10×10 New Play Festival

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.

For tickets contact Barrington Stage or call 413-236-8888

To read other reviews, click on Berkshire Theatre Critics Association

Stupid F–king Bird

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.

Jesse Pennington as Trigorin, Kim Stauffer as Emma, David Snider as Sorn In back Annabel Hofman as Mash Louis Celt as Eev
EvanMcFarland as Con and Amrita Li Newton as Nina

 

Water, Water, Everywhere

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.

Water, Water Everywhere Interview

After listening to the interview, go to the Oldcastle website  or call 802-442-1267 for tickets

 

 

Natalie Wilder and Ed Rosini

Oldcastle Theatre’s 2019 Season

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..

Click on the link below to listen to the discussion

Eric Peterson

 

Then click on the link below for tickets or call 802) 447-0564

Oldcastle Theatre

Red Maple – Capital Rep

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.

Click below

Discussion of Red Maple

Click below to order tickets or call 518-445-7469

Capital Rep

 

             James Lloyd Reynolds, Elizabeth Meadows Rouse , Yvonne Perry and Oliver Wadsworth

The Music of The Glass Menagerie

The Music of the Glass Menagerie:

black and white closeup of typewriter's keys  which have typed The Glass Menagerie

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.

Discussion of The Music of The Glass Menagerie

For tickets to the play, click on the Barrington Stage website. On October 17 and 18, Berkshire Residents receive a 25% discount.

Barrington Stage website

Julianne Boyd
           Alexander Sovronsky
                Susan French

 

 

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The Glass Menagerie – Barrington Stage


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.

Click below to listen to our interview

The Glass Menagerie Cast Interview

Then go to the Barrington Stage web site or call 413 236 8888. Check on their special ticket prices for Berkshire residents and others.

Barrington Stage website

Read what the critics said

Berkshire Theatre Critics Association

Watch these videos

https://youtu.be/BsFQ-WnUdeQ

https://youtu.be/WO60bphdhrQ