Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 1, 2016

The Stone Witch & Talkback

Berkshire Theatre Group, Stockbridge, MA 
through August 20, 2016
by Shera Cohen

Talkback? This is the half-hour or so when the audience is invited to stay after the conclusion of the play to, well, talk; i.e. Q & A. In the case of “The Stone Witch,” the three actors, playwright, and director sat on the stage (complete with all set furnishings) as they answered questions from the audience. They, in turn, often asked questions of the audience as well as to their peers on the stage.

Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
The world premiere of “The Stone Witch” starred actor Judd Hirsch. Television, movie, and stage star, Hirsch played the lead character Simon, an elderly artist struggling with the burden of success simultaneously with the failure of creativity. Hirsch is a pro, displayed by his skills of contrasting madness with genius. At the talkback, Hirsh repeatedly commented that he was amazed that so many people “stuck around” after the play. Hirsch seemed to have had a great time, not so much in his role, but as himself providing the “A” part of Q & A. Relaxed, still in costume, Hirsch spoke of “The Stone Witch” development, give and take, constant changes, and even multiple endings. Talkbacks are casual and most often fun.

No question was untouched, particularly those to writer Shem Bitterman. Some spoke of the ambiguity between characters and with the audience. I am in this category of “the unclear.” Basically, the play’s purpose and ending were too vague to be of any importance. Was the subject portrayed as semi-biographical or pure fiction? Does it even matter?

At one point, children’s book artist/writer Peter (Rupak Ginn) doesn’t seem to know exactly what he has gotten himself into with his relationship with Simon. Unfortunately, I had a similar feeling.

That said, whether the play was the next best thing since “Hamlet” or a fledgling straight out of the computer experiment, I urge you to stay and participate in the Q & A mini-lesson. You never know what you might learn. And you might meet a movie star. What does a talkback cost? Free, included in the price of admission.