THEATER REVIEW: “Ragtime” at Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]

July 7th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
The full cast of RAGTIME (photo: Daniel Rader)

The full cast of “Ragtime” at Barrington Stage Co. (photo: Daniel Rader)

Review by Gail M. Burns

“You just sit there going, ‘This is our country as we know it.’ Black people are crying out that their lives matter. Women are saying, ‘I can never go back to before.’ Immigrants are saying, ‘What is wrong with this country?’ These are all lyrics from the show, and they’re all words from the television today…it really makes you think about where we are as a country and where we need to be and how do we get there.” – Lynn Ahrens, lyricist for Ragtime, in a recent interview in The Interval

Immigrants are being openly discriminated against. Violence against black people goes unpunished. Women are fighting for their rights. The rich are getting richer. Workers are struggling for fair pay. Welcome to 1906.

That was the year that the house in New Rochelle, NY, owned by novelist E. L. Doctorow in the mid-1970’s, was built. And it was in that house he wrote Ragtime, named one of the best novels of the 20th century, which provides the source material for this musical.

At Barrington Stage Co., director Joe Calarco and scenic designer Brian Prather have set this production in the attic of that handsome home in New Rochelle. The stories that the mementos there provoke are at once immediate and of another time. They “hold the mirror up to nature” and we clearly see our reflection in our ancestors’ lives.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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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.

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.

“Children of a Lesser God” Comes to the Fitzpatrick [Berkshire on Stage]

June 19th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Children of a Lessser God at Berkshire Theatre Group

Berkshire Theatre Group presents the Tony Award-winning Children of a Lesser God, directed by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon. The play runs from Thursday (June 22) through Saturday, July 22 at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge.

In today’s culture, there are endless methods of communication. Are we truly listening to one another? At the core of the Tony Award-winning Children of a Lesser God, written by Tony Award-winner Mark Medoff, is a poignant story about human communication, connection and compromise.

This production features Lauren Ridloff as Sarah Norman, Joshua Jackson as James Leeds, John McGinty as Orin Dennis, Tony Award-winner Stephen Spinella as Mr. Franklin, Kecia Lewis as Mrs. Norman, Treshelle Edmond as Lydia and Julee Cerda as Edna Klein.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Jeff McCarthy Is “Kunstler” @ Barrington Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

May 18th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara
Jeff McCarthy as William Kunstler (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Jeff McCarthy as William Kunstler (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Pittsfield’s award-winning Barrington Stage Company kicks off its 2017 summer season with Kunstler by Jeffrey Sweet. Running from Friday (May 18) through Saturday, June 10, the production by Saratoga Springs-based Creative Place International/And Theatre Company will take over the St. Germain Stage at BSC’s Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center. The official opening is at 3pm on Sunday (May 21).

Directed by Meagan Fay, Kunstler stars BSC veteran Jeff McCarthy (BSC’s Broadway Bounty Hunter, All My Sons, Sweeney Todd) as the self-described “radical lawyer” and civil rights activist William Kunstler and Erin Roché (BSC debut) as the whip-smart student who opposes him. The colorful, perpetually rumpled defense lawyer whose best-known clients include the Chicago Seven, inmates involved in the Attica prison riots and members of the American Indian Movement, makes a case for his often unconventional style, in this wise and revealing play.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Line-up Announced for Mr. Finn’s Cabaret [Berkshire on Stage]

April 13th, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara

Barrington Stage Company has announced the 2017 season of performances at Mr. Finn’s Cabaret, located on the lower level of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield.

Named for William Finn, the two-time Tony Award-winning composer/lyricist of Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Artistic Producer of BSC’s Musical Theatre Lab, Mr. Finn’s Cabaret celebrates its fifth season with an eclectic mix of performers from May through August.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “The Whale” @ the Whitney Center for the Arts [Berkshire on Stage]

March 21st, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara
The cast of “The Whale:” Nancy Schaffer (Mary), Sam Therrien (Ellie), Dane Shiner (Elder Thomas), Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon (Charlie), Meaghan Rogers (Liz) and director Jackie DiGiorgis (photo: John Kickery/Kickery Kreative Photography)

The cast of “The Whale:” Nancy Schaffer (Mary), Sam Therrien (Ellie), Dane Shiner (Elder Thomas), Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon (Charlie), Meaghan Rogers (Liz) and director Jackie DiGiorgis (photo: John Kickery/Kickery Kreative Photography)

Review by Barbara Waldinger

According to playwright Samuel D. Hunter, his award-winning play, The Whale – currently on stage at Pittsfield’s Whitney Center for the Arts – was conceived while he was teaching a course in expository writing to freshmen at Rutgers University. What he learned was that in order to teach students how to write a good essay, he had to teach them not only to think independently but to have empathy. Throughout the play, Charlie, his main character, recites a seemingly short, simple essay about “Moby Dick” that demonstrates these qualities.

Like Hunter, Charlie teaches writing, hoping to find moments of “naked sincerity” in his students’ work. A morbidly obese man bent on eating himself to death, Charlie seeks a connection with his teenage daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a young child. Having left his family to live with his partner Alan, a Mormon and former student who has since passed away, Charlie begs and bribes his daughter to spend time with him. Rounding out the cast is Liz, Alan’s sister, a nurse who cares for Charlie, Elder Thomas, a young Mormon who claims to have been sent on a mission to northern Idaho, where the play takes place, and Mary, Charlie’s former wife.

The visits of each of these characters to Charlie’s home comprise the structure of the play. What do they each want of Charlie? What does he want from them? Why does he choose to end his life? How do they try to stop him? We explore these questions and many more in a play that, despite its premise, offers hope and empathy.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: 10×10 New Play Festival @ Barrington Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

February 22nd, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Dina Thomas is horrified by the sight of two grown men – Matt Neely and Douglas Rees – playing with plastic dinosaurs in “Sandbox.” (photo: Scott Barrow)

Review by Gail M. Burns

Ten 10-minute plays – five before intermission and five after – helmed by two directors – Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn – performed by a versatile ensemble of six actors – three male, three female – on a bare stage with only the most basic sets and costumes in the middle of February. This is the 10×10 New Play Festival at Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage Company, now in its sixth season and well established a welcome winter outing for locals and ski-bunnies alike.

This year’s showcase of 10 plays were selected from close to 200 submissions, and I am happy to say that the majority of them are written by women. Gender parity is an ideal, but it is nice to see the women in the lead for a change. All the plays are entertaining. Most lean towards comedy to make their point, but a couple are on the more thoughtful side.

But before we get to the plays themselves, mention must be made of the delightful “Hamilton”-ian rap, written by actor Matt Neely, which opens the show. This has become an annual tradition, and it alone is worth the price of admission. The cast wears a few bits of appropriately revolutionary dress, and Neely concludes the piece by striking Lin-Manuel Miranda’s signature Hamilton pose, which graces that show’s posters in silhouette.

This year the 10 plays can fairly neatly be divided into five pairs that cover the same ideas and issues. So I will review them that way, as contrasting pairs. I have numbered the plays by the order in which they are performed.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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