Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Chattin’ with Ian Lowe from Cap Rep’s “Murder for Two” – A Zany Musical Mystery with Killer Laughs [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Ian Lowe has a solo song, “Protocol Says” in his role as a detective in Murder for Two. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Ian Lowe has a solo song, “Protocol Says,” in his role as a detective in “Murder for Two.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Story by Larry Murray

Everyone can be a witness to the hilarity in Murder for Two, a witty musical murder mystery with a twist. One actor – Ian Lowe – investigates the crime, the other – Kyle Branzel – plays all of the suspects, and they both play the piano! This show is a zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, a whodunit that just happens to be loaded with both great music and killer laughs. The show has been running at Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre since July 10 and continues through Sunday, August 9.

We were able to catch up with the lead detective, Ian Lowe, who is familiar to theater-goers in the region for his appearances at the Adirondack and Dorset Theatre Festivals. He’s played the role before, and after completing the Albany engagement, will be on the road to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater, New Jersey’s famed George Street Playhouse and Denver Center for the Performing Arts where Murder for Two plays next.

Ian and I chatted about what makes the show such fun. Lowe describes it as “90 minutes of madness,” which conflates the traditions of a good old-fashioned detective story “with the antics of Monty Python and the humor of ‘South Park.’ It requires your attention, but it is also just a lot of fun. Boiled down to its essence, I find it a very creative bit of musical comedy that also manages to be high style art.” That is due to the depth of its sources and references.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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

Monday, July 27th, 2015
(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

Theater review by Larry Murray

In Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Cycle” of three plays, it is the women who come most vividly to life, and in Paradise Blue – currently onstage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through Sunday (August 2) – that is doubly true as Kristolyn Lloyd brings a sad sweetness to her character Pumpkin, while the scintillating De’Adre Aziza burns up the stage with her heat as Silver, an opportunistic spider lady whose charms are impossible to spurn. Unless you are Blue (Blair Underwood), a trumpet player whose high notes could shatter glass, and low moods suffocate both his sanity and humanity. The second play in Morisseau’s series takes us to the Paradise Valley jazz club in 1949 where we also meet Corn (Keith Randolph Smith) and P-Sam (Andre Holland) as Blue secretly plots to sell his club and accept a gig in Chicago, where he will be a featured artist, not a back bench player.

According to the program notes, the first play in the cycle, Detroit ’67, was produced at the Public Theater in 2013, and looked at the explosive and unstable days of the 1967 riots/rebellion. Skeleton Crew, slated for a 2016 production at the Atlantic Theater Company, depicts four auto workers facing an uncertain future as the city edges toward the 2008 recession. In many ways it documents the difficulties of Motor City in the past and present, and offers a gloomy outlook on the future. Just as August Wilson’s plays give us a view into the inner life of Pittsburgh, so does Paradise Blue give us a taste of what life in Detroit might have been like for African Americans in the past.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Two Great Broadway Voices @ Barrington Stage Co. Tonight [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 27th, 2015
‘Broadway’s Golden Couple’ Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie star in “Broadway and Beyond” at Barrington Stage on July 27, 2015.

“Broadway’s Golden Couple” Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie star in “Broadway and Beyond” at Barrington Stage tonight (July 27).

Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield presents Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley in Broadway and Beyond at 8pm tonight (Monday, July 27) at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage for one night only.

“What a joy to welcome back Tony nominee Marin Mazzie, who starred in our 2009 production of A Streetcar Named Desire,” said BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. “We’re equally thrilled to welcome Jason to our stage. Broadway’s Golden Couple will share their favorite songs from the Broadway musicals they’ve starred in along with selections from the Great American Songbook.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 24th, 2015
(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Larry Murray

At the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, the fresh new production of Lost in Yonkers is a contender for the summer’s best comedy. It’s a really funny show, especially the first act when we get to meet the characters. It is also in the race for the year’s best drama, as the second act unfolds with more gravitas than guffaws. It’s likely to be a hot ticket, too, since it is hitting the sweet spot with its audiences, as they find its human dimensions absolutely riveting.

Granted, it’s been a long time since just having Neil Simon’s name on the marquee was a gold-plated guarantee of a hot ticket. Lost in Yonkers came well after Simon’s laugh-a-minute comedies The Odd Couple and Fools, and also much later than his autobiographical plays Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: A Passionless “Kinship” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Theater Review by Roseann Cane

Phèdre, Racine’s 17th-Century masterpiece, was a retelling of a Greek tragedy already examined many centuries before by Greek and Roman writers. What made this retelling so striking is the focus on the title character, previously portrayed as a monstrously evil woman. Racine’s Phèdre is a psychologically complex character whose obsession drives her to commit terrible acts, but this time she is more human than monster, and though she causes great suffering she is also a victim trapped in her own obsessions.

Playwright Carey Perloff was inspired to write Kinship in 2009, when she was directing Phèdre at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. “I was really trying to understand the nature of obsession,” she has said. “I love obsession, but it’s really strange. It’s not rational: it feeds on itself, so you need more, and more, and more of that drug to keep you feeling alive, even though you know it’s destructive. When it turns out that Hippolytus [Phèdre’s stepson] is in love with someone else, Phèdre becomes a monster, and decides she’s going…to take them down.”

In Kinship – currently being presented at the Williamstown Festival Festival’s Nikos Stage – the story is told through three characters, She (Cynthia Nixon), Friend/His Mother (Penny Fuller) and He (Chris Lowell). She is a driven, powerful middle-aged woman living a life many would envy. A successful newspaper editor, she has a devoted husband and two children she clearly adores.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “Bells Are Ringing” @ the Colonial Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 16th, 2015
James Ludwig (center) in Bells Are Ringing at Berkshire Theatre Group. (photo: Reid Thompson)

James Ludwig (center) in “Bells Are Ringing” at the Colonial Theatre (photo: Reid Thompson)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Roseann Cane

Roseann Cane: Currently on stage at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Bells Are Ringing originally opened on Broadway in 1956 – the same year that Candide, The Most Happy Fella and My Fair Lady premiered (Oh, to have a time machine!) – and ran for 924 performances. With a book and lyrics by Comden and Green, music by Jule Styne and choreography by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, what a pedigree it boasts. Its star, the magnificent Judy Holliday, won a Tony for her performance, as did her co-star Sydney Chaplin.

Gail M. Burns: This is certainly a musical of its era, right down to the setting at a telephone answering service. For the young and unenlightened, back in prehistoric times when phones had rotary dials and plugged into the wall, if you weren’t home when a call came in, you missed it. Or if you were on the phone and another call came in, the caller got a busy signal. There was no way to leave a message. This was a problem, especially for the rich and famous, so the answering service was invented. Your number rang at a central switchboard where an actual human (invariably a woman) answered it and wrote down (with a pen on a piece of paper) your message. Then you called in, were read your messages, and you could return the calls, or receive important pieces of news, like “you got the job!” or “your uncle died.”

Judy Holliday’s first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre in the 1930’s, and in 1956 a woman named Mary Printz opened Belles Celebrity Answering Service in New York. (Astoundingly, in this electronic age, the agency is still in business!) Comden and Green were clients of Printz’s and long-time friends and theater colleagues of Holliday’s, who by this point had won an Oscar to go with her Tony. They created Bells Are Ringing and the leading role of Ella Peterson for her.

Roseann: Which explains why this charming and paper-thin story, about a switchboard operator for an answering-service who falls in love with a client she has never seen, is more of a star vehicle and musical showcase than the more complexly plotted aforementioned shows, but so what?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “A Murder is Announced” Is Classic Christie @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
John Trainor and Rie Lee.

John Trainor and Rie Lee.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

The annual murder mystery – almost always an Agatha Christie – does so well for the Theater Barn in New Lenanon that they are running this year’s offering for three weekends instead of the usual two. A Murder Is Announced offers lots of familiar faces on stage and familiar names in the program at the cheerful, no-frills family-run theatre. John Trainor is once again wearing the trench coat as a Christie sleuth; Joan Coombs is dithering; Meg Dooley is playing the highly strung mistress of the house where the murders (yes, there are two) take place; Abe Phelps has designed a handsome set which is well lit by his son Allen Phelps; and a supporting cast of talented young actors struts their stuff.

A Murder is Announced is a 1977 stage adaption by Leslie Darbon of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel of the same title, which was her fiftieth published book. The novel was very well received and is considered classic Christie, so it is interesting that Dame Agatha didn’t dramatize it herself. If she had, I suspect we would have ended up with a smoother, funnier, less fraught work than director Aaron Holbritter has to work with here.

In a large country house called Little Paddocks in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn, Miss Blacklock (Dooley) is minding her manners and presiding over her hodge-podge household of friends and relations with the questionable assistance of her lone servant Mitzi (Shannon Paul), a loquacious and excitable Russian. It is Friday, October 13, and uppermost on Miss Blacklock’s mind is the celebration of her dear friend Miss Bunner’s (Coombs) birthday. She’s been Miss Blacklock’s companion ever since the latter returned from a long stay abroad nursing her late sister through a losing battle with tuberculosis. But the day-to-day concerns take a back seat when a notice in the personals column of the local Gazette announces a murder will take place at Little Paddocks at 6:30 that evening.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: Jessica Hecht and Justin Long Dazzle in Premiere of “Legacy” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

Reviewed by Roseann Cane

As I settled into my seat at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage for the world premiere of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, I was impressed enough with Dane Laffrey’s set to jot, “Smart, creamy, winter white with touches of gray and blue, cool blue lighting [by Justin Townsend]….” This apartment, neatly organized, almost pristine, had a Scandinavian air.

Not long into the first act, I decided that the set was utterly wrong for the play, and in some ways emblematic of what I found disappointing in the production. Too many components just don’t mesh, though there are many moments of brilliance. With apologies to Aristotle, I found the whole of the play lesser than the sum of its parts.

Neil (Eric Bogosian), a literary lion well into his sixties, and his younger-by-several-decades wife, Suzanne (Jessica Hecht), married for 17 years, are scholars ensconced in an apartment in (where else?) the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Neil suggests a hybrid of Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, with his bellowing talent and testosterone-tinged sense of entitlement, but though we hear the words, we don’t hear what’s beneath them. Bogosian, for whose body of work I have much admiration, is far too laid-back and monotonous to inhabit Neil, a man whose latest novel has just received a scathing review in The New York Times. The words he utters are those of an very successful artist in crisis, someone whose sense of self and his place in the world has been shattered. Bogosian’s declarations about failure and desperation seemed more kittenish than leonine. His performance is so understated that it’s one-dimensional.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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