Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare & Company’

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.


Shakespeare & Company Brings on Jerry Bilik as Interim Executive Director [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare & Company’s Board Chair Sarah Hancock announced the appointment of Interim Executive Director Jerry Bilik, who joins the Company’s management team lending his expertise and experience in the field to support the efforts of Artistic Director Tony Simotes, Managing Director Nicholas J. Puma, Jr., the Company, staff and artists, as well as the Board of Directors.

(There is much speculation about this shift of responsibilities, and for now, Berkshire on Stage will refrain from comment. We would prefer to watch how these changes actually play out, and report on that at a later date. – LM)

A long-time supporter, friend and current Board member of the Company, Bilik has an outstanding and distinguished 40+ year career in performance producing, management and directing. His career includes highly successful positions with several notable corporations such as Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and Feld Entertainment, where he was instrumental in the development and production of Disney on Ice.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” Gets a New Twist @ Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, December 16th, 2013
David Joseph, Sarah Taylor and Jonathan Croy in It's A Wonderful Life

David Joseph, Sarah Taylor and Jonathan Croy (photo by Enrico Spada)

Theater review and discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: What can be more fitting for the holidays than It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which is the story of idealistic George Bailey as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. Do you agree that Shakespeare & Company captured all the magic of Frank Capra’s classic 1946 holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life in this production?

Gail M. Burns: Darned if I know. I am one of the few adult Americans who has never seen the film all the way through. This iteration, adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Francis Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling, reimagines the story as performed by five stalwart radio actors on a snowy Christmas Eve when the sound effects guy gets stuck in the blizzard and can’t get to the studio. We, the studio audience for the broadcast, get the fun of watching them cope with the emergency and perform all the music and sound effects, as well as the well-worn story of George Bailey.

Larry: Landry didn’t miss a single plot point of the film, and the five actors created the dozens of characters with just their voices. It was astonishing to hear Ryan Winkles change his voice instantly from Clarence the angel (second class) to Bert the cop. He played a dozen roles, as did favorite Jonathan Croy and the amazing Jennie M. Jadow. These chameleons changed accent, tone and cadence from one character to the next like racers taking the hairpin turn on the Mohawk Trail.

Gail: David Joseph and Sarah Jeanette Taylor anchor the story as George Bailey and the woman he marries, Mary Hatch. They also provide much of the charming music, with Taylor on piano and Joseph as the lead vocalist. The whole show, but especially the music, was charming in its simplicity and beauty, with many songs sung virtually a cappella. Joseph plinks out a few notes on the xylophone and Winkles bravely tackles a trombone riff, but Jadow on violin and Taylor on piano provide the melodic lines.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

A December “Julius Caesar” from the Conservatory at Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Julius Caesar

The Conservatory at Shakespeare & Company performs the classic tragedy December 13-14.

Julius Caesar, co-directed by two longtime Shakespeare & Company artists, Andrew Borthwick-Leslie and Michael F. Toomey, is next up as part of the Conservatory at Shakespeare & Company. Now in its seventh year, the Conservatory, a 13-week professional actor-training program includes 10-16 promising actors from across the country and around the globe. This year’s program features a group of 10 who will expose Shakespeare’s poetry-filled psychological drama Julius Caesar for three performances in the Tina Packer Playhouse.

Performances of Julius Caesar will run in the Tina Packer Playhouse December 13 at 7:00 p.m. and December 14 at 1:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. Tickets are general admission, $20 for adults and $10 for students. The Tina Packer Playhouse is wheelchair accessible. For further information and to order tickets visit the website at or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353.

Julius Caesar follows the conspiracy against and the assassination of the Roman dictator and the aftermath that ensues from his murder. Julius Caesar is a time-transcending tale that spotlights liberty, honor and friendship, where the visceral meets the intellectual. Julius Caesar is the perfect vehicle to challenge, engage and strengthen this group of up-and-coming actors.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Shakespeare & Company Picks “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” for Holidays [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
The dulcet tones of David Joseph will invite theatre-goers to step back in time for this classic Christmas tale.

The dulcet tones of David Joseph will invite theatre-goers to step back in time for this classic Christmas tale.

New and different holiday performances in the Berkshires are relatively scarce as Christmas is usually considered a time for tradition. There is little doubt that we will have our Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols on stage, but this year you can count on something a little different, too.

After several seasons of Santaland Diaries, Shakespeare & Company is planning to offer It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, inspired by Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film starring Donna Reed and James Stewart. Filled with just the right hint of nostalgia and charm, director Jenna Ware brings audiences back to the Golden Age of radio with this poignant, funny and unique play-within-a-play that the company says will leave you believing in angels.

About the Production

Set in a radio studio on a snowy Christmas Eve in 1946, five radio personalities are live, on-air, retelling the American Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, before a studio audience. The five actors (Jonathan Croy, Jennie M. Jadow, David Joseph, Sarah Jeanette Taylor and Ryan Winkles) will play not only the show’s radio actors, but in true ‘Lux Radio Theatre’ fashion, will play all 50 roles from It’s a Wonderful Life. The show will also include radio jingles, live sound effects and favorite Christmas songs, sure to warm the hearts of audiences, both young and old.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“Accomplice” at Shakespeare & Co. Is Smart, Funny, Sexy and Well Worth Seeing [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Annie Considine, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jason Asprey and Josh Aaron McCabe. Photo by Enrico Spada.

Annie Considine, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jason Asprey and Josh Aaron McCabe. (photo by Enrico Spada)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

How do you write a review of a comedy/thriller with a plot so convoluted and hilarious that even listing the names of the actors would give away important plot points? A show where, at the curtain call, the cast swears the audience to complete secrecy? Well, you start by saying that this production of Rupert Holmes’ Accomplice at Shakespeare & Company, directed by Stephen Rothman, is smart and funny and sexy and well worth seeing. The cast, who I may not name, is very good. A slightly stumbling performance by an old favorite is balanced out by a nice turn from a newcomer. Patrick Brennan has designed a nifty set which, abetted by James W. Bilnoski’s lighting and Ian Sturges Milliken’s sound design and score, is almost as full of surprises as the script

Accomplice was the third theatrical outing for the fearsomely prolific and multi-talented Holmes, who had already won multiple awards for his first show, Drood (1985, formerly titled The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Holmes took home is his second Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for this 1990 opus, which holds a special place in Rothman’s heart (he has directed it twice before). Rothman saw a good fit between this script and some of Shakespeare & Company’s core actors, and he was right. I am not telling tales out of school when I say that it gives Elizabeth Aspenlieder another star turn as the Company’s leading comedienne.

click to see the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Secretive Twisty-Mystery Thriller “Accomplice” Opens at Shakespeare & Co. Sept. 21 [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Accomplice @ Shakespeare & Company

by Larry Murray

There are some plays that you have to talk around, rather than about, because to say exactly what is going on would be to take the surprise out of a thrilling evening of theatre. Such is the case of Accomplice, a British comedy mystery that has more twists and turns than a Berkshire byway. Like Mousetrap and Deathtrap, the audience is asked to be mum about what happens on stage as well, and it is surprising how willing people are to play along.

So here is what we can tell you, direct from the Shakespeare & Company announcement which manages to skirt revealing any details in a news release that is 1,000 words long.

The thrill of not knowing

Shakespeare & Company will begin their Fall & Winter Season with this explosively exciting and comedic affair. A daring and sexy thriller, this British comedy is one twisted knot of tension, sure to delight and entertain.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Shakespeare & Company’s “Leap Year” Sinks at Simon’s Rock [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
The cast of “Leap Year” at Simon’s Rock. Photos: Kevin Sprague.

The cast of “Leap Year” at Simon’s Rock. Photo: Kevin Sprague.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

It is hard to know where to begin writing about the train wreck that is Leap Year since I am not entirely sure what it is. I attended a press opening, so I assume it is not entirely an educational theatre collaboration between Shakespeare & Company and Bard College at Simon’s Rock because customarily such efforts are not open for review. But even if that is what it is, the production values are dismally low for Shakespeare & Company, which routinely turns out top notch productions in school gymnasiums with kids as young as eight or nine. In the handsome McConnell Theatre and with all the combined resources of Simon’s Rock and ShakesCo, this is a visual/technical embarrassment.

The script is poor, too. Playwright William Coe Bigelow is a successful writer for film and television, but this is his very first stage play and it shows. There was a staged reading of Leap Year during Shakespeare & Company’s 2009 Studio Festival of Plays, featuring Olympia Dukakis, and I noticed there was a larger cast involved, so some rewriting has taken place, but the play still badly needs the firm editing hand of a strong and experienced theatre director and/or producer. Shakespeare & Company Artistic Director Tony Simotes directed in 2009, but here he hands the directorial reins over to Stephen Rothman, who made his ShakesCo debut last season directing Parasite Drag [Review].

Both are experienced theatre professionals who ought to see the flaws in Bigelow’s script (not to mention the distracting hideousness of the set and costumes) and guide this production better.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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