Review: “Moment of Impact” from Strong Coffee Company at the Berkshire Fringe [Berkshire on Stage]

August 6th, 2013, 1:30 pm by Sara

Moment of Impact

Review by Gail M. Burns

“Moment of Impact is a story of a woman’s journey on a train, and a journey through life. This highly personal story explores self, life, death, and the amazing resiliency of the human spirit. [It] combines theatre, dance, and aerial acrobatics to create an original, humorous, moving, and thought-provoking one-woman show.” – Program note for Moment of Impact

While a little bland and formulaic, the paragraph above gives a succinct precise of Bronwyn Sims’ pithy presentation, except it leaves out the Ibsen. And you have to admire an artist who can cover life, death, train travel, aerial acrobatics, and Ibsen in under an hour.

There is nothing bland or formulaic about Moment of Impact though. Conceived in 2011 and 2012 during residencies at the Celebration Barn Theater in South Paris, Maine, this piece, under the title Lean Back, has had work-in-progress showings at Westover School and Franklin Pierce University. And for Sims and her Strong Coffee Stage Company, it is still in malleable form.

Sims sums up her inspiration thusly in an excerpt from a recent interview: “In 2009…on my way to Yale to do aerial work for the Rep, a boy jumped in front of the train I was on, and committed suicide. The entire day, things were resonating in my head about this boy. The fact that I was going to Yale to teach an actor how to fall for their death in a harness [in a production on Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder]…[I] wanted to explore the idea of blending aerial work into a piece of theater. I wanted to tell the story physically as well as through narrative…It brings up a lot of personal thoughts and things about life. There’s a lot of vulnerability that comes up. The work is really all about stepping into the unknown.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


Review: “Painting His Wings” at the Berkshire Fringe – It Has Everything a Play Needs [Berkshire on Stage]

August 1st, 2013, 2:00 pm by Sara

Painting His Wings

Review by Gail M. Burns

For the Berkshire Fringe, Painting His Wings borders on the traditional. It is very clearly a play with a script that tells a linear story. The four actors play the same characters throughout, and, although its billed as a “Partial Puppet Play” the puppets consist of six finger puppets and two pair of wings. I mention this because I know puppetry is a turn-off for some who do not consider it true “theatre.”

Why isn’t Abellona Whalen (Katie Lawson) talking? She talks to the audience, and to her older brother Christopher (Nathaniel Moore), but not to her parents Willa (Alison Scaramella) and Paul (Antonio David Lyons) until the very end, when the source of the family’s sorrow and the structure of the play is revealed.

Abellona’s age is never specified, but she can read and she goes to school and yet still believes in what child psychologists call “magical thinking,” so she is somewhere between the ages of seven and ten. Christopher is probably in the fragile years of early adolescence, between 11-14. Both are creative children – the product of a loving marriage and a happy home. Christopher is fascinated by flight. He makes and paints little airplanes, which he adds one by one to a mobile that hangs over his bed. He is also painting a pair of cardboard wings to blend in to the night sky. Abellona, who lugs around a copy of H. A. Rey’s “The Stars,” is enamored of the night sky and is teaching herself to identify individual stars and the constellations. He lets her help paint stars on to his wings, and she insists that her favorite star, Antarus, be represented.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

The Berkshire Fringe, Week One: “Malhalla,” “The Other Mozart” and “Dead Letter Office” [Berkshire on Stage]

July 23rd, 2013, 3:00 pm by Sara
Dead Letter Office. Photo by William Bezek.

Dead Letter Office. Photo by William Bezek.

Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray have been following the BERKSHIRE FRINGE FESTIVAL for years, though Burns has managed to see far more of their work than Murray. Sara Katzoff, Timothy Ryan Olson and Peter Wise are the co-artistic directors who have been tenaciously cultivating the region’s younger audiences with quirky, peculiar theater that is alternately slapstick, serious, sad, silly and always surprising. Cross-disciplinary and dynamic, it is both theater that is on the cutting edge, and theater that matters.

The Fringe is back for its ninth season, and we ventured once again to the Daniel Arts Center, located at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, MA. Their audiences have been growing at a steady pace, and this year two of the three performances seen on a Friday were close to full. Gail particulary liked THE OTHER MOZART while Larry enjoyed MALHALLA. Both swooned over the droll DEAD LETTER OFFICE, which is full of surprises. Here is their capsule review of those three performances in the order that they were seen. (You can find additional comments from Gail on Facebook while Larry’s notes also appear in Broadway World.)

Larry: MAHALLA from the Anthropologists is hypnotic to watch, even if sometimes you don’t know what they are getting at.

Gail: This one frankly puzzled me, and as I continued to fail to make intellectual and emotional connection with either characters or plot, I lost interest. This is sad because I believe the ensemble has a real passion for the issues they are trying to address here, but they fail to convey it to the audience.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

LIVE: The Return of The Pi Clowns @ The Berkshire Fringe, Simon’s Rock [GailSez]

August 18th, 2011, 4:00 pm by Sara

The Pi Clowns have performed at the Berkshire Fringe before – hence the title The Return of the Pi Clowns – but I have never had an opportunity to see them. I am a great admirer of physical theatre, which is how the Pi Clowns bill themselves. While all of the circus arts are theatrical, not all of them are theatre, but clowns are.

The modern day clown usually selects a character name, persona, costume and make-up for life. She or he then acts as that clown persona whether in a story-based skit or a skill-based set. The five Pi Clowns I saw identified themselves as Clown (Andrew P. Quick), Monster Strong (Jonathan Deline), Miz G (Leah C. Gardner), Juggler (Tyler Parks) and Bruce (Bruce Glaseroff) but each had a clear clown persona even though only Quick carried that moniker on stage.

I realized as I searched for photos and video to accompany this review, that there is usually a sixth Pi Clown, a second woman, and that their routines vary greatly from performance to performance. While they have some set pieces, they mix up the order and the routines themselves. I did not find any images that exactly matched what I saw, and so it is possible that they never do the same show twice. So what I will do here is tell you what I enjoyed and give you a flavor of the troupe’s energy and ethos.

Click to read the rest of this story at GailSez.

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