Posts Tagged ‘Gail Burns’

A Thought-Provoking “Red” Stars Tim Daly at Dorset Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
“Red” at the Dorset Theatre Festival starring Tim Daly and Charles Socarides (photo: Taylor Crichton)

“Red” at the Dorset Theatre Festival starring Tim Daly and Charles Socarides
(photo: Taylor Crichton)

Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: As the lights come up on “Red” at the Dorset Theatre Festival, Mark Rothko (Tim Daly) is staring intently through the fourth wall looking, not at the audience, but rather at some imaginary painting he has just finished, and asks: “What do you see?”

Larry Murray: For me, those words signify the beginning of a wonderful excursion into the mind of the artist, as imagined by playwright John Logan. As we took our seats, that incredibly detailed set by John McDermott and the classical music playing in the background told me a lot about Rothko and his life as an artist.

Gail: It is a marvelous set, very realistic. I love creative spaces, they tell a lot about the artist, which is exactly what McDermott and director Adrienne Campbell-Holt intend. There are existing photos of Rothko in his studio at about this time – the play is set in 1958-1959 when Rothko was at the verge of waning as an artist – which show a less cluttered space with more natural light than either this set or Logan’s script describe, but they also show how enormous Rothko’s canvases are. Everything had to be scaled down to fit on the Dorset stage.

Larry: In many ways this was an expedition into the mind of an artist, a trip stimulated by Logan’s visit to the Tate in London during a film shoot where the Rothko Seagram paintings were. Created for the Four Seasons Restaurant, the writer was smitten by them and they in turn prompted him to write the play. “I thought about the way the colors in the paintings vibrate back and forth,” he said, deciding “it would be a great two-hander because it sorta represents and mirrors his work. Once I came up with the idea of Rothko and his assistant, everything fell in place.” And, as theatre, it works as the device to get us to learn about his art. Tim Daly as Rothko and Charles Socarides as Ken are able to answer that question, not once, but again and again.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Dueling Appraisals of “Kiss Me, Kate” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
Elizabeth Stanley and Paul Anthony Stewart and the cast of Kiss Me, Kate (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Elizabeth Stanley and Paul Anthony Stewart and the cast of Kiss Me, Kate (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Roseann Cane

Gail M. Burns: Kiss Me, Kate is not my favorite musical, but this production just blew me away. Everything about it was perfect. It was big and bold and colorful – non-stop action and comedy and dancing…I am out of superlatives. All I can say is Wowee-wow-wow! Whadda show!

Roseann Cane: Considered his most successful musical, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway on December 30, 1948, and ran for more than a thousand performances, winning the first ever Tony Award for Best Musical. …Kate was produced rather late in Porter’s remarkable career – his first Broadway show, in 1916, was the far-less-well-received See America First.

Gail: I think I like Porter’s songs far better than the shows and films they were written for. By the time he wrote Kiss Me, Kate, most of which was penned right here in the Berkshires in the Porters’ home in Williamstown, he had already lived through a decade of constant pain following a riding accident that left him crippled. Delightful as it is, the song “Where Is the Life That Late I Led” takes on a rueful irony for Porter himself.

Roseann: Based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kate is essentially art imitating life imitating art. A divorced couple reunites to go on the road with a musical version of Shakespeare’s play, and their backstage relationship parallels the action onstage. Actress Lilli Vanessi (Elizabeth Stanley) has become a movie star since her separation from Fred Graham (Paul Anthony Stewart), the swaggering, egocentric director and producer of the play. Lilli, although preparing to remarry, is still in love with Fred, and hides her feelings until she receives a bouquet of flowers Fred had intended for someone else.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire On Stage.

Review: Kristen Wold Makes a Tour-de-Force of “Shakespeare’s Will” [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, June 9th, 2014
Kristen Wold (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Kristen Wold (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Shakespeare’s Will has everything going for it except the truth, and the details that would inform us about the life of Shakespeare and those closest to him are essentially unknowable. While Kristen Wold, who plays Anne Hathaway, is absolutely convincing on stage, we saw what was, in essence, a gossip play.

Gail M. Burns: We should make it clear that we are discussing Anne Hathaway (1555/56– 6 August 1623) who was married to William Shakespeare, not the Academy Award-winning actress who is alive today. Like most women of her time, we know nothing about her except for what she did through the church and the legal system, and what men she “belonged to.” We know that she was baptized, married, her children were baptized and she was buried. We know who her father, brothers and husband were and what property they owned. We know that she and the children lived in Stratford, in Warwickshire, England, while her husband lived for many years in London while he worked in the theatre. At the time of their marriage, Shakespeare was 18 and Hathaway was 26 and pregnant.

Larry: As a playwright, one of the things you have going for you when you write about a dead person is the inability of the deceased to come back and challenge your assertions. Far more people claimed to have sex with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe after they died than when they were alive. And I suspect that Shakespeare was far less randy than the playwright Vern Thiessen has worked into his play, Shakespeare’s Will.

Gail: Or more so. Mores were very different back then, and it would be interesting to learn more about how married but separate couples like Hathaway and Shakespeare were expected to comport themselves.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Top Picks: Summer Theatre in and Around the Berkshires of Massachusetts [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, June 5th, 2014
The Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge has long been a theatre landmark.

The Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge has long been a theatre landmark.

by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: Well, Larry, the leaves are out and the lawn-mowers are humming. And it looks like another Berkshire summer we get to spend in darkened theatres! Since we are giving up the sunshine and flowers, just what fun is in store for us this season?

Larry Murray: With four major regional theatre companies in the Berkshires – and a dozen more just beyond its borders – we’ve made a pretty good bargain, Gail. The summer of 2014 is a festival of plays and musicals. Here are our picks as the most interesting.

WILLIAMSTOWN THEATRE FESTIVAL

Gail: Quite a few stars are headed for my environs in Williamstown to trod the boards of the ’62 Center for the Arts on the Williams College campus. The company likes to mix things up, and as a goodbye gift, previous artistic director Jennie Gersten has left quite an impressive slate in place.

Larry: For opera fans it will be soprano Renee Fleming starring in LIVING ON LOVE by Joe DiPietro and Garson Kanin that is the must-see. Running from July 16-26 and based on a Garson Kanin play, the outing will be directed by Kathleen Marshall. Opera writers from around the country are headed to the Berkshires to see it.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

“The Other Place,” a Riveting 90 Minutes of Suspenseful Theater [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Marg Helgenberger takes us to The Other Place at Barrington Stage Company

Marg Helgenberger takes us to “The Other Place” at Barrington Stage Company

Theatre Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns: The Other Place is a riveting 90 minutes of suspenseful theatre, a challenging mystery play in which we try to piece together just what is happening to eminent scientist Juliana Smithton (Marg Helgenberger), and why.

Larry Murray: As we watch the play unfold, our minds race to comprehend what’s gong on. Not until the final monologue do we really come to grips with that, and the last 10 minutes were so forceful that our expectations completely shift. When I left the theater, I felt like the world had changed.

Gail: Like a treasure map, in the program for The Other Place – which opens the 20th Season of Barrington Stage – director Christopher Innvar provides the key to open this puzzle box when he quotes the playwright, Sharr White:

“A particular feature of the very smart people in my life is that they think their sheer intelligence can keep them from all manner of harm. It’s a beautiful, yet very vulnerable form of arrogance…[Juliana] is by any measure one of the smartest people on earth: witty, sharp, sexy, aggressive and self-assured. And yet because so much of herself hinges on her estimation of her great mind, she also exists in a terrible state of vulnerability. Take her mind away – even a little bit of it – and what does she have left?”

This is also a play about loss and how we cope with it. Innvar states in his Director’s Note that he perceives this an ensemble piece about family: “What happens when one member is set adrift, lost at sea? Only by admitting that we are lost can we be found, and with luck, discover the pieces of ourselves that we thought were lost forever, and arrive safely home.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Oldcastle Theatre Premieres Fast-Paced “Play Date” in Bennington [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Oldcastlet Theatre Company

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: In Play Date, when three couples decide to get to together with their children for some adult conversation while the young ones play, all seems normal enough. But from the moment the lights come up, the complications begin.

Gail M. Burns: You know, in my day a “play date” was called a cocktail party. They happened on Saturday evenings, and the parents had drinks and snacks while we kids ran amok. The premise here is that the kids get the drinks and snacks (expressed breast milk and free-range organic chicken cubes) while the parents run amok!

Quick plot synopsis – Blaine’s political ambitions ruin his wife Missy’s plans to have a “play date” not only for their son but for herself as well with washed up actor/stay at home dad Trent, when he announces that he’s staying home to campaign amongst the mommies. Missy quickly invites the divorced Carol and the impossibly perfect Deb (an endorsement from whose husband is the aim of Blaine’s political ambitions) and their offspring to join in, while Blaine invites the widowed Rowan, a British professor of literature, and his daughter to complete the gender balance. The parents’ needs and desires mix and mingle to create comic chaos while the unseen children disport themselves as children will, despite Blaine’s efforts to entertain them with his campaign power point. By the generally happy ending many problems are resolved and lessons learned, by the grown-ups, not the kids.

Larry: This play – a world premiere by Dramatist’s Guild member John Morogiello – demands a great deal from its cast of two players, the solid Jim Staudt who alternates in the roles of Blaine, Trent and Rowan, and the impressive Sandy York whose Missy, Carol and Deb are simply unforgettable. It’s not an easy task to play three essential characters so that there is no audience confusion.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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.

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