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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‘Monty’ takes off at New Leb’s Theater Barn

“The Full Monty”/ By David Yazbek and Terrance McNally/ Directed by Michael C. Mensching/ Theater Barn

FEMALE EAGERNESS to look at a line of naked penises seems like a risky premise on which to hang a musical. (We women can’t seem to summon the proper lust for it.) But authors Yazbek and McNally have pretty much made it work, in part from the sheer novelty of the idea.

Fortunately, there is more here than penis humor. Audiences can’t resist a bunch of desperate unemployed, working-class guys whose masculine identities and family ties have frayed or disappeared along with their paychecks. Read more…

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.