Derek Wilson and Rebecca Brooksher in the Berkshire Theatre Group's production of "Anna Christie." Photo by Abby LePage.

A Singer’s Notes 80: Anna Christie and Mother Courage

Eugene O’Neill’s lyricism catches us out slowly. Rarely sweet, almost tidy, it has stretches I would call “bare bones.” But even these passages enable the silences. Tennessee Williams gives us poems which could be extracted. In O’Neill’s Anna Christie, this is not the method. Only after a while does the singing become audible. It makes you stretch your hearing. This takes actors with great ears, with restraint, with a long view of each individual scene. The whole is the sum of its parts; the parts themselves almost utilitarian. That said, it has a flow which is in no way stiff or self-conscious. There were three superb actors in Berkshire Theatre Group’s production of this play, who heard the music. You might characterize them this way: the father, played by Jonathan Hogan, the overseer; the daughter played by Rebecca Brooksher- a kind of active listener; and Derek Wilson, playing the young man, the extravagant performer.

Rocco Sisto as Caliban and Olympia Dukakis as Prospera in The Tempest at Shakespeare and Company. Photo Kevin Sprague.

A Singer’s Notes 56: The Price

Never have I seen the price of forgiveness so costly on stage as in Olympia Dukakis’s singular, and singularly moving Prospera with Shakespeare and Company. Try to find Rembrandt’s “Prodigal Son” and look carefully at the hands of the patriarch, large hands fully outspread, each finger more generous than the other, pressing on the back of the wayward son with a touch the painting tells us the weight of. This is radical forgiveness, almost a blank forgiveness. It is nearly immoral in its extremity of love, as the Prodigal’s brother tells us. This is the near opposite of what I saw in Ms. Dukakis’s performance. Hers was an assumption of the role which was drenched, sometimes even drowning, in resentment. She played these emotions fundamentally, but I saw them more clearly in her efforts to be gentle. I’m thinking now of the scene between Prospera and Miranda near the beginning of the play which was like no other performance I have seen. It was slow, way slow, but Ms. Dukakis is the mistress of time.

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