Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 16, 2019

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, Fall Springs

Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, MA
through August 31, 2019
by Michael J. Moran

The cast of "Falls Springs"
With music and lyrics by Niko Tsakalakos and book and lyrics by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, “Fall Springs” is making its world premiere full production at Barrington Stage after seven years in development. The title setting is “a town somewhere in the USA” which sits atop “one of the largest Essential Oil reserves in the country.” The nine-member cast includes five middle-aged adults, four of whom are single parents; and four teenagers, one child of each parent.

Mayor Robert Bradley introduces the town (“Fall Springs”) and promotes its advantages “as the 4th fastest growing, the 11th safest, and 14th most aesthetically pleasing smallish town not including locations near water or mountains.” After his daughter, aspiring geologist Eloise, worries about environmental damage (“Gimme Science”), Beverly Cushman, head of the Fall Springs Essential Oil Drilling company, gets the Town Council to approve “Hydraulic Fracking,” which threatens the community’s very foundations.

The teenagers’ band, “Impending Doom,” is convinced that the town is “Sinking in to Oblivion,” and when more potholes and pavement cracks are reported, the adults wonder if “The Birds Have Come Home” to roost. Disaster strikes by the end of Act One, and its aftermath is explored, with humor, pathos, and hope, following intermission in Act Two.

The cast, all but one experienced Actors’ Equity members, bring the satirical spirit of the text and the plot to stirring life. Matt McGrath is a pompous and superficial Mayor, while Ellen Harvey’s Beverly is a hilariously over-the-top monster of corporate greed. Alyse Alan Louis is a forceful yet touching Eloise, while Sam Heldt is haplessly endearing as Beverly’s nerdy son Felix. Ken Marks is an affecting scold as Nolan Wolanske, “the town genius/vagrant” scientist colleague of Eloise’s late mother, who perished in a mysterious accident.

Mike Pettry’s five-piece band, featuring keyboards, guitars, percussion, and bass, nails the infectiously appealing rock-based score, which also sports witty and incisive lyrics, and supports director Stephen Brackett’s absurdist vision of this ecological parable. So does imaginative scenic design by Tim Mackabee, resourceful costumes by Emily Rebholz, and zany choreography by Patrick McCollum.

In the honorable tradition of 2001’s “Urinetown,” this delightful production delivers a sobering message in an entertaining package and deserves a longer life in this era of the ongoing discussion of climate change.