It's season number 70 for Stockbridge, MA's Berkshire Festival, an anniversary to be celebrated by a mix of international classics and offbeat American plays.
High Spirits finished its run July 4. Now playing, July 7-25, is the Canadian drama, Transit of Venus, starring Marin Hinkle and Pamela Payton Wright.
John Rando (replacing previously announced Jonas Jurasas) directs this drama by Canadian author Maureen Hunter (Footprints On The Moon), opening July 8. Set in the 1700s, Venus concerns French astronomer Guillaume le Gentil de la Galasiere. According to Berkshire Fest spokesperson Trevor Ward, "It was a time when all the world's astronomers were attempting to get actual measurements of the earth and the solar system, so Galasiere had to leave his family to go off and be part of this project."
Orbiting Venus are Hinkle and Payton-Wright, the former appearing in A Dybbuk and A Thousand Clowns in NY, the latter on Broadway in M. Butterfly and Exit The King. Co-starring are Maryann Urbano (Off-Broadway's Gun-Shy), Michel R. Gill and Jason Butler Harner. Designing the show are Rob Odorisio (set) and Dan Kotlowitz (lighting). Scott Killian composed original music for the show.
July 28-Aug. 8, opens July 29: Desire Under The Elms, a Eugene O'Neill drama about a new wife joinin' a feudin' family. According to spokesperson Trevor Ward, Ashley Gardner plays Abbie Putnam, Jon De Vries is Ephraim Cabot, and Jeremy Davidson plays Eben. The show replaces the previously announced A Moon for the Misbegotten. Aug. 12-Sept. 5: An Empty Plate in the Cafe Du Grand Boeuf (A Comic Tragedy in Seven Courses). Michael Hollinger's wacky comedy will be staged by John Rando. It replaces another comedy, A Shot in the Dark.
At the Unicorn Theatre second stage, Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life's a Dream mixes farce and tragedy in its look at fate, war, free will and love. Eric Hill directs the piece, running June 25-July 25, opening June 26.
Charles Ludlam's typically wild farce, Secret Lives of the Sexists, follows at the Unicorn, Aug. 12-Sept. 5, opening Aug. 14. Mistaken identities and cross-dressing abound, with such characters as beauty parlor owner Madame Grossfinger and her husband, Phil Landers, causing the chaos. Steven Samuels, who co-produced the show's world premiere at Ridiculous Theatricals back in 1982, directs.
Eva Le Gallienne founded the Berkshire Festival in 1928 with The Cradle Song. The playhouse itself was built by Stanford White, initially as a gentlemen's club. It wasn't until the 1960s that the venue was named the Berkshire Theatre Festival. Among the luminaries appearing there over the years have been Buster Keaton, Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Thornton Wilder, Eli Wallach and Joanne Woodward. Casting has yet to be announced for this season's roster.
-- By David Lefkowitz