BECKET — The fairy lights hanging from the trees are shining brightly in Becket. After 20 years at the helm, Dream Away Lodge owner Daniel Osman will celebrate the Berkshires' most original restaurant and bar on Wednesday with a party at the 200 year old hilltop farmhouse in the forest.
On a balmy evening, to the percussive backdrop of chopping wood, Los Angeles native and longtime theater professional Osman relaxed in a loose white shirt and rebellious purple coif as his almost-poodle Paterson ran rings around the garden.
In the mid-1940s, he relates, "Mama" Maria Frasca and her three daughters turned the former roadhouse, long rumored a speakeasy and brothel, into Dream Away Lodge. Arlo Guthrie brought Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue there in 1975 to film scenes for "Renaldo and Clara" with Joan Baez, cementing Dream Away's place in musical lore.
"It's like 'George Washington slept here'," said Osman. "If Bob Dylan's been in your house, then you exist. It's remarkable."
Dream Away defines quirky. A naked Marilyn Monroe portrait overlooks the retro bar made from multicolored light blocks; the airy glassed-in porch sports tables and a vintage personal sauna. Mismatched linens and dishware give the dining rooms a homey atmosphere, echoed in the music room's padded pews and poufs, home to performers from local bands to the late Pete Seeger.
Knickknacks and artworks classic and kitsch are everywhere, even in the bathrooms, where contemporary paintings and bold photographs are exhibited in the diminutive "Loo Gallery."
Expansive gardens invite exploration of the meditative labyrinth walk, pond and wedding glade. The fire pit is ablaze on warm summer nights, and lived-in lawn chairs and tables encourage conversation and community.
"Dream Away has always been the place where the artists went, and that is still true now," said Osman, who spent two decades working for Shakespeare & Company and other Berkshire organizations, and not long ago performed memorably in Jean Genet's "The Maids."
With companies from Barrington Stage to Jacob's Pillow rubbing elbows with locals, adventurous tourists and summer camp staff, "it's an interesting mix," he said.
In 1996, when his New York theater career came to a sudden halt, Osman sought refuge at a gay retreat in Oregon. Upon his return, he read that Dream Away was for sale.
"All my theater life-support history was in food service, flowers and staging social events," he said. "I knew I could make it into the right house to throw a party in."
Mama Frasca's daughter Theresa thought so too.
"When it came time to talk about money, she practically gave it to me," Osman said. "She knew I didn't want to tear it down and build ski condos."
He regards Dream Away as "reality dinner theater, a sort of living sculpture and ongoing performance art. My friends in the theater don't think I've left the theater at all, they just think I've built my own."
Annual highlights include the Passover Seder led from his father's Hagadah, freewheeling Halloween party and free BBQ for area hospitality workers. "From the hipsters to the old geezers, there's a little something for everyone," Osman said. "People connect to the soul of the place, to its past, its present and its possibilities."
Longtime Berkshire chef Amy Loveless has run the kitchen for 10 years, creating eclectic seasonal menus that reflect her love of Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Mexican food.
"I spent three weeks in Oaxaca this winter, which was very inspiring," she said, turning corn on the grill for Elote, a traditional street food. "It's slathered in spicy limey mayonnaise, then rolled in cotija cheese with chili flakes on top," she said. "It's messy and really yummy."
The Dream Away Lodge is still evolving. Osman recently added "The Hot Spot," an outdoor café serving burgers, hotdogs and wood-fired pizzas. At Wednesday's party, Chef Amy will add festive sides and desserts, and the weekly "Hootenanny" music circle will move outdoors with longtime regulars and guests.
As he approaches 60, Osman reflects on Dream Away's future. "It certainly deserves to have a life beyond me," he said, "and it's going to take an interesting character to continue this kind of story."
He regards Dream Away as more than an occupation; it is an extension of his heart and soul.
"I was having lunch with Leanora [Frasca] many years back," he said, "and with tears streaming down her face, she said, 'Mama would be so proud of you.' " His eyes welled up. "I thought so too."
"It's the melding of two minds, Mama's and mine. She had it for 50 years, I've had it for 20, we'll see how it goes."
If you go ...
What: 20th Anniversary Celebration
Where: Dream Away Lodge, 1342 County Road, Becket
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday
Cost: Food and drink for sale, no cover for music
Regular Hours: Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m., indoor dining to 9 p.m., Hot Spot outdoor café to 11 p.m., bar to 1 a.m.
Information/Reservations (indoor dining only): thedreamawaylodge.com; (413) 623-8725