Looking for love on Berkshire Theatre Group's stages this summer

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STOCKBRIDGE — The way Berkshire Theatre Group artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire sees it, BTG's 2019 season is a season of love.

"We are in disturbing times. There are disturbances all around us," Maguire said during a recent lunch interview. "And so I became interested in looking at the places we go to find love."

Nowhere is the extreme as pronounced as it is in the season-opener, Edward Albee's "The Goat, or, Who is Sylvia?" Eric Hill will direct the drama which begins performances May 24 and will run Thursdays through Sundays through June 15. Casting for this, and all the productions, will be announced at a later date.

The controversial play — which won the 2002 Tony, New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for best play — deals with the apparently solid marriage between a successful architect and his wife that begins to unravel when the architect confides in his best friend that he is in love with a goat named Sylvia.

"The characters are all seeking love and redemption," Maguire said, "and as the play progresses we see elements of the Greeks (in Albee's writing)."

"The Goat, or, Who is Sylvia?" will be followed, in turn, in the Unicorn by John Patrick Shanley's "Outside Mullingar," directed by Karen Allen, June 19-July 13; the 2012 revised version of Stephen Schwartz' 1977 musical "Working," based on Studs Terkel's book of interviews with average working-class Americans, featuring original songs by Schwartz, James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, July 18-Aug. 24; and, Sept, 26-Oct. 20, "What the Jews Believe," a play by Mark Harelik, who also will direct, that continues the story of the family in an earlier play of his "The Immigrant."

"Outside Mullingar" is about two middle-aged Irish farmers, neighbors, whose path to love is blocked by a longstanding family feud.

"'Working,'" Maguire said, "has been on my mind for some time, especially now when our conversations so frequently center around work and our jobs, our thoughts about what we do and why.

"(Director) James Barry called and asked if I would want to (include it in our season). I gave him a pretty quick 'yes.'"

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Set in a town in central Texas, "What the Jews Believe" picks up the family from "The Immigrant" years later. The play is set around the 75th birthday of the father "who has lost his faith. and the family as a whole (two sons and his wife) are all facing life challenges. They are all struggling to regain their faith."

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage begins July 11-Aug. 3 with Thornton Wilder's 1943 Pulitzer Prize play, "The Skin of Our Teeth," which tracks the Antrobus family as they navigate one disaster after another over the course of millennia. David Auburn will direct.

"The Skin of Our teeth" will be followed by a world premiere, Kathleen Clark's "What We May Be," Aug. 8-31, directed by Gregg Edelman. This is a play about theater, "about a family of theater artists who are faced with having to close their life's work and love - their little theater," Maguire said.

"Each of these plays gives us characters who are looking outside themselves; who are trying to find love in the big world."

Highlighting Berkshire Theatre Group's operation at The Colonial Theatre in Pittrsfield is the Broadway-bound "Rock and Roll Man: The Alan Freed Story," a musical about Alan Freed, a Cleveland DJ who became the most influential figure in American popular music in the mid-to-late '50s and early '60s until he was brought down by an explosive scandal. Freed coined the phrase rock and roll and discovered and promoted black artists. Freed died in 1965 and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1988. Randal Myler is directing this show by Gary Kupper (book, music and lyrics), and Larry Marshak and Rose Caiola (book).

"The Alan Freed show is a big one for us," Maguire said, "and the producers are taking it straight to Broadway.

"It has at its center a flawed man who presented wonderful music and artists, found them major record deals and then went down in the payola scandal."

"Rock and Roll Man" begins performances June 27 and runs through July 21. It will be followed by this year's community musical, "Shrek The Musical," Aug. 1-17, and Hershey Felder in his one-man show, "George Gershwin Alone," Aug. 24-31.

Tickets for the season go on sale 10 a.m. Friday.

Ticket information is available online at berkshiretheatregroup.org; by phone at 413-997-4444; or in person at the Colonial box office, 111 South St., Pittsfield.


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