A digest of what's playing at theaters in and around the Berkshires based upon reviews by Berkshire Eagle theater critic Jeffrey Borak.
Capsules include publication date of review, closing date of production, performance schedule, and production's running time.
A • denotes a highly recommended critic's choice.
AN AMERICAN DAUGHTER: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein's better instincts are at war with her lesser impulses in this play about the nomination of a widely respected female public health professional for U.S. Surgeon General that is on the way to being derailed as the result of a thoughtless offhand remark during a live television interview and a revelation about her past. The issues are no less current now — sad to say — than they were when this play was first produced in 1997 but Wasserstein's characters are defined by their positions, which they debate ad nauseam throughout most of the first act. Wasserstein doesn't get to the flesh-and-blood meat of her characters until the second act but, despite credible performances and a handsome setting, we are long past caring by then (Aug.
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Main Stage, '62 Center for Theatre and Dance, 1000 Main St. (Route 2), Williamstown. Tickets — $68. 413-597-3400; wtfestival.org; in person at '62 Center box office
• CRY "HAVOC!": Stephen Wolfert, a U.S. Army infantry and medical officer who served in Afghanistan and walked away from a career in the military after seven years to become an actor, delivers a blistering, galvanic performance in this autobiographical one-man show that examines the challenges facing our soldiers — men and women; during service and especially after — through his own compelling story. His masterly storytelling unfolds not only in an expressive vocal narrative that seamlessly weaves selected Shakespearean text with his own, but also in terms of his movements, at once precise and graceful. The Army's loss clearly is theater's gain (Aug. 5). Through Saturday. Evenings — Thursday and Saturday at 7:30. Matinee — Saturday at 3. (1 hour 10 minutes; followed after 15-minute intermission by talkback)
Shakespeare & Company, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. Tickets — $60-$20. (413) 637-3353; shakespeare.org; in person at Shakespeare & Company box office on site
OR,: Liz Duffy Adams has constructed a smart, sly sophisticated farce about 17th century British spy, poet and playwright Aphra Behn and her effort to give up the spy game and complete her first play — a commission from the Duke's Theatre — while romantic intrigue involving her sometime lover King Charles II; her former lover and colleague in the spy business, William Scot; and actress Nel Gwynne swirls around her on the night before her manuscript is due. An impressively talented cast of three plays, among them, roughly half a dozen characters with seamless skill and robust style (Aug. 6). In rotating repertory through Sept. 4. Selected evenings at 7:30 and afternoons at 2. (1 hour 35 minutes — no intermission)
Shakespeare & Company, Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. Tickets — $80-$20. (413) 637-3353; shakespeare.org; in person at Shakespeare & Company box office on site
SISTER PLAY: It's been 20 years since the death of their father and sisters Anna and Lilly — together with Anna's husband, Malcolm — continue their annual tradition of spending a few days at the family's rundown Cape Cod cabin. The dynamics are shifted this time by a stranger whom Lilly picks up along the road. To his credit, playwright John Kolvenbach does not always take this gentle comedy about place, home, family, identity down expected paths. At the same time, despite the efforts of a hard-working, earnest four-member cast, we are left with little to care about (Aug. 9). Through Sunday. Evenings — Thursday and Saturday at 8. Matinees — Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 2. (2 hours — including one intermission)
Chester Theatre Company, Chester Town Hall, 15 Middlefield Road, Chester. Tickets — $37.50; Chester resident and student rush — $10. 1-800-595-4849; chestertheatre.org
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Over-thinking has been problematic at Shakespeare & Company but not so in this thoughtfully rendered production of one of Shakespeare's most problematic plays. From design to staging in an impressive new theater-in-the-rectangle configuration in the Tina Packer Playhouse to a shimmering performance by Tamara Hickey as Portia and a richly nuanced performance by Jonathan Epstein as Shylock, director Tina Packer's production is of a piece that comes as close as any to reconciling elements that often are at war with one another (July 16). Through Aug. 21. In rotating repertory. Selected evenings at 7:30; selected afternoons at 2. (3 hours 4 minutes — one intermission)
Shakespeare & Company, Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. Tickets — $80-$20. (413) 637-3353; shakespeare.org; at 70 Kemble St. box office
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE: Buoyed by Joshua Bergasse's whimsical choreography and particularly noteworthy performances by David Garrison as the very model modern Major-General Stanley, Scarlett Strallen as the daughter who falls in love with a young apprentice pirate, and Alex Gibson as a Keystone Kop-style Sergeant, director John Rando's production of Wilford Leach's liberating 1980 treatment of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta for the Public Theater in New York neatly bridges Victorian Savoyard tradition and contemporary American musical theater. In a Berkshire theater season that has had a lot on its mind, there haven't been many opportunities to just kick back in a theater for two hours and not think about anything weighty; just relax. This is one of them (July 23). Through Saturday. Evenings — Thursday through Saturday at 8. Matinees — Friday and Saturday at 2. (2 hours 10 minutes — one intermission)
Barrington Stage Company, Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield. Ticket information — 413-236-8888; barringtonstageco.org; in person at Boyd-Quinson Mainstage box office
THE STONE WITCH: A curmudgeonly, eccentric genius children's book writer meets up with a talented up-and-coming children's book writer who's been sent to the older man's cabin retreat in upstate New York to help him complete his long-awaited, and, in all, likelihood, last, book. As the elder writer wrestling with demons of his own making, Judd Hirsch fumbles around the stage in a new play that, for all playwright Shem Bitterman's efforts, feels incomplete. The designers have provided a richly textural visual atmosphere;like a children's book that is stronger on illustration than it is on text (July 30). Through Aug. 20. Evenings — Monday through Thursday at 7; Friday and Saturday at 8. Matinees — Saturday at 2. (1 hour 31 minutes — no intermission)
Berkshire Theatre Group, Fitzpatrick Main Stage, 83 E. Main St., Stockbridge. Tickets — $62. 413-997-4444; berkshiretheatregroup.org
UGLY LIES THE BONE: A badly scarred, severely injured veteran of the war in Afghanistan returns to her Florida home after her third tour of duty to pick up the pieces of her life and heal from wounds that are not only physical but which also reach deep into the marrow of her emotional being in Lindsey Ferrentino's drama. Christianna Nelson gives a steady, if somewhat cautious, performance as the deeply scarred veteran, Jess, in a production that also feels cautious and nowhere near as courageous as its central character (June 30). In rotating repertory through Aug. 28. Selected evenings at 8:30 and afternoons at 3. (1 hour 32 minutes — no intermission)
Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. Tickets — $60-$20. (413) 637-3353; shakespeare.org; at box office — 70 Kemble St.