THEATER REVIEW: “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” @ The Whit [Berkshire on Stage]

June 21st, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Review by Gail M. Burns

Do you wear clothes? Then you will love Love, Loss, and What I Wore currently at the Whitney Center for the Arts in a sleek and smart production by the Town Players of Pittsfield. You will adore this show if you identify as a woman, but you will like it just as well if you identify as a man and clothing is important to you. I saw this production on Father’s Day, and it brought back happy memories of my father, a straight, cisgender man who just LOVED clothing.

Clothes not only cover our bodies, they change our souls. And if you are a person who cares about clothing, you can remember exactly what you wore on both significant and insignificant occasions in your life. Wedding and prom outfits are always memorable, but other ensembles stick in the memory just because. The day I fell in love with the theater I was wearing a bright yellow mini-dress (really just a long vest) over a purple blouse and matching purple tights with yellow platform shoes with six-inch heels (making me 6’4”. Can you tell it was 1972?

I adored Ilene Beckerman’s little illustrated book of the same title when it was published in 1995 and still have my copy, but this was my first encounter with the stage version, adapted by Nora and Delia Ephron. I am sure it will have a long and happy life because it has an all-female cast, virtually no set, and can be performed as reader’s theater or, as here, as a fully staged production with memorized lines. Ideal for community theater and for professional theaters who can bring in a rotating cast of “stars” with little rehearsal necessary.

Director Melanie Rivers has assembled a fine cast. Laura Gardner plays Gingy, the only through character, who speaks most of Beckerman’s prose accompanied by poster-sized renditions of the author’s enchanting drawings, which are meticulously circulated along a clothes rack by prop manager Sam Therrien. Gingy’s wardrobe, and her memories of her mother and grandmother’s clothes, lead her through several boyfriends, husbands, children and grandchildren. Gardner is warm and amusing, bringing a light touch to her trip down memory lane.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Local Murder Mystery Comes to Dorset Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

June 8th, 2017, 1:00 pm by Sara
Oliver Wadsworth as one of the many characters in “The Tarnation of Russell Colvin.” Photo: Riikka Olson

Oliver Wadsworth as one of the many characters in “The Tarnation of Russell Colvin.” Photo: Riikka Olson

By Gail M. Burns

In 1812 Russell Colvin, a farm worker who all agreed was “feeble-minded,” disappeared from the Boorn family farm in East Manchester, Vermont, where he, his wife and their many children lived with her family. Seven years later, two of his brothers-in-law, Stephen and Jesse Boorn, were accused of murdering Colvin, and sentenced to hang. At almost the eleventh hour, a man claiming to be Russell Colvin was identified in New Jersey and brought to Manchester, where everyone agreed that this was indeed the missing man. Charges were dropped.

This is a very brief synopsis of the true story actor Oliver Wadsworth will bring to the stage in The Tarnation of Russell Colvin at the Dorset Theatre Festival for four performances this week (today-June 10), before touring it to Jamaica VT on Thursday, June 22; Wardsboro VT on Saturday, June 24; and South Londonderry VT on Friday, June 30.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Shipwrecked!” @ Oldcastle Theatre Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

May 31st, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Louis de Rougemont, ne Henri Louis Grin

Louis de Rougemont, ne Henri Louis Grin

Review by Gail M. Burns

What more does a man have but his name and the story he tells? Everything else is dust.

The character of Louis de Rougemont poses this question late in Shipwrecked! at a time when he is losing both. Louis de Rougemont was a real man, but his name was not Louis de Rougemont. His story was his own because he wrote it, not because he lived it. The real man was a shadowy figure behind the character and the myth he created. He died alone and in poverty.

De Rougemont, born Henri Louis Grin, lived from 1847-1921, at the time when frontiers were vanishing and there were fewer and fewer undiscovered corners of the world. His fable of being shipwrecked in the coral sea, surviving on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe, living amongst the aborigines in the Australian outback where he was considered a god sold thousands of copies of The Wide World Magazine. Donald Margulies’ 2007 play allows de Rougemont to tell “his story” with the help of two additional actors who play all the other parts in his fantastical drama.

At Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Eric Peterson has assembled a dream cast. John Hadden anchors the play solidly as de Rougement, with a twinkle in his eye and the exuberant wonder of a child as he spins his tale. Carla Woods and David Joseph play all the other roles, and Joseph also subs for Hadden during the acrobatic scenes in which de Rougement entertains and impresses with his non-existent gymnastic skills.

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REVIEW: “The Glass Menagerie” @ Hubbard Hall [Berkshire on Stage]

May 2nd, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara

Laura (Grace Sgambettera) and her Gentleman Caller (Woodrow Proctor). Photo: Kyra Fitzgerald.

Review by Gail M. Burns

When you live with a story for a long time – and most Americans are introduced to Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in high school or college – you see it through the lens not only of your own personal experience, but also of the social milieu of the day. I first met this play as a teenager in the early 1970s. Freudian theory was still widely accepted, and Amanda Wingfield was presented as a selfish, domineering mother who stifled her children and ruined their lives. It was still generally believed that a mother like that was the cause of a son’s homosexuality. At first I saw Amanda as the villain of the piece.

Later, I transferred that title to Tom, who abandons his mother and helpless sister just like his father before him. Now I tend to consider Jim, the gentleman caller, as the villain who raises, then crushes Amanda and Laura’s hopes.

The Glass Menagerie, currently playing at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, is the mostly highly autobiographical of Williams’ plays, and his first commercial success. It is obvious that Tom is Williams – whose given name was Thomas – and Laura is his elder sister, Rose, who ended up institutionalized for life after a botched lobotomy. Amanda is their mother, Edwina Dakin Williams. The family did live in St. Louis, his father was a traveling salesman more often on the road than at home, and Williams did work in a shoe warehouse. But Williams was the sickly child over whom his mother fawned, and there was another son in the family.

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Circle Theatre Players Present “Wait Until Dark” [Berkshire on Stage]

March 20th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

In a basement apartment in Greenwich Village, Suzy, a recently blinded woman, is terrorized by a trio of thugs looking for a drug-stuffed doll they think is in the apartment. Will she see through the conmen’s bizarre charade? As the suspense mounts moment to moment, come see the electrifying conclusion to the tense thriller, Wait Until Dark.

Directed by Val Gray and produced by Shirley Neiss, the Circle Theatre Players production opens on Friday (March 24) and continues March 25, 30, 31 and April 1 at 8pm; March 26 and April 2 at 2:30pm. Tickets $18; adults; $10 under age 18. Prepaid reservations can be made at www.slca-ctp.org or call (518) 674-2007. The Sand Lake Center for the Arts is located at 2880 NY Route 43, Averill Park, NY, and is fully handicapped accessible, with free parking. Wait Until Dark is written by Frederick Knott, presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

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“Doubt” Opens at Schenectady Civic Players on Friday [Berkshire on Stage]

March 16th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara
Meigg Jupin as Sister James and Ben Katagiri as Father Flynn in “DOUBT, A Parable” at Schenectady Civic Players.

Meigg Jupin as Sister James and Ben Katagiri as Father Flynn in “DOUBT, A Parable” at Schenectady Civic Players

Award winning Doubt, A Parable, by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Tom Templeton, opens Friday (March 17) and runs through Sunday, March 26 at Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church Street in Schenectady’s historic Stockade district.

In this brilliant and powerful drama, Sister Aloysius, a Bronx school principal, takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the young Father Flynn of improper relations with one of the male students.

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“Souvenir” Kicks Off Bridge Street Theatre’s Season [Berkshire on Stage]

March 15th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

On October 25, 1944, wealthy (and tone-deaf) soprano Florence Foster Jenkins and her accompanist Cosme McMoon performed a recital at Carnegie Hall. Tickets sold out weeks in advance; an estimated 2,000 people were turned away at the door. The world of music has never quite recovered. Come share the hilarious and touching tale of this unlikely pair in the musical Souvenir at Catskill’s Bridge Street Theatre. The show kicks off on Thursday (March 16) with a pay-what-you-will performance and continues through Sunday, March 26.

Opera impresario Ira Siff, who dubbed her “the anti-Callas”, has said, “Jenkins was exquisitely bad, so bad that it added up to quite a good evening of theater … There was no end to the horribleness … They say Cole Porter had to bang his cane into his foot in order not to laugh out loud when she sang. She was that bad.” The historian Stephen Pile ranked her as “the world’s worst opera singer.” “No one, before or since,” he wrote, “has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.”

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“Mothers & Sons” Opens at the Ghent Playhouse on Friday [Berkshire on Stage]

March 14th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Wendy Power Spielmann and Ely Loskowitz in Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” at the Ghent Playhouse. Photo: Cindy Smith.

Wendy Power Spielmann and Ely Loskowitz in Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” at the Ghent Playhouse (photo: Cindy Smith)

The Ghent Playhouse presents the regional premier of Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons – a timely and touching contemporary play about change, reconciliation and becoming a family.

Mothers and Sons opens on Friday (March 17) and runs through Sunday, April 2 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.

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