Friday September 21, 2012

An innocent man who has been framed for murder races across England and Scotland in pursuit of answers even as he is being pursued by the police and German spies in "The 39 Steps," a tour de force theater piece for four actors that begins previews Saturday night at Shakespeare & Company's Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre where it officially opens next weekend. And just as the play's central character, Richard Hannay, is off and running, so too is the Berkshires' fall theater season.

Actually, the first of the fall shows -- C-R Productions' "In the Heights" at Cohoes (N.Y.) Music Hall, "Hedda Gabler" at Hartford (Conn.) Stage, and "The Little Dog Laughed" at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon, N.Y. -- are all ending their runs Sunday.

For The Theater Barn, it's the end of the 2012 season. For C-R, which came perilously close to folding after its August production of "Guys and Dolls," "In the Heights" precedes Jerry Herman's "Hello, Dolly!" Nov. 1 through 11.

Hartford Stage follows "Hedda" with a brand new musical, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," Oct. 11 through Nov. 4, and then its traditional "A Christmas Carol," beginning Nov. 25 and running through late-December.

Just a few blocks from Hartford Stage, the funky TheaterWorks is getting ready to open its 2012-13 season with "Venus in Fur," David Ives' recent two-character Broadway hit about a most unusual theater audition. Performances begin Oct. 5 and continue through Nov. 11.

Back in our neck of the woods, Capital Repertory Theatre in downtown Albany is a week away from "Pride @ Prejudice," an ingenious look at Jane Austen's literary classic that had its first performances in the summer of 2011 at Chester Theatre Company. The director and four of the original Chester cast members are making the trip to Albany and playwright Daniel Elihu Kramer says he's done some tweaking.

"Pride @ Prejudice" runs Sept. 28 through Oct. 28, followed by "Next Act! New Play Summit," a weekend of readings of a new musical and two new plays, Nov. 2, 3 and 4, and then "This Wonderful Life," a one-actor treatment of Frank Capra's classic film, "It's a Wonderful Life," Nov. 23 through Dec. 22.

South of Capital Rep in Hudson, N.Y., StageworksHudson will present "The Rivalry," a play about the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, beginning Oct. 3 (ironically, the night of the first of three Obama-Romney debates) and running through Oct. 21.

Time was when these neighboring regional theaters drove the fall theater schedule. Not any more.

For example, if you think "The 39 Steps" is all that Shakespeare & Company is planning for the fall, think again. "The 39 Steps" closes Nov. 4 and will be followed Nov. 30 through Dec. 30 by "The Santaland Diaries," David Sedaris' account of his time as an elf in Macy's Santaland. And on Dec. 14 and 15, Shake & Co's conservatory company will perform Shakespeare's "King John" in the Tina Packer Playhouse.

And Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District is humming with theater this fall.

Barrington Stage Company has brought back its summer hit, Mark St. Germain's "Dr. Ruth, All the Way," starring Debra Jo Rupp as the popular sex therapist. It's in BSC's St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center now through Oct. 7. And beginning Oct. 3, BSC will present a stage adaptation of William Golding's classic novel, "Lord of the Flies," on its Boyd-Quinson Mainstage. It runs through Oct. 21.

Berkshire Theatre Group has brought back its summer season-opener, "The Puppetmaster of Lodz," now through Oct. 7 in its Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Back in Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District, BTG's Colonial is home to a pre-Broadway workshop presentation of a new musical, "FOUND" tonight and Saturday. And next Friday, evening, BTG will present a staged reading of "Moby Dick Rehearsed," also at the Colonial.

Words -- plays and poetry, short stories and monologues -- along with music and dance are the stuff of "Made in the Berkshires," a full weekend of original works by Berkshires playwrights, poets, authors, composers and choreographers performed by Berkshires actors, narrators, dancers, musicians, writers -- Oct. 5, 6 and 7 at the Colonial Theatre, The Garage (in the Colonial lobby) and the Unicorn in Stockbridge

Then, in December, it's BTG's annual "A Christmas Carol," at the Colonial.

Next door to the Colonial, WAM Theatre is setting up shop at Berkshire Museum with a world premiere, "The Old Mezzo" by Berkshires-based writer Susan Dworkin. The gifted Eileen Schuyler heads a cast of professional actors from the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley and New York's Capital Region. The drama begins Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 28.

Town Players of Pittsfield, one of the oldest community theater groups in the country, has a series of play readings at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Renne Avenue. First up is "What's Wrong With This Picture?" a comedy by Donald Margulies, this Sunday afternoon, followed on Oct. 28 by Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number" and another reading Nov. 25 TBA.

In South County, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington is showing an HD telecast of London's National Theatre production of Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens" with Simon Russell Beale, Nov. 1 and 10. On Dec. 4, the Mahaiwe will host a touring production of the musical "Menopause --The Musical."

Nothing yet from Great Barrington's Mixed Company but you can be sure they will have something for us before the year is out.

Elsewhere, Ghent Playhouse in nearby Ghent, N.Y, begins its 2012-13 season Oct. 12 with "The Countess," running weekends through Oct. 28, followed Nov. 23-Dec. 9 by its annual holiday panto. This year it's "Robin Hood and His Merry Men."

In Cambridge, N.Y., Hubbard Hall Theater Company opens its 2012-13 season Nov. 9 with Kaufman and Hart's endearing Pulitzer Prize comedy, "You Can't Take It With You," running through Nov. 25.

In Sharon, Conn., Aglet Theatre Company, which performs in the spring at BTG's Unicorn, is presenting staged readings of Yasmina Reza's "Life X 3," Saturday evening; Jerome Kilty's "Dear Liar," Oct. 12-14; and David Ives' "All in the Timing," Nov. 17, all in TriArts' Bok Gallery.

And if you're looking for big Broadway musicals, Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y., has them -- the national tours of "Mary Poppins," Oct. 2 through 7, and "Wicked," Nov. 7 through 25.