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Radius Playwrights Festival, a radiant debut for St. James Place

I like what this company of theatre professionals is doing even if I don't agree with every choice. I think it a very worthwhile effort and should be seen by everyone in the region who believes in live theater.

On Friday night (Jan. 27) the Berkshire Playwrights Lab presented, as the Radius Playwrights Festival, its first collection of new one-act plays by regional authors at St. James Place in Great Barrington, Mass. A non-stop, 90-minute, six act compilation of premieres with six casts, six directors, written by six playwrights from five local towns (Great Barrington, Sandisfield, Northampton, Canaan, N.Y., and Kingston, N.Y.), the show was a departure for the presenting group led by Matthew Penn, Joe Cacaci and Jim Frangione. As might be expected, the show was a mixed bag of pieces and, while some may not have appealed to me as much as others did, for each person watching the appeal of each may well have been different.

Tod Randolph and Mark Zeisler in Katherine Burger's 'Going Out Dancing.'
Tod Randolph and Mark Zeisler in Katherine Burger’s ‘Going Out Dancing.’

Radius was also the debut of St. James Place, the renovated St. James Church on Main Street, the new home of the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, and what a sensational performance space it has become due to the extraordinary dedication of its creators, Fred and Sally Harris.

I felt there were definite high points and a few less luminous ones. There were performances that sparkled like a dry prosecco and some that sat like old cake on a cold plate, still sweet but a little bit unappealing. Again, reaction is always subjective so my cake might have been someone else’s Italian champagne-style beverage. For the record the players were (in order of appearance) Allan Greenberg, Chris Tucci, Adam LaFaci, Henry Strozier, MaConnia Chesser, Deborah Coconis, Greg Boover, Barby Cardillo, Patrick Toole, Jeff Kent, Rachel Siegel, David Valcin, Tod Randolph, Mark Zeisler.

The renovated sanctuary of St. James Church, converted to a stage for the Radius Playwrights Festival. Photo: Richard P. Migot
The renovated sanctuary of St. James Church, converted to a stage for the Radius Playwrights Festival. Photo: Richard P. Migot

The playwrights and their directors were Steven Otfinoski and Jesse Howard (“It’s a Tragedy”), Andy Reynolds and Michael Brady (“A Layover”), Maizy Broderick Scarpa and Kristen van Ginhoven (“Cirque du Dismay”), James McLindon and David Adkins (“Broken”), Rachel Schroeder and Macey Levin (“Ein Kleiner Kosmik Joke”), Katherine Burger and Ann Garner (“Going Out Dancing”). The subject matter covered in this eclectic collation were theatrical relevance and personal conviction, family dynamics in difficult moments, governmental controls of humor, enlightenment and life styles, prison regimens, marital qualms and historic perspectives, work and personal frustrations and the outcome of an annoying, though compelling, relationship.

The show was not offered to critics to review but as I paid for my own ticket I can write anything I want about the presentation. I think it is sufficient at this juncture to say I think it a very worthwhile effort and should be seen by everyone in the region who believes in live theater. If you see the show and want to discuss it with me afterward I would be delighted to share our observations and feelings. I can’t be fairer than that — maybe if the ticket price was higher I would say more at this juncture, but let’s be fair and honest and fairly honest as well: I like what this company of theatre professionals is doing even if I don’t agree with every choice they make.

There are two more performances on Saturday January 28 at 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 (and worth every nickel). I was told that the matinee is not sold out and that the well pre-sold evening show still has a few places. Frankly, every seat should be filled; Friday night’s show was a sell-out. For tickets you can go on line at berkshireplaywrightslab.org and follow the link to tickets.

The sold-out performance at Friday night's performance of Radius. Photo: James P. Migot
The sold-out performance at Friday night’s performance of Radius. Photo: James P. Migot
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