Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire On Stage’

REVIEW: Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 24th, 2015
(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Larry Murray

At the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, the fresh new production of Lost in Yonkers is a contender for the summer’s best comedy. It’s a really funny show, especially the first act when we get to meet the characters. It is also in the race for the year’s best drama, as the second act unfolds with more gravitas than guffaws. It’s likely to be a hot ticket, too, since it is hitting the sweet spot with its audiences, as they find its human dimensions absolutely riveting.

Granted, it’s been a long time since just having Neil Simon’s name on the marquee was a gold-plated guarantee of a hot ticket. Lost in Yonkers came well after Simon’s laugh-a-minute comedies The Odd Couple and Fools, and also much later than his autobiographical plays Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

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REVIEW: A Passionless “Kinship” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Theater Review by Roseann Cane

Phèdre, Racine’s 17th-Century masterpiece, was a retelling of a Greek tragedy already examined many centuries before by Greek and Roman writers. What made this retelling so striking is the focus on the title character, previously portrayed as a monstrously evil woman. Racine’s Phèdre is a psychologically complex character whose obsession drives her to commit terrible acts, but this time she is more human than monster, and though she causes great suffering she is also a victim trapped in her own obsessions.

Playwright Carey Perloff was inspired to write Kinship in 2009, when she was directing Phèdre at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. “I was really trying to understand the nature of obsession,” she has said. “I love obsession, but it’s really strange. It’s not rational: it feeds on itself, so you need more, and more, and more of that drug to keep you feeling alive, even though you know it’s destructive. When it turns out that Hippolytus [Phèdre’s stepson] is in love with someone else, Phèdre becomes a monster, and decides she’s going…to take them down.”

In Kinship – currently being presented at the Williamstown Festival Festival’s Nikos Stage – the story is told through three characters, She (Cynthia Nixon), Friend/His Mother (Penny Fuller) and He (Chris Lowell). She is a driven, powerful middle-aged woman living a life many would envy. A successful newspaper editor, she has a devoted husband and two children she clearly adores.

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DANCE: Daniil Simkin Reveals Four New High Tech Ballets at Jacob’s Pillow [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

By Larry Murray

I caught up with Daniil Simkin a couple of months ago as he was finishing up his promotional duties for the Rick Burns American Masters documentary about American Ballet Theatre, which recently aired on PBS-TV. He was also carefully monitoring the progress of the four choreographers who were creating new works for his program, Intensio, which has its premiere tonight (Wednesday, July 22) at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket. Simkin is more than just one of the best dancers of his generation, he is also an impresario, an entrepreneur of dance, and – what many people don’t know – an almost geekish lover of multimedia technology. In short, a Renaissance man bridging the classical and modern ages of old school ballet and the latest theatrical technology.

When we spoke, Intensio was already well on its way with the choreographers hard at work on their new pieces. “We’re all getting together for two weeks before arriving at the Pillow and doing the final work before the performances. We plan to allow a full week each for rehearsals and for the multi-media elements before arriving in Becket to put Intensio on stage again,” said Simkin. Intensio is a major life-long Simkin family project and was done – in an entirely different form – in December 2009 at the Palace Theater in Athens, Greece.

“We need to tech this properly because it is not just sets on a bare stage with music. It’s much more than that. We are trying to create media effects that include real-time figure projection. We’ve been pre-teching it, which has been a way of trying stuff out, making decisions as to what enhances each piece, and what doesn’t. We have not done projections before on the scale we are doing them now,” he explained. The dancers are ready. The performances begin tonight (Wednesday, July 22). The pressure is on.

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Chesterfest Offers Music, Food & Beer for Sunset Concerts at Historic Site [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 17th, 2015
Chesterfest at sunset (photo: Paul Rocheleau)

Chesterfest at sunset (photo: Paul Rocheleau)

A wide range of contemporary American musicians – from folk, alt-country and rockabilly to garage, punk and psych-folk bands – are scheduled to perform this summer at Chesterfest, a new Americana music series presented by Stockbridge’s Chesterwood, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Chesterfest will kick off on Sunday (July 19) at 5:30pm with singer-songwriter Dan Blakeslee, followed by Yep Roc recording artist Jonah Tolchin at 6:30pm, in support of his new album, Clover Lane. Both will be performing at Chesterfest for the first time.

The concerts will be held at Chesterwood on Sunday evenings from July 19 through August 30, rain or shine. In the event of rain, concerts will be held under a barn-size tent. Artists perform at 5:30pm, followed by a second artist at 6:30pm The grounds open at 5pm; attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for lawn seating. Tickets are $15 per person; children under 18 are free. Wandering Star Craft Brewery beer, made in the Berkshires, and Lakota-Bar-B-Q, the best barbeque this side of the Mississippi, is available for purchase. Tickets may be purchased at each performance (cash only) and online with a credit card (plus service charge) at www.eventbrite.com.

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REVIEW: “A Murder is Announced” Is Classic Christie @ the Theater Barn [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
John Trainor and Rie Lee.

John Trainor and Rie Lee.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

The annual murder mystery – almost always an Agatha Christie – does so well for the Theater Barn in New Lenanon that they are running this year’s offering for three weekends instead of the usual two. A Murder Is Announced offers lots of familiar faces on stage and familiar names in the program at the cheerful, no-frills family-run theatre. John Trainor is once again wearing the trench coat as a Christie sleuth; Joan Coombs is dithering; Meg Dooley is playing the highly strung mistress of the house where the murders (yes, there are two) take place; Abe Phelps has designed a handsome set which is well lit by his son Allen Phelps; and a supporting cast of talented young actors struts their stuff.

A Murder is Announced is a 1977 stage adaption by Leslie Darbon of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1950 novel of the same title, which was her fiftieth published book. The novel was very well received and is considered classic Christie, so it is interesting that Dame Agatha didn’t dramatize it herself. If she had, I suspect we would have ended up with a smoother, funnier, less fraught work than director Aaron Holbritter has to work with here.

In a large country house called Little Paddocks in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn, Miss Blacklock (Dooley) is minding her manners and presiding over her hodge-podge household of friends and relations with the questionable assistance of her lone servant Mitzi (Shannon Paul), a loquacious and excitable Russian. It is Friday, October 13, and uppermost on Miss Blacklock’s mind is the celebration of her dear friend Miss Bunner’s (Coombs) birthday. She’s been Miss Blacklock’s companion ever since the latter returned from a long stay abroad nursing her late sister through a losing battle with tuberculosis. But the day-to-day concerns take a back seat when a notice in the personals column of the local Gazette announces a murder will take place at Little Paddocks at 6:30 that evening.

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MASS MoCA’s Chalet Beer Garden Offers Music, Art & Intelligent Conversation [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Mass MoCA’s beer garden is a festive way to spend a summer’s eve.

MASS MoCA’s beer garden is a festive way to spend a summer’s eve.

It happens every Thursday and Friday at 5:30pm (and onward into the night). The Chalet, the summer beer garden at MASS MoCA in North Adams, is now open for business, and it’s a great place to spend a summer evening.

This year, they’ve added an all-star squad of appearances and performances: First is the critically acclaimed Soundsuit artist Nick Cave, followed by Sayler/Morris, the artist duo behind Eclipse (now on view). Clifford Ross stops by to talk about Harmonium Mountain, his phantasmagorical video-and-audio installation mounted on 12 massive outdoor screens in Courtyard D. Lastly, Dean Baldwin himself, sculptor, installation artist and the creator of The Chalet, makes an appearance to discuss his practice.

Today (Thursday, July 9) at 7pm, join in a conversation with Chicago-based artist Nick Cave. Part sculptor, part filmmaker, part dancer and part installation-sound-and-performance artist, Nick Cave is most notable for his Soundsuits, full-body outfits combining sculpture and costume crafted from objects found in antique shops and flea markets. Get an insider’s sneak preview at the Chalet about his upcoming MASS MoCA show, opening in 2016.

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REVIEW: Jessica Hecht and Justin Long Dazzle in Premiere of “Legacy” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

Reviewed by Roseann Cane

As I settled into my seat at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage for the world premiere of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, I was impressed enough with Dane Laffrey’s set to jot, “Smart, creamy, winter white with touches of gray and blue, cool blue lighting [by Justin Townsend]….” This apartment, neatly organized, almost pristine, had a Scandinavian air.

Not long into the first act, I decided that the set was utterly wrong for the play, and in some ways emblematic of what I found disappointing in the production. Too many components just don’t mesh, though there are many moments of brilliance. With apologies to Aristotle, I found the whole of the play lesser than the sum of its parts.

Neil (Eric Bogosian), a literary lion well into his sixties, and his younger-by-several-decades wife, Suzanne (Jessica Hecht), married for 17 years, are scholars ensconced in an apartment in (where else?) the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Neil suggests a hybrid of Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, with his bellowing talent and testosterone-tinged sense of entitlement, but though we hear the words, we don’t hear what’s beneath them. Bogosian, for whose body of work I have much admiration, is far too laid-back and monotonous to inhabit Neil, a man whose latest novel has just received a scathing review in The New York Times. The words he utters are those of an very successful artist in crisis, someone whose sense of self and his place in the world has been shattered. Bogosian’s declarations about failure and desperation seemed more kittenish than leonine. His performance is so understated that it’s one-dimensional.

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LIVE: Boston Symphony Orchestra @ Tanglewood, 7/3/15 [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 6th, 2015
Jacques Lacombe conducts Gershwin Piano Concerto in F with Kirill Gerstein, soloist. (photo: Hilary Scott)

Jacques Lacombe conducts Gershwin Piano Concerto in F with Kirill Gerstein, soloist.

Review by Larry Murray
Photograph by Hilary Scott

All across the Berkshires, the stages have lit up as music, theater and dance return to the area in profusion. No migration is bigger – or more welcomed – than the annual arrival of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 100+ players and staff, all of whom make their homes in the Berkshires every summer. The legendary orchestra has a world famous sound that is still unequaled, one that is loud enough to fill Tanglewood’s 5,000-seat shed which serves as its summer concert hall with music, and up to some 15,000 on the lush and legendary lawn that surrounds the concert hall with the aid of loudspeakers. Both the classics and popular music are welcomed at the famous Lenox venue with its lush grounds.

Friday night (July 3) was perfect in every respect for the symphonic opening. The weather was clear and brisk, the grounds serene and green, the festive crowd expectant and in a very good mood.

For its first concert of the 2015 Tanglewood season, the BSO explored the riches of our country’s own musical heritage with a ravishing all-American program of music by John Harbison, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington. The dynamic Jacques Lacombe conducted, with the exciting pianist Kirill Gerstein, equally renowned in jazz and classical repertoire, featured in Gershwin’s Concerto in F. John Douglas Thompson electrified the audience as the speaker in Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

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