Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire On Stage’

Berkshire Fringe: The Wardrobe Ensemble Offers a Whirlwind “Riot” and a Doleful “33″ [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 11th, 2014
33 is about friendship, hope and Elvis Presley.

“33″ is about friendship, hope and Elvis Presley.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: After seeing two performances by the Bristol, UK theatre company the Wardrobe Ensemble at the Berkshire Fringe Festival, all I can say is that I wish they would move to Pittsfield and set up shop here. They are the most entertaining, energetic and disciplined theatre company I have seen in some time. They use makeshift materials in an improvised theatre inside a repurposed church to bring their bold ideas and innovative physical theatre to life. Brilliantly.

They are performing two original works at the Berkshire Fringe, Riot and 33. Which did you like better?

Gail M. Burns: I had seen and reviewed Riot before, when it came to the Fringe in 2012, and I think it is still my favorite, even though I thoroughly enjoyed 33. As you mentioned, both plays are based on real-life events. On February 10, 2005, there was a riot at the midnight opening of a new Ikea store in Edmondton, a northern section of London. Thousands of people turned up, nine ambulances were called and six people were kept overnight in hospitals. Much of the dialogue for Riot comes directly from media reports of that event.

Larry: I knew that Riot would be the one that struck a familiar chord with me since my kitchen is from Ikea. I have almost panicked in those Jean-Paul Sartre designed maze-like stores where there is no quick way out – you have to pass every item in the endless aisles before an exit finally appears. The help won’t give you any help either. And Riot captures that trapped feeling in a visceral way, though it is much less intimidating to be an onlooker than a participant. Throughout the course of Riot we see endless running, shoving and even some flying through the air as the troupe reenacted an actual event.

Gail: The physicality of Riot is breathtaking. This company works fearlessly together, and containing all that energy in a very small playing space makes the violence even more explosive.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Jonathan Epstein Adapts, Directs and Stars in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” Thru Aug. 31 [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
In rehearsal: Henry Clarke (l) and Jonathan Epstein (phot: Elizabeth Aspenlieder)

In rehearsal: Henry Clarke (l) and Jonathan Epstein (photo: Elizabeth Aspenlieder)

A sweeping spectacle of bawdy buffoonery and bloody rebellion, director Jonathan Epstein’s razor sharp and condensed adaptation of Henry IV delivers both parts in one dynamic evening of theatre. Performances run in Shakespeare & Co.’s Tina Packer Playhouse through August 31. Press opening is Friday (August 8) at 7pm.

Shakespeare’s take on honor, war, sex and violence has never been more acute than in this riotous comedy that inter-mingles the young-rascal-that-would-be-king, Prince Hal, with the psychological underpinnings of father/son relationships. Epstein sets Shakespeare’s wildest history tale between a bustling 15th century Eastcheap and a more contemporary London, where both settings blend together as we follow this stirring history of succession to the throne. Meet the notorious Prince Hal, heir apparent, who rebels against his father, forsakes the court and engages in petty crime with that huge ‘sweet creature of bombast,’ the unruly knight Falstaff. When the Prince’s nemesis, Hotspur, and the northern lords rebel, will Hal stay and continue carousing with his surrogate ‘father’ Falstaff or heed the call of duty from the ailing King Henry? An exhilarating and potent journey through time and history, Henry IV offers many of the most memorable characters and lines in Shakespeare’s canon as it continues to captivate and mesmerize audiences over four centuries later.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Mark St. Germain’s Touching “Dancing Lessons” Set to Debut at Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Dancing Lessons

Dancing Lessons

Once again we await – with great interest – the world premiere of another Mark St. Germain play, Dancing Lessons. It is described as a new romantic comedy by the Barrington Stage Company Associate Artist Mark St. Germain and will play on the main stage from Thursday (August 7) through August 24. Opening night is August 13 at 7pm.

Directed by Barrington Stage Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, Dancing Lessons stars John Cariani and Paige Davis. John Cariani made his BSC debut as Dogberry in last summer’s Much Ado About Nothing. Cariani is also the playwright of the popular play Almost, Maine and recently starred in the play’s Off-Broadway revival. Paige Davis (Broadway’s Chicago and TV’s “Trading Spaces”) makes her BSC debut.

Dancing Lessons centers on a young man (Cariani) with high-functioning autism (Asperger’s syndrome) who seeks the instruction of a Broadway dancer (Davis), now sidelined with injuries. As their relationship unfolds, they’re caught off-guard by the surprising discoveries – both hilarious and heartwarming – that they make about each other.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

PigPen Theatre Co. Offers “The Old Man and the Old Moon” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
The company takes storytelling to new heights. Seen here: Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler.

The company takes storytelling to new heights. Seen here: Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s final show of the 2014 season is The Old Man and the Old Moon, which runs on the Nikos Stage from Wednesday (August 6) through August 17.

Of course, the endlessly imaginative PigPen Theatre Co. comes to Williamstown with a reputation for luminously low-fi spectacle that elevates traditional storytelling to high art. Their fantastical, song-filled tale takes us to the end of the world, when an old man abandons his duty of filling the moon with liquid light to search for his missing wife. With a rollicking array of ever-changing characters, inventive theatrical effects and an infectious contemporary folk sound, these seven young actor-musicians transform the seemingly ordinary into sheer wonder.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “The Visit” with Chita Rivera Gets an Epic Production at Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 4th, 2014
The cast on the set of The Visit. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

The cast on the set of The Visit. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: From the moment you take your seat at the ’62 Center where the Williamstown Theatre Festival performs, you know you are in for a special evening. Soaring into the flies on stage is Scott Pask’s single set that will contain the evening’s performance of The Visit. This tuneful John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has been trying to get to Broadway since 2001. With a book by Terrence McNally and Chita Rivera in the lead role as Claire Zachanassian, it could be well on its way. The WTF production is directed by John Doyle, who knows how to showcase the darker side of human nature, the rich manipulating the poor and it couldn’t be more timely.

Gail M. Burns: This is billed as Kander and Ebb but since Fred Ebb’s death in 2004, Kander and McNally have formed the creative team. Doyle made many changes for this version – cutting the show from two and a half hours and two acts down to a 95-minute one-act form – so the lyrics have obviously been changed since Ebb wrote them.

Larry: The 2001 production was put together at Chicago’s Goodman but 9/11 killed its prospects when New York producers were unable to fly in to see it. The Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA staged a workshop production in 2008, and now in 2014 it looks like the Williamstown team has put together the definitive version. Earlier productions were a bit top heavy having incorporated far too many characters and details from Friedrich Dürrenmat’s 1956 satirical play about greed and revenge, Der Besuch der alten Dame.

The tightening up of the show has worked well, and only a few songs have been lost – the Chorale that opened Act 2, Claire’s “Confession” song, and the reprise of “Winter” by a Young Adam. Other songs have likely been shortened a bit to keep things moving swiftly. They were not missed, since the story is still delightfully rich, full of detail. With a large cast and luscious ten-piece orchestra under David Loud, this Williamstown production fully conveys a dark parable about what desperate people will do when faced with a financial payoff.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Berkshire on Stage Offers an Unusual Array of “Top Picks” for August [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Our creative venues overflow with shows, glorious August shows!

Our creative venues overflow with shows, glorious August shows!

By Larry Murray

August is the month of bounty, when those tasty tomatoes begin to overflow the basket, and every stage in the Berkshires and beyond is filled with glorious live entertainment. All six of our major cultural organizations are in high gear: Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Shakespeare & Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival all have sure-fire crowd-pleasers on their stages, but so do lots of other, smaller groups.

So here are lots of suggestions of things to do – some from the familiar and popular organizations but this month we put the emphasis on the smaller and lesser known arts organizaions you should know about. Enjoy the Berkshire’s season of plenty – the leaves start dropping in less than ten weeks.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Berkshire Fringe Festival Has It All – Comedy, Drama, Music, Labs – August 2-18 [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, August 1st, 2014
Brooklyn’s Under The Table present The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a wildly hilarious, irreverent and poignant reimagining of Victor Hugo’s classic tale.

Brooklyn’s Under The Table present “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a wildly hilarious, irreverent and poignant reimagining of Victor Hugo’s classic tale.

Founded in 2003 by Sara Katzoff, Peter Wise and Timothy Ryan Olson, the Berkshire Fringe Festival begins its second decade at its new home, the Shire City Santuary in Pittsfield. The Berkshire Fringe is an international center for new work in the heart of the Berkshire Community. Since its first events in 2005, the Berkshire Fringe has become a vital testing ground and has hosted over 500 emerging performers while bringing nearly 100 full-length original productions to the Berkshires.

Participating artists are given space to develop and perform their newest concepts, teach community workshops and invite audiences to engage more deeply in the creative process through open rehearsals and discussions.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: A Chekhov Farce and a Wharton Delicacy from Pythagoras Theatre Works in West Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Berkshire on Stage Theatre Review

Review by Gail M. Burns

Do not get confused and go, as I initially did, to the building the town of West Stockbridge, MA, currently uses as its town hall. The 1854 Town Hall is located on Main Street directly opposite the Public Market, and parking is abundant, although often cleverly concealed, nearby. Like most assembly halls of the 19th century, the public space is on the second floor above the office or retail space at street level which provided free heat for the upper level, although the thimble for the stovepipe is still visible on the side of the chimney upstairs. The hall features a tiny stage whose enormous windows (yes, there are windows on the back wall of the stage) attest to a time when natural light was necessary for most gatherings and performances.

In this slightly shabby space – the West Stockbridge Historical Society is investing first in modernizing the building and bringing it up to code – the newly formed Pythagoras Theatre Works is mounting their inaugural season featuring a pair of one-act plays – The Bear (of the Berkshires) by Anton Chekhov and The Rembrandt by Edith Wharton – both adapted and staged by Artistic Director Michael Burnet. Do not allow the modest sets, lack of theatrical lighting or the choice of public domain material to fool you – these are talented, Equity actors who choose to live, and often work, locally. And this is a low-key but auspicious launch for this group, with the newly-revitalized downtown of West Stockbridge as the perfect setting.

As you enter the hall, you are treated to Jonah Thomas playing his original compositions on the cello. The acoustics are excellent, and Thomas’ music is evocative of both time and place. (Is there any instrument more Chekhovian than the cello?) Presently Leonard, the butler, (Scott Renzoni) appears to berate his mistress, the widowed Elena Winterbottom (Diane Prusha), for her prolonged and maudlin mourning and self-imposed isolation for her late husband, the philandering Nicholas. It has been seven months since his death, why won’t she leave the house?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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