Get out of town: The best theater festivals and shows outside of NYC

Photograph: Cory Weaver
Love in the Wars

In the summer, New York can stink. Literally. Uncollected garbage wafts a toe-curling stank in your face as you make your sweaty way to shows that probably don’t even want to see, anyway. If the show was any good, would it be opening in the summer? There are worthy offerings, of course: Lincoln Center Festival brings Kabuki and Cate Blanchett to town (not in the same show, mind you). And despite the recent glut of King Lears, we are eager to see John Lithgow in Central Park. But what if you just need to get out of the city, but you still want to see a show? Here’s our handy weekender playgoer guide. Don’t have a car? Not to worry—we’ll get you there.

What is it?
Bard SummerScape 2014 through August 17
What’s on?
Love in the Wars is the theatrical attraction this year (SummerScape is primarily devoted to music and opera; this year’s central composer is Franz Schubert). Based on German playwright Heinrich von Kleist’s 1808 tragedy Penthesilea, John Banville’s adaptation takes a cold, hard look at sex, gender and the human propensity for violence. The stark and stunning production is directed by the wonderful Ken Russ Schmoll and stars one of our favorite downtown performers, the formidable Birgit Huppuch (pictured above). Love in the Wars runs through July 20 at the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard College campus, about two hours north of the city.
How the hell do I get there?
Usually getting to Bard College means taking Amtrak to Rhinecliff then a $20 taxi to the campus. But Bard offers round-trip bus service from Manhattan on July 12, 13 and 20. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900 or by selecting this option when purchasing tickets online. The new, lower round-trip fare is $20, and the bus departs from Lincoln Center at 4pm (July 12) and 10:30am (July 13 and 20). More information here.

What is it?
Williamstown Theatre Festival through August 17
What’s on?
Ardent theatergoers like to make the summer pilgrimage to northeastern Massachusetts to see various plays or musicals before they transfer to New York. This year’s lineup includes a revival of Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman’s June Moon; the East Coast premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness; opera superstar Reneé Fleming in a new play called Living on Love, based on Garson Kanin's Peccadillo; a revival of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love with Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda; and a limited engagement of one of Kander & Ebb’s final works, The Visit. The latter stars the legendary Chita Rivera. Broadway-caliber talent and shows, but without the hassle of the big city.
How the hell do I get there?
This one is a bit out of the way. If you don’t drive and don’t want to take the train to Albany and then rent a car, you might have to go with Peter Pan Bus Lines, which goes directly from Port Authority to 200 yards from the venue in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Not a short trip (up to five hours), but it’s cheap and you can get some reading or sleeping done.

What is it?
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival through August 31
What’s on?
If you don’t want to wait all day for Shakespeare in the Park tickets (and then get rained out), head upstate to Garrison for impressive outdoor vistas and spirited acting of classics. The repertory schedule this summer includes a tragedy (Othello), a comedy (Two Gentlemen of Verona) and a new adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s The Liar, by the marvelous David Ives. Each production is played under an enchanting open-air tent that overlooks the Hudson River. Rent a room and you’ve got a romantic, artful weekend. 
How the hell do I get there?
The festival’s website offers useful information here. Take Metro North to Cold Springs and make sure to plan in advance so you can get the special taxi rate of $8.

What is it?
Berkshire Theatre Festival through August 30.
What’s on?
Since 1928, flocks of vacationing playgoers have make the journey to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to see classic revivals and new work. In 2010 the festival merged with the Colonial Theatre in neighboring Pittsfield to form the Berkshire Theatre Group, which runs five venues, from the historic 408-seat Fitzpatrick Main Stage to the Unicorn Theatre (122 seats for challenging new work) and the Neil Ellenoff Stage, for outdoor family entertainment. This year you can choose from revivals of Charles Ludlum’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music, Benefactors by Michael Frayn and Cedars, a new one-man show starring James Naughton and directed by his daughter, Keira.
How the hell do I get there?
Amtrak is the fastest way if you don’t have a car, but it could cost $300 or more for two, round-trip. You might want to consider finding a friend who can rent a car, but of course, that might not be much cheaper. Details here.

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Comments

1 comments
Sandy C
Sandy C

And there's a new exciting one in the Berkshires. (Shameless plug) Mass Live Arts in Great Barrington, MA. at Bard College at Simon's Rock where I'm the director of the arts center. Faye Driscoll Group's just finishing up and Sibyl Kempson and Mike Iveson are on their way. plus two more screenings of Abdoh performances from the 90s. www.masslivearts.org