Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 25, 2020

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, Judgement Day

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through August 26, 2020
by Jarice Hanson

Barrington Stage Company is one of the most innovative regional theaters in the Berkshires. In an effort to keep in touch with its audience, keep the stage (and office) lights on, and reaffirm its creative identity, it has foiled the Covid 19 pandemic to bring quality entertainment to audiences in their own homes. "Judgement Day," is written by Rob Ulin and skillfully directed by Matthew Penn, who is no slouch when it comes to theater or television-screen directing. With a first-rate cast, creative special effects, simple line-drawing sets and even a catchy tune, this reading provides more than smiles—it engages the audience with full belly laughs and is a much needed antidote to what is becoming common in Zoom-type readings of plays.

Much of the credit goes to Jason Alexander who energetically portrays Samuel Campo, a sleazy lawyer who, in George Bailey fashion, dies and comes back to life while learning important lessons. Patti Lupone is the Angel who, as the former Sister Margaret at Sam’s catholic school terrorizes him into changing his ways. Young Julian Emile Lerner as Sam’s son is delightful, and even though he and Jason Alexander are in different frames, the two “connect” in every possible way. The all-star cast of 12 do a brilliant job keeping the energy going, never letting you know you’re at a reading of a play rather than a first-rate performance.. Tthe use of neutral gray backgrounds in each frame makes you feel you’re on a set, rather than visiting actors in their kitchens or “Zoom rooms.”  

Characters are all in appropriate costumes and by pre-recording the reading, Penn has been able to employ a number of conventions that work for a small screen, such as manipulating sound effects and matching action so that an actor in one frame convincingly passes a document to someone else in another frame, or, cleverly slaps another character despite each actor being in a different location. 

Hats off to Barrington Stage Company for their creativity and connectivity. Readings like "Judgement Day" must be very difficult to orchestrate, but fundraisers have to find creative ways to bring quality entertainment at reasonable prices for audiences starved for something new. Clever plays, creativity, and energetic performances help us deal with the stress of daily life, and remind us that just because we need to do things differently for now, the arts endure and we can find a moment of levity and relief.

By making a $35 donation to Barrington Stage Company, the 90 minute reading can be accessed at any time up until 7:30 Wednesday, August 26  (donations must be purchased by 5 pm on that day). Barrington Stage also has several live outdoor performances scheduled this season, so don’t think that the Berkshires are barren of entertainment this summer.  But "Judgement Day"