It was splendid to enter the new Oldcastle Theatre.
It was splendid to enter the new home of the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington a few days ago. It is better in terms of sight lines, technical capability, and resonance, than their former space at the Bennington Arts Center. Here is a classic example of how a community of committed patrons can make something happen.
The show was a dramatization of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days written by Mark Brown, and it was well-acted. Richard Howe’s versatility is well-known to me, but he really out-did himself in this one. With barely enough time to switch hats, he inhabited the stage and held it over and over again. Patrick Ellison Shea was a whirlwind of characterization. Gil Brady as the straight-arrow hero kept this part focused and won our sympathy. It is not easy to play a cockeyed optimist (and be British). Peter Langstaff was not only comically French, but believably French. Best thing of all was the intensity of Sarah Corey. I shall not soon forget watching her listening face near the end of the play when it became obvious that said optimist was just too proper to propose. She waited just long enough and spoke out her own proposal with lyrical simplicity. She commanded the time. I hope to see her perform again.
The company has undertaken a demanding season with several new productions. I learned that later in the season Meredith Meurs, a superb young actress and NYU grad, will be appearing. Her Laura in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was a performance I will never forget.
Oldcastle has had its ups and downs, but its ability to gather support and build a new theatre is entirely admirable and deserves a chance from all of us. If we want to have theatre in places other than New York and Boston, we need to support ventures like this.