Change may be in the air at the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls, but that doesn’t mean the Adirondack Theatre Festival’s 2008 season isn’t without a few popular holdovers.
Gabriel Barre, who directed the final show of 2007, “tick, tick, Boom!” is back to open the season with “Love Song,” a romantic comedy and relatively new work by contemporary playwright John Kolvenbach. The show, featuring Vincent Allocca, Eilis Cahill, Kyle Fabel and Kathleen McNenny, opens Wednesday night at 8 and runs through June 28.
“Within a few pages of reading the play, I was totally caught up in it,” said Barre, who in 1989 earned a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical for his work in “Starmites.” “I not only loved the universal themes in the play, but also the execution of the writing by Kolvenbach and the cleverness of his humor. It’s a great, unique play all about self worth and the power of imagination.”
The play had its world premiere in Chicago in 2006 where Mark Fleischer, ATF’s new producing artistic director, was calling home before taking over for ATF founders David Turner and Martha Banta late last year. Fleischer saw their final production, “tick, tick, Boom!” last summer and was so impressed by Barre’s direction, he wanted to use him again to open this season.
WHERE: Adirondack Theatre Festival, Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Wednesday, and runs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through June 28
HOW MUCH: $29
MORE INFO: 798-8374 or ATFestival.org
“I was struck by Gabe’s sensitive approach to the show,” said Fleischer. “While he fully embraced the bold theatricality of the musical, Gabe never forgot it was a story about life events on a very human scale. ‘Love Song’ celebrates our connections to one another — husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends.”
“Love Song” tells the story of Beane, a lonely recluse who undergoes a huge transformation after meeting Molly, the love of his life. Allocca plays Beane, Cahill is Molly, and McNenny and Fabel are Beane’s sister and brother-in-law.
“I have never seen a production of this play, but I know Mark has, and I was honored that he asked me to direct the first play he’s going to do here,” said Barre. “The idea that love is contagious is what attracted me to the play, and, after we finished the casting process, I was really excited to be directing. Some people say that casting is 80 [percent] to 90 percent of the director’s job, and I’m thrilled with the four actors we got.”
Barre was also happy to be working again with the same design team he used last summer at ATF in David Esler (set), Jason Kantrowitz (lights) and Isabel Rubio (costumes). Getting those three artistic voices to join forces again with Barre was an important part of the puzzle for Fleischer.
“I wanted to demonstrate that the transition in leadership was not a new start, but a continuation of the life of ATF,” said Fleischer. “ATF’s slogan is ‘connect with theater, connect with life.’ Whether it’s romantic or filial, the love that fuels those connections opens up the world to us. It’s a great way to greet the summer.”
For Barre, it was another opportunity to spend part of his summer in upstate New York, not too far from his hometown, Brattleboro, Vt. Now a New York City resident with a wife and one young child, Barre spends much of his time directing off-Broadway productions, having earned 13 Drama Desk nominations. While his directorial duties now far outweigh those as an actor, he hasn’t closed the door on performing.
“I haven’t done too much theater lately, but I’ve done some ‘Law & Order’ and some independent films in the last few years,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a conscious decision, but within a few years of acting professionally I began amusing myself by trying to solve problems that the director had. I loved applying my imagination to the show, and I was fascinated by the whole process. The idea of putting a show together and the whole idea of conceiving it to begin with, how it looks, sounds and feels, really became interesting to me. I actually directed one show where I was the lead, but I would resist doing that on a regular basis. It has to be some kind of special situation to take on both duties.”
Along with earning his Tony nomination for “Starmites,” Barre has three other Broadway credits on his résumé. They are “Ain’t Broadway Grand” in 1993, “Anna Karenina” in 1989 and “Rags: The New American Musical” in 1986. The 2008 Tonys were announced Sunday night, and Boyd Gaines, who is married to McNenny, won his fourth Tony for his performance as Herbie in the revival of “Gypsy.”
“It’s been fun listening to Kathleen’s reportage about all the Tony events,” said Barre. “It’s a very hectic season for the nominees, and it’s fun for me to reflect back on the whirlwind that I experienced way back then. It certainly was a high point for me, and I hope to be there again, either as an actor or a director.”
Delighted to be here
That wouldn’t surprise McNenny, whose first trip to upstate New York has been especially rewarding.
“Gabe is really generous and supportive as a director, and this whole experience has been wonderful,” she said. “He creates a very relaxed atmosphere for the actors, which is important with this kind of compressed rehearsal time. We need to drill hard so it becomes part of our muscle memory, but we don’t need to feel any extra pressure from the director.”
Talking Tonys with Barre has also been fun for McNenny, and while she was in New York at the ceremony Sunday night, she was excited to get back to Glens Falls and continue preparing for “Love Song.”
“My agent sent me the script and I thought it was such a beautiful story,” she said. “I didn’t really pay any attention to where it was, frankly. But I knew I wanted to do this play, and doing it up here in the Adirondacks, where I had never been, was an added benefit. It’s beautiful up here — so I’m so glad I’m having this experience.”
Like Barre, McNenny has made it to Broadway four times in her career, most recently in “Coram Boy” in 2007. In 2005, she was in “The Constant Wife” with Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave. When “Love Song” concludes its run at ATF, McNenny will return to New York.
“I’ll go back to New York and resume my full-time job; looking for work,” she said, laughing. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I love it. I need the work to support my theater habit.”
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