DAD - GREAT BARRINGTON PUBLIC THEATER
WIth a mission to showcase Berkshire talent, the region’s newest theater company, Great Barrington Public Theater (GBPT) opens its second season with a new, different kind of play from prolific writer Mark St. Germain, well-known to Berkshire audiences. (One of the Barrington Stage theaters in Pittsfield is named after him.) A versatile playwright, St. Germain, had never written anything autobiographical, but covid changed everything. Says his character played by Berkshire regular Mark H. Dold in the play’s prologue - during covid, some people cable-binged, some people gained weight. Instead, St. Germain wrote a memory play about growing up, specifically about his father, played by GBPT artistic director Jim Frangione, who also directs.
“Dad” spills out in, in just over an hour at the Daniels Arts Center at Bard’s Simon’s Rock campus, in a raw, unfiltered form. Says St. Germain in notes in the program, “… the first draft was written so quickly that I was pages into it before remembering my vow not to write anything autobiographical.”
“Dad” dramatizes some painful memories (with splashes of humor). St. Germain’s father was authoritative (think Archie Bunker), a World War II vet who bears painful memories not only about his military experience but also his own upbringing. Mark’s parents' marriage was not loving. St. Germain bore much of his father’s wrath. His brother Paul, played by David Smilow, the high school track star, was Dad’s favorite son. His sister, Lynn, played by another Berkshire regular, Peggy Phar Wilson, was doted on by Dad: she learned early on to play the “girl card.”
There’s lots in “Dad” for any theater-goer to relate to. The most poignant scene is when Dad tries to toughen-up the young, sensitive Mark with a pair of boxing gloves for Christmas. Mark cannot land a blow. My theater companion confessed on the way home that his own father tried the same with boxing gloves with him one Christmas too.
It’s trite to call “Dad” just heartfelt, it’s more than that. It’s human, warts and all. And when any of us think about our parents critically, anybody with a brain - and a heart - has to look at themselves too. St. Germain pulls no punches in “Dad”.