THEATER REVIEW: “The Whale” @ the Whitney Center for the Arts [Berkshire on Stage]

March 21st, 2017, 2:00 pm by Sara
The cast of “The Whale:” Nancy Schaffer (Mary), Sam Therrien (Ellie), Dane Shiner (Elder Thomas), Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon (Charlie), Meaghan Rogers (Liz) and director Jackie DiGiorgis (photo: John Kickery/Kickery Kreative Photography)

The cast of “The Whale:” Nancy Schaffer (Mary), Sam Therrien (Ellie), Dane Shiner (Elder Thomas), Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon (Charlie), Meaghan Rogers (Liz) and director Jackie DiGiorgis (photo: John Kickery/Kickery Kreative Photography)

Review by Barbara Waldinger

According to playwright Samuel D. Hunter, his award-winning play, The Whale – currently on stage at Pittsfield’s Whitney Center for the Arts – was conceived while he was teaching a course in expository writing to freshmen at Rutgers University. What he learned was that in order to teach students how to write a good essay, he had to teach them not only to think independently but to have empathy. Throughout the play, Charlie, his main character, recites a seemingly short, simple essay about “Moby Dick” that demonstrates these qualities.

Like Hunter, Charlie teaches writing, hoping to find moments of “naked sincerity” in his students’ work. A morbidly obese man bent on eating himself to death, Charlie seeks a connection with his teenage daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a young child. Having left his family to live with his partner Alan, a Mormon and former student who has since passed away, Charlie begs and bribes his daughter to spend time with him. Rounding out the cast is Liz, Alan’s sister, a nurse who cares for Charlie, Elder Thomas, a young Mormon who claims to have been sent on a mission to northern Idaho, where the play takes place, and Mary, Charlie’s former wife.

The visits of each of these characters to Charlie’s home comprise the structure of the play. What do they each want of Charlie? What does he want from them? Why does he choose to end his life? How do they try to stop him? We explore these questions and many more in a play that, despite its premise, offers hope and empathy.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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Pittsfield’s Town Players Stage Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things” [Berkshire on Stage]

March 11th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
 (from left to right) Alanna Bassett as Jenny, director, Matthew T. Teichner , Jerry Greene as Adam and Leah Marie Parker as Evelyn. (photo: John Kickery of Kickery Kreative Photography)


(from left to right) Alanna Bassett as Jenny, director, Matthew T. Teichner , Jerry Greene as Adam and Leah Marie Parker as Evelyn. (photo: John Kickery of Kickery Kreative Photography)

How far would you go for love? For art? What concessions would you make? What price would you be willing to pay? Such are the painful questions explored by Neil LaBute in his play The Shape of Things – a modern retelling of the fall of man. After a chance meeting in a museum, Evelyn, a sexy, aggressive artist, and Adam, a shy insecure student, become embroiled in an intense affair. Before long it veers into the kind of dangerous, seductive territory that LaBute does best, as Adam, under Evelyn’s steady influence, goes to unimaginable lengths to improve his appearance and character. Only in the final and shocking exhibition, which challenges our most deeply entrenched ideas about art and love, does Evelyn reveal her true intentions.

Opening tonight (Friday, March 11) and with performances Friday through Sunday for two weekends, is Town Players of Pittsfield’s production of The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

A Blizzard of Burlesque: Gypsy Layne Cabaret Arrives for Pittsfield’s 10×10 Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

February 19th, 2015, 1:00 pm by Sara

10 shades of Gypsy Layne

By Larry Murray

Everyone who reads Berkshire on Stage knows by now my personal delight in the naughty but innocent burlesque company, Gypsy Layne. One reason is that they keep reinventing themselves, and have innovated the addition of men doing well what women do best. So here’s another variation on their show, due in Pittsfield for two nights only – Friday & Saturday (February 20 & 21) at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield – as part of the 10×10 Festival. (Event Schedule) Mark my words, the first winter thaw will arrive with this company. You better believe the heat they will generate will melt not only the nearby snow, but your inhibitions as well.

So how do we describe this naughty performance company? For that, let’s defer to their own words:

Sizzling. Sultry. Cool. Playful. Outrageous…and that’s just half of it. What’s your favorite shade of Gypsy Layne? The Berkshire’s first homegrown burlesque and cabaret troupe colors you wild this February with their latest extravaganza, “10 Shades of Gypsy Layne,” part of Pittsfield’s 10×10 Festival. The acts are eclectic as the Gypsies themselves, and electrifying. Two nights, 10 shades, endless possibilities.

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Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble Performs Saturday in Pittsfield [Berkshire on Stage]

August 16th, 2013, 11:00 am by Sara
Three of the four members of Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble.

Three of the four members of Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble.

It will be a rare treat for the Berkshires to hear classically trained musicians from Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Palestine perform on Saturday evening (August 17) at the new Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District, the third and final special event in concert with the ISLAM CONTEMPORARY art show.

The Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble is a Massachusetts-based group of talented musicians whose love and dedication to Arabic music have earned them wide acclaim from both ethnomusicologists and audiences at sold-out performances throughout the U.S. and internationally. The ensemble is committed to performing the traditional music of the Arab world and to preserving the rich legacy of Arabic culture through soulful vocals, hypnotic instrumental improvisations, electrifying percussion and faithful renditions and recordings of master works.

Layaali’s mission is to increase the awareness of Arabic music and culture through concerts, recordings, workshops and lectures. The musicians include: Jamal Sinno on the qanun and vocals; Muhammed Mejaour on the nay; Boujemaa Razgui playing the oud, violin and vocals; and Michel Moushabeck performing on tabla, riqq and daff.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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