Photo courtesy of MASSACHUSETTS OFFICE OF TRAVEL AND TOURISM
The Williamstown Theatre Festival was founded in 1955 in the spirit of innovation in Live Theatre. Located in the scenic Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, it is lauded as one of the top Professional Development Programs in the country and is specifically designed around presenting artists with unique opportunities to express themselves creatively. Williamstown itself, where the Festival is held each year, is a hub of artistic energy. Many artists get their start there and there is a wealth of things to see between the flashing Broadway strip, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and Williams College Museum of Art.
One can assume, then, that life around the Berkshires is heavily entrenched in drama of both the stage and personal variety. Let’s face it, when you get that many theatre people together, you’re going to have some fireworks. Luckily, although The Country House has its own fair share of drama, it’s well-placed, and much like the WTF, the people within are asked to look at past challenges in a new, positive light. Just like the Williamstown Theatre Festival has learned to embrace its somewhat unorthodox acronym (WTF! come on, we know you noticed), each family member in The Country House has to learn how to embrace each other along with their idiosyncrasies.
When the revered stage-star matriarch summons her family to their Berkshires home, it soon becomes apparent that there are a lot of problems left over to deal with – and many new ones in the works. Adding a somber undercurrent to the normally happy reunion is the death of a beloved family member, which makes the dealings between them seem that much more crucial. The members of The Country House get to grapple with their own evolving stories as they relate candidly to one another about the changes in their lives and themselves. It’s up to each person to decide whether or not they like these changes, and the show itself is rich with witty banter to help with the undertones of uncertainty.
One of the great things about theatre, and storytelling in general, is that the details are always changing. How many times have we seen Peter Pan looked at again, or Alice in Wonderland? What would we have missed out on if Gregory Maguire hadn’t decided to write Wicked and add an interesting twist to the world of The Wizard of Oz? With The Country House, the message is similar: just like any story ever written, family is always going to be a work in progress.