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…

THEATER REVIEW: ‘She Loves Me’ makes scents, mostly fragrant

‘She Loves Me’ / Theater Barn

The ’60s musical “She Loves Me” reeks of quality. It is always aromatic.

The genius parfumerie-creators seem to have moved this show along without breaking a sweat. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick are witty, character-right and inventively crafted. Music has rolled tunefully from Jerry Bock with a sophistication that is never self-conscious or egotistical. (And thank goodness, it is never obliged to thump its way to audience id.) The book by Joe Masteroff is gently funny and simply brilliant. The story is enough to give you renewed faith in humankind and, surprisingly, all of its elements are stirred together without even a spoonful of sugar.

The production at Theater Barn is part of an especially well-chosen musical season, and it exposes the good stuff of “She Loves Me”–while allowing some major missteps. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Ancram play shrinks distance to Kabul

“Homebody/Kabul” / Ancram Opera House

PLAYWRIGHT TONY KUSHNER and actor Danielle Skraastad say it at least twice in his play, “Homebody/Kabul”: “I love the world!”

There is a spare yet generous look to the stage at Ancram Opera House. There are books and more books in piles tall and short. There is a cozy corner for the woman at home in London. (Her monologue is coming.) At the end of the play, there is an up-stage group of nicely lit, gray-sandy walls that summon up Kabul’s beauty and its dry, modern threat of non-life.

Watching Skraastad is like becoming an attentive therapist who listens to the outpourings of a patient’s teeming mind. The mind is not just neurotic; it is brilliant, funny, pathetic, informed, passionate, peripatetic, and, above all, world-loving. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Song and dance fuels tuneful ‘Pump Boys’

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” / Theater Barn

AT THE THEATER BARN the beat goes on and the music steadily roars garage-to-diner and back. Occasionally there is a hint of plot relationship between the people on the stage, but the fun is mainly the sound of music.

The time and place is described as “Highway 57 Gas Station and Double Cupp Diner located somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, NC.” The diner is run by the Cupp sisters (oh cute), and the boys pump gas and repair cars when they get a break from their music-making.

In this production, there are two guitars, a bass, and a keyboard, and six very attractive singing voices. Even someone who is not a rock-country-western fan will love the agile musicality and luscious sounds that overwhelm regional nasality. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Anderson inhabits bard’s Richard II

“Richard II” / Walking the Dog Theater / Hawthorne Valley School

MAKING THEATER is preposterous. Especially making Shakespeare. Making theater is expensive, time-eating, and brain-taxing. When doing it, an author and bunches of people have to merge efforts in order to herd the brains of other bunches of people (audiences) into a complex, specific path. At each performance, for a couple of hours, the audience-bunch has to sit still and shut up. Their brain-engagement needs to be “enjoyable” in some way—especially if the joy is to be some sort of fresh understanding. Then the theater-makers have to keep doing it over and over, night after night.

Some theater-makers are actors.

Shakespeare is lucky that, in Columbia County, NY, 2018, he has David Anderson. Read more…