Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire Theatre Festival’

New Concerts at BTF’s Unicorn Theatre

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

The intimate Unicorn Theatre at the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s home in Stockbridge has long played host to cutting edge theater productions, but now the theater is also being utilized as a concert hall, including a handful of new shows for next year’s calendar that have just been announced:

THE DUKE’S MEN OF YALE: A Night of Love and Heartbreak with Da Doox!
Saturday, February 11, 8pm
$20; students $10
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Dukes will perform a concert of classic love songs by such artists as Chaka Kahn, Billy Joel, Sam Cooke and the Jackson 5, along with newer songs by Adele and Rihanna. As one of the most beloved a cappella collegiate groups in the country, the Duke’s Men have performed everywhere from the White House to Lincoln Center.

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LIVE: “Period of Adjustment” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Rebecca Brooksher and Paul Fitzgerald in "Period of Adjustment" (photo by Christy Wright)

Rebecca Brooksher and Paul Fitzgerald in "Period of Adjustment" (photo by Christy Wright)

In a lifetime of writing plays, (29 major, 21 one acts and 9 “apprentice” plays) Tennessee Williams only wrote one real comedy, and he even labeled Period of Adjustment a “serious” comedy. Although he foreshadowed the arrival of Neil Simon and his lighter situation comedy ethos, Williams still could not resist making this foray into comedy character based.

And what twisted characters he has created in this Berkshire Theatre Festival production of Period of Adjustment from 1960. A half century may have passed, but it is still fresh, funny and while the references to the Korean War could be replaced with those of the Middle East, and the telephone replaced with a cellphone, this screwball comedy – for all its literary merit – still works on stage. In the Berkshire Theatre Group’s production there have been edits to the original script.

The play is about two war buddies – who haven’t seen each other in quite a while – wrestling with their two marriages, both of which are in deep trouble. Drinking a bit too much, they dream of ditching the wives and starting a cattle business in San Antonio, Texas.

Click to read the rest of this story at Berkshire on Stage.

LIVE: “Dutch Masters” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge [GailSez]

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Steve (Christian Coulson) and Eric (Amari Cheatom) meet on the New York subway on a summer's day in 1992 in "Dutch Masters." (photo: Christy Wright)

Steve (Christian Coulson) and Eric (Amari Cheatom) meet on the New York subway on a summer's day in 1992 in "Dutch Masters." (photo: Christy Wright)

The world-premiere of this admirable little play about race relations is one of the last events of the County-wide Lift Ev’ry Voice Festival celebrating African-American culture and heritage here. The other two theatrical offerings, Going to St. Ives (already closed) and The Best of Enemies (currently in previews), both at Barrington Stage, have been getting considerably more hype. Until last week I literally thought I was going to see a play about Dutch painters or their paintings.

Instead I saw a concise and intriguing new work about the apparently chance meeting in the New York City subway of a young white man, Steve (Christian Coulson), and a young black man, Eric (Amari Cheatom), who, it turns out, have much more uniting and dividing them than they thought. The title refers to the box of cigars the boys buy to use as materials for a blunt they share. Eric explains to Steve that the Dutch Masters were the tobacco – and slave – traders of the Dutch West India Company. Steve explains to Eric that they were painters and that the picture on the cover of the box is a Rembrandt*. Both of them are right.

Playwright Greg Keller has been acting with the BTF for many years now, but this is the first play of his they have produced, although he has been writing for a while now and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard and has had plays workshopped and produced in New York. Dutch Masters had a workshop production at LAByrinth Theater Company last summer.

Click to read the rest at GailSez.

LIVE: Greg Keller’s “Dutch Masters” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Amari Cheatom (Eric-L) and Christian Coulson (Steve-R). (photo: Christy Wright)

Amari Cheatom (Eric-L) and Christian Coulson (Steve-R). (photo: Christy Wright)

In several pre-show descriptions of Greg Keller’s new play Dutch Masters, ticket buyers are told that they will be taken on a “plot-driven roller coaster ride.” But for this rider, there will be no re-ride. It was a rough and unsettling trip.

At the outset of the play we meet the two young twenty-something characters, Eric (Amari Cheatom) who is a black man, and Steve (Christian Coulson) who is white, riding on the D Train, past 59th Street heading north towards the Bronx. Eric starts jivin’ with the white dude in a vernacular street talk which is almost indecipherable to the average Berkshire Theatre goer. I suppose I should be impressed that Keller has such an intimate command of this alternate style of speech practiced by the under-educated in our society, but it made following the interactions between the two men feel like just so much stalking and intimidation.

There’s another thing, it means this play will not age well. Hefty portions of jargon will doom almost any play to become outdated very quickly. The challenge for a playwright is finding the middle road where such speech is more suggested than duplicated. There were large stretches of Keller’s play where he did just that, but far too much of the initial exposition was lost in undecipherable colloquialisms. Since it is one of the things that divides the races, perhaps it was employed by the writer to underscore that point.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

LIVE: “Sylvia” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Pittsfield [GailSez]

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Greg (David Adkins) and Sylvia (Rachel Bay Jones) share a cozy moment (photo: Jaime Davidson)

Greg (David Adkins) and Sylvia (Rachel Bay Jones) share a cozy moment (photo: Jaime Davidson)

In A.R. Gurney’s 1995 light comedy, Sylvia, she is part poodle and all woman. Succinctly put, Sylvia is a dog*. Not the play, the character. The play is the fluffiest and sweetest of merengues, perfectly concocted by director Anders Cato and a splendid cast. If you are now or ever have been a dog-owner, you will just love this open love letter to the miraculous bond that has developed over the millennia between canines and homo sapiens.

There is a plot, but it is negligible and Gurney dispatches it deus ex machina after he has run out of dog jokes, which is fine by me. The fun here is in seeing the relationship between man and dog played out by two humans – in this case the eminently likeable David Adkins as Greg and Rachel Bay Jones as Sylvia. Greg has a wife, Kate, and Cato and actress Jurian Hughes manage to make much more of her than the plot device that she is.

Forty-something and newly minted empty-nesters, Kate and Greg are both pondering the gap between child-rearing and retirement and both are itching for a change. Kate has earned her Masters’ degree and is passionate about her new career as an English teacher. Greg is fed up with the corporate grind and longs for something more “real.” The open affection, visceral energy, and basic needs of Sylvia, a mutt Greg finds in the park one day (or does she find him?), instantly fills that void, just as she threatens to suck Kate back into the nurturing and subservient role she has finally outgrown. Kate’s inability to embrace Sylvia and her relationship with Greg comprises all the tension in the play. But don’t worry, folks. There’s a happy ending.

Interview: Randy Harrison Talks About His “Tommy” Experience [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 18th, 2011
Randy Harrison in the Berkshire Theatre Festival production of "Tommy"

Randy Harrison in the Berkshire Theatre Festival production of "Tommy"

Actor Randy Harrison’s yearly sojourns to the bucolic hills of Western Massachusetts are major events not only for his many fans, but also for the residents of the Berkshires. The spectacular offerings of the region’s four major producing theatres attract legions of live theatre patrons from around the nation each year.

This summer, the Berkshire Theatre Groups superb rendition of the rock opera Tommy had everyone talking. Randy Harrison played the title role with true star power. (Link to my review)

While some poor souls are still fixated on his role as Justin in the Showtime series Queer as Folk, and some even imagine that Brian (Gale Harold) is still in his life, Harrison has moved far beyond that series. He continues to pursue his one and only great love, live theatre. Those who share his passion for it are perhaps the luckiest people around.

Click to read the rest of this story at Berkshire On Stage.

LIVE: “Moonchildren” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge [GailSez]

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Moonchildren: Kathy (Norma Kuhling) and Ruth (Miriam Silverman) discuss life and men over coffee (photo: Jaime Davidson)

Moonchildren: Kathy (Norma Kuhling) and Ruth (Miriam Silverman) discuss life and men over coffee (photo: Jaime Davidson)

How could a woman who entered college in the 1960s and appeared in Animal House – the definitive depiction of college life in that decade – NOT understand what the 1960’s looked like??? I know director Karen Allen (1951- ) didn’t design the set (John Traub), costumes (George Veale) hair, and make-up for this misbegotten production of Moonchildren on the Unicorn Stage at the BTF, but she’s the director, for crying out loud, the creative team answers to her. And this is not the Podunk Amateur Community Theatre, it’s the Berkshire Theatre Festival – an Equity house with a long and illustrious history and sufficient funds to shell out for some vintage clothing, or replicas thereof.

In 1968 Allen began her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, from which she received an honorary Master’s degree, and runs her own fiber arts company here in the Berkshires. And she can’t tell that the costumes for this production are all wrong??? Gimme a break!

Moonchildren is a very early work by playwright Michael Weller (1942- ). Written in 1970, it was a big hit in London and Washington, DC, before moving to Broadway for a short run in 1972 with a stellar cast. It launched a wonderful career for Weller, who is now sharing his talents with a new generation of theatre artists through an innovative and award-winning mentor program. But the fact remains that this is an early effort of a young playwright, obviously writing about his own college experiences at Brandeis University.

Click to read the rest of this review at GailSez.

LIVE: “Moonchildren” @ Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Moonchildren: Matt Harrington, Joe Paulik, Samantha Richert and Carter Gill (photo by Jaime Davidson)

Moonchildren: Matt Harrington, Joe Paulik, Samantha Richert and Carter Gill (photo by Jaime Davidson)

It seems impossible that eight college students living together could be desperately lonely and unfulfilled. Yet in 1965-66 when the play Moonchildren is set, Michael Weller chooses such a group of nerdy and naive students to populate the rundown communal student apartment in his first successful play. It’s a familiar if unconventional group. They discuss esoteric ideas, eat each others food, make love, and protest war together. Moonchildren is the first play written that put the spotlight on a major change in America as it comes to grips with the conflict in Vietnam.

It is also the first play that Karen Allen has directed for the Berkshire Theatre Festival, though her second time directing Moonchildren, having previously put a young cast at Bard College through its paces.

The time of the play is interesting, taking place just as the first peace rallies (opposing the Vietnam war) were beginning to happen. Draft cards (and bras) are yet to be burned, the first huge rally on the Boston Common is several years away, and the music has not yet been shaken and stirred with acid. Professor Timothy Leary had been dismissed from Harvard in 1963 and it would be a few more years before LSD would become the drug of choice for many flower children.

Click to read the rest of this story at Berkshire on Stage.

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