Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Petrified Forest
Berkshire Theatre Group
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of A Chorus Line


David Adkins and Rebecca Brooksher
Photo by Emma Rothenberg-Ware
Berkshire Theatre Group's production of Robert E. Sherwood's 1930s play The Petrified Forest recalls an on stage era when local color was complemented by high drama. Successfully enacted and directed on the theater's Main Stage through August 25th, director David Auburn leads a talented cast featuring at least two individuals who dream of what might be.

The play takes place after the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere, in this case a barbecue restaurant that feels like a diner with a bar. There is an unseen gas station just outside. Wilson Chin's evocative set includes a few old tables and chairs, stools, and a lot of booze bottles. For a time, Gabby Maple (Rebecca Brooksher) and Boze Hertzlinger (Shawn Fagan) are having what might be called a conversation. He still wears a football jersey (as he speaks often of his smalltime gridiron exploits) and she is alluring in a lightly colored dress. Both of them know that Boze is intent upon bedding Gabby, a young woman born in France where her mother still lives.

Gabby reads poetry and this is a match for drifter Alan Squier (David Adkins) who walks into the bar. Here is a man who now hitchhikes and has wandered through Arizona near the Petrified Forest (known for wood and fossils). He has been a writer, is currently divorced, and hasn't a cent to his name. Loquacious and personable, Alan attracts the much younger Gabby.

Sherwood wrote in a bunch of other catchy characters. Jason Maple (Sean Cullen) runs the bar and he is very much a conservative gun-toting American. Jason's father Gramp (John Thomas Waite), with his floppy white hair, is a jokester who pretty says anything that floats through his mind.

One focuses attention upon Gabby and Alan. She hopes to get to Bourges, France, and relocate with her mother. Alan spins tales of his life and times. All of a sudden Duke Mantee (Jeremy Davidson) arrives upon the scene. He and his bad guy buddies are evidently fleeing cops who are after them. One of Duke's men is Ruby, played by Joey Collins, who is often a presence in BTG shows. Additionally, Sherwood provides Mrs. Chisholm (Jennifer Van Dyck) and her husband Mr. Chisholm (Walter Hudson), who provide comic moments.

Thus, the stage is filled. During the first act, the banter is of interest but, to be sure, little action transpires for quite a while but that changes.

David Adkins, as Alan, is well-worn yet charismatic and, perhaps, enigmatic. Rebecca Brooksher plays Gabby in both an understated and fetching manner. No wonder she has the attention of both the boisterous Boze and weary Alan. Gabby and Alan, in separate spheres, consider possibilities. She, hardened by existence within shabby confines of the restaurant, is uncertain whether she can get out or if she must settle for Boze. Alan has experienced a great deal, having lived in Europe, struggled with marriage, authored something or other.

Adkins has multiple Berkshire Theatre Group excellent credits. Many might have seen his appearances on television's "Homeland" or "The Americans" or other programs. He is a skilled, versatile, disciplined actor. Brooksher, working with Auburn at BTG for the fifth time, is, in this show, compassionate and sensitive. She also shows the strength of her character.

Director Auburn manages to balance the important relationship Gabby and Alan explore with the shenanigans of some of the others. John Thomas Waite (a seasoned actor with impressive New York credits) gets the spotlight with his portrayal of Gramp Maple, an irritating presence, really. Duke, oftentimes sitting by himself in the back room, looks like he (similar to others) might be mulling something over as if caught in thought.

Playwright Sherwood provides much dialogue, dominant during the first act. This fine play, though, is extremely well-structured. It shifts into a higher gear before intermission and the second act is continually active.

The Petrified Forest, through August 25th, 2018, at Berkshire Theatre Group's Fitzpatrick Main Stage, 83 East Main Street, Stockbridge MA. For tickets, call 413-997-4444 or visit www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.


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