Saturday, June 15, 2024

If You Ask Me: Tom Takes A Field Trip

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By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Berkshire Stages Kick-Off Summer Season

No it’s not officially summer yet, but it may as well be once the theatre season begins in the Berkshires. I was delighted with a recent trip to Massachusetts where the Berkshires’ professional theatre companies are up and running.  A day trip to the Berkshires, under two hours from Stratford, is not only scenic but a cultural oasis!

There’s a major event happening over at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield where playwright Mark St. Germain (“Freud’s Last Session”, “Becoming Dr. Ruth”), is offering the world premiere of his latest work, “The Happiest Man On Earth”.  Running through June 17th and based on the devastating memoir by Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, this riveting solo performance features brilliant character actor and Stratford resident Kenneth Tigar in the role of Jaku.  With a literate and humane script played out on James Noone’s spare but effective set, Tigar is a consummate storyteller who grabs your attention and never veers off track. Crisply directed by Ron Lagomarsino, the actor is never less than riveting and, in just under 100 minutes (without intermission), viewers are left breathless and wrung out emotionally by the level of writing and acting on display. Some smart producer should make tracks to Massachusetts and get this show scheduled (with this actor!) in New York.  Fast.

Heidi Schreck’s 2019 Tony nominated play, “What the Constitution Means to Me”, was given a splendid revisal at the Berkshire Theatre Group in StockbridgeSchreck‘s boundary-breaking play breathes new life into our Constitution and imagines how it will shape the next generation of Americans. Over the course of the play, Schreck addresses themes such as women’s rights, immigration and domestic abuse.  The luminous Kate Baldwin was more than up to the challenge at the BTG playing Schreck at 15 as well as her adult self later in the play.  It’s a wonderful role for any actress and Baldwin had able support from Jay Sefton and Zurie Adams in supporting roles.  I caught the final performance of the play and was happy I did.  Also planned at BTG this summer will be the musicals “Million Dollar Quartet” and “The Secret Garden” as well as dramas like “Photograph 51” by Amy Ziegler and “Copenhagen” by Michael Frayn.

In Lenox, a new play by Ken Ludwig delights over at Shakespeare & Company.  Running through July 30th, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” is a nostalgic trip to the past where Ludwig has detailed how his parents met.  They eventually fell in love through a series of letters while Jack was a medical doctor serving on the front lines during WW II.  The play owes no small debt to A.R. Gurney’s epistolary classic, “Love Letters”, but director Ariel Bock and his effortlessly charming cast of two, David Gow and Zoya Martin, play characters you truly root for who will have you weeping at their final clinch.  Shakespeare & Company offers stages both inside and on their beautiful grounds.  “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” is being performed in the scenic Roman Garden Theatre and is part of a season that includes Shakespeare’s “Henry VI, Part II”, “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, August Wilson’s “Fences”, William Gibson’s “Golda’s Balcony” and the world premiere of Donald Margulies’ new play, “Lunar Eclipse”.

For further information about these great theatres and all the Berkshires has to offer, visit Shakespeare & Company at www.shakespeare.org, Berkshire Theatre Group at www.berkshiretheatregroup.org and Barrington Stage Company at www.barringtonstagecompany.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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