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5.29.11
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6.4.09
Talk about a small world
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Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
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5.8.11
[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
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5.8.11
[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
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[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
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5.7.11
[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
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[THEATER REVIEW] Shirley Valentine at Shakespeare and Company

6.1.09

Tina Packer as Shirley Valentine [Photo by Sean
McLaughlin/courtesy Shakespeare & Co.]




SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY
Shirley Valentine
Written by Willy Russel
Starring Tina Packer

(LENOX, Mass., June 1, 2009) Ė If an actor is lucky, he finds one or two roles in a lifetime of work that become indelibly stamped with his own personality. Think Humphrey Bogartís Rick in Casablanca, Marlon Brandoís Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire, and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.

(Iíd add David Bowie as The Elephant Man and Al Pacino as Teach in American Buffalo and the title character in Richard III, but thatís just me.)

Tina Packer has found such a role in Willy Russelís Shirley Valentine. Packer has played the role Ė a one-woman tour de force Ė several times over the years since the late 1980s. This past weekend at Shakespeare & Companyís Bernstein Theatre, actor and role merged into one; Tina Packer is Shirley Valentine.

As written, the two-act monologue (variously delivered to a wall, a rock, and the audience) concerns a dowdy English housewife at her witís end with her boring, conventional existence: self-centered adult children, nosey neighbors, and a husband who long ceased to be anything more than a blob of protoplasm occupying the same flat.

Urged on by a self-appointed feminist friend, Shirley considers an escape to a Greek island.

Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that in addition to being a wonderful comic actress Ė Russelís script, especially in Act One, is viciously witty Ė Packer pulled off that rare coup de grace when, with only a modicum of stagecraft but mostly drawing on her inner light, she totally transformed herself from a relatively unappealing frump into a brilliant and beautiful star.

If the play itself falters near the end, losing its well-earned purchase in gritty realism and taking off for a lofty dreamland, Packer never lost hold of her character.

Packer is a ubiquitous presence at Shakespeare & Company, familiar to many simply as Tina Packer, a company co-founder and former artistic director. Itís a good bet that upon seeing her next time, even those whoíve known Packer for twenty years or more will view her differently next time they come upon her offstage. The image of Shirley Valentine will be well-impressed in their hearts and minds.

Seth Rogovoy is Berkshire Livingís editor-in-chief and award-winning critic-at-large.





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