Posts Tagged ‘Bennington’

Intelligent, Riveting “Time Stands Still” Probes War, Life, Marriage @ Oldcastle Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, June 8th, 2015
(r to l) Marianna Bassham as Sarah (Injured photographer), Jason Guy as Jamie, Richard Howe as Richard and Kristin Parker as Mandy. (photo: Mike Cutler MHCPhotography)

(r to l) Marianna Bassham as Sarah, Jason Guy as Jamie, Richard Howe as Richard and Kristin Parker as Mandy. (photo: Mike Cutler MHCPhotography)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Time Stands Still uses the tragedy of war to rev up its engine, but it is really more about the effect these conflicts have on the lives of journalists and photographers who cover them than anything else. In fact, in this Donald Margulies play, the journalist James (Jason Guy) recounts an evening spent in the theater listening to a series of monologues about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mercifully, this play avoids such lectures. Theater-goers – presumably like the ones at the opening night of this play at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington – don’t need to be lectured about these wars, they likely read The Times and listen to NPR. Time Stands Still is actually about more important things: families and the effect covering war for a living has on them.

Gail M. Burns: It’s no surprise this play was nominated for the Tony for Best Play when it opened in New York in 2010. Margulies already had a Pulitzer Prize and another Pulitzer nomination under his belt. His dialogue is absolutely natural and easily builds character and story while it addresses fascinating issues of the necessity and morality of observing and recording atrocities.

Larry: Two of the things I really love about productions at the Oldcastle Theatre Company is the panoramic sweep of the stage and the comfortable seating they offer their ticket buyers. The set design by Carl Sprague was a detailed feast for the eyes, too. Sprague, along with props person Jenny Morgan had a field day. Waiting for the show to begin I did a visual scavenger hunt and noted such tells as a 1940s fan, a 1960s lamp and a neglected Frida Kahlo poster casually sitting on the floor of a nook. These were clear indicators that whoever is the owner of the loft – that only became clear once the play began – was not some tacky WalMart shopper, but had a long view, and a very developed sense of history. With the inspired lighting design by David Groupé, which suggested large loft windows everywhere, and historic projections of war during scene changes, the atmosphere was just perfect for the complex story as it unfolded over two years’ time.

Gail: The set is almost larger than the seating area, and Sprague cleverly opened the space to incorporate the actual stairs to the basement into the set stage right. Even so, the Brooklyn loft is a prison mentally and physically for Sarah (Marianna Bassham), an award-winning photojournalist who has spent her entire post-college career on the front lines of war and genocide around the globe. At the same time the space is a home and safe-haven for her long-time boyfriend and colleague James, who has followed a similar career path as a journalist. The couple is now in their early forties and it is now or never for them to start a family.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Oldcastle Brings Back Big Daddy and “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” in Bennington [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Cast- Standing Right to Left: Tom Ferguson, Loren Dunn, Paul Romero, Anthony Irizarry, Richard Howe; and sitting Left to Right: Renata Eastlick, Melissa Hurst, Jody Schade.

Cast- Standing Right to Left: Tom Ferguson, Loren Dunn, Paul Romero, Anthony Irizarry, Richard Howe; and sitting Left to Right: Renata Eastlick, Melissa Hurst, Jody Schade.

By Larry Murray

Oldcastle Theatre Company in downtown Bennington is bringing Tennessee Williams’ classic “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” alive. This timeless classic revolves around one family and the web they have woven to protect their patriarch, Big Daddy (played by Oldcastle veteran Paul Romero) and his wife, Big Momma (Melissa Hurst) from the truth: Big Daddy is dying. Their son, Brick (Loren Dunn) and his wife Maggie (played by newcomer Renata Eastlick) only inflame tensions with their withering marriage. As the evening unravels, so does the family’s web. An American classic, Williams’ favorite play and a great evening of theater.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“4,000 Miles” a Satisfying Evening of Theater, Well Done at Oldcastle [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 18th, 2014
A worthwhile and winning evening of theatre.

A worthwhile and winning evening of theater

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Since summer began, it feels like we have traveled some 4,000 miles in search of great theater, so it was nice to come back home to Bennington, Vermont’s Oldcastle Theatre after another busy week on the road. Granted it is not really our home, but it feels like one nevertheless. We can always count on director Eric Peterson to never settle for the adequate, whether it be in the acting, scenery or choice of plays.

Gail M. Burns: This is a most satisfying play theatrically and emotionally. This is a play about healing, which can be an agonizingly slow and uneventful process in real life, but which playwright Amy Herzog crafts into a suspenseful narrative with characters we really come to care about. Peterson has assembled a top-notch cast, and Richard Howe has designed another detailed set which uses the Oldcastle performance space to bring you right into Vera’s Greenwich Village living room.

More and more in this region “summer stock” is less about happy musicals and Neil Simon comedies and more about small, thought-provoking new plays. Herzog’s After the Revolution had its world premiere just down the road at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2010, so this 2011 sequel play has a built-in audience. That play won Herzog the New York Times Best Playwright Award, while 4,000 Miles won the 2012 Obie Award for Best New American Play and was nominated for the Pulitzer.

Larry: I loved After the Revolution, Gail. (Review) I have a soft spot in my heart for plays and films about grandmothers and troubled grandsons, and 4,000 Miles did not disappoint, even as it took us in fresh new directions in the complex relationships between skipped generations. Janis Young as Vera Joseph was the perfect senior, fumbling with her hearing aid, her teeth and her memory, she still gave of her heart and home to long-absent Leo Joseph-Connell (Andrew Krug), who had just completed a 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle ride from Seattle to New York City.

Gail: Leo is actually Vera’s step-grandson. His mother was the youngest child of her late second husband. He has suffered a tragic loss while on his cross-country journey, and the way he handled that crisis, and himself in its aftermath, has angered his family and his New York-based girlfriend, Bec (Hannah Heller). Heller had the difficult job of having to enter both of her scenes in a high state of emotion and stress, the causes of which are only obliquely revealed by the end. Hannah is an important part of the play, but it is not about her.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Oldcastle Theatre Premieres Fast-Paced “Play Date” in Bennington [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Oldcastlet Theatre Company

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: In Play Date, when three couples decide to get to together with their children for some adult conversation while the young ones play, all seems normal enough. But from the moment the lights come up, the complications begin.

Gail M. Burns: You know, in my day a “play date” was called a cocktail party. They happened on Saturday evenings, and the parents had drinks and snacks while we kids ran amok. The premise here is that the kids get the drinks and snacks (expressed breast milk and free-range organic chicken cubes) while the parents run amok!

Quick plot synopsis – Blaine’s political ambitions ruin his wife Missy’s plans to have a “play date” not only for their son but for herself as well with washed up actor/stay at home dad Trent, when he announces that he’s staying home to campaign amongst the mommies. Missy quickly invites the divorced Carol and the impossibly perfect Deb (an endorsement from whose husband is the aim of Blaine’s political ambitions) and their offspring to join in, while Blaine invites the widowed Rowan, a British professor of literature, and his daughter to complete the gender balance. The parents’ needs and desires mix and mingle to create comic chaos while the unseen children disport themselves as children will, despite Blaine’s efforts to entertain them with his campaign power point. By the generally happy ending many problems are resolved and lessons learned, by the grown-ups, not the kids.

Larry: This play – a world premiere by Dramatist’s Guild member John Morogiello – demands a great deal from its cast of two players, the solid Jim Staudt who alternates in the roles of Blaine, Trent and Rowan, and the impressive Sandy York whose Missy, Carol and Deb are simply unforgettable. It’s not an easy task to play three essential characters so that there is no audience confusion.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Oldcastle Theatre Has an Enticing Slate of Summer Theatre Planned [Berkshire ]

Monday, April 14th, 2014
Bennington has much to offer at night including some fine restaurants and great theatre.

Bennington has much to offer at night including some fine restaurants and great theatre.

The Oldcastle Theatre Company has chosen four plays and a musical as their offerings for 2014, and all five choices intrigue. The musical is My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Lowe classic, retelling the story of an uneducated flower girl and her autocratic linguistics professor. The professor is sure he can turn her into a perfect lady who will fool even the most discerning member of the aristocracy.

We’ll let you read the recaps of the other plays below, all superb choices. It will be interesting to see who Oldcastle casts as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which is a tale whose twists and turns of life in the steamy south that never fails to draw the audience in.

For those of us in the Northern Berkshires, Bennington, VT is just next door, and both the Dorset Theatre Festival and Weston Playhouse are just a bit further. There’s great theatre tucked inside our nearby rolling mountains.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Valentine’s Day Loses Its Innocence as the Gypsy Layne Cabaret Takes the Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Gypsy Layne Cabaret

Story by Larry Murray

Valentine’s Day has suffered many indignities over the years, most recently when the Vatican Council demoted St. Valentine as an official holy day. Then the supermarkets removed all the fragrance from roses. And chocolates are now allowed to be made with hydrogenated fats. And nobody sends real valentines in the mail anymore. It isn’t that Valentine’s Day has been secularized, it’s that it has become an exercise in empty traditions.

While most Christian traditions started out as pagan celebrations, Valentines Day has gone from a remembrance of a Christian saint to one which takes place at the time of February’s Lupercalia (a Roman fertility festival). In ancient times women would place their names in a bowl from which the bachelors would select the person they would spend their next year with. Without having to get married or getting slapped with blood-soaked strips of dead goatskin.

That is one part of the old pagan tradition we’re happy to skip.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre to Host Classical Concert Series with L’Ensemble [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Oldcastle Theatre

When the Oldcastle Theatre organizers were planning their new downtown home in Bennington, they thought of more than just their own needs for theater when the renovated the old Knights of Columbus Hall. With flexible seating and a sound-enhancing rectangular shoebox shape, the new facility can host music of all kinds, but its superb acoustics are sure to be treasured by classical music lovers. After the new facility opened this past spring, eight theater productions have been staged, and now the spotlight turns to music.

L’Ensemble – billed for nearly 40 years as “not your ordinary chamber ensemble” – will be in residence at the new Oldcastle Theatre at 331 Main Street in Bennington for three concerts beginning on Saturday (November 23).

L’Ensemble’s musical mission has always been to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the definition of chamber music. L’Ensemble performs all facets of chamber music from Bach’s unaccompanied sonatas to fully staged productions. Under the direction of founder and artistic director, Ida Faiella, L’Ensemble’s repertoire includes the classics and much, much more, from jazz-influenced works to cabaret arrangements of the standards by such composers as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

The Remarkable Life of Grandma (Anna Mary) Moses Takes to the Oldcastle Stage in November [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Grandma Moses

As practical as she was indomitable, Grandma Moses went from obscurity to fame almost overnight.

Grandma Moses: An American Primitive is a play about a legendary resident of our region, and promises a fascinating evening of theatre for those of us who remember her unlikely and miraculous rocket to fame in the arts world. It brought encouragement to thousands of amateur painters and millions of Octogenarians that life in a rocking chair was not the only choice for old age.

Stephen Pouliot’s Grandma Moses: An American Primitive brings the Oldcastle Theatre company’s inaugural season in its new downtown theatre in Bennington, Vermont to a conclusion. It opens November 1 and runs to November 17, 2013. Bennington is just a few minutes north of Williamstown and an easy drive from the Berkshires.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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