REVIEW: ‘Painting Chuches’ depicts fading ties with broad palette

‘Painting Churches’/Walking the dog Theater with The Actors’ Ensemble/ Spencertown Academy

FOR “PAINTING CHURCHES”, gifted director David Anderson once again teams up with Actors’ Ensemble founders Fern Sloan and Ted Pugh. It’s a meeting of some very special theater talents.

In Act I, portrait painter Mags comes home to paint her aging parents and to help them move out of the family home in Boston. Fanny and Gardner Church have led successful lives, touched with a bit of fame, poetry, good silver, and attendant social perks; but now financial worries and the ravages of age require change.

The act moves along at a deceptively serene pace, occasionally allowing Fanny Church to ride her mercury from cranky, complaining witch to beautiful, loving spouse, and back again. She is deeply frightened by the slow loss of a brilliant husband to dementia. Looking toward the end-game, she is both irritated and terrified. In Sloan’s hands, Fanny’s vivacious moments seem both a lifelong part of her personality and a desperate cover for dread. Sloan is thrilling. Read more…

REVIEW: ‘Melancholy Play’ is anything but

Melancholy Play’/ WAM Theatre, Pittsfield

“MELANCHOLY”? UH-UH. Whatever this play is about (and my view of that will be addressed later), director Kristen van Ginhoven has grabbed Sarah Ruhl’s play by the neck, cherished, prodded and mocked the characters, and, in the process, dumped the audience down some Ruhl/van Ginhoven rabbit’s hole with a resounding, “Hah! Take that!”

Down there we meet Tilly (played passionately by Betsy Holt), the child/woman whose “melancholy” way of taking in the world and spitting it out to others releases something buried in each of them. It results in their passionate attachment to her. Tilly/Holt is an irresistible Holly Golightly — Shirley Temple — Judy Garland, spouting words that are always reaching.

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REVIEW: Bad hosts trigger big laughs at Ghent Playhouse ‘Hay Fever’

“Hay Fever”/Noel Coward/Ghent Playhouse

DIRECTOR KATE GULLIVER and her “Hay Fever” crew are sending their audiences out of the Ghent Playhouse a good ten pounds lighter than when they came in. Maybe laughter is an instant calorie-burner, or maybe this particular laughter simply flushes out the daily grime from reality-burdened minds.

The catharsis is rather surprising in view of the fact that one has just spent an evening with some of the most quarrelsome, self-absorbed, easy-coupling, manipulative individuals that one could ever hope to avoid. Read more…

REVIEW: ‘Hound’ send-up elicits howls

The Real Inspector Hound/ Shakespeare & Company/Elayne P. Bernstein Theater/ Lenox, Mass.

LONG BEFORE the leading lady in her wine-colored satin gown has back-somersaulted to center stage, and before an overwrought lover has emerged from behind the chaise, kissing a corpse, we in the audience know who’s boss. It’s director Jonathan Croy.

Physical comedy can be great; but writers are supposed to tell us what it all means! You know, “life,” “the human condition” and all that. Playwrights have an additional obligation: keeping us awake after a good meal and two glasses of wine. In this case, director Croy grabs the latter obligation in two fists, leaving Stoppard to provide some witty lines, a neat, if unsubtle, mystery-play structure, and mere “life” and “the human condition.”

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REVIEW: Talented singers create a many-layered ‘Bon Appétit!’

‘Bon Appétit!’/ Conceived and directed by Benedicta Bertau/ Walking the dog theater/ With Diamond Opera Theater and Hudson Opera House/ Basilica Industria

EXPERIENCING TWO REMARKABLE VOICES and activating your choco-lust should probably be enough to get you to the Basilica Industria for an evening with Julia Child. There are two versions of her. Part 1 is spoken with songs and piano interludes. Part 2 is Lee Hoiby’s mini-opera “Bon Appétit.”

One of the voices belongs to Diamond Opera’s Mary Deyerle Hack. It is a warm, fat, free, expressive voice, attached to a big, deeply feminine woman whose pretty face registers lots of nuance, humor and a clear intention to communicate.

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