Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire On Stage’

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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Natalia Zukerman Heads to MASS MoCA for Evening of Folk, Jazz, Blues [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Natalia Zukerman

By Larry Murray

The slide, lap steel and dobro wizard Natalia Zukerman shapes folk, jazz, and blues sounds into songs of intense beauty. Her “voice could send an orchid into bloom while her guitar playing can open a beer bottle with its teeth,” declared The New Yorker. Natalia Zukerman performs outdoors under MASS MoCA’s Dré Wapenaar Pavilion in North Adams at 8pm on Saturday (June 6).

Since her 2001 debut, the singer/multi-instrumentalist’s expertise on myriad instruments, lyrical storytelling and seductive vocals have set her apart from the crowd as a folk songstress to watch. Armed with an authentic homespun sensibility and backed by major vocal and instrumental chops (most notably her notoriously stellar slide guitar playing), Zukerman is undeniably virtuosic, an engaging and compelling performer. On stage, her gentle demeanor gives way to a passionate stage presence that captivates audiences from opening note to final encore.

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Tipsy-Turvy “Drowsy Chaperone” Brings Monica M. Wemitt Back to Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, June 5th, 2015
Adolpho (Gabe Belyeu) gets set to seduce the bride in The Drowsy Chaperone at The Mac-Haydn Theatre in nearby Chatham, NY, June 4 to 14.  He’s actually seducing the Chaperone (Monica M. Wemitt). Jamie Grayson also stars as The Man In The Chair.  (photo: Mac-Haydn Staff)

Adolpho (Gabe Belyeu) gets set to seduce the bride in “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, June 4-14. He’s actually seducing the Chaperone (Monica M. Wemitt). Jamie Grayson also stars as The Man In The Chair. (photo: Mac-Haydn Staff)

With a merry mix of 1920’s musical comedy plot twists, lots of quirky characters and some great songs, The Drowsy Chaperone is at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham through June 14. You’ll be wide-awake with laughter through this “musical within a comedy,” which stars Jamie Grayson, returning to MHT to play the Man In The Chair, a lonely soul seeking to cure his ‘non-specific sadness’ by listening to his treasured recording of his mother’s favorite 1928 Broadway musical comedy.

The Man provides a running commentary on the events of the show as it unfolds in his mind and his apartment. This soon reveals that “Drowsy” means “Tipsy” as the Chaperone, played by Monica M. Wemitt, indulges her thirsty desires and then must nap to recover. If you enjoy Ms. Wemitt’s characters, just imagine her ‘tipsy’ and singing “As We Stumble Along” – need we say more?

The tipsy-turvy plot is a challenge even with explanations. The Chaperone is in charge of keeping the bride and groom-to-be apart until the wedding, but instead falls under the spell of a gigolo sent to stop the nuptials – who thinks he’s seducing the bride. Meanwhile the happy couple share a kiss – but the blind-folded groom thinks he’s kissing someone else. Then there are gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, a Follies producer who wants to keep the bride in his show and a ditzy hopeful star. Plus, a wealthy hostess who’s hoping for wedding bells of her own, a best man being overly efficient except for one little detail, and a heroine who swoops in to save the day and the wedding(s) – not to mention tap dancing, roller skating and roaring ’20s-style songs like “Toledo Surprise, Fancy Dress, Cold Feets” to make this show a binge of fun and laughs that also proves “Love Is Always Lovely in the End”.

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REVIEW: “The How and The Why” @ Shakespeare & Co [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Tod Randolph (l) as Zelda and Bridget Saracino (r) as Rachel. (photo: John Dolan)

Tod Randolph (l) as Zelda and Bridget Saracino (r) as Rachel. (photo: John Dolan)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: The How and The Why is a play about the biological fact of being female. It is not about sexual preference or gender roles, it is about being biologically, physiologically female. The two characters in the play – women aged 28 and 56 – are evolutionary biologists by trade, and they are also mother and daughter, but only in the biological sense since Zelda (Tod Randolph) gave Rachel (Bridget Saracino) up for adoption immediately after birth.

Larry Murray: I wasn’t sure how I would react to The How and The Why, but the focus on what it means to be female was surprisingly revelatory to me. So many men joke about how they don’t “understand” women, they don’t realize that figuring it all out is a pretty complicated job for women, too. There are far more difficult choices than I realized as any women balances her personal and workaday worlds with the unyielding evolutionary demands of child bearing. It’s something you have done so smoothly, and I have little understanding of. This play covers a lot of information as its scientific theories are discussed alongside some very human emotions. It’s a volatile combination. The relationship on stage could be compared to the Hadron collider because – at times – the mother and daughter came so close to annihilating their relationship with one another. But for all the insights science gives us, isn’t it limited in its contribution to understanding mammals, being more about contemporary women in the 21st Century than aborigines in the forest?

Gail: Playwright Sarah Treem addresses many aspects of the choices available to upper class white women in modern day America, yes. The choices available to women of other classes and races are very different, and actually more dramatic, which is why they are written about more often. Choices to reproduce, to marry, even to have a career that allows for financial independence are unique to this race and class in this culture.

Larry: While the how and why of scientific inquiry is easy to understand – how do things happen and for what reason – the collision between Zelda and Rachel is less easy to fathom. We know how the 29 year old tracked down her birth mother, but it is not at all clear why. Within the first few minutes of the play she seems unprepared to ask the important questions someone would ask a birth mother, Rachel makes an attempt to leave several times before the gentle comments of Zelda bring her back to their meeting.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Emergent Ensemble Theatre and “The Aliens” Found in Housatonic Tunnel [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015
The actors

The actors

By Larry Murray

The Emergent Ensemble Theatre is a new performing company we want to tell you about, and they are currently performing Annie Baker’s The Aliens in a back alley tunnel off the main drag in Housatonic. Word is, it’s wonderful. The unlikely humorous and heart-wrenching play is not in a theater, but being performed next to the Housatonic River at 430 Park St. It runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm through June 7.

For those who think theater has become the last refuge of the elderly and set-in-their-ways crowd, this new company is breaking all the traditions and reinventing the art form for a new generation of fearless explorers of life, drama and meaning. They are homegrown and have been using the Front Street Gallery in Housatonic as their rehearsal space, but when it came time to perform, they needed a very special space, one that would lend itself to Baker’s story.

They ultimately decided on a non-traditional venue, a tunnel attached to a historic mill building in Housatonic. It provides a perfect backdrop for the story. To quote the production’s director in The Berkshire Edge: “We thought about using a coffee shop, but discarded the idea quickly because the play is hyper-realistic. On the other hand, I didn’t want it to get lost in an outdoor space, either,” said Maizy Broderick Scarpa. “So we started searching for more traditional theaters. But while rehearsing in Housatonic we found this tunnel, and it was instantly clear that we had to perform here; not only does it provide the framing the play needs, but the entire company is completely energized by the space.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Wilco to Go All-Acoustic for the Friday Night at Solid Sound [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

boswilcoacoustic

By Larry Murray

Fans of Wilco are in for a big surprise when the band strides on stage for the beginning of the Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams on Friday, June 26.

Those attending this year’s fest will hear something that you can’t hear on any of Wilco’s CDs. For their Friday night performance, the bandmembers plan to unplug their instruments to perform a full set of Wilco tunes acoustically. While not totally unheard of – on their recent tour Wilco performed brief, intimate acoustic sets within the concert’s encores – but this will be the first time the band has unplugged for an extended performance.

“Right now we’re thinking about playing somewhat mirrored sets on Friday and Saturday nights – on Friday, the main set will be stripped down and acoustic, and the encores will be electric,” Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy said. “On Saturday we’ll flip it. Start big and loud and finish acoustically. We’ll see how it goes. It’ll be a bit of an experiment, but the Solid Sound audience is usually game for whatever we throw at them.

“It’s been a great experience for the six of us to perform our songs this way. It’s a bit of a re-discovery of the songs and a way for us to reconnect musically with one another. I found myself really looking forward to this part of the set every night on the most recent tour.”

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It’s a Wrap for BIFF: “Romeo is Bleeding” and “H.” Win Awards [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

bosbiff

By Larry Murray

Now in its tenth year, the Berkshire International Film Festival wrapped up 2015 by announcing the winners of the annual BIFF Juried Prize Award and the BIFF Audience Award. In the Juried documentary category, the winners were Romeo is Bleeding, written and directed by Jason Zeldes. Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia won in the Juried narrative category for their film H. filmed in both Troy and Pittsfield.

The Jury prize is sponsored by GWFF USA and was presented at a brunch Sunday (May 31) at the Allium Restaurant + Bar in Great Barrington. Serving on the BIFF Jury were actors Karen Allen, Mary Kay Place, Scott Cohen and Peter Riegert; Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment; producer Susan Arnold; casting director Gretchen Rennell; film executive Bob Harper; production designer Kristi Zea; and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones.

The Audience Award Winner for best documentary feature was a tie between Crescendo: The Power of Music directed by Jamie Bernstein, and Above and Beyond directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg. The Audience Award Winner for best narrative feature was the Dutch film Secrets of War.

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Which Shows Will Be the Hits of Summer 2015 in the Berkshires? [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, June 1st, 2015
David Adkins will appear in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.

David Adkins will appear in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming @ the Unicorn Theatre.

By Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Time for our summer previews. As the 2015 season gets underway, here are the Berkshire area musicals, comedies and dramas that have caught our attention:

BARRINGTON STAGE COMPANY, Pittsfield

Gail: While I am on record for my love of quirky little shows, I have my wide swath of commercial theatre addictions as well. I am wildly excited to see Man of La Mancha (June 10-July 11 on the Main Stage). I intend to sing along loudly – you have been warned. And I am a big fan of playwrights Neil Simon and John Guare, so Lost in Yonkers (July 16-August 1) and His Girl Friday (August 16-30) appeal to me, too. I’m there for all the Main Stage shows this summer at BSC.

Larry: The final Main Stage show, Veils (October 1-18) by Tom Coash, has my curiosity fully aroused since this play has earned raves for its earlier debut at Portland Stage, I see it as a very challenging work to stage well. The subject matter is a minefield, the casting critical, and its premise is one that will be relatively unfamiliar to most people. It relates the struggles with events such as a university ban on wearing burkas, an anti-American protest and riot, and the central figure Samar’s arrest and forced virginity test. Yet this is exactly the sort of work that Julianne Boyd so often finds the right mix of people to stage, and she could end up pulling another rabbit out of her theatrical hat.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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