THEATER REVIEW: “Ragtime” at Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
“You just sit there going, ‘This is our country as we know it.’ Black people are crying out that their lives matter. Women are saying, ‘I can never go back to before.’ Immigrants are saying, ‘What is wrong with this country?’ These are all lyrics from the show, and they’re all words from the television today…it really makes you think about where we are as a country and where we need to be and how do we get there.” – Lynn Ahrens, lyricist for Ragtime, in a recent interview in The Interval
Immigrants are being openly discriminated against. Violence against black people goes unpunished. Women are fighting for their rights. The rich are getting richer. Workers are struggling for fair pay. Welcome to 1906.
That was the year that the house in New Rochelle, NY, owned by novelist E. L. Doctorow in the mid-1970’s, was built. And it was in that house he wrote Ragtime, named one of the best novels of the 20th century, which provides the source material for this musical.
At Barrington Stage Co., director Joe Calarco and scenic designer Brian Prather have set this production in the attic of that handsome home in New Rochelle. The stories that the mementos there provoke are at once immediate and of another time. They “hold the mirror up to nature” and we clearly see our reflection in our ancestors’ lives.