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17 shows to see at lauded out-of-town venues in Hudson Valley, the Berkshires and beyond
While there are still plenty of productions to see in New York over the summer, this is the season when regional theatre heats up. The Northeast proves to be a mecca for talented artists to revive beloved classics and debut new works. So peg your next weekend trip to one of these worthy shows.
Bard SummerScape – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Frank Gehry's radically angular Fisher Center at Bard College is home to this annual cutting-edge culture festival, featuring theatre, dance, opera and music. Approximately two hours from Midtown Manhattan by car, it's also accessible via Amtrak.
Runs July 11-21
Four years ago at SummerScape, visionary director Daniel Fish unveiled his dark take on Oklahoma!, which just took home the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Now he's back with Acquanetta, a multimedia tribute to a kitschy '40s horror goddess that fuses cinema, opera and theatre elements.
Runs June 29-August 17
This traveling mirrored cabaret has settled down, but only geographically. This season's guests include quirky chanteuse Meow Meow, John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig fame, boundary-shattering trans singer and storyteller Justin Vivian Bond, and drag pioneers Charles Busch and Lady Bunny.
Barrington Stage Company – Pittsfield, MA
Approximately three hours away from Midtown Manhattan by car, this multi-theatre venue is known for presenting top-notch productions of plays and musicals -- this is where The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee first bowed.
Time Flies and Other Comedies
Runs July 5-27
David Ives (All in the Timing) is a master of absurdist playlets, and this compendium of humorous shorts is sure to be a hoot with a crack comic cast led by Carson Elrod, Jeff McCarthy and Debra Jo Rupp from That '70s Show.
Runs August 9-31
Stephen Brackett (Be More Chill) helms a satirical musical about a cash-strapped town sitting on a frackable goldmine. Explosive comedy ensues.
Bay Street Theater – Sag Harbor, NY
Enhance your Hamptons trip by seeing a show at this modern wharfside playhouse, which is approximately two hours away from Midtown Manhattan by car or the Hampton Jitney.
Runs June 25-July 21
A timely, world-premiere drama about a hot-button topic: political correctness on college campuses. Tony and Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl (Lost in Yonkers) plays the head of an elite university, where an Asian female student accuses her male professor of racism... even though he's African American. Directed by three-time Tony winner Jack O'Brien, Safe Space is all about uncomfortable conversations.
Annie Get Your Gun
Runs July 30-August 25
Up-and-coming director Sarna Lapine (the recent Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George) takes on Irving Berlin's perennial crowd-pleaser, a battle of the sexes between sharpshooters and tempestuous lovers Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. This production promises a fresh, feminist take on the musical, with a bluegrass band giving a country twang to classic songs including "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Anything You Can Do" and "I Got Sun in the Morning."
Berkshire Theatre Group – Berkshires, MA
About a three-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan, the Berkshire Theatre Group was founded in 2010 when the Berkshire Theatre Festival and the Colonial Theatre merged. The company presents classic and contemporary works on four stages in two nearby towns: Stockbridge and Pittsfield.
The Skin of Our Teeth
Runs July 11-August 3
It's fitting that a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, David Auburn (Proof), is directing this mounting of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic, about the Antrobus clan and their survival throughout the centuries. Tony winner Harriet Harris (Thoroughly Modern Millie) stars as the indefatigable matriarch.
What We May Be
Runs August 8-31
In this world-premiere backstage dramedy, a troupe of actors faces their final closing night as their beloved theatre shutters. Tony-nominated performer Gregg Edelman directs an ensemble that includes Broadway vets Dee Hoty and Penny Fuller.
Goodspeed Opera House – East Haddam, CT
Since its founding in 1963, Goodspeed has been a musical theatre hot spot, mounting more than 250 tuners on its two stages, and transferring 22 to Broadway. Goodspeed is approximately two and a half hours away from Midtown Manhattan by car.
Because of Winn-Dixie
Runs June 28-September 1
Based on Kate DiCamillo's beloved children's novel of the same name, this world-premiere musical centers on 10-year-old Opal and the stray dog who captures her heart and brings their downtrodden Florida community together. With music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls), this heartwarming small-town tale clearly has big city aspirations.
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival – Cold Spring, NY
Approximately 75 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car, and easily accessible via Metro-North, this company mounts classics and twists on old favorites in an elegant, open-sided tent overlooking the Hudson River.
Runs June 27-August 30
HVSF vet Jason O'Connell helped adapt Edmond Rostand's French classic for five actors, and also takes on the lovesick title character, a big-nosed poet engaged in the ultimate love triangle.
Into the Woods
Runs August 1-September 8
HVSF's first-ever musical production is sure to look magical in this sylvan setting. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's clever cautionary fairy tale about the consequences of getting what you want upends the notion of happily ever after.
Powerhouse Theater – Poughkeepsie, NY
Since 1985, Vassar College and New York Stage and Film have collaborated on this annual summer festival, which incubates new works at various stages of development. Roughly two hours from Midtown Manhattan by car, Powerhouse is also accessible via Metro-North.
Annie Salem: An American Tale
Runs July 5-7
Fresh off her Tony win for directing Hadestown on Broadway, Rachel Chavkin shows off her writing skills with a workshop of this new musical, based on Mac Wellman's novel of the same name. Chavkin penned the book and cowrote the lyrics with composer Heather Christian for this fantastical coming-of-age tale set in rust-belt Ohio, although apparently the narrative takes a detour to Mars. Definitely sounds like a Chavkin project!
Lightning (or The Unbuttoning)
Runs July 18-28
This new play by Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart) is set in a cabin in the mountains, where a young woman's life is changed by a mysterious traveling salesman. Theatre lovers know from experience that traveling salesmen always bring a lot of drama.
Williamstown Theatre Festival – Williamstown, MA
About a three-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan, this Tony-winning fest is known for attracting big-name celebrities to star in both revivals and new works. Sometimes the productions transfer to New York: Martyna Majok's Cost of Living premiered at Williamstown two summers ago before moving Off-Broadway and winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, so you may be checking out the next big thing.
A Raisin in the Sun
Runs June 25-July 13
Two-time Tony nominee and Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson leads this 60th anniversary revival of Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama about racism in America. Radical director Robert O'Hara (Bootycandy) is sure to lend an interesting perspective.
A Human Being, of a Sort
Runs June 26-July 7
This world-premiere drama centers on a historical travesty, when the Bronx Zoo put a Congolese little person on display in the early 20th century. Emmy winner André Braugher plays the captive's conflicted keeper, and Tony winner Frank Wood is the facility's callous director in this exploration of the inhumanity of man.
Runs July 17-28
In the world premiere of this Broadway-bound dramedy, JoBeth Williams and Jamey Sheridan's longtime marriage is on the rocks, which freaks out their adult sons, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Thomas Sadoski. That may sound like a sitcom setup, but considering it's written by the inventive Bess Wohl (Continuity, Small Mouth Sounds), it's sure to go in unexpected directions.
Runs July 31-August 18
Incest! Syphilis! In this most lurid of Ibsen's plays, Uma Thurman plays the virtuous widow of a reprobate, faced with some tough decisions about her son's life -- and her own.
Top image: The cast of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's Rip Van Winkle. Photo by Gabe Palacio.
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