A summer of fun, mischief and food for thought at Berkshire Theatre Group
It's a season, BTG CEO and artistic director Kate Maguire said during a breakfast interview, that joins what she called "an iconic American comedy," "Arsenic and Old Lace" (Fitzpatrick; July 27-Aug. 19) with an iconic American musical, "The Music Man" (Colonial, July 6-Aug. 6); "Million Dollar Quartet" (Unicorn, June 14-July 15) a musical about three icons of American rock — Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins; and a drama by an iconic American playwright, Edward Albee — "Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo (Zoo story)" (Unicorn, July 19-Aug. 26).
Rounding out the season are a new play by David Auburn, "Lost Lake" (Unicorn, Sept. 28-Oct. 22), directed by Daisy Walker; and a yet-to-be announced production that will precede "Arsenic and Old Lace" on the Fitzpatrick Main Stage.
Maguire said she's wanted to do "Arsenic and Old lace," a comedy by Joseph Kesselring that premiered on Broadway in 1941, "for a long time. We need some fun these days."
The comedy will be directed by Gregg Edelman, who directed last season's BTG production of "Constellations."
The Tony Award-winning jukebox musical, "Million Dollar Quartet," is based on a true account of a Presley, Lewis, Perkins and Cash jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. James Barry, who made his professional acting debut at BTG (then Berkshire Theatre Festival) 18 years ago, will be making his directing debut with this production. He also will be the show's music director. Barry played Perkins for two years in the show's first national touring company and has reprised the role and served as music director, periodically, ever since.
Maguire said Barry was "thrilled" at the opportunity to work on the show here.
The biggest change in BTG's season is the scheduling of "The Music Man," this year's community musical. The production will occupy the early season slot at the Colonial that typically has been filled by BTG's professional musical. "The Music Man" also will be running longer, 37 performances, beginning July 6 and running through Aug. 6. Rylan Mosbach, who played Ben in last season's "Fiorello!" at BTG's Unicorn and again in New York, will be leading a cast of largely community actors in the principal role of Harold Hill, a con man who comes into a small Iowa town posing as a skilled music director who will create a local school band.
"He's the outsider coming into a community thinking he's going to con everyone and he's blocked not only by the decency of the town librarian, Marian, but by the entire community," Maguire said.
Maguire said that Albee's death in September got her thinking about ways in which BTG might honor "one our greatest playwrights."
Written in 1959, "Zoo Story," about a life-changing, to say the least, incident in Central Park, stirred considerable controversy at its premiere but has since come to be considered an American classic. Written 45 years later and premiered in June 2004 at Hartford Stage, which ad commissioned the piece, "At Home at the Zoo (Zoo story)" — then titled "Peter and Jerry" — the play, in effect, provided a first act to "Zoo Story" as it chronciled a not very good day in the life of one of the characters, Perter. The work took on its current title in 2009 in Philadelphia.
Eric Hill, who last directed "The Homecoming" at BTG in 2015, will be directing David Adkins, Joey Collins and Tara Franklin.
"It's a piece that asks us to look at where the darkness is inside each of us," Maguire said. "As a director, Eric is just willing to go there. Everyone is so thrilled to be working with each other."
Auburn's "Lost Lake" is about two lonely people — one a woman from New York; the other a man who lives in the countryside; both of whom, Maguire said, "are at the end of their tether. It's about people whose lives have been frayed by society."
Dark or light, Maguire says "there's a lot of mischief in these plays. We see people who want to turn things upside down, shake things up even though they don't know where the landing is.
"There's great fun and humor but we see people caught in a whirlwind and they don't know where the center is."
— Reach Jeffrey Borak at 413-496-6212
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