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Review: CHESTER BAILEY at Barrington Stage Company

Bravo to A Powerful and Poignant Return to Live Indoor Theatre That is Engaging, Endearing, and Will Endure.

Review: CHESTER BAILEY at Barrington Stage Company
Reed Birney and Ephraim Birney
Photos by David Dashiell

In a stateside hospital at the close of World War II, a young man recovers from catastrophic injuries. Or so the doctors have told him. But Chester Bailey denies what's happened to him has actually happened, which is how he comes under the care of Dr. Philip Cotton. Older, wounded in his own ways, Cotton is charged with leading Chester back to reality. The journey is not what either man expected.

Shortly after the majority of the masked and socially distanced audience at Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage theatre had filed out, a smaller more intimate group that included several enthusiastic industry exec's gathered to celebrate. There was, indeed, ample cause for celebration. Not only the long and eagerly awaited return of indoor performance, but to a long history of BSC serving as the birthplace of world-class theatre.

CHESTER BAILEY, a new play by Emmy Award winner Joseph Dougherty is POWERFUL - and a MARVELOUS production! I was tempted to include the word simply in that statement but, truthfully, there is nothing "simple" about it. CHESTER BAILEY is a stellar example of the power of synergy. Synergy exists at the heart of creative cooperation. It means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When individual elements come together in synergy, it is akin to saying - I can do good things, you can do good things but together we can do great things!

In this case, it begins with a superlative script by Emmy Award winner Joseph Dougherty ("thirtysomething," "Pretty Little Liars"). Like his work on the referenced and highly acclaimed works for television, CHESTER BAILEY is complex, deep, emotional, engaging, and multidimensional. The words Dougherty has chosen are very well-suited to the characters. It is notable that while the dialogue is appropriate for both the diametrically different personas being presented, they do so in an incredibly strong way that allows the viewer to gain both heart felt compassion and intellectual insight into the characters.

Review: CHESTER BAILEY at Barrington Stage Company
Ephraim Birney

Sharing details regarding the plot would be a disservice to the piece and those who will accept my encouragement to experience it for themselves. During the roughly 90 minutes (with no intermission) the pair of skillful actors present two broadly disparate seeming individuals mostly in a series of impressive and moving monologues. The action is well paced and rather like that of the volleying experienced in a championship level tennis match. As the two individuals present aspects of their unrelated realities, their pathways draw closer and closer to each other and pose many an unspoken question. Do things just happen to us, randomly? Is one's reality, influenced / shaped by our mind's implicit response to fill-in the blanks? Are we all more alike than different? A series of questions so highly relevant to current affairs and condition.

Review: CHESTER BAILEY at Barrington Stage Company
Reed Birney

CHESTER BAILEY stars the father-and-son duo of Tony Award winner Reed Birney (The Humans, "House of Cards") and Ephraim Birney ("Gotham," "The Americans") as doctor and patient in a potent World War drama, directed by Ron Lagomarsino (Driving Miss Daisy, "Picket Fences," "Ally McBeal"). Casting of the pair is explored further in the recent BWW posting here. The two performers are connected with one another on a deep level, and the interplay it allows is quite apparent. Their embrace during the well-deserved curtain call and ovation is tender, poignant, and met with many an aww from the appreciative audience.

The creative team for CHESTER BAILEY includes Beowulf Boritt (scenic designer), Toni-Leslie James (costume designer), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting designer) and Brendan Aanes (sound designer). Each of whose contribution is noteworthy in its own right. Their respective elements work well on multiple levels, as well as particularly well together. Geoff Boronda is Production Stage Manager.

S'wonderful S'Marvelous performances of CHESTER BAILEY (as BSC's current presentation of WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE? - The songs of George Gershwin nearby, that has been extended through July 10 aptly inspires), continue through July 3 indoors at BSC's Boyd-Quinson Stage. Visit: https://barringtonstageco.org/ for tickets and information.


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