THEATER REVIEW: “Children of a Lesser God” @ Fitzgerald Main Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

July 7th, 2017, 11:00 am by Sara
Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff in “Children of a Lesser God” (photo: Matthew Murphy)

Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff in “Children of a Lesser God” (photo: Matthew Murphy)

Review by Barbara Waldinger

Who are the children of a lesser god?

Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God, a play that focuses on the struggles of deaf people to deal with society at large, is as relevant to the problems facing minorities today as it was in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. It captured the Tony award for Best Play in 1980 and for its two leads, John Rubenstein and Phyllis Frelich. (Frelich was the first deaf performer to be so honored, and when the movie adaptation came out a few years later, Marlee Matlin became the first deaf actress to win an Academy Award.) Now the play is being revived to open the 89th season of Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzgerald Main Stage in Stockbridge, with direction by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon, featuring Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff.

A love story between a male teacher at a school for the deaf, and a female former student (subsequently a custodian at the school), the play seeks to make a case for deaf rights. The deaf woman Sarah Norman (Ridloff), takes a stand: she stubbornly, even angrily, refuses to learn to lip read or to speak. Graceful, elegant and breathtakingly expressive in her signs, Sarah understandably fears how she will look and sound if she vocalizes. She has never needed language, having lived in this cocoon-like school since the age of five, and having engaged in numerous sexual escapades that did not depend on language. The dedicated teacher James Leeds (Jackson), is determined to persuade Sarah, with whom he has fallen in love, to join the speaking world, which will offer her many more opportunities in life. On the classroom blackboard (which slides on and off the set) is written: “Speech is not a specious but a sacred sanction secured by solemn sacrifice.” He promises that with his help, Sarah will no longer be dependent on others to speak for her.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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“Million Dollar Quartet” Opens Berkshire Theatre Group’s 2017 Summer Season [Berkshire on Stage]

June 13th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Sara

Berkshire Theatre Group presents the Tony Award-winning jukebox musical and epic night of rock ‘n’ roll, Million Dollar Quartet, directed and music direction by James Barry (Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). Million Dollar Quartet runs from Wednesday (June 14) through Saturday, July 15 at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Opening night is set for 8pm Saturday (June 17).

Director James Barry says, “I’m thrilled to be making my debut as a director at BTG, specifically in he Unicorn Theatre, where I made my professional acting debut 18 seasons ago in The Einstein Project. Coming back to the Unicorn to direct a show that I have been involved with for years is an honor. I performed the role of Carl Perkins in the first National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet for two years, and since then, I have reprised the role many times and provided musical direction. I am honored to take a seat in the director’s chair for this production.”

Million Dollar Quartet brings you into the recording studio with icons, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Based on a true story, set on December 4, 1956, Million Dollar Quartet follows the tale of these four legendary musicians, as they come together for one monumental night of music at Sun Records in Memphis. This smash-hit musical includes classic tunes such as: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

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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.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Constellations” @ the Unicorn Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

August 11th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Sara
Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat in “Constellations,” BTG, 2016. Photos by Emma Rothenberg-Ware.

Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat in “Constellations.” Photos by Emma Rothenberg-Ware.

Review by Macey Levin

Life is full of serendipity. A chance remark, meeting a stranger, missing a train, making a decision, all contribute to the arc of our lives. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next moment that will redirect us immediately or in the future. We review and dissect our experiences to determine the why of the path we have chosen. This is the core of Nick Payne’s engrossing play Constellations now at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge.

Marianne (Kate Baldwin) and Roland (Graham Rowat) meet at a mutual friend’s barbecue. That moment, like others throughout the script, is played again and again with the actors using different inflections and timing to give each replay a different quality. We follow them through their growing relationship, marriage and separation. Each important moment of their lives together and apart is explored as they contemplate why they are where they are.

Marianne is a cosmologist who facilely refers to string theory, relativity and quantum theory. She says that in a parallel universe everything one does is not always what it seems. A beekeeper, Roland informs her that bees have a strict utilitarian purpose; the workers, drones and queen know their predetermined responsibilities. Their different occupations are a severely opposite to each other but also a description of the two lovers. In addition to their contrasting professional worlds, they also have a problem in communication. Or is it that they hear what they want to hear, another of playwright Payne’s thematic statements. To further express the communication content, one of the scenes is performed entirely in sign language, a fitting dramatic complement.

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THEATER REVIEW: “The Stone Witch” @ Fitzpatrick Main Stage [Berkshire on Stage]

July 28th, 2016, 3:00 pm by Sara
Judd Hirsch and Rupak Ginn in “The Stone Witch" (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

Judd Hirsch and Rupak Ginn in “The Stone Witch” (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

Review by Macey Levin

A young, struggling author/artist of children’s books is offered the chance to observe his idol, a legendary figure. He sees that he can watch a genius at work and, when the time is right, show him his own book with which he has been struggling for years. Unbeknownst to him, this opportunity is fraught with unknown challenges. This is the premise of Shem Bitterman’s The Stone Witch, currently in its world premiere at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge.

Peter Chandler (Rupak Ginn) has submitted his book to a powerhouse editor, Claire Forlorni (Kristin Griffith), who likes his work but also tells him she needs help to motivate fabled author Simon Grindberg (Judd Hirsch) to finish a project that is now 12 years old. She asks Peter to spend one day a week with Simon. He accepts the task.

Upon arriving at Simon’s isolated country home, he is confronted by the author in his pajamas and robe and who is at once child-like and dour. The older man avoids Peter’s suggestion that they work and instead bounces from nonsensical bantering to fleeting anger to disdain for Peter’s book. Frustrated, Peter tries various ploys to settle Simon down. The day finishes in a detente. Over the next several weeks the young man journeys to the country and then decides to spend his week’s vacation there urging and assisting Simon to finish his book.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

BTG’s “Fiorello!” Heads to Off-Broadway [Berkshire on Stage]

July 7th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
A victorious “Fiorello!” with Austin Lombardi as the memorable Mayor (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

A victorious “Fiorello!” with Austin Lombardi as the memorable Mayor (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

Berkshire Theatre Group and Artistic Director/CEO Kate Maguire announced that due to critical acclaim and record breaking attendance, BTG’s production of the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning musical, Fiorello! is moving to New York City. This is the first time Berkshire Theatre Group will be producing a show Off-Broadway. The current production, playing at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, is being directed by Robert Moss, the founder of Playwrights Horizons in New York City.

Moss says, “Mayor La Guardia was long gone by the time I moved to New York, so I never lived under his tenure in City Hall. But the “Little Flower,” as he was called, lives on in memory. The music is toe-tappingly delightful, the characters are richly drawn and a story about good guys is desperately needed in today’s jaded and vitriolic politics. It’s great to be reminded, as the music lifts us aloft, that good can triumph over selfishness.”

The current staging of Fiorello! continues in the Berkshires through Saturday, July 23 at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. For ticket information and show times go to www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “Fiorello!” @ Berkshire Theatre Group [Berkshire on Stage]

June 27th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
Chelsea Groen and Dan Cassin in Fiorello (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

Chelsea Groen and Dan Cassin in “Fiorello!” (photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware)

Theater review by Larry Murray

Back in 1959, Fiorello! was the hit show that scooped up a Pulitzer Prize for best drama, and tied with the The Sound of Music for the Tony as best musical, leaving Gypsy in the dust. Tom Bosley, as Fiorello LaGuardia, won best actor.

As delivered by a youthful cast, Fiorello! moves right along with a breezy score by Jerry Bock, clever lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and this is a good thing because the weak link is a thin, choppy book which has undergone various revisions over the years. The program credits Jerome Weidman and George Abbott for the version currently on stage at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. It seems close (if not identical) to the original, which I saw some 56 years ago. Memories fade, though I remember how much I enjoyed songs like “Politics and Poker,” “Little Tin Box” and “Till Tomorrow.”

The cast of Fiorello! is uniformly excellent, a parade of characters and caricatures that easily delight today’s audiences just as they did those a half century ago. Who doesn’t love to watch love blossom on stage between a policeman – a sturdy Dan Cassin – and the radical striker, Dora (Chelsea Groen).

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “Fiorello!” Celebrates NYC Mayor LaGuardia [Berkshire on Stage]

June 13th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Sara

fiorello

Kate Maguire, Artistic Director of Berkshire Theatre Group, is excited about the young cast of the classic musical Fiorello!, opening this week at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Directed by Playwrights Horizons founder Bob Moss, Fiorello! will run from Wednesday (June 15) through Saturday, July 23. “I’m thrilled that we’re starting the season with this delightful, Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning musical, created by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who currently have two hit shows on Broadway, She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof.”

Moss adds, “Mayor LaGuardia was long gone by the time I moved to New York, so I never lived under his tenure in City Hall. But the ‘Little Flower,’ as he was called, lives on in memory. The music is toe-tapping, the characters are richly drawn and a story about good guys is desperately needed in today’s jaded and vitriolic politics. It’s great to be reminded, as the music lifts us aloft, that good can triumph over selfishness.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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