THEATER REVIEW: ‘Endearment’ makes the leap from screen to stage

“Terms of Endearment” / The Theater at Copake Grange

IT’S NOT NEWS that grandmas are not what they used to be. Shirley McClain’s Aurora proved it in the 1983 film “Terms of Endearment.” Now, in 2019, Constance Lopez as Aurora speaks her saucy mind and warns us in the first scene that she cares a lot about appearance and status.

Lopez later walks the stage in an elegant, plummy-purple-slit-up-the-calf dress and high heels–and even later in a narrow, mauve, high-waisted skirt with creamy soft top. Hooray for Kimberly Mauch costumes. And a special hooray for gram-glam!

Back in the eighties, it may still have seemed a bit naughty for a slim, vigorous, widowed grandmother to initiate some joyous sex with a neighbor. Now? Ho-hum. But this play is about Aurora’s role as mother. Mama’s borealis nature sometimes includes hurtful words to her daughter. The two cavil and connect; they talk on the phone every morning. The story is built around struggles to create or maintain loving connections–and arrive at the double meaning of “terms.” Read more…

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…