Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through August 11, 2012
by Shera Cohen
It’s safe to assume that each summer Barrington Stage Company (BSC) will present one or two new plays. Perhaps mounting an unheard of piece is risky business. However, not only has Barrington taken on the difficult task, but relishes and thrives on it. Two years ago, “Freud’s Last Session” took the stage in Pittsfield, and from there the play traveled for a long and current off-Broadway run. Last year’s “The Best of Enemies” was, without a doubt, the Berkshires’ finest work. Let’s not forget that “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” came to life at BSC’s old home, which at the time was only a high school auditorium in Great Barrington. Many Tony Awards later, “Bee” is one of the most popular musicals performed throughout the U.S. This summer highlights the East Coast premiere (a sole production took place on the other side of the country) of “The North Pool.”
The two-character, 90-minute, one act performance begins with Vice Principal and student in a high school setting. Dialog and action are a bit slow and seemingly cliché. The writer leads the audience in softly with each deliberate step. Layers form, questions asked, assumptions made not only between the two onstage, but also by the audience and characters. In a sense, the play is a mystery. The intrigue smolders, eventually erupting through the interaction of both men through their words and silences. In the talk-back following the production, the actors painted an analogy between the plot’s unraveling and an onion being peeled.
Without explaining the play’s title or spoiling the exposition, not to mention the ending, without hesitation, “The North Pool” can stand proudly alongside “Freud,” “Enemies,” and “Spelling Bee” – all originally unheard of, yet huge winners each.
Barrington’s experiment in presenting “New Works Initiative”– which includes world premieres, second opportunities for a new play, and first time musicals – is in itself worthy of praise. “The North Pool” exemplifies one particular example of a very successful end result.