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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Fall Springs" At Barrington Stage

The cast of "Fall Springs"
Daniel Rader
Barrington Stage Company
The cast of "Fall Springs"

There are bad plays, really bad plays and then there is “Fall Springs.” The musical being given its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. is a head-scratcher. You sit in the audience at one of the most reliable theater companies in the area and wonder – “How did this ever make the mainstage?”

There are a few possible reasons. The topic of fracking is certainly contemporary. Spoofing heartless corporate types who care little about the environment offers an easy target. Construct a cast of half adults and the other half their high school age kids, which opens to door to parenting issues. If there is an extra character, make him a once successful geologist who is now a vagrant who has a lot of secrets. To sweeten the pot, have all the adults be single-parents – for sympathy and possible romantic opportunities.

Actually, the pieces are there, which makes “Fall Springs” a play you wish would succeed. The set, a colorful cardboard town, by Tim Macabee, suggests a cartoon universe and promises a night of light-hearted entertainment. Costumes by Emily Rebholz do the same. The cast also puts the audience at ease with an initial don’t take anything too serious attitude.

With all these ingredients for a comic night about a serious subject set in place the answer as how it got to the mainstage has been answered. The real question is what went wrong in the process of moving it from printed page to the stage?

The short answer is – everything. The book by Peter Sin Nachtrieb is a mess. The characters fail to engage the audience as they range from dumb to smug and are either terribly naïve or just dense.

Many jokes are actually clever, but they rarely register with the audience. This often has the ill effect of making the performers try harder. Few things are more fatal to a farce than actors working too hard to be silly. Making matters worse the story-line changes in the second act. It goes from being a frisky tale about youngsters saving the world to a disaster-oriented piece where everyone becomes reflective about their lives and relationships.

Niko Tsakalakos’s music doesn’t add much. It’s rather repetitive and not very inventive as most songs sound the same. As for the lyrics, it’s hard to judge as the five piece off-stage rock band is too loud, making it difficult to hear most of the words.

The acting is well-intentioned. The cast is enthusiastic and works very hard to make an unbelievable situation believable. There are no outstanding singing voices on stage, but each cast member gives a marvelous effort to each number. I won’t offer names as I doubt if any will list this experience in their bios.

There is one exception. It’s appropriate to name Stephen Brackett, whose aimless direction does little to help performers or anything else.

“Fall Springs” is a disappointing show that is made even more so because the performers worked so hard for naught on material that on the page probably had some promise. If the show included one honest moment than maybe. Just maybe ….

“Fall Springs” continues at Barrington Stage Company through August 31. For tickets and schedule information call 413-236-8888, or go to barringtonstageco.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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