David Lindsay-Abaire has something of a line in notably troubled females. At the heart of his breakthrough play Fuddy Meers is an amnesiac who awakens every day with her mind a complete blank; Wonder of the World features a runaway wife on a belated search for a self; and Kimberly Akimbo focuses on a waifish sixteen-year old girl with a rare disease that speeds the aging process (she is played by an actress in her sixties). Lindsay-Abaire has a deft hand with wacky comedies of unmoored identity, at times reminiscent of Craig Lucas and Christopher Durang. In Rabbit Hole, however, the playwright is on a different track (and a critically successful one: Rabbit Hole won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007). The emphasis on the hearts and minds of female characters remains, but the trouble that moves them – and the action of the play – is more prosaic, and less conducive to jokes. It’s the accidental death of a small child. The new production by Northampton’s New Century Theatre makes the most of the play’s strengths but can’t quite overcome its weaknesses.
Gramercy Bistro 23 Marshall Street, North Adams, Massachusetts tel. 413.663.5300 Dress: casual. Prices, moderate: starters, $7 to $12; entrees, $18…
For nearly twenty years, the Hampshire Shakespeare Company has provided theater-goers in the Pioneer Valley with their requisite summer fix of outdoor Shakespeare. Their latest offering, a fast-paced production of As You Like It, staged on the lawn (and patio, and fire escape) of the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies at U. Mass., shows what can be done, lean and mean, with a well-directed company and a good setting. (On other nights the show is staged at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley.)
It is worth remembering that Bernard Haitink became the chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the most prestigious positions in the musical world, in 1961 at the incredibly young age of thirty-two. Since even before then, up to the present day, he has continued to grow as a musician in his own discreet way, always maintaining a traceable thread back to the values of his early work—clarity, balance, and restraint—qualities, which in the end often proved much more affecting than the excesses of more histrionic conductors. He also showed a particular knack for long, complex symphonic works, working wonders in clarifying their texture and form. His performances of Bruckner’s symphonies on tour and on record made them accessible to a much broader audience outside Austria and Germany. Leonard Bernstein may have popularized Mahler with his intense but sometimes unbearably showy performances, but it was Haitink who made their best qualities more accessible by focussing on coherence in structure and in orchestral sound—a very handsome sound, which has often been described as the “burnished” Concertgebouw sound. It is really Haitink’s sound. None of his successors or predecessors have cultivated it to quite the same extent, and this burnished sound is what he brings to the BSO, especially in their present, improved condition. I still have a vivid recollection of his magnificent Eroica which closed the 2006-07 season in Symphony Hall. The BSO was able to produce that rich, homogeneous sound to perfection. With a full complement of strings there was both mass and fine detail: nothing was lost. The loudest tutti were as clear as the extraordinary pianissimi Haitink can extract from the orchestra.
[Ed’s note. J. R. R. Tolkien detested movies, and he didn’t know what pop culture was, beyond perhaps Ivor Novello…
So far, this Fourth of July message hasn’t offered much to get one out into the streets singing “You’re a grand old flag,” but there is hope yet. Ronan Noone’s <em>The Atheist</em>shows that the spirit of those grand old Americans Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain lives! Earlier today, July 5, it warmed my heart to see two or three Americans stomp out of the theater, one of them contentiously asking for his money back at the ticket office—a telling sign that the WTF is doing good work this summer. Of course Bierce and Twain, especially the dark side of Twain, are as American as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
An hour before Part I of Les Troyens was to begin, I found myself wandering peacefully and somewhat aimlessly among the trees. The grounds were still unpopulated and quiet, providing an exceptionally favorable atmosphere for music. The first two acts of Berlioz’ epic masterpiece which awaited us are hardly what one would call contemplative music, but a contemplative mood seemed the right preparation for the violent, burning sweep of Berlioz’ romantic tableaux of the fall of Troy. It gave me an hour of so to forget whatever baggage I had brought with me, which amounted to some scepticism as to whether a Tanglewood reprise of the massive, impressive, but flawed effort of late April and early May would make much of a difference.
It is hardly surprising that Justin Waldman’s production of Ronan Noone’s The Atheist is already being hailed as the best play of the Williamstown Theatre Festival so early in the season. In form, it is a dramatic monologue. The audience listens to the stereotypically amoral and inconsiderate American journalist Augustine Early talk about his rise to disreputable fame, after tainting the lives of so many (though, ironically, he seems to have an unfortunate case of the Midas Touch, making his victims more famous than himself).