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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Inner House

"Years ago I said to myself, 'There's no such thing as old age, there is only sorrow.'I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one's center of life inside of one's self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity, to decorate one's inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome any one who wants to come and stay; but happy all the same in the hours when one is inevitably alone."— Edith Wharton

(Photo credit: )
In the more than twenty years that I've been reporting on the Berkshire's summer theater scene, Shakespeare & Company founding member Dennis Krasunick's adaptations of Edith Wharton's novels and short stories have been highlights. The plays, staged at the Wharton mansion and its Stables-cum-performance space were added during the company's residence at the Wharton Estate.

Despite enormous audience enthusiasm, these site-specific theatrical tributes to Wharton came to an end shortly after Shakespeare & Co moved to its present home on Kemble Street. At least they did until Catherine Taylor-Williams, a long-time artist-manager with Shakespeare & Company and Wharton fan Lauryn Franzoni decided to launch the Wharton Salon in hopes of bringing back some of these enjoyable theatrical tributes to the Berkshires and the folks in charge of the beautifully restored Mount endorsed their venutre by providing the space to once more make these plays site specific.

The Inner House marks the Salon's fourth season, this time with e a solo play based mostly on Wharton's autobiography A Backward Glance, her journals and letters. There are also two snippets from The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. Anyone who's seen Cassandra Speaks , Randolph's portrayal of journalist Dorothy Thompson, will want to see her take on Wharton. I can't think of an actress more capable of holding the stage all by herself and bringing fascinating women like Thompson and Wharton to life. She's also proved herself the embodiment of the show must go on spirit given that she was back on stage within a day of being badly bruised by a fall.

While this has been a season somewhat top-heavy with one-person plays, it's performances like Randolph's over at S&C's Elaine Bernstein Theater and now at her old stamping grounds, the Stables, that have made me more receptive to this genre I generally tend to avoid. Krausnick's script and Randolph's delivery maintain Wharton's authentic voice.

Kate Sinclair Foster's richly furnished set provides plenty of atmosphere for Randolph's Edith to move around and tap into the memories and feelings of her childhood and adult memories. it was a life that ranged from the upper class society of New York City and Newport, Rhode Island, Italy (her father's income was reduced by the Civil War so to save money the family spent much time in Europe to save money (much to the benefit of Edith's lifelong appreciation of art).

Krausnick's script throws light on Edith's development as a writer and finally breaking away from an unhappy marriage, a restrictive society to find her voice and independence and Randolph transitions deftly from low key reflectiveness to a more lively and spirited persona. Still, for all that the setting has the look of a full-fledged play and Randolph's best efforts to put fire and passion into the text, there's no escaping some of the stasis that tends to creep into so many solo pieces like this.

The big payoff fir anyone seeing this production is that it's certain to prompt a visit or re-visit to some of Edith Wharton's ever readable works. Most are available in print, and as free digital editions at Project Gutenberg in the US, and even more at Project Gutenberg Australia (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/. . .http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty.html).

If the packed house at the performance I attended is any indication, it's a sure bet that the Wharton Salon will be back next year. There are certainly plenty of Wharton stories and novels to draw on, hopefully for longer runs, and perhaps more than just one production.

Links to my reports on previous Salon Productions:
Wharton Salon--2009
Wharton Salon - 2010
Wharton Salon -2011

The Inner House adapted from A Backward Glance by Dennis Krausnick
Directed by Normi NoŽl
Starring Tod Randolph as Edith Wharton
Set Designer: Kate Sinclair Foster
Costume Designer: Arthur Oliver
Lighting Designer/Technical Director: Maia Robbins-Zust
Original Music/ Sound Design: Alexander Sovronsky
Stage Manager: Jamie Steffen
Produced by Catherine Taylor-Williams's The Wharton Salon in Partnership with The Mount.
August 15-26, 2012
Running Time: 75 minutes without intermission
Stables Theater, at The Mount in Lenox, WhartonSalon.org
Tickets: $35
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on Agust 22nd
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