THEATER REVIEW: Christmas is very present in this ‘Carol’

A CHRISTMAS CAROL / Performed by David Anderson

GIVE US THE DICKENS. We humans deserve it. Walking the Dog Theater, Inc. provides.

In a low-ceilinged room near the top of the Hancock Shaker brick building, David Anderson performed Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” stripped of everything–everything, that is, but story. (The event is now moving to Warren Street in Hudson.)

Anderson’s solo performance was very lean even when I reviewed it years ago in a blue-cocoon space with theater lights, costumes, and occasional live music. Yesterday, it was just David and his spindly Shaker chair being everybody, while a gray, wet afternoon moved in slowly to give his outline an appropriate blur. Read more…

Actor/playwright Stephen Lang honored for work that revisits history

Reprinted with permission from the Times Union

KINDERHOOK – On Thursday, October 25, in Albany, actor, playwright and Kinderhook resident Stephen Lang received the 2018 Empire State Archives and History Award. Historian Harold Holzer, the 2017 award winner, will interview Lang about the many roles he has played, and the plays he has written, that have brought to life our American past.

“I guess I’ve always been fascinated with history,” said Mr. Lang. “I’ve been as fascinated with the myth of history as well as the historical accuracy. People love to create stories out of what really happened and distort what some people really did. I get very interested in that blurry area where myth and history meet up.”

Mr. Lang is best known for his two famous Civil War films “Gettysburg,” in which he portrayed General George Pickett and “Gods and Generals,” in which he starred as General Stonewall Jackson. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Try as they might, the farce isn’t with them

“The Decorator” / Theater Barn

AUDIENCES ENTERING THE THEATER BARN to see “The Decorator” are met with a deliberately ugly stage. There is a room with lavender-pinkish walls that were probably fine until the designer (on purpose!) put dirtyish earth-green drapes on the window and filled center stage with an antagonistic bluish-green sofa and matching chair. Some may hope that the title’s “decorator” will ply his trade before the end of the evening.

The decorator (played by Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon) enters and prepares to paint walls. He seems a bit goofy. Perhaps he is going to be a character of questionable intelligence. Then he tunes his radio to a Mozart horn concerto and listens happily, so one can’t be sure.

When a nice-looking, possibly upper-class woman appears, first in a towel and then in a dowdy plaid skirt, with blouse hanging from under an appalling black-speckled jacket, hope for design and color-candy on the stage is squashed. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Bee’ here now earns good words for all involved

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” / Theater Barn

IT’S ALL ABOUT WINNING, isn’t it? A spelling bee exists to teach children to compete, compete, compete! That’s how we Americans know who is worth something and who is disposable. Just ask the Prez.

At the Theater Barn, six neurotic, high IQ youngsters (played by adults) demonstrate their adeptness with “I” and “Q” and the other twenty-four letters of the alphabet in exotic combinations.

Adults playing kids could get icky, but it never does in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” It doesn’t because of the tart, free-wheeling imaginations of its creators, starting with a theater group’s improv led by Rebecca Feldman, a book by Rachel Sheinkin, an appealing score by William Finn (which had an especially well-functioning brain attached to its composition), and clever Finn lyrics. (Who cares if the lyricist must have consulted the “Unabridged Rhyming Dictionary” and employed every rhyme listed there under the word “erection”? No, he wasn’t talking about buildings.) Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Lillian’ echoes another era rife with scoundrels

“Lillian” / Taconic Stage Company

A ONE- OR TWO-PERSON PLAY is a good fit for the beautiful little structure atop a hill in Copake Falls. At the Church of St. John in the Wilderness, artistic director of Taconic Stage Company, Carl Ritchie, has found a warm and elegant home for his smaller productions. This summer it is “Lillian,” a monologue-summary of the life of playwright Lillian Hellman, author of “Toys In the Attic,” “The Little Foxes,” “The Children’s Hour,” et al.

The author of “Lillian” is William Luce, who has attracted some of the century’s most interesting actors to his work: Julie Harris (twice), Zoe Caldwell, George C. Scott, Christopher Plummer, Eva Marie Saint, Geraldine Page. In Copake Falls his Lillian is Diedre Bollinger, a local favorite. They are all more than he may deserve.

Among other good things, Diedre Bollinger has voice. That probably doesn’t sound like radical praise, but because voice is the main vehicle for all the hard-fought reality that actors seek, it is radical praise. Bollinger’s voice, laced with meaning, does the exact amount of decibels for the space. She has clarity of diction—I should say “dictions,” as she goes all over the map with pitch, regionalisms, rhythms, and accents, making quick, easy transitions among the characters in Hellman’s life and carrying the story. Read more…