Stagestruck: King Lear on NT Live
Nov09

Stagestruck: King Lear on NT Live

I’ll get right to the point. The King Lear I saw last weekend courtesy of NT Live is the most thoughtfully conceived, perceptively acted and richly achieved production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy I’ve ever seen. It stars Ian McKellen, and that in itself more than recommends it. But it’s far more than a star vehicle. Part of the National Theatre’s live-capture series from British stages, it’s onscreen on Monday Nov. 12th at...

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Stagestruck: Latin Roots
Nov08

Stagestruck: Latin Roots

Two productions in the Valley this weekend and next share Latin American roots, and couldn’t be more dissimilar. One is a colorful musical celebrating a New York barrio, the other a surreal movement-theater piece celebrating two surrealists. The sensational success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s boundary-breaking Hamilton has almost made us forget his first Broadway outing. In the Heights, which hit the Great White Way in 2008, was also a...

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Stagestruck: Art and Identity — Valley plays confront life-changing issues
Nov05

Stagestruck: Art and Identity — Valley plays confront life-changing issues

Three plays in the Valley this weekend and next tackle provocative questions of art and identity. A woman musician is deprived of a career because of her gender. Two writers tangle in a carnal mix of sex and ambition. And an actor looks at the black experience via theater’s most famous black character. With one 19th-century exception, it wasn’t until the 1940s that a black actor (Paul Robeson) was permitted to play Othello. Keith...

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Stagestruck: Three for the Show
Oct30

Stagestruck: Three for the Show

An instant evening of theater cooked up in a single day; a 19th-century musical with 21st-century themes; a multi-disciplinary evocation of “what is left when memory is gone.” This weekend in the Valley, there’s a diverse trio of shows to choose from – or see them all. Losing the Thread Theatre Re is an English company that employs movement theater, mime and original music to explore “fragile human conditions.” Its explorations,...

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Stagestruck: Imaginary Forces
Oct26

Stagestruck: Imaginary Forces

In Shakespeare’s time, actors wore their own clothes with token costume pieces, they performed on a bare platform, and they were all male. Those facts are the springboard of Elizabeth Williamson’s vision for her production of Henry V, which plays at Hartford Stage through Nov. 11. Or, make that re-vision. She has adopted and adapted those conventions for her own use and our own time, connecting that English king’s 15th-century war of...

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Stagestruck: Not Your Granddad’s College Theater
Oct24

Stagestruck: Not Your Granddad’s College Theater

“What am I bid for this fine specimen of white manhood?” The swaggering black auctioneer scans the audience of prospective buyers, who quickly bid the price up, until the white man on the auction block goes to the jubilant winner for a fat five-figure sum. This table-turning riff on an antebellum slave auction was part of the UMass Theater Department’s season kick-off event earlier this month. What’s noteworthy about this season is...

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Stagestruck: Texas Tough & Tangy
Oct22

Stagestruck: Texas Tough & Tangy

Barack Obama and Ann Richards both sprang to national prominence with sensational speeches at a Democratic National Convention. Richards’ came in 1988, and she used the opportunity to pitch her unique brand of tough-minded common-sense liberalism and kick sand on the white shoes of the Republican nominee, George H.W. Bush. Her best-remembered line from that moment in the spotlight was “Poor George – he can’t help it. He was born...

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Stagestruck: Moonlight and Music
Oct17

Stagestruck: Moonlight and Music

Two moonlit pieces of music theater hit Valley stages this weekend. The Smith College Theatre Department premieres Moonlight on the Miskatonic, a musical based on the creepy tales of H. P. Lovecraft. And Pilgrim Theatre revives Moon Over Dark Street, a cabaret of songs by the jaunty genius Bertolt Brecht. “H.P. Lovecraft was unacknowledged in his time, but he is now regarded as one of the great writers of weird, terrifying, spooky...

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Stagestruck: Valley Variations — Celebrating words and music, autumn and murder
Oct09

Stagestruck: Valley Variations — Celebrating words and music, autumn and murder

A demon barber, a cockroach killer, a charitable speller, a balletic frog. This month, up and down the Valley, indoors and out, intimate and expansive, there’s a seasonal bounty of performances to choose from.   The Royal Frog Ballet is an  “amoeba of collaborators” who “create performance and installation art for community gatherings.” This weekend and next, Oct. 12-14 and 19- 21 at 5pm, the group’s tenth annual Surrealist...

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Stagestruck Weekend: Coming Back to Life, in the (413)
Oct05

Stagestruck Weekend: Coming Back to Life, in the (413)

In the past, Life in the (413), New Century Theatre’s live-on-stage roast of all things Valley, was aimed at boosting its upcoming summer program. The sixth iteration, at the Academy of Music on Sunday, is aimed at reviving the company after its sudden collapse a year ago and the cancellation of this year’s season. “New Century Theatre has been a part of our home for 28 years and we hope to see it continue,” says Jarice Hanson, the...

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Stagestruck: Two in the Berkshires – Naked & The Glass Menagerie
Oct03

Stagestruck: Two in the Berkshires – Naked & The Glass Menagerie

A desperate young woman, Ersilia Drei, has attempted suicide. From her hospital bed, she spins a heartrending, headline-grabbing story for an opportunistic reporter. His article draws a circle of interested parties into her twisting orbit: The novelist who sees in her story the germ of a terrific plot and who takes her under his wing and, as he intends, into his bed. His landlady, who’s scandalized by the arrangement – until she...

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Stagestruck: Stage to Screen
Sep28

Stagestruck: Stage to Screen

The live-capture stage-to-screen season at the Amherst Cinema has begun, with a lineup of adaptations of world classics from the London stage – a dance-happy movie musical, a steamy exploration of transgressive desire, a surreal whodunnit, a Gothic horror story – plus a modern-dress Shakespeare. Most come courtesy of the ongoing National Theatre Live series. Here they are, in upcoming  order.   Sept. 29, 12:30pm — The Broadway...

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Stagestruck: Murdering the Play
Sep26

Stagestruck: Murdering the Play

Even before the houselights dim, The Play That Goes Wrong is going wrong. On the uncurtained stage, a techie is still working on the floorboards and the stage manager is frantically trying to secure a part of the set. She recruits an audience member to help out while she goes in search of the dog who’s supposed to appear in Act Two. This is a preview of things to come in this English import and current Broadway hit, whose national...

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Stagestruck: “Hir” and Now
Sep26

Stagestruck: “Hir” and Now

Playwright Taylor Mac has described Hir as “a kitchen-sink drama.” Which is fair, as long as you understand that the sink in question is full of filthy dishes and fresh vomit. The genre- and gender-bending play, at Shakespeare & Company through October 7, begins with a homecoming and ends with an expulsion. In between, it tackles themes of gender and identity, power and privilege, dysfunction and abuse, love and hate – and one of...

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Stagestruck: Eight Shows for the Price of Two
Sep24

Stagestruck: Eight Shows for the Price of Two

This weekend and next, two theater companies demonstrate, once again, the breadth and variety of Valley stages. In Greenfield, Silverthorne Theater Company opens a two-week run of “six unruly comedies” by America’s cheekiest stage satirist, Christopher Durang. In Northampton, Serious Play Theatre Ensemble makes a triumphant return from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a pair of pieces that marry words and music in unique ways....

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Stagestruck: Play by Play by Playwrights
Sep20

Stagestruck: Play by Play by Playwrights

Before a play hits the stage, it goes through several other stages. The first is the opposite of public performance – the writing, solo and in private. Then, for the members of the Northampton Playwrights Lab, it’s shared with a small circle of fellow dramatists, who offer insights and suggestions to the work in progress. Then, usually after several revisions and further feedback, it’s put on its feet for the first time in a reading....

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Stagestruck: Hometown Tales & Terrors
Sep19

Stagestruck: Hometown Tales & Terrors

Walk down Main Street in any small American town and look around. There are the unassuming shopfronts and placid homes, holding private, ordinary lives. But behind the doors lie extraordinary secrets and dreams. Three plays this weekend in our not-so-ordinary Valley take us down some increasingly twisty side streets, from Thornton Wilder’s deceptively tranquil village, to a high school that hides the portal to an underworld of...

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Stagestruck: Puppets in the Green Mountains
Sep15

Stagestruck: Puppets in the Green Mountains

For two decades, Sandglass Theater, the justly world-renowned puppetry troupe headquartered in Putney, Vermont, has produced an international festival that serves as a gathering and showcase for masters of the form. The tenth biennial “Puppets in the Green Mountains” festival, Sept. 20-23 in Putney and Brattleboro, offers a variety of cross-disciplinary performances, some “for all ages” and some primarily for grownups. The performers,...

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Stagestruck: Women in the Saddle
Sep12

Stagestruck: Women in the Saddle

Hot on the heels of my recent rundown of women’s representation in the area’s summer theaters comes more encouraging evidence from some of the fall season’s first shows. The Majestic Theater is playing a cowboy musical in which the lead is not a boy. WAM Theater, which provides on- and offstage opportunities for women, continues its popular staged-reading series. And Pittsfield’s Whitney Center for the Arts revives the classic...

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Stagestruck: An Extraordinary Ordinary Man
Sep06

Stagestruck: An Extraordinary Ordinary Man

Two years ago I reviewed A Fiery and Still Voice, a living-history performance at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Mass. The delightfully engaging show by Enchanted Circle Theater is back for four Saturdays this fall – Sept. 8th & 15th and Oct. 13th & 27th, two shows a day, 11 and 1. Info and tickets here. Here’s what I wrote about it at its premiere. If you’re like me, you studied William Cullen...

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Stagestruck: Minority Report — Women and people of color on summer-theater stages
Sep05

Stagestruck: Minority Report — Women and people of color on summer-theater stages

Readers of this column will know my practice of periodically reporting on the progress (or not) in the representation of women and people of color in area theaters. The summer season has recently ended, so I’ve been making a tally of this summer’s shows. The news is good. My usual accounting falls into three categories — plays written by, directed by, and centrally featuring women and/or “minorities.” This year the results are better...

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Pick of the Day 8/29: Betty: They Say I’m Different
Aug29

Pick of the Day 8/29: Betty: They Say I’m Different

Betty Davis was more than just Miles Davis’ wife; she was a funky musical force who was a head of her time when it came to demanding control over her image and her recordings. In the early 1980s Betty disappeared from public life.  In 2012 filmmakers discovered Betty living in Pittsburgh and eventually captured her story. Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St.,...

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Pick of the Day 8/28: Mama Caught Fire, Kimaya Diggs, and Emma June at the Iron Horse
Aug28

Pick of the Day 8/28: Mama Caught Fire, Kimaya Diggs, and Emma June at the Iron Horse

 Minneapolis trio Mama Caught Fire heads a line up of girl power tonight! Kimaya Diggs and Emma June complete the trifecta. Iron Horse Music Hall, 10 Center St.,...

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Pick of the Day 8/26: Louie Anderson at the Academy
Aug26

Pick of the Day 8/26: Louie Anderson at the Academy

Louie Anderson is a bonafide comedic icon.  His Emmy winning turn as Christine on the FX show Baskets has only cemented his legacy.  Anderson brings his humor to the Academy of Music tonight! 274 Main St., Northampton. Tickets are $25-$45.

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Stagestruck: Physick and Physics at Shakespeare & Company
Aug25

Stagestruck: Physick and Physics at Shakespeare & Company

A few years ago, when I told my brother I was directing a production of As You Like It, he said, “That’s the one about Beatrice and Benedick, isn’t it?” Well, no, but the confusion is understandable. Several of Shakespeare’s comedies have interchangeable titles: As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing (the one my brother was thinking of), All’s Well That Ends Well, and for that matter, Twelfth Night. As You Like It is the one about the...

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Pick of the Day 8/25: BSO celebrates Bernstein Centennial at Tanglewood
Aug25

Pick of the Day 8/25: BSO celebrates Bernstein Centennial at Tanglewood

The great conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein would be 100 this year! Happy birthday, Maestro! Celebrate with the BSO at Tanglewood tonight. 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Shed. 297 West St., Lenox.

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Pick of the Day 8/24: RPM
Aug25

Pick of the Day 8/24: RPM

Three days of metal, punk, and rock? Could it be? Yes! And it happening NOW!!  RPM Fest is New England’s biggest heavy music and camping festival, featuring 50 bands including Black Tusk, Tombs, Whores, Acid Witch, Child Bite, INCITE, Against the Grain, S.N.A.F.U. , Dead Empires, BARISHI, Heavy Temple, Worshipper, and more!  Performances on three stages, beer, food, vendors, games, and more.  Millers Falls Rod and Gun Club. 210...

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Stagestruck: At Barrington Stage, a revival and a premiere
Aug24

Stagestruck: At Barrington Stage, a revival and a premiere

Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield is ending its impressive summer season with a pair of productions, one celebrating a 50-year-old milestone, the other confronting our troubled present. On the mainstage, a lovingly rendered revival of West Side Story, running through Sept. 1st, honors the musical’s half-century along with the 100th birthdays of its prime creators, composer Leonard Bernstein and director/choreographer Jerome...

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Pick of the Day 8/23: Dick Dale

“King of the Surf Guitar” Dick Dale is at the Iron Horse tonight.  Dale  “pretty much invented the style single-handedly.” Just think of Pulp Fiction‘s reintroduction to “Misirlou.” He’s the precursor to Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. Catch him tonight,...

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Pick of the Day 8/22: Louise Dunphy’s “Celtic Crossing” at the Iron Horse
Aug22

Pick of the Day 8/22: Louise Dunphy’s “Celtic Crossing” at the Iron Horse

Louis Dunphy’s Celtic Crossings began in 2005 as a LIVE radio program on WMUA 91.1fm Amherst and now airs every Sunday morning @ 7am on The River.  The show focuses on Celtic music and often hosts nationally and internationally recognized performers with live studio interviews and performances.  Dunphy will celebrate a milestone birthday with headliners House of Hamill. Local musicians, John Coster and Friends will open. The...

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Pick of the Day 8/21: Transperformance 28: Amperbands
Aug21

Pick of the Day 8/21: Transperformance 28: Amperbands

Celebrate community and the arts with Transperformance 28: AmperBands! Featuring Colorway as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Soul Magnets as Sly & the Family Stone, Fancy Trash as Paul McCartney & Wings, King Radio as Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Olsson and Free Range Cats as Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, and so many more!  4:00-9:30 p.m.  Pines Theater-Look Park, 300 N Main St., Florence.   Adults $10;...

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Pick of the Day 8/20: Michelle Malone at the Iron Horse
Aug20

Pick of the Day 8/20: Michelle Malone at the Iron Horse

The New York Times says Michelle Malone is “the kind of singer and songwriter who can jolt things into overdrive.” She’s been on the scene for decades and she’s  collaborated with artists like Steve Earle Malone,  the late Gregg Allman, ZZ Top, and The Indigo Girls.  She’s known for “explosive” live performances and she’s also released more than a dozen records.  Slings and Arrows is her...

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Pick of the Day 8/18: I, Claude Monet
Aug18

Pick of the Day 8/18: I, Claude Monet

I, CLAUDE MONET is reveals the “heart and soul of arguably the world’s most loved artist.”  Although Monet struggled with depression, loneliness, and thoughts of suicide, his love of art and gardening led to some of the finest works the world has known.  The story is told through Monet’s own words and the film is shot on location at Giverny.  Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St.,...

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Pick of the Day 8/17: Tuvan Throat Singers
Aug17

Pick of the Day 8/17: Tuvan Throat Singers

Tuvan throat singers to perform in Brattleboro, Vermont Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents Alash Ensemble, a trio of Tuvan throat singers. The central Asian republic of Tuva is home to a style of throat singing whereby  one singers produces two or more notes simultaneously. “Often a low drone and a high-pitched melody or other-worldly vocal effects not found in western music.” The musicians of Alash, however,...

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Pick of the Day 8/16: Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers
Aug16

Pick of the Day 8/16: Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers

If you’re aching for the Blues, check out Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers at Hawks & Reed tonight. Or if you’re yearning for some “Electric Delta Boogie–” you got it, check out Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers at Hawks and Reed.  Harpe has been called one of “the most dynamic, talented, and exciting roots rocking blues women on the scene,” by Living Blues Magazine.  8 p.m. (doors open at 7...

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