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Willow Cabin Theatre Company 1988-2002:
The History, Its Time On Broadway and The Reviews

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemnéd love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!'
Twelfth Night, Act I, scene v

No one can say precisely when the esteemed Willow Cabin Theatre Company, based in New York City, went dark. The last production of record was a caribbean-tinged, stage adaptation of The Odyssey by Derek Walcott in 2002 in NYC. There was always talk of more to come, but the next season and more importantly, money, never materialized. And so it was more of a fade than a precise close of business for the roaming troupe's 14 some-odd years of existence. What follows here is a loosely defined page of record dedicated to those years of the company's boundless energy and youthful glory and for those that search the internet asking, "Whatever happened that theater company called Willow Cabin?"

The History. (Scroll down the page for the company's time On Broadway and, below that, all The Reviews.)

So, for the record:
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Edward Berkeley
Artistic Director
Adam Oliensis and Maria Radman
Founding Producing Directors

There are a dozen plus Founding Company members, of which Larry Gleason is one.
Willow Cabin Theatre Company Mission Statement

The Willow Cabin Theater Company is a rare entity in New York theater-a collective working together in the belief that the whole can be much greater than the sum of its parts.  Harnessing this ensemble energy, our mission is to produce affordable, literate entertainment illuminating the unique capacity of legitimate theater to communicate and transform.

Willow Cabin Theater Company History

This text was extracted from back files after WCTC's office was closed. The following content has not been edited for errors, omissions or style.

Willow Cabin Theater Company is a professional ensemble based in New York City.  Each year, Willow Cabin stages three to five full-length productions Off Off-Broadway.  The company has also had two productions fill Off-Broadway houses, with Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Three By Thornton Wilder opening on Broadway in 1993.  In addition, Willow Cabin tours its productions within New York State and throughout the Eastern United States.

At the core of Willow Cabin is a group of skilled artists who care deeply about the quality of their work and each other and the future of the arts in New York City.  The company invites each member of its audience to join its journey and seeks to enhance the quality of their life through the presentation of material dealing with both contemporary and timeless themes.

The ensemble evolved in 1988 as a group working with Edward Berkeley, who is Co-General Director of the Aspen Opera Theater Center and serves on the faculties of Circle In The Square Professional Workshop and the Juilliard Opera Center.  Willow Cabin’s first production under Mr. Berkeley’s direction was Shakespeare’s
Twelfth Night, performed for two weeks at the Westbeth Theater.  The following year, Mr. Berkeley directed the company in four of Eugene O’Neill’s Sea Plays, as well as a full-length production of Charlotte Delbo’s Who Will Carry The Word?, which recounted 23 women’s experience in Auschwitz.

By its third year, Willow Cabin had achieved a level of acclaim that was extraordinary for a young company. New York City productions included a workshop of an original play written expressly for the company and two American premieres, including a musical,
Morning Song.  The company also brought productions of Sea Plays and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Egg in Albany.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which features seven actors performing all 28 roles, has since become Willow Cabin’s signature piece.

During 1990-91, Willow Cabin’s Off Off-Broadway offerings included productions of Moliere’s
Tartuffe, Odon von Horvath’s Judgment Day (featuring Michael Rispoli of While You Were Sleeping, Angie and Household Saints), and John Gray’s Billy Bishop Goes To War.  The company also staged a new work, Double Bound, written and directed by Willow Cabin founding member Adam Oliensis.

A series of critically acclaimed productions marked Willow Cabin’s fifth year.  Jean Genet’s
The Balcony led off the season, followed by Cowboy In His Underwear by Adam Oliensis.  Louise Page’s Like To Live/Tissue featured guest artist Meg Wynn-Owen, internationally known for her leading role on television’s Upstairs, Downstairs.  Riveting performances by Willow Cabin founding members John Bolger (Parting Glances) and Cecil Hoffman (L.A. Law) highlighted Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Willow Cabin’s 1991-92 season finale.

On December 4, 1992, Willow Cabin’s production of
Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Three by Thornton Wilder, premiered Off Off-Broadway to rave reviews from all major publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Newsday, The Wall Street Journal and New York Post.  After a seven week run Off-Broadway at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Three by Thornton Wilder reopened at The Circle In The Square Theater on April 21, 1993.  The production received a Drama Desk Award nomination, as well as a Tony® nomination as Outstanding Revival of the season.  The opening at Circle, moreover, made Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Three by Thornton Wilder the first play in theater history to be staged Off Off-Broadway, Off-Broadway and on Broadway during the same season.  In the interim, Willow Cabin became the first non-musical theater company to be invited to The Barns at WolfTrap near Washington, D.C.  The company’s January 1993 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was both a critical and financial success at this landmark’s performing arts center.

The company’s 1993-94 season saw the return of two plays previously performed during Willow Cabin’s second season: a quartet of Eugene O’Neill’s
Sea Plays and the critically acclaimed 1989 production of Charlotte Delbo’s Who Will Carry The Word?.  The producers felt very strongly about these two works and thought they deserved a second look.  Who Will Carry The Word? moreover, was scheduled for 1993 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  The eloquence and power of Mme. Delbo’s story inspired the company to “carry the word” of this extraordinary production further to an Off-Broadway theater in the spring of 1994.  Howard Kissel of the Daily News named Willow Cabin’s production of Who Will Carry The Word?among his Ten Best of 1994; Dramalogue magazine also voted it among its Ten Best of 1994 and singled out Edward Berkeley as Best Director of a Play.  Between the Sea Plays and Who Will Carry The Word?, Willow Cabin brought Shakespeare’s As You Like It to Wolf Trap in January 1994, continuing what has become a yearly tradition.  The production then opened at the Judith Anderson Theater in Manhattan’s Theater Row to much critical and commercial success.

Willow Cabin Theater Company began its 1994-95 season with a most unusual production.  Edward Berkeley’s idea for adapting
Anatomy of Sound, an evening of six Norman Corwin radio plays written in the 1940s, proved a wonderful adventure.  The richness of the language focuses on the nature of communication, where thought and words are the core, but where silence, music and vision all take part, as well.  This compelling staging proved most stirring to critics and audiences alike.  Drama Desk recognized these radio plays with a 1995 nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience.  In January of 1995, the company brought a third Shakespeare comedy to Wolf Trap, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and ran the show Off Off-Broadway on their return to New York.  Willow Cabin closed this season with the New York premiere of the original text of David Rabe’s Goose and Tomtom, with the full support and collaboration of the play’s author.

The 1995-96 season began with what, hopefully, would be a yearly event:  
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a musical adaptation based on the Dylan Thomas short story.  The wonderful reviews assured that it will return in December 1996.  The American premiere of The Ends of The Earth by Canadian playwright Morris Panych and a voyage into the 1960’s world of British playwright Frank Marcus and The Killing of Sister George re-established our commitment to literate plays on the cutting edge of society.

Willow Cabin began its eleventh season with
Street Scene by Elmer Rice.  Its run was sold out.  A Child’s Christmas In Wales returned for its second season.  Sold out.  The season finished with Don Juan Comes Back From The War, Christopher Hampton’s translation of the von Horvath play.  The New York Times hailed it as a wonderful theatrical experience.

This season once again began with
A Child’s Christmas In Wales for a third year.  In March, under the title Rootless Beauties the Company explored two late one-act plays by Tennessee Williams: Confessional and The Mutilated.  The production has been described as “rougher, tougher, and hits the spot far, far better than did the more refined Broadway product 30 years ago.” (Barnes/NYPost).  In May we expand on the theme of American one-acts with rare gems by William Inge.  A contemporary to Williams, Inge takes a deep look into a cross-section of American souls, lost and found, touching us to the core.

As you can see, Willow Cabin is continuing to present classic and contemporary works of literary merit.
The company further strives to advance the arts in an increasingly complex society.  The ensemble, as artists, seeks the liberation of the mind and spirit to express and integrate the entire human experience. This will lead us all to face our best and worst selves, empowering and challenging us to question, to confront our fears and embrace our humanity for the common good. What the company hopes to share are these ideals and a love of the spoken word that is simple, open and accessible.

At this point in time the history was no longer updated.  The company had a few more seasons
and then went into hiatus.  At some point in time other documents can be found to complete this history.

Willow Cabin On Broadway
1993 Tony Award Nomination BEST REVIVAL
Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Three by Thornton Wilder

Produced by Circle In The Square (Theodore Mann: Artistic Director; George Elmer: Managing Director; Paul Libin: Consulting Producer)

Originally produced by Willow Cabin Theatre Company (Edward Berkeley, Artistic Director; Adam Oliensis, Producing Director; Maria Radman, Producing Director)
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Raves even before the move to Broadway:
Gannett Suburban Newspapers

"It proves to be a remarkable healing experience. Seeing these plays at the end at a day that was dominated by news of a bomb explosion at the World Trade Center, one was somewhat reassured that the planet might survive after all. We have become so accustomed to plays with a cast of one or two, that it was exhilarating to see a small stage filled with 24 actors, all good, in an Off-Broadway production.”                    

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There is a question at the heart of these one-act masterpieces by Thornton Wilder. How can a person in a simple life, find meaning in the aloneness, the grief of his or her daily existence?

Using plain community theater devices, Wilder invites us to look at the ordinary, not the exceptional life. From the perspective of an easily recognizable situation -- dinner, a car, a train ride -- confront questions of deep meaning. Do our lives really change yearly? What value does one’s individual life have? How does death or near-death change our lives? How do we find relief as we live in modern anxiety? In these 1931 plays, Wilder asked questions that prefigured Samuel Beckett’s searches. There aren't answers, only humanity.

In rehearsing these plays I have been amazed and delighted by the depth of unsentimental passion released by Thornton Wilder with such deftness. So little – a few chairs, stairs — leads to so much insight into the joys and pains and loneliness of
everyone’s lives. The hurt these plays inflict in bringing us to face our mortality is balanced by the hope found in surviving with love.

Edward Berkeley
Wilder Reviews
“For those of us who started careers in the
theatre and long for the purity of that experience, last night was tonic.  To be part of an evening so pure in stage magic, so inventive, entertaining and dependent only on the human resource was real pleasure. Thank you all.  You were wonderful.”  
Robert Redford

“A triumph.  Not since the original members of The Acting Company made their debut more than 20 years ago has a group made such a memorable impression.”  
Associated Press

“Arriving like a surprise holiday gift from a favorite aunt, an ambitious and commendable production by the Willow Cabin Theatre Company.  Willow Cabin's polished staging of these seldom performed plays not only offers a rare chance to glimpse the origins of Wilder's great works to came but also allows them to shine as small gems on their own. Intelligent.  
The New York Times

“The plays get a fine, brisk production under the direction of Edward Berkeley.”
The New Criterion
“A cast of 23 sparkles.”  
The London Times

“Stunningly staged.  Excellent.  In a large company, everybody should be cited; they are all superb.”
New York Post

“The plays are performed flawlessly.  The actors are gifted.”  
The New Yorker

“Excellent. Masterful.  Wilder would be pleased.”  
Punch In International

“Well-acted.  Not a bad stocking stuffer."

“Charming. Powerful.  Edward Berkeley’s production is seductive.  The company attacks the plays with verve and freshness, the evening is quite moving.”  

“The plays are so fresh, fast and well-acted, they could have been written yesterday.”  
New York Magazine

“There isn’t a flawed performance under the direction of Edward Berkeley.”  
Village Voice

Wilder, Wilder, Wilder — Just The Facts, Ma'am
IBDB (Internet Broadway Database) archive is the 
official database for Broadway theatre information.

All The Other Reviews
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From David Rabe and his take on allowing Willow Cabin and director Adam Oliensis,
to revive his play, GOOSE AND TOMTOM,
in April 1995.

"The play was to close on a Sunday and I showed up on a Friday night, more than three weeks after my last visit. What I saw that night will stay with me a long time. The production had become transcendent. The heart was burning in the middle of that stage and you could hear it beating. When GOOSE AND TOMTOM functions correctly, it has an amazing, otherworldly life, both giddy and transcendent and it was there now—in front of me more fully than I had ever seen it before.

Willow Cabin had continue to work through that three week period, the actors and director, out of love for what they were doing, mesmerized by the text that they had allowed to teach them, and out of respect and pass for themselves and their craft. the result was one of the great moments of my life in the theater.

I cannot recommend Willow Cabin highly enough."

"The Willow Cabin production, staged at hectic speed by Adam Oliensis, seemed visually inclined, aimed as much at the solar plexus as the mind. Perhaps sensibly."
Clive Barnes/NY Post
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Front: Larry Gleason (Tomtom), Tasha Lawrence, Joe Pacheco.
Rear: Angela Nevard, John Billeci.
In David Rabe's
Goose and Tomtom

Courtesy New York Magazine

Sampling of REVIEWS of WCTC's acclaimed productions

by Dylan Thomas
adapted to the stage by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell

“A delightful production!”
The New York Times

“Warm and satisfying as a cup of hot cocoa on a freezing winter’s night!”  
Newark Star-Ledger

“Jovially persuasive staging, warmly recommended!”  
New York Post

“A theatrical gem!  Willow Cabin’s Christmas present to us all!”  

“Touching!  Inventive!  A don’t miss!”    
The Westsider

“A superb production! Celebrate the season with Willow Cabin!”

“An enchanting Yuletide evening!  A celebration of memory and imagination!”   

“A whimsical holiday production that will delight audiences of all ages!”  
Punch-in International

by Eugene O'Neill

“A worthy production.  Engaging.”  
The New York Times

“An absorbing evening.”  
New York Newsday

“A sturdy, straightforward production of these historically significant works.”  
Village Voice

“The production shows off the Company well and makes for a most unexpectedly 
satisfying evening.”  
New York Post

“The playing has thrust and anger and power; it is recognizably the product of true 
The New Criterion

“A testament to the vitality of O’Neill’s early sea plays.  The stage bristled with 
The Eugene O’Neill Society Review

“A treasure.  A reminder why O’Neill became the father of American drama.”  

“Flawlessly performed.”  

“O’Neill has real friends off-Broadway, as he sustains them, they sustain him.”

“Combine the genius of O’Neill and the quality and the talent of the Willow Cabin 
Theatre Company, and you are in for one hell of a theatrical phenomenon.  Don’t miss 
this one.”
Punch-in International

“This production establishes The Willow Cabin Theatre Company as one of New York’s 
strongest ensemble theater companies.”  
Actor’s Resource

“Satisfying. Excellent.”  
Albany Times Union

“The cast turns in good performances.”
The Nation

“A tribute and testament to the kind of theater O’Neill envisioned.”  
New York Native

by Norman Corwin
1995 Drama Desk Nomination---Unique Theatrical Experience

"If you want to make a discovery on the sharp and bitter cutting-edge of the past, go at 
once to Edward Berkeley’s terrific young ensemble, the Willow Cabin Theatre 
New York Post

These young performers move fluently in and around and through the action of the 
stories, their expressive faces lending fresh life to the narratives they speak so 
The Star-Ledger

by Charlotte Delbo

"The brilliance of the play, directed by Edward Berkeley, the artistic director of Willow 
Cabin, is that the plight of its characters is so fully and poetically drawn.  Individuals 
stand out in the large cast, and while the scenery is spare - gleaming barbed wire 
strung between lofty wooden poles hung with lights - life and death in the camp are 
vivid.  Charlotte Delbo has accomplished her purpose.  Her characters may be ghosts, 
but they speak with eloquence in a remarkable play."
The New York Times

"Edward Berkeley directs with an effective blend of realism and stylization, while the 
excellent ensemble brings poignant life to women we meet only briefly."
New York Newsday

"(In) Willow Cabin Theatre Company's gripping production, both the play and director 
Edward Berkeley's production are pared down to a devastating simplicity, illuminated 
by Jane Reisman's masterful lighting and the rigorous concentration of the acting can't help but be moved by this tale of the Holocaust.  The quiet intensity 
of the ensemble's selfless performances is admirable."
The Star-Ledger

"Berkeley and his Willow Cabin Theatre Company go about everything with care, 
purpose, and skill.  (I'm referring not only to this show, but to their work earlier this 
season in Eugene O'Neill's early Sea Plays, last season in Wilder, Wilder, Wilder, and 
two years ago in Like to Live/Tissue.)  The acting in this piece is disciplined and 

"Though dramas focusing on the Holocaust abound on the New York stage, few have the 
impact of this Willow Cabin Theatre production...brilliantly staged by Edward Berkeley."
BackStage and The National Jewish Post & Opinion

"The American production of this work is superior to the French one.  The Willow 
Cabin's ensemble work is seamless...Cynthia Haft's translation is faithful and poetic.  
Who Will Carry The Word? is one of the great texts of our time."

by William Shakespeare

“Utterly charmed. So touching and relevant. A legacy of understanding from director to 
actors to audience what the play was all about.”  
The New Yorker

“Delightfully unpretentious. A collaborative occasion. Utterly engaging.  Though this 
production be but little, she is fierce!.”
Village Voice

“Shakespeare as it ought to be presented: lively, thoughtfully and artistically.  The 
Willow Cabin Theatre Company was a dream to watch.”
Metroland (Albany, NY)

adapted by Andre Obey
translated by Thornton Wilder

"Yet the real story of this Lucrece is how elegantly and effectively a dated work has 
been staged. This version has been revived by The Willow Cabin Theater Company 
under the flamboyantly visual direction of Edward Berkeley.

Despite the fact that large portions of the play are essentially recited to us rather than 
dramatized, Berkeley’s direction manages to keep us engaged. With the assistance of 
designer John Kasarda’s provocative slab of a set, surrounded by a gauze net 
shimmering with shadows under Matthew McCarthy’s lighting, the play suggests a 
dream…or something out of time. Moody and stylized, the otherworldly look of the piece 
pulls you into its own reality."

By Moliere

"A theater classic can have no greater friends than a good translation and  a 
sympathetic production, and Moliere's Tartuffe written in 1669, has found both of these 
in the version currently being presented by the Willow Cabin Theatre Company."
New York Tribune

By Darrah Cloud

"The Sirens is a realistic portrayal of violence against women, and
the Willow Cabin Theatre Company offers its usual top-quality
production of the work."
Punch-In International

By Lynn Rosen

"If some of the people in Lynn Rosen’s Nighthawks are funnier than one can imagine 
that any of the figures in Edward Hopper’s paintings could be, it becomes clear that 
theirs is the laughter of loss, and that the sharp light of this great realist’s canvases 
illuminates the bitter loneliness of their crowded lives. The unexpected effect of this 90-
minute theatrical excursion into the painter's world is that one comes away comforted 
by the thought that, yes, this is city life and it has probably always been this way."
The New York Times

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