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Bob Dylan tributes, Deborah Voigt, Tom Paxton, Bill Kirchen, John Kirk and Trish Miller

Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday in Style
Paying tribute to the greatest rock songwriter ever

FILM REVIEW: In a Better World and Of Gods and Men
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
Opera star to sing arias, show tunes on Saturday, May 21

Famed Spiritual Teacher to Speak on Nonviolence
Mother Maya in free talk at Sruti Yoga in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday May 20 at 7pm

Special Effects Wizard to Be Honored by Film Festival
Doug Trumbull to be Feted by BIFF

Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

Talk about a small world
Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
A Farewell from Publisher Michael Zivyak

twiGs Branches Out
Lenox boutique launches new e-tail site

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Via Dolorosa
by David Hare
Directed by Anders Cato

Starring Jonathan Epstein as David Hare

Running variously August 29-October 21

review by SETH ROGOVOY, critic-at-large, BERKSHIRE LIVING magazine

(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass., September 1, 2006) -- A ninety-minute, one-man show, consisting of nothing but one actor talking directly to the audience. The actor is actually playing the playwright who originally wrote the monologue to be played only by himself. The subject matter concerns a trip the playwright took to Israel and the Palestinian territories and the overall conflict. The playwright is a well-known British leftist, so one might assume where his sympathies lie.

All this, on the surface, makes for a recipe for a meal I would never willingly order on my own.

Which makes the fact that Via Dolorosa is a gripping tour-de-force, a richly compelling, provocative drama (yes, a DRAMA, and how you get drama out of a monologue is part of the magic), owning almost entirely to the virtuosic portrayal of Hare by and storytelling gifts of Jonathan Epstein, the Berkshires' greatest actor, all the more satisfying.

Credit Epstein, and perhaps director Anders Cato, for finding real dramatic structure in Hare's monologue, which seems to lack in when read off the page. But clearly they did their homework, and found scenes, richly developed characters (Epstein, as Hare, recounts meetings with many of the figures on both sides, and embodies them as he recounts their conversations), and dramatic "beats" that Hare either consciously or unconsciously placed in the script, such that this most untheatrical of devices is actually one of the MOST theatrical evenings of theater you're likely to experience this year.

And again, credit devolves primarily to Epstein, for his vivid characterizations of interlocutors including Shulamit Aloni, Benny Begin, and various lesser known personages on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. And most of all, for his utterly sympathetic portrayal of Hare, who rather than the knee-jerk British leftist we might expect, comes across as an authentically honest seeker of truth, a student of the controversy, one whose shaky preconceptions evaporate in the face of his meetings with the various intellectuals, settlers, politicians, and ordinary stiffs trying to carve out their lives in a place where the fundamental question -- stones or ideas -- is one that is paid for every day in lives.

Nearly a decade old, Hare's piece suffers slightly from being outdated. For example, Hare pays a visit to Gaza, which at the time was under Israeli rule. Israel has since withdrawn from Gaza, and unwary playgoers may mistake his vivid descriptions of life under "occupation" for the status quo, whereas in fact the status quo is an anarchic, proto-Palestinian state beset by thievery and thuggery and on the brink of civil war.

And in a tragic irony of history, Hare's friend, the author David Grossman, who is spoken of extensively throughout the play, was in the headlines just a few weeks ago when his son, Uri, was killed defending Israel from terrorist attacks by Hezbollah.

At the time of Hare's writing, Binyamin Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel, and a lot has gone down since then. There's no mention of Ariel Sharon, much less Ehud Olmert, and the watershed policy of unilateral withdrawal, which has pretty much taken the wind out of the sails of those who claim that Israel wants to rule every inch of territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.

But for the savvy playgoer aware of the momentous changes that have taken place in governments and on the ground in the last decade, Hare's play, and EPstein's performance, still rings true in asking questions that still need to be asked, turned over, wrestled with -- the sort of questions that don't disappear overnight, or even in a thousand or two years.

And once again, a full and total bravo to Jonathan Epstein for a challenging, incisive performance, getting into the skin and the soul and the heart and the mind of a man who couldn't be more unlike Epstein himself, and allowing us to see him in all his warts and brilliance. One of the best performances, in one of the best plays, of the year -- in spite of it being on paper one of the least promising evenings at the theater.

-- review by SETH ROGOVOY, critic-at-large, BERKSHIRE LIVING magazine

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