In line with the excellent work I have heard at Tanglewood, was the Fellows’ vocal concert. Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins was masterfully led by mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, Nuno Coelho, conductor, with Nicholas Muni as director. Mr. Muni’s direction was not fussy, and it tapped into the knife-edged nature of the show without excess. Ms. Barron gave a masterful performance. Not only was her voice beguiling in every way, she moved decisively, and somehow naturally, through the opera. Each of her skills contributed to a larger convincing performance in this ice-cold piece.
This show was terrific, beautifully staged, a speed which benefitted the repetitive material, no nonsense, and some really wonderful performances. There were two outstanding young artists. Austin Lombardi led the show with blistering directness. He filled the silences with heat. He was relentless in his pursuits, and did all of this without exaggeration. His energy was almost tactile. Rebecca Brudner as his first wife Thea, used her beautiful voice intelligently.
Another first-rate show from The Comedy of Errors actors at Shakespeare and Company. With effortless mutability the bunch took up a drama of great seriousness by Lolita Chakrabarti. John Douglas Thompson, great actor that he is, joined and performed the role of Ira Aldridge to perfection. Wonderful about this production was the way theatre itself became the story, and the story became theatre.
Before there was texting, emails, voicemails, and answering machines, there were telephone answering services. An extension of a telephone number was connected to a switchboard in an office where it was answered by an operator. Of course, whoever took the messages learned maybe a little too much about the customers lives, loves and foibles.
Sincerity shown brightly in the Berkshire Theatre Group’s A Christmas Carol this year. The show fit beautifully into the Colonial Theatre. It looked stunning. There was no excessive amplification—a thousand thank-you’s for that! Even after several iterations, all cast members from the smallest chirping child to master actor Eric Hill as Scrooge, came right at us with intensity and sweetness. The show is so well-constructed that it completes the novella, makes it richer. Actors of all ages found ways to advance the performances of their peers. This was one of the best productions I have seen this year, because it really did the impossible—it combined scenic opulence with direct, honest playing.
The much-maligned poetry of Edgar Allan Poe still bristles with excitement when one hears it. High and mighty Emerson called it a bunch of “jingles.” The musical reference is appropriate. A poem like “Annabelle Lee” is basically a sound event. The sonic Poe I have in my imagination was revered by the French, Baudelaire in particular, as much as he was reviled by the Americans. He belongs somewhere in between. I’m thinking of the compulsive themes of live burial, standing cliffs edge and wanting to jump, or life and death blurred-blended. All of these things figure prominently in Debussy’s great opera Pelléas et Mélisande.
You can’t really blame the Berkshire Theatre Group for billing Eric Hill’s splendid entertainment, POE, as a Hallowe’en show. As the holiday approaches, Poe’s chilling stories and poems are rolled out in all the many forms they have assumed since their assimilation into two great cultural phenomena, American Literature and American Pop Culture, over the decades since their publication. In fact, however, POE, which most immediately revolves around the bizarre circumstances of the author’s demise, more directly concerns a far scarier day in the American calendar—Election Day