The plays of August Strindberg that I know tend to reach their greatest intensity in the middle. His plays crave engagement. Energy is all. This was shown deftly, powerfully in Shakespeare and Company’s production of Creditors. Convincing performances were provided by Jonathan Epstein as Gustav, Ryan Winkles as Adolph, and Kristin Wold as Tekla. As Gustav, Mr. Epstein was the mover and shaker. He had been given the difficult task of showing a kind of hidden abuse in the guise of providing instruction in living to the young Adolph, Mr. Winkles.
The first two concerts this summer season by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra were among the best I have heard in several decades. The energy level was palpable. The intensity of the playing, particularly the strings, was a marvel. The two greatest challenges for the ensemble were Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and the Leonore Overture No. 3 of Beethoven.
At the risk of repeating myself, I must once again give my best praise to Aston Magna’s concert, “Dueling Violins, Genial Gambas,” on June 30 at Saint James Place in Great Barrington. Though I am not on the lookout for poor performances from anyone, I am continually amazed at the high level of the participating artists in this group. The style has become an easy, normal thing, speaking clearly to us centuries later in large part because of the ease these wonderful players show.
What is best in Aston Magna’s concerts is a complete lack of pretension, whether it is Daniel Stepner’s quiet erudition or the singing of soprano Dominique Labelle, who shows an almost childlike identification with the music she sings, this requiring of course, a superb technique. The players take pleasure in the style which they have mastered so completely. It doesn’t proselytize or force anything on you. We are a family, privileged to hear some of the greatest music there is.
A show both rollicking and precise began the season at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, New York. Among several accomplished performances, Corrinne Tork as Lola connected the threads of the play into the real thing and raised her performance to an expression of kindness. Damn Yankees purports to be a play about baseball, but it is really a soul-searching adventure. Baseball is only a tangental part of the action, although the writer does allow a victory for all at the end. What really mattered and what really played as if it mattered, was the progress the major characters taught themselves.
Many remarkable performances, a few have stayed in my ear. Principally among them are the beautiful singing of Dominique Labelle with Aston Magna. This marvelous artist has an inborn purity to her singing which requires no special treatment. She has a stillness, in her demeanor and singing, which is second to none. I would happily hear her sing every day.
I have been a fan of Kelly Galvin ever since her wonderful performance as Madame de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons with Shakespeare and Company, years ago. The detail alone in Ms. Galvin’s performance was stunning. Even more impressive now is her direction of Kate Hennig’s The Last Wife, produced by WAM Theatre in Shakespeare and Company’s Bernstein Theatre. The simple set focused our attention—a simple backdrop, a pull-out bed with ample drawers.