Actor Chris Noth shares his favorite things to do in the Berkshires.
“It feels good to plant stuff up here,” Chris Noth says. He’s talking about the herb garden outside his house in Great Barrington, but the actor may be speaking metaphorically as well. Since becoming a regular visitor to the Berkshires over the past few years, he’s quickly taken to the lifestyle—from finding favorite restaurants to playing in a weekly softball game in Monterey’s Greene Park.
Noth has been seen since 2009 on the CBS drama “The Good Wife,” on which he plays the suave attorney and politician, Peter Florrick. Before that he was an original cast member on “Law & Order,” but his most indelible role to date may be that of Carrie Bradshaw’s on-again, off-again love interest, Mr. Big, on HBO’s “Sex and the City” and its spin-off films.
The rakish actor has a house in the Los Angeles area, where his wife, actress Tara Lynn Wilson, and their six-year-old boy spend much of the time, and a place in New York for when he’s in the city to work on “The Good Wife.” After renting a house in Great Barrington for the summer a few years ago, he decided it was the perfect spot for him to get away from the city without venturing too far afield.
“I like deep country, but my wife isn’t so crazy about living in the middle of the woods, so it was somewhere in-between,” Noth says, speaking from outside Fuel Coffee Shop, where he starts most in-town days with a cup of coffee. “I think Great Barrington is just enough of a town that you don’t feel you have to go into New York because you can find things like great restaurants here, but you’re still in the country. It’s a part of the country that has great cultural ties to dance and theater and the arts, but still has its foot in the poetry of the hills.”
His enthusiasm is so in synch with how the area markets itself, he could almost be reading from a Berkshire Visitors Bureau brochure. But he has the earnest excitement of a true believer, later emailing a photo of himself with the softball team as well as the lyrics to his ode to the Berkshires, a ditty called “Get Away” that he wrote with Rufus Jones, a friend from town. He’s managed to blend inconspicuously into Berkshires life, although one gossip website did publish a photo of him and Wilson shopping on Railroad Street.
Noth says his house is in a perfect location because he can walk to everything—Robin’s Candy Shop is a favorite stop for his son, Orion—yet he has sweeping views of the hilly countryside. He and his wife make a habit of dining at Castle Street Cafe, and he’s also a fan of the Prairie Whale, where he watched the World Cup this summer. Now that he’s a local homeowner, he’s also a fan of exploring the wares at Carr Hardware on Main Street.
As a teenager, Noth attended the former Barlow School in nearby Amenia, New York, and remembers hitchhiking to the Berkshires back then to visit Great Barrington and Stockbridge. Later in life, he returned to town to star in David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” at the Berkshire Theatre Festival (now Berkshire Theatre Group) in 2005.
His relationship with the region got stronger a few years later, when he started visiting the area regularly to spend time with poet Peter Kane Dufault, who lived in nearby Hillsdale, New York, and taught at the Barlow School. Filmmaker Michael Thomas brought him onboard to co-produce a documentary on Dufault, who died last year, shortly after Noth bought the Great Barrington house he’d been renting.
Noth has found himself spending more and more time in the Berkshires, and even sent his son to nearby Camp Half Moon. “I don’t even know how much longer we’ll last out in California because I love it out here,” he says. “We’re here all summer, and we come in the winter too because I’m teaching my kid to ski—although Butternut can be a little crazy at Christmastime. If I’m working in New York, I’ll run up for a weekend just by myself.”
It’s not surprising to hear he finds time to sample the Berkshire performing arts scene; his wife is a particular fan of Jacob’s Pillow, he says, and he caught and enjoyed “Fool for Love” at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer. He also has many kind words for Berkshire Theatre Group and raves about its production of “A Little Night Music” at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield this season. “It’s probably the most beautiful theater I’ve ever seen,” he says of the Colonial, “and I’ve been in quite a few Broadway theaters. It’s just stunning.” He appeared in a BTG fundraising performance last summer at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge, with a reception at nearby Chesterwood, a place he found enchanting. He is particularly interested in working on a full production with BTG once again.
His wife enjoyed seeing a band at DreamAway Lodge, in the hill town of Becket where Noth first visited during his “American Buffalo” days. He plans to fish on Lake Mansfield and in the Green River.
But part of the allure of Noth’s Berkshire retreat is that the best option sometimes is just to stay at home. He and his neighbors like to gather around a firepit and break out a couple of guitars and bongos. That’s the origin of “Get Away,” which Noth says he’d like to play with Jones over the local radio airwaves. Here’s a bit:
You took the road north one day—
oh, yes, you did
You traveled to a place I knew—up Route 22
It was a long, long time ago
But it lives in a place down in your soul.
The coziness of the Berkshires brings with it the potential for some negative effects, says Noth. “I’m not saying it’s great for my career to be here because I could just stay here and let the time go by. You can look out at the hills and just not want to move. You get mesmerized by these hills.”