REVIEW: Laughter laps along shores of ‘Private Lives’

“Private Lives”

By Noel Coward

Directed by Carl Ritchie

Taconic Stage Company

 

WHEN TACONIC STAGE COMPANY is in session, laughter repeatedly sails out of the Lighthouse Marina over beautiful Copake Lake. This time it’s for the durable old Noel Coward play “Private Lives.”

The theater’s environment is not your typical dinner theater. It seems that Artistic Director Carl Ritchie has captured a winning mode. It’s summer. (In the audience, there are no suits and very few high heels.) The sunset drags up memories of family vacations or weeks of summer camp at a lake. The evening has food, and you stand in line with the other campers, plate in hand. You get a grown-up drink from the cash bar. The room is jammed, and there is a roar of talk at every table before the play begins. You sit thigh to thigh with the other “kids,” and no one talks about the stock market.

The kids in this audience are prosperous and unapologetically gray-streaked adults. Probably most of us have seen “Private Lives” before, but the food-and-drink “foreplay” has left us primed for a good time.

It is surprising that the play delivers a good time as often as it does–in view of the fact that these characters are basically shallow, self-absorbed and love-challenged. “I am no good at love,” Coward-the-poet says. “…I feel the misery of the end in the moment it begins.” He does, but we don’t, because a glaze of irresistible witticisms covers the foreground and for an evening, it is usually enough.

The actors in this production are handsome and well-staged; but I fear they try too hard. To those who have observed Ritchie (all ease, elegance and charm), introducing the musicals he has written and directed, the role of Elliot would seem to be a perfect fit. However, too many lines are underlined or italicized—too many witticisms that need to be lightly tossed are hurled straight front, vaudeville fashion. Physically, the beautiful Susan Fullerton would seem to be made for the part of Sybil, but her breezy, upper-class demeanor seems pasted-on rather than born to the manner. Jeffrey Judd as her bedeviled new husband is fine; but only Leda Hodgson’s simple, un-pressed authority captures the necessary style-with-reality. (Hodgson may also be seen at St. John in the Wilderness church in Copake Falls in the one-act play by Alan Bennett, “A Woman of Letters.”) As the French maid, Louise Pillai is disturbingly over the top.

Of course, it is difficult to argue with laughter, and Ritchie audiences always get lots of them.

His sets on this tiny stage work okay, and one of them boasts a lovely settee with matching side chairs. Costumes by Sandra Cuoco are convincing, especially the sleek gowns on these sylphic women.

“Private Lives” runs through September 4. For tickets call (518) 325-1234.

 

REVIEW: Musical spoof treads lightly through rock and religion

Altar Boyz/ Theater Barn

IF THE WHOLE IDEA of a religious rock concert makes you gag, worry not. The songs of “Altar Boyz” have the thump, electronic twang and almost enough decibels for rock, but you can actually understand lyrics (mostly sassy and clever) and also preserve your ears for future use.

Most of the time you may be uncertain whether the show’s point of view is anti-Christian satire in sheep’s clothing or youth-drenched, energetic evangelism. Reverence is not much in evidence, yet the sunshiny delivery of five very talented actors is likely to appease believers. Innocence abounds with the sass. The boyz often seem as if they are 25 going on 5. That may sound awful, but it’s actually rather charming. In any case, atheist and believer will each have something to nibble on. Read more…

REVIEW: Acting, direction and script are ingredients for delectable ‘Taster’

“The Taster” by Joan Ackermann/ Directed by Tina Packer/ Shakespeare & Co.

SEE THIS PLAY, I urge you. The abundant pleasures of “The Taster” pile up at the Founders’ Theater in Lenox in a true feast. Earth-wisdom, human connection, imagination and play-cooking smarts are joyfully stirred together by playwright Joan Ackermann, director Tina Packer and some extraordinary actors.

It is about a man whose life’s work is to taste the food of a king before it is served to him. The king is one-fourth of the play’s two dysfunctional couples, one contemporary and one from the early 16th century. The couples are linked in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that they are played by the same actors.

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Annual Hudson Jazz Workshop and concert return

HUDSON–Hudson Jazzworks presents the 4th Annual Hudson Jazz Workshop at the Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren Street, Thursday, August 12 through Sunday August 15.

The intimate workshop provides a weekend immersion in jazz improvisational duo playing and composition with Armen Donelian and Marc Mommaas.

Sunday, August 15, at 3 p.m. guest Artist Jim McNeely will join the workshop faculty and participants in a concert of the students’ works-in-progress and performances by the faculty.

The Hudson Jazz Workshop is an international, intergenerational program, with individual and group instruction on the art of jazz improvisation, duo playing, technique, composition, harmony, accompaniment, rhythm and repertoire. Performance practicum (“jam”) sessions are held each evening.

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REVIEW: Complex exploration of era’s biggest crook debuts with its own back story

Imagining Madoff/Stageworks Hudson

IN CASE YOU LEFT the planet for a while after 2008, let me introduce Bernie Madoff, the “wealth management” mogul, who now resides in  prison for having bilked wealthy individuals, banks, unions, and  charitable organizations out of billions of dollars. The real-life Madoff is scheduled to be in there for 150 years or–you know.

What an idea for a play! Read more…