Posts Tagged ‘Roseann Cane’

THEATER: Audra McDonald Shines in WTF’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
Audra McDonald (Josie Hogan). Photograph T. Charles Erickson.

Audra McDonald (as Josie Hogan). Photograph T. Charles Erickson.

Theater review by Roseann Cane

Eugene O’Neill describes Josie Hogan as having the map of Ireland stamped on her face, a woman of Amazonian proportions, nearly six feet tall and 180 pounds. (A Moon for the Misbegotten is set in 1923, when a woman of that size would have certainly been unusual.) With her brash persona, and her boasts of multiple sexual flings, she puts on a fearful show, and though I’m a big admirer of Audra McDonald, I had concerns that the beautiful, elegant actress would be miscast, a distraction.

But McDonald is bigger than that, figuratively speaking. In this heart-wrenching production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, McDonald makes Josie her own, and the raw honesty of her Josie is magnificent.

The entire cast is superb. Josie and her father Phil (the great Glynn Turman) are tenant farmers living in a shack on the the estate now owned by James Tyrone (Will Swenson, who also happens to be McDonald’s husband). Tyrone is a dissipated alcoholic, a womanizing Broadway actor whom O’Neill modeled after his brother, the same James Tyrone from A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. With his elegant attire and fine manners, it would seem odd that James is drawn to the rough-hewn Josie, and that she is in love with him, but the beautifully crafted play brings us to an unforgettable understanding of their mutual love.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage


REVIEW: A Passionless “Kinship” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Theater Review by Roseann Cane

Phèdre, Racine’s 17th-Century masterpiece, was a retelling of a Greek tragedy already examined many centuries before by Greek and Roman writers. What made this retelling so striking is the focus on the title character, previously portrayed as a monstrously evil woman. Racine’s Phèdre is a psychologically complex character whose obsession drives her to commit terrible acts, but this time she is more human than monster, and though she causes great suffering she is also a victim trapped in her own obsessions.

Playwright Carey Perloff was inspired to write Kinship in 2009, when she was directing Phèdre at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. “I was really trying to understand the nature of obsession,” she has said. “I love obsession, but it’s really strange. It’s not rational: it feeds on itself, so you need more, and more, and more of that drug to keep you feeling alive, even though you know it’s destructive. When it turns out that Hippolytus [Phèdre’s stepson] is in love with someone else, Phèdre becomes a monster, and decides she’s going…to take them down.”

In Kinship – currently being presented at the Williamstown Festival Festival’s Nikos Stage – the story is told through three characters, She (Cynthia Nixon), Friend/His Mother (Penny Fuller) and He (Chris Lowell). She is a driven, powerful middle-aged woman living a life many would envy. A successful newspaper editor, she has a devoted husband and two children she clearly adores.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “Bells Are Ringing” @ the Colonial Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 16th, 2015
James Ludwig (center) in Bells Are Ringing at Berkshire Theatre Group. (photo: Reid Thompson)

James Ludwig (center) in “Bells Are Ringing” at the Colonial Theatre (photo: Reid Thompson)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Roseann Cane

Roseann Cane: Currently on stage at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Bells Are Ringing originally opened on Broadway in 1956 – the same year that Candide, The Most Happy Fella and My Fair Lady premiered (Oh, to have a time machine!) – and ran for 924 performances. With a book and lyrics by Comden and Green, music by Jule Styne and choreography by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, what a pedigree it boasts. Its star, the magnificent Judy Holliday, won a Tony for her performance, as did her co-star Sydney Chaplin.

Gail M. Burns: This is certainly a musical of its era, right down to the setting at a telephone answering service. For the young and unenlightened, back in prehistoric times when phones had rotary dials and plugged into the wall, if you weren’t home when a call came in, you missed it. Or if you were on the phone and another call came in, the caller got a busy signal. There was no way to leave a message. This was a problem, especially for the rich and famous, so the answering service was invented. Your number rang at a central switchboard where an actual human (invariably a woman) answered it and wrote down (with a pen on a piece of paper) your message. Then you called in, were read your messages, and you could return the calls, or receive important pieces of news, like “you got the job!” or “your uncle died.”

Judy Holliday’s first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre in the 1930’s, and in 1956 a woman named Mary Printz opened Belles Celebrity Answering Service in New York. (Astoundingly, in this electronic age, the agency is still in business!) Comden and Green were clients of Printz’s and long-time friends and theater colleagues of Holliday’s, who by this point had won an Oscar to go with her Tony. They created Bells Are Ringing and the leading role of Ella Peterson for her.

Roseann: Which explains why this charming and paper-thin story, about a switchboard operator for an answering-service who falls in love with a client she has never seen, is more of a star vehicle and musical showcase than the more complexly plotted aforementioned shows, but so what?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: Jessica Hecht and Justin Long Dazzle in Premiere of “Legacy” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

Reviewed by Roseann Cane

As I settled into my seat at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage for the world premiere of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, I was impressed enough with Dane Laffrey’s set to jot, “Smart, creamy, winter white with touches of gray and blue, cool blue lighting [by Justin Townsend]….” This apartment, neatly organized, almost pristine, had a Scandinavian air.

Not long into the first act, I decided that the set was utterly wrong for the play, and in some ways emblematic of what I found disappointing in the production. Too many components just don’t mesh, though there are many moments of brilliance. With apologies to Aristotle, I found the whole of the play lesser than the sum of its parts.

Neil (Eric Bogosian), a literary lion well into his sixties, and his younger-by-several-decades wife, Suzanne (Jessica Hecht), married for 17 years, are scholars ensconced in an apartment in (where else?) the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Neil suggests a hybrid of Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, with his bellowing talent and testosterone-tinged sense of entitlement, but though we hear the words, we don’t hear what’s beneath them. Bogosian, for whose body of work I have much admiration, is far too laid-back and monotonous to inhabit Neil, a man whose latest novel has just received a scathing review in The New York Times. The words he utters are those of an very successful artist in crisis, someone whose sense of self and his place in the world has been shattered. Bogosian’s declarations about failure and desperation seemed more kittenish than leonine. His performance is so understated that it’s one-dimensional.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

The Singers Shine in “A Little Night Music” from Berkshire Theatre Group [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 11th, 2014
Kate Baldwin and Graham  Rowat (photo: Reid Thompson)

Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat (photo: Reid Thompson)

Theatre review by Gail M. Burns and Roseann Cane

Gail M. Burns: Four couples meet, mate and miscommunicate in the woods as Midsummer Night smiles three times – “First, for the young who know nothing, second for the fools who know too little, and third for the old who know too much.” No, not Shakespeare, although the parallels are obvious, but Stephen Sondheim as the Berkshire Theatre Group presents his delightful 1973 musical A Little Night Music at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

Roseann Cane: The more Sondheim musicals I see (and see again), the more I’m astonished by the man’s genius. I cannot think of another composer and lyricist whose work displays such depth, breadth and variety, who achieves the nearly impossible feat of transmitting intellect, wit and emotion. This production is blessed by a cast gifted with sumptuous singing voices and some standout acting capable of rendering all three with ease and style

Gail: This is a score that I have loved and memorized and cherished in my heart for four decades, and, as with anything so personally meaningful, I find I have a hard time finding words to help others understand how beautiful this score is and how the incredibly clever and intricate lyrics are rendered easy enough to understand so that even someone who has never heard them before can follow along as they rapidly advance both plot and character.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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.

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.

A Stunning “Stockholm” Gets its American Premiere at Stageworks/Hudson [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Emily Gardner Hall and Jason Babinsky in Stageworks/Hudson’s 2013 production of STOCKHOLM. Photo: Rob Shannon.

Emily Gardner Hall and Jason Babinsky in Stageworks/Hudson’s 2013 production of STOCKHOLM. Photo: Rob Shannon.

Theater review by Roseann Cane

In Hinduism, Kali is the Dark Mother, goddess of destruction, death and time. One of religion’s fiercest deities, she is frequently portrayed standing with one foot on top of her husband Shiva, who has thrown himself at her feet to stop a killing rampage.

“Stockholm,” in its American premiere at Stageworks/Hudson, explores one day in the life of Todd (Jason Babinsky) and Kali (Emily Gardiner Hall), a couple who appear to be blessed with deep love, earth-scorching passion and material success. As they prepare to celebrate Todd’s birthday and an upcoming trip to Sweden, they reveal the complexity of their relationship and the frightening grip of their connection. They are hostages to a cycle of eros and annihilation, at turns captors and victims, each craving escape and envelopment. More succinctly, Todd and Kali have Stockholm Syndrome.

Bryony Lavery’s stunning script is fittingly (and ironically) non-linear, weaving spoken word, choreography, sound, and visual effects in a way that transmits Todd and Kali’s imprisonment like a punch in the gut and wends its way into the observer’s psyche.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Cartoonist John CaldwellCaffe LenaHolly & EvanAdvertise on Nippertown!Albany PoetsKeep Albany BoringBerkshire On StageArtist Charles HaymesHudson SoundsThe LindaLeave Regular Radio BehindCapital District Habitat For Humanity