Stagestruck: Misfit Millennials – “Speech & Debate” at Barrington Stage
Jul20

Stagestruck: Misfit Millennials – “Speech & Debate” at Barrington Stage

Reid Thompson’s setting for Speech & Debate, now receiving a near-perfect production at Barrington Stage Company, is a high school classroom. Maps and historical posters line the walls and headshots of famous Americans form a frieze above a pair of whiteboards – which become screens for Alex Basco Koch’s witty between-scenes animated projections. Lighting by Burke Brown also divides the room into discrete areas representing the...

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Stagestruck: Bare Bard at Shakespeare & Co., Cymbeline Reviewed
Jul18

Stagestruck: Bare Bard at Shakespeare & Co., Cymbeline Reviewed

Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s “romances,” those late works in which comedy blends with tragedy and the endings are neither strewn with corpses nor aclang with wedding bells, but suffused with poignancy and forgiveness. The Tempest is the most popular of this group – in fact, it inaugurates the company’s new outdoor performance space next month – and Cymbeline runs a close second to Pericles as the least performed.So...

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Stagestruck: Wizard of Arrrrrs — PaintBox Theatre
Jul19

Stagestruck: Wizard of Arrrrrs — PaintBox Theatre

“Oh dear, the Wicked Witch is coming!” cried the Mayor of Munchkin City. “In that case,” responded Good Witch Glinda, “I’ve got to go.” “But why?” asked Dorothy, who was just starting to get used to not being in Kansas anymore. “Because she and I can’t be onstage at the same time. You’ll see why in a minute.”That meta-moment is part of why I love Tom McCabe’s PaintBox Theatre. The troupe’s inspired approach to kids’ shows combines...

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Stagestruck: Lives on the Line
Jul15

Stagestruck: Lives on the Line

In her “Detroit Trilogy” of plays, Dominique Morisseau looks at black lives in that once-vibrant city through the lens of three distinct eras and groups of people.  Paradise Blue takes place in a 1949 jazz club in the city’s historic Black Bottom district, which is threatened by gentrification. Detroit ’67 is set in a “blind pig,” an unlicensed after-hours bar, during that summer’s deadly riots – which were triggered by a police raid...

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Stagestruck: Shakespearean Double Act
Jul13

Stagestruck: Shakespearean Double Act

Think of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as fan fiction – Tom Stoppard’s contribution to the “greatest-play-ever-written” phenomenon. That is, Hamlet.  In fact, though they were written centuries apart (around 1599 and 1966, respectively), the two make a well-matched repertory duet for an adventurous theater company, as minor characters in the elder become leads in the upstart, and vice versa.That’s just what Hampshire...

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Stagestruck: Art as Activism – Creative tactics at KO Festival
Jul11

Stagestruck: Art as Activism – Creative tactics at KO Festival

The KO Festival of Performance opened last weekend, kicking off a diverse five-week season clustered around the theme “Tactics for Trying Times.” First up was Jimmy & Lorraine, written by Talvin Wilks and developed with Hartford’s HartBeat Ensemble. The playwright describes his scrapbook drama as a “dramatic reflection” and “a type of mashup,” culled from the writings and correspondence of two great African-American artist/activists:...

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Stagestruck: The Foreigner Hits Close To Home
Jul10

Stagestruck: The Foreigner Hits Close To Home

There’s a disclaimer of sorts in Jack Neary’s director’s note for The Foreigner, New Century Theatre’s season opener, playing through this weekend in its temporary digs at PVPA, the area’s performing arts high school in South Hadley. In it, Neary acknowledges that Larry Shue’s popular comedy “can easily be interpreted as an incisive commentary on our current political climate,” but “Me, I just think it’s funny.”Yes, certain aspects of...

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At Play: All Things Scottish and Great
Jul10

At Play: All Things Scottish and Great

Get your Scot on at the 24th annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival Saturday at Look Park in Northampton. The day-long event is jammed with all things Celtic and “tidy” (that’s Scottish slang for excellent).The day will feature Scottish music, athletic feats of strength, vendors, historical recreations, food, and beer.Don’t miss Albannach (that’s them in front of that rippin’ hawk). The band is straight outta Scotland and features...

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Wizard of Oz Performed by Plucky PaintBox Theatre
Jul03

Wizard of Oz Performed by Plucky PaintBox Theatre

Do You Represent the Lollipop Guild?After more than 70 years since the film’s release (and more than 100 since the book’s), is there any more magic to be wrung from The Wizard of Oz? PaintBox Theatre has answered this jaded question with a resounding, Absolutely! With just three actors, a few props and a whole lot of cleverness and children’s art, the PaintBox troupe is going to recreate the wonderful world of Oz....

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Stagestruck: Stellar Casts Overcome Awkward Plot Points at Chester and Williamstown Theatres
Jul03

Stagestruck: Stellar Casts Overcome Awkward Plot Points at Chester and Williamstown Theatres

Are we finally breaking through the color bar in American theater? Is the tokenism represented by theaters programming one “diverse” play during Black History Month giving way to broader representation and bolder casting choices? Judging from the area’s summer theater lineup, it just might be.In late June, for example, three plays focusing on people of color opened in Western Mass. One of them stipulates only that its two characters...

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Stagestruck: Song & Dance
Jun30

Stagestruck: Song & Dance

Two shows now running in the Berkshires are rooted in the past but right up to the minute. Both Tireless, playing this week at Jacob’s Pillow, and Ragtime, at Barrington Stage through July 15, take their inspiration from the music of a bygone era while inviting us, implicitly but exuberantly, to reflect on our own times.I don’t know why or when Ragtime was chosen as this season’s mainstage musical at Barrington Stage, but I’ll bet the...

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Stagestruck: Brother/Sister Act — The New Theresa Rebeck Play Gets World Debut in VT
Jun27

Stagestruck: Brother/Sister Act — The New Theresa Rebeck Play Gets World Debut in VT

The publicity for Downstairs, which opened at the Dorset (VT) Theatre Festival last week, gives rather short shrift to the fact that it’s a world premiere by the prolific Theresa Rebeck, whose plays Bad Dates and Mauritius are also being produced in the region this summer (at Shakespeare & Company and Oldcastle Theatre, respectively). Most of the attention has been showered on another first: Tyne Daly and her brother, Tim Daly,...

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Long Live the Staycation! Why Leave Western Mass?
Jun26

Long Live the Staycation! Why Leave Western Mass?

Hanging around the house is something we all do, but usually in an unfocused, squished-between-chores-and-obligations sort of way. But when you stay home for vacation, your dwelling can become a sanctuary, free from the day-to-day grind. If you can’t afford to get out of town, treat your home like a resort: stock it with your favorite goodies, splurge a bit on something comfy, and postpone responsibilities for a while. Indulge in the...

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Stagestruck: Fowl Play(s)
Jun20

Stagestruck: Fowl Play(s)

“Birds of a feather flock together,” as the saying goes, but that’s no excuse for these two avian-themed plays to be running at the same time in this area. They are entirely different species.The Birds, at Barrington Stage Company, is a claustrophobic thriller, while Stupid Fucking Bird, opening on Thursday at Silverthorne Theater Company, is a cheeky updating of Chekhov’s The Seagull. When asked what Stupid Fucking Bird is...

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Stagestruck: Mayflies and “Mill Girls”
Jun12

Stagestruck: Mayflies and “Mill Girls”

It has been described as “theatrical mayhem” and “controlled madness,” “extreme theater” and “a mayfly” — the latter because it’s here and gone in a day.The popular annual event is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying for the dozens of theater folk who take part in it, and pretty much the same for the audiences who flock to it.It’s the 24-Hour Theater Project, a no-net high-wire act in which six plays are written, rehearsed and...

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Stagestruck: “Million Dollar” Duo
Jun12

Stagestruck: “Million Dollar” Duo

As it happens, two different productions of the same show open on area stages on the same day this week. On Wednesday, Million Dollar Quartet premieres in the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, and the Majestic Theater in West Springield revives its sold-out hit from last fall.Here’s a revised version of my review of the Majestic’s original production: You could call Million Dollar Quartet...

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Stagestruck: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Alive! and Playing in Amherst – Times Two
May30

Stagestruck: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Alive! and Playing in Amherst – Times Two

“We do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.” That line, spoken by a traveling player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, could well be the elevator pitch for Tom Stoppard’s audaciously meta-theatrical play. Because that’s what it is: a backstage tour of Hamlet conducted by the pair of pawns who are summoned by the king to...

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Stagestruck: Radical Notions, ‘Kunstler’ and ‘Heartbreak House’
May28

Stagestruck: Radical Notions, ‘Kunstler’ and ‘Heartbreak House’

In my column in last week’s Advocate, a preview of the Valley’s summer-theater season, I reported that many of the area’s upcoming shows reflect, indirectly or explicitly, “the political landscape we are all traversing these days.” Sure enough, the first two summer shows out of the gate – not in the Valley but in Pittsfield and Hartford – do indeed invite, and in one case compel, reflections on our perilous present day through the...

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Summer Stage Preview, Part II: Theaters on the Move
May22

Summer Stage Preview, Part II: Theaters on the Move

Editor’s Note: Here’s the Summer Stage Preview Part I, about the Berkshires.These days, Sam Rush often finds himself using the punning phrase “Home is where the art is.” That’s because his company, New Century Theatre, having lost its longtime home at Smith College in Northampton, is mounting a reduced summer season on two Valley stages while searching for a permanent abode. For now, though, he’s determined to feel “at...

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Summer Stage Preview — Part I: The Berkshires
May15

Summer Stage Preview — Part I: The Berkshires

Most theaters in this region have only two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. None of the area’s professional companies are truly year-round. Some focus on intensive summer repertories of multiple shows with two- and three-week runs, while others produce only occasionally or mount fall-to-spring seasons with longer runs. “Intensive” and “multiple” are the key terms here. At least two-thirds of my annual theatergoing happens in...

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Theater: ‘Shipwrecked!’ You Had Me at Giant Killer Octopus
May15

Theater: ‘Shipwrecked!’ You Had Me at Giant Killer Octopus

You Had Me at Giant Killer OctopusRight now, in Trump’s post-truth America, is an excellent time to stage Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself). The play is based on the grandiose stories of a Victorian huckster who fills in the audience about his time as a castaway in the South Pacific, including anecdotes about a killer octopus, cannibals, and buried treasure. Written by Donald Margulies,...

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Air Sexus Interruptus
May15

Air Sexus Interruptus

In a staggering blow to anyone looking for a weird experience on a Monday evening, tonight’s air sex tournament (think air guitar, but with sex) has been mysteriously cancelled.The event was going to take place at 7 p.m. at the Iron Horse, but a message on the Iron Horse Entertainment Group website says in red letters, “This event has been cancelled due to reasons beyond the control of mere mortals. Refunds can be obtained...

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That’s Not an Air Guitar: Air Sex Tournament Comes to Northampton (w/vid)
May08

That’s Not an Air Guitar: Air Sex Tournament Comes to Northampton (w/vid)

That’s Not an Air GuitarThe national Air Sex Tournament is coming to Northampton Monday night and for anyone who thinks they’ve got the pantomime moves to beat the competition, it’s not too late to enter the foray. A fun, and funny, sex-positive show, performers get on stage — alone and clothed enough — to physically demonstrate their craziest, orgasm-inducing moves. Some competitors go for sexy while others go for silly and some mix...

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What Will the Hatchery Do Next? Inventive Dance Performance This Weekend
May08

What Will the Hatchery Do Next? Inventive Dance Performance This Weekend

So, You Know They Can DanceAn homage to Wes Anderson’s highly stylized films and a self-reflective, choreographed spoken-word piece called “Perception” were among the performances featured in Hatchery’s debut show this winter. The pre-professional dance troupe’s second show is coming up this weekend, and it’s exciting to think about what this 10-person group of 13- to 19-year-olds have created. Part of the School for Contemporary...

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Stagestruck: ‘Life in the (413)’ skewers local culture Saturday
Apr24

Stagestruck: ‘Life in the (413)’ skewers local culture Saturday

Back in the day — way, way back — live radio drama was a staple of the airwaves. As script-toting actors gathered around microphones, their dialogue was peppered with live sound effects, backed by a live band and punctuated with live commercial breaks, often with a live studio audience looking on.Lately, New Century Theatre, in partnership with radio station WHMP, has joined in the genre’s recent rebirth as a staged theatrical event....

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Piecing together a new Northampton performance space
Apr17

Piecing together a new Northampton performance space

Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, April 17, Owen Wormser changed out of his flip-flops and donned work boots. Fitting pieces of stone together in the lot in front of Ghost Bread and across the street from the former Serio’s market, Wormser is polishing off a five-tiered amphitheater that will house workshops music and puppet shows by the time summer rolls around.The site has been regraded by hand and volunteers have already put in...

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Calling All New Bands!
Apr10

Calling All New Bands!

We’re still a few months out from July’s annual Green River Festival in Greenfield, but we’re right on time to share a special early announcement from producers Signature Sounds. This year, the festival will add a new stage called the Next Wave Stage, which will host a youth band contest to showcase five of the most promising up-and-coming young Western New England music groups. The Next Wave Stage is open to musical acts from Western...

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Stagestruck: The Trump Effect
Apr10

Stagestruck: The Trump Effect

It seems that lately, every time I go to a play — or a movie, for that matter — it gets me thinking about Donald Trump. Ever since he and his goon squad have taken over in Washington, I’ve noticed that so much of what we see and create seems newly topical and timely. Everything is now filtered through a horrifying new prism, taking on fresh meaning and urgency, whether it was explicitly created in reaction to the current state of...

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Stagestruck: Stage on Screen
Apr06

Stagestruck: Stage on Screen

Movies are not my beat, but I often go to the theater at the Amherst Cinema. The ongoing National Theatre Live series of big-screen, high-def broadcasts from the London stage is a staple of my playgoing schedule. This month and next, the cinema screens encores of five shows in the spring season. I’ve seen two of them in previous screenings, and I’m eagerly awaiting the others.And this Saturday the cinema hosts a one-time,...

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Spring Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (April-June 2017)
Apr03

Spring Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (April-June 2017)

Tweet Puppets for the PeopleFrom its founding in New York’s Lower East Side in 1963 to its decades-long residence in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Bread & Puppet Theater remains one of the country’s most inventive and internationally recognized performing arts troupes. The company’s instantly familiar style of street theater shows — which mix music and dance with drama, puppetry, satire, and slapstick — are always a spectacle and,...

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On Stage: Where War Meets Food and Music
Apr03

On Stage: Where War Meets Food and Music

War and MusicPlaywright Quiara Alegría Hudes has jumped onto our cultural radar many times over the years — she received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Water by the Spoonful, and she wrote the book for the musical In The Heights alongside future Hamilton star Lin-Manual Miranda — but we get to delve into a somewhat quieter (but no less powerful) part of her repertoire this month with the UMass production of her...

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Stagestruck: Force of Nature
Mar27

Stagestruck: Force of Nature

WAM Theatre exists on two levels: to produce work that foregrounds women playwrights and performers, and to tangibly support, with a portion of ticket sales, organizations that work to better the lives of women and girls. Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight brings its own bifurcated story to that mission. First performed here in 2013, WAM is reviving it this weekend and next in a guest appearance at Shakespeare &...

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Like Guthrie Meets MacGyver: The Suitcase Junket Rocks Out
Mar20

Like Guthrie Meets MacGyver: The Suitcase Junket Rocks Out

One-man band plays blues, rock, and folk on improvised instrumentsSome of us spend our days sitting at computers in nondescript rooms. In the new, handmade music video for his love song “Beta Star,” Matt Lorenz gives that a shot. He wakes up in the morning, washes his face, twizzles his long mustache into shape, puts on a tie, grabs a coffee, and sits down to type. It doesn’t go well. In his mind, he’s wearing a tutu and romping...

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Saturday: Nasty Women Take the Stage
Mar20

Saturday: Nasty Women Take the Stage

Nasty JazzThe Ladies of Jazz music series is dedicating its Saturday, March 25, concert to all the “nasty” (aka “strong”) women fighting for female and reproductive rights. And all proceeds are going to benefit Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in Brattleboro. Organized by the Valley’s First Lady of Jazz (FLo-J?), Samirah Evans, the show will feature women musicians performing jazz and rock classics written by women. There...

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Stan and Ollie, Meet Punch and Judy — Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, with a touch of slapstick
Mar21

Stan and Ollie, Meet Punch and Judy — Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, with a touch of slapstick

The story goes that Samuel Beckett was walking through a London park with a friend on a glorious spring morning when his companion exclaimed, “Isn’t this just the kind of day that makes you glad to be alive?” To which Beckett replied, “Oh, I don’t think I’d go that far.”For me, that moment of self-satire goes a long way toward explaining the connection between Beckett’s famously gloomy view of the human condition and his...

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