Pittsfield – In a presentation to the press Barrington Stage Artistic Director Julianne Boyd declared that the 2017 schedule is “a celebration season,” and she added: “Something I feel we need right now.” We certainly do.
In an unusual mode, the 2017 season includes no premieres, but relies heavily on familiar material. Opening the season on the St. Germain Stage — her second stage — with Jeffrey Sweet’s play “Kunstler,” based on the activities of the radical civil rights attorney William Kunstler, played by BSC favorite Jeff McCarthy, is as close as this season comes to the political plays with which the company has recently become identified. This is an existing production, off-Broadway’s Creative Place International’s production directed by Meagen Fay. It will hold the stage from May 18 through June 10.
It will be followed by Boyd’s own production in the same space of Conor McPherson’s adaptation of the Daphne DuMaurier’s short story “The Birds.” An emotionally stirring play about humanity’s responsibility to the world, this should not be considered a stage version of the Alfred Hitchcock film. This show plays June 15 through July 8.
Six days later, on June 21, the first mainstage show will open. Boyd has selected the hit musical “Ragtime” by Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow. Directed by Joe Calarco, this show takes a look at the turn of the last century, the immigration problem for European Jews, the rise of racial tensions in the Northeast, the creation of new “American” values, the obsession of a man for a minor star who is embroiled in a murder scenario and the difficult transition into modernism. While these topics may not seem easy ones, the show is generally considered a charmer with lovely songs and an easy, filmic quality. “It’s a show that appeals to me,” Boyd said. “I thought it would be too large a show for us, but this newly licensed version uses about twenty people, so I know we can make it work on our stage.” This show runs through July 15.
An Alan Ayckbourn comedy follows “Ragtime,” to be directed by Sam Buntrock. “Taking Steps” opens on July 20. A laugh-out-loud, riotously funny comedy about a dancer who is desperate to flee the clutches of her rich husband promises to be a fascinating look into the lives of people in a large, three-story home. To be presented on the Boyd-Quinson Stage in a highly theatrical way, it will play through August 5. Just before it closes, the next show at the St. Germain Stage will open: “This,” directed by Christopher Innvar, a play by Melissa James Gibson (an Obie Award winner for “House of Cards”). This play is about a group of friends “backing their way into middle age.” Boyd emphatically pointed to the concept of backing in as a descriptive to point up the difference between a coming-of-age play and this one which concerns 40-somethings.
For her final two shows of the season, Barrington Stage Company’s founder will direct her second production of the Stephen Sondheim, George Furth musical “Company” on the mainstage, and the classic thriller “Gaslight” in the theatre post-season. It has not been announced yet who will direct the latter. “Company” opens August 10 and plays through September 2 while “Gaslight” opens October 4 and plays until October 22.
There is still one show to be announced for the St. Germain, but the current list shows a season with a difference. No new musicals are being presented so far. “We have two we’re working on in our theater lab, but they aren’t ready to be seen yet,” Boyd said. With one show for the second stage still to be announced, there is a chance Boyd and William Finn, who runs the development program, will shoehorn in a new musical, but the current view is that it is unlikely. The “season of celebration” has, in this era of uncertainty, a darkness that shows promise, especially with “Ragtime” leading off the main stage’s season. The inclusion of two thrillers is an unusual aspect and one that holds great promise for a fascinating summer in downtown Pittsfield.