Your first impulse upon visiting the Berkshires is to jump in a lake. Or hike a trail. Or buy some artisan jam. But the region’s array of top-shelf theater offers a good reason to head indoors. This is where theater artists from New York and Boston come for an onstage summer vacation. Here are some shows not to miss.
"The Pirates of Penzance"
Barrington Stage Company
Now through Aug. 13
This Gilbert and Sullivan chestnut gets a fresh shine in a big, boisterous production that just may be the Berkshires hit of the summer. The dashing Will Swenson (Mr. Audra McDonald, by the way) stars alongside a boatload of other Broadway veterans. The director and choreographer are the same team that created a winning revival of “On the Town” at Barrington Stage that went to Broadway two years ago. Will “Pirates” sail on, too?
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"The Merchant of Venice"
Shakespeare & Company
Now through Aug. 21
This stylish, fast-paced interpretation opens with a dance number and throws fresh light on one of Shakespeare’s more politically problematic plays. Is it anti-Semitic or just about anti-Semitism? Director Tina Packer says it's the latter, and this production’s provocative moments will have you talking long after you leave the theater. Jonathan Epstein’s performance as Shylock will stay with you.
"The Stone Witch"
Berkshire Theatre Group
Now through Aug. 20
You know Judd Hirsch from a million and a half roles, from “Taxi” to “Independence Day: Resurgence.” He makes his BTG debut as an irascible author of children’s books who duels with his own past and the sometimes-scary power of imagination. Rupak Ginn plays the young writer dispatched to pull him out of his shell. This tightly drawn world premiere has layers that go deep beneath the surface … and into the woods.
"An American Daughter"
Williamstown Theatre Festival
Wendy Wasserstein’s 1997 play about a woman who encounters opposition after being nominated for U.S. attorney general arrives just in time for the summer of Hillary vs. Trump. Look for director Evan Cabnet to bring a topical edge to this story. Also catch “Poster Boy,” a world premiere musical running through Aug. 7 that tells the story of the suicide of Tyler Clementi through the lens of the online forum where he used to post. It brings the internet to the stage in inventive ways.
Shakespeare & Co. at The Mount
Now through Aug. 20
This is one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, and guaranteed to be a hoot. Catch it in a version by Shakespeare & Co.’s actors-in-training, outdoors at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Berkshires home. And if the tranquil setting puts you in a Wharton mood, you can also catch two adaptations of her work by Pythagoras Theater Worksin a double bill running through Aug. 5 in the intimate setting of West Stockbridge’s old Town Hall.