PITTSFIELD — Leaves are falling and stage curtains are going up in one of the busiest starts to the fall theater season I can remember.
The schedule in the Berkshires and environs is chock-a-block, as a good friend and colleague likes to say, beginning with Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, WAM Theatre and Berkshire Theatre Group in a collaborative production at BTG's Unicorn Theatre, as well as Ghent Playhouse, Oldcastle Theatre Company and Hubbard Hall in neighboring, respectively, Ghent, N.Y, Bennington, Vt., and Cambridge, N.Y.
"Camping With Henry and Tom" at Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage on Union Street in Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District imagines the goings-on during a camping trip in 1921 in the Maryland mountains involving inventor Thomas Alva Edison, industrialist Henry Ford and President Warren G. Harding. Mark St. Germain's play — which had its first performances in 1993 at Berkshire Theatre Festival under the artistic direction of Julianne Boyd — opened over the weekend and runs Wednesdays through Sundays through Oct. 23.
Running strong in Stockbridge is the American premiere of "The Bakelite Masterpiece," a play by Kate Cayley based on the true story of a Dutch art forger who was arrested by Dutch authorities in 1945 and charged with treason for having sold a "lost original" Vermeer to Hermann Goering during the war. His defense? The painting was a forgery and he sets about proving his innocence by painting another Vermeer. The play is a two-hander involving the forger, Han van Meegeren (David Adkins), and the head of the agency charged with investigating art appropriations during the war, played by Corinna May. The compelling, layered show opened Oct. 2 and runs Thursdays through Sundays through Oct. 23.
On Oct. 29, the Unicorn becomes home for two weekends for a new one-woman theater piece written and performed by Mary Mott, who will be exploring no less an adventure than aging. Bob Moss is directing. Performances are Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 29 through Nov. 6.
And, of course, what would fall at BTG be without its annual community presentation of Eric Hill's stage adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," Dec. 10-22 at the Colonial in Pittsfield.
In addition to "Camping With " in Pittsfield, this past weekend saw openings in Ghent and Cambridge, N.Y. and in Bennington, Vt.
In Ghent, Ghent Playhouse is beginning its 42nd season with "The 39 Steps," playwright Patrick Barlow's theatrical reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock's film and the novel that inspired it. Among them, actors Kevin Kilb, Meaghan Rogers, Christopher Gilbert and Brian Wagner play more than 150 characters in a spy thriller that tracks from pre-World War II London to the Scottish Highlands. Deena Pewtherer directs. The show runs weekends through Oct. 23.
"The 39 Steps" will be followed weekends, Nov. 25-Dec. 11, with the annual Panto. This year's edition — "Turn of the Scrooge," written and performed by The Pantaloons under the direction of Ghent artistic director Cathy Lee Vischer.
At Hubbard Hall, a funky, energetic arts and education community center in Cambridge, N.Y., executive director David Snider is directing the theater's season-opening production of "Peter and the Starcatcher," a family musical by Rick Elice and Wayne Barker about Peter Pan before he was Peter Pan. The show opened Saturday and runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 23.
On Nov. 11 and 13, Hubbard Hall theater will present "My Journey to the Center of the Earth," a one-man play about the earth and all its worth-saving wonders, written and performed by guitarist, writer, actor John Sheldon.
An automobile accident leads an insurance tycoon to a reckoning with his past in Arthur Miller's rarely produced "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan." Oldcastle Theatre Company's producing artistic director Eric Peterson has wanted to direct this play since he first saw it at Williamstown Theatre Festival some 20 years ago. Finally, he's got his wish. His production starring veteran actor Nigel Gore, opened Friday and runs Wednesdays through Sundays through Oct. 23.
Meanwhile, coming back to Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District, Town Players of Pittsfield, which typically does staged readings, takes the wraps off its fully staged production of Jon Robin Baitz' "Other Desert Cities," which begins a two-weekend run Friday at Whitney Center for the Arts on Wendell Avenue. Kevin Paul Wixsom is directing this play about a prominent political couple whose life is about to be thrown into disarray when their daughter returns home after a six-year absence bearing a soon-to-be-published memoir that threatens to expose a closely guarded, painful family secret. The production runs through Oct. 23. Town Players follows this show with a program of staged readings of selections from Frances Benn Hall's "Ezra's Noh for Willie," directed by Jenn Smith and Jerry Greene. And the third edition of Town Players' holiday variety show, "Christmastime in the City: Hollywood," is scheduled for Dec. 9, 10 and 11, also at The Whit.
Elsewhere in the Berkshires:
• After a too-long hiatus, Mixed Company is back in action with the premiere for four new one-acts by Joan Ackermann under the collective title, "Season By Season," Thursdays through Sundays through Oct.30 at 37 Rossetter St. in Great Barrington.
• Sundance Institute brings its Theatre Lab to Mass MoCA in December for a series of writing workshops, culminating with a work-in-development performance on Dec. 9 in Mass MoCA's Club B10.
• And check out the colleges — MCLA, Williams, Berkshire Community College, and Bard College at Simon's Rock for their varied productions.
Over in Albany, N.Y., Capital Repertory Theatre's production of John Patrick Shanley's "Outside Mullingar" closes on Sunday. Up next at the downtown regional theater is Lerner and Loewe's richly melodic "Camelot." Previews begin Nov. 25; opening night is Nov. 29; closing night is Dec. 24. Before then, Capital Rep is offering its popular NEXT ACT! New Play Summit, Oct. 21-24, four days of readings of plays-in-development and discussions.
Cap Rep's affiliated organization, Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y., is bringing in the national tour of the much-admired Broadway musical "An American in Paris," beginning Friday and running through Oct. 21.
The fall portion of Proctors' Key Private Bank Broadway series continues Nov. 8-13 with "Dirty Dancing" and, Nov. 23-27, "The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night."
Between Hartford Stage and TheaterWorks, things are popping in Hartford, Conn.
Having just ended its world premiere presentation of T.D. Mitchell's "Queen for a Year," about the formidable obstacles faced by women in the military, Hartford Stage is getting ready for August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Piano Lesson," about a father's questionable legacy to his family. Previews begin Thursday; opening night is eight days later on Oct. 21. The production runs through Nov. 13, followed by "A Christmas Carol," Nov. 25 through Dec. 31.
Add 1921 Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein to the list of luminaries — among them, Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Ruth, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Warren G. Harding — who have been subjects of Mark St. Germain's plays. In his newest work, "Relativity," which is having its world premiere at TheaterWorks, Einstein is made to reckon with his past when, years later, a reporter comes knocking on his door inquiring about a daughter born to Einstein and his wife in 1902 but not seen or heard about since 1904.
Rob Ruggiero is directing Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss as Einstein.
Performances began Oct. 7. The nearly sold-out run has been extended through Nov. 20 with the press opening now set for Oct. 27.
See you on the aisle!