THEATER REVIEW: “Moonlight and Magnolias” @ Oldcastle [Berkshire on Stage]

June 28th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Eli Ganias as David O’ Selznick, Natalie Wilder as Miss Poppenguhl, and Nathan Stith as Victor Fleming in “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

Eli Ganias as David O’ Selznick, Natalie Wilder as Miss Poppenguhl, and Nathan Stith as Victor Fleming in “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

Review by Gail M. Burns

Moonlight and Magnolias, currently on the boards at Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre Company, centers on a story related in William MacAdams’ 1990 biography of Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Hecht. A scene-setting quotation from MacAdams:

“At dawn on Sunday, February 20, 1939, David Selznick … and director Victor Fleming [who Selznick had pulled away from shooting ‘The Wizard of Oz’] shook Hecht awake to inform him he was on loan from MGM and must come with them immediately and go to work on ‘Gone with the Wind,’ which Selznick had begun shooting five weeks before. It was costing Selznick $50,000 each day the film was on hold waiting for a final screenplay rewrite and time was of the essence….Recalling the episode in a letter to screenwriter friend Gene Fowler, [Hecht] said he hadn’t read the novel but Selznick and director Fleming could not wait for him to read it. They would act out scenes based on Sidney Howard’s original script which needed to be rewritten in a hurry. Hecht wrote, ‘After each scene had been performed and discussed, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote it out. Selznick and Fleming, eager to continue with their acting, kept hurrying me. We worked in this fashion for seven days, putting in eighteen to twenty hours a day. Selznick refused to let us eat lunch, arguing that food would slow us up. He provided bananas and salted peanuts….thus on the seventh day I had completed, unscathed, the first nine reels of the Civil War epic.’”

You can see how this incident would intrigue a playwright. What was that week of bananas, peanuts and an impromptu two-man version of a Civil War epic like? The fact that it could be true and that the British-born Ron Hutchinson has obviously done his homework on the real lives of these three men make Moonlight and Magnolias both tantalizing and overwrought. But history has played a cruel trick since the play was written in 2004.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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THEATER REVIEW: “The Birds” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

June 22nd, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Kathleen McNenny, Sasha Diamond, and Stevie Ray Dallimore. Photo: Scott Barrow

Kathleen McNenny, Sasha Diamond, and Stevie Ray Dallimore. Photo: Scott Barrow

Review by Macey Levin

To be clear! The title of the short story “The Birds” written by Daphne Du Maurier in 1952 is the only thing the play – currently at Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield – has in common with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 thriller.

Adapted for the stage by acclaimed Irish playwright Conor McPherson, “The Birds” has a prescient quality in that the human race is doomed due to climate change, a phrase that does not occur in the play. Because of a change in environmental conditions nature has turned on itself creating an uninhabitable planet. Birds, whose migratory patterns have been disrupted because of a change in global warmth and tides, cluster by the thousands seeking food and devastating the landscape, ultimately attacking animals and humans. Tierney (Rocco Sisto), a farmer, says, “The bluejays killed my dog.”

Diane (Kathleen McNenny) and Nat (Stevie Ray Dallimore) stumble across each other after they have abandoned their cars on a road. They wend their way through woods attempting to avoid an assault until they discover a run-down lakeside cottage. They become aware that the birds’ aggressive actions come only during high tide, giving them an opportunity to leave the house to scavenge for food and other supplies in a local village that has been ravaged by the birds; their acquisitions are meager.

They have also seen Tierney carrying a shotgun on the other side of the lake, but it appears to be too far to travel to contact him. After they establish a routine and modify their intake of food and water, they are joined by Julia (Sasha Diamond), a young woman who says that she has fled a group of predatory humans. Her entrance into their lives changes the dynamic of Diane and Nat’s daily existence.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” @ The Whit [Berkshire on Stage]

June 21st, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Review by Gail M. Burns

Do you wear clothes? Then you will love Love, Loss, and What I Wore currently at the Whitney Center for the Arts in a sleek and smart production by the Town Players of Pittsfield. You will adore this show if you identify as a woman, but you will like it just as well if you identify as a man and clothing is important to you. I saw this production on Father’s Day, and it brought back happy memories of my father, a straight, cisgender man who just LOVED clothing.

Clothes not only cover our bodies, they change our souls. And if you are a person who cares about clothing, you can remember exactly what you wore on both significant and insignificant occasions in your life. Wedding and prom outfits are always memorable, but other ensembles stick in the memory just because. The day I fell in love with the theater I was wearing a bright yellow mini-dress (really just a long vest) over a purple blouse and matching purple tights with yellow platform shoes with six-inch heels (making me 6’4”. Can you tell it was 1972?

I adored Ilene Beckerman’s little illustrated book of the same title when it was published in 1995 and still have my copy, but this was my first encounter with the stage version, adapted by Nora and Delia Ephron. I am sure it will have a long and happy life because it has an all-female cast, virtually no set, and can be performed as reader’s theater or, as here, as a fully staged production with memorized lines. Ideal for community theater and for professional theaters who can bring in a rotating cast of “stars” with little rehearsal necessary.

Director Melanie Rivers has assembled a fine cast. Laura Gardner plays Gingy, the only through character, who speaks most of Beckerman’s prose accompanied by poster-sized renditions of the author’s enchanting drawings, which are meticulously circulated along a clothes rack by prop manager Sam Therrien. Gingy’s wardrobe, and her memories of her mother and grandmother’s clothes, lead her through several boyfriends, husbands, children and grandchildren. Gardner is warm and amusing, bringing a light touch to her trip down memory lane.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“Children of a Lesser God” Comes to the Fitzpatrick [Berkshire on Stage]

June 19th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Children of a Lessser God at Berkshire Theatre Group

Berkshire Theatre Group presents the Tony Award-winning Children of a Lesser God, directed by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon. The play runs from Thursday (June 22) through Saturday, July 22 at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge.

In today’s culture, there are endless methods of communication. Are we truly listening to one another? At the core of the Tony Award-winning Children of a Lesser God, written by Tony Award-winner Mark Medoff, is a poignant story about human communication, connection and compromise.

This production features Lauren Ridloff as Sarah Norman, Joshua Jackson as James Leeds, John McGinty as Orin Dennis, Tony Award-winner Stephen Spinella as Mr. Franklin, Kecia Lewis as Mrs. Norman, Treshelle Edmond as Lydia and Julee Cerda as Edna Klein.

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“Taffeta Memories” Comes to Colonie’s Cook Park

June 15th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Take a spin back to America of Happier Days as we celebrate the reunion of the sister singing group, the Taffetas at the Village of Colonie Theater in the Park. These four sassy ladies will be performing Taffeta Memories, produced by the Farmer’s Market of the Village of Colonie. This production will be performed outdoors at the beautiful Frank A. Leak Amphitheater for the Arts in Cook Park tonight (June 15) through Sunday, June 18. Admission is FREE.

Directed by Michael C. Mensching, with musical direction by Alex Malsan, the musical comedy features The Taffetas, four singing sisters from Muncie, Indiana who in the were the talk of the town back in the 1950s. Now almost a half-century later, they are putting on a reunion show. However, their reunion is bittersweet, with a last minute departure of singing sister Deb. But never fear, this awesome alto didn’t storm out in a diva fit, but was presented a surprise opportunity for a major life-sustaining operation.

Please join us in sending thoughts and prayers to that Swinging Sister, and in welcoming baby sister Jane, fresh from a solo tour and ready to join her older sisters and create a wonderful reunion event. Gosh, it’s just like when little-now-all-grown-up Janet Jackson toured with the Jackson Five…

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]

June 14th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Freddy (Colin Pritchard) and company singing about all the “great big stuff” Freddy wants.

Freddy (Colin Pritchard) and company singing about all the “great big stuff” Freddy wants.

By Roseann Cane

In 1964, Marlon Brando pleasantly surprised critics and fans with his wildly funny portrayal of a goofy con artist in the film Bedtime Story. David Niven played a perfect foil – a suave, gentlemanly con artist – with Shirley Jones completing the triumvirate as their demure, naive prey.

The remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, appeared in 1988, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine reprising the Brando and Niven roles with Glenne Headly stepping in for Jones. (Just before I sat down to write this, I was sad to learn that the very gifted Ms. Headly had died.) The writers cleverly added a contemporary plot twist, and this version was every bit as hilarious as the original, if not more so.

2005 brought the Broadway opening of the stage version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey Lane. Although the show received mixed reviews in the U.S., it was wildly successful in the U.K., and enjoyed a good, long run on Broadway. It was nominated for a slew of Tony and Drama Desk awards, with Norbert Leo Butz garnering one of each.

The current production at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, which opened last weekend, was my first time seeing it on the stage. The Mac is a rather small theater in the round, which presents some real challenges for a director staging a big, brassy musical, and I have been impressed on more than one occasion to observe their directors rising to the challenge, and then some. For the most part, director John Saunders did an admirable job, as did the actors he directed. The show opened with Sebastiani Romagnolo’s well-choreographed riot of singer/dancers seemingly emerging from everywhere in the house to the stage and back with effortless abandon. To make such well-executed chaos seem effortless is an impressive accomplishment.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage..

“Million Dollar Quartet” Opens Berkshire Theatre Group’s 2017 Summer Season [Berkshire on Stage]

June 13th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Berkshire Theatre Group presents the Tony Award-winning jukebox musical and epic night of rock ‘n’ roll, Million Dollar Quartet, directed and music direction by James Barry (Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). Million Dollar Quartet runs from Wednesday (June 14) through Saturday, July 15 at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Opening night is set for 8pm Saturday (June 17).

Director James Barry says, “I’m thrilled to be making my debut as a director at BTG, specifically in he Unicorn Theatre, where I made my professional acting debut 18 seasons ago in The Einstein Project. Coming back to the Unicorn to direct a show that I have been involved with for years is an honor. I performed the role of Carl Perkins in the first National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet for two years, and since then, I have reprised the role many times and provided musical direction. I am honored to take a seat in the director’s chair for this production.”

Million Dollar Quartet brings you into the recording studio with icons, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Based on a true story, set on December 4, 1956, Million Dollar Quartet follows the tale of these four legendary musicians, as they come together for one monumental night of music at Sun Records in Memphis. This smash-hit musical includes classic tunes such as: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Berkshire Playwrights Lab Celebrates a Decade of Original Plays [Berkshire on Stage]

June 9th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara
Saint James Place at 352 Main Street (Rts. 7 & 41) in Great Barrington, MA is the new home of the Berkshire Playwrights Lab.

Saint James Place at 352 Main Street (Rts. 7 & 41) in Great Barrington is the new home of the Berkshire Playwrights Lab.

Berkshire Playwrights Lab is celebrating its tenth anniversary and its new home at Saint James Place in Great Barrington with a celebration today (Friday, June 9). BPL kicked off the year with the Radius Playwrights Festival, which featured new short plays created by six local writers within a 50-mile radius of Great Barrington and filled the new performance space to capacity. BPL will continue its Staged Reading Series on Wednesdays June 28, July 12 & July 26, and will cap off the summer with a full three-week production of Some Old Black Man, a play that began its history with BPL as a Staged Reading in 2015.

Today’s anniversary celebration begins with a 7pm party for Underwriter and Patron ticket holders that includes a silent auction, followed by a performance at 8:30pm (house opens for show-only ticket holders at 8pm), and a reconvening of the gathering for Underwriters and Patron ticket holders post-show. The performance will be a revue of some of the best short plays performed at BPL galas through the years, which have always featured professional stage and screen actors, many very well-known. The cost for the party and performance is $250 per Underwriter ticket; $150 per Patron ticket; and show-only tickets for $50 per person.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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