Intelligent, Riveting “Time Stands Still” Probes War, Life, Marriage @ Oldcastle Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

June 8th, 2015, 1:00 pm by Sara
(r to l) Marianna Bassham as Sarah (Injured photographer), Jason Guy as Jamie, Richard Howe as Richard and Kristin Parker as Mandy. (photo: Mike Cutler MHCPhotography)

(r to l) Marianna Bassham as Sarah, Jason Guy as Jamie, Richard Howe as Richard and Kristin Parker as Mandy. (photo: Mike Cutler MHCPhotography)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: Time Stands Still uses the tragedy of war to rev up its engine, but it is really more about the effect these conflicts have on the lives of journalists and photographers who cover them than anything else. In fact, in this Donald Margulies play, the journalist James (Jason Guy) recounts an evening spent in the theater listening to a series of monologues about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mercifully, this play avoids such lectures. Theater-goers – presumably like the ones at the opening night of this play at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington – don’t need to be lectured about these wars, they likely read The Times and listen to NPR. Time Stands Still is actually about more important things: families and the effect covering war for a living has on them.

Gail M. Burns: It’s no surprise this play was nominated for the Tony for Best Play when it opened in New York in 2010. Margulies already had a Pulitzer Prize and another Pulitzer nomination under his belt. His dialogue is absolutely natural and easily builds character and story while it addresses fascinating issues of the necessity and morality of observing and recording atrocities.

Larry: Two of the things I really love about productions at the Oldcastle Theatre Company is the panoramic sweep of the stage and the comfortable seating they offer their ticket buyers. The set design by Carl Sprague was a detailed feast for the eyes, too. Sprague, along with props person Jenny Morgan had a field day. Waiting for the show to begin I did a visual scavenger hunt and noted such tells as a 1940s fan, a 1960s lamp and a neglected Frida Kahlo poster casually sitting on the floor of a nook. These were clear indicators that whoever is the owner of the loft – that only became clear once the play began – was not some tacky WalMart shopper, but had a long view, and a very developed sense of history. With the inspired lighting design by David Groupé, which suggested large loft windows everywhere, and historic projections of war during scene changes, the atmosphere was just perfect for the complex story as it unfolded over two years’ time.

Gail: The set is almost larger than the seating area, and Sprague cleverly opened the space to incorporate the actual stairs to the basement into the set stage right. Even so, the Brooklyn loft is a prison mentally and physically for Sarah (Marianna Bassham), an award-winning photojournalist who has spent her entire post-college career on the front lines of war and genocide around the globe. At the same time the space is a home and safe-haven for her long-time boyfriend and colleague James, who has followed a similar career path as a journalist. The couple is now in their early forties and it is now or never for them to start a family.

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Oldcastle Theatre Has an Enticing Slate of Summer Theatre Planned [Berkshire ]

April 14th, 2014, 1:00 pm by Sara
Bennington has much to offer at night including some fine restaurants and great theatre.

Bennington has much to offer at night including some fine restaurants and great theatre.

The Oldcastle Theatre Company has chosen four plays and a musical as their offerings for 2014, and all five choices intrigue. The musical is My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Lowe classic, retelling the story of an uneducated flower girl and her autocratic linguistics professor. The professor is sure he can turn her into a perfect lady who will fool even the most discerning member of the aristocracy.

We’ll let you read the recaps of the other plays below, all superb choices. It will be interesting to see who Oldcastle casts as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which is a tale whose twists and turns of life in the steamy south that never fails to draw the audience in.

For those of us in the Northern Berkshires, Bennington, VT is just next door, and both the Dorset Theatre Festival and Weston Playhouse are just a bit further. There’s great theatre tucked inside our nearby rolling mountains.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Valentine’s Day Loses Its Innocence as the Gypsy Layne Cabaret Takes the Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

February 14th, 2014, 1:00 pm by Sara

Gypsy Layne Cabaret

Story by Larry Murray

Valentine’s Day has suffered many indignities over the years, most recently when the Vatican Council demoted St. Valentine as an official holy day. Then the supermarkets removed all the fragrance from roses. And chocolates are now allowed to be made with hydrogenated fats. And nobody sends real valentines in the mail anymore. It isn’t that Valentine’s Day has been secularized, it’s that it has become an exercise in empty traditions.

While most Christian traditions started out as pagan celebrations, Valentines Day has gone from a remembrance of a Christian saint to one which takes place at the time of February’s Lupercalia (a Roman fertility festival). In ancient times women would place their names in a bowl from which the bachelors would select the person they would spend their next year with. Without having to get married or getting slapped with blood-soaked strips of dead goatskin.

That is one part of the old pagan tradition we’re happy to skip.

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Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre Aces Ken Ludwig’s Farce, “The Fox on the Fairway” [Berkshire on Stage]

August 15th, 2013, 2:00 pm by Sara
A rare moment of calm as Sophia L.. Garder (Pamrla) and Peter Langstaff (Bingham) discuss strategy. Photo Credit: Erich Augenstein

A rare moment of calm as Sophia L.. Garder (Pamrla) and Peter Langstaff (Bingham) discuss strategy. Photo Credit: Erich Augenstein

Theater Review and Discussion by Gail M.Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: You introduced me to Oldcastle this past winter when they moved into their new theatre in downtown Bennington, Vermont. And it is a treasure in our own backyard. I was impressed with the high quality of their work then, and history seems to be repeating itself with their superb rendition of Ken Ludwig’s The Fox on the Fairway.

Gail M. Burns: What a fresh and funny farce! I loved how each act opened with the individual characters reciting quotations from famous folk on the subject of golf. Of course, golf is just the back-drop for this play which is really all about love and relationships. If, like me, you have never set foot on a golf course, you will not be missing anything.

Larry: This farce is supposedly second only to Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor, but with Christine Decker at the director’s table, she fully captured the extravagant madness that this hilarious – and sometime downright silly – theatrical form demands. Farce for me is like a total vacation from worry and reality, and a flight into satire, buffoonery and physical humor of the most rarified kind. Ludwig dabbles in farce to my great enjoyment, but do you think it’s where he does his best writing?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Oldcastle Theatre Presents a Play About Searching: “A Strange Disappearance of Bees” [Berkshire on Stage]

May 14th, 2013, 1:00 pm by Sara

Oldcastle Theatre presents a play about searching: “A Strange Disappearance of Bees”

Bennington, VT: The next offering from Oldcastle Theatre Company, a professional Equity regional theatre newly installed in its renovated, fully accessible theatre space in downtown Bennington, Vermont is “A Strange Disappearance of Bees” by Elena Hartwell on May 17, running through June 2.

“A Strange Disappearance of Bees” is a beautifully written play that began simply. To hear Hartwell tell it: “I first learned about Colony Collapse Disorder at a time when my own life had started to fragment. In the space of a few years I lost my job, my confidence, my significant other, my house, and my longtime canine companion. I began to think about the parallels between human experiences and all the possible causes of CCD. The disappearance of millions of honeybees has been attributed to pesticides, cell phone interference, mites, an HIV-like virus, and the large–and less nutritious–mono-crops of big agro-businesses.

“It struck me that sometimes people disappear too. Cancers from chemicals, isolation through technology, a disconnect from community. Out of those ideas came this play. As my own life got back on track, a new love, four new animals, a new home, a re-imagined career, the drafts became more hopeful at the end. This play, to me, is art representing life, and life representing art.”

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