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  Indian Summer and the Curtain's Still Up
At Shakespeare & Co. In Lenox

Labor Day marks the official end of summer theater in the Berkshire. Yet September and October are spectacularly beautiful in this part of the country. The lines at Vic's Fish truck in Lee, which can be daunting on any given Friday during the summer, suddenly trickle down to a delightfully manageable two or three fish lovers. The biggest and best show in the area is about to open courtesy of good old Mother Nature, bringing with it thousands upon thousands of Leaf Peepers to "ooh" and "aah" over the gorgeous rusts and golds of the changing foliage.

Cultural attractions like the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge and the Clarke in Williamstown are open the year 'round, Williams College takes back the Adams Memorial Theater for its theater students. (If you read our review of Stephen Sondheim's biography, you'll know that this is where Sondheim put on his first show).

One of the area's busiest and most popular theater organizations, Shakespeare & Co. has, as usual, extended the "normal" season with two noteworthy productions well worth factoring into decisions for fall vacations within easy driving distance from New York, Connecticut or Vermont. The first of these Indian Summer plays is Glimpses of the Moon, (9/18/9-10/18/98), and the second is The Triumph of Darkness, (10/22/98-10/31/98). Both are based on the work of the resident inspirational ghost, Edith Wharton, whose erstwhile estate, The Mount , is the company's home base.

Since I won't be in Lenox for the opening of Glimpses, I'll provide just a few impressions instead of a "regular" review.

This world premiere is adapted by Alison Ragland from a charming Wharton novel (reissued in paperback a few years ago as part of the continuing wave of interest in Wharton's work --see link below). The story centers on an attractive and penniless young couple who live the good life in Europe and America as perennial house guests of their socially and economically well-positioned friends. The 1912 to 1914 time span coincides with the rise of the Tango from its distinctly socially incorrect beginnings to the status of high fashion -- a precursor of the burgeoning sexual freedom and breakdown of social mores that preoccupied Mrs. Wharton. Director Rebecca Holderness. has cleverly woven images and strains of that dance throughout the evening. While the ten actors who make up the cast aren't likely to turn up in a road tour of Forever Tango (see link to our review of that show), the Tango elements add an apt and amusing note to the two hour and fifteen minute play.

The story is essentially a love story but with moral underpinnings. The marriage Nick and Susy Lansing undertake as an arrangement with no strings attached, turns into a dilemma when they find they have fallen in love. Their world of confusing morals forces them to make a choice between their love for the good things only money can buy and their love for each other.

Three of the main characters appeared in the Summer '98 season's most successful shows. The lead couple, Nicky and Susy Lansing (Andrew Borthwick-Leslie and Christine Calfas) in The Merchant of Venice (see link). The other hanger-on, "Streffy", who becomes independently wealthy (Robert Lohbauer) played a psychotherapist in Private Eyes (see link).

The play is performed in The Stables, which was also home to Wit which, despite some theater goers reservations about its subject matter, became a sell-out hit throughout its run -- a situation that is currently being repeated in the MCC Off-Broadway production in New York. (See links to both reviews).

When Glimpses closes, Wharton's penchant for ghost stories will be given dramatic expression in The Triumph of Darkness. Set in a Gilded Age mansion in New England, (not unlike The Mount), the story revolves around a young man who survives a snow storm, sees evil but fails to act upon it. Consequently a young girl is left to die and her wicked uncle to triumph. These ghostly events will be performed in two of the company venues. The evening begin in the Stables, with recountings of ghosts reported to wander the estate. Audience and performers will then take a "ghostly" walk to the Wharton salon theater for a performance of the Wharton story accompanied by a cup of hot cider. The adaptation is by Dennis Krausnick.

Forever Tango
Private Eyes
Merchant of Venice
Wit at Shakespeare & Co.
Wit Off-Broadway
Stephen Sondheim Biography
The Glimpses of the Moon 1996 paperback edition of the book (Ed Note: "The" is part of the book title, but not the play adaptation).
The Collected Stories of Edith Wharton The Collected Stories of Edith Wharton This 1998 paperback reprint (including the ghost stories) is an all-time best buy for anyone who appreciates Wharton's style and insights and the craft of short story writing -- 640 pages packed with good reading (and re-reading).

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© 1998, Elyse Sommer.