By Mark G. Auerbach
STOCKBRIDGE — “Shirley Valentine” is a lonely British housewife treading water. She’s alone most of the time, and her marriage is emotionally stagnant. When she’s offered a holiday trip to the Mediterranean, she rediscovers who she is, and is totally transformed. Willy Russell’s London and Broadway hit (and subsequent popular film) has been revived at Berkshire Theatre Group, with staging by Eric Hill, and starring the versatile actor Corinna May. A charming play on its own terms, it’s more relevant, since many of us have emerged from the pandemic feeling isolated and in search of new scenery to revitalize ourselves.
We have a handful of talented directors in our area theaters who are true to the playwright’s intent, and craft productions with the finest creatives they can find. Eric Hill is one of the best. I’ve watched his works unfold over 35 years, and he blends gifted designers and actors together without turning towards elaborate special effects or bold statements. “Shirley Valentine” is a steady blend of solid talent. Corinna May is a delight as Shirley. She evokes pity as she’s mired in her everyday routines, and when she blossoms on holiday, she becomes exuberant and joyous.
The accomplished creatives include set designer Randall Parsons, who has turned the small Unicorn stage into both a drab apartment kitchen (and it’s functional too, as Shirley cooks chips and eggs) and a Grecian beach. Elivia Bovenzi Blitz’s costumes run from drab to dreamy, and Matthew E. Adelson’s lighting and J. Hagenbuckle’s sound are great. Corinna May’s performance is spot-on, delightful, and endearing.
“Shirley Valentine” is a great reason to head to the Berkshires to a light show that is as transformational as the foliage. Performances run through Oct. 24.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents “Shirley Valentine” by Willy Russell. Directed by Eric Hill. Scenic design by Randall Parsons. Costume design by Elivia Bovenzi Blitz. Lighting design by Matthew E. Adelson. Sound design by J. Hagenbuckle. Starring Corinna May. Through Oct. 24. Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge. For details: www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theater at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He has worked for arts organizations nationwide, and reported on the arts for print and broadcast. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat, Athenaeum Spotlight and On The Mark for WCPC15 and WSKB-FM 89.5. He’s a regular contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio and a member of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association.