Posts Tagged ‘Williamstown Theatre Festival’

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.

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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.

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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.

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THEATER REVIEW: “Paradise Blue” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, July 27th, 2015
(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

(l) Blair Underwood and (r) De’Adre Aziza in Paradise Blue. Photograph T .Charles Erickson

Theater review by Larry Murray

In Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Cycle” of three plays, it is the women who come most vividly to life, and in Paradise Blue – currently onstage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through Sunday (August 2) – that is doubly true as Kristolyn Lloyd brings a sad sweetness to her character Pumpkin, while the scintillating De’Adre Aziza burns up the stage with her heat as Silver, an opportunistic spider lady whose charms are impossible to spurn. Unless you are Blue (Blair Underwood), a trumpet player whose high notes could shatter glass, and low moods suffocate both his sanity and humanity. The second play in Morisseau’s series takes us to the Paradise Valley jazz club in 1949 where we also meet Corn (Keith Randolph Smith) and P-Sam (Andre Holland) as Blue secretly plots to sell his club and accept a gig in Chicago, where he will be a featured artist, not a back bench player.

According to the program notes, the first play in the cycle, Detroit ’67, was produced at the Public Theater in 2013, and looked at the explosive and unstable days of the 1967 riots/rebellion. Skeleton Crew, slated for a 2016 production at the Atlantic Theater Company, depicts four auto workers facing an uncertain future as the city edges toward the 2008 recession. In many ways it documents the difficulties of Motor City in the past and present, and offers a gloomy outlook on the future. Just as August Wilson’s plays give us a view into the inner life of Pittsburgh, so does Paradise Blue give us a taste of what life in Detroit might have been like for African Americans in the past.

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REVIEW: A Passionless “Kinship” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

(l to r) Cynthia Nixon (She) and Chris Lowell (He). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Theater Review by Roseann Cane

Phèdre, Racine’s 17th-Century masterpiece, was a retelling of a Greek tragedy already examined many centuries before by Greek and Roman writers. What made this retelling so striking is the focus on the title character, previously portrayed as a monstrously evil woman. Racine’s Phèdre is a psychologically complex character whose obsession drives her to commit terrible acts, but this time she is more human than monster, and though she causes great suffering she is also a victim trapped in her own obsessions.

Playwright Carey Perloff was inspired to write Kinship in 2009, when she was directing Phèdre at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. “I was really trying to understand the nature of obsession,” she has said. “I love obsession, but it’s really strange. It’s not rational: it feeds on itself, so you need more, and more, and more of that drug to keep you feeling alive, even though you know it’s destructive. When it turns out that Hippolytus [Phèdre’s stepson] is in love with someone else, Phèdre becomes a monster, and decides she’s going…to take them down.”

In Kinship – currently being presented at the Williamstown Festival Festival’s Nikos Stage – the story is told through three characters, She (Cynthia Nixon), Friend/His Mother (Penny Fuller) and He (Chris Lowell). She is a driven, powerful middle-aged woman living a life many would envy. A successful newspaper editor, she has a devoted husband and two children she clearly adores.

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REVIEW: Jessica Hecht and Justin Long Dazzle in Premiere of “Legacy” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

(L to R): Justin Long (Dr. Goodman), Jessica Hecht (Suzanne) and Eric Bogosian (Neil). (photo: T .Charles Erickson)

Reviewed by Roseann Cane

As I settled into my seat at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Nikos Stage for the world premiere of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, I was impressed enough with Dane Laffrey’s set to jot, “Smart, creamy, winter white with touches of gray and blue, cool blue lighting [by Justin Townsend]….” This apartment, neatly organized, almost pristine, had a Scandinavian air.

Not long into the first act, I decided that the set was utterly wrong for the play, and in some ways emblematic of what I found disappointing in the production. Too many components just don’t mesh, though there are many moments of brilliance. With apologies to Aristotle, I found the whole of the play lesser than the sum of its parts.

Neil (Eric Bogosian), a literary lion well into his sixties, and his younger-by-several-decades wife, Suzanne (Jessica Hecht), married for 17 years, are scholars ensconced in an apartment in (where else?) the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Neil suggests a hybrid of Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, with his bellowing talent and testosterone-tinged sense of entitlement, but though we hear the words, we don’t hear what’s beneath them. Bogosian, for whose body of work I have much admiration, is far too laid-back and monotonous to inhabit Neil, a man whose latest novel has just received a scathing review in The New York Times. The words he utters are those of an very successful artist in crisis, someone whose sense of self and his place in the world has been shattered. Bogosian’s declarations about failure and desperation seemed more kittenish than leonine. His performance is so understated that it’s one-dimensional.

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Two World Premieres Open the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s 2015 Season [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
(L to R): Estelle Parsons (Mrs. Bennet), Kyra Sedgwick (Faye Garrit) and Mary Wiseman (Julia Conroy) Photo: Paul Fox.

(L to R): Estelle Parsons (Mrs. Bennet), Kyra Sedgwick (Faye Garrit) and Mary Wiseman (Julia Conroy) Photo: Paul Fox.

Williamstown Theatre Festival hosts the opening night celebrations for its first two shows of the 2015 season at 8pm on Thursday (July 2): on the Main Stage, Off the Main Road, world premiere play by Pulitzer Prize-winner William Inge, and on the Nikos Stage, Legacy, a world premiere play by Daniel Goldfarb. A special opening night celebration will follow the performances.

On the Main Stage, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner Krya Sedgwick makes her WTF debut in Inge’s Off the Main Road. As the second wave of feminism crests in America, the elegant but emotionally fragile Faye Garrit (Sedgwick) seeks refuge from her husband, a former professional baseball player, by checking into a run-down resort on the outskirts of St. Louis with her 17-year-old daughter. The future for mother and daughter may look hazy, but personal, political and sexual awakenings allow them to move forward with new and heartbreaking clarity. Directed by Evan Cabnet, this gripping and powerful drama deepens Inge’s legacy of penning rich, emotionally hard-hitting stories populated by complicated and truthful human characters.

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Williamstown Theatre Festival Adds Six Special Events to Busy 2015 Season Calendar [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, May 7th, 2015


The Williamstown Theatre Festival has added a batch of new, exciting special events to their 2015 season line-up. In addition to the Main Stage and Nikos Stage productions, the 61st season will also include: Paradise Lew (Monday, July 13), an evening of stand-up with Williamstown veteran Lewis Black; straight from its hit Off-Broadway run, a one-night-only concert performance of Benjamin Scheuer’s The Lion (Sunday, July 19); the return of the stripped-down musical comedy duo the Skivvies (Sunday & Monday, July 26 & 27); The Darrell Hammond Project (Monday, August 10), with “Saturday Night Live” impersonation icon Darrell Hammond; for the first time ever at Williamstown, one of the most-celebrated musical improv shows in the world, Baby Wants Candy (Thursday-Saturday, August 20–22); as well as this summer’s Free Theatre production, Song for a Future Generation (July 15–18 & 21–24).

As previously announced, WTF’s Main Stage Season will include William Inge’s Off the Main Road directed by Evan Cabnet and featuring Kyra Sedgwick in her WTF debut (June 30–July 19); the world premiere of the 2012 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award-winner Paradise Blue by Dominique Morisseau; directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (July 22–August 2), and six-time Tony® Award-winner Audra McDonald and Tony nominee Will Swenson in Nobel laureate Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece: A Moon for the Misbegotten, directed by Gordon Edelstein (August 5–August 23).

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