Sunday, September 17, 2017

REVIEW: WACKY COMMENTARY ON INSANITY AND TRUTH ROMPS @ STNJ

By Ruth Ross

A fellow theatergoer described British playwright Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw as English farce plus the French Theatre of the Absurd raised to the 10th power. I couldn't agree more. Now onstage at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, this racy farce will have your head spinning with multiple costume changes, mistaken identities, slamming doors—even a near-naked man racing across the stage!

The plot is almost too complex to explain. Suffice it to say that it involves randy psychiatrist Dr. Prentice (Peter Simon Hilton, left), who attempts to seduce secretarial candidate Geraldine Barclay (Allison Laymon, left) during a job interview—an act derailed when his nymphomaniac wife bursts in with a wild tale of having been raped in a closet by one Nicholas Beckett, a hotel bellhop. Promised a job with her husband, he pursues her and sets off myriad complications that are resolved by some startling revelations in the penultimate scene. Adding to the hilarity are the appearance of Dr. Rance, a government psychiatrist sent to inspect the madhouse Prentice directs, and a bumbling policeman, Sergeant Match, hot on the trail of a body part reputed to have been snatched from the corpse of Winston Churchill. That the mayhem occurs in an insane asylum—by people who are supposed to be sane but decidedly are not—only underscores the fragility of truth in the hands of the powerful and its ultimate power to be known, despite how easy it is to twist it.

Considered quite shocking when it was first produced in 1969, What the Butler Saw seems quite tame today. Despite its racy talk, adult subject matter and partial (and in one case almost complete) undress, it poses the question, Who is mad, and proves that “in a madhouse, unusual behavior is the order of the day.”

The combination of farce and Theatre of the Absurd requires a steady, albeit light, directorial touch, and Paul Mullins keeps the action barreling along and the insane ravings of the characters sounding almost natural. Nevertheless, the second act dragged a bit, and I found myself checking my watch from time to time.

The six talented actors, several of them rather new to the company, carry off the insanity with aplomb and the physical comedy with great timing. Peter Simon Hilton is superb as Dr. Prentice; despite his character’s unsavory behavior, we almost feel sorry for his having to deal with his very brittle wife, played with verve by Vanessa Morosco (above, right). She tosses off snarky zingers with a rapidity that defies thought. John Hutton’s Dr. Rance (above, with Hilton and Layman) is more than a little mad; with his prurient interest in buggery and incest, he’s hardly up to the job of supervising Prentice. Clearly a misogynist, Rance jumps to conclusions about Miss Barclay’s mental health and summarily commits her to the asylum without an examination; his power permits him to behave so unprofessionally and get away with it.

As Miss Barclay, a winning Allison Layman struggles mightily to assert her sanity, but it’s a losing battle. Her youthful counterpart, Nicholas Beckett, played by a wide-eyed Robbie Simon, gets to utter racy non sequiturs about rape without blinking an eye. And Jeffrey M. Bender (left) is appropriately dopey as Sergeant Match, confounded by the mad antics of the educated folks in charge of the asylum and intent on completing his investigation into Churchill’s missing organ.

Brittany Vasta has designed a set with the requisite doors perfect for slamming, and several characters, male and female, get to wear Kristin Isola’s costumes reminiscent of the 1960s. Rick Sordelet coordinates the action so the actors avoid collisions as they race around the set.

While incest, buggery, seduction, misogyny and rape can be offensive to modern audiences, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte noted that What the Butler Saw provides “the perfect comedic response to our current world, one in which we find ourselves questioning our sanity or that of others on a daily basis.” Joe Orton presciently depicted the mayhem that can result when those in power act in an insane manner and twist the truth to fit their own ends—a point not lost on us today.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

REVIEW: HONEST, AUTHENTIC “FOSTER MOM” SHINES @ PREMIERE STAGES IN UNION

by Ruth Ross

What does a young woman with no romantic relationship and a strong desire for a child do as she approaches 40 years of age? Undergo artificial insemination with sperm from a donor she’s never met? Adopt? Take in a foster child?

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoorThis is the dilemma facing Leslie in Foster Mom by Chris Cragin-Day and winner of Premiere Stages’ 2017 Play Festival. In an emotionally honest performance, Ariel Woodiwiss’ character (left)  takes us on a poignant journey that threatens to upend her relationship with her recently widowed mother Sarah and a budding one with techie Josh. Add to this blunt, no-nonsense social work Sophie and you end up with a polished, authentic, engrossing production that rounds out a stellar season for the Kean University theatre.

Once she’s made her decision, Leslie finds that not everyone is on board with her choice. Sophie questions the steadiness of her income (Leslie’s a poet and free-lance copywriter) and her commitment to what will be a difficult road ahead. Her flabbergasted mother is taken aback and then anxious about what will happen if the arrangement goes south and the child is removed from her foster care. And Josh, long kept in the dark about Leslie’s plans, is unnerved and dismayed; it’s clearly something he never anticipated.

It is to CImage may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoorragin-Day’s credit that there is no pat happy ending to this dilemma. All the characters behave in totally natural ways as the plot moves inexorably along to what is, at best, a hopeful dénouement. The production’s success is the result of steady direction by Kel Haney that never lets the actors descend into melodrama as they grapple with Leslie’s decision, and the natural, convincing performances of a quartet of gifted actors.

Woodiwiss is superab as Leslie. Her facial expressions—predominantly her habit of chewing her cheek as she mulls over her responses and options—convince us that she’s really thinking, not just reciting dialogue written for her. Her ambiguity is palpable, especially when wrestling with whether to tell Josh about her decision. Their penultimate scene is dynamite as Leslie realizes that she loves a child she’s never met—as much as a natural mother does—and fulfills her mother’s prediction.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoorMuch of the play’s humor comes from the mouth of Sarah, played to perfection by Kate Kearney-Patch (left, withKurt Uy). Anxious to bring her daughter and Josh together, she drolly tries to entice him into her scheme. But that light bantering evaporates when she grapples with Leslie’s unexpected news about fostering and lets down her jokey guard to reveal a secret that brings her and her daughter close. By the final scene, she’s more lighthearted, optimistic and supportive of her daughter.

As Josh, Kurt Uy is charming as he attempts to deflect Sarah’s machinations and believably earnest as he, too, attempts to come to grips with the surprise Leslie springs on him. The honesty of his portrayal meshes with the other actors and makes us love him even more than the playwright’s depiction of his character.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, kitchen and indoorStori Ayers’ Sophie has a much harder time gaining our sympathy. Blunt, officious, her character seems to be placing roadblocks in Leslie’s path during the opening interview. She’s not very encouraging to this young woman about to take a major leap of faith. But Ayers (right, with Woodiwiss) nails the character, even exposing a vulnerability that changes the way we (and Leslie) feel toward her. She may not become immediately warm and fuzzy, but she adds complexity to what could be a two-dimensional character.

The set by Jessica Parks serves many venues, from Leslie’s and Sarah’s apartments to a bar where Josh and Leslie have their first date. Sidney Maresca’s costumes not only delineate character (Leslie’s funky outfits are perfect for a creative type) but they look as though the actors have chosen them. Brant Thomas Murray’s lighting and Emily Auciello’s sound enhance the veracity of the various locations.

Foster Mom tackles an important current problem with candor and integrity, making it personal enough so that we care about what happens to these people and root for them to sort it all out. Chris Cragin-Day’s play is a worthy winner of the 2017 play festival and a great way to cap a successful season.

Foster Mom will be performed at the Zella Fry Theatre in the Vaughn Eames Building on the campus of Kean University, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, through September 24. For information and tickets, call the box office at 9083737.7469 or visit www.premierestagesatkean.edu online.

Friday, September 15, 2017

THIS WEEK @ SOPAC

WHERE: South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC),  1 SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ, 07079.
TICKETS: To purchase tickets, contact SOPAC at (973) 313-2787 or visit www.SOPACnow.org.

Photo of Tom Rush and Livingston Taylor

Sept 16: Tom Rush & Livingston Taylor

Two Folk legends that made musical history through the decades come to the SOPAC stage in a double bill celebrating the uplifting music that gives joy and inspiration to people throughout the world. South Orange Performing Arts Center, One SOPAC Way, South Orange. 8PM Tickets: $35-$55. (973) 313-2787. www.SOPACnow.org

Sept 17: American Theater Group

Page Count
by Kerr Lockhart

A reading in the SOPAC Loft.

A screen writing team in 1930s Hollywood grapple with issues of life and death as they struggle to churn out screenplay after screenplay.

South Orange Performing Arts Center, One SOPAC Way, South Orange NJ 07079. Tickets: $10 in advance-$15 at the door. (973)-313-2787. www.SOPACnow.org

Film Club

Sept 24: La Cinémathèque: Women Film Directors
Membership: $60 (four screenings and discussions)

La Cinémathèque Film Club presents a brand new series of film screenings this fall. “Women Film Directors” will be a chronology of pictures directed by women from around the world, produced from 1962 to the present day. The series will explore the social, economic and political aspects of each director’s home country and the cinematic language of the female filmmaker. After each screening, there will be a discussion about the different messages and viewpoints of these great directors, their impact on the world of cinema and their impact on the lives of women from various cultures. Film Club memberships are $60 and available for sale through the second screening, Post-show discussions build upon prior events.

  • SEP 24 |  Cleo De 5 A 7 (1962)
    directed by Agnes Varda, France
  • OCT 15  |  Seven Beauties (1975)
    directed by Lina Wertmuller, Italy
  • NOV 12  |  Europa-Europa (1990)
    directed by Agnes Holland, Poland
  • DEC 17  | Take My Eyes (2003)
    directed by Iciar Bollain, Spain

Matthew Sweet

Sept 24: Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American Power Pop revival, when his album Girlfriend became a hit with its title track reaching the Top Five on the Modern Rock charts. South Orange Performing Arts Center, One SOPAC Way, South Orange NJ 07079. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $30-$40. (973)-313-2787. www.SOPACnow.org

“INTO THE WOODS” @ RHINO THEATRE THIS WEEKEND ONLY

The fairy tales you know and love get turned upside down!

Join our outstanding youth performers this weekend only for

Into the Woods

WHEN: September 15-17, Friday & Saturday 7 PM: Saturday & Sunday 12 PM
WHERE:
Rhino Theatre, 247 Wanaque Ave., Pompton Lakes
TICKETS: $25 adults & seniors; $20 children

www.RhinoTheatre.com for tickets and information

Update: Steve Forbert Concert is canceled.

We just received this message from Steve Forbert's manager:

"Due to a medical issue, Steve Forbert needs to reschedule his Saturday, 9/16/17 appearance at The Roxbury PAC. New date is pending. "

We are finding a date to reschedule the event. If you have purchased tickets, they will be honored at the rescheduled date or they can be fully refunded. Sorry for this inconvenience.

14th ANNUAL OSPAC JAZZ & BREW FESTIVAL THIS SATURDAY IN WEST ORANGE

For tickets & info:

www.njai.org



FREE OPEN HOUSE @ McCARTER THEATRE CENTER THIS MONDAY

WHERE: Matthews Theatre Main Lobby, 91 University Place, Princeton
WHEN: Monday, September 18, 7 – 8:30pm
ADMISSION:
FREE EVENT!
mccarter.org

609.258.2787

As part of its commitment to engaging and making the arts accessible to all people, McCarter Theatre Center is proud to participate in Princeton Welcoming Week.

  • We invite our neighbors of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures to come to meet members of the McCarter staff and multilingual community hosting partners from The Berlitz Princeton Language Center and tour our facilities.
  • We’ll share information about McCarter’s theatrical offerings for 2017-2018, as well as about our exciting and eclectic music, dance, and special event programming, which features artists of national and international renown.
  • We’ll also provide tips on how to access our performances, educational programs, and volunteer opportunities.
  • A skilled teaching artist from our After School program will engage school-age students in theatrical play and offer a fun, interactive experience—families with children are especially encouraged to attend!
  • Refreshments, hand crafted by The Gingered Peach, will be served.

All are welcome, reservations are not required!

McCarter Theatre Center values diversity and inclusivity in the arts, the workplace, and our neighboring communities.

McCarter Theatre Center is proud to partner with Berlitz Princeton Language Center and The Gingered Peach for this community event.

STAGED READING @ SOPAC THIS SUNDAY

SOPAC South Orange Performing Arts CenterAmerican Theater Group

Join American Theater Group in the SOPAC Loft for an intimate staged reading followed by a question-answer session with the creative team.

American Theater Group, a professional member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, is SOPAC’s theatre company in residence and is headed by Producing Artistic Director James Vagias.

PAGE COUNT
by Kerr Lockhart
Featuring Jim Brochu, David Josefsberg


WHEN: SUN, SEP 17, at 7PM 
WHERE: SOPAC Loft, 1 SOPAC Way (behind the train station), South Orange
Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door


A screen writing team in 1930’s Hollywood grapple with issues of life and death as they stuggle with terrible script assignments and the need to churn out screenplay after screenplay.

WEST ORANGE HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH ART EXHIBITION OPENS THIS SATURDAY

WOACHispanic Opening.2017 copy

West Orange Hispanic Heritage Month Art Exhibit

Welcome to the Arts! ¡Bienvenidos a las Artes!

WHEN: Opening Reception: Sunday, September 17, 1-4pm
WHERE:
West Orange Arts Center, 551 Valley Road, and West Orange Public Library, 46 Mount Pleasant Avenue, West Orange
ADMISSION: free and open to the public

In partnership the West Orange Arts Council, West Orange Public Library and the West Orange Hispanic Foundation open a collaborative exhibit at the West Orange Arts Center and in the West Orange Public Library.

The concept for this show, which features over two dozen artists and over 50 works of art, was created by West Orange Arts Council’s Exhibit Chair Lisa Suss and Frank Niccoletti, who is the West Orange Arts Council’s Arts Student Coordinator. The show aims to bring the entire community together to celebrate the diversity and impact of Hispanics and Latinos in the arts. The exhibit runs through October 15, 2017.

Additional Hispanic Heritage events are planned throughout the month. Please visit: www.westorangehispanicfoundation.orgwww.woarts.org and www.wopl.org

For more information about the West Orange Arts Council, please visit: www.woarts.org/join-us  Members do not have to be a professional artist to be involved in the West Orange Arts Council, just a belief in the healing powers of art and that the arts are important to our community and society.

FREE: CENTRAL JERSEY JAZZ FESTIVAL THIS WEEKEND

5TH ANNUAL

CENTRAL JERSEY JAZZ FESTIVAL 

SEPTEMBER 15-17

FREE

Rain or shine!

www.centraljerseyjazzfestival.com


REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR MEMBERSHIP CARD FOR ENTRY

VIP Seating Area

Central Jersey Jazz Festival Day in New Brunswick!!


Make a tax-deductible annual contribution of at least $60 (that's only than $5/month) to the New Brunswick Jazz Project via PayPal, mail a check to NBJP, 8 Hiram Sq. New Brunswick, NJ 08901 or see Jimmy, Virginia or Mike at any NBJP event!

RED CARPET GALA & INVITATION TO JOIN THE RHINO THEATRE CLUB

Celebrate the arts with us at this incredible annual event!

Consider purchasing a support package to join the RHINO THEATRE CLUB:

"Being a club member and supporting the Annual Gala gives us, as a family, the opportunity to invest in our community, the performing arts and a future generation of artists all at one time. The benefits to us are that we know we are helping a small yet very meaningful business to survive and continue to enrich the lives of others (and also we get some discounts on their amazing, Broadway-caliber shows throughout the year)! Thank you to everyone at the Rhino for all that you do. Bravo!"Jane H

NEW, ORIGINAL DRAMA OPENS THIS WEEKEND IN EDISON

Image result for The Curious Case of a Casual TerroristThe Curious Case of a Casual Terrorist

A new, original drama
Written and Directed by Sudipta Bhawmik

WHEN: September 15, 2017, at 8 PM; September 9, 16, 23, 2017, at 8 PM; September 10, 17, 24, 2017, at a special time - 3 PM 
WHERE
Edison Valley Playhouse, 2196 Oak Tree Rd., Edison
TICKETS: Adults $15, Students/Seniors/Military $12
To reserve tickets for pickup and payment on the night of the show, call the box office at 908-755-4654 and leave a message with your name, date of the show you wish to attend, the number of tickets needed, and your phone number. Pay for your tickets when you arrive to pick them up on the night of the show. You will receive a callback only if there is a problem with your reservation.
BUY TICKETS NOW

The play tells the intriguing story of Basant Adnani, a sixty-year-old Indian businessman, who was arrested by US law enforcement on terrorism charges. Basant was accused of supplying shoulder-launched surface to air missiles to a terrorist organization that wanted to shoot down passenger jetliners on American soil. However, Basant did not supply any real weapon to any real terrorist. Still the court found him guilty and Basant was imprisoned for life. But why? Was Basant really a terrorist, or just a bumbling old salesman desperately trying to make a sale? Come, watch the show, and be the judge.

(This play is a fictional dramatization inspired by a true story and real events. The play contains fictionalized scenes, fictional characters and dialogue, and time compression. The views and opinions expressed in the play are those of the characters only and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions held by individuals on which those characters are based.)

Cast
Soumendu Bhattacharya as Basant Adnani
Sumend Wankhade as Suresh Adnani
Arthur Gregory Pugh as Don
Amitav Chowdhury as Rohan Siddique
James Houston as James and Boris
Apurva Bhalerao as Ayesha Siddique
Goutam Ghosh as Qureshi
Arpana Bhattacharya as Pallavi Adnani

Check out the photos and videos about the show on our Facebook group page