THEATER REVIEW: “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” / “The Actor’s Nightmare” [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Macey Levin
Photograph by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware
Christopher Durang burst onto the New York theater scene in the late 1970s writing plays of scathing satire and social commentary. His work includes Beyond Therapy, Baby with the Bathwater, Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love It, and the Tony Award winning best play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in 2013. He first gained recognition in 1979 for Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, which was followed in 1981 by The Actor’s Nightmare performed as a double bill. These two plays are now at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge.
The curtain-raiser is The Actor’s Nightmare, a play that has many references theater people will understand, but a general audience may not. For instance, the major character’s name is George Spelvin. How many people know that “George Spelvin” is used when an actor does not want his name in the program or he/she is doing a dual role or perhaps violating Actor’s Equity rules? Other characters in the play have names of performers from theater history which may not be recognizable.
Anyway, George (Matt Sullivan) finds himself on a stage a short time before a performance, and he is urged by the stage manager and various actors to get ready go on in place of Edwin Booth in a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. In quick turn he finds himself in Hamlet, followed by Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and finally A Man for All Seasons. His scene partners, especially Harriet Harris show their frustration by trying to cue him but not supplying the line until the ingenious stage manager makes an appearance. Spelvin is utterly confused as he fills in dialogue lapses by throwing out lines from myriad other plays finally singing the “ABC” song. The play, as funny and as touching as it is at moments, is close to being a bit of fluff.