Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 28, 2021

REVIEW: Great Barrington Public Theatre, “Dad”

Great Barrington Public Theatre, Great Barrington, MA
through July 3, 2021
by Shera Cohen
Essentially, there is one common denominator among the plays of Mark St. Germain; small bits of history that perhaps could be found on page 6, below the fold of any newspaper. Having seen 9 of this playwright’s published plays, there is, however, one exception. “Dad,” a semi-biographical story of the writer’s father and himself, would never make the news except for a bold-faced headline in the author’s own life. Another way to say this is that St. Germain obviously delved into his background, his father, and those of his siblings to a degree sadness and wont. 
The cover design of the program book connotes a comic reminiscence of someone’s/anyone’s father. Having now seen the play it becomes clear that the black scribbling is not that of a child but is befuddlement of how any of us try to figure out our parents’ place in their own world and with their children.
To testify to the saying that “the show must go on,” a necessary last-minute change of one of
the actors in no way impeded the production in spite of the fact that the character was the lead, Dad. Jim Frangione takes on double duty as the director. The cast includes David Smilow who expresses his character well as an oblivious average Joe whose costume consists of a shlub, old sweatshirt helps define his personality. Peggy Pharr Wilson’s role as Lynn, the sister, has little to do. Perhaps the real sister who she is based on was as ambivalent as Wilson portrays her. Mark H. Dold, a major-league player in the Berkshire theatres, plays high-strung, tense, taught, and nervous to aplomb. Dold’s performances are worth seeing no matter what the play.
Seeing the first performance of a new play is a privilege. However, there are some negatives, the biggest being the length. Yes, a play can be compact and say/show everything an audience needs. Instead, “Dad” gives a preview of characters and storyline that needs fleshing out; sibling vs. sibling, Dad vs. recollections of his own past, how Dad became a father who obviously didn’t want that role. In a “This Is Us” timeline of back and forth, the set added to the confusion such as a 1950’s ice box on the same stage as a laptop computer. The play was too stripped down. Sometimes simple and short befit the story. Other times, more is helpful to appreciate the story.
St. Germain has a wonderful base of a dramatic look at a family. He has not finished yet.