Williamstown Theatre Festival Announces 2017 Summer Season [Berkshire on Stage]

February 13th, 2017, 1:30 pm by Sara

Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield has announced the Williamstown Theatre Festival 2017 Summer Season, the 63rd season for the Tony Award-winning theater company, which will include four world premieres, a new musical, the first production of a WTF commissioned artist and much more.

The season – running from June 27-August 20 – begins on the Main Stage with a production of a new comedy by Jen Silverman, The Roommate, (June 27–July 16) directed by Mike Donahue and starring Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner S. Epatha Merkerson (WTF debut) and Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee Jane Kaczmarek (fourth season at WTF); continues with Sarah Ruhl’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist comedy The Clean House (July 19-July 29), starring Tony Award nominee Jessica Hecht (10th season at WTF) and directed by Rebecca Taichman; and closes with a new musical A Legendary Romance (August 3-20), with music and lyrics by Geoff Morrow and book by Timothy Prager and directed by Lonny Price.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


THEATER REVIEW: “And No More Shall We Part” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

August 16th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

(l to r) Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Reviewe by Macey Levin

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s American premiere of And No More Shall We Part by Australian playwright Tom Holloway is a challenging piece to write about. It offers so much in its content that requires great tolerance and that is played with outstanding theatrical energy and insight.

Pam (Jane Kaczmarek) and Don (Alfred Molina), middle-age parents of a son and daughter who are out on their own, live a simple and loving life. Pam has had a disease, never identified, for a period of time. Since treatments will no longer help her, she has decided to end her life to save Don and the children the agony of watching her deteriorate into unbearable pain. Told in flashbacks, we see the couple argue about the process of unassisted suicide. He can’t allow her to do it; she insists it is the best thing to do. He wants to be there when she takes the pills; she says he can‘t because that will implicate him in her death. Little by little he reluctantly acquiesces to everything she asks or demands.

Those of us of a certain age have faced, in one way or another, the traumas they are going through. Facing the loss of a loved one is a test of our own strength for it is not an easy realization that one’s life will be severely changed. This is part of Don’s reaction. He does not want Pam to leave him; he decries her actions as being selfish. He tells her to think of what she is doing to the family by taking herself away. To her, it is an act of love. Watching them is heart-rending.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER REVIEW: “An American Daughter” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

August 10th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
Pictured (L to R): Jason Danieley, Kerry Bishé, Richard Poe, Stephen Kunken, Roe Hartrampf, Deborah Rush and Diane Davis. (photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

Pictured (L to R): Jason Danieley, Kerry Bishé, Richard Poe, Stephen Kunken, Roe Hartrampf, Deborah Rush and Diane Davis. (photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Review by Macey Levin

Almost 20 years ago Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter was produced by Lincoln Center Theater; it received mostly mixed reviews and had a relatively short run. Not being one of Wasserstein’s major plays – i.e. The Heidi Chronicles or The Sisters Rosensweig – it has seldom been revived. The Williamstown Theatre Festival has taken a chance to bring it back in the midst of the current, very ugly presidential campaign. A number of the issues addressed in the play are, regrettably, still with us and, in some cases, exacerbated.

Lyssa Dent Hughes (Diane Davis) has been nominated to become the next surgeon-general. She is the daughter of Senator Allen Hughes (Richard Poe) from Indiana and is married to Walter Abrahmson (Stephen Kunken), a PhD. sociologist who is living in his past. Lyssa is well-equipped to fill the position given her background as a crusading physician whose major cause is women’s health. This does seem to be something of a hindrance (sound familiar coming from today’s political arena?)

Walter lets slip the fact that Lyssa ignored a summons to jury duty. The very plausible explanation in light of her professional responsibilities and being the mother of young twin boys is that it was misplaced. A participant in this conversation is an old self-involved, highly conservative friend Morrow McCarthy (Roe Hartrampf). He is invited to a brunch the next day in Lyssa’s home that is going to be filmed by television commentator Timber Tucker (Jason Danieley) and his crew for a news program.

Morrow, not so inadvertently, mentions the jury duty foul-up. When it is brought up in the interview a brouhaha develops which endangers Lyssa’s appointment. In addition, she refers to her mother as “an Indiana housewife” who made ice box cakes and canapes. This results in her being criticized as being condescending. Her “favorable” ratings go down (has this happened recently?), and she is given advice by everyone on how to handle the situation. The best and simplest advice comes from her father’s fourth wife Charlotte “Chubby” Hughes (Deborah Rush), who tells her to recognize the error and, more importantly, protect her family.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

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

July 25th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
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.

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

July 22nd, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
(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]

July 19th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Sara
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.

THEATER REVIEW: “The Rose Tattoo” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

July 5th, 2016, 2:00 pm by Sara
Marisa Tomei (photo:  Daniel Rader)

Marisa Tomei (photo: Daniel Rader)

Theater review by Macey Levin

Tennessee Williams is one of our country’s most important playwrights having written masterpieces from the mid-1940’s to the early ‘60’s including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and many other dark, brooding dramas. In 1951 he wrote a very different work, The Rose Tattoo that is as intense as the others but also hugely funny. Williamstown Theatre Festival has mounted an outstanding production of this seldom-performed play with the marvelous Marisa Tomei leading an exceptional cast.

Serafina Delle Rose (Ms. Tomei) and her 15-year-old daughter live in a ramshackle house in a Gulf coast town in Louisiana. She was widowed three years ago when her husband Rosario was killed in a truck accident while smuggling drugs. She worshipped him and boasts about the rose tattoo on his chest and their love-making to her female neighbors, most of whom neither like nor respect her. She is an object of derision throughout her neighborhood, and they are aware that Rosario was not faithful to her, though they never use that against her. A devout Catholic immigrant from Sicily, she keeps a statue of the Virgin Mary with a candle lit 24 hours a day and speaks to it. She tells her only friend, Assunta (Barbara Rosenblat,) that the statue speaks to her.

Serafina’s daughter Rosa (Gus Birney) has fallen in love with Jack (Will Pullen), a girl friend’s brother. Serafina is fervently opposed to Rosa having any relationship with a boy/man at her young age, though she was married when she was 14. She has kept Rosa locked in a room preventing her from going to school and her graduation ceremony since she has discovered that Rosa has been seeing Jack. At the urging of Assunta and Rosa’s teacher she allows her to attend the ceremony.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

ArtBeat: Olivier Meslay Named Director of Clark Art Institute [Berkshire on Stage]

June 14th, 2016, 3:00 pm by Sara
Olivier Meslay

Olivier Meslay

The Board of Trustees of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown has selected Olivier Meslay to serve as its Dena and Felda Hardymon Director. Meslay, an accomplished museum professional and noted scholar, will become the Clark’s fifth director when he assumes his new role on August 22. He currently serves as associate director of curatorial affairs, senior curator of European and American art, and the Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, and brings more than 35 years of international experience to his role. Meslay was unanimously elected to the position during a special session of the Clark’s board.

“We are thrilled to welcome Olivier Meslay as our new director,” said Andreas Halvorsen, chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees. “Olivier’s vision, international experience, and exceptional academic and curatorial qualifications match the Clark’s ambitious aspirations. He comes to the Clark with a deep appreciation for our academic mission, an expert understanding of our museum program, and an energetic perspective on ways to enhance our dual mission and extend the Clark’s reach and impact.”

Since assuming his current position in 2012, Meslay has overseen the Dallas Museum of Art’s European and American art collection of more than 4,000 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, and has managed the museum’s curatorial department, conservation program, and art research library. He has also served as the DMA’s curatorial representative with the French American Museum Exchange (FRAME), a collaborative organization of 30 American and French museums. Meslay served as the DMA’s interim director from 2011–2012, managing a staff of 250 employees, directing an extensive fundraising program, and coordinating donor relations that have provided continuing support for the museum. He joined the DMA staff in 2009 after a distinguished career at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

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