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THEATRE REVIEW: Solid productions of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘Naked’ conclude a versatile summer theater season

The conclusion of “Naked” is riveting, all the more so for its prescient reverberations to the temper of our times.

A versatile summer Berkshire theater season concludes with two very solid productions of “serious” theater from 20th-century playwrights: the first, one of America’s most famous; the other a highly influential but lesser-known Italian. On its mainstage in Pittsfield, Barrington Stage Company presents a very fine, very true production of “The Glass Menagerie.” Director Julie Boyd fully embraces Tennessee Williams’ beautiful, poetic writing and lets it speak beautifully, poetically for itself. She eschews new, director-driven interpretations like John Tiffany’s stylized production (successful) and Sam Gold’s minimalist, Ivo van Hove-lite version (disastrous) that we’ve seen on Broadway in recent years. Ms. Boyd gets solid performances all around, especially from BSC favorite son Mark H. Dold. His Tom is most distinctive in how he shifts from an adult to the younger self. Mr. Dold’s Tom makes us feel the burden of memory of his mother Amanda and sister Laura, and their desperate dreams (symbolized, as Tom tells us, by the “gentleman caller”) decades after he abandoned them. His final monologue — “Laura … I tried to leave you behind but I am more faithful than I intended to be … blow out your candles, Laura” — gets me every time. Seldom do playwrights master the theme of illusion vs. truth as emotionally as Williams does here.

James Barry, Rocco Sisto and Tara Franklin in the Berkshire Theatre Group production of ‘Naked.’ Photo: Emma Rothenberg-Ware

Berkshire Theatre Group explores the same theme from a different parallax in Luigi Pirandello’s “Naked” on its Unicorn Theatre stage in Stockbridge. Pirandello received the 1934 Nobel Prize for Literature. “Naked,” written in the early 1920s, hasn’t been performed in the U.S. in nearly 20 years. Its complicated plot involves a suicidal woman beset by the tragedy of being witness to the accidental death of her lover’s young son and how her story gets manipulated by a novelist who wants to bed her and fictionalize her, a reporter who wants her “true” story, the lover who wants revenge, and a fiancé who “loves” her. Director Eric Hill tackles this heady material, both honoring Pirandello’s melodramatic structure and nurturing nuanced performances from BTG’s reliable ensemble. My favorite was James Barry, who trips into some commedia dell’arte as the hapless, tortured fiancé. The conclusion of “Naked” is riveting, all the more so for its prescient reverberations to the temper of our times.

Either play, each hitting both the head and the heart, is an evening of theater well spent.

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The Glass Menagerie plays at Barrington Stage Company’s Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through Sunday, Oct. 21. For information and tickets, see the Berkshire Edge calendar, go to barringtonstageco.org or call the box office at (413) 236-8888.

Naked plays in Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge, Massachusetts through Sunday, Oct. 28. For information and tickets, see the Berkshire Edge calendar, go to www.berkshiretheatregroup.org or call the box office at (413) 997-4444.

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