Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, August, 1998

“A View from the Roof” focuses on three generations of women and the impact one man’s heartless act has on them, and on him. But you don’t realize that until about an hour after you’ve left the theatre.

Playwright Dave Carley has crafted this play from stories by Helen Weinzweig. The first act contains three stories – The Man Without Memories, A View from the Roof, and My Mother’s Luck – and the second act tells just one story – The Bridge of Sighs – which draws the other three together. So you have to be patient. You have to be willing to sit through three seemingly unrelated stories and the intermission for the pay off. This is a show which requires a commitment from the audience. In a two and a half hour show, dispensing with the intermission is not practical, so it requires a fairly big commitment.

The show is beautifully staged by director Julianne Boyd on a bare black box set with a raked floor, designed by Steven Capone. At the back of this void is a large screen on to which slides that set the scene are projected. Since the show takes us from Toronto to Venice to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and from 1931 to 1985 with many stops in between, the slides help the audience follow the complex twists of the plot. The costumes by Peg Carbonneau become another important identifying factor for time, place and character. And the precise lighting design of Deborah Constantine divides the empty black box into rooms and streets and rooftops with grace.

Five actors – three female and two male – play all of the roles, and there there is a logic to how they segue between parts, as is revealed in the end. It is a fine cast, ranging from veterans Lizbeth Mackay, Charles Stransky and Karen Murphy; to young beginners Anne Bates and Cody Nickell. Stransky, Murphy, Bates and Nickell form a true ensemble, while Mackay is relegated to a peripheral role on the outskirts of the action.

Barrington Stage has taken a gamble on Carley and this new play. While they have not hit the jackpot, they certainly haven’t lost every penny either. “A View from the Roof” is a challenging work – the kind that often flourishes at small regional theatres like BSC.

Carley needs to take a second look at his script and tighten it up a bit. It could probably acheive a better effect at two hours in length than it does at two and a half. He seems to have fallen a little too deeply in love with Weinzweig’s characters, and one can hardly blame him, but moving the plot along just a tad faster would give the play more impact without hurting them.

A View from the Roof runs through August 30th at the Barrington Stage Company, which performs at Mt. Everett Regional High School on Berkshire School Road in Sheffield. Call 413-528-8888 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 1998

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