Loaded handguns figure in both of the shows now playing at Barrington Stage Company, but that’s about the only common factor in the two productions, which together exemplify the breadth of fare available on summer theater stages. Kiss Me, Kate (pictured) is a big, sumptuous, Broadway-worthy revival of the classic Cole Porter musical, bursting with humor, hijinks and long-legged dancers. Working on a Special Day is a subtly infectious duet in which whimsicality dances with despair and desire.
If Kate cavorts around the parallel wranglings of Petruchio and his shrew paired with their alter egos in a touring production of Shakespeare’s brawling comedy, Working quietly captures the humor and poignancy of an unexpectedly special day in the lives of two lonely people in Mussolini’s prewar Italy. In the inventive hands of Ana Graham and Antonio Vega, this miniature gem depicts a not-quite love story in a would-be but can’t-be moment. And where Kate lavishly kisses the stage with Technicolor sets and costumes, Working’s special grace derives from its sly simplicity. Performing in a plain black box—which becomes a room-size blackboard—the players summon up their surroundings, from windows to pepper mills, in witty chalk drawings. See both shows back to back for a double-barreled feast for the eye, ear, funnybone and heart.
Kiss Me Kate: through July 12; Working on a Special Day: through July 6; Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, (413) 236-8888, barringtonstageco.org.