The summer is barely half over, it seems, and already two Valley theaters are wrapping up their seasons. This weekend sees the year’s final performances at the Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst and New Century Theater in Northampton.
NCT’s wide-ranging, provocative season began with a knockabout farce, continued into a two-man debate with nothing less at stake than life and death, moved on to a dramedy about the class divide, and winds up with a viciously funny satire on that gossamer garment we call polite society. Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage (to Saturday) follows on from Art, which tested the limits of three friendships and modern aesthetics. The slings and arrows fly in four directions in this one, as two upper-middle-class couples, discussing a scrap between their sons, descend from rational civility into emotional and marital chaos.
Ed Golden’s production is beautifully balanced, leading us with well-timed hints through progressive pandemonium into, well, carnage. The cast of three New Century veterans and one newcomer expertly handle the playwright’s downhill rollercoaster. Laurie Dawn plays the high-maintenance wife of Buzz Roddy’s high-octane lawyer (I’d love to have been in the rehearsal room to see this real-life married couple work that out), Cate Damon is a picture of artsy entitlement, and NCT rookie Tom Kee, as her husband, is a Mr. Normal-turned-normsmasher.
Ko’s five-weekend festival of visiting companies has given us a front-line report from a classroom for disturbed teens, a solo flight to the outer reaches of space and the inner recesses of the heart, a peripatetic-poetic journey from worldwide homelands to a strange new home, and an intimate “conversation” about priestly child abuse—all prismatic explorations of the season theme, that often elusive quality called Courage.
The season closes this weekend with Meditations from a Garden Seat (through Sunday), a movement-theater piece from the Judy Dworin Performance Project of Hartford that ties together two seemingly contradictory literary threads: thoughts on gardening by Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the prison writings of incarcerated women today. The connection comes from Stowe’s vision of the garden as a place of healing and new growth, as well as her historic role as an icon of emancipation, and the women’s penitentiary at Niantic, Connecticut, where the prison garden has become a source of healing, regeneration and artistic inspiration.
An ongoing participatory art installation curated by Kali Quinn invites Ko patrons and community members to contribute thoughts, personal experiences and homemade images about “Finding Courage” on the theater’s patio outside the Holden Theatre at Amherst College or online.