THEATER REVIEW: “The Birds” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

June 22nd, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Kathleen McNenny, Sasha Diamond, and Stevie Ray Dallimore. Photo: Scott Barrow

Kathleen McNenny, Sasha Diamond, and Stevie Ray Dallimore. Photo: Scott Barrow

Review by Macey Levin

To be clear! The title of the short story “The Birds” written by Daphne Du Maurier in 1952 is the only thing the play – currently at Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield – has in common with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 thriller.

Adapted for the stage by acclaimed Irish playwright Conor McPherson, “The Birds” has a prescient quality in that the human race is doomed due to climate change, a phrase that does not occur in the play. Because of a change in environmental conditions nature has turned on itself creating an uninhabitable planet. Birds, whose migratory patterns have been disrupted because of a change in global warmth and tides, cluster by the thousands seeking food and devastating the landscape, ultimately attacking animals and humans. Tierney (Rocco Sisto), a farmer, says, “The bluejays killed my dog.”

Diane (Kathleen McNenny) and Nat (Stevie Ray Dallimore) stumble across each other after they have abandoned their cars on a road. They wend their way through woods attempting to avoid an assault until they discover a run-down lakeside cottage. They become aware that the birds’ aggressive actions come only during high tide, giving them an opportunity to leave the house to scavenge for food and other supplies in a local village that has been ravaged by the birds; their acquisitions are meager.

They have also seen Tierney carrying a shotgun on the other side of the lake, but it appears to be too far to travel to contact him. After they establish a routine and modify their intake of food and water, they are joined by Julia (Sasha Diamond), a young woman who says that she has fled a group of predatory humans. Her entrance into their lives changes the dynamic of Diane and Nat’s daily existence.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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THEATER REVIEW: “4000 Miles” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

June 1st, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Annette Miller in 4000 Miles.

Gregory Boover and Annette Miller in 4000 Miles.

Review by Macey Levin

Leo has cycled across the United States from Washington State, with several side jaunts, finally to arrive at his Grandma Vera’s apartment in Manhattan. Amy Herzog’s gentle play 4000 Miles, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013, currently at Shakespeare & Co.’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre in Lenox, examines the relationship of these two people who have family bonds but are light-years away from each other due to their generational disparities. These differences in attitudes and life experiences are key to the thematic statements of this terrific production.

The eighty-something-year-old Vera (Annette Miller) has lived her life in New York City where she and her late husband Joe were political lefties; Leo (Gregory Boover) is a philosophical lefty who is also a vegan, an environmentalist… and all those things one would expect of a twenty-something-year-old who doesn’t know who he is or what he wants to do with his life. The two parry, hug, laugh and argue about small things and then confide in each other about big things. Most importantly, they help each other. Vera sets Leo on a path to maturity; Leo gives Vera a newly-found respect for herself.

The characters roll through a series of mini-crises and a couple of blow-ups, some dealing with Leo’s love/hate relationship with his mother, whom he calls Jane; a problem that has arisen between him and his adopted Chinese sister; Vera’s missing checkbook and more. None of the various situations causes grave conflict, but the two gain insight into each other and themselves.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “True West” @ the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

May 22nd, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara
Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang.

Review by Macey Levin

Sam Shepard is one of the country’s major playwrights having received nearly every award the American theatre and film industry has to offer. His major works include True West, The Tooth of Crime, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child (1979 Pulitzer Prize), Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind.

True West, first performed in 1980 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco and currently at the Ghent Playhouse in Ghent through Sunday, June 4, has a structured plot unlike much of Shepard’s canon. In most of his other works, the story line is fractured with flashbacks and flash-forwards accompanied by extensive, often rambling monologues. This play utilizes a perceptible dramatic arc while incorporating many of Shepard’s preferred themes… the bane of family, the fabled West vs. the real West, the fallibility of the American Dream. Though there are very intense and violent scenes, True West is laced with numerous comic moments.

Taking place 40 miles outside Los Angeles, Austin (Kevin Kilb), a budding screenwriter with a suburban existence, is minding his mother’s house while she is on a trip to Alaska. His older brother Lee (Nathaniel Drake), an itinerant alcoholic small-time thief, suddenly appears after spending three months alone in the desert. Their bantering reflects their life-long contentious relationship. Lee tells his brother that he has a better idea for a film about the real West rather than Austin’s mundane love story.

After meeting Saul Kimmer (Rob Weber), a film producer who is interested in Austin’s script, Lee wheedles himself into Saul’s favor by relating his plot concept. As the acrimony between the brothers builds, an emotional undercurrent slowly leads to a reversal of attitudes. Lee is intent on writing his screenplay and Austin wants to forsake all has to live in the desert. The arrival of their mother (Stephanie Sloane) triggers a precipitous conclusion.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight” @ Shakespeare & Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

April 5th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Kim Stauffer and Suzanne Ankrum as the dead and the dying Emilie. Photo by Enrico Spada.

Kim Stauffer and Suzanne Ankrum as the dead and the dying Emilie. Photo by Enrico Spada.

Review by Macey Levin

Emilie: La Marquise Du Chalet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson is receiving a high-energy remounting by WAM Theatre at Shakespeare & Co.’s Tina Packer Playhouse in Lenox. It was previously performed in 2013 in a highly praised production. The original WAM cast has reunited to once again bring an electric piece of theater to a Berkshire stage.

Emilie du Chalet died at the age of 42 in Paris in 1748. She had built a career for herself that was unheard of for a woman as a physicist, a mathematician, a translator, an author and, though married, the famed Voltaire’s mistress. When Emilie greets us at the very opening of the play, she has just passed away. She proceeds to tell us of her life in order to define the kind of woman she was so that history and we will remember her.

Married to a military man who is often away fighting in France’s wars, she indulges her passion for physics to the detriment of her daughter. She also indulges her need for Voltaire, the famed scientist/philosopher. Her initial relationship with him is on a professional level as they work through various mathematical problems in preparation of a book. Due to his romantic escapades she offers him the use of a rural house and joins him there as his lover.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Camping With Henry and Tom” @ Barrington Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

October 13th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Sara
Kevin O’Rourke, Patrick Husted & PJ Benjamin in Camping with Henry and Tom. Photo by Scott Barrow.

Kevin O’Rourke, Patrick Husted & PJ Benjamin in “Camping with Henry and Tom.” Photo by Scott Barrow.

Review by Macey Levin

At the opening night of Mark St. Germain’s play Camping with Henry and Tom, Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, declared for this season’s finale that she and her staff didn’t realize the relevance of the play when it was originally selected. Though first produced at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in 1993 when Ms. Boyd was artistic director there, the play could have been written last night with lines from the past week’s newscasts.

Some of the issues, personalities and catch-phrases that have been involved in the current presidential election are in this flawed but intriguing play. The characters – Thomas Alva Edison, Henry Ford and President Warren G. Harding – argue over corruption in government, the need for an outsider to be elected, sexual escapades of elected officials, immigration (Ford has an extensive speech in which he says, “First get rid of the Jews”) and “Let’s make America great again,” amongst other comments.

The premise of the play is partially based on an actual incident. Ford and Edison used to go camping together; St. Germain fictionalized their last trip, in 1921, by including Harding. They decide to leave the fictional campsite where their aides and the press have surrounded them to seek a quiet time. Ford, driving a Model T, veers to miss a deer on a mountainous road, disabling his car by running into a tree. Their first and continuing argument is what to do about the injured deer. Their attitude and decisions toward it mirror the development of the conflicts. While they wait to be rescued their various aspirations and personalities are revealed.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “The Bakelite Masterpiece” @ the Unicorn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

October 12th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Sara
David Adkins and Corinna May in WAM Theatre’s Bakelite Masterpiece (photo: Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware)

David Adkins and Corinna May in WAM Theatre’s Bakelite Masterpiece (photo: Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware)

Review by Macey Levin

Under what circumstances would a convicted art forger gain his freedom by forging another masterpiece? The current production of The Bakelite Masterpiece by Kate Cayley, jointly produced by WAM Theatre and Berkshire Theatre Group at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, explores an historical incident in the Netherlands during the late stages of World War II.

Han van Meegeren (David Adkins) has been sentenced to be executed for having sold an original painting by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer to Nazi leader Hermann Goering. His defense is that the painting was his forgery. The prosecutor Geert Piller, (Corinna May) an art historian and resistance fighter, conducts one last interview demanding Meegeren sign a prepared confession. He refuses citing the fact that the painting was not the original. To prove his facility at forgery he requests that he be allowed to demonstrate his ability to recreate another Vermeer. Out of curiosity, Piller agrees.

He tells her he will reproduce Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, the “long-lost” painting he sold to Goering, if she will pose for him in a blue dress. Reluctantly, she agrees. Instead he paints an interpretation of Vermeer’s Woman in a Blue Dress. Both are attempting to define their respective version of the truth; he to demonstrate the validity of his claim; she to reinforce the case against him. As van Meergeren starts to paint, he and his watchdog develop a relationship of mutual respect. After feinting and parrying through several conversations each becomes concerned for the other.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Tribes” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

August 25th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
C. David Johnson, Deirdre Madigan, Joshua Castille, Justine Salata and Miles G. Jackson (photo: Scott Barrow)

C. David Johnson, Deirdre Madigan, Joshua Castille, Justine Salata and Miles G. Jackson
(photo: Scott Barrow)

Review by Macey Levin

For the deaf, there are four divisions: those born deaf, those who lose their hearing, those who lip read and those who use sign language. Playwright Nina Raines calls them, and other groups, “tribes” in the play of that same name currently at Barrington Stage Company’s Boyd-Quinson Main Stage in Pittsfield.

Tribes is an intriguing play with some flaws. The first scenes introduce a highly dysfunctional North London family. The patriarch, Christopher (C. David Johnson) a self-involved former teacher turned writer, tries to rule his conflicted family with an iron hand and injurious comments. His wife Beth (Deirdre Madigan) argues with him and their two oldest children, who have recently returned to live at home, at the least provocation. Daniel (Miles G. Jackson) is a schizophrenic who has been rejected by a young woman his family abhorred. The daughter Ruth (Justine Salata), a depressive, believes she is an opera singer with an outstanding future. The youngest son Billy (Joshua Castille) attempts to ameliorate the conflicts with measured success. He has learned to speak by lip-reading his family and the guidance of his mother. Christopher feels that if Billy signs there will be a stigma covering his son. He declares, the deaf “…are the Muslims of the handicapped world.”

Into Billy’s life comes Sylvia (Eli Pauley), the child of deaf parents with whom she signs; she tells him she is slowly losing her hearing. Their initially tenuous relationship moves into a love affair; she helps him get his first ever job as a lip reader for the courts when videotapes do not have audio. When he brings Sylvia home to meet the family, she is subjected to an inquisition led by Christopher, especially when he learns she signs. Various confrontations soon develop between Billy and the family as well as with Sylvia.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “And No More Shall We Part” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

August 16th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Reviewe by Macey Levin

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s American premiere of And No More Shall We Part by Australian playwright Tom Holloway is a challenging piece to write about. It offers so much in its content that requires great tolerance and that is played with outstanding theatrical energy and insight.

Pam (Jane Kaczmarek) and Don (Alfred Molina), middle-age parents of a son and daughter who are out on their own, live a simple and loving life. Pam has had a disease, never identified, for a period of time. Since treatments will no longer help her, she has decided to end her life to save Don and the children the agony of watching her deteriorate into unbearable pain. Told in flashbacks, we see the couple argue about the process of unassisted suicide. He can’t allow her to do it; she insists it is the best thing to do. He wants to be there when she takes the pills; she says he can‘t because that will implicate him in her death. Little by little he reluctantly acquiesces to everything she asks or demands.

Those of us of a certain age have faced, in one way or another, the traumas they are going through. Facing the loss of a loved one is a test of our own strength for it is not an easy realization that one’s life will be severely changed. This is part of Don’s reaction. He does not want Pam to leave him; he decries her actions as being selfish. He tells her to think of what she is doing to the family by taking herself away. To her, it is an act of love. Watching them is heart-rending.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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