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Theater Barn Summer 2007 Season—plus a FallFinaleLast Updated: September 30, 2007
Boy Gets Girl
About this All-In-One Format: Since summer theater productions run such a short time, we've decided to try something new this summer. Instead of retiring each show after it makes way for the next production, we're putting details and reviews of shows at a particular theater on one page so that everything remains at your fingertips. No need to click to the archives unless you are looking for something from a past season.
The Theater Barn Productions is listed below in the order in which they will be performed. A click on a show will jump you down to that show's details-- an * asterisk before a title indicates that a review is posted.
Schedule Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8:30pm, Sundays at 2pm.
Tickets $20, $18 at Sunday matinees.
Shows scheduled for review:
* added when review is posted
July 12-22: *Boy Gets Girl.
July 21-August 5: *Johnny Guitar, The Musical. Award-winning musical spoof based on cult western film featuring Joan Crawford. August 9-19: *Violet. Serious contemporary musical about a disfigured girl on a journey.
September 21-October 7: *Almost, Maine John Cariani's rural tribute to humanity and love, tracing the goings on in a Maine town at 9 p.m. on a Friday night. (We loved this little show when it premiered off-Broadway last year. To read that review — go here.
We are introduced to a cold, Maine winter night—no moon, endless stars and the northern lights that flicker along with vagaries of love in a "small, remote, mythical town." Cariani has arranged for the inhabitants of this isolated village to experience a midsummer night’s madness at 9 o’clock on a Friday night in the middle of winter. The eleven scenes take place at the same hour of the same evening, but they dwell on the varied kinds of love that infect human beings. A number of the pieces are humorous, some bittersweet. Several of the comic pieces border on slapstick while others use sweet sentiment as their focus. The more somber scenes are more rueful than dramatic. There are, in fact, no revelations in any of the pieces.
The play, which was developed by the Cape Cod Theatre Project, is somewhat like an anthology of short stories and, like short stories, some are more effective than others. This requires a strong cast that uses intelligence and skill in their various roles to compensate for some of the weaker scenes. On the whole, the four performers, David Bodenschatz, Joseph Dal Porto, Eleni Delopoulos and Jessica Lynn Johnson, acquit themselves quite well. They create their characters within their respective scenes with a fine sense of theatrical craft. Their vocal patterns change and physical carriage is varied. There are moments, however, when all but Delopoulos swallow words or lose volume…something which seems to be running rampant in theatres this year.
The direction by Tony Capone, though generally competent, sometimes feels listless. It is difficult to stage two-character pieces, but in several of the scenes the blocking is static. This creates a situation in which the actors sound as if they are forcing the dialogue. Abe Phelps’ set design is utilitarian, having to satisfy eleven different locations. By using minimal set pieces and white fabric he creates the sets simply and with minimal time between scenes.The costumes by Elyse and Leah Miller are attractive and none seem to be repeated, no small feat when dealing with 20 different characters. Robert Eberle’s lighting focuses on the center stage platform, but he allows the stage right and left sides to be in shadows.
Though there is inconsistency in the script and some tentative moments in the acting and direction, the production offers a charming experience and a diverting evening in the theatre.
To read a review of the play's off-Broadway production, go here.
Boy Gets Girl
Rebecca Gilman's Boy Gets Girl,currently playing at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York, focuses on the creepier and unthinkable side to this orderly existence. What if one of the pair doesn't play by the rules; in fact, does not care about the rules and is not so casually dismissed? With that as her premise, Gilman escorts the audience into the netherworld of the stalker, where his victim's life is slowly subsumed by his warped logic and perverse social order.
As the play opens Tony and Theresa chat over a beer on a seemingly innocuous and awkward blind date. Theresa Bedell ( Kathleen Carey) a 30ish journalist has taken all the precautions a savvy NY single woman might see as a safety net: Tony has been recommended by the sister of a friend; they meet in a public place on neutral ground and she tells him just enough about her life to keep her safely protected. Though she appears to make up her mind quickly that this is not the match she had hoped for, she is reluctantly persuaded to meet for a dinner date. She tactfully explains to Tony (Peter Diseth) that her job allows little time for a future relationship. At first, Tony appears to accept this explanation gracefully. However, to her surprise, he really interprets her reticence as a form of coy encouragement and his misguided attempts to woo Theresa escalate from the merely amusing arrogance of wounded pride into a full blown case of psychotic stalking.
Boy Gets Girl has a somewhat Lifetime Channel formulaic approach to the topic of sexual stalking and gender politics. Its layered, almost thesis-like, analysis examines the issue of female as sex object and all points of view weigh in disguised as characters in a play.
As we watch Theresa's meltdown in the face of Tony's menacing, each of her colleagues, along with a pornography director and a police officer, represent various societal viewpoints. Though Gilman's edgy drama is meant to be more of a thriller, the audience is educated as to some of the underlying causes and implications of sexual victimization.
When Theresa exclaims, "Maybe being a woman to me meant having to tolerate a lot of shit," she seems to be summarizing a common epiphany of women all over the globe.
The effects of the invisible Tony's insidious and then blatant attacks allow Kathleen Carey as Theresa to devolve from a self-assured professional into paranoid prey, second guessing herself and everyone around her. Her raw and exposed emotions are evident in Carey's finely nuanced portrayal of Theresa's struggle with this exposure to a diseased mind; the annoyance, disbelief, frustration and finally rage that flicker over her face wrap the audience into the terror which the stalker inspires in his victim. We hear the self -doubt and recrimination of all victims when she plaintively asks Detective Beck (Joan Faxon,) "Do I seem like a person who would be stalked?"
The seriousness of this drama has lighthearted moments as Theresa attempts to continue her journalism career with an interview of an aging soft-porn king whose films have achieved cult status. In some respects his open admiration of the female as sex object is actually more normal than the warped nightmare of Tony's excessive love and psychotic control. Surprisingly, Theresa is better able to form a bond with Les Kennkat, played by John Trainor, with good natured vulgarity and lewdness than with her more self-righteous and misguided co-workers.
Though the revolving set is constructed to simplify the movement from several localities, sometimes the scene changes slow the action in an otherwise, fast-paced performance. The play would be better served if the slighter scenes were fixed in place and lit to denote change.
The director, Phil Rice, has served his cast and the audience well with effective stage pictures which allow the full impact of Gilman's play to reach us. Kathleen Carey's rich portrayal as Theresa is ably supported by the other cast members in this absorbing social drama with no easy answers to the points Gilman has raised.
The Theater Barn is easily reached and a delightful space for the enjoyment of the best of summer stock in the Berkshires. They are to be applauded for creating a wonderful atmosphere and choosing adventurous work.
—Reviewed by Gloria Miller
Editor's Note: To read our review of the play when it premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York go here.
If you are in this frame of mind, Johnny Guitar the Musical is offering a terrific little send up of the original 1954 Nicholas Ray movie. This campy musical is just the right mixture of tongue-in-cheek satire and downright silliness to elicit giggles and guffaws from an audience ready to have a good time and to enjoy an energetic and talented group of actors who are definitely enjoying this romp set in 1890's Arizona, where every line and gesture is a cliche made manic.
If you are not a western noir film buff, the story line was unusual for the pre-feminist ‘'0's. In the original film, Vienna (Joan Crawford) the macho proto-fem saloon operator is pitted in a life and death struggle with Emma (Mercedes McCambridge,) the sexually repressed bank owner, for supremacy of the town—and the loyalty of its men folk. The entire plot of constant rivalry which takes place on sexual and financial levels includes bank robbery, saloon brawls, lynch mobs, cat fights and, of course, the requisite duel—only it is between the gun-totin' chicks who are featured in the gripping (wink! wink!) climax. Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) really seems superfluous as the hatred between the two women seems to feed on itself without the added ingredient of testosterone into the mix.
In the musical production at the Theatre Barn, Jerielle Morwitz as Vienna, with the help of some incredible wigs, slinks and simpers her way across the stage in grand grade B movies style. As the hard bitten saloon owner with the heart of gold, she is the perfect foil to Megan Rozak's bitter, grasping Emma. Ms. Rozak's melodramatic scenes as the jealous, vengeful harridan complement Ms. Morwitz as the feud grows in intensity. This subject matter requires good natured over-acting, and we get it!
Scott Moreau's Johnny Guitar is just the right mixture of suave and hokey as Vienna's long lost love. Meanwhile, the Dancin' Kid (Matthew Daly) also loves Vienna, who coolly appraises him as to his continued usefulness in her life. In the meantime, Emma secretly lusts for the love of the uninterested Dancin' Kid.
Will Vienna and Johnny reunite? Will Emma succeed in her plot to rid herself of her rival in love and sexual politics? You already know the answer. Good! Just so you have no illusions about the depth of literary banality you are about to enjoy.
Johnny Guitar the Musical is the type of show where a song heads off a gunfight and the gunslingers break out in a doo-wop chorus to move the narrative along. Though the lyrics are at time predictable, they expand on the slight book and provide more comic moments.
"Branded a Tramp" is a musical social commentary on the character of a single woman making a go of it a man's world. "Who Do they think they Are?" sung by Emma and her posse expresses just the right amount of xenophobic contempt for outsiders—perfect for the west of the 1890's, the McCarthy era of the 1950's or the immigration policies of 2007. "Bad Blood" is a taut duet between Vienna and Emma which summarizes the long simmering hatred between the two women in its psycho-sexual hysteria.
There are no surprises. The story will end as it had to in the 50's and everyone will go home happy. Though the shorter second act is a little rushed, the story probably cannot sustain a deeper analysis of motivation.
So, Go to New Lebanon, buy popcorn and chocolate chip cookies; buy a 50/50 chance; sit in air-conditioned comfort; park your mind at the door and laugh along with the sly and amusing cast.
—Reviewed by Gloria Miller.
The musical had a brief run Off-Broadway. To read a review of that production go here.
Playing against the backdrop of 1964 pre-civil rights movement, the title character's personal anguish over her horrific injury is juxtaposed with the issue of racial injustice in a color-conscious South. Present day Violet (Lara Hayhurst) often shares the stage with the thirteen year-old Violet (Ashley Blasland) as the play moves back and forth in time to unravel the mystery of this accident and its subsequent affect on Violet and everyone she meets. Based on Doris Betts' short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim," the play won the Richard Rodgers Award for best new score and the Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical in 1997.
The music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, utilizes a pastiche of styles: gospel, bluegrass, rock and blues. All are used to underscore Violet's journey of discovery as she travels from the isolated farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to the sordid excitement of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she hopes a charismatic televangelist will perform a miracle. Like most people obsessed with the physical, Violet does not realize that her scarred soul is at the core of her unhappiness. It is a young black soldier Flick (John Edwards) who succinctly puts it into perspective: "Act ugly, do ugly, be ugly."
As Violet careens through her quest to be unblemished, she reveals in song that it is more than a scar she wants healed. In "All to Pieces," she sings of the movie star body parts that she plans to ask the preacher to bestow. We realize that the cruelty of the townspeople's reaction to her predicament has helped to undermine her inner security. When younger Violet says to her widower father, "Their deacon says the accident's just desserts because we never go to church," it is obvious that Violet has a history of emotional baggage to disgorge before she can be fully restored.
Igor Goldin's staging for this show is fluid and seamless as he moves the actors in and out of time and space. Abe Phelps has designed a simple effective rolling turntable of steps that creates a flexible, visually interesting playing area which allows the actors to do their story-telling. Robert Eberle's clean lighting design and Jonathan Knipscher's clever costumes provide a sense of the '60's America burbling with social, racial and sexual tension.
The voices of the cast are clear and serve the production. One problem I have observed in most "modern musicals" is the lack of clear enunciation due to the overlay of melody, lyrics and an amplified band creating a cacophonous roar so that the words cannot always be understood.. We can hear the songs, but cannot discern the lyrics. Louder is not better and, in a musical, where the lyrics move the action, the audience relies on the actors to deliver the message as well as the melody. Please enunciate clearly!
That said, the music of Jeanine Tesori is, at times, toe-tapping ("Luck of the Draw" and inspiring ("Bring me to Light"). The ballad "Lay Down Your Head" serves to reveal Violet's latent vulnerability in a one night affair with the young soldier, Monty (Trey Compton.) When he says, "There's something about you—you're different, that's what," he is not talking about her scar. In spite of his fast- talking swagger, Monty is drawn into Violet's improbable dreams. We wonder if part of his altruistic about-face is due to her. Some of the characterizations are not fully drawn by the playwright, which is what keeps this play from realizing a deeper potential.
Theater Barn has mounted a strong visual musical, with an energetic full-voiced cast. As an ensemble they work together to create polished stage pictures. "Raise Me Up" sung by the gospel choir is a powerful, enthusiastic number guaranteed to rock the audience right out of its seats proving that it is a night of messages, miracles and above all music.