Stagestruck: Autumn Harvest

In September, after the summer theaters wind up, there’s a lull. Then, just as the leaves are turning, comes an explosion of new shows. In the past two weeks, half a dozen productions have opened in the region, and this weekend another half dozen hit the stage.

Representing not only the abundance but the variety of stage fare in and around the Valley, these early birds include a drama about teen rebellion and the meaning of home, a Hitchcockian spoof thriller, a page-to-stage adaptation of a modern literary classic, a music-hall murder mystery, a master class in “the politics of singing,” and a political comedy about homophobia.

The local college season kicks off this weekend at Smith with Habitat (through Oct. 20), about a group home for troubled teens that’s troubling its nimby neighbors. That’s followed at Mount Holyoke by a one-hour whirlwind of five mini-vaudevilles from the master of the absurd, Samuel Beckett (Oct. 18-21); at UMass by Machinal, a silent-movie-era indictment of the mechanized society (Nov. 1-10); and at Amherst College by Yes, a student-written meditation on the consequences of a childhood wish (Nov. 8-10).

Three musicals are on the horizon, none of them in the traditional song-and-dance mold. The world premiere of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, now at Hartford Stage through Nov. 11, adopts a music-hall pose to trace the career of an Edwardian rascal out to seduce, or slay, his way to a fortune. Violet, staged by the UMass Theater Department Nov. 29-Dec. 8, follows a young woman, disfigured by a childhood accident, on her journey to be healed—yes, in both senses. And the Valley Light Opera presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical operetta Patience, updated from the 1880s to the 1960s’ Swinging London, Nov. 3-10.

These days, three of the “big four” Berkshire summer theaters stay open year-round. Last month Barrington Stage Company and the Berkshire Theatre Group revived two of their summertime hits, and The Lord of the Flies, adapted from William Golding’s chilling novel about civilization giving way to savagery, is now playing at BSC through Oct. 21. Shakespeare & Company continues its by-now-traditional series of mystery send-ups with The 39 Steps, a madcap homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, through Nov. 4. WAM Theatre, a recent arrival on the Berkshires scene, presents The Old Mezzo, about a faded opera star recapping her career and ideals in one last master class, in Pittsfield Oct. 13-28. And a little farther west, Capital Rep in Albany imports Chester Theatre’s 2011 cyber-Austen sensation Pride@Prejudice, now through Oct. 28.

Two upcoming solo shows look particularly intriguing. At the UMass Fine Arts Center on Oct. 24, performance artist Dan Kwong’s It’s Great 2B American is a satirical travelogue of the American foot- (and boot-) print in Asia. And in American Fiesta, at Springfield’s CityStage Oct. 25-27, a man comes to terms with his obsession for collectible china and his parents’ hostility to his same-sex marriage. Gay marriage, along with the current election season, also provides the framework for Paul Rudnick’s Regrets Only, a comedy of Manhattan manners pitting family values against political ambitions, at the Suffield Players Oct. 11-27.

And that’s not even the whole fall lineup. I used to think summer was the bumper-crop time for theater. Guess not.?


Contact Chris Rohmann at

Author: Chris Rohmann

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