Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire On Stage’

REVIEW: “The Addams Family” Haunts the Theater Barn with Music, Mischief [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Tony Pallone, Steph Bacon and Kimberly Suskind.

Tony Pallone, Steph Bacon and Kimberly Suskind

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: The moment you hear the “Addams Family Theme Song,” you know you are in for fun evening at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon. The main reason is that the director Bert Bernardi is back in town and up to no good, taking this critically drubbed musical and giving it a fresh new life in its regional premiere. The Addams Family musical is being performed for the first time in the Berkshires.

Gail M. Burns: I had read some of those dismal reviews the New York production received, and I have to say that I am disappointed if this book and score are what passes for a successful Broadwy musical these days. But as I watched the show I realized that The Addams Family is not about great music and dramatic literature, but instead it’s about nostalgia and the love Americans, especially Baby Boomers like me, have for these characters. A while back someone did a poll asking who TV’s most happily married couple were, and Gomez and Morticia Addams beat Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, Ward and June Cleaver, even George Burns and Gracie Allen! We love these fictional folks and rush for any chance to see them again.

Larry Murray: People in this area look forward to the annual return of Bernardi to the Theater Barn since he has developed a reputation for finding hidden gems and making them into breathtaking productions while staying inside a pauper’s Broadway show budget. Last summer we all enjoyed his hit Young Frankenstein, and he has followed that spooky but hardly scary musical with yet another. The cast sang, danced and cracked jokes with the best of them, and while much of the material is silly, vaudevillian and sometimes a bit coarse, it was clear the audience was enjoying every morsel these performers dished out. It is among the best work I have ever seen from Bernardi and Theater Barn.

There’s another connection too…The Addams Family composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa is a Theater Barn alum, having toiled in New Lebanon during the summers of 1990 and 1991.

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REVIEW: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 25th, 2014
(from left): Angel Moore, Mat Leonard and Ellizabeth Aspenlieder. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(from left): Angel Moore, Mat Leonard and Ellizabeth Aspenlieder. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: I am deeply saddened, in the most appropriately Russian manner, to realize that Christopher Durang writes Chekhovian drama almost better than Anton Chekhov. Allow me a moment of deep reflection on the meaning of this revelation and its impact on my understanding of the cosmos and my pointless existence as an infinitesimal speck of useless matter within its vastness.

(Pause…)

Larry Murray: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – currently on view at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox through September 14 – could have easily been a parody of Chekhov’s classic plays but instead it is a valentine, a love letter of a play by Durang. The result is a comedy with deep life lessons, as its characters relearn what it means to be a family.

Gail: While you don’t have to know Chekhov’s plays to thoroughly enjoy this one, the more you know about dramatic literature, the more fun you’ll have. And while Chekhov is definitely an acquired taste, this will tickle the fancies of Chekhov lovers and haters in equal measure because Durang understands both what is wonderful and what is thoroughly annoying about the works of the Master.

Here Durang uses character names from Chekhov’s plays – Vanya and Sonia from Uncle Vanya, Masha from Three Sisters and The Seagull, Nina from The Seagull – and throws in endless allusions to his works throughout. Here Vanya (Jim Frangione), Sonia (Tod Randolph) and Masha (Elizabeth Aspenlieder) are siblings – after a fashion, Sonia is adopted – whose professorial parents named them after Chekhov’s characters. Masha, a five-times-divorced B-list film actress, owns the family home in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, (just down the road from the home Dorothy Parker owned in the mid-20th century), where Vanya and Sonia, both unmarried, continue to live after caring for their parents through the ends of their lives. Nina (Olivia Saccomanno) just happens to be the name of a young woman visiting next door, and Spike (Mat Leonard) is Masha’s studly young lover. Like Madame Arkadina in The Seagull, Masha is an actress sliding precipitously over the hill, who is simultaneously jealous of and inspired by Nina’s luminous youthful beauty and incipient passion for acting.

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WAM Chooses “In Darfur” for Season Five with a Change Makers Benefit Panel Aug. 24 [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Playwright Winter Miller took these photos at a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad.

Playwright Winter Miller took these photos at a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad.

As WAM (Women’s Action Movement) Theatre prepares to celebrate its fifth season at the August 24 Change Makers benefit, artistic director Kristen van Ginhoven has announced that this year’s fall production will be the New England premiere of In Darfur.

In Darfur is the provocative account of three intertwined lives at a camp for internally displaced persons. The story follows an aid worker’s mission to save and protect lives, a journalist’s pursuit to deliver a front page story, and a Darfuri woman’s quest for safety. It is a searing story of urgency and international significance.

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Workshop: Festival of Opera @ the Unicorn Theatre, Aug 23-31 [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Workshop Festival of Opera at the Unicorn Theatre

The Berkshire Theatre Group is planning a week-long Festival of Opera at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Performances begin Saturday (August 23) and run through Sunday, August 31.

Presented in workshop form, some of opera’s rising stars will be featured in staged presentation of La Traviata, A Lover’s Tale and songs from the Romantics in The Paris Salon.

“This year, for the first time, we’re bringing a little opera back to the Berkshires,” Artistic Director/CEO Kate Maguire explains. “We have a week long workshop featuring A Lover’s Tale, an extraordinary compilation of Dumas’ original story about the Lady of the Camellias, Charles’s Ludlam’s Camille and La Traviata all rolled into one. Also that week, we will present a staged performance of La Traviata and a wonderful compilation of songs from the Romantics featuring the lovely soprano Megan Weston.”

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Blues Phenomenon Jonny Lang @ the Mahaiwe Thursday [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Jonny Lang (photo: Larry Philpot)

Jonny Lang (photo: Larry Philpot)

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center will present Grammy Award-winning blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Jonny Lang on Thursday (August 21) at 8pm. “I’m very excited to welcome this blues phenomenon to the Mahaiwe stage for the first time. It promises to be an unforgettable night,” said Mahaiwe Executive Director Beryl Jolly.

Jonny Lang is a blues, gospel and rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. As a 12-year-old, he began a musical journey in Fargo, North Dakota that has brought him to points across the globe. He mastered his skills at an amazingly young age, topping the Billboard charts with his first album, Lie to Me, in 1996 when he was only 16. Over the years, he has shared the stage with the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Aerosmith, Sting and Buddy Guy, who he continues to tour with today.

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Final Week of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Features Aspen Santa Fe Ballet [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (phot:  Sharen Bradford)

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (photo: Sharen Bradford)

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, one of the country’s leading contemporary ballet companies, returns to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket for the 82nd season finale. The company – dually based in Aspen, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico – has established a mission of commissioning and performing work from international choreographers, building a diverse repertoire of tailor-made works.

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, described as a company’s whose “excited adulation has a tinge of wonderment that might charm the most cynical of New York dance fans” by Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times, brings three stylish contemporary ballets to the Pillow. Under the direction of Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, the company will present Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo’s vigorous “Over Glow,” with music by Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn; the dramatic “Beautiful Mistake” by Spanish-born, Munich-based choreographer Cayetano Soto; and Nicolo Fonte’s exuberant “The Heart(s)pace” set to music by Ezio Bosso. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet closes the 2014 Festival season in the Ted Shawn Theatre, from Wednesday-Sunday (August 20-24).

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LeeSaar’s “Grass and Jackals” Stunning Spectacle @ Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 18th, 2014
LeeSaar The Company (photo: Denise Cerniglia)

LeeSaar The Company (photo: Denise Cerniglia)

LeeSaar The Company closes Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2014 with the captivating evening-length work Grass and Jackals, a sensual, inventive, and visually stunning spectacle of dance and light, presented Wednesday-Sunday (August 20-24) in the Doris Duke Theatre. Under the artistic direction of choreographers Lee Sher and Saar Harari, the New York City-based company presents provocative movement rooted in a bold contemporary dance aesthetic, marked by “emotional nakedness, free-associative logic and frank sensuality” (The New Yorker). With enchanting lighting design by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi), widely known for his work with Batsheva Dance Company, Grass and Jackals pushes physical and emotional boundaries for both performers and audiences.

At once soundly human and strikingly primal, dancers of Grass and Jackals prowl in sleek bodysuits “like animals under fire…their pliant bodies…blown back, nearly blown apart, knocked out of their usual alignment into some twisted shape, with ribs way over here, and a leg way up there,” comments Brian Seibert of The New York Times. Supported by an eclectic, ambient score including indie-pop artist CocoRosie, Grass and Jackals evokes visceral reactions with powerful solos and inhibition-releasing movement, seething with energy in an emotionally rich and physically challenging performance. Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff describes LeeSaar as “vivid, daring dance-theatre.”

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THEATER: Mark St. Germain’s Luminous “Dancing Lessons” Sparkles @ Barrington Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 15th, 2014
John Carioni(l) and Paige Davis (r) in Dancing Lessons (photo: Kevin Sprague)

John Carioni(l) and Paige Davis (r) in “Dancing Lessons” (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Mark St. Germain’s newest play Dancing Lessons at Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company could easily be categorized as a play that teaches us something new, and when it comes to Asperger Syndrome, it is certainly both instructive and inspirational on that subject. But that is a by-product of what has to be St. Germain’s best work to date. It is really a romantic comedy at heart, and it takes us to the verge of tears even as we are laughing delightedly at a young couple trying to figure out how to deal with each other.

Gail M. Burns: There are more and more people with diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum, and what they teach us is that there is no such thing as “normal.” Everyone’s brain and body function and experience the world differently and society makes an enormous error when it tries to force humankind into any mold. Every couple faces challenges as their relationship develops because there is no other place where we are as intimately and openly ourselves.

Larry: There are only two characters in this one act play, Paige Davis (as Senga Quinn, a successful Broadway dancer) and John Cariani (Dr. Ever Montgomery – a professor of geosciences who is about to be honored for his achievements). Both were at the top of their game, but are under new stress as they tentatively come together and blow apart as the story unfolds. Because of his Asperger’s, Ever is aware that he sees the world differently than most. Yet he needs help in fitting into the normal world. He uses the term “neuro-typicals” to describe people who are not like him. He refers to himself as an “Aspy,” an abbreviated description he likes to use. What I find interesting is that Senga – who is a dancer and actually sidelined with an injury – is also searching for answers.

Gail: Both characters are facing a crisis of self. Ever is very intelligent and “high-functioning.” He has had great success in his chosen field, but is terrified of relating on a personal and physical level. Senga (her name was supposed to be Agnes but her aunt wrote it backwards on her birth certificate) has achieved success as a dancer – studying and performing with some of the top choreographers and their companies, and appearing on and off-Broadway – but she was hit by a taxi and her left leg is shattered, with seriously torn muscles and ligaments in her knee. Her only hope for any kind of recovery is surgery, which a rare allergy to anesthesia prevents, and even then she will never be able to perform at the level she did before.

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