Mystery Actors in “High Dive” Audience Have Fun at Chester Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

July 10th, 2014, 2:30 pm by Sara
High Dive @ Chester Theatre Company

Come early to a performance and become part of the show.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to involve our audience in our 25th Anniversary celebration than with High Dive, Leslie Ayvazian’s remarkably brave, innovative and fun theatre piece,” said Chester Theatre Artistic Director Byam Stevens. “Brave, because it takes incredible courage for an actor to work with 35 strangers every night. Innovative, because it possesses a unique structure with its scripted lines for audience members. Fun, well, because it’s fun! Audience members who want to take part should come 15-20 minutes early to be “cast” by Jennifer (Rohn) in the lobby. They’ll be given sides (their lines) and direction – then the fun begins! This is truly not to be missed!”

In High Dive, comic misadventures pile up as Leslie, perched on a high dive platform, flashes back to the succession of farcical disasters that culminates in her present predicament. High Dive is a one-woman show with a very large cast — the other actors? The audience, who are invited to read lines from the script, and thereby experience the point of the play – the willingness to take risks and dive in. According to The NY Daily News, “High Dive is well worth the plunge. This brief and light-hearted look at Ayvazian’s misadventures… is an engaging and often hilarious show from beginning to end.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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J.T. Rogers’ “Madagascar” Is the Kind of Play Chester Does Best [Berkshire on Stage]

July 2nd, 2014, 1:00 pm by Sara
(L. to R.): Debra Jo Rupp (Lilian), Paul O’Brien (Nathan) and Kim Stauffer (June), photo by Rick Teller.

(L. to R.): Debra Jo Rupp (Lilian), Paul O’Brien (Nathan) and Kim Stauffer (June), photo by Rick Teller

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: J.T. Rogers’ 2004 mystery/memory play Madagascar is exactly the kind of show Chester Theatre Company does best – a small cast, one-set, intellectual thriller. We saw echoes of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Pinter in its intricate though oblique structure. The three characters occupy the same hotel room, but at different points in time, so they never interact directly. In fact, by the end, it is apparent that, in the action set in the present time, it would be impossible for them to do so.

Larry Murray: I loved everything about this play except the script which is also why so many will enjoy it. It talks about rich white people suffering self-doubt, and that bores me to tears. The pretentiousness of the writing with its metaphors, allusions and flights into poetic arias can not disguise the fact that it moves very slowly and circuitously on stage. It asks its audience to spend two hours in the middle of a hotel room overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome with three self-absorbed characters trying to figure out why a fourth character disappeared from their lives. As academic theatre by a playwrright with a degree and many awards, this play may hit the spot with theatre-goers who are of a certain age and impressed by transcripts and C.V.’s. But if you are like me, you like your theatre to be an exploration about something more than white folk all neatly tied up in clever metaphors, similes and allusions which this play has in spades, right, Gail?

Gail: Well, I am that academic cerebral theatre-goer of a certain age, so I enjoyed this play a whole lot more than you did, although I agree that it was heavy with allusions to Greek and Roman mythology and culture, all of which used to be part of what white Western culture called a “Classic Education.” The matinee audience we attended with was of the generation who received such an education. Younger folks, or non-white folks, might find this totally confusing and irrelevant to their experience and more diverse educational background.

Larry: That Madagascar is well-bred with perfect manners is true, and those whose world is orderly are certainly going to like it for that. But my other reservation is it seems that all the action in this play – it’s big bang – happens offstage or in the past. All we experience, as an audience, is its aferglow as deduced from each characters memory.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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