In terms of quality, 2013 was neither the best of years nor the worst of years on the region's stages. Spring was uneventful; a summer that looked unpromising on paper had more than its share of surprises and accomplishments, as did the fall.
The Berkshires continued to attract directors, actors and playwrights looking to work on special projects away from the prying eyes and gossiping tongues of New York.
On Monday, individual accomplishments; today the year's productions, for better and for worse.
The year's best
1. TIME STANDS STILL / TheaterWorks
Donald Margulies' powerful play about a couple -- she's a driven photojournalist; he's a burned-out freelance journalist -- wrestling with physical and emotional wounds in the aftermath of an arduous, to say the least, period working in Iraq. Seamlessly directed and performed with unassuming skill and aching emotional resonance.
2. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY / Williamstown Theatre Festival
Brilliantly adapted musical treatment of Robert James Weller's novel about a four-day affair between an immigrant housewife in rural Iowa and a well-traveled photojournalist. A haunting score by Jason Robert Brown, finely crafted acting and buoyantly imaginative staging.
3. THE CHOSEN / Barrington Stage Company
Chaim Potok's novel about a clash of values between two Jewish youths of sharply opposing Judaic traditions was brought to life in this richly poetic, vividly perfomed production.
4. AN ILIAD / Chester Theatre Company
Who would have thought that one actor narrating Homer's powerful story could hold an audience in his thrall for two uninterrupted hours and create, in the process, such a riveting and compelling theatrical experience.
5. EXTREMITIES / Berkshire Theatre Group
Theater doesn't get more visceral, raw and under your skin than this.
6. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY / Shakespeare & Company
An unexpected delight. Imaginative, inventive and thoroughly captivating reconception of Frank Capra's much-beloved 1946 film. Beautifully acted and directed.
7. CLYBOURNE PARK / Barrington Stage Company
Bruce Norris' wily look at class and racial prejudice in an insightful production that made us laugh and squirm at the same time.
8. THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE / Shakespeare & Company
An intense rendering of Martin McDonagh's harrowing play about the unforgiving relationship between a viciously manipulative mother and her adult daughter -- a virgin with a desperately lessening hold on reality.
9. ON THE TOWN / Barrington Stage Company
This clunky 1944 musical -- the first collaboration of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green -- took flight on BSC's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.
10. HEROES / Shakespeare & Company
Elegaic presentation of a play about three aged World War II veterans, living in a veterans home in the French countryside, who find spring in the autumn of their lives.
Honorable mentions (in order of being seen): "Arms on Fire" (Chester Theatre Company); "Tryst" (Chester Theatre Company); "Pygmalion" (Williamstown Theatre Festival); "Young Frankenstein" (The Theater Barn); "Stockholm" (Stageworks/Hudson); "QWERTY: The Typewriter Plays" (Mixed Company); "Emilie: Madame du Chatalet Defends Her Life" (WAM Theatre)
NEW WORK: "The Bridges of Madison County" (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Book by Marsha Norman, from the novel by Robert James Weller. Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.
and the worst
1. BLOOD PLAY / Williamstown Theatre Festival and The Debate Society
A muddled piece, at best, about the ritualistic games a group of suburban Chicago Jewish couples --and the son of one of them -- play. At its heart, this was all about the mind games a company of actors played on audiences. In the end, everyone lost, especially the audience.
2. LEAP YEAR / Shakespeare & Company
Not even Lifetime Channel deserves this overly ambitious underachieving play about a Los Angeles couple and the consequences of the decision they make about their Down syndrome infant.
3. THE JEWISH JESTER: A FABLE WITH MUSIC / New Stage
Pretentious, rambling theater piece that perfectly suited its dark, damp dungeon setting.
4. MACBETH / Hubbard Hall Theater Company
Terribly misguided, dark treatment that defied Shakespeare's -- and the production's own --logic.
5. BETTER LATE / The Theater Barn
" than never" is how the saying goes. Amen!
6. DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER / The Theater Barn
Even a farce as forced as this one needs a more deft hand than was applied here.
7. THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG / The Theater Barn
The charms of this essentially two-character musical were buried in one-dimensional, heavyhanded, atonal performances and direction.
8. THE DRAWER BOY / Hubbard Hall Theater Company
How ironic that a production of a play about a search for truth had so little in it.
9. ACCOMPLICE / Shakespeare & Company
An ensemble of four skilleed actors undone by a play that was far too clever for its own good.
10. MOTHER COURAGE / Shakespeare & Company
The Thirty Years War seemed more like the 100 Years War in this misguided affair that was little more than Bertolt Brecht-lite.