Barrington Stage is presenting The Hills Are Alive With Rogers and Hammertstein until August 29. It is a production worth seeing. The company has risen to the challenge of producing theatre in the time of the coronavirus in creative and exciting ways. The five talented performers, Alan H. Green, Storm Lever, Nicholas Rodriguez, Alexandra Silber and Alysha Umphress will keep you enthralled through the entire performance.
Click The Hills Are Alive to hear what Bob and I have to say about our experience with this productions
Click Barrington Stage to order tickets and find out what else is happening at the theatre..
This was the first of many interviews Theatre Talk did with Eric Peterson and other members of Oldcastle productions. This was the fifth interview of the first year of our radio program. This was also Oldcastle’s 40th anniversary as a theatre company in Bennington, Vermont. Eric spoke about some of the theatre’s history. The interview took place on March 7, 2011, several months before the company received notice from the Bennington Center for the Arts that this would be the company’s last season at the Center. The Oldcastle Board of Directors saw this as a challenge for a new beginning which led to the company’s current theatre in downtown Bennington.
The ninth annual ten ten minute play festival at Barrington Stage is part of Pittsfield’s Upstreet Winter Arts Festival which brightens the last days of February with a variety of cultural activities. Directed by Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn. The New Play Festival runs from February 13 to March 8 at the St. Germain Stage. Six actors, three men and three women move swiftly through a range of characters. Over the years it has been a pleasure to watch the magic of theatre as the actors change their personalities as well as their clothes in play after play.
The emphasis in the plays this year is comedy about our contemporary world. The opening play Five Seconds claims that the attention span of ten minutes may be too much for modern audiences. Issues such as school lock down drills, over-reliance on digital devices, robots providing child care, control of one’s body, are some examples of the themes that are explored. When the final play Oy Vey Maria has the entire cast gathered around the manager, it is a pleasure to go back in time. It is also one of the funniest plays and a fine conclusion. In the past, the mix of plays seemed more varied in tone. Only Are You One of Those Robots? is strangely the play that engages the audience’s emotions on a different level of caring for the pain the characters are experiencing.
Generally throughout the plays, the acting surpasses the writing. The women seem particularly strong, but that may be that they have more to do than the men. Peggy Phar Wilson, as always, is superb in each part she plays. Newcomer Maya Loren Jackson manages her various characters so that each is unique. Whether her part is a run on or a major lead Keri Saran is on target. Her range of robots in Minor Deviations is quite impressive. Kenneth Tigar has his best part in his duet with Peggy Phar Wilson in Stay Please. Doug Harris stands out in My Body where his character is different from the others he has played. Peter Macklin doesn’t have that much to do in the plays in which he appears, but he is convincing in each.
Given the smooth transitions from play to play the sets are minimal, but they establish the settings effectively. Brian Prather and Joseph Martin know how to use every element to unobtrusively create the right mood for each episode. Boyd and Penn’s skilled direction is evident in the convincing actions and reactions with which the actors embody their characters. Audience members will each have their different favorites among the plays, but all will be entertained throughout.
As avid Chekhovians who have seen numerous productions of The Seagull, we were interested in viewing this variation on the play. Unlike other takeoffs of Chekhov’s plays, this is a unique play of its own. Taking the characters and the situation from Chekhov’s work, Aaron Posner has created an absorbing, contemporary play. In the original Seagull Constantine, known here as Conrad or Con, talks about new forms. In this version, we glimpse a new form as the characters engage the audience and discuss the play and their roles in it. Having enjoyed Posner’s The Chosen, we were impressed by what he has created in this play.
The production at Hubbard Hall with the audience on either side of the performers is outstanding. Most of the action takes place on the floor of the theatre with elevated areas at either end of the playing area. Chekhov’s image on the curtains for one of the playing areas is a fine reminder of the relationship between the original and this intriguing variation. Given the quality of the performances, three of whom are Bennington College students, credit must be given to Kirk Jackson, the director, who has created a world with these actors that holds the audience’s attention and belief in the actors needs that generates laughter at times, compassion at others. The opening scene where two young characters compete with each other as to who is most miserable is delightful and touching.
All of the actors, except for two, were new to us. All deserve to be singled out for their work. Evan McFarland as the tortured center of the play caught all the different aspects of Con convincingly. Since there are many addresses to the audience, at this performance, an audience member called out a suggestion which McFarland incorporated into the play with ease. It was one of those never to be repeated moments that is why so many cherish live theatre. Anabel Hoffman, who as Mash is in mourning for her life, was captivating and as her devoted, if scorned lover, and Con’s friend, Louis Celt was at times sensible and at others appropriately pathetic. Amrita Li Newton was Nina in all her various moods, giving us both Chekhov’s and Posner’s character in all her complexity. That these three actors are still students bodes well for their future in theatre. Jesse Pennington’s physicality as Trigorin added to his character expanding our understanding of him.
Having seen much of their work over the years, we were even more impressed by Kim Stauffer and David Snider. We have seen Kim play a variety of complex characters, but this showed fresh aspects of what she can do. She met the challenge of playing a different type of woman with skill and honesty. It is always a pleasure to see David Snider, the fine Executive and Artistic Director of Hubbard Hall, perform. He is an outstanding actor who captures the character of Sorn completely. Sorn provides a balance in the play between the conflicting generations exemplified by Emma and her son, Con. This is a production that should not be missed. Unfortunately, it is only running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from January 24 to February 2. Call 518-677-2495 or go on line at hubbardhall. org for tickets. It is an evening in theatre you will enjoy and long remember.
Oldcastle Theatre presents the world premiere of Water, Water Everywhere Friday, October 4. The play runs Thursday to Sunday until October 20. Set in a fictional Vermont town, the play deals with the issue of contaminated water, a problem currently facing many communities. Along the way, WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE is a play with comedy, mystery and romance. Eric Peterson, Artistic Producing Director of Oldcastle, wrote and directed the play. Bob and I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric and two of the actors, Patrick Shea and Natalie Wilder. Patrick and Natalie enjoy returning to Oldcastle where they met. Eric, Natalie and Patrick discuss the process by which the play came to life as the actors portray characters who populate the small town world the reporters of the local newspaper are exploring.
Bennington is fortunate to have its own Equity theatre company downtown on Main Street. This is Oldcastle’s 48th season which is an impressive record. Even more impressive, it has had the same Artistic Director all those years. Eric Peterson not only has the distinction of being Oldcastle’s Artistic Director for that period of time, he is also, as far as we know, the longest serving Artistic Director with one company in the history of American theatre. Bob and I had the pleasure of talking with Eric about the upcoming season. He not only told us about the plays that will be produced, but about the process of choosing a season. In addition, he shared his thoughts about the changes that have taken place in American theatre. This is a discussion worth listening to, not only for information about the plays, but also for insights into the nature of theatre..
Bob and I saw a delightful comedy at Capital Rep in Albany which we recommend. This is a world premiere which is always exciting. However, I suspect this play will be produced by other theatres because of its appeal. Capital Rep is a theatre where we have enjoyed engaging productions before. We discuss the play below. However, in our discussion, we did not mention the significance of the red maple which is a stimulus for much of the action that takes place in the stylish Albany apartment. Two couples. who are old friends. discover a great deal surprising about themselves and each other. Listen to our discussion and then order tickets. The show plays until February 17 with evening performances Tuesday through Saturday and matinees, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
One of the elements that makes the current production of The Glass Menagerie at Barrington Stage’s Boyd-Quinson Theatre special is the lovely viola music that is played live throughout the performance. Integrated with the lyricism of Tennesse Williams poetic language, it adds to the magic of the play. As a part of Barrington Stage’s outreach into the community, Artistic Director, Julianne Boyd, along with composer Alexander Sovronsky and violist, Susan French talked about this music at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Thursday, October 11. Bob and I recorded the discussion which you can listen to by clicking below. The insights that the discussion provided in terms of how music is integrated into a play are valuable in terms of deepening one’s appreciation of the process in the creation of a production. The Glass Menagerie runs through October 21 and should not be missed.
The Glass Menagerie plays at Barrington Stage’s Boyd-Quinson Theatre through October 21 in a remarkable production that captures the magic and the poetry of Tennesse William’s memory play. Narrated by Tom Wingfield, we see Tom, his sister Laura, his mother Amanda and a Gentleman Caller as they exist in Tom’s memory. This is a play you can see many times and still be freshly absorbed in the story and the characters. In every production, the cast offers their unique vision that engages you once more. Bob and I were fortunate to interview the full cast after we had seen the play.
Two Trains Running by August Wilson plays at the Weston Playhouse in Weston, VT through October 21. This production is a part of Weston Playhouse’s annual production of a classic play at the end of their summer theatre season. The company’s motto is Celebrating the Classics and Nurturing the New. Started in 1935, The Weston Playhouse is Vermont’s oldest professional theatre. The playhouse is also unique in having a trio of producing directors, Malcolm Ewen, Tim Fort and Steve Stettler, who have worked together for thirty years offering outstanding productions of a range of plays each summer. The culmination of their collaboration is the Walker Farm Theatre where Two Trains Running is now performing. This is an intimate second stage not far from the main theatre. In this, their last year as a producing team, the trio has outdone itself with the season’s offering, culminating in this production. The theatre will continue and be able to do much more year around thanks to their leadership.
Over the past several years Bob and I have enjoyed interviewing a variety of people involved in the productions or when that was not possible, discussing the plays which we do with Two Trains Running. You may click on our discussion below. There is one correction that needs to be made to the discussion. The play takes place in a diner. Several times I mistakenly refer to it as a dinette. These terms are not interchangeable, so when you hear me say dinette in this discussion, mentally correct it to diner.