Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 29, 2022

REVIEW: Aston Magna, “The Devil’s in the Tales”

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA 
June 25, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Founded in 1972, the Aston Magna Music Festival calls itself “the longest running annual summer festival in America devoted to music performed on period instruments,” that is, “as the composer imagined it.” They opened their 2022 season with an inspired program of two musical stories about the devil’s intervention in human affairs written two centuries apart with contrasting outcomes and very different sound worlds.  

The earlier score, Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti’s 1704 oratorio “Humanita e Lucifero” (“Humanity and the Devil”) for two solo voices and small instrumental ensemble, had the happier ending. Written for a church service in a series of recitatives (sung speeches) and arias, it would have been interrupted by a sermon presenting the moral of the story. The goodness of the newborn Virgin Mary, representing humanity, vanquishes the evil of Lucifer, the Devil.   

Kristen Watson’s clarion soprano found both tenderness and strength in Mary, while Frank Kelley’s florid tenor gave Lucifer a comic swagger that entertainingly foretold his opponent’s victory. Daniel Stepner on violin led the ensemble in a buoyant account, and his “free translation” of the anonymous text (recitatives were sung in English, arias in Italian) was helpfully readable in the dim house lighting. 
Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 theater piece “L’Histoire du Soldat” (“The Soldier’s Tale”) is based on a Russian folktale about a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil (in disguise) for material wealth. Written for three actors, a dancer, and, according to Stepner’s program notes, “a rag-tag village band – a sort of Klezmer ensemble,” Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz’s original French text invites translation for local productions. 

Jack Greenberg vividly rendered the soldier’s shifting emotions, David McFerrin was an alluring, sometimes amusing devil, and DeAnna Pellechia gracefully danced her small role as the soldier’s would-be bride. Kelley, who also directed the powerfully minimal staging, was a droll narrator of Stepner’s up-to-the-minute translation, which tartly echoes current US politics. Again, playing violin, the translator drew sharp-edged performances from the musicians.   

As should be clear by now, the real star of this show was Stepner, who is also celebrating his 30th year as Aston Magna’s Artistic Director. The next four weekends promise other enticing Aston Magna concerts, including Clara Schumann (June 30-July 2) and Francois Couperin (July 21-23). 

REVIEW: MOSSO, "The Sondheim Celebration"

MOSSO: Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra 
June 23, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Tim Stella
Having reestablished their classical bona fides after a Covid-forced hiatus with two spring concerts featuring Dvorak and Brahms as the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the same ensemble demonstrated their Broadway chops, under guest conductor Tim Stella, as MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra) in a celebration of renowned musical theater composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim. All three concerts were in Springfield's Symphony Hall. 

The opening orchestral suite from “Sweeney Todd” revealed the full range of this haunting score with a symphonic depth rarely heard in the theater. The imaginative arrangements by Don Sebesky of this and five other numbers showcased all sections of the ensemble, from playful percussion, warbling woodwinds, and bustling brass to a warm, rich cushion of strings. Equally evocative were an instrumental suite from “Into the Woods,” with whistling by Hartford-based soprano Alice Matteson, and an orchestral “Send in the Clowns” (“A Little Night Music”), with tender solo turns by concertmaster Masako Yanagita and cellist Richard Mickey. 

Ten other selections were sung by four dynamic Broadway veterans. Highlights included Lisa Vroman’s panicky bride-to-be in “Not Getting Married Today” (“Company”), Ron Raines’ hilariously unfulfilled husband in “Now” (“A Little Night Music”), and Panaro’s animated almost-post-bachelor in “Being Alive” (“Company”). The aching purity of Florence Lacey’s voice in “Losing My Mind” (“Follies”) and “Send in the Clowns,” this time accompanied only by maestro Stella on piano, even evoked the incomparable Sondheim champion Barbara Cook. 

Spoken introductions by the singers, touching on their personal encounters with Sondheim, their previous experience working with each other over many years, and acknowledging an original cast member of “Company” in the audience (Dona D. Vaughn), deepened their intimate rapport with the enthusiastic audience.   

The evening closed, when two dozen Singers of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, prepared by Nikki Stoia, joined all the soloists, with a stunning rendition of the chorus “Sunday” which closes Act I of “Sunday in the Park with George.” The effect was uniquely magical, a feeling that clearly resonated with the many Sondheim fans present. 

The next MOSSO concert will be held at Symphony Hall on July 21 at 7:30 pm, when Kevin Rhodes leads a program of light classics, featuring music of John Williams.

June 25, 2022

PREVIEW: The Mount, "Concerts in the Dell"

The Mount, Lenox, MA
Six consecutive Thursdays
July 14 - August 18, 2022
6-8 pm

Join the musicians at The Mount for an exciting lineup of live music—ranging from globally-inspired jazz to indie blues—in a beautiful outdoor setting at the Dell, below the Mount's Stable. Concerts are held in an open-sided tent, rain or shine. Picnics are welcome, and BYOB (blankets and lawn chairs). Tickets can be purchased online or on-site prior to each event; minimum donation of $10 per person of which all proceeds will be directed to Cash for Refugees to support Ukrainian relief efforts.

Wanda Houston Band
On July 14th, the Wanda Houston Band kicks-off the series. This dynamic quartet specializes in the music of the ’30s through ’70s with a blend of rhythm, blues, jazz, and soul.

Muddy Ruckus
Guitarist Ryan Flaherty and drummer Erika Stahl play railroad indie punk
blues on July 21st. The duo blends rootsy guitar and edgy percussion on a suitcase drum
kit and are known for their full rock-band sound.

Mukana is an eclectic gathering of world-class musicians hailing from Chile,
Haiti, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and the US. Fusing traditional songs and rhythms
with jazz and sublime arrangements, Mukana creates music that is a joyful celebration of our global community. The date is June 18th.

Heard World Jazz
Heard is a collective of musicians who bring their skills and passion for
world music, jazz, and improvising together on August 4th to create irresistible grooves
set in a unique sonic tapestry. Together for a decade, their vibrant sound
incorporates influences from West Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean.

Misty Blues
On August 11th Misty Blues pays homage to the older blues popularized by the bold and
brassy women of its time, paying respect to classic male artists of the ’20s,
’30s, and ’40s. They also perform classic rock and folk tunes infused with a
healthy dose of the blues.

Pamela Meas Jazz Project
Closing out the summer series is the Pamela Means Jazz Project appearing on August 18th singing and playing jazz originals, contemporary jazzy covers, and Great American Songbook jazz standards from the ‘30s-’50s.

REVIEW: The Bushnell, "Hamilton"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through July 10, 2022
by Jarice Hanson

It’s hard to determine who or what is the focus of the now legendary musical, “Hamilton.”  Is it
the civics lesson told through the eyes of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury in the United States? Is it Lin-Manuel Miranda’s exuberant hip-hop version of the telling of history? Is it exceptional casting that allows young actors to bring a fresh vision to a piece of history that is over 200 years old? In reality it is all of the above and so much more, as evidenced by the longevity of the ground-breaking musical that hit Broadway in 2015.  

The touring company currently at the Bushnell has all of the right ingredients to recreate the experience that is “Hamilton.” With original direction by Thomas Kail and extraordinary choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, this cast doesn’t miss a beat. The 25-person cast, led by Pierre Jean Gonzalez as Hamilton, and supported beautifully by Jared Dixon as Aaron Burr, with a delightful Neil Haskell in the scene stealing role of King George, this version of the show is faithful to the original. Every voice is thrilling, but Marcus Choi in the role of George Washington nearly stopped the show with his heart-felt solo. His stage presence and vocal talent makes him a standout among the talented troupe. 

There are, however, two elements of the experience that demonstrate the challenge of keeping a ground-breaking show fresh. This version does seem light on the energy of the original show—perhaps due to the grueling schedule of performances that place a burden on any cast. 

Secondly, the Bushnell’s acoustics are not friendly to this show that relies so heavily on fast patter rap and clever wordplay. Depending on where your seats are, it might be hard to discern the words—particularly of the women performers. Despite some of the sound challenges presented by the hall itself, Emanuel Schvartzman conducts and directs an excellent pit band of 10 talented musicians who drive the beat of the show.   

This is the second time “Hamilton” has played The Bushnell, and it should be noted that this version has added several performances over a three-week period. As a bonus, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford is featuring an exhibit called “Hamilton: The Art of Remaking History” which runs through September 11. Discount tickets are available to those with a ticket stub or playbill from “Hamilton.”

June 23, 2022

PREVIEW: Ko Festival, "Stepping Up/Stepping Back

Ko Festival, Hampshire College Campus, Amherst, MA
July 18-31, 2022

The Ko Festival of Performances’ 31st and season will include two productions curated around the theme of “Stepping Up/Stepping Back,” plus a Story Slam and the return of a favorite Personal Narrative workshop. This season’s events will take place on the Hampshire College campus, with indoor events in the air-conditioned Mainstage Theatre in Emily Dickinson Hall, and an outdoor event that will begin with a guided walk from Emily Dickinson Hall to an outdoor performance site at the Hampshire College Farm Center.
Scene from "Flushing"
The festival opens with “FLUSHING (Make Room for Someone Else),” created by Eric Bass, co- founder/Sandglass Theater and Linda Parris-Bailey, co-founder/Carpetbag Theatre, and directed by Kathie deNobriga. A puppet show with songs, made for adults, "FLUSHING" begins at the Brink, where two theater directors are passing the leadership of their ensembles to the next generation.This moment sparks a reflection on what it means to retire and what it might mean to inherit. For those stepping down, what do we leave and who do we become? For those stepping up, how do we take what is given and make it our own? Performances will be July 22- 24.
This year Ko welcomes back the “Story Slam & Celebration" on the Sunday evening of the first performance weekend, July 24 at 8pm. A celebration of KoFest’s three decades, featuring true stories on the season’s theme of “Stepping Up/Stepping Back.” There will be some ringers, and also some wild-card slots, for these stories about transitions. Special guest appearance by Sara Felder whose previous performances at Ko have made her a Ko audience favorite. Potential storytellers can email to pitch a story.
The season closes with Clear Creek Creative’s “EZELL: Ballad of a Land Man,” with performances on July 29 -31. An environmental, cultural and spiritual parable of domination and resilience that explores the complexities of climate change, indigenous erasure and environmental extraction (fracking) is based on the artists’ lived experience in their rural Kentucky. This immersive outdoor experience features a contemplative walk through the woods to the performance site with live music, the play, a return walk and a post-show dialogue with the artists and a panel of local experts. 

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, "Ain't Misbehavin'

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through July 9, 2022
by Shera Cohen

With an uncontrollable tap of your shoes on the floor of the theatre, a pleasantly stuck smile on your face, and slight shift of your shoulders back and forth, the enjoyment of "Ain't Misbehavin'" delivers all that one would expect. Frankly, it's debatable which group is having the better time -- the seated audience members or those onstage.

While not a musical, per se, "Ain't Misbehavin'" is titled "a musical show." In today's description, it would be a review logically strung together with an unspoken theme or plotline. Even for those unfamiliar with this piece of theatre, undoubtedly anyone over age 40 will recognize tunes like "Honeysuckle Rose," "The Joint is Jumpin',"Mean to Me," "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," "Two Sleepy People," and, of course, the title song.

Photo by Daniel Rader
Three women and two men are flawless singers in their consistent roles at once was the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, where Black singers took the stage, each given their opportunity to shine. The music is performed by soloists, duos, or the ensemble. The solos allow each of the three actresses to showcase their skills and clear dialogue. Maiesha McQueen lends sunshine to the fun "Cash for Your Trash," Anastacia McClesky offers a wink of the eye to her "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," and Allison Blackwell's "Squeeze Me" brings a splash of humor to this solo number. 

The two male actors are Arnold Harper II and Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Again, both are equal to the quality of the female component of the cast. A plus for the guys is that their numbers tend to be much for humorous than those of the ladies. Harper is a physically large man whose, "Your Feet's Too Big," comments on his shoes in a comic style, and Manning's "The Viper's Drag" shoes off his soft-shoe dance talent. Manning's lieth stature uses every appendage of his body as soft puddy, if you can envision that.

Speaking of choreography, Jeffrey L. Page, who also serves as director for "Ain't Misbehavin' moves his cast and one pianist seamlessly on the large stage with very few accoutrements. Not until Act II does the curtain of the semi-circle backdrop open for the audience to see the band. This devise purposely made Act II even more energetic and delightful than Act I. The full ensemble, cast and musicians, recreated what must have been the scene as it replicates the real Black Harlem band of decades ago. Music Director/pianist Kwinton Gray creates a full perspective for the audience.

It's no wonder that patrons left humming one of their favorite and most memorable songs from the review.

June 21, 2022

PREVIEW: Aston Magna Music Festival

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA        
by Michael J. Moran 

The mission of Aston Magna, founded in 1972, is to enrich the appreciation of music of the past and the understanding of the cultural, political, and social contexts in which it was composed and experienced. Aston Magna seeks to inter­pret the music of the past as the composer imagined it. 

On Saturday, June 25, at 7:00 pm, they will present a program entitled “The Devil Is in the Tales,” at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA. The program will consist of two pieces: Alessandro Scarlatti’s 1706 oratorio “Humanita e Lucifero” for two voices and ensemble; and Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 theater piece “A Soldier’s Tale” for three actors and seven instruments.   

Tenor Frank Kelly
Both works feature the struggle between personifications of good and evil. Scarlatti pits the Virgin Mary against Lucifer, and Stravinsky dramatizes Satan’s Faustian bargaining for the soul of an innocent soldier. Both composers and their librettists were looking over their shoulders towards the medieval morality play, in which the existential contests between the forces of light and dark play out in stark, primary colors. 

Featured vocalists include soprano Kristen Watson, tenor Frank Kelly, and baritone David McFerrin as the Devil. A pre-concert talk will be held at 6:15 pm, with Aston Magna Artistic Director Daniel Stepner. 

Tickets may be purchased by phone at (413) 528-0100 or online at the Mahaiwe website.

June 15, 2022

Preview: Great Barrington Public Theater, Leave Your Fears Here

Great Barrington Public Theater, Great Barrington, MA
June 30-July 10, 2022

"Leave Your Fears Here" is a loving and insightful memoir written and performed by the accomplished and familiar stage and screen actor James Morrison. In a riveting performance that legendary producer Norman Lear called “An extremely moving play by an extremely moving performer,” the actor recounts his 10-year-old son Seamus’ daunting passage from brain cancer diagnosis, through treatment to ultimate recovery, and how he inspired courage and change in others, most notably his father. It’s a profound, heroic story of the power of hope leading to triumph in the darkest hours.

When catastrophic illness strikes suddenly, lives are rudderless. When their son all at once faced numerous physical disabilities and a life-threatening diagnosis, Morrison, his wife and family had to face reality and mortality while simultaneously navigating the labyrinth of 21st century life and medical processes. They and other adults found themselves transcended by their son’s courage, innate wisdom, and ability to face and accept harrowing experience with truth, strength, humor, and poetic nature.

Directed by Robert Egan, the play was incubated, developed, and first staged at the award-winning Ojai Playwrights Conference.

Actor James Morrison/Credit Zaugh Photography
Audiences will recognize James Morrison from 24, Law and Order SVU, The West Wing, Six Feet Under, and other series and movies. “It’s more than just a story about a boy who had brain cancer,” he says. “It’s about each of us walking into unknown, frightening places, realizing our untapped strengths and powers, and learning how to bring courage to life, even when the lesson is being taught by your child. Theatre is my medium, it’s where I started as an actor 50 years ago, and along with being Seamus’ father, I’ve always felt it was what I was put here to do, so it only seems natural to bring my story to the stage. If making our journey public allows one person to feel hope or gratitude as they navigate, battle, and conquer their fears, I’ve succeeded beyond measure.”

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth

Bushnell, Belding Theater, Hartford, CT
June 10-12, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran

For the ninth and final “Masterworks” weekend of their current season, HSO Assistant Conductor Adam Boyles and the orchestra went all out with a spectacular program of two contrasting masterpieces from 1995 (Philip Glass’s “Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra”) and 1824 (Beethoven’s “Choral” symphony). 

Few composers have written concertos for even one saxophone, so Glass’ piece featuring four of them was a rare treat, especially as exuberantly played by the Hartford-based Resurgam (“I shall rise again” in Latin) Quartet, formed at the Hartt School in 2015. The first movement was gentle and flowing, the second jazzier, with a raucous duet by soprano sax Harry Kliewe and alto sax Colette Hall, the third quietly mesmerizing, with flashy solos by tenor sax Sean Tanguay and baritone sax Michael Raposo, and the finale a whirlwind dash to the finish line.    

Their crowd-pleasing encore, the perpetual motion finale of John Mackey’s 2012 “Unquiet Spirit” saxophone quartet, was played with all the staggering “barn burner” virtuosity demanded by its American composer.    

The concert ended with a grippingly dramatic account of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. For scope of ambition, length and variety of content, and sheer grandeur of impact, this iconic work was unprecedented in its time and only challenged in the following two centuries by Gustav Mahler. The opening movement was eerie and forceful; the “Molto vivace” scherzo, visceral and relentless; the “Adagio” slow movement, radiant and enthralling; and the choral finale, which included the Hartford Chorale, prepared by their music director, Richard Coffey, and four vocal soloists, built powerfully to a thrilling close.

Baritone Sumner Thompson vividly proclaimed the recitative which introduces the chorus singing Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” a poem Beethoven had long admired. Thompson blended beautifully in later passages with crystalline soprano Jamilyn Manning-White, lush mezzo-soprano Margaret Lias, and supple tenor Jordan Weatherston Pitts.      

With a range of dynamic gestures, Boyles drew playing of deep conviction and technical polish from all sections of the orchestra, particularly the brass and percussion members whose skills were showcased throughout the program. His evident rapport with musicians and audience alike suggests that his leadership of more HSO subscription concerts would be welcome.

June 13, 2022

PREVIEW: The Bidwell County Fair

Bidwell House, Monterey, MA
June 25, 2022

After a 2-year hiatus, the Bidwell House Museum is so excited to bring back the Bidwell Country Fair! Everyone is invited to this fun and free community event on Saturday, June 25th from 12-4 pm at the Bidwell House Museum. In 2022 the town of Monterey is celebrating its 175th anniversary and the Museum is thrilled to have the Bidwell Country Fair be a part of those festivities.
There will be activities for the whole family at the Fair including music, reenactors, artisan demonstrations, crafts, food and more.
On the musical stage Bidwell presents Moonshine Holler and Oakes and Smith. The Butler’s Rangers and the Loyalist Reenactors will be at the Museum in the afternoon talking about what life was like for those who fought alongside the British during the Revolutionary War. 
2018 photo by Walter Engells
Numerous artisans onsite will showcase their crafts, including The Berkshire Hills and Dales Spinning Guild, stone carver Adam Heller, blacksmith Chris Templin, along with timber framing and timber sawing demonstrations. History buffs can learn more about the 175 years of the town of Monterey with a display from the Monterey Historical Society. Younger visitors can work on crafts, face painting and a scavenger hunt. 
First-time visitors to the Bidwell House can also take outdoor self-guided tours during the afternoon, including one about the history of the Bidwell House and one about the Native American history of the local land. Guided tours of the inside of the house will not be offered during the Country Fair.

Review: Hartford Stage, "Kiss My Aztec"

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through June 26, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo by T. Charles Erickson
"Kiss My Aztec," a relatively new comedic drama by popular comedian/writer John Leguizamo at the helm who leaves its audience laughing, thoughtful, and far more educated about the role of White nations invading those with populations of "brown skin"; a line used often in Act II. Those seated in the theatre, come as they are, wart and all, with prejudices and feelings about racial unrest in this century.

The musical is jam-packed with 20 songs, most of which are laugh-out-loud funny. Audiences take nearly all as sarcastic and occasionally uncomfortable in this off-beat historic look at the Aztec nation conquered by Spain. If there is a chronological line to the story, it is a bit confusing. Perhaps that error lies with me, as a viewer who knows relatively little about the Aztecs vs. Spain centuries ago. The incongruity of rap, calypso, solo drum music accompanying ballads, love serenades, and laments, makes the musical all the more fun. Expect the unexpected.

All actors took on the task of double or triple roles. The story line depicts the Spaniard king and his two children, neither of whom he cares about, but needs to marry off to continue the monarchy. Matt Saldivar (king) is sharp and always on the mark, especially when spouting his 21st century quips. No one could fault with anyone in the ensemble of 16. Our lead, Joel Perez as a naive young man uses his friendly sock puppets in battle in his hysterical means to thwart the enemy; Perez and puppets steal the show. 

This production is awash with colors: the background sets' graffiti, the giant face of Dawn of the Dead, and costumes of actors made to look almost like harlequins or beach combers. 

Music Director Roberto Sinha, leads his band of nine in what is nearly non-stop music, similar to "Hamilton," switching music styles within seconds.

Choreographer Mayte Natalio and Director Tony Taccone execute full-cast numbers particularly at the start of the musical with actors literally jumping all about the stage. What seems like a free-for-all, is not. A lengthy fight scene in Act II with all actors onstage, as well as in the play's ending, prove the excellence of this creative team.

If you notice that this review mentions many Spanish surnames in key roles, that is not a coincidence. To make the production as authentic as possible, these individuals, both onstage and backstage were the best selected for their roles. 

One recommendation if the play is taken on the road and/or to Broadway is to cut: a few songs completely and/or shorten some songs. Even though direction and characters move quickly, at over two and a half hours, "Kiss My Aztec" runs a bit longer than needed.

June 10, 2022

Preview: Shakespeare & Company, Free Friday Talks

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
Fridays in July and August

Shakespeare & Company has added a new series this season of free Friday morning talks to their summer programming. Once each month the public is invited to hear members of upcoming productions talk about their work. The talks, which were originally scheduled to begin during the 2020 season, are led by Ann Berman. 

Ann Berman
A long-time volunteer at Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston, Ann combines that connection with teaching in the Life-long Learning at Regis College program in Weston, MA to present courses based on the organization's productions. Her work includes classroom visits from company members and attendance at performances.

Ann is an international Shakespeare scholar who moved to the Berkshires in 2020 soon after earning a Masters in Shakespeare Studies from Kings College London, a program co-sponsored by Shakespeare’s Globe. In other words, these Friday Talks are coordinated by a true Shakespeare aficionado, yet with a non-didactic and light touch of knowledge

Designed to provide interested members of the community with background information about the plays, each talk includes a summary of the plot (no spoilers, though) and characters, information on the play’s development and previous productions, and a Q and A session with people involved in the production, including the director. 

Audience members ask questions about the rehearsal process, what is timely about the project, and more. Attendees at the first session, which focused on The  Approachby Mark O’Ware, who then saw the play, reported being able to appreciate more of its nuances as well as feeling oriented right from the start of the play.

She was developing a series of production-related talks at Shakespeare and Company when the season was shut down. Since then, she has joined both OLLI (Osher Life-long Learning Institute), taking classes as well as teaching classes on early modern plays, and Shakespeare and Volunteer Company, supporting S&Co by gardening, baking, ushering and serving as S&V Co vice-president. She is very happy to be a part of these talks, sharing her interest in learning more about theater with others.

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, Andy Warhol in Iran

St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield, MA
through June 25, 2022
by Jarice Hanson

After two long years, Barrington Stage Company has opened its doors to the St. Germain Stage again, featuring three world premieres in this season’s line up. The first, “Andy Warhol in Iran,” is a whip-smart two-hander with a script by Brent Askari that packs a punch.  Though perhaps everyone in the audience may have heard of Andy Warhol, this play allows the audience to understand Warhol as the artist and the man.

Henry Stram as Warhol, is in full possession of what he refers to as a “superpower” that allows him to see reality more clearly than the average person. His critique of capitalism, American values, and fleeting fame make sense when spoken by a pop icon but instill in the audience a sense of recognition of the absurdity of American popular culture.

Photo by Daniel Rader
Warhol travels to Iran in 1976, ostensibly to take Polaroid pictures of the wife of the Shah (she buys a lot of art), and while in his hotel room, is ambushed by Farhad, a radical who threatens to kidnap Warhol to get publicity for his political faction that seeks to overthrow the Shah. Nima Rakhshanifar as Farhad has the dark intensity of a young man willing to risk his life for his country. His size overpowers Warhol, and we see the artist and the revolutionary locked in a combat of real political intensity and psychological threat. The interplay of power and humanity is deftly interwoven until the inevitable resolution results in Warhol opining on art, politics, reality, and destiny.

Director Skip Greer builds intensity with the use of Joyce Liao’s lighting and Dan Roach’s excellent sound design. The blandness of the Tehran Hilton room designed by Brian Prather hints at the universal hotel comforts expected by Americans but is infused with subtle Iranian motifs to extend a feeling of the exotic. Yana Biryukova’s projections not only reference Warhol’s artistic catalog but serve as televised images foreshadowing the Iranian Revolution.

This play is heavy in imagery, but important politically and socially. As the two fine actors find the moments of connection and intransigence, the beauty of the script come shining through, and the audience is given a range of ideas to ponder. The intensity of political beliefs echo our contemporary reality as Warhol comments, “Revolutions remind me of the repetitions in my paintings. They’re just copies of copies. One after another. Pretty much the same. With just slight variations.”   

June 6, 2022


Can you write about these topics? You don't have to an A+ writer or know if every comma is correct. In the Spotlight seeks reviewers for these genres. Reviews are relatively short. What do you get: no pay (sorry), a byline, the joy of seeing your favorite talent, comp tix, and knowing you are helping the performing arts. 


PREVIEW: Great Barrington Public Theatre, The Shot

Bard College, Simon's Rock, Great Barrington, MA
June 16 - 19, 2022

GB Public Theater punctuates the 2022 stage season with four new, solo performances that run for five weeks, themed to stories of humanity and the power of a single voice to tell them.
One show in the series is the world premiere of Robin Gerber’s new play, "The Shot," directed by Michelle Joyner and starring Emmy Award-winning actress Sharon Lawrence as Katharine Graham, whose journey from an isolated, abused young mother to powerful publisher of The Washington Post, brought down Richard Nixon’s White House. Her backstory takes audiences into the shadows of an abusive marriage that led to a stunning, life-altering trauma. Katharine's struggle to discover herself leads her to become the woman who shook up Washington and became a model of determination and power.
The play is a work of fiction based on the playwright's book about Graham. Robin Gerber’s book, Katharine Graham: The Leadership Journey of An American Icon. The plot exposes the scourge of intimate partner abuse and domestic violence, and deals with issues that still define our times--gender bias; financial power; guns in America; and power structures that subjugate women. Along the way, "The Shot" explores Katharine Graham’s distinct, winning character, inner conflicts, fear, and deep faith in love and duty. Her struggles to persevere and persist exemplifies survival and triumph against overwhelming odds.

In choosing The Shot to show the power of a single human voice Jim Frangione, GB Public Artistic Director, explains, “The Shot is a personal story of a famed person who faces and conquers harrowing circumstance that too many women are forced and expected to face every day. She took on gender shaming, grappled with self-conflict and mastered self-discovery. It’s a story of human character that makes us all exceptional.

PREVIEW: Great Barrington Public Theatre, The Bard, The Beat & The Blues

Simon's Rock, Bard College, Great Barrington, MA
June 8-26, 2022

GB Public Theater 2022 stage season begins with four new solo performances that run for over five weeks. All feature stories of humanity and demonstrate the power of a single voice.
Included in this series is the premiere of Will LeBow’s raconteurial jewel, "The Bard The Beat The Blues" (June 8-26), directed by company Artistic Director Jim Frangione and featuring the accomplished actor-musician LeBow, storytelling and versifying his creative arc, from his family’s acting roots to his life on stage--all presented with funny asides, anecdotes, screen media and musical interludes. In this mesmerizing, quickly-paced hour of storytelling, audiences will fall under the spell of a marvelous entertainer and musician; we move along with LeBow from his ancestry in the Jewish ghetto of Vilna, Lithuania to Brooklyn, where his grandfather acted in Yiddish theater, to growing up in 1950s, heading off to City College, discovering Shakespeare, being introduced to the nightlife in the heyday of Greenwich Village, the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other influences that led him to a lifelong career on stage.
In his story, LeBow weaves bits from Shakespeare, Chekov, August Wilson, Mississippi John Hurt and Scott Joplin, the stream of anecdotes and life-lessons accompanied by LeBow at the keyboard, playing his own bluesy music. It’s a seamless performance by a fantastic storyteller, loaded with laughs, heart, bite, and historical commentary. It recounts the world and road as they unfolded for LeBow, why it’s ill-advised to bite our tongues when others tell us to, and, in his words, why this “nutzo, farkakte world” with all its randomness and unseen possibilities is the best world to be born in, if you have the creative bones to deal with it.

PREVIEW: MOSSO, Celebration of Stephen Sondheim

Symphony Hall, Springfield
June 23, 2022

MOSSO, the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, will celebrate the music of legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim on Thursday, June 23, at 7:30 PM in Springfield Symphony Hall. 

The Sondheim Celebration, conducted by Tim Stella, will feature Broadway stars Hugh Panaro and Lisa Vroman. Also appearing are Ray Hardman and Kathleen Callahan-Hardman.

Conductor Tim Stella
The program will include music from Sondheim' repertoire; i.e. Sweeney Todd, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, and other musicals.

According to conductor Tim Stella, “Stephen Sondheim has been a Broadway legend as both composer and lyricist, and his string of hits include [to many to list]." Stella has conducted The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, and before that, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, Hello Dolly!. 

MOSSO’s Summer Concerts continue with the return of Maestro Kevin Rhodes on July 21, in a MOSSO Benefit Concert of light classics and music of John Williams.

PREVIEW: The Mount, SculptureNow: Meet the Artists

The Mount, Lenox, MA
June 12, 2022

Sculpture of Talisman 18
by artist Don Porcaro
photo by David Ricci
On Sunday, June 12, 2-5pm, SculptureNow will host a special event, Meet the Artists. The sculptors of the 2022 exhibition will be in person at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox to meet the public and talk about the inspiration and process of their large-scale sculptures.

SculptureNow presents a new, juried exhibition of outdoor sculptures by 30 regionally, nationally and internationally recognized artists. Sited on the beautiful grounds of The Mount, this is a unique interaction of art and nature.

This year’s artists are Craig Anderson, Tomer Ben-Gal, William Bennett, Micajah Bienvenu, Joseph Chirchirillo, Michael Cochran, Peter Dellert, Christopher Froehlich, Anthony Garner, Linda Hoffman, Ann Jon, Fitzhugh Karol, Hugh Lassen, Madeleine Lord, Phil Marshall, Thomas Matsuda, Binney Meigs, Martina Angela Müller, Miller Opie, Gary Orlinsky, Bob Pavlik, Sarah Peters, Don Porcaro, Tim Prentice, David Skora, Brendan Stecchini, Mary Taylor, Michael Thomas, Robin Tost, and Lee Williams.

This event is free and open to the public, , at The Mount, 2 Plunkett Street, Lenox MA. 

Registration is advised at 413-358-3884 or 413-551-5111.

PREVIEW: Ventfort Hall, Tuesday Summer Tea & Talk Series, Author Bill Greer

Ventfort Hall, Lenox, MA
June 14, 2022

Brooklyn storyteller and author Bill Greer will kick off Ventfort Hall’s 2022 Tuesday Summer Tea & Talk series on June 14 at 4:00 pm. He will talk about the setting of his book A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York. Tea will be served after his presentation.
The year is 1872, seven years after the Civil War. New York is convulsing with social upheaval and sexual revolution. In this illustrated talk, Bill Greer paints a picture of the city from the man’s world of Wall Street to the mansions of Fifth Avenue, from the smut dealers of Nassau Street to the lime lights of Broadway, from pious Christians to free-loving iconoclasts. He highlights larger-than-life characters who fascinated the city – suffragist and presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull, vice hunter Anthony Comstock, celebrity preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and more – and the issues of the day that play out through their lives, issues that resonate today, from sexual impropriety and reproductive rights to attacks on the press and the chasm between rich and poor.
Bill Greer has spent decades exploring New York, along with the world. As a travel writer and Internet entrepreneur, he built the early web’s leading community for outdoor adventure. More recently, he has focused on New York’s Gilded Age.
Tickets are $30 for members and with advance reservation; $35 day of the event.

Reservations are required as seats are limited. 

For reservations call (413) 637-3206.