Summer’s stages: From Williamstown to the Cape, the theater and art scene sizzles
Given the prices at the gas pumps, staying in Massachusetts this summer has never seemed like a better idea. And besides our sandy beaches and verdant forests, the theaters and arts festivals offer a worthy choices for entertainment under the stars, in a tent, or settled in a shack by the seaside.
Although Williamstown is nearly as far as one can drive to our borders, there are treasures there to be savored. Of course, Williamstown Theater Festival is the granddaddy of the summer theaters, now under the direction of Nicholas Martin who last served at Huntington Theatre.
"A Flea in Her Ear'' is likely to be the most hilarious of farces, under the expert direction of John Rando, July 30-Aug. 10. I’d also vote for a ticket to the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s play, "The Understudy,'' July 23-Aug. 3, on the Nikos Stage, the more experimental arm of the mega-institution.
While in town you can take in "Like Breath on Glass: Whistler and Inness and the Art of Painting'' at the Francine and Sterling Clark Institute, "'' but stop first for a sandwich named after Martin at Papa Charlie’s deli on Spring Street.
Another farce is running nearby in Lenox at Shakespeare & Company where "Rough Crossing'' is whooping it up three nights a week; alternating with director Tina Packer’s production of the Bard’s "All’s Well That Ends Well,'' complete with music and dance taken from the time of the troubadours. You can combine your stay in Lenox with a visit to Tanglewood, which offers a myriad of music star power, from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops to A-list guest performers. Be sure to check out the offerings at Berkshire Theatre Festival and Barrington Stage, now in a remodeled movie theater in Pittsfield.
Before leaving the Berkshires, visit Jacob’s Pillow in Lee, where two theaters will be filled with dance events all summer long, not to mention the free concerts on the outdoor stage. Every style of dance is represented, and festival director Ella Baff has a way of finding the next-new-thing before anyone else. The Ballet Boyz of England bring three U.S. premieres, July 16-20; the soloists of the Royal Swedish Ballet appear Aug. 6-10 in the Ted Shawn Theater, while Indian dancer, Shantala Shivalingappa, performs in the Doris Duke Studio Theatre, Aug. 7-10.
On Cape Cod, you can find summer theaters from Falmouth to Provincetown. Most innovative is Falmouth’s Cape Cod Theatre Project, a book-in-hand introduction to new plays, which change weekly, from July 10-Aug. 2. One of the few musicals CCTP has presented, "Reality!'' by Itamar Moses and Gaby Alter, is billed as a spoof of TV’s reality shows, July 17-19.
In Wellfleet, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) will run two houses, the Julie Harris Stage in its stunning new building behind the post office on Route 6 and the beloved shack theater on the harbor.
A production of Friedrich Durrnmatt’s thriller, "The Visit,'' runs through July 22 under the tent at Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro. And the venerable Cape Playhouse in Dennis has a full complement of musicals, including "A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,'' July 7-19; and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,'' July 21-Aug. 2.
The Priscilla Beach Theatre, Rocky Hill Road, Plymouth, presents a series of productions from its summer workshops for children, a non-musical version of "The Phantom of the Opera,'' "The Wizard of Oz,'' "The Beverly Hillbillies,'' "Wuthering Heights'' and "The Comedy of Errors,'' through Aug. 30.
If you’re staying closer to the South Shore, the highly praised Shakespeare on the Common troupe presents "As You Like It, '' July 18-Aug. 3, in free performances on the Boston Common. The production moves to Forest Park in Springfield, Aug. 8-10. Under the direction of Steven Maler, a cast of local superstars will be augmented by New York-based actors, Marin Ireland and Fred Weller as Rosalind and Orlando.
Other summer attractions include a Company One production of Stephen Sondheim’s fearful "Assassins'' (about the men who killed American presidents) at Boston Center for the Arts, July 11-Aug. 9, and Publick Theatre’s two summer shows, Anton Chekov’s "The Seagull,'' July 3-Sept. 7; alternating with Noel Coward’s "Hay Fever,'' July 24-Sept. 14, outdoors at Christian Herter Park along the Charles River in Brighton.
New this summer, but most welcome, are three performances of Peter Brook’s "The Tragedy of Carmen,'' produced by Boston Midsummer Opera, playing at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University. The stripped-down version of Bizet’s opera will be performed by four singers, three actors, and an orchestra of 15 players.
A bit farther, but well worth the drive, is Summer Stages Dance at Concord Academy, with concerts by acclaimed contemporary dancers and choreographers, Eiko & Koma, David Parker, and Sara Rudner.
And in Duxbury is the annual free-Shakespeare production by Gurnet Theatre. This summer’s choice is "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Aug. 7-10.
The Patriot Ledger