Outdoors, fresh and fast-paced, this popular comedy catapults audiences into a world of illusion, debauchery and mayhem. Amidst the forest and foliage, audiences are transported to the mythical land of Illyria – alongside the recently shipwrecked and lovelorn Viola. This 90-minute frolic unravels a madcap mix-up of characters and offers a reunion of epic proportions.
“There’s something magical about seeing a play at The Mount,” says veteran director Jonathan Croy. “Many people bring picnics and sit on that beautiful hillside in the open air, watching fight call or chatting with the actors before the show. I’ve seen conversations begun during the nightly Talkback continue well after the show was done. There’s a different energy, a ‘communal’ spirit that reminds me of the old days, when we performed down by Edith’s mansion under the stars.”
Ava Lindenmaier and Ariel Bock in “The Quicksand.” Photos by Kevin Sprague.
Every August the Wharton Salon pops up in the Stables Theatre at the Mount and continues the happy tradition of staging Edith Wharton’s works at her beloved Berkshire home. For this, their fifth season, the company has commissioned adaptations of two of Wharton’s short stories, neither of which has been staged in Lenox before: The Quicksand, adapted by Alison Ragland and directed by Catherine Taylor-Williams, and The Looking Glass, adapted by Elaine Smith and directed by Daniela Varon. These two stories were selected because they represent two very different stages in Wharton’s life as a woman and as a writer.
The Quicksand was first published in 1902, the year Wharton (1862-1937) turned 40 and the year she and her husband took up residence in the newly-built Mount. Already a successful writer but a few years away from the composition and recognition of her major works, at the turn of the 20th century Wharton was entering middle-age trapped in a loveless marriage to a man sinking ever deeper into the clutches of mental illness.
The Inner House features Tod Randolph as Edith Wharton. At The Mount in Lenox, August 15-26, 2012.
By Gail Burns and Larry Murray. For the Berkshire-Capital region’s most comprehensive listing of theatre offerings visit GailSez.org.
Gail Burns: This is your first time at a Wharton Salon, now do you understand why it sells out at most performances, and why it is so exciting theatrically?
Larry Murray: Yes, and more than that, the biggest benefit is that I understand Edith Wharton (1862-1937) a whole lot better than I did before. I think Dennis Krausnick’s adaptation of Wharton’s autobiography A Backward Glance gave me a far greater understanding of the writer from her earliest years to old age. Incorporating a few of her poems and letters gave us insights into her Inner House which was substantial.
Gail: I have read A Backward Glance and a biography of Wharton, and Krausnick has done an excellent job of telescoping a long and full life into 75 minutes of theatre. The Inner House is an accurate portrait of Wharton.
Larry: Tod Randolph took a spill last week, but proved to be the trouper.
Gail: She is indeed! Although we had been warned that she might perform seated much of the time I throught she moved naturally, even sitting on the floor and rising again. Her obvious injury was on the left side of her face, although much had been done with make-up and bandages to normalize her appearance. Luckily Arthur Oliver has costumed her in the fashion of the turn of the 20th century, so she is covered from chin to toe to wrist and any other injuries are well hidden. Of course we saw her very soon after her fall. Time will work its healing magic.
Franklin Ide (James Goodwin Rice) and Mrs. Lidcote (Diane Prusha) ponder what awaits them in America as they cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary at the start of "Autres Temps..." (photo: David Dashiell)
If you love Edith Wharton (1862-1937), as I do, then you will adore the latest Wharton Salon offering – Dennis Krausnick’s adaptation of her 1911 short story Autres Temps… But I am fully aware that not everyone loves Wharton, and that women are more disposed to like her work than are men. I guess I am trying to say is that Wharton wrote Chick-Lit and this is the theatrical equivalent of a Chick-Flick. Wharton was also very much a woman of her time and socio-economic status, which meant that she didn’t tackle life’s difficult issues head on, but obliquely, giving everything the calm and genteel sheen of oil spread on troubled waters.
It is this latter effect that Krausnick captures so beautifully in his stage adaptations of her work. Like a glacier gliding slowly but inevitably forward, Wharton’s characters roll heedlessly over the hub-bub of life, often causing great pain and destruction, but doing so in a bone-chilling silence. If you are looking for action and adventure, you will never find it in the Wharton Salon.
Although the story is celebrating the centennial of its publication, director Catherine Taylor-Williams has dared to shift the time period of the play from Wharton’s own time to 1962. This is a first for the Wharton Salon, and indeed I believe for all the adaptations of Wharton’s work that have been presented at The Mount since Shakespeare & Company took up residence in 1978.
There’s green thumb gardening.
And there’s the kind of gardening art that Pearl Fryar does.
It’s certainly no exaggeration to use the word “art” in describing the dazzling topiary work of the self-taught gardener. He calls his work “living sculpture,” and no doubt about it, he puts the culture in horticulture. Of course, you already know that if you’ve ever visited the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville, South Carolina. Or if you’ve watched the inspirational 2006 film documentary, “A Man Named Pearl.”
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