Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Terkel's book of interviews was source material for the late 1970s initial versions of Working. Berkshire Theatre's current rendering jumps out at those watching with a smashing version of "All the Livelong Day," a Stephen Schwartz tune (with acknowledgment to Walt Whitman). The full cast number draws a quick and lively focus upon people getting ready for work. For example, there is Delores Dante (played by Katie Birenboim), who is not thrilled to be a waitress. Later in the evening, Birenboim reappears as a waitress with "It's an Art," an affirmative song. Occupations are represented through a fireman, an executive, a project manager, a receptionist, a laborer, and more.
Several years back, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a song called "Delivery" for Working and it is included in this presentation. The show then makes a segue to the lovely "Nobody Tells Me How," with lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Mary Rodgers. Rose Hoffman, the character who sings it, teaches third grade and actress Farah Alvin's vocal is both sweet and catchy. Rose is not pleased with changes in the educational system and she makes this known. That is followed by "Brother Trucker," written by James Taylor and benefitting from creative movement. Tim Jones plays Frank Decker as Taylor's lyrics express just how difficult it is to be motoring such great distances by oneself, away from family. Farah Alvin then transforms to the character of Kate Rushton whose song "Just a Housewife" speaks volumes.
Actor Rob Morrison's versatility should be touted. Early, he is a company man. Later, in "The Mason," playing acoustic guitar center stage, he sings with a clear and plaintive voice. "Cleanin' Woman" is a certain highlight of the evening. As Maggie Holmes, Erica Dorfler lifts her voice above the rafters to make it known that her own daughter will not spend her life mopping up after others. Dorfler's exquisite rendition mixes gospel with soul.
The cast is warm, effervescent and talented. The actors are oftentimes in motion for a number, then dashing away to change outfits (designed by Asta Bennie Hostetter). Sometimes performers reappear to swiftly move tables which will facilitate a scene. Barry coaxes all of this so it is gracefully accomplished without diverting any attention from the substance of the show. The production shifts from one sequence to the next and does not include intricate plotting. Sometimes a character will speak (without singing). This can be helpful yet one tends to eagerly anticipate another spirited vocal.
Throughout, this contingent of multi-dimensional actors brightens up the stage with sparkling performance. Designer Nicholas Husson's projections behind them provide effective contexts and some historical perspective.
The performance clocks in at about an hour and fifty minutes (without intermission) and the entire company gathers for a rousing finale with Craig Carnelia's "Something to Point To." A must for everyone, each individual needs a job that engenders pride. Looking at a building, there's a window to be washed, an office to run, digging to be done, even coffee sold. Studs Terkel wrote his book with the full title: "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do." James Barry, at the helm of the musical version in Stockbridge and his exuberant cast fully actualize those words.
Working, through August 24, 2019, at Berkshire Theatre Group, Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge MA. For information and tickets, call 413-997-4444 or visit www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.org.