Review: Shakespeare & Company presents Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons

Review: Shakespeare & Company presents Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons

Having premiered on Broadway in 2014, Terrence McNally’s incredible drama Mothers and Sons is now playing on the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre stage at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. It is a timely play about the complexity of the relationship between a mother and her son. McNally skillfully crafts characters that seem all too familiar and yet we in the audience don’t see how events will unfold as we become engrossed in each scene. We laugh at the uncomfortable jokes they make in their effort to ease the tension that is building. We gasp at the harshness and bluntness of the things they say. We tear up when they break down in unbearable pain. We see our family members, our friends and our coworkers in the various facets of these characters. In this play about change, personal growth, acceptance of others and, without a doubt, love, we see a glimmer of hope and compassion come from the youngest character; who in his innocence and kindness, shows us that good can come from bad and love can be shown in the smallest of ways. 

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Review: Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg at Shakespeare & Company

Review: Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg at Shakespeare & Company

Written by Simon Stephens this two-person play features talented actors Tamara Hickey as the talkative Georgie Burns and Malcolm Ingram as the mature and compassionate Alex Priest. Set in present-day London, we watch as the relationship between two unlikely companions changes over the course of six scenes. A common thread that connects them is the loneliness they feel because they have lost the people who meant the most to them. Georgie is a vibrant, spirited woman in her forties who mistakenly kisses the neck of Alex in a busy train station thinking he was someone else. Alex, poised, quiet, and seventy-five, becomes entangled in Georgie’s life, but it might just be the excitement his solitary life needed.

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Review: As You Like It at Shakespeare & Company

Review: As You Like It at Shakespeare & Company

William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is a story of love and the adventurous journey towards new beginnings. Duke Senior has been banished from court by his younger brother Duke Frederick. Frederick then banishes his niece Rosalind who has grown close with his daughter Celia. The pair attend a wrestling match where Rosalind first lays eyes on Orlando whom she quickly becomes enamored with. Orlando flees from his older brother Oliver who is threatening his life and withholding his rightful inheritance from their father Sir Rowland. He ends up in the Forest of Arden, where Duke Senior, Rosalind and Celia have also found sanctuary. But as we see in the play, when characters take on a foreign persona and live in disguise happily ever after doesn’t come as quickly as they’d like. 

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Review: An Engrossing Production of August Strindberg’s "Creditors" Now Plays at Shakespeare & Company

Review: An Engrossing Production of August Strindberg’s "Creditors" Now Plays at Shakespeare & Company

August Strindberg’s tragic comedy Creditors is a fast-paced, psychologically intense look at life and the cost of relationships. In this adaptation by playwright David Greig, three characters must face their past choices, and in doing so come to the realization that their present state is a result of those choices. Through deception they come to realize the debts they owe others and the unfathomable cost of love. Strindberg, in his naturalistic style, is a master of balancing the darkness of a dramatic psychological thriller and an authentic, unapologetic comedy. The three veteran actors (Jonathan Epstein, Ryan Winkles and Kristin Wold) who have taken on this play under the incredible direction of Nicole Ricciardi have expertly captured each facet of their multidimensional characters. In doing so, they grabbed the audience’s attention from the onset and held it to the end.

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Review: Regional Premiere of 'The Taming' at Shakespeare & Company

Angelica Potter

  • OnStage Massachusetts Critic

LENOX, MA - The Taming, wittily written by Lauren Gunderson, is an entertaining, eccentric comedy that brings together an ambitious beauty queen with two headstrong, political opposites in a way that will have you laughing throughout. Miss Georgia, the night before the Miss USA pageant, decides that in order to make her dream of rewriting the constitution a reality she must lock herself in her hotel room with a liberal activist blogger and a conservative Senate staffer and forge an alliance between the parties. Sounds amusing, doesn’t it? And that’s only the beginning!  

Wonderfully directed by Nicole Ricciardi the three fantastic females in this cast work together with great chemistry and comedic timing. As dialect coach, Susan Cameron, honed the ladies’ accents, each magnificently executed and perfectly fitting their characters. Maddie Jo Landers plays the determined Miss Georgia, Katherine; Tangela Large plays the career focused conservative, Patricia and Lucy Lavely plays the eccentric liberal activist, Bianca. The actors were completely committed to the characters they played with each line and movement deliberate and purposeful. The subtle nuances and gestures of each character were clear and precisely placed amongst the boisterous banter in each scene. Even as they portrayed other personalities in a trip back in time, (thanks to some powerful, medicinal water guns) their incredible talent and understanding of the text continued to impress the consistently chuckling audience. Though these ladies are making their Shakespeare and Company debuts with this play it will certainly not be the last we see of them. 

Photo Credit: Lucy Lavely, Maddie Jo Landers, Tangela Large. Photo by Enrico Spada.

Photo Credit: Lucy Lavely, Maddie Jo Landers, Tangela Large. Photo by Enrico Spada.

The show was not only fantastic because of the work done on stage, but also because of the work behind the scenes before it opened. Set designer John McDermott did a great job creating a functional and easily transitioned set. I especially loved the red, white and blue Mylar curtain that enclosed much of the set at the top of the show. Sound designer Amy Altadonna brought life to each scene with subtle sound effects such as the “Twitter bird”. Nicely designed lighting and costumes, by James Bilnoski and Esther Van Eek, rounded out the well done technical aspects of this production. 

If you find yourself in the Berkshires and in need of a good laugh go on over to Shakespeare and Company and enjoy this 90 minute hilariously relevant play. The Taming is playing in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre until July 30th, 2016.  Tickets and more information on the can be found at www.shakespeare.org.

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Review: 'The Comedy of Errors' at Shakespeare & Company

Angelica Potter

William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is an entertaining farce about two sets of identical twins separated at birth whose worlds accidentally collide in the city of Ephesus. This instigates a hilarious adventure of mistaken identity and human folly. Fantastically directed by Taibi Magar, the twelve member cast takes us along on this ninety minute ride bursting with laughter and music to the point that we in the audience may forget we are watching a play written over four hundred years ago. 

This production is a modernized version, however, I’m not going to tell you when it takes place or where, but I will say that the accents they are using are spectacular and make the already humorous script even better. Before the play even begins cast members are out and about on the stage and in the audience chatting with and engaging the audience in whatever they are currently doing such as dancing or playing a game. It is here that the audience starts to get drawn into the world of the play. Music (designed/composed by Stowe Nelson) and costuming (designed by Tilly Grimes) helps transport us back into time so when the play begins we are excited, engaged and ready to laugh.

L-R: Kelley Curran as Adriana, Cloteal L. Horne as Luciana and Aaron Bartz as Dromio of Ephesus. Photo by Enrico Spada.

L-R: Kelley Curran as Adriana, Cloteal L. Horne as Luciana and Aaron Bartz as Dromio of Ephesus. Photo by Enrico Spada.

I was nervous when I first heard this play was to be a modernized version as those versions could easily butcher the story, the lines and the characters in a way that would have Shakespeare rolling over in his grave. Luckily, this version shows exactly how modernized interpretations should be done. The cast is compiled of Shakespeare and Company veterans: Kelley Curran (Adriana), Cloteal L. Horne (Luciana), Malcolm Ingram (Egeon), Josh Aaron McCabe (Dr. Pinch/Duke Solinus), Christianna Nelson (Abbess), Douglas Seldin (Luce), and Michael F. Toomey (Angelo). As well as newcomers: Aaron Bartz (Dromio of Ephesus/Dromio of Syracuse), Ben Chase (Officer/Merchant), Jenelle Chu (Courtesan), Ian Lassiter (Antipholus of Ephesus/ Antipholus of Syracuse), and Daniel Rios Jr. (Merchant). They all portray their characters with truth, charisma and sheer brilliance. They breathe life into these characters in a way that I don’t think anyone has ever dared to do before and it has completely paid off. The chemistry amongst the cast was fantastic which clearly demonstrates how much work went into this play. Even though they were speaking lines written hundreds of years ago, their modern mannerisms, dialect, movement, and expressions enabled everyone in the audience to understand not only the lines they spoke, but exactly what was occurring in the story at any given time.    

The creative team on this production, some of whom I’ve already mentioned, did a brilliant job bringing this play into a more modern age. Movement and Choreography were wonderfully done by Jesse Perez who kept things upbeat and fun. Set and Properties Designer John McDermott created a unique space that was complimented by great lighting, designed by Matthew Miller. I applaud the creative team and cast for their incredible work on this production. It is by far one of the best I have seen in years and I am thrilled to have been in the audience on opening night. Furthermore, I would gladly see this show again; which is a statement I rarely make! 

If there is one show you see this summer I highly suggest you make that show The Comedy of Errors. Suitable for anyone; whether you are familiar with the work of Shakespeare or you are seeing one of his plays for the first time, this show is the perfect choice. The Comedy of Errors plays through August 23rd in the Tina Packer Playhouse at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, MA. Tickets and more information can be found at www.shakespeare.org


For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Review : 'Henry V' at Shakespeare & Company

Angelica Potter

Many questions floated around my head as I walked into Shakespeare and Company’s Bernstein Theatre for the opening night performance of William Shakespeare’s Henry V (one of his more popular history plays). What direction is the play going to go? Will it be a period piece or more modern? Will it be long? And probably the question that was on almost everyone’s mind: will I understand it? I perused the program looking for answers and saw that the show only had eight actors: four men and four women. I was instantly curious as to how that was going to be pulled off and as the lights dimmed I hoped for the best. 

If you are unfamiliar with Henry V, it is the story of a prince turned king and his journey to repair his country, England, while also battling France. This intimate production puts an emphasis on the incredible language Shakespeare penned. From the moment the lights go up and the chorus begins the famous prologue: “O! for a Muse of fire…” the audience is drawn in and encouraged to use their imaginations throughout the coming journey.  

This production was masterfully and creatively directed by Jenna Ware. I can’t recall the last time I saw a ‘bare Bard’ production that was so excellently executed. A ‘bare Bard’ production is one that mimics how companies in Shakespeare’s day would have performed it: with minimal costumes and prop pieces in a bare space. This allows for the production to be performed in any space available because the actors bring everything with them.  The troupe certainly worked hard to create a play that flowed so easily from one scene to the next. The incredible cast includes Caroline Calkins, Jonathan Croy, Kelly Galvin, Jennie M. Jadow, Tom Jaegar, David Joseph, Sarah Jeanette Taylor and Ryan Winkles. All, but Ryan Winkles who played Henry, portrayed multiple characters each with their own mannerisms and way of speaking. By using various costumes pieces they would transform into different characters for each scene. Altogether, they were wonderful, however one stood out a little extra: David Joseph. This talented actor brought life, laughter and charisma to his characters and though each was different all were intriguing. He was certainly an audience favorite. 

Wrapping up in two hours plus the 15 minute intermission, this play was undoubtedly one of the best I have seen of late. Yet, I was left wondering why the swords, though sometimes drawn, were never used.  The battle scene was done in a slow motion mime-like way with each character fighting their invisible opponent. It was really interesting to watch, but I felt let down at the same time because I had been looking forward to some kind of sword play. 

If you find yourself in the Berkshires this summer I recommend heading over to Shakespeare and Company to enjoy the beauty of language mixed with a little bit of history and certainly some laughs. Henry V plays through August 23rd, 2015. Tickets and more information on the play (which I highly recommend reading before attending) can be found at www.shakespeare.org

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/