Lady of the Lake, who starts out in armor and ends in one of her gorgeous silver and feather concoctions. Speaking of strip teases, later in the proceedings Lancelot’s love for a gay prince is celebrated in a disco with his knightly garb removed to reveal a tight, glittering get-up, complete with an outsized codpiece. The insanity is ubiquitous: nonstop. Characters seemingly wander in from numerous familiar shows to join a Fiddler on the Roof take-off, as part of a search for the Jews who are essential to guarantee a successful musical comedy. There are so many references to other shows, to modern events, to anything the characters free-associate with whatever is going on, that we are left laughing and breathless as we await the next surprise.

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Reading of “Wilde About Whitman” at Bridge Street Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

August 17th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Go behind closed doors as a young Oscar Wilde gets more than he bargained for when he meets his idol, the legendary Walt Whitman, in a new play by David Simpatico, being given a reading by A Howl of Playwrights at Catskill’s Bridge Street Theatre on Saturday (August 19).

Based on a little-known, historic meeting between these two literary giants, Wilde About Whitman finds Wilde at the beginning of his career and Whitman nearing the end of his life. Smart, funny, passionate – and surprisingly sexy – the play was developed at A Howl of Playwrights after Mr. Simpatico completed it as his Master’s thesis at Southern New Hampshire University, where he received his MFA this past June. Participating in the reading are actors Kevin Archimbault, Darrah Cloud and James Occhino.

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MASS MoCA Announces Fall Schedule of Concerts & More

August 17th, 2017, 12:00 pm by Greg

Of course, MASS MoCA in North Adams is a wonderland of visual art, especially with the opening of the massive new Building 6 exhibition space earlier this year. (The James Turrell work is worth the trip all by itself!)

But the sprawling museum also presents a very forward-thinking array of performing arts as well, and the MASS MoCA folks have just announced their fall schedule of concerts, comedy, theater, dance, films and more.

BONUS: 25% early bird ticket discounts are available for most of the new events if purchased on or before Friday, September 1.

Here are the details of the the newly announced MASS MoCA events:

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OPERA REVIEW: “L’elisir d’amore” @ Hubbard Hall [Berkshire on Stage]

August 16th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Una furtiva lagrima – Christopher Lucier from Steven Schlussel on Vimeo.

Review by Roseann Cane

I can’t remember ever having so much fun at an opera. (Well, there was the time when an usher escorted me out of the Met for laughing, but I was a child, the opera was Aida, and the other audience members somehow didn’t share my sense of humor.)

Gaetano Donizetti, born into poverty in the Northern Italian city of Bergamo in 1797, became a leading composer of bel canto opera in the early nineteenth century. He wrote about70 operas in the course of his career, and many are, to this day, performed as standards of the international opera repertory. One of the most popular is L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love).

First presented in 1832, L’elisir d’amore, an opera buffa (comic opera), tells the story of the unrequited love of a poor peasant, Nemorino, for a beautiful landowner, Adina. Though Nemorino repeatedly declares his love for Adina, she rebuffs him with a declaration that she’d rather have a series of lovers. The heartbroken Nemorino watches a pompous solder, Belcore, court Adina. In desperation, Nemorino seeks the help of Dulcamara, a charlatan traveling through town selling a cure-all. “Dr.” Dulcamara sells a potion which Nemorino is convinced will make him irresistible to Adina, and he eagerly drinks the elixir, which is actually cheap wine.

The brilliance of Hubbard Hall’s production, in addition to a delightful and accomplished cast and a superb orchestra, is that their L’elisir d’amore is set in a 1950s nightclub, with audience members (who’ve purchased premium-priced tickets) seated at cabaret tables, enjoying wine and charcuterie. But rest assured, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The rest of the audience is in on the action, too, as cast members move throughout the risers as well as the tables, singing and teasing patrons.

Nemorino, who is here the club janitor, is played by tenor Christopher Lucier, who has a lush, panoramic voice and plays his role with an irresistible comic naivete. Lindsay Ohse plays nightclub owner Adina as a fiery femme fatale with a stunning, sweeping soprano voice perfect for bel canto. As the sergeant Belcore, Patrick McNally is a chest-beating pompous womanizer with a rich, expressive baritone, and as Dulcamara, Andrew Adelsberger uses his elegant bass-baritone voice to hilarious effect. Rebecca Shorstein’s soprano is rich and radiant, and as Adina’s friend Giannetta, her bird-like busybody characterization is adorable.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Godspell 2012” @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

August 15th, 2017, 2:30 pm by Sara

Review by Gail M. Burns

Godspell is a show of my youth, and it has been scientifically proven that music you listen to during your adolescence holds a special meaning for you all your life. But while I still know all the songs by heart, it has been nearly 20 years since I have seen a production, and the show in its entirety is still stunning in its simplicity and powerful message. Seeing it the day after the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a deeply emotional and spiritually moving experience.

“Godspell” is an older spelling of the word gospel, which means “good news.” It is based on the Gospel According to Matthew, with bits of Luke’s gospel thrown in for good measure. The librettist, John-Michael Tebelak, who created the show for his Master’s thesis project at Carnegie Mellon, had contemplated pursuing ordination. Many of the lyrics not written by composer Stephen Schwartz are taken from hymns or even older liturgical sources – “Day by Day” contains writing by the 13th-century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester. The central character is Jesus of Nazareth, so there is no getting around the fact that Godspell is a Christian show, but the good news embodied in it is so deeply rooted in justice and peace that it transcends any one religion. All the world religions embrace the message of this show, which is about unity, not division.

At New Lebanon’s Theater Barn, director and choreographer Trey Compton has assembled the perfect cast for this show – ten remarkably talented young men and women – who he has formed into a cohesive team. Each actor plays at least one instrument over the course of the show, after the a cappella prologue “Tower of Babble” because, in Compton’s words: “Jesus physically brings the music with him,” transmitting his message of love and acceptance through music.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Actually” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

August 14th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Alexandra Socha and Joshua Boone. Photo Daniel Rader.

Alexandra Socha and Joshua Boone. Photo Daniel Rader.

Review by Gail M. Burns

Two first-year students at Princeton: Thomas Anthony (Joshua Boone) and Amber Cohen (Alexandra Socha). Thomas is black and a talented piano player. Amber is a white and Jewish, and a bundle of conflicting ambitions and desires. Both are eighteen. Legally, they are adults, but as we listen to the stories they tell in Anna Ziegler’s beautifully crafted Actually, now on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, it is apparent that they are only on the very verge of adulthood, still teetering on the last crumbling precipice of their adolescence. So do we call them a man and a woman, or a boy and a girl? While the play deals with a very serious adult matter, I feel called to use the latter nomenclature.

The early weeks of college that they describe are both familiar – the sheer terror at being uprooted from the life you have known, the academic demands, the realization that this is your chance to remake yourself but you don’t know who you were, let alone who you might want to be – and shockingly different to an old duffer like me – the expectation that you will drink heavily and engage in endless casual sex, even if that isn’t remotely who you are, and living in the endless fishbowl that is the current state of social media.

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THEATER REVIEW: “This” at Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

August 10th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Erica Dorfler, Paris Remillard, Eddie Boroevich & Mark H. Dold. Photo: Scott Barrow

Erica Dorfler, Paris Remillard, Eddie Boroevich & Mark H. Dold. Photo: Scott Barrow

Review by Barbara Waldinger

Barrington Stage Company’s play captures “the hilarious yet touching relationships of a circle of friends as they back their way into middle age.” So reads the Pittsfield theater company’s description of Melissa James Gibson’s play, This. True, but their production offers infinitely more to the fortunate theatergoers who make their way to see This on the St. Germain Stage. The writing, directing and acting are of the highest caliber and make it a must-see in a season filled with quality work.

Winner of an OBIE Award for her 2002 play, [sic], and numerous fellowships, Gibson has seen her work produced on stages throughout the country. When asked about her literary style, she explains: “I’m definitely attracted to writing that really sits on the edge of comic and deeply painful. That, to me, is where life exists most fully.” Premiering in 2009 at Playwrights Horizons, This is a character-driven play about four Gen-Xers who met in college some 20 years earlier — the interracial couple Tom (Eddie Boroevich), a carpenter, and Marrell (Erica Dorfler), a jazz singer, whose baby doesn’t sleep more than 15 minutes at a time; Jane (Julia Coffey), a recently widowed poetry teacher and mother; and their gay, Jewish, single sidekick, Alan (Mark H. Dold in a virtuoso performance). Add to the mix an outsider, Jean-Pierre (Paris Remillard), a charming French Doctor Without Borders, whom Tom and Marrell clumsily set up with Jane.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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