Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 11, 2016

The Bakelite Masterpiece

Berkshire Theatre Group, Stockbridge, MA
through October 23, 2016
by Shera Cohen

A bit different review than normal. Let’s first look at all of the many pluses.

Collaboration: I applaud collaborations, the efforts of two or more theatre troupes to plan and executing all elements of theatre to make a play complete. In this case, Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) and WAM Theatre, are the team.

American Premier: Theatre companies often give birth, in a sense, to new works. While not the first time on the stage, BTG has extended its reach to mount a first time experience of “The Bakelite Masterpiece” in the United States. Thank you.

Acting Teams: This two-actor play stars David Adkins and Corinna May -- familiar faces in the Berkshires. I have had the pleasure of seeing both act, separately; Adkins primarily at BTG and May at Shakespeare & Company. In real life, the two are married. These are two excellent actors.

Set Direction: Oftentimes, our reviews offer little space to discuss the crew that make a play possible. Kudos to Juliana Von Haubrich for purposely ugly, barren, and dark staging which is a perfect fit (literally and figuratively) to the production and its characters.

Talk Back: If ever offered the opportunity, my recommendation is to stay after the curtain falls, so to speak, to listen to and/or participate in the Talk Back. In a casual setting, actors and producers, directors, etc. sit on the stage and answer questions from the audience. The actors discuss their preparation to create the roles, their thoughts about the production, and often direct questions to the audience. “Masterpiece” benefited greatly through the process of Talk Back. In fact, had the program book and/or a short Pre-Talk taken place, this play would have been a better production. For instance, information that the play was essentially biographical would have made a world of difference in understanding the context and setting.

This last on the list of my “pluses” segues to my overall thoughts. You may have assumed that this was not one of my favorite plays or productions. The “Masterpiece” plot involves a mixture of politics, history, and art with truth, deception, justice, and Vermeer. There’s just too much, all jammed into 75 minutes.