Posts Tagged ‘Gail Burns’

Will Pittsfield’s Shakespeare in the Park Become a Reality This Summer? It’s Up to Us… [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Shakepeare in the park

Commentary by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: Berkshire natives and visitors love outdoor, bring-a-picnic entertainment – the lawn at Tanglewood, concerts at the Clark, Windsor Lake, and the Bandstand in Great Barrington, the WTF Free Theatre, Bankside entertainments at Shakespeare & Company, and the BTG productions on the Ellenoff Stage at The Mount, and now the possibility of free Shakespeare in the Park in Pittsfield. The recent announcement was an historic day for the city.

Larry Murray: That’s right, Gail, it’s another positive development for Pittsfield, and while we have seen the genial Mayor Bianchi at other theatrical announcements, he seemed particularly excited about what this new theatre company and its series of eight open air performances mean to his city and Springside Park. But even with free performances, there are expenses to be paid, and a crowdsourced Indiegogo funding campaign has been launched to let the public help make it a reality. More on that a bit later. What do you think of the concept in general? Been there, done that?

Gail: I confess that I didn’t frequent NY Public Theatre’s free outdoor Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park when I was growing up. But I have enjoyed many outdoor performances here in Berkshire county and have even staged a few of my own. I love watching the bats start swooping over a performance to catch the insects attracted by the stage lights as dusk falls.

Larry: There is something about outdoor performances during the glory days of summer that are like catnip for families. Who doesn’t like a glorious warm evening, stars sparkling above, and the fun of an easily digestible Shakespeare play like A Midsummer’s Night Dream. That play may seem to be done a lot to us regular theater-goers, but scratch most people and they have never seen it, so it seems a perfect choice to kick off this new Berkshire attraction. There will be dozens of children pretending to be Puck after they see it, and repeating its many famous lines.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


MCLA Presents Offers Unusual Tabletop Puppet Docu-Drama “Who’s Hungry?” [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, March 31st, 2014

MCLA Presents "Who’s Hungry?"

Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: You took a little convincing to give up a Saturday afternoon for a puppet show, Larry.

Larry Murray: Yes, I was resistant, perhaps because I thought I had experienced just about everything the miniature world of puppetry could offer, but I was wrong.

Gail: If your idea of puppetry is still the hand puppets on Captain Kanagroo and Mister Rogers, the marionettes in The Sound of Music, or even the Muppets, be ready to be surprised! For one thing, these productions are not for little children, although tweens and teens with a theatrical bent will love them.

Larry: The thought that has stuck in my head is that this wasn’t the first puppet documentary I had seen. Mass MoCA brought in Dan Hurlin, who designed and directed this show, in 2010 with his sensational puppet biography of eccentric Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer. (Larry’s article) That too was “tabletop puppetry,” an advance on the art form that uses traditional techniques from Bunraku to shadow puppetry, and in this case, with two slow-motion Robert Wilson-esque sequences for model cars and accessories.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Theater: Problematic Production of “Private Lives” @ Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Private Lives at Shakespeare & Company (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Private Lives at Shakespeare & Company (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Roseann Cane

Roseann Cane: Currently at Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox through the end of March, “Private Lives,” first presented in 1930, is probably revived more often than any play by Noël Coward. It has been subject of a myriad of literary analyses, many of which claim the play a reflection, or product of, Coward’s homosexual “world view.” Then, there are some who’ve declared Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” to be a play about homosexuality; various reports have Albee guffawing or expressing sheer exasperation in response. Of course, the works of these two masters are different as chalk and cheese, but I feel the need to emphasize the grave error we make when we assume sexual orientation trumps common humanity.

Gail M. Burns: During the 1920′s American women got the vote and ladies world-wide threw off their corsets and bobbed their hair in an unprecedented statement of physical freedom and autonomy. Here Coward makes Amanda (Dana Harrison) by far the more sexually aggressive character on the stage, and makes it clear that she neither regrets it nor finds her lifestyle unusual. Implicit in her “slatternly” ways is that she uses some form of birth control, because she is overtly unmaternal.

Roseann: Probably the frequent ‘Private Lives” revivals have more to do with the sophisticated silliness, the buoyant wit and wordplay, and the famous lines that are still amusing today, particularly those of Elyot (whom Coward originally played, and who is played by David Joseph in this production). “Don’t quibble, Sybil,” he responds to his new young wife early in the play. Later on, he declares, “Women should be struck regularly, like gongs.” And it IS funny, because we understand that Elyot is being superficial, and supercilious, too . There’s also the matter that he gets stricken as much as he strikes.

Gail: Today we are highly sensitive to the issue of domestic violence, but there are couples, like Elyot and Amanda, for whom physical altercations are part of the mating dance. The aggression is mutual. Amanda claims to be “covered in bruises” but there are no visible results from her rough and tumble session. At the end we see that Sibyl (Annie Considine) and Victor (Adam Huff) are similarly matched. The issue is controversial, but here we have to accept it as a part of the wide spectrum of human attraction.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Review: A Spookily Enjoyable “DARK An End of the World Play…” in Great Barrington [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, February 27th, 2014
(l to r) Sara Katzoff (Kessie) , Michael Brahce (Emmet), and Emma K. Dweck (Ida) in DARK at Mixed Company Theatre in Great Barrington.

(l to r) Sara Katzoff (Kessie) , Michael Brahce (Emmet), and Emma K. Dweck (Ida) in DARK at Mixed Company Theatre in Great Barrington.

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: You never know what you are going to discover at the Mixed Company Theatre space in Great Barrington, MA. Since my first trip there with you five years ago, it continues to be a true incubator for playwrights and smaller, hand-crafted theatre companies. The innovative play, DARK An End of the World Play with Music and an Exercise Bike is from Timothy Ryan Olson (book), Peter Wise (score) and Sara Katzoff (actress), the people at Bazaar Productions who bring us the Berkshire Fringe Festival, operating here as Kickwheel Ensemble Theater.

Gail M. Burns: DARK premiered during the 2012 Berkshire Fringe (Review), which is where I first saw it, but this was your first encounter with the show.

Larry: With so much of the summer divided between the two of us, I didn’t get to see the original, which means it was all fresh and new to me. DARK hung together quite well, constantly surprising us at several points with its bicycle-driven lighting and seemingly spontaneous singing.

Gail: I found it slightly less suspenseful the second time around, because the basic plot remained much the same, but I had fun looking to spot the changes. The same cast reunites here, with director Adam Sugarman the only new member of the team.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Theater: Ten Fun 10X10 Plays Brighten the Midwinter Doldrums at Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
An intimate moment from the 10X10 New Play Festival. Dina Thomas and John Zdrojeski. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

An intimate moment from the 10X10 New Play Festival. Dina Thomas and John Zdrojeski. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: For the third straight year Barrington Stage is spearheading Pittsfield’s mid-winter 10X10 Upstreet Arts Festival with their annual collection of ten new ten-minute plays. The whole Festival got off to a bit of a slow start this year as we all coped with (yet more) snow, but on the day of the press opening the sun shone, and we got to enjoy this delightful potpourri of little bijou plays.

Larry Murray: I love this new play festival, coming as it does in the middle of a particularly cold and snowy winter in the Berkshires. I like how it gives six actors and three directors a chance to come together in much the same way a repertory company does. It’s when everyone gets to wear several hats, don colorful costumes and inhabit several totally different roles over the course of one evening.

Gail: Of the six actors, two – Berkshire residents Matt Neely and Peggy Pharr Wilson – have been involved in all three 10X10′s, and Robert Zuckerman is back for a second time, so they really do have the makings of a company. Emily Kunkel and Dina Thomas have both appeared in BSC Main Stage productions – All My Sons and See How They Run respectively. Only young John Zdrojeski is making his BSC debut.

Larry: Ten playwrights took part, and I was delighted to note that several had a much younger viewpoint than usual, and that there were as many women writers as men represented. That may be why I found some of the humor unusually fresh. The Possethsion by Ron Burch got things off with a bang, providing some great twists and turns straight out of the starting gate, giving us a comic book version of Rosemary’s Baby.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Burns and Murray Discuss and Dissect Barrington Stage Company’s 20th Season [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Julianne Boyd in front of her company’s Union Street theatre, Photo by Larry Murray.

Julianne Boyd in front of her company’s Union Street theatre, Photo by Larry Murray.

by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: I have long described Barrington Stage Company (BSC), as a tenacious little theatre company that started life twenty years ago in Sheffield. But over two decades, both their budget and reputation has grown to make them arguably the leading theatre company in the Berkshires. They’ve sent shows to New York, the latest being 2013′s On the Town which is being prepared for a fall Broadway opening. The company has come a long way, don’t you think, Gail?

Gail M. Burns: My first visit to BSC was in August of 1998, their fourth year. After that I never missed a season, lured in by both the chance to see top-notch productions of seldom-seen musicals – Mack and Mabel, On the 20th Century, Falsettos, The Human Comedy – and the very reasonable ticket prices. I have followed them from the Consolati auditorium at Mt. Everett Regional High School, through a variety of guest stints and make-shift spaces, to their current facilities in downtown Pittsfield. There have been many more hits than misses, but there has always been a sense of adventure, excitement, and professionalism. The common denominator has been the vision and energy of Artistic Director Julianne Boyd.

Larry: Sitting on the Boyd-Quinson stage for the season announcement was a revelation. I had never set foot on the actual stage, and was shocked at how little wing and crossover space there was to work with. It made me doubly appreciative of the miracles BSC’s production teams accomplish every time they mount a big brassy musical like On the Town or West Side Story.

Gail: Most of our regional stages are remarkably tiny. It felt crowded with all of us lunching. Keeping frantically dancing bodies from colliding in that confined space seems unthinkable.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

BEST OF 2013: Berkshire on Stage’s Best Plays and Musicals of the Year

Thursday, January 9th, 2014
WAM’s Emilie was a stunner.

WAM’s Emilie was a stunner.

by Gail M.Burns, Roseann Cane and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: As the clock runs out on 2013, it’s memory time, and how blessed we are to be living and working in the Berkshire regional arts community. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, history will recognize this as an extraordinary time and place for the arts in America, especially for live theatre, which is what you, Roseann and I team up to cover.

Larry Murray: Our readers look to our reports for both guidance and to compare their reactions with ours. If we are the theatre-crazed trio, they are the force that keep our local theatre companies going.

Gail: We both acknowledge that there is more summer theatre in the region than any one person can cover, so this year we agreed to divide and conquer – for instance you covered the season in Williamstown and I covered the season in Chester, while Roseann pitched in to round out the coverage. Consequently there were many shows that only one of us saw, so this “Best of…” list reflects our combined opinions.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Richard Brody’s Top 14 Shows of the Year
Timothy Reidy’s Top 10 Concerts Outside of Albany
Timothy Reidy’s Best Albany Concerts of the Year
Stanley Johnson’s Top 15 Most Memorable Entertainment Events of the Year
Fred Rudofsky’s Top 25 Concerts of the Year
Timothy Reidy’s Year in Review Video
Mike Hotter’s Favorite Albums of the Year
Fred Rudofsky’s Best Albums of the Year
J Hunter’s Best Concerts of the Year
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

Got a Best of 2013 list that you’d like to share with Nippertown readers? Best concerts of the year? Best Local 518 music moments of the year? Best plays? Best art gallery exhibits? Best books by local authors? Best whatever? Please keep it local, but send it along to

“It’s a Wonderful Life” Gets a New Twist @ Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, December 16th, 2013
David Joseph, Sarah Taylor and Jonathan Croy in It's A Wonderful Life

David Joseph, Sarah Taylor and Jonathan Croy (photo by Enrico Spada)

Theater review and discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: What can be more fitting for the holidays than It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which is the story of idealistic George Bailey as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. Do you agree that Shakespeare & Company captured all the magic of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life in this production?

Gail M. Burns: Darned if I know. I am one of the few adult Americans who has never seen the film all the way through. This iteration, adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Francis Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling, reimagines the story as performed by five stalwart radio actors on a snowy Christmas Eve when the sound effects guy gets stuck in the blizzard and can’t get to the studio. We, the studio audience for the broadcast, get the fun of watching them cope with the emergency and perform all the music and sound effects, as well as the well-worn story of George Bailey.

Larry: Landry didn’t miss a single plot point of the film, and the five actors created the dozens of characters with just their voices. It was astonishing to hear Ryan Winkles change his voice instantly from Clarence the angel (second class) to Bert the cop. He played a dozen roles, as did favorite Jonathan Croy and the amazing Jennie M. Jadow. These chameleons changed accent, tone and cadence from one character to the next like racers taking the hairpin turn on the Mohawk Trail.

Gail: David Joseph and Sarah Jeanette Taylor anchor the story as George Bailey and the woman he marries, Mary Hatch. They also provide much of the charming music, with Taylor on piano and Joseph as the lead vocalist. The whole show, but especially the music, was charming in its simplicity and beauty, with many songs sung virtually a cappella. Joseph plinks out a few notes on the xylophone and Winkles bravely tackles a trombone riff, but Jadow on violin and Taylor on piano provide the melodic lines.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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