THEATER REVIEW: “The Official Adventures of Kieron and Jade” @ Bridge Street Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

April 26th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Review by Barbara Waldinger

In 2015, according to playwright Kieron Barry, he “at last achieved the long-coveted triple: broken heart, nervous breakdown and midlife crisis.” How would he get through the various stages of grief after the woman he lived with for three years left him? Barry decided to keep a diary, writing down each new thought, which led him to the idea of writing a play about the trauma he suffered, and/or a play about writing a play about his grief.

In the course of the world premiere of The Official Adventures of Kieron and Jade at Catskill’s Bridge Street Theatre, we learn that the play began as a four-hour-and-40-minute oeuvre, which his unwilling director, having been threatened by Kieron with breach of contract if she did not direct it, was able to whittle down to a 90-minute intermission-less comedy.

It had to be a comedy, says Barry, because who would be interested in the misery he suffered unless the play provoked the laughter of recognition from an audience who had gone through similar breakups? “On paper, this is a play about self-harming, mental illness, even suicide. But as long as I can make a joke out of it, it will work.”

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon and currently residing in California, Barry has written several published plays, including Tomorrow in the Battle (performed at Stageworks/Hudson), Numbers (featured in Lucy Kerber’s book “100 Great Plays for Women”) and Stockwell (for which Barry was nominated for a London Evening Standard Theatre Award).

The Official Adventures of Kieron & Jade features two accomplished performers: Jason Guy, a talented, energetic, fast-talking British actor who portrays Kieron, and Bonita Jackson, who creates more than 15 different characters, according to director John Sowle. Jackson’s talent at transforming herself into multiple characters using various accents is a tour-de force, but it is not always easy to tell them apart.

The most puzzling aspect of having only two performers, no matter how enjoyable it is to see good actors at the top of their game, is that we expect and look forward to seeing the other title character – the American singer/songwriter Jade — but it rarely happens. This leaves us to wonder whether we missed her among the other characters, and if not, why the playwright has chosen to sideline her. We do see Jade in videos and photographs projected onto a lopsided screen upstage — are these projections the real people or the actors?

Kudos to John Sowle for his visual imagery and for the amazingly inventive set — a long, triangular piece that spans the width of the stage, with a steep incline on the top (another skewed angle), along which the actors can sit, stand and lie down. Behind the incline are two small boxes that can be pulled up as seats for the actors, as well as a tennis net, and below the incline is a wall facing us with multiple doors that contain props used during the play.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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FREE: Choreographer Trajal Harrell’s “The Return of La Argentina” @ EMPAC [Berkshire on Stage]

April 25th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara

At 5pm today (Tuesday, April 25) choreographer Trajal Harrell will present a special matinee performance of his dance The Return of La Argentina at EMPAC at RPI in Troy. The performance will take place on the EMPAC Mezzanine, and admission is free.

The performance marks the beginning of Harrell’s artist residency at EMPAC, where he will be developing a new choreographic work. Known for bridging the choreographic legacy of Judson Church, a downtown New York City hotbed for postmodern invention, with the culture of “vogue” that originated in the Harlem underground, Harrell works at the intersection of different movement languages, race and gender.

In The Return of La Argentina, Harrell mixes postmodern/vogue styles with the Japanese dance/theater form butoh, co-founded by Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata. Whereas Harlem voguing is inspired by the movements of models, Ohno and Hijikata’s signature work Admiring La Argentina was inspired by La Argentina, the stage name of the famous Spanish dancer Antonia Merce. In his reinterpretation of the classic, Harrell channels Merce’s persona through both the butoh framework and his own vogue sensibilities. This web of danced relationships brings the audience on a journey of remembering, forgetting, memorializing and ritualizing.

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Filmmaker Mariam Ghani to Screen Rare Afghan Films at EMPAC [Berkshire on Stage]

April 24th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara

A 7pm tonight (Monday, April 24), artist Mariam Ghani will present a selection of rare films produced between 1978-1991 from the Afghan Film Archive at EMPAC at RPI in Troy.

What We Left Unfinished is Ghani’s long-term research and film project.

Working in the dual role of artist and historian, Ghani describes the project as “centered around five unfinished Afghan feature films shot, but never edited, between 1978 and 1992: years that encompass the Afghan Communist coup d’état, attempted reforms that met bitter rural resistance, a series of internal purges and assassinations, the Soviet invasion and withdrawal, a five-year attempt at national reconciliation, the handover of power to a mujahidin coalition, and finally dissolution into civil war.

“From the unfinished films commissioned, produced and canceled by various iterations of the Afghan state, in various moments of the Afghan Communist project, we can reconstruct not the truths, precisely, of how the state existed and acted in those moments, but rather its most important fictions: its desires and fears, ambitions and ghosts. In the imaginary presented by most finished films of the period, we see the ideal People’s Democratic Republic that could have been, but wasn’t; in the unfinished films, the reality–a utopian project secured by violent force–lingers like a shadow, just barely concealed behind allegories and codes. The world around the films, where filmmaking itself was a dangerous enterprise, seeps into the world onscreen.”

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Shakespeare & Co. Celebrates The Bard’s Birthday [Berkshire on Stage]

April 20th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Graphic design by Kevin Sprague.

Graphic design by Kevin Sprague

Each year Shakespeare festivals around the globe celebrate the birthday of our greatest playwright with special events. And at 7pm on Saturday (April 22), Shakespeare & Company in Lenox joins in the movement, hosting the Northeast Regional Tour’s production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Tina Packer Playhouse. A reception with the cast will follow the performance.

“The Bard’s birthday celebration is an event for the whole family,” said Director Jonathan Croy. “With an exhilarating 90-minute performance, followed by a reception with the artists, and, of course, a slice of birthday cake, it is a great way to add a little magic and mischief to your evening.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the Bard’s most performed plays. The plot involves four lovers lost in the woods and a group of rude mechanicals who have set out to put on a play. Very quickly, they all become entangled in a dream world. The Fairy Kingdom is at odds, spells are cast and the devilish sprite Puck weaves his mischief amongst the mortals, but is all fair in love and war?

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Hubbard Hall Presents “The Glass Menagerie” [Berkshire on Stage]

April 19th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
(left) Grace Sgambettera, Christine Decker, and David Snider in rehearsal for “The Glass Menagerie” at Hubbard Hall and (right) Grace Sgambettera as Laura and Christine Decker as Amanda rehearse a scene.

(left) Grace Sgambettera, Christine Decker, and David Snider in rehearsal for “The Glass Menagerie” at Hubbard Hall and (right) Grace Sgambettera as Laura and Christine Decker as Amanda rehearse a scene.

Hubbard Hall in Cambridge is producing Tennessee Williams’ classic The Glass Menagerie for the first time in its almost 40 year history. Opening Saturday (April 22) on Hubbard Hall’s mainstage, this great American play tells the tale of Tom, his sister Laura, their mother Amanda and the Gentleman Caller. A meditation on how the past can haunt our present, this drama made playwright Tennessee Williams famous and is perhaps his most personal work – giving us a window into his love for his real life sister Rose. Filled with laughter, love and longing, The Glass Menagerie is a great play about family, forgiveness and our desire to let go of the past.

Roger Danforth, recent Artistic Director of the Drama League of New York, directs a powerful cast including David Snider (last seen as John Proctor in the Hall’s production of The Crucible), Grace Sgambettera, recent Skidmore College graduate and Saratoga Shakespeare actor Woodrow Proctor and Cambridge’s very own Christine Decker as Amanda.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“The Foreigner” Opens at Home Made Theater This Weekend [Berkshire on Stage]

April 18th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara

Home Made Theater closes out their 32nd season with Larry Shue’s comedy The Foreigner. The show runs weekends from Saturday (April 22) through Sunday, May 7 at SPAC’s Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

Charlie Baker (Nick Casey) is a painfully shy Englishman who’s terrified of conversation – with anyone. So when he’s dropped off at Betty Meeks’ (Debra Bercier) rural Georgia hunting lodge for a few days of peace and quiet, the local inhabitants are told that Charlie can’t speak or understand a word of English. This puts Charlie in the interesting position of overhearing more than he should. The Foreigner humorously barrels along and explodes in a wildly funny climax.

The director of The Foreigner is Patrick White, who is making his HMT directing debut. Past local directing credits include The Pope & The Witch, Suddenly, Last Summer and Grand Concourse at Albany Civic Theater; Clever Little Lies and Living on Love at Latham’s Curtain Call Theatre; The Glass Menagerie at Our Own Productions; and Rapture, Blister, Burn at Schenectady Civic Players.

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New Kieron Barry Comedy Has Its World Premiere @ Bridge St. Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

April 17th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Jason Guy and Bonita Jackson star in "The Official Adventures of Kieron and Jade"

Jason Guy and Bonita Jackson star in “The Official Adventures of Kieron and Jade”

When playwright Kieron Barry and his longtime girlfriend broke up, he was stunned. It took him a long time to process the ‘why’ and the ‘what did I do wrong.’ To try and sort it out, he wrote.

“Every time I had a new thought,” he says, “it was a clue.” Inevitably, the diary grew to “gargantuan proportions.” After six months, he says, “I thought, you’re doing a lot of writing about this, and, coincidentally, you’re a playwright. Clearly, the idea had been planted.”

The result is “The Official Adventures of Kieron and Jade” a comedy with its world premiere taking place at Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill on Thursday (April 20). Performances run Thursday-Sunday for two consecutive weeks. Evenings at 7:30pm; Sunday matinees at 2pm; Thursday (April 20) and Sunday, April 23 performances are pay-what-you-can.

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LAVA Presents “A Goddessey” @ MASS MoCA [Berkshire on Stage]

April 14th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

DANCE PERFORMANCE
LAVA: A Goddessey
MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center, North Adams
Saturday (April 15), 3pm

A feminist survival story developed at MASS MoCA that journeys through emotional and geologic landscapes while carrying a transmuting traveler from a bleak and blurry patriarchal present into a rainbow-colored feminist future. A Goddessey is the synthesis, culmination, and explosion of 15 years of earth-moving performance by LAVA.

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