(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/15; via Pam Green.)
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Theater seasons rarely have a theme; they come together too haphazardly for that. But there’s something in the Berkshires air right now, even aside from humidity. Last weekend, I saw three productions that all dealt, at least in part, with the life-destroying effects of prejudice. Together, they seemed to be engaged in an accidental conversation with our own time and world.
Two were at the Williamstown Theater Festival here. On the smaller Nikos Stage, I attended a matinee of Jen Silverman’s “Dangerous House,” a harrowing play about violence against lesbians and gay men in South Africa. That evening, on the larger Main Stage, I caught the festival’s revival of “The Member of the Wedding,” in which, as my colleague Ben Brantley has noted, Roslyn Ruff’s uncompromising performance shifts the center of the classic Carson McCullers story from a white girl’s tween anxiety to a black woman’s unanswerable sorrows.
The night before, 20 miles south in Pittsfield, Mass., I saw the Barrington Stage Company’s solid and satisfying, if slightly bumpy, revival of “West Side Story,” the classic 1957 musical about gang warfare between self-proclaimed Americans and recent Puerto Rican migrants. (As Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics point out, the Puerto Ricans are American, too.) Its familiar pleasures — like those of “The Member of the Wedding” — heightened the unexpected ache of its continued relevance.
But it was “Dangerous House,” the play set furthest away, that spoke most urgently. In 14 swift scenes, Ms. Silverman deftly explores, from several perspectives, the horrifying practice of “corrective rape,” in which lesbians and gay men are sexually assaulted, tortured and sometimes murdered with the stated goal of “fixing” their homosexuality. That this is happening in the first African country to legalize gay marriage makes the subject almost cosmically ironic.
Photo: Samira Wiley is a South African lesbian who provides refuge for victims of sexual violence in Jen Silverman’s “Dangerous House” at the Williamstown Theater Festival.Credit Sarah Sutton