Posts Tagged ‘Williamstown Theatre Festival’

Theater Review: “Romance Novels for Dummies” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 25th, 2016
Mary Wiseman and Justin Long (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Mary Wiseman and Justin Long (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Theater review by Larry Murray

Part romantic comedy and part relationship play, Romance Novels for Dummies had its world premiere on the main stage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival last week. There was drama, tension, laughs, pathos and cleverly drawn characters from rising playwright Boo Killebrew, but not enough to fill the big theater where her play was being staged. Romance Novels is the kind of play that is perfect for off-Broadway, an intimate tale of two sisters, with a series of dates that all go wrong, and the ghost of a deceased husband and the ongoing responsibilities of raising a daughter casting a shadow over it all.

Set in present day Brooklyn, the Eberwine sisters Liz (Mary Wiseman) and Bernie (Ashley Austin Morris) have moved to the big city from Mississippi. They brought with them six-year-old Lily (Emily Lyons) who is being raised by her stay at home mom and her wilder, pot-smoking, drinking and swearing older sister. Mom is trying to figure out what to do with her life, thus her interest in learning how to write romance novels from a self-help book.

Along the way she is encouraged to do some research by some real life dating, and that is how we meet Justin Long who plays Jake, Charles and Myron, her three research subjects who could also become real life boyfriends. Long, of course, is a natural character actor and quickly endows the three different guys with unique voices, stances and personalities. Mary Wiseman’s Liz has her own special response to each of them, and the succession of dates fills in one aspect of her personality.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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THEATER REVIEW: “The Chinese Room” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Friday, July 22nd, 2016
(L to R): Sue Jean Kim, Brían F. O’Byrne and Carson Elrod (photo: Daniel Rader)

(L to R): Sue Jean Kim, Brían F. O’Byrne and Carson Elrod (photo: Daniel Rader)

Theater review by Macey Levin

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda, the wizard Prospero’s teen-age daughter, upon seeing men other than her father for the first time, says, “Brave new world that has such people in ‘t.” Prospero responds, “’Tis new to thee.” The world premiere of Michael West’s play The Chinese Room currently at the Williamstown Theatre Festival explores a probable new world for the 21st century.

It is believed that in time computers will be virtually human; not only will they be able to think but also feel. The Chinese Room was part of an experiment by John Searles in opposition to this theory of artificial intelligence. An English-speaking subject would be placed in a room with several batches of Chinese writings and symbols with instructions in English. The subject would “translate” the material into English. A party outside the room, reading the translation, would think the subject actually knew Chinese. The intent was to show that one can be trained to do and say things but would not have intrinsic knowledge of what he or she was actually doing and, in all probability, did not have the emotional structure possessed by humans.

In the play, Frank McClintock (Brian F. O’Byrne) is fighting with the use of electronic devices, including holograms and the Cloud, to maintain power over the firm he founded while facing an attempt to wrest control from him by his old friend Hal. He is determined to keep all the firm’s information so that he can use it to return his wife Lily (Laila Robins), who is suffering from dementia, to the woman she was before her mind started to deteriorate. After rebooting Susannah (Sue Jean Kim), a droid he created, urging his son Zack (Elliot Trainor) to go to bed and then placating the confused Lily, Frank is visited by Daniel (Carson Elrod), another droid he designed, who has been sent by the firm to retrieve all the records and devices in Frank’s possession. Daniel is focused on his assignment and has no regard for Frank’s pleas or emotional state. Thus begins the drama of the exploration of the Chinese Room theory.

World Premiere of “Romance Novels for Dummies” in Williamstown [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Mary Wiseman (L) and Justin Long (R) in rehearsal together for the world premiere of Romance Novels for Dummies by Boo Killebrew (photo: Daniel Rader)

Mary Wiseman (L) and Justin Long (R) in rehearsal together for the world premiere of “Romance Novels for Dummies” (photo: Daniel Rader)

By Larry Murray

You probably don’t know much about the new comedy Romance Novels for Dummies by Boo Killebrew since it is another world premiere play for the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Directed by Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel, it has a top notch cast replete with personal favorite Justin Long, the stunning Mary Wiseman, plus the enchanting Emily Lyons, Ashley Austin Morris, Connie Ray and the anchor, a solid Andrew Weems.

The set-up is wonderful, full of both dramatic and comic possibilities. Sisters Liz and Bernie couldn’t be more different: Liz is a good, Southern stay-at-home mom; Bernie is a flailing actress smoking and swearing her way through New York City. But when Liz is suddenly widowed, she and her young daughter move in with Bernie to start again. While Bernie challenges all of Liz’s assumptions about life, love and raising a child, Liz goes out on a series of internet dates which eclipse the grief, fear and gentility she’s known for so long. Can Liz compel her own story to end like a romance novel?

Romance Novels for Dummies is a play which asks us to imagine how we might handle the curve-balls — big and small — that life throws us.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Williamstown Theatre Festival Announces Casting for Summer 2016 [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

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Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield has announced additional casting for the upcoming Williamstown Theatre Festival 2016 summer season, which runs from June 28-August 21.

ON THE MAIN STAGE:
* Christopher Abbott (“Girls”), Katie Lee Hill (The Wildness), Darren Pettie (“Mad Men”), Will Pullen (Goat), Lindsay Mendez (Wicked) and Constance Shulman (“Orange is the New Black”) join the previously announced Marisa Tomei in The Rose Tattoo (June 28–July 17)
* Justin Long (last season’s An Intervention and Legacy), Connie Ray (Stuart Little, “ER”) and Andrew Weems (Born Yesterday) will be seen in the world premiere comedy Romance Novels For Dummies (July 20–31)
* Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Ruined), Grace Gummer (Arcadia), Roe Hartrampf (Nobody Loves You), Stephen Kunken (“Billions”), Tony Award nominee Deborah Rush (“Orange is the New Black”) and SAG Award winner Kate Walsh (“Grey’s Anatomy”), along with Pettie and Pullen, will all appear in An American Daughter (August 3 – August 21)

ON THE NIKOS STAGE:
* Gregg Mozgala (Downsizing Camus), Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot) and Wendell Pierce (“The Wire,” WTF’s 2008 Broke-ology) can be seen in the world premiere of Cost of Living (June 29–July 10)
* Carson Elrod (Peter and the Starcatcher), Sue Jean Kim (Bachelorette), Brían F. O’Byrne (Doubt) – who replaces the previously announced Michael Stuhlbarg – and Laila Robins (“Homeland”) make up the cast of the world premiere sci-fi comedy thriller The Chinese Room (July 13–23)
* Jerry Dixon (If/Then), Jose Llana (The King and I), Katie Lee Hill, Stephen Wallem (“Nurse Jackie”) and Noah Zachary (Dear Edwina) will appear in the world premiere musical Poster Boy(July 27–August 7)
* Closing out the summer are the previously announced Tony and Emmy Award nominee Alfred Molina and Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee Jane Kaczmarek in the American premiere of And No More Shall We Part (August 10–21).

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Williamstown Theatre Festival Announces 2016 Season [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
Alfred Molina, Michael Stuhlbarg and Marisa Tomei

Alfred Molina, Michael Stuhlbarg and Marisa Tomei

Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield has announced the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s 2016 summer season, the 62nd season for the Tony Award-winning theater company.

The season – running from June 28–August 21 – begins on the Main Stage with a production of Tennessee Williams’ Tony Award-winning play The Rose Tattoo (June 28–July 17) directed by Obie Award winner Trip Cullman and featuring Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei; continues with the world premiere of Boo Killebrew’s comedy Romance Novels For Dummies (July 20–31), directed by Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel; and closes with the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter (August 3–21), directed by Evan Cabnet.

The Nikos Stage season kicks off June 29 with the world premiere of Martyna Majok’s play Cost of Living (June 29–July 10), directed by Obie Award winner Jo Bonney; and also includes the world premiere sci-fi comedy-thriller The Chinese Room (July 13–23) by Michael West, directed by Obie Award winner James Macdonald, and starring Golden Globe and Tony nominee Michael Stuhlbarg; the world premiere musical Poster Boy (July 28–August 7) with music and lyrics by Tony-nominated Craig Carnelia and book by Joe Tracz, movement by Danny Mefford and direction by Olivier nominee Stafford Arima; and closes out the summer with the American premiere of And No More Shall We Part (August 10-21), by Tom Holloway, directed by Obie Award winner Anne Kauffman and featuring Tony and Emmy nominee Alfred Molina and Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Jane Kaczmarek.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: Audra McDonald Shines in WTF’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
Audra McDonald (Josie Hogan). Photograph T. Charles Erickson.

Audra McDonald (as Josie Hogan). Photograph T. Charles Erickson.

Theater review by Roseann Cane

Eugene O’Neill describes Josie Hogan as having the map of Ireland stamped on her face, a woman of Amazonian proportions, nearly six feet tall and 180 pounds. (A Moon for the Misbegotten is set in 1923, when a woman of that size would have certainly been unusual.) With her brash persona, and her boasts of multiple sexual flings, she puts on a fearful show, and though I’m a big admirer of Audra McDonald, I had concerns that the beautiful, elegant actress would be miscast, a distraction.

But McDonald is bigger than that, figuratively speaking. In this heart-wrenching production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, McDonald makes Josie her own, and the raw honesty of her Josie is magnificent.

The entire cast is superb. Josie and her father Phil (the great Glynn Turman) are tenant farmers living in a shack on the the estate now owned by James Tyrone (Will Swenson, who also happens to be McDonald’s husband). Tyrone is a dissipated alcoholic, a womanizing Broadway actor whom O’Neill modeled after his brother, the same James Tyrone from A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. With his elegant attire and fine manners, it would seem odd that James is drawn to the rough-hewn Josie, and that she is in love with him, but the beautifully crafted play brings us to an unforgettable understanding of their mutual love.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

Visa Problems Force Cancellation of “Chewing Gum Dreams” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, August 10th, 2015
Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel

By Larry Murray

Williamstown Theatre Festival has announced that the American premiere of Chewing Gum Dreams, the solo show written and performed by Michaela Coel, scheduled to begin performances on Wednesday (August 12), has been cancelled due to delays with immigration procedure.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

REVIEW: “Unknown Soldier” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
Derek Klena (Francis Grand) and Lauren Worsham (Lucy Lemay). (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Derek Klena (Francis Grand) and Lauren Worsham (Lucy Lemay). (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Theater Review by Larry Murray

Collaboration is the key to a successful musical, and when the late Nicholas Martin anointed the team behind Unknown Soldier to “do something together” while at the Huntington, Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) and Daniel Goldstein (book) began the journey that ultimately created Unknown Soldier, now getting its world premiere production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown. Even director Trip Cullman, who joined the team a bit later in the process, has helped make the trio of creatives ready for prime time.

When you arrive at the theater, the stage is already set as the research library of Cornell University and with the movement of furniture and boxes, it morphs into the various settings of the play, from the kitchen table of a house in Troy, NY to the cavernous main hall of Grand Central Station in New York City and the examination room of the hospital. The action is brilliantly layered throughout the musical with key scenes taking place downstage as the hustle and bustle takes place upstage, and a five-piece musical combo accompanies the songs from behind a sheer curtain at the very back of the stage.

The story is complicated, taking in four generations of Rabinowitzes and Andersons but comes down to this: Ellen Rabinowitz has inherited her grandmother’s house in Troy – the house where she grew up and ran away from as soon as she could. When cleaning it out, Ellen discovers a picture of her Grandmother Lucy, as a young woman, ripped from a magazine, sitting next to a man, having a picnic – the caption, “Has Unknown Soldier Found True Love?” As she tries to discover the identity of the man in the picture, she uncovers secrets about her Grandmother Anderson and about herself, and has to choose what to remember and what to forget.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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