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LINCOLN IN DRAG DRAGS AT THE UNICORN STAGE, NOT AN ‘HONEST ABE’ IN SIGHT

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BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY JUNE 19, 2024) — There’s a scene in The Honeymooners (classic 39) where Ralph suspects Alice of having an affair with a “man” named Harvey. Turns out, she’s babysitting for a little boy named Harvey. When the child sees a coonskin-capped Kramden for the first time (he’s in his Loyal Order of Raccoons uniform), he says, “Gee, Mrs. Kramden, I didn’t know Davy Crockett was so fat.”

If that same lad saw Abe Lincoln in Illinois (ALII), now playing through July 14 at The Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Unicorn Stage, he might say in Act 1, “Gee, Mrs. Kramden. I didn’t know Abe Lincoln was mulatto.” Harvey might also say in Act 2, “Gee, Mrs. Kramden. I didn’t know Abe Lincoln was a lesbian.” Finally, in Act 3, confused Harv would ask Alice why Abe was black.

The play follows Lincoln during his Illinois years, when he ascended from the Kentucky backwoods (Act 1) became a lawyer (Act 2), and entered politics eventually winning the 1860 presidential election (Act 3).

———- ooo ———-

Robert McKay, left, and Brandon Dial as The First Lincoln.

Director David Auburn’s woke revisioning of Robert Sherwood’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize winner gives us not one, not two, but three Lincolns. We see a different Abe in each act, and not one of them is a white man.

The question immediately pops into the discerning mind: Are they pushing an agenda or are they trying to tell an honest story? It’s a rhetorical question, in case you haven’t guessed.

Sherwood’s talky play hasn’t aged well. Pouring it for audiences 86 years after the premiere, we taste spoiled vintage. The only way this dialogue-heavy affair can be performed effectively and appreciated as biography is straight, with artistic respect paid  to the historical elements. “Woking it up” turns insight into politics, in your face and shoved down your throat.

Auburn has made the fatal mistake of “updating” this creaky duster with the woke casting. The androgyny throughout makes one suspect that the director (a) either didn’t trust the material or (b) wanted to use the play as revisionist “history.”

Either way, a cloud of inauthenticity hovers over the sparse, pine-wooded set, wonderfully minimalist work by scenic designer Bill Clarke.

———- ooo ———-

Casting directors Kelly Gillespie and David Caparelliotis cast their pearls before swine, placing the talented ensemble in roles that beg belief. Poor casting trumps rich acting every time. If the casters wanted the audience to buy of-color, lesbian, and black  Lincolns. then the program’s cover should have had the three Abes — Brandon Dial, Kelli Simpkins, and Robert McKay respectively — in costume on the program’s cover. In other words, Sell It. Instead, we see the actual Lincoln. We should sue for false advertising.

Julian Tushabe, left, and Kelli Simpkins as The Second Lincoln.

It’s odd to see two casting directors, indicating Auburn’s equivocation. It’s as if he sniffed disaster and wanted to spread the blame around for casting men played by women, blacks playing whites, and the sweet bird of woke circling like a vulture over the three acts.

The pity is that it wasted three excellent actors. Dial as the First Abe emotes well in a solid performance, although he goes over the top when he has to portray a grieving Lincoln stunned by his sweetheart’s death.

As the Second Abe, Simpkins gives a technically competent performance, but a butch Lincoln delivering cadences in a high-pitched, female voice? Don’t think so.

McKay, the Third (and best) Lincoln, treats us to a thundering performance. Acting isn’t the issue with the three stooges. Casting is. You don’t sign Laurence Olivier as the lead in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

———- ooo ———-

The best of the rest is Julian Tushabe in the role of Lincoln’s friend Josh Speed. Tushabe has the pipes, uses them to great effect, and commands his scenes. He has an uplifting quality about him, and he raises the level of play each time he appears. Give me Tushabe for anything from Shakespeare to Witkiewicz.

From left, Lynette Freeman, David Atkins, Robert McKay as The Third Lincoln, Shawn Fagan, Julian Tushabe, and Evan Dibbs (partially seen).

At the opposite end, THE PLANET finds Lynette Freeman, The Screecher. Freeman confuses shrill volume with gravitas. Especially nauseating is her embarrassing turn as Crimmin, one of Lincoln’s kingmakers.

Freeman not only chews the scenery but is positively bulimic about it, throwing up all over the audience. Moreover, she needs lessons in cigar smoking.

THE PLANET has to wonder what induced BTF artistic director Kate McGuire to okay to this fire-cracking dud.

THE PLANET‘s rating out of five stars (* = Avoid at all costs, ** = Don’t waste your money, *** = So-so, **** = Definitely worth it, ***** = Superb and definitive.

We give ALII **

———————————————————

It’s within your grasp, if you’re big enough to take it” — Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

Copyright (c) 2024 By Dan Valenti, PLANET VALENTI and EUROPOLIS MANAGEMENT. All rights reserved. The views and opinions expressed in the comment section or in the text other than those of PLANET VALENTI are not necessarily endorsed by the operators of this website. PLANET VALENTI assumes no responsibility for such views and opinions, and it reserves the right to remove or edit any comment, including but not limited to those that violate the website’s Rules of Conduct and its editorial policies. Those who leave comments own all the responsibilities that are or can be attached to those comments, be they rhetorical, semantic, or legal. Such commentators remain solely responsible for what they post and shall be and remain solely accountable for their words. PLANET VALENTI shall not be held responsible for the consequences that may result from any posted comment or outside opinion or commentary as provided in, but not limited to, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and this website’s terms of service. We serve as a marketplace of ideas, without prejudice and available to all. All users of this site — including readers, commentators, contributors, or anyone else — hereby agree to these conditions by virtue of this notice and their use of/participation in this site. When PLANET VALENTI ends with the words “The Usual Disclaimer,” that phrase shall be understood to refer to the full text of this disclaimer.

 

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In Da Know
In Da Know
1 month ago

Perhaps they should do a play about how great Hitler was, kinda like your Memorial Day weekend column you posted then deleted. Et Tu Danny

The school committee
The school committee
1 month ago

Woke means truth.Woke is not welcome at FOX media where they spend alot of money destroying truth for the cause.

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

Woke = joke

The school committee
The school committee
Reply to  Mad Trapper
1 month ago

Woke was a black description of reality about being around whites and staying woke to those dangerous realities

Joetaxpayer
Joetaxpayer
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

WOKE. A state of awareness only achieved by those dumb enough to find injustice in everything except their own behavior. Or thinking someone with a Penis is a Woman.

Optimus Prime
Optimus Prime
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

So you get your political truths from The View?
The MESSNBC?
Cartoon News Net???
Night time talkers???

How fair and balanced of you!

Paul
Paul
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

Woke sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with truth.

Herb Pease
Herb Pease
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

Did you get your pride flag erected yet?

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

Maybe our good theater friends found a document where Abe wished he were black or butch…or did our black actor friends want to be white for a spell. Not sure what is going on as our other playhouse in bitchfield has a drag queen in it

The old timer
The old timer
Reply to  ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

Shirl,
you’ve been know to be strange but come on, it’s 2024 we may not like it but we seem to be outnumbered here! We may not be “woke” but the majority seems to be…. Or at least, that’s what they want us to believe

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
Reply to  The old timer
1 month ago

I can see NON is becoming more like the old 42nd street where all the freaks paraded. Maybe that’s the vibe they want to give the main thoroughfare of Bitchfield, swingers, swag, drag and Barry

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

Another revisionist history was found in the hate rag concerning our electrical needs. Of course the article blames “climate change” as opposed to the liberals shutting down our nuclear plants and garbage to energy plants. I guess no one saw if you cut your production abilities you will have less of the product!

Outfox
Outfox
1 month ago

Lincoln Lincoln I’ve been thinkin’
What’s that stuff that you’ve been drinkin’?
Looks like water smells like wine
Oh my God !t’s turpentine!

snark shark
snark shark
Reply to  Outfox
1 month ago

I think you plagiarized that from Trumps new bible. By the way, did he sign your copy? The real Jesus signed mine.

Outfox
Outfox
Reply to  snark shark
1 month ago

That’s funny.
For the record this an old jump rope ditty.
Trump is hawking a completely different Bible than the one I use.

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

A little scoop for you Dan on this Nineteenth day of June, look into Greylock Federal, word is they are going through a “reorganization” which will create layoffs. How come our good old hate rag hasn’t written about it?

BlackLiesMatter
BlackLiesMatter
Reply to  ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

They are a bunch of wokeaholes who drank the koolaid with the George Floyd Black Lives Matter thing. Downhill ever since.

snark shark
snark shark
Reply to  ShirleyKnutz
1 month ago

Berkshire Bank has been reorganizing as well. Closed quite a few branches the last couple of years.

I keep reading how due to high interest rates and inflation thousands of good folk are unable to pay their credit cards or loans and banks are eating huge losses. And that problem is just beginning. Talking about a coming rash of lower level bank failures not far over the horizon. Corporate media is not allowed to discuss it with its reader till after the election.

Marchetti as someone with banking insight would be well aware of this but is doing absolutely nothing to ease the burden of taxpayers in his community. Those with power are fattening their own wallets in preparation for the big blowup.

Jonathan A. Melle
Jonathan A. Melle
Reply to  snark shark
1 month ago

June 19, 2024

Hello blogger Dan Valenti,

Pittsfield politics Mayor Peter Marchetti is only in it for his future city public pension plus perks for life. He worked a bank for 35 years, which means that he has a 2nd pension with his 401k plan. He will also collect his monthly Social Security check in his Golden Years.

The Pittsfield taxpayers never mattered to any of the career politicians in state and local government. For over 40 years now, predictable Pittsfield politics has always increased its annual city spending by at least 5 percent per fiscal year.

What most people do not understand about state and local financial management is that it is never about the taxpayers, but rather, it is all a financial shell game. Pittsfield plays financial shell games with the state bureaucrats in Boston to receive as much state administered federal aid as possible – and please do NOT forget about Kufflink’s secretive Slush Funds (that rightfully belong in the pockets of the city’s taxpayers).

The thing I cannot understand is why Pittsfield’s municipal budget is somewhere between $30 to $40 million more than similar small cities. It does not fit into any of the financial management schemes. Is there any justification for over-taxing the fictional Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski working-class family who struggles to send in their hard-earned tax dollars to City Hall?

In Boston, the misguided Governor, Maura Healey, and the career state lawmakers, only do DISSERVICES to the common people in Massachusetts with their financial management shell games. They use an excessive number of regressive taxation schemes – especially the state lottery SCAM that greedy lobbyist Dan Bosley loves (to pretend to hate) – to give away many billions of state tax breaks to the big businesses who donate big bucks to the powerful state government politicians.

It is estimated to be somewhere around $20 billion per fiscal year in state tax break giveaways to the big business special interests by the do-nothing corrupt career politicians on Beacon Hill. One big problem with Boston running the state is that there are little to no big businesses in areas such as the state’s mostly rural Western Massachusetts region, but there are plenty of lottery tickets available there.

Career politicians are really SCAM Artists. Greedy lobbyists such as Dan Bosley are cashing in at the public trough. Peter Marchetti is going to be the old man with 3 pensions: his bank’s 401k plan, his future City pension, and his monthly Social Security check.

Jon Melle

The old timer
The old timer
Reply to  Jonathan A. Melle
1 month ago

The majority voted the “special” guy/gal into office soooo…. We can’t complain bc the majority wanted the “wokeness” to continue

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  danvalenti
1 month ago

Re-elect Nobody.

Eric Swansin
Eric Swansin
Reply to  Jonathan A. Melle
1 month ago

Have you and Mayor Pete decided on an opening date for your PRIDE friendly clothing store yet? Have you thought of a good name for the store. I thought of a couple like you asked me to. I was thinking in honor of your Navy career we could call it The Rear Admiral. If you don’t like that what about Hung Jury since the store is close to the courts.

Flogging Molly
Flogging Molly
1 month ago

Only in America

Oxenhatter
Oxenhatter
1 month ago

Exceptionally well written, Dan. You do not allow artistic tropes to influence your own powerful interpretation.

Oxenhatter
Oxenhatter
1 month ago

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool; shun him.

He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is simple; teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; awaken him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise; follow him.

People, Donald Trump belongs to category 1 – he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.

The majority of you PV posters belong to category 3 – You don’t realize that you know.

The End Iznare
The End Iznare
Reply to  Oxenhatter
1 month ago

So when Boisiden says hdbgtjfgjis in a sentence are we supposed to know?

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  The End Iznare
1 month ago

You need a super secret Biden decoder ring. Sometimes it works on TSCs rants too.

Jon Melle
Jon Melle
1 month ago

Abe Lincoln oversaw the mass hangings of many Native Americans in the Minnesota Territory, after the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln planned to forcibly expel all African Americans out of the USA, and he was a racist who hated Slavery. In his time, Lincoln was a divisive and controversial politician. Everything else is revisionist US history.

Joetaxpayer
Joetaxpayer
Reply to  Jon Melle
1 month ago

Please put down the Pipe. Thank you.

acheshirecat
acheshirecat
Reply to  Jon Melle
1 month ago

John you are revising history. Lincoln NEVER planned to forcibly expel any African Americans. He was a member of the American Colonization Society (ACS) since around 1820. The ASC would return freed slaves to Africa only if they wanted to and the country they would return to would accept them. he did this right up through the Civil War. It led to the formation of Liberia whose capitol Monrovia is named after President Monroe.

RaymondNorman
RaymondNorman
Reply to  Jon Melle
1 month ago

This has Liz Caulkin levels of virtue signalling

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  Jon Melle
1 month ago

After the Civil War, Democrats started/founded the KKK.

Current prominent Democrats were good fiends (pun intended) with D-Robert Byrd, a ranking KKK official/”Kleage”. These include: The Clintons, Biden, Barry Sotero, Pelousey,……..

The old timer
The old timer
1 month ago

Must be a slow news day Dan

Cover Waguns
Cover Waguns
Reply to  danvalenti
1 month ago

We’re lucky to have Dan.

Cover Waguns
Cover Waguns
Reply to  danvalenti
1 month ago

Donald Sutherland dead at 88.

Oxenhatter
Oxenhatter
Reply to  Cover Waguns
1 month ago

The original Hawkeye. Willie Mays, too. Gone at 93 yes.

Dawn
Dawn
1 month ago

Apparently no one has an opinion on the Eagle’s deep dive into Pittsfield’s school choice exodus. Certainly not the mayor. Even the paper’s editorial board decided they would rather scold the city for its splash pad readiness.

The school committee
The school committee
Reply to  danvalenti
1 month ago

Choice was the right wing idea to destroy urban schools.

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  The school committee
1 month ago

Democrats did that all by themselves.

Spider
Spider
Reply to  Dawn
1 month ago

Good question! Why?

The End Iznare
The End Iznare
Reply to  Dawn
1 month ago

Dawn. Tell the Beagle to go away. It’s no good,for you.

AWAY
AWAY
1 month ago

Bill Sturgeon is a great choice for this year’s appointment for grand marshal for Pittsfield’s Fourth of July Parade. It is a wise choice because this man is a professional of few comparisons who not only knows and understands area issues but articulates them in a wise and professional manner. Congratulations, Bill, you deserve this honor.

The school committee
The school committee
1 month ago

Who watches FOX on this blog?…I can’t tell…lol

Outfox
Outfox
1 month ago

Today in cognitive dissonance:
iBerkshires is reporting that, a month ago, Flat Tyler was given an award in Boston for her commitment to ending homelessness while she was mayor.
Can’t make this stuff up!

Mad Trapper
Mad Trapper
Reply to  Outfox
1 month ago

True!

It’s “houselessness”