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Berkshire Eagle - best productions

THEATER: Best productions
By Jeffrey Borak, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Updated: 12/28/2012 10:50:18 AM EST

Friday December 28, 2012
Forgive the cliché, but It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times on the region's stages in 2012.

The year was more eventful offstage than on. In Pittsfield, Nikki Wilson folded her NEW Stage theater company and performing space in the Beacon Cinema building. In Cohoes, N.Y., C-R Productions at Cohoes Music Hall came within a hair's breadth of folding, just as it was about to begin its 10th season. Oldcastle Theatre Company, unceremoniously booted out of its home at Bennington Center for the Arts 16 months ago, moved into a place of its own in downtown Bennington, Vt. where, beginning in March, a seven-month season of plays will anchor a variety of community events. In Hartford, Conn., funky TheaterWorks resolved its search for a replacement for founding artistic director Steve Campo by naming his associate, Rob Ruggiero, as producing artistic director.

I'll have more to say about theater in our region in a week or so. For now, my personal choices for the year's best -- and not so best -- productions.

The year's best

1. "A Chorus Line" (Berkshire Theatre Group) This choice is a no-brainer. A richly illuminating, robustly entertaining, utterly impeccable production; complete and full in every way. Let me put it this way. I saw it twice -- once to review, once on my own -- and had I the time I would have seen it yet again.

2. "Parasite Drag" (Shakespeare & Company) A riveting, galvanic production of a play about family dysfunction performed to the hilt by a first-rate ensemble.

3. "Tryst" (TheaterWorks) A compelling, haunting play about a ruthlessly amoral con man who separates lonely, vulnerable women from their savings, and a seamstress who changes the rules. This play plays by its own rules as well. Taut, tight, superbly acted and directed.

4. "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson) Betrayal also is at the heart of this slyly crafted play, built on interlocking monologues, about the tangled relationship among an unfaithful husband, his whistle-blower wife and his mistress. The wages of moral equivalence are high The rewards of theater were even higher.

5. "Far From Heaven" (Williamstown Theatre Festival) A work-in-development headed for a world premiere in New York in the spring but a compelling show nonetheless. Tightly directed, insightfully acted, warts and all, this was one of the year's most compelling evenings in theater.

6. "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" (Hartford Stage) Smart (is it ever), clever, stylishly mounted and acted musical drawn from the novel that also was the source for the deliciously wicked 1948 British film comedy, "Kind Hearts and Coronets."

7. "Cassandra Speaks" (Shakespeare & Company) Tod Randolph showed, yet again, her uncommon intelligence and insight with her protrayal of Dorothy Thompson in this well-written new one-actress play.

8. "Edith" (Berkshire Theatre Group) This new plays draws on history to deliver a wonderfully theatrical, intellectually stimulating evening of theater, particularly in this masterly production.

9. "Pride @ Prejudice" (Capital Repertory Theatre/ Chester Theatre Company) From Chester Theatre Company's stellar 2011 season comes a tweaking of this inventive take on Jane Austen's classic set within a context of tweets, texts, emails and iPhones.

10. "Dr. Ruth, All the Way" (Barrington Stage Company) /"All My Sons" (Barrington Stage Company) Debra Jo Rupp delivered as Dr. Ruth Westheimer in Mark St. Germain's entertaining new one-character play; and Arthur Miller's classic was treated with clarity in a skillfully mounted production.

Honorable mentions (in order of being seen):

"The Pirates of Penzance" (C-R Productions); "Zara Spook and Other Lures" (Mixed Company); "Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (Shakespeare & Company); "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (Williamstown Theatre Festival); "A Class Act" (Berkshire Theatre Group); "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" (The Theater Barn); "In the Heights" (C-R Productions); "The Rivalry" (Stageworks/ Hudson).

Berkshire Eagle - outstanding artists

The year's outstanding stage artists
By Jeffrey Borak, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Updated: 01/03/2013 10:36:48 AM EST

A look at the men and women - actors, directors, designers - whose work enhanced the 62 productions I reviewed this year. "Also noteworthy" listings are in order of having been seen.

Directors

Hands down, the most accomplished directing was Eric Hill's work on Berkshire Theatre Group's "A Chorus Line." Tight, focused, resonant, clear.

Honorable mentions (in order of being seen) - Stephen Rothman, "Parasite Drag" at Shakespeare & Company, and Joe Brancato for "Tryst" at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Conn.

Also noteworthy - Jim Charles, "The Pirates of Penzance" (C-R Productions); Tazewell Thompson, "Red" (TheaterWorks); Nicole Ricciardi, "Cassandra Speaks" (Shakespeare & Company); Tony Simotes, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (Shakespeare & Company); Michael Greif, "Far From Heaven" (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Gordon Edelstein, "Satchmo at the Waldorf" (Shakespeare & Company); Laura Margolis, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Ron Bashford, "Pride@Prejudice" (Capital Repertory Theatre/Chester Theatre Company); Tony Rivera, "In the Heights" (C-R Productions); Darko Tresnjak, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Hartford Stage).

Actors

Topping the field is Jason Asprey's driving, galvanic performance as Ronnie, a loose cannon with unfinished business with his estranged brother and their dead parents, in "Parasite Drag" at Shakespeare & Company.

Honorable mention - Bradley Cooper's title-role performance in "The Elephant Man" at Williamstown Theatre Festival's Nikos Stage. Beautifully nuanced and shaped.

Also noteworthy - Jonathan Epstein, "Red" (TheaterWorks); Malcolm Ingram, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (Shakespeare & Company); Noah Racey, "A Chorus Line" (BTG); Eddie Gutierrez, "A Chorus Line" (BTG); Josh Aaron McCabe, "Parasite Drag" (Shakespeare & Company); Chad Hoeppner, "Animals Out of Paper" (Chester Theatre Company); Vandit Bhatt, "Animals Out of Paper" (Chester Theatre Company); Brooks Ashmanskas, "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (WTF); Brandon Victor Dixon, "Far From Heaven" (WTF); Russell Posner, "A Thousand Clowns" (BTG); Sean Cullen, "A Month in the Country" (WTF); Jack Gilpin, "Edith" (BTG); Walter Hudson, "Edith" (BTG); Shaun Rice, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" (The Theater Barn); John Douglas Thompson, "Satchmo at the Waldorf" (Shakespeare & Company); Timothy Deenihan, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Mark Shanahan, "Tryst" (TheaterWorks); Ken Barett, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Hartford Stage); Jefferson Mays, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Hartford Stage); David Christopher Wells, "Venus in Fur" (TheaterWorks).

Actresses

In a year loaded with truly fearless performances by women, the standout is Andrea Maulella as Adelaide Pinchin, an emotionally fragile spinster seamstress who becomes the latest mark for a brutally narcissistic con man, in "Tryst" at TheaterWorks. Maulella held nothing back in a performance that was so tellingly observed. The result was haunting.

Honorable mention - Tod Randolph showed yet again why she is one of the most gifted actresses around with her portrayal of journalist Dorothy Thompson in "Cassandra Speaks" at Shakespeare & Company. Warm, witty, assertive, vulnerable - Randolph got it all, and then some.

Also noteworthy - Annette Miller, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (Shakespeare & Company); Jan Neuberger, "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" (Shakespeare & Company); Joanna Glushak, "Fiddler on the Roof" (Barrington Stage Company); Nillie Bassman, "A Chorus Line" (BTG); Dana Winkle, "A Chorus Line" (BTG); Elizabeth Aspenlieder, "Parasite Drag" and "The 39 Steps" (Shakespeare & Company); Kate Abbruzzese, "Parasite Drag" (Shakespeare & Company); Susie Essman, "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (WTF); Kelli O'Hara, "Far From Heraven" (WTF); Lizbeth Mackay, "All My Sons" (BSC); Rebecca Brooksher, "All My Sons" (BSC); Elisabeth Waterston, "A Month in the Country" (WTF); Jayne Atkinson, "Edith" (BTG); Tina Benko, "Waddabloodclot!!!" (WTF); Danielle Skraastad, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Celia Schaefer, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Debra Jo Rupp, "Dr. Ruth, All the Way" (BSC); Aubrey Savarino, "Pride@Prejudice" (Capital Repertory Theatre/Chester Theatre Company); Liv Rooth, "Venus in Fur" (TheaterWorks).

Designers, Lighting

Michael Chybowski, "A Chorus Line" (BTG).

Honorable mention - Martin E. Vreeland, "Tryst" (TheaterWorks).

Also noteworthy - Matthew Adelson, "Satchmo at the Waldorf" (Shakespeare & Company); Deena Pewtherer, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Robert Thompson, "Hedda Gabler" (Hartford Stage); Philip Rosenberg, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Hartford Stage); John Lassiter, "Venus in Fur" (TheaterWorks).

Designers, Sets

Alexander Dodge, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Hartford Stage)

Honorable mention - Alexander Dodge, "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (WTF).

Also noteworthy - Patrick Brennan, "The Learned Ladies," "Cassandra Speaks," "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," "Parasite Drag" (Shakespeare & Company); Matthew J. Fick, "The Pirates of Penzance" (C-R Productions); Gary English, "A Chorus Line" (BTG); Brian Prather, "The North Pool" (BSC); Randall Parsons, "Tomorrow in the Battle" (Stageworks/Hudson); Michael Schweikardt, "Tryst" (TheaterWorks); Jason Sherwod, "In the Heights" (CR Productions); Eugene Lee, "Hedda Gabler" (Hartford Stage).

Metroland Magazine

The Year inTheater - Best of 2012
by James Yeara on January 3, 2013

1. Tomorrow in the Battle, Stageworks/Hudson
The world-premiere production of Tomorrow in the Battle was an experience to revel in. Playwright Kieron Barry presented conflicts, crises, and climaxes for his characters that engaged both intellectually and aurally; the sound of his words suited the sense of his scenes. As a playwright, Barry not only challenged actors, but audiences, with a syntax and diction that were not dumbed-down.

2. Black Pearl Sings!, Capital Repertory Theatre
Keith Higgens' Black Pearl Sings! earned its exclamation point not only song by song, but also story by story, layered and contrasted by the two-person cast under the sound direction of Virginia Stage Company director Patrick Mullins. The characters' entwined stories were filled with as much laughter and pathos as the songs. It was a worthy show in what turned out to be one of Capital Rep's best seasons ever.

3. See How They Run, Barrington Stage Company
Filled with misprisions and non sequiturs, a dash of the Alienation Effect, a twist of Bergson's Bionics, Philip King's See How They Run was stirred just right to make the perfect comic cocktail. Barrington Stage Company ended its summer with the funniest show of the season, one that earned its laughs the old-fashioned way: good writing, sure direction, smart production, fantastic physicality, and spot-on timing.

4. Satchmo at the Waldorf, Shakespeare & Company
As created by playwright Terry Teachout, director Gordon Edelstein, and, with all the sweat, spit, and soul one could hope for, actor John Douglas Thompson, Satchmo at the Waldorf was as entertaining as it was intelligent and cutting. This was not the "juke box" hagiography that attracts folks with sanitized music, but a play that filled the theater with its frank look at musical genius living in a world full of strutting and fretting.

5. The Sisters Rosensweig, Capital Repertory Theatre
As one of the characters confessed in his last line, "I think I have a crush on all the Sisters Rosensweig." After seeing Capital Repertory Theatre's production, you would have to have a cold heart and a dim brain indeed if you didn't, too. Unique in the region's theaters, artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill offered yet again another production that plumbed the female soul, and shined.

6. Lungs, Barrington Stage Company
Having a legitimate "regional premiere" at BSC, Duncan Macmillian's 2011 two-character play followed a GenX couple in a thoughtful dialogue through the trials and tribulations of conception, with all the twists, turns, and near-penetration a sperm encounters connecting with an ovum. It made for a smartly entertaining hour and a half.

7. Play by Play: Rendezvous, Stageworks/Hudson
The annual Play by Play festival of new one act plays at Stageworks/Hudson always has something to please almost everyone, and this year the eight one-acts, the performances, and the staging were uniformly excellent. Centering mostly on two-character scenes, Rendezvous was a theater buffet for everyone.

8. The Learned Ladies, Shakespeare & Company
As director Tina Packer stated in the post-show Q&A, "Moliere needs terrific energy and young actors have that; they have energy, commitment, and they can go to extremes." Truer words were never spoken, as her cast captured the verve and wit of the rhyming couplets, causing frequent laughter and spontaneous applause from the audience.

9. The Mound Builders, Kaliyuga Arts at Stageworks/Hudson
Lanford Wilson's play is about digging ever deeper into the dirt, and the secrets the past reluctantly yields. This was reflected in the set, with the open, irregular weave of the beige erosion cloth languidly framed for the walls created both warmth when lit from the front of the house, and ominous shadows when lighted from above. The upstage projections included an eerie picture of two skeletons buried in the white earth, the bones contrasting with the black of the grave. This startling image began and ended Kaliyuna Arts' inaugural production at Stageworks/Hudson.

10. New Act! New Play Summit, Upstate Equity Actors Association and Capital Repertory Theatre at Proctors
Perhaps it's cheating, but Upstate Equity Actors Association and Capital Repertory Theatre's three-day confab of stage readings of new plays was a local highlight of what's great about theater even when the plays aren't uniformly so great. The New Act! New Play Summit brought in new plays for a try out with local professions before an engaged, critiquing amateur audience. The olive in the martini of the program was the emotional staged reading of Suzanne Bradbeer's political thriller The God Game, which deserves a full staging featuring the same three-actor cast of Yvonne Perry, Tony Crane, and David Andrew Macdonald.

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