(Note: Michael Frayne’s Copenhagen, dating from 1998, seemed to have already taken on classic status a decade later, in this moving performance of it at the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge. Slight but amusing fare draws audiences to the University of Massachusetts Curtain Theatre, where Julan Olf, Professor of Theatre, produces The Olf Plays, a portmanteau title covering an evening of plays written and performed by Olf himself. Hampshire Shakespeare Company is once again in fine form in this Romeo and Juliet, the first play of the summer season on the grounds of the Hartsbrook School, Hadley, Massachusetts, offering a well-done amateur performance, the action clear, the pace unflagging. Gloucester Stage revives the quintesssential off-Broadway play Doubt: A Parable, by John Patrick Shanley, in the company’s first season after Israel Horovitz has retired and has been replaced by Eric C. Engel, the new artistic director, who brings his evident talents to this clearly directed production.
Tina Packer, long-time artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, in Lenox, Massachusetts, mounts this fine albeit bare-bones production of Shakespeare’s Othello, with John Douglas Thompson in the title role. The remarkable popularity of Shakespeare in the USA over the course of the nineteenth century inspires Richard Nelson’s amusing and sympathetic comedy How Shakespare Won the West, staged on a plain wooden structure at the Huntington Theatre in Boston and depicting a troupe of adventurous actors taking advantage of the 1848 – 1849 gold rush in America’s far west. Michael Greenebaum, music director, joins forces with Steve Morgan as stage director to mount and update this vastly enjoyable production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s somewhat anachronistic comic opera Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant, for Valley Light Opera, featuring stunningly good costumes by Elaine Walker.
Under the freshly renewed resources of the Commonwealth Opera company, supported by conductor Paul Phillips and the Pioneer Valley Symphony, the stage director Ron Luchsinger mounts a mostly bare stage production of Puccini’s deathless musical tragedy Madame Butterfly at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Massachusetts. Produced in association with the American Conservatory Theatre, this Huntington Theatre Company, Boston, production of Tom Stoppard’s brilliant drama Rock ’n Roll is based on a dense, complex script of which an advance reading and a post-performance review as well materially aid in comprehension; it is first-rate Stoppard in all respects. Massenet’s lush opera Thaïs gets the title role singer it richly deserves in Renée Fleming, whose magnificent soprano voice is richly responsive to the demands of the role, as is her uncommon ability as an actor as well, in this satisfying production by the Metropolitan Opera, broadcast in HD to cinemas around the world.)