7 Playwrights Paint Pictures with Words


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Beyond Broadway

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Covering the Region’s Top Theater Companies — from Ridgefield to Armonk to Elmsford to Pleasantville to Ossining to Philipstown to Stony Point to New Paltz

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Ossining Arts Council (OAC) + Westchester Collaborative Theatre (WCT)

Authored by Peter Andrews, Schuyler Bishop, Elaine Hartel, Carol Mark, Tara Meddaugh, Evelyn Mertens, Pat O’Neill

Featuring Rob Ansbro, Schuyler Bishop, Torian Brackett, Enid Breis, Dante DeLeo, Lorraine Federico, Joanna Fernandez, Amy Lowenthal, Michael Meth, Sasha Murray, Ava Purcel, Roberta Robinson,

Directed by Christopher Arena

March 20 + 27 at 8 p.m.

VIRTUAL (via YouTube)

$25 General; $20 Students + Seniors, OAC + WCT Members

Dedicated to the memory of Joe Albert Lima, longtime WCT playwright/director/actor, who passed away in 2020. Mr. Lima was scheduled to direct the show in 2020.

If there’s anybody more antsy than theater-goers about the return of live, in-person performances, it’s theater-makers.

That’s a post-pandemic stage we’re not quite at, but we can take hope and heart that it’s getting so close now, we almost can feel “the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd,” to invoke a memorable Broadway musical title from singular talent Anthony Newley.     

To paraphrase a signature song co-written by Mr. Newley for that show, until the proverbial curtain again rises to reveal actors in the flesh, “Who can we turn to?” 

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College Student Dalia Zahger Is Helping to Lead the Fight Against Anti-semitism on Campus

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By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk

Dalia Zahger is the featured speaker Sunday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m., at Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties, in Ridgefield, Conn. Scroll to the end of this article for details on how to attend. 

A very strong case can be made that Anti-semitism is not only about prejudice towards a particular ethnic group — those of Jewish extraction.

A very strong case can be made that Anti-semitism is in fact emblematic of what quickly can turn into the hatred of peoples of all stripes. If hatred of one is inflamed, history shows it soon spreads like wildfire into hatred of many–and of any. No one is immune. No one is protected. No one is safe.

Dalia Zahger is an ardent advocate of making such a case. She is the co-founder of the Columbia University chapter of “Students Supporting Israel.” Its mission is to “promote a better understanding of Israel throughout America, with a right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state, within secure borders. We are changing the anti-Israel climate many students encounter on campus.”

Rare Area Appearance
On Sunday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m., at Congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield, Conn., Ms. Zahger will be making a rare appearance in this area to discuss the group’s hard-won efforts pushing back against Anti-semitism that has found a virulent voice among college students. 

She considers what’s happening in academe an especially insidious form of Anti-semitism, because it hides behind the political position of “blaming the only Jewish state for all the wrongdoings in the world.

“One may criticize Israel as they wish,” she says, “but it is when you criticize only Israel, and hold the only Jewish state to a higher standard than all the rest, that the purpose is clear. This is evident today across all America and definitely on college campuses.’

Dalia Zahger interviews renowned civil liberties lawyer, Harvard Law School professor and vocal pro-Israel supporter Alan Dershowitz.

Professors Who Preach and Teach Hate
Ms. Zahger alleges that “Columbia, like Berkeley and many others, is a hotbed for professors who preach hate.”  

She offers examples… 

“One professor posted on his public Facebook page that behind every horrible thing in the world, if you wait a few minutes, Israel’s ugly name will come up.”

“Another professor chose to teach about the Israel-Palestinian conflict with a mandatory reading of a book called The Invention of the Jews, claiming Jews are invented people with no connection to their historical homeland.” 

Demonization and Bullying on Campus
The Columbia University senior, who is majoring in political science, and studying to practice international law, adds, “That’s only the beginning. I can share stories about harassment, demonization, and bullying of pro-Israel students who choose to stand up for our indigenous rights.”

She makes no bones about her sentiments toward the first-term congresswoman from Minnesota whose remarks harshly critical of Israel have made international headlines: “Ilhan Omar represents the modern face of Anti-semitism,” says Ms. Zahger, “just like those I face on campus. 

“By casually Tweeting Anti-semitic statements about Jewish money controlling the U.S. government, she is reviving the oldest prejudices by enhancing such statements with public support of the [Palestinian-led] BDS Movement [Boycott Divestment Sanctions], which was outlawed by about 24 states because it was found Anti-semitic.”

Dalia Zahger helped found the Columbia University chapter of “Students Supporting Israel,” which has made inroads fighting the spread of Anti-semitism on college campuses across America.

Commander of Israeli Field Intelligence
Dalia Zahger grew up in Israel. “In 8th grade,” she says wryly, though without hyperbole, “I learned how to live under missiles.” At 18, she joined the Israeli Defense Forces, rising to the rank of commander in field intelligence. At 21, she traveled to Central America, and “learned even there I need to stand up for my country.” 

She exhorts her audiences to “not turn a blind eye believing this does not concern you. Hate is hate… and we must fight it and act against it in all its shapes and forms. The consequences can be unimaginably severe for everyone in America. History has shown us this time and again.” 

To help make her point, Dalia Zahger quotes renowned religious leader Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in remarks he made to England’s House of Lords: “We forget how small beginnings lead to truly terrible endings. Once hate goes unchecked, the road to tragedy is short.”

If anything, the challenges and prejudice faced by Dalia Zahger and her compatriots have only served to steel her resolve and fire up her fierce pride for the rich heritage of her country: “I feel very lucky,” she says, “to be from Israel.” 

To make a reservation for the  Sept. 15 event featuring Dalia Zahger, contact AdultProgramming@OurShirShalom.org. A donation of $10 is requested at the door. Israeli and Middle Eastern small bites will be served. Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties, 46 Peaceable Street, Ridgefield, Conn. 06877. 

Click here

This video doesn’t exist
to watch 5-minute video of Dalia Zahger speaking to the Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition of the U.S. House of Representatives. (You can expand video to fill screen.)

Formally called The Coalition for Middle Eastern Women’s Rights, its website says that it “represents a union of thousands of women of Middle Eastern descent in the U.S. who are actively working to promote gender equality throughout the world.”

The Coalition endorsed Donald Trump for president and, along with Ms. Zahger, has called for the resignation of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar is a writer, publicist, actor, and civic volunteer.

He runs regional marketing agency APAR/PR, a sole proprietorship that champions small businesses and contributes pro bono work to a select portfolio of not-for-profit organizations.

As a freelance ghostwriter for Advantage/ForbesBooks, his current title is “Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer,” by Bob Fisch (“I Teach Them Business, They Teach Me Life”). It is now available at Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other online bookstores.

Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media.

Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or (914) 275-6887 (voice/text).

Feasting on Family in Osage County


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When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Axial Theatre Presents
by Tracy Letts
With Mickey Pantano*, D. Scott Faubel, Elizabeth D’Ottavio, Michel E. Boyle, Jr., Julie Griffin, Jeffrey Schlotman, Levi Joseph Green, Maria Oppedisano, Siobhan McKinley, Anthony Barresi, Jr., Dan Forman, Stella DeBeech, Alexandra Theodoroupoulos  (*Appears with permission of Actors’ Equity Association)
Directed by Catherine Banks

Lighting Design, Brian Pacelli
Sound Design, Jim Simonson
Production Manager, Mary Cate Mangum
Production Stage Manager, Sabrina Fuchs 

Stephen Palgon, Producer
Original Music, Jim Simonson

Through May 19, 2019
Axial Theater at St. John’s Episcopal Church
8 Sunnyside Avenue
Pleasantville, New York 10570

$27.50 General; $22.50 Students + Seniors
Order Online
Order by Phone: 800-838-3006
Information: Axial Theatre


Consider these tasty ingredients for a delectable, prize-winning stage play, part tragedy, part comedy, all uproarious: One mother, medicated. One father, missing. Three sisters, distraught. Sprinkle in a motley mix of in-laws and outcasts. For added measure, it’s August, and the lady of the century-old house, wherein they all noisily bump into — and bellow at — each other, has no use for air-conditioning (or for heiresses).

Mickey, Julie, Liz, Michael

As husband Bill (Michael E. Boyle, Jr.) looks on, Barbara (Elizabeth D’Ottavio) lays down the law with her mother Violet (Mickey Pantano), to the shock of Violet’s sister Mattie Fay (Julie Griffin).

Meet the Westons of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, 60 miles northwest of Tulsa, county of Osage. They’re on spectacular display through May 19, in a rousing production of Tracy Letts’s multi-award-winning stage play August: Osage County, at Axial Theatre in Pleasantville.

Stir ‘em up and watch the blood boil over. Blaming and shaming, mocking and shocking one other. A lifespan of open wounds festering; feasting on each other’s weaknesses. Arguing about the rules of arguing. Sure, every now and again, there’s a stray compliment that manages to slip out, but it’s usually a mere superficiality, skimming the thin ice that covers deep-seated resentments.

It’s a fun-house mirror of Americana arcana, reminding us that the reason blood is thicker than water is because it’s larded with toxic sentiment, born of relationships that were thrust upon us by birth or invited in by marriage. More than one of those relationships here gets pretty funky before the curtain falls, by which point the household has fallen apart.

Jeff, Julie, Liz, Mickey 2

Charlie Aiken (Jeffrey Schlotman) and Violet’s sister Mattie Fae Aiken (Julie Griffin) have words with each other in front of Violet Weston (Mickey Pantano) and her daughter Barbara Fordham (Elizabeth D’Ottavio).

Not all families can claim the abundance of volatile drama that distinguishes the Westons. Thank goodness a writer as skilled as Tracy Letts gave birth to this cuckoo’s nest of vipers and victims. It makes for one heck of a roller-coaster ride. Not surprisingly, he has been amply rewarded for his efforts with every coveted theater prize handed to him for this exquisitely crafted Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play.

His sharp-toothed dialogue is swift and savage, most notably as voiced by mouthy matriarch Violet Weston, brought to vivid life on the Axial stage, with a riveting performance by the charismatic Mickey Pantano (of Manhattan). She pulls off the neat theatrical trick of making Violet’s behavior so vile it’s sublime.

As the play hurtles forward, the decidedly non-shrinking Violet meets her white-hot match in eldest daughter Barbara, portrayed potently by Elizabeth D’Ottavio (Old Greenwich). She effectively manages the tension within herself that pits resolve against exasperation, a dueling duality recognizable to many an adult child-turned-caregiver. Vi and Barbara become the fast-pumping heart of the piece, though their fraught and fragile relationship feels more like congestive heart failure.

Where in all this fits Violet’s husband, Mr. Weston? That would be Beverly, a lapsed poet of some renown. He lives in the bottle, as Mrs. Weston, coping with mouth cancer, lives in the pillbox.

Anthony and Stella

Karen Weston’s fiance Steve Heidebrecht (Anthony Barresi, Jr.) takes a special interest in Barbara and Bill Weston’s daughter Jean (Stella DeBeech).

The first time we see Beverly is the last time we see him—in the opening scene. Following an elegiac monologue, spiked with martini-dry humor and masterfully delivered with economy and authenticity by D. Scott Faubel (White Plains), Beverly disappears with dispatch. The rest of the play posits the Westons’ extended family in search of Beverly, but that’s the script’s MacGuffin, a favorite term of famed filmmaker Alfred Hitchock’s. It connotes a plot device that has little to do with the plot’s subtext.

Tracy Letts’s real preoccupation is, in part, with the failings of human connection and communication. His fictional people, like a great many of us real-life folks, talk and talk, but don’t hear each other very well. They talk at or past one another. They are busy licking their wounds, waiting anxiously for the next chance to defend and retaliate, like domestic war games.

A perhaps more obvious theme here is the ties that bind parents to children and vice versa. Mr. Letts pokes around the idea of how parents and children stay tenuously   connected while not wanting to be imprisoned by past interdependence.

For both generations, it’s a losing battle, in more ways than one. In another time, it was common for children to stick around wherever it was they grew up, staying near to parents. As advances in transportation made America easier to traverse, the offspring more frequently flew further from the nest, creating both physical and emotional distance from parents.

Alexandra and Scott

The first time we see Beverly Weston (D. Scott Faubel), in the opening scene, is the last time we see him, as he waxes philosophic about his life to newly-hired housekeeper Johnna Monevata (Alexandra Theodoropoulos).

Mr. Letts employs a starkly literal way to underscore that evolution of filial estrangement: He has the Westons’ housekeeper, a native American young woman named Johnna Monevata (elegantly played by Alexandra Theodoropoulos, Cold Spring), explain that Cheyenne tradition is for the umbilical cord of newborns to be dried and sewn into a pouch worn for the rest of their life.

“If we lose it,” says Johnna, “our souls belong nowhere and after we die our souls will walk the Earth looking for where we belong.” Inherent in the American tragedy, so suggests Mr. Letts, is that we have forsaken such wisdom and spiritual connectedness that is an article of faith in the soulful native American culture that we not only supplanted but wantonly demonized.

Along with that, the author suggests, we have squandered the sacred human currency of mutual respect, decency and kindness.

Of course, excellent material is essential to a rewarding theater experience, but the players must be up to the task. So must the person piloting the production, the director.  

Levi and Jeff

Violet’s brother-in-law Charlie Aiken (Jeffrey Schlotman) assures son Little Charles (Levi Joseph Green) that everything will work out.

As the play’s only still-together married couple, Mattie Fae Aiken, Violet’s sister, and Charlie, seasoned actors Julie Griffin (Ossining) and Jeffrey Schlotman (Pleasantville) turn in rip-roaring portrayals of unabashed “Plains” folks.

Levi Joseph Green (Bronx), as their son “Little Charles,” and Maria Oppedisano (Harrison), as middle sister Ivy Weston, who want to be married, prove achingly vulnerable as lost souls who happily find a soulmate in each other.

Liz and Siobhan 2

Youngest Weston daughter Karen (Siobhan McKinley, r) dishes on older sister Barbara (Elizabeth D’Ottavio) as they prepare for mother Violet to feast on the family.

As youngest sister Karen Weston, who lives in sunny Florida, Siobhan McKinley (Ridgefield) carries off most convincingly an innocence and lightness that offsets the decidedly darker deliberations of her unsunny siblings.

Michael E. Boyle, Jr. (Ossining), as Barbara’s soon-to-be-ex Bill, and Anthony Barresi, Jr. (Peekskill), as Steve Heidebrecht, the naughty fiancée of Karen Weston, conjure a fellowship of free spirits whose devil-may-care posturing befits their helplessly horny impulses.

As helpful Sheriff Deon Gilbeau, who had courted Barbara in high school, Dan Forman (Yorktown Heights) projects a palpable discomfort in having to be the bearer of sad tidings. The sheriff’s humble reticence helps lower the temperature, albeit briefly, of an otherwise over-heated pressure cooker.

Liz and Stella

Barbara Fordham (Elizabeth D’Ottavio) has a heart-to-heart with 14-year-old daughter Jean (Stella DeBeech).

Special mention goes to Stella DeBeech, who plays Jean Fordham, precocious daughter of Barbara and Bill. Stella, a 15-year-old freshman at Ridgefield High School, studies with Cat Banks in Howard Meyer’s Acting Program, and is making her stage debut in the play. I hope she keeps at it, because she’s a natural who does impressive work here.

The three-act play’s three hours whiz by. Directed with a firm grasp and theatrical smarts by Axial co-artistic director and stage veteran Catherine “Cat” Banks (Ossining), the pace stays reliably on track, moving mostly at breakneck speed.

Two set pieces indicative of her flair are the rambunctious dinner scene, where the audience intimately overlooks the outsize dining room table of nine people eating a real repast, as Violet ravenously feasts on her prey; and a scene where most of the actors are on stage at once, carrying on three or four simultaneous conversations in a cacophony of crosstalk. For a director, it’s the proverbial challenge of herding cats, and, true to her name, Cat makes it all work purr-fectly.

So, save the date and location, May: Westchester County, for August: Osage County

[NOTE: The author of this article is a member of the board of Axial Theatre, who also regularly reviews local theater in his Bruce The Blog Beyond Broadway column.]

Dan, Mickey, Michael

Sheriff Deon Gilbeau (Dan Forman, l) and son-in-law Bill Fordham (Michael Boyle, Jr.) are bemused by one of Violet Weston’s incoherent, drug-induced retreats from reality.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

A Teachable Moment — on Steroids


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45 Minutes from Broadway

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GoJo Clan Productions Presents
by David Mamet
With Duane Rutter, Julia Boyes
Directed by Robin Anne Joseph
Julia LaVerde, Production Stage Manager
Duane Rutter, Technical Director/Lighting & Sound Design
Michael Serpe, Fight Choreographer

Through March 17, 2019
Westchester Collaborative Theater
23 Water Street
Ossining, New York 10562

Order Tickets Online
$25 General; $20 Students + Seniors

As I was watching this barn burner of a stage drama, I found myself furiously scribbling in my notepad the choice morsels of dialogue that spring from the fertile and probing mind of Pulitzer-winning playwright David Mamet, best known for his trenchant take-down of hucksterism, Glengarry Glen Ross, which gave us the immortal line, “Coffee is for closers only.”

Julia Boyes is Carol, a college student, and Duane Rutter is John, her professor up for tenure. Photos by Robin Anne Joseph

In Oleanna, Mr. Mamet’s target is not disingenuous salespeople, but rather what he deems an equally offensive stain upon our social order: elitist educators and the system that justifies their abuse of power wielded over students. 

That’s the fulcrum of his premise. On either end is a college professor, John, up for tenure, and a student, Carol, with low self-esteem, who summons the resolve to not only challenge her teacher but to jeapordize his career.

[It is somewhat uncanny that this Grade A production opened mere days before news broke of the college admissions scandal, which is nothing if not a grotesque symptom of how the powerful in an elite class can oppress the powerless in an underclass.]


Things start to go south when Carol takes exception to how John comports himself during a meeting. They see the situation from opposing points of view. It’s up to each audience member to decide who to side with. Couples who see the play rarely agree on whose position each supports.

Oleanna‘s battle royale pits institutionalized, patriarchal power against the highly subjective perception of what words mean. Hanging in the balance are what appear to be the author’s ambivalent musings on the sexual subtext of how we communicate with each other, both verbally and non-verbally.

When the professor drops phrases such as “white man’s burden” and “copulating” during  a private meeting with his female student, is he being racist or sexist? To her, yes! To him, no! And so it goes, until the explosive climax, when their irreconcilable values devolve into the very human failing of primal flailing.

This intimate, powerful production proves that you don’t need big theaters to house big performances, which is what Duane Rutter and Julia Boyes deliver with impressive intensity and tightly focused theatricality. To not be riveted by their work throughout is to not be awake throughout.

The two talented actors could not be in better hands than those of Robin Anne Joseph, one of the finest theater directors in this region. Her keen insight into human behavior poignantly authenticates any production under her watch.

[NOTE: The author of this review is a paid marketing consultant for local businesses, including GoJo Clan Productions, who also regularly reviews local theater.]

Oleanna ArtsWestchester screen shot 2018-12-27 at 9.17.49 PM 300dpi


Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

Relationships Take Center Stage, One Act at a Time


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45 Minutes from Broadway

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Covering the Region’s Leading Stages — from Ridgefield to Armonk to Elmsford to Pleasantville to Ossining to Philipstown to Stony Point to New Paltz

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Ridgefield Theater Barn Presents
by C.J. Ehrlich, Ed Friedman, Pat Lennon, Ellie Martino, Ginny Reynolds, Bob Zaslow 
With Kristen Aug, Chris Cenatiempo, Maya Jennings Daley, Lori Franzese, Elayne Gordon, Larry Greeley, Timothy Huber, Valerie Huegel, Daschel Knuff, Cathy Malloy, Kristi McKeever, Taffy Miller, Christine Mitchell-Robinson, C.J. Morsey, Matt Pagliaro, Eli Rose, Craig David Rosen, Stephen Ross, Chhanda Som, Emily Volpintesta, Kylie Wolff 
Directed by Shawn Tyler Allen, Brian DeToma, David Fritsch, Nick Kaye, Nancy Ponturo, Erik Tonner, Alexis Vournazos,
Paulette Layton, Production Manager
Linda Seay, Stage Manager
Helen Hedemann, Backstage Manager
Mark Hankla, Lighting Manager
Carol Mark, Sound Coordinator
Bob Ottulich, Light Board Operator
Marie Ottulich, Sound Board Operator

120 minutes, not including 15-minute intermission
Through March 30, 2019
Ridgefield Theater Barn
37 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877

Order Tickets Online
$35 General; $28 Students + Seniors + Veterans

Short plays – typically running no longer than 15-20 minutes — are an increasingly popular format for local stages. Audiences favor them too. That was evident by the full house and enthusiastic reaction on display when I caught the eight entertaining pieces that form Ridgefield Theater Barn’s An Evening of One Act Plays. (This warm and welcoming venue has comfortable cabaret seating, so feel free to bring along your own eats and drinks.)

Part of the appeal of one-act productions is the variety of subject matter that fills the stage in a rapid-fire, two-hour span.

Ridgefield One Acts-Miss Match

Chris Cenatiempo portrays a cross-section of Millennials who try to win the favor of Emily Volpintesta (as Eliza) in “blackout” sketches staged in between the seven one-acts. All photos by Paulette Layton

In this well-paced production, we witness the following…

  • a lonely suburban mom looking for love in the wrong places
  • a young man stumbling through the confessional as he stumbles through pubescence
  • a hapless single guy with a lot of questions about love and marriage
  • a young couple for whom love is poignantly color blind
  • three sisters in a museum for whom art is much more than paintings on a wall
  • a second-rate screenwriter concocting a slapdash scheme to land a second-rate actress for his next script, to the chagrin of his wife
  • middle-age female lovers who have distinctly different recollections of how they met, which are re-enacted by younger versions of themselves, to hilarious effect
Ridgefield One Acts-How We Met

Valerie Huegel (Marie) and Taffy Miller (Tess) compare notes in How We Met, one of the evening’s standout pieces, with their younger selves portrayed to hilarious effect by Maya Jennings Daley (Young Marie) and Chhanda Som (Young Tess). Written by Ellie Martino and directed by David Fritsch.

There’s a lot to take in and enjoy, by turns refreshing, illuminating, diverting, and just plain funny. What distinguishes this particular assemblage of otherwise unrelated playlets is a connective tissue in the form of blackout sketches, collectively titled Miss Match/Mismatch.

They are eight interstitial pieces sandwiched before and after each of the one-acts, featuring the same two actors: Emily Volpintesta and Chris Cenatiempo. He nimbly portrays a cross-section of Millennial types, all of whom are romancing her. It is a smart device, well-conceived and authored by Paulette Layton, that pulls the evening together nicely while providing the equivalent of a fine meal’s intermezzo that serves to cleanse the palate before the next course arrives.

Ridgefield One Acts-Bless Me Father

Larry Greeley is Father David Coughlin Power and Daschel Knuff is Brendan Larkin in Bless Me Father by Pat Lennon, directed by Brian DeToma, about a young man stumbling through pubescence and the confessional.

Song segues also are used to good effect during the evening’s quick set changes. It all adds up to a top-notch production that shows off local writing and directing talent, and mixes the seasoned stage presence of veteran actors with the apprenticeship of young actors, who are to be encouraged for their hard work and worthy efforts.


In Waiting for Hugot, by C.J. Ehrlich, directed by Shawn Tyler Allen, Lori Franzese (Lizzie) has her hands full dealing with delusional screenwriter-husband Timothy Huber (Clark).

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

Elvira Returns in Noel Coward’s Comedy Classic


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45 Minutes from Broadway

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M&M Performing Arts Company Presents
by Noel Coward
With Kathy Files DiBiasi, Kate Gleeson, Kelly Kirby, Kur Lauer, Elizabeth Mialaret, Melinda O’Brien, Larry Reina
Directed by Michael Muldoon
Emmy Schwartz and Nan Weiss, Stage Managers
100 minutes, performed without intermission

Through March 31, 2019
Lyndhurst Mansion
635 South Broadway
Tarrytown, New York 10591

Order Tickets Online
$40 General; $35 Students + Seniors

Watch Bruce The Blog TV Interview with
Blithe Spirit Director Michael Muldoon

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This timeless farce by the inimitable writer, actor and bon vivant Noel Coward has a ghost or two gliding about, wreaking havoc – and lots of silly fun.

But there are more than 40 “ghosts” surrounding the stage as well. That’s because the audience is seated along three walls of the stately Grand Picture Gallery of the national historic landmark Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown. Much of the action takes place within this encircled area, placing the audience so intimately close that when an actor is pouring a martini, a spectator sitting there is within arm’s reach of the libations.

Novelist Charles Condomine (Larry Reina) is caught between his current spouse, Ruth (Kelly Kirby, left), and his ghostly wife Elvira (Melinda O’Brien). Photos courtesy M&M Performing Arts Company

The setting is perfect for the premise. As research for his next book, novelist Charles Condomine has summoned a medium, Madame Arcati, to conduct a séance in his English country house. But he didn’t count on the Madame reeling in the ghost of his late wife, Elvira, who is having a high time of it, blithely flitting about as she torments Charles’s  flustered second wife, Ruth, who can neither see nor hear Elvira, as Charles is able to. That creates funny bits of comic business, when Charles is arguing with Elvira, but Ruth assumes she’s being insulted.

Reina Reigns

As eccentric and urbane Charles, forced to frantically play referee between his warring wives, Larry Reina reigns supreme in a canny performance brimming with coiled energy and panache. Keeping up with him as haughty and exasperated Ruth is the stately and polished Kelly Kirby. Melinda O’Brien is perfectly ethereal and coquettish as Elvira, floating about the room, above it all in her flowing, full-length chemise.

The principals are strongly supported by Kate Gleeson as exuberant Madame Arcati and by Kurt Lauer and Elizabeth Mialaret as the Condomines’ friends.

Bon Mots Savored Like Bonbons

Full of delicious bon mots that the actors savor like bonbons — mots – such as “I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me” — Noel Coward’s sophisticated satire is handled with flair to spare, a tribute to veteran director Michael Muldoon, who milks the shenanigans to full effect. (For a short video interview with Mr. Muldoon, https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbruceapar%2Fvideos%2F10216749983075669%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Click Here.)

A co-production of M&M Performing Arts Company and Red Monkey Theater Group, Blithe Spirit is playing in repertory with Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull on weekends through March 31. Ticket information: MMPACI.com.

Blithe Spirit runs through March 31 at Lyndhurst Mansion, in repertory with Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull. (top, from left) Kathy Files DiBiasi (Edith), Kate Gleeson (Madame Arcati), Kurt Lauer (Dr. George Bradman), Elizabeth Mialaret (Violet Bradman); (below, from left) Kelly Kirby (Ruth Condomine), Melinda O’Brien (Elvira), Larry Reina (Charles Condomine)

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

In ‘Senescence,’ Small-town Prophet Takes on Big-time Profits


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Axial Theatre Presents
by Howard Meyer
With Eric Cotti, Michael Kingsbaker, Ryan Mallon, Claire McClain
Directed by James Fauvell
Axial Artistic Directors Catherine Banks, Linda Giuliano
Axial Managing Director Betsy Klampert
Weekends through November 18, 2018
St. John’s Episcopal Church
8 Sunnyside Avenue
Pleasantville, New York 10570

Order Tickets Online
$27.50 General; $22.50 Students + Seniors

Playwright Howard Meyer packs a lot of meaty food for thought into his new play, Senescence, which is having its premiere performances at Axial Theatre in Pleasantville, where it runs through Sunday, Nov. 18. It is the 20th anniversary production of Axial Theatre, which was founded by Mr. Meyer, who also operates Howard Meyer’s Acting Program under the same roof.

As always in a Meyer piece, there’s a lot going on in his curious and socially-conscious mind, and it’s all there on stage: In the fraught scenario that has universal import, in the uniformly excellent acting ensemble that brings it to vivid life, and in the muscular vernacular of Mr. Meyer’s authentic and taut dialogue. This isn’t a musical, but in his expressiveness, he’s got rhythm.

(From right) Ryan Mallon as Rudy and Eric Cotti as Geo meet the strange stranger who calls himself just J. All photos by Leslye Smith

The play’s title is a word that means aging. In the context of the play, the word can be inferred two ways: aging, as in maturing into a responsible adult; and aging, as in growing old before your time. As one character points out, there’s a difference in the quality of life between getting older naturally and “being kept alive longer” through modern medicine.

Senescence is a wake-up call for our times: It’s in part a reminder of how we casually and negligently allow healthy bodies to be inflicted by toxic byproducts of industry, and how we intoxicate ourselves with mood-altering medication, legal and otherwise, to avoid facing hard questions about the future. Put another way, as we make toxins that can kill us, we unmake ourselves.

The setting is Linden, N.J., home of (fictional) Petra Oil Refinery, the second largest on the east coast. That’s the plant where a trio of millennials — lifelong friends — work and share a rented house: Rudy Malone (portrayed by Ryan Mallon), his girlfriend Natalia Janowski (Claire McClain), and their friend, ex-con Giuseppe “Geo” Gomez (Eric Cotti).

The author’s character development is clear and specific in each case. We know precisely at which point each person is in his or her life and see the recognizable behaviors they represent in the rest of us.

Geo (Eric Cotti) likes listening to Nirvana on his exercise cycle.

Rudy’s and Natalia’s fathers worked their whole lives at Petra. Both died of cancer believed to have been caused by carcinogens released in the refinery process. When not working their shifts, they get high on weed, listen to Nirvana, and approximate exercise by pedaling away on an exercycle tucked in a corner of their cozy living space.

Mr. Meyer makes credible use of the knowing street talk that’s endemic to the demography of these characters. The venturesome playwright even tries his hand at a few rap lyrics, riffing off of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” and, to borrow street talk, the result is “dope.” He interlaces the exchanges with just enough well-researched dollops of scientific fact to make his points without turning it into an academic exercise.

The character of J is a spiritual descendant of biblical personage Jeremiah, who is a prophet of judgment and hope.

Geo, who is fiercely proud of his Italian-Spanish heritage, is trying to rehabilitate himself after serving time for shooting someone. He wants to convince his dad that he’s righted himself enough to help run the father’s gas station. Natalia is looking to attend graduate school. As for Rudy, he ain’t goin’ nowhere, literally and figuratively. He’s a plant supervisor who repeatedly turns down promotions he’s offered by management.

It’s as if there are two basic ways to navigate this life: either move ahead purposefully in a more-or-less straight line toward specific goals of fulfillment, learning to grow and prosper and learn from adventures; or chase yourself while running in circles, avoiding adventures and, more likely, inviting disappointment, if not the outright depression that attends a static existence.

Rudy Malone (Ryan Mallon) is comforted by girlfriend Natalia Janowski (Claire McClain).

Into the humdrum lives of the threesome steps an agent of change who calls himself simply J (Michael Kingsbaker*). They don’t know at first what to make of the soft-spoken, cryptic stranger. He is equal parts mysterious (in his apparent metaphysical gifts), transparent (in his activist’s proselytizing of environmental and human sanctity), and deeply flawed (in his checkered past).

Does “J” stand for Jesus? Or for Jeremiah, a biblical personage who is invoked here, along with his quotation: “Each pursues their own course, like a horse charging into battle.” J, Jeremiah, and the noun that is Jeremiah’s namesake – jeremiad – all bring to bear urgent warnings against evil and destruction. It could be in the form of a hurricane with the force of a Sandy – which figures prominently in Senescence — or in unsafe refineries like Petra Oil, which gets Sandy in its eyes.

Michael Kingsbaker admirably essays J as humanistic, humble, and hell-bent on following his mystical (and biblical) muse. Claire McClain, Ryan Mallon and Eric Cotti are fine actors all who make us feel as if they’ve known each other their whole lives.

The production is briskly and impactfully directed by James Fauvell, who gets great technical enhancements from his lighting designer Shane Cassidy and sound designer Jim Simonson, both of whom orchestrate a perfect storm of special effects. The efficient, “before-and-after” scenic design is by Eric Zoback.

With Rudy looking on in wonder, J (Michael Kingsbaker) appears to exert a mystical power over Natalia (Claire McClain) after she is injured when Hurricane Sandy damages the house.

Make no mistake. Senescence is an indictment against the moral turpitude of the oil industry, illustrating through artful playwriting and stage performances how its corporate chiefs take advantage of human nature and mother nature.

In the end, Mr. Meyer presents the audience – and society at large – with a binary choice: Do we, as Rudy declares at one point, “Keep our mouth shut,” and be grateful for steady jobs and income; or do we stop misplacing our trust in the wrong powers that be, and start asking hard questions that may save us all from a dark, precipitous future.

Senescence playwright Howard Meyer is founder of Axial Theatre, commemorating its 20th anniversary with the premiere production of his play.

Scenic Design, Eric Zoback
Lighting Design, Shane Cassidy 

Sound Design, Jim Simonson
Stage Manager, Mary Cate Mangum*
Assistant Stage Manager, Virginia Reynolds
Technical Director, Chris Arrigo

*Member of Actors Equity Association

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

Parallel Universes vs. Us > Instant Replay in Real Time


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Hudson Stage Company Presents
by Nick Payne
With Faith Sandberg, Ben Paul Williams
Directed by Mark Shanahan
Executive Producers Denise Bessette, Dan Foster, Olivia Sklar
Through November 3, 2018
Whippoorwill Theatre @ North Castle Library
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504

Order Tickets on Website 
$40 General; $35 Students + Seniors
Also may also be purchased in-person at the theatre ½ hour prior to performance, including $10 student rush ticket

Think about how or where you met your spouse. With a slight shift in timing or physical whereabouts, it’s entirely possible you’d be married to someone else right now, or not at all. In that moment your future was formed, there were many other possibilities waiting to happen, but they didn’t.

That is the underlying premise that author Nick Payne explores theatrically in his high-minded play Constellations, presented by Hudson Stage Company at North Castle Library’s Whippoorwill Theater in Armonk, through Nov. 3. 

When first we meet Marianne and Roland, they are testing the theory that being able to lick your elbows is the secret to immortality. Photo by Rana Faure

Almost as soon as the show begins, audience members can be forgiven if they begin looking at each other quizzically, as if to say, “What on earth is going on?”

What on stage is going on is a most unusual drama, the likes of which you’ve likely rarely, if ever, experienced before. The two characters are having the same exchange with each other several times in succession, but with specific word changes and variations in attitude each time. Think Groundhog Day, the cult Bill Murray movie where he re-lives the same day over and over.

Over the course of the play, set in England, the same two individuals — Marianne (Faith Sandberg) and Roland (Ben Paul Williams) – are placed in a series of life-changing situations. We see how each scenario could have vastly different outcomes. For instance, they meet at a barbecue, but Roland is in a serious relationship. Re-set. They meet at a barbecue, but this time Roland is married. Re-set. They meet at a barbecue, and – aha! — Roland is single.

Using this device throughout the 80-minute piece (no intermission), Mr. Payne illustrates the concept of a multiverse.

In advance of a wedding, Roland has been instructed to sort out his two left feet for a with dance lessons. Photo by Rana Faure

“At any given moment, several outcomes can co-exist simultaneously,” Marianne, a theoretical physicist, tells Roland, a beekeeper. “In the Quantum Multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

The author clearly has carefully researched the metaphysical science that examines how the choices we make in any given situation are part of a chain that extends to the rest of our lives. It is in those micro-moments that our destiny evolves. What plays out on stage in Constellations is a probing dramatization of how, per the multiverse theory, every possibility exists at once. Our future already is set. Unlike in this play, we never can know how the alternative choices would have developed in the future universes we end up not experiencing.

In none of our equations,” says Marianne, “do we see any evidence of free will. We’re just particles governed by a series of very particular laws…” We hear a touch about string theory, parallel universes, atoms and molecules, quantum mechanics and relativity. It’s nothing like science class, but just enough to tickle our imagination.

Depending on your curiosity quotient and tolerance for entertaining the vast unknown, trying to wrap your head around the notion of a multiverse is either mind-boggling or mind-expanding. I am utterly fascinated by such things. It helps to be to appreciate the high-wire act that Nick Payne is pulling off with this daring piece.

The couple likes to poke fun at each other sometimes. Photo by Rana Faure

In their work, actors are used to the sort of instant replay in real time that unfolds on stage in Constellations. On a movie set, the director will ask the actors in a scene for multiple takes, repeating the same lines for each take, so the director can have a choice during the editing process. Similarly, in auditions, actors may be asked by the casting director to make an adjustment in a reading, repeating the same scene with variants on how it is played. “OK, that was nice, but now, I’d like to see a bit more confusion and less disappointment.”

Shading a performance various ways in an audition is one of the actor’s most formidable tasks. Shading a performance various ways in front of a live audience is much more daunting. In an audition, you can ask for a moment to re-focus. On stage, there are no time-outs — it’s pull out the stops, full steam ahead.

That’s what makes the work here of Faith Sandberg (Marianne) and Ben Paul Williams (Roland) – both members of Actors Equity — exhilarating to watch. There is evident joy in how they embrace and inhabit the veritable ensemble of characters the two of them alone create, conjuring theatrical craft that is crisp and credible.

Mr. Williams, whose physicality evoked, for me at least, the actor Andrew Garfield, is an immensely likable and pliable presence, comfortably adept at conveying a generous range of empathy.

In an on-again, off-again relationship, this looks like one of their on-again moments. Photo by Rana Faure

Director Mark Shanahan wisely has kept the set simple with an abstract honeycomb motif (designed by James J. Fenton) that focuses our attention squarely on the motions, emotions and fates of the characters.

Mr. Shanahan made an ideal match casting Ben Paul Williams opposite the abundantly talented Faith Sandberg, who appeared in the pilot episode of the newly revived Murphy Brown series on CBS-TV.

Ms. Sandberg exudes an inner strength and natural charm that sets the tone for the play. Director Shanahan put it pointedly when he told me on opening night that the two spirited actors are very generous to each other on stage, which the opening night audience recognized with a rousing ovation at curtain call.

In other Hudson Stage Company news, congratulations are in order for producers Denise Bessette, Dan Foster and Olivia Sklar, who have been bringing top-tier theater to the lower Hudson Valley for 20 years. Their outstanding production of Joanna Murray-Smith’s Switzerland from earlier this year will be moving to off-Broadway in February 2019 at the 59E59 Theaters. It is the producing team’s first off-Broadway venture, a fitting tribute to its 20th anniversary.

Constellations director Mark Shanahan (c) congratulates Faith Sandberg and Ben Paul Williams at the opening night celebration. Photo by Bruce Apar

Stage Manager, Emily Roth
Scenery, James Fenton
Lighting, Andrew Gmoser 

Costumes, David C. Woolard
Original Music & Sound, Matt Otto

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

You’ll Get a Kick Out of Musical Classic ‘Anything Goes’


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Westchester Broadway Theatre
Music + Lyrics by Cole Porter
Original Book by P.G. Wodehouse + Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay + Russel Crouse
New Book by Timothy Crouse + John Weidman
Directed + Choreographed by Richard Stafford
Musical Direction by Patrick Hoagland
Through September 9, 2018
Tickets > BroadwayTheatre.com

The informative program each patron receives at Westchester Broadway Theatre.

I’ve loved Broadway musicals since I was smaller than a piano bench. That’s one reason I enjoy writing about local productions in this space. The more people who go to musicals, the happier it makes me.

I didn’t realize how old-fashioned about musicals I could be, though, until my wife Elyse and I at long last saw Wicked. It only took us 15 years to get there. Last week (on July 12, 2018), it became the sixth-longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassing A Chorus Line.

Here’s the kicker: We were underwhelmed by the overwhelming spectacle that is Wicked. It struck us as more of a gimmicky, dizzying theme park ride than a clear-eyed musical theater experience.  As the show biz joke goes, I was more tempted to walk out of there humming the scenery than the songs.

Jackie Raye (as Hope Harcourt) and Zach Trimmer (as Billy Crocker). All photos by John Vecchiolla

It did my gray-hair taste good, then, to see a decidedly simpler, more straightforward style of musical at Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford: Anything Goes. The good news is you have the rest of the summer to catch this light-hearted Cole Porter classic, which runs through Sept. 9. If you’re old-fashioned like me, you’ll get a kick out of it. (Ticket information at 914.592.2222; BroadwayTheatre.com).


The cute plot, set aboard an ocean liner headed to New York from England, mixes and matches several couples, with cases of mistaken identity and games of romantic chess. Young stockbroker Billy Crocker (Zach Trimmer) hopes to catch the eye of debutante Hope Harcourt (Jackie Raye), who is engaged to wealthy Englishman Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Kevin Pariseau), while nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Stacia Fernandez) has her own hopes up for hooking up with Billy… and so on. “I’m in love,” Billy tells Reno, who replies, “I’m in cabin 13.”

The story, with a pedigree by way of legendary humorist P.G. Wodehouse, is clever and serviceable enough. It’s also mostly beside the point, as plots usually were in big musicals before Rodgers & Hammerstein teamed up for Oklahoma.

(from left) Zach Trimmer (as Billy Crocker), Jon J. Peterson (as Moonface Martin), Stacia Fernandez (as Reno Sweeney).

In Anything Goes, the Cole Porter songs are the stars and the coolly kinetic tap-dancing is the exuberant heartbeat. Both are well-served under the direction and choreography of Richard Stafford. As captain of the show, he navigates a smooth, steady course that keeps action and production numbers sailing along briskly and seamlessly.


Kudos go also to musical director Patrick Hoagland for spirited and infectious arrangements of standards like “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Friendship,” and the title song, all of which set feet a-tappin’ not only on stage, but in the audience too.

Adding greatly to the show’s colorful, upbeat glamour are the set design by Steve Loftus, lighting by Andrew Gmoser, and imaginative nautical and period costumes by Keith Nielsen. The ship is effectively and efficiently depicted with an upper deck and a towering trio of luminescent smokestacks.

The cast of Anything Goes.

Movable set pieces are maneuvered on and off the three-sided proscenium stage with the audience hardly noticing. The brief scene changes upstage are nicely covered by ensemble couples performing ballroom dance movements downstage. It’s a nice touch that keeps the audience in the moment.


Anything Goes-EvelynReno (1344x1680)

Kevin Pariseau (as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) and Stacia Fernandez (as Reno Sweeney).

As Reno Sweeney, Stacia Fernandez is given a rainbow of glittery costumes to wear, highlighted with a sequin number that shines as brightly as her powerful belter voice in the famous showpiece, “Blow, Gabriel Blow.” Her singing throughout is a delight. The same goes for the impressive vocal chops of male lead Zach Trimmer (Billy), who shows impressive range into the high registers; and the beautifully lyrical singing of Jackie Raye (Hope) and Mychal Phillips (Erma).

There also are standout performances from Kevin Pariseau (Lord Evelyn), who has a lot of fun, as does the audience, turning “The Gypsy in Me” into a very funny novelty number; Jon Peterson (Moonface Martin), whose voice reminded me of a cross between comedian Gilbert Gottfried and Nathan Lane’s Timon in “The Lion King”; Bob Walton, sporting a gravity-defying Einstein hairdo as a proud, near-sighted Yalie (Elisha Whitney); and suitably haughty Tina Johnson as a high-society dowager (Mrs. Harcourt).

Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) offers single-price tickets that include a full-course dinner and show, as well as show tickets that don’t include dinner.

Following Anything Goes at WBT, starting Sept. 13, is Yeston and Kopit’s Phantom, which the theater says has been its most popular show over the years. (It is not the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.)

The cast of Anything Goes.

Anything Goes-IrmaSailors2 (1680x1344)

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

Anything Goes-IrmaSailors2 (1680x1344)

Mychal Phillips (as Erma) and The Sailors.


Associate Choreographer Joseph Cullinane
Set Design Steve Loftus
Lighting Design Andrew Gmoser
Sound Design Mark Zuckerman
Costume Designer Keith Nielsen
Hair/Wig design Gerard Kelly
Technical Director Steve Loftus
Production Stage Manager Victor Lukas
Assistant Stage Manager Duane McDevitt
Properties by Grumpy Props
Lisa Tiso Associate Producer
Westchester Broadway Theatre
1 Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10526
Reservations  Call (914)-592-2222 -or- BroadwayTheatre.com
Group Reservations  Discounts for groups of 20 or more: call 592-2225.
Luxury Boxes  Call 592-8730 for private parties of 6 to 22. Enjoy dining and theatre in an elegant private box. Additional features include an expanded dinner menu, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, private powder room, and Luxury Box reserved parking. Call for pricing details.
Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56-$84 plus tax, depending on performances chosen. Beverage service & gratuities not included in ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Also check our website for on-going special offers: BroadwayTheatre.com

Coming to WBT Mainstage
*Yeston & Kopit’s Phantom – September 13 – November 25, 2018 

A Christmas Carol – November 29 – December 23, 2018

*Phantom returns — December 27, 2018 – January 27, 2019

*Not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version

A (Burnt) Toast to Love & Marriage, On the Rocks


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Penguin Rep Theatre Presents
A Play by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Thomas Caruso
Joe Brancato, Founding Artistic Director
Andrew Horn, Executive Director
Through Sunday, July 22
7 Crickettown Road
Stony Point, New York 10980
Order Tickets on Website

In its first few moments, sitcom-style comedy Clever Little Lies grabs audience attention right away, with one of the most revealing wardrobe changes you’ll ever see on stage. It is done modestly but just provocatively enough to elicit vocal appreciation from amused patrons.

The fast-paced play, starring Richard Kline of TV classic Three’s Company, and written by Tony-winner Joe DiPietro, is at Penguin Rep in Stony Point (Rockland County) through Sunday, July 22. (For tickets and information, call 845.786.2873 or visit PenguinRep.org.)

Billy (left, Jordan Sobel) has his work cut out dealing with (from l) wife Jane (Bridget Gabbe), mom Alice (Jana Robbins) and dad Bill, Sr. (Richard Kline) Photo by Chris Yacopino

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‘Next to Normal’ Is Extra Special: A Phantasmagoric Pop Opera


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The Armonk Players Present
Book + Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Christine DiTota
Musical Direction by Ricky Romano
Produced by Jeff Rocco + Rod Berro
Through June 9, 2018 (Thursday-Saturday)
Whippoorwill Theatre
19 Whippoorwill Road East
Armonk, New York 10504
Order Tickets on Website
Sponsored by Friends of the North Castle Public Library
Presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International

Beyond Broadway, there are very few destinations closer to home where local theater-goers can get a great deal seeing a famous Broadway musical performed by top talent. It’s a very short list that begins near the end of the alphabet, with Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford and Yorktown Stage in Yorktown Heights.

After seeing Next to Normal at Whippoorwill Theater in North Castle Library, we now can go to the head of the alphabet by adding Armonk as another destination where Broadway-worthy musical productions can be seen for a song.

The cast of Next to Normal (from left) Jesse Herman as Henry, Anthony Malchar as Gabe, Adam Welsh as Dr. Madden, Christine Gavin as Diane, John Anthony Lopez as Dan, Jess Bulzacchelli as Natalie. Photo by Christine DiBuono






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The Return of Talented Mr. Ripley, Believe It or Not


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Hudson Stage Company Presents
New York Premiere of
By Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Dan Foster
Executive Produced by Denise Bessette & Olivia Sklar

Through May 5, 2018 (weekends)
Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at North Castle Library
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504

Order Tickets on Website
Call 800.838.3006

The riveting drama Switzerland, now playing at Hudson Stage in Armonk through May 5, is a “two-hander.” That’s theater lingo for a play with two actors. If there seems to be more than two characters on stage in this novel idea for a drama, it’s a testament to actors Peggy J. Scott and Daniel Petzold, and to playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.

The trio brings to life a captivating conceit inspired by real-life crime writer Patricia Highsmith, who was quite a character in her own right. If her name isn’t instantly familiar, it’s likely two of her celebrated works are: The Talented Mr. Ripley was adapted into a Hollywood hit movie starring Matt Damon, and Strangers on a Train is an Alfred Hitchcock classic.

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I Love ‘I Hate Hamlet’


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I Hate Hamlet
By Paul Rudnick
Directed by Melinda O’Brien
Presented by M&M Performing Arts Company

Through March 4, 2018 (weekends)
Lyndhurst Mansion
635 South Broadway (Route 9)
Tarrytown, New York 10591

Order Tickets on Website
Call 914.631.4481

Watch Interview with Tal Aviezer, Mikel Von Brodbeck, Melinda O’Brien

(From left) Tal Aviezer, Mikel Von Brodbeck, Melinda O’Brien are the actors, directors and producers behind I Hate Hamlet and Hamlet at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown. 

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors.

Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

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Howling at Sherlock’s Hilarious ‘Hound’


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The Hound of the Baskervilles
Adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel
By Steven Canny and John Nicholson

Directed by Mark Shanahan

Through May 13, 2017 (weekends)

Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at North Castle Library
Kent Place, Armonk, New York 10504
(914) 271-28811

Order Tickets on Website
Call 1-800-838-3006

In the gut-busting production of The Hound of the Baskervilles now doubling over audiences at Hudson Stage in Armonk, there are some 20 characters on stage–but only three actors.

How does that work? Like clockwork! More precisely, like a crazy, cuckoo clock with sleight of hands that move at lightning speed–forward, backward and wayward. 

Review continues below photo…



Baskervilles trio

FUNNY GUYS (From left) Denis Lambert as Sherlock Holmes, Joe Delafield at Sir Charles Baskerville, Matt Ban as Dr. Watson. The trio of actors play some 20 characters in all.                               All photos by Rana Faure

This raucous confection not only makes bloody good fun of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth and his sidekick Dr. Watson. The farcical play makes fun of its own clever contrivances. It even mocks its actors, who occasionally step out of character as themselves. Oh, don’t feel sorry for them. Not for one minute. In fact, it’s difficult at times to discern who is having more fun: The people on stage or the people in the audience. No matter. Fun it is, from beginning to end, and back again.


As Act II begins, the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes and a host of other characters (quick-change whirling dervish Denis Lambert) insists to his incredulous castmates that they re-run the first Act… in high-speed. Why? Because, complains the indignant Lambert, a supposed member of the audience during intermission tweeted that the actor slowed down the hijinks with his sluggish performance. To redeem himself, Lambert exhorts his sidekicks to race headlong through the highlights of Act I. And they oblige him. (It reminded me of the show-stopping musical number in Broadway hit “The Producers” that recaps the entire plot to that point. The music here is the melodic notes of laughter.)

Denis Lambert’s partners in crime-solving are Joe Delafield (Sir Charles Baskerville and others) and Matt Ban (Dr. Watson and others). They form a tight, nimble comedy troupe that performs with vaudevillian brio, donning and doffing headwear and outerwear, plus smoothly transporting props on and off stage to create the illusion of a much fuller cast of characters and settings. The fancy feet work they do is no easy feat, , and their collective efforts are to be vigorously applauded and admired, especially by other actors who amply can appreciate the challenging tasks at hand. The transformative costumes that constantly morph are a real stitch, the seamless handiwork of Jeni Schaefer and Charlotte Palmer-Lane.

Baskervilles 2

                                        SHERLOCK, YOU JEST! These guys get around, don’t they?                                             All photos by Rana Faure


“What can you deduce about that knocking?” asks Holmes of Watson, who replies, with unerring instinct, “It’s coming from the door.” That’s just a very light taste of the silly yet puckishly authentic repartee and gags that trigger guffaws aplenty.

If all this sounds veddy Monty Pythonesque, there’s good reason. The co-writers of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” – Steven Canny and John Nicholson, billed as “adaptors” to pay due homage to their muse, Sir Arthur – have extensive credentials as comedy writers for England’s BBC TV network. Whether it’s Monty Python or Benny Hill, the Brits love their comedy dry, punny and slapsticky, and they love their literature immortal, from Shakespeare to Sherlock to, well, Harry (Potter, not Prince).

Throughout the fast-paced romp of the Baskervilles, the suspenseful storyline somehow stays intact, providing a sturdy, timeless framework for tongue-in-cheeky wordplay, non-stop physical comedy, and whimsical winks at the audience, which winks back by gleefully going along for the joy ride.

The case they must crack is simply stated: Members of the wealthy Baskerville clan are being hounded to death by a rabid Rover. Holmes and Watson wend their way through the moors and the mire and some slippery sorts to solve the mystery. And the game’s afoot.


Kudos to director Mark Shanahan and choreographer Stephanie Card, who do a masterly job of keeping the action throttling forward at breakneck speed. That includes putting the actors through some bouncy paces as they ride in a horse-drawn, hansom cab and on a train. 

As is standard operating procedure for Hudson Stage and its producing team of Denise Bessette, Olivia Sklar and Dan Foster, the production is expertly staged, with tender loving care assigned to every aspect of stagecraft.

The sensual sound design, by Sean Hagerty, credibly creates a sense of place, whether it’s a howling hound or an ominous wind or a creaking door or mooing cows. The visual effects are fun to take in as well. For example, with the right balance of imagination and artistry, a household object placed on stage by the actor – such as a pail billowing steam — can adequately signify a sauna.



WHO’S FRAMING WHOM? (From left) Matt Ban, Denis Lambert, Joe Delafield as… oh, who can keep track of them all. All photos by Rana Faure


Before the play began, a smile came over my face at the sight of the elaborate set, another hallmark of Hudson Stage’s consistently tony style of theater. This time it is a gorgeously rendered recreation of an early 20th Century proscenium arch theater with carved wood columns and burgundy red curtains flanking the stage (scenery by David Arsenault.)

To someone who’s never been inside North Castle Library’s Whippoorwill Theatre – an eminently audience-friendly and actor-friendly performing space — odds are they’d be none the wiser thinking the current décor is the permanent stage. It’s that convincing. I thought to myself, “This is throwback theater!” Go to the Whippoorwill in Armonk, throw yourself back in the comfy seats, prepare to act like a hound, and howl.

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. Its Adventix division helps performing arts venues, including The Schoolhouse Theater, increase ticket sales. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals, including Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Unmasking Ancient Myths


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The Mask of the Jaguar King
by Stuart Warmflash
Directed by Bram Lewis
Through April 23, 2017 (weekends)
The Schoolhouse Theater
3 Owens Road, North Salem, N.Y. 10560
(914) 277-8477
Order Tickets on Website

It’s safe to say that dedicated theater-goers wouldn’t mind seeing more richly-themed dramatic offerings like The Schoolhouse Theater’s beguiling production of The Mask of the Jaguar King.  

Described by the producers as “Part battle of angels, part ghost story, part ritual dance, using indigenous and original sound landscapes with live music,” it is now on stage at the absolutely charming Croton Falls theater, playing weekends through April 23 (see ticket info above).

Review continues below photo…


MAN ON A MISSION. Actor O.V. Daniels commands the stage as the quixotic Quetzal.  Photo courtesy The Schoolhouse Theater. 

Faced as we are these digital days with images washing across screens of all sizes, plus the reclusive obsession of binge-watching, the intimacy, immediacy and electricity of live theater grows more appealing as a flesh-and-blood antidote to electronic entertainment. That’s one good reason there is a groundswell forming for local live entertainment. It’s spreading and drawing crowds.   

Walking into the Schoolhouse Theater, the audience instantly is thrust into the recesses of a remote jungle in Guatemala in June 1933.

Our real-world state is willingly suspended by the painstaking detail and artistry of a campsite setting in the shadow of the forbidding facade of an ancient Mayan temple. We see a makeshift brick stove, lantern, suitcase and other totems of the time. The set design’s air of authenticity wafts across the audience.

The crown jewel is the jade- and onyx-studded mask of The Jaguar King. The priceless artifact is the prize in a tug-of-war pitting the witty, bull-like Quetzel against the disarming rope-a-dope style of Sophia, who gives as well as she gets. Let’s just say the two have entirely different reasons for coveting the mask.

At times, it feels like a Disney set piece, with monkey sounds and other ambient sound effects. Most welcome at regular intervals is the virtuoso guitar-playing of Peter Calo. His credentials are solid gold, having played with everyone from Carly Simon and Andrea Bocelli to Willie Nelson and Leonard Bernstein. The only cavil in this corner about the incredible Mr. Calo is that we don’t see and hear more of him. He adds wonderfully to the show’s dream-like spell that it casts on the audience.

Review continues below photo…


DIG SHE MUST. Meghann Garmany as archaeologist Sophia gets in her disarming digs at the combative and proud Quetzal. Photo courtesy The Schoolhouse Theater.


Schoolhouse’s compact, 99-seat black box space is ideally scaled for this production, directed by Bram Lewis with verve and vitriol, which make for some explosive declarations of independence.

Conflict is the heart and soul of all drama. At the heart of Jaguar King is the stark contrast between its only two characters:  Sophia (Meghann Garmany) and Quetzal (O.V. Daniels).

She is a tightly wound, frosty archaeologist from Manhattan who is all business and focused on bringing back priceless artifacts from a dig. He is a passionate revolutionary who is intent on spiriting way those very same artifacts, which to him represent oppression and familial tragedy.


As the press material more fully explains, “The Mask of The Jaguar King is a religious mystery pitting the politics of imperialism against the desires of the heart,” press notes state. “In 1933, a battle of the sexes breaks out when an American archaeologist finds herself stranded at the site of a Mayan Temple with a dangerous Hispanic revolutionary intent on stealing priceless ancient artifacts. As they slowly unmask each other’s dark personal secrets it remains unclear, who is the real outlaw? To whom does history belong? And does the value of preserving the past justify the injustices of the present?”

The character of Sophia, says playwright Stuart Warmflash, is modeled after 1930s archaeologist Tattiana Proskouriakoff. Quetzel represents the rise of the outraged underclass, ruled by the heavy hands of oppression and exploitation. It was a time of colonial expansion into Central America, and, to native revolutionaries like Quetzel, imperialism was the curse of evil empires wanting to tame and harness the working class in vulnerable nations.  He understands the laws of the jungle and unabashedly uses them as his survival kit.

Bram Lewis_screen

KING MAKER. Bram Lewis, artistic director of The Schoolhouse Theater, directs The Mask of the Jaguar King with his usual theatrical flair. Photo by Bruce Apar

As Quetzel, the salt-of-the-earth, cocksure protagonist of the piece, O.V. Daniels is a theater goer’s gift. His is a masterly performance of power and nuance. One minute he’s railing rabidly against “those corporate bastards the United Fruit Co.,” and the next minute he is exuding other-worldly spirituality.

Meghann Garmany effectively cools down and counters her nemesis with swan-like elegance, although, despite appearances, life for her isn’t all sweetness and light. 

Mr. Warmflash has given his feisty creation some choice observations, even epigrams, like, “The law is whatever those in power decide it is.” Or, “There is no God. Only the divinity of a gun.” I call them Quetzel’s Quotes.

Quetzel’s mischevious and growling persona comes through con brio when he says to the stuck-up scientist, “It may surprise you to know we have schools in this part of the world.”

Another zinger is “You Americans have such small vision.” Therein lies a persistent undercurrent of the writer’s theme: Things are not always as they seem. America certainly is a land of opportunity. At times, that privilege can bleed over into self-delusion about how omnipotent and omniscient we are about foreign cultures we study from afar but still don’t truly understand up close. 

The play’s production notes tell us that “The Jaguar King history, the scepter, and the mask are fictional, but loosely based on the region’s folklore and archaeological history.”

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. Its Adventix division helps performing arts venues, including The Schoolhouse Theater, increase ticket sales. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals, including Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

A Lot to Like in ‘Lot’s Wife’


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Lot’s Wife (American Premiere)
by Albi Gorn
Directed by Karina Ramsey
Through March 25, 2017 (weekends)
Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT)
23 Water Street, Ossining, N.Y. 10562
Order Tickets on Website
(914) 271-2811

Albi Gorn started writing Lot’s Wife more than 20 years ago, then recently reworked it in theater workshops . Considering how this pithy parable about survival, faith, assimilation and intolerance resonates today, the prolific and talented playwright either is visionary or an astute student of historical cycles. Let’s call it both.

His work – now on stage through March 25 at the new home of Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT) in Ossining – is not only close to the bone in how it mirrors the prevailing, authoritarian political climate, but also sticks to the bone well after you’ve exited the performance space. (Review continues below photo…)

WHY? Julie Griffin (top) is in the title role in Albi Gorn’s “Lot’s Wife,” with Justina Dieck (c) as Shira and Jessica Hickey as Geula. Photo courtesy Westchester Collaborative Theater

Mr. Gorn has taken the biblical tale of the wayward denizens of Sodom – and their wholesale punishment at the hands of a vengeful God – and has modernized it with his usual deft hand and highly literate sensibility. As in all of his diverse body of work, the award-winning dramatist likes to challenge glib assumptions and look at life a bit askance, with humor lightly salted throughout. (In this version, however, we do not witness Lot’s wife’s lot in life, which is to be a-salted for turning her back on God.)

In the Gornification of the story of Lot, we are treated – and a treat it is – to a female-voiced God, a choice that is refreshing and no less plausible than the age-old conceit that an omniscient spirit is identifiable by any gender at all.

The author leaves the Genesis storyline intact: Abraham (Kurt Lauer) is God’s earthly emissary who informs Lot (Ron Schnittker) — along with Lot’s wife (Julie Griffin), and their daughters, Geula (Jessica Hickey) and Shira (Justina Dieck) — that they must find 10 innocents among the unholy populace to spare the entire town a fiery death for forsaking God (the voice of Ms. Griffin).

The Lots themselves have lots to be thankful for, because they are protected by a pair of angelic messengers mercifully dispatched by God, Yael (Michelle Daneshvar) and Ashonael (Jason Fineberg).

The setting of Lot’s Wife still is antiquity, but some of the vernacular invokes today’s idioms, as when 13-year-old Shira giddily tells the angel Ashonael he’s “hot.” Or when the symbolic villain of the piece, 18-year-old Sodomite Horab (Ralph Vandamme) — an appropriately intimidating presence who is dutifully vigilant about rooting out undesirable Hebrews — menacingly avers, “There are some people here who should have their butts kicked.” The strapping young actor is all too convincing that he could do it, too.

DEALMAKER, DEALMAKER, MAKE ME A DEALHe also knows how to balance playful with tasteful. When Abraham pleads with God to reduce to 10 from 50 the number of worthy Sodomites who must be found to save the town, the playwright manages to turn the exchange into a charming, laugh-inducing negotiation, as if the father of the Hebrews had just read “The Art of the Deal.” Not. One of the signal accomplishments of Lot’s Wife is how its author packs a lot of timeless themes rather neatly into a tight, well-paced package:

In 16-year-old Geula (Jessica Hickey), daughter of the Lots, we are reminded how the next generation is given to its own agenda at times, as well as its doubts that can disconnect it from the experience and teachings of their parents.

In Lot, a wealthy man whose “go-along-to-get-along” submissiveness to the Sodomites is in sharp contrast to his wife’s proud and disciplined defiance of their oppressiveness, we are reminded of the wages of sin when more faith is placed in the almighty buck than in the almighty. Sound familiar?


That kind of gentle nod to current culture places the teachable moments of the story in both a more relevant and a more diverting context. The symbolism in Lot’s Wife – with its pitch-dark overtones of holocaustic witch-hunting and genocide – is readily available to the audience, but in artful brush strokes. We thankfully are not bludgeoned by it, as can occur in theater pieces that veer off into moralizing at the expense of dramatizing. Mr. Gorn proves masterly in the elusive writer’s credo of “show, don’t tell.”

In Lot’s Wife, we empathize with the guilt of survivors — whether it’s a natural disaster, the sudden loss of a loved one, or genocide — and with the unanswerable question they are plagued by the rest of their days: Why?

There are several revelations of this production that are worth savoring for any local theater-goer.


One is the energy and the talent of the four young actors on stage, three of whom are in the drama program at Ossining High, with one a student at John Jay Middle School. Placed alongside accomplished adult actors – all of whom prove their mettle with fine performances – the younger actors hold their own and mesh beautifully with their elders.

In the principal roles, Julie Griffin, Kurt Lauer and Ron Schnittker make a strong trio of veterans who propel the story with conviction and dramatic weight.

Also worth noting in smaller roles are impressive thespian Donna James as Abraham’s wife Sarah and Pat O’Neill as an Innkeeper in a flashback scene.

Another revelation is the resourceful use of Westchester Collaborative Theater’s newly-occupied space in a former furniture cabinet factory on Water Street, next to the Metro North station. Considerable kudos are due WCT executive director Alan Lutwin and executive producer and director Karina Ramsey, as well as set designer Jonathan Curns and the rest of the production staff – including costume designer Libby Brennesholtz – for making the most effective and practical use of a compact space. Their efforts evidence a lot of industry and ingenuity that are the saving grace of many a local theater company.

TAKE A BOW! The cast of “Lot’s Wife” takes a bow at Westchester Collaborative Theater’s new theater on Water Street in Ossininig: (from left) Ralph Vandamme, Donna James, Kurt Lauer, Jessica Hickey, Justina Dieck, Julie Griffin, Ron Schnittker, Jason Fineberg. (Not pictured on right) Michelle Daneshvar. Photo courtesy Westchester Collaborative Theater

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency and Certified Google AdWords Professionals. As “Bruce The Blog,” Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers. He also is a contributing writer for Westchester Magazine and an actor. Follow Pinpoint Marketing & Design on Facebook and LinkedIn, and as @Pinpointments on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

A Memorable Play on Memory


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You Will Remember Me (American Premiere)
by Francois Archambault
Directed by Dan Foster
Executive Produced by Denise Bessette & Olivia Sklar
Through Oct. 29
Whippoorwill Hall (at North Castle Library)
19 Whippoorwill East, Armonk, N.Y. 10504
Hudson Stage Company
(914) 271-2811

As I sat watching “You Will Remember Me,” I found myself nodding. Not nodding off as in falling asleep. Not even close. I was nodding in recognition and agreement with many of the viewpoints being channeled through the characters on stage.

Montreal playwright Francois Archambault has a lot on his mind. He’s interested in ideas. Alas, “people aren’t interested in ideas, they only want to feel,” bemoans his lead character Edouard Beauchamin. The retired professor of history is short on memory but not on grievances about the declining state of culture.  

Cast-You Will Remember Me

Cast and creative team of You Will Remember Me: (from left) Susannah Schulman Rogers (Isabelle), playwright Francois Archambault, John Hutton (Edouard), director Dan Foster, Ella Dershowitz (Berenice), Susan Pellegrino (Madeleine), producer Denise Bessette, Chris Kipniak (Patrick), choreographer Tony Yazbeck, producer Olivia Sklar, script translator Bobby Theodore. Photo by Bruce Apar


The author calls ours “an era of extreme intellectual mediocrity,” in part because “being angry and name-calling isn’t thinking — it isn’t even particularly serious behavior.” As we’re all too familiar from fact-free, emotionally-charged social media posts — especially about politics — “you don’t even have to know what you’re talking about.”

He coins a lot of choice lines along those lines. I could fill almost this entire space with the slings and arrows he aims — with unerring accuracy — at our collective foibles.


All those sentiments are expressed by Edouard, whose frustrating struggles with progressive memory loss, while still in his sixties, are ironic and made more tragic because he is such a conscientious thinker.  He could pinpoint a litany of historical dates and events but, as the cliche goes, don’t ask him what he ate for breakfast.

He also keeps forgetting the identity of the young lady (Ella Dershowitz) in her 20s watching over him, even though her dad Patrick (Chris Kipniak) is dating Edouard’s daughter Isabelle (Susannah Schulman Rogers). Save for Ms. Dershowitz, all the actors are members of Actors Equity.

The twentysomething’s name is Berenice, which connects her in Edouard’s addled mind to a long lost family member whose middle name is the same. As Edouard’s condition worsens, and becomes unbearable for his wife and daughter to handle, he is bounced around repeatedly, and not very gently, much like a rugby ball in a scrum.


Edouard (John Hutton) isn’t certain about who Berenice (Ella Dershowitz) is, but he is certain about who he wants her to be. Photo by Rana Faure


Patrick’s distracted daughter warms to the task of an attentive nursemaid, accepting the guise he assigns to her of his absent loved one.

Francois Archambault told me at the play’s opening night that he was inspired to write about the subject of dementia by someone close to him who has Alzheimer’s. The person would ask Mr. Archambault what he was working on, and “five minutes later, he would start talking about the same thing. I started making up the answer.” That scenario is mirrored in the play.  

However, other than what the he observed about this person’s behavior, he relied on his own writer’s instincts to conjure the story and its dialogue. “I tried to imagine how it is to struggle with that,” he said. 

Based on what we witness on stage, he did a praiseworthy job of it.

Mr. Hutton is remarkably convincing and touching in the challenging role of a proud intellectual whose joy for life and for big ideas is not about to be dimmed by the ravages of a devastating disease. The cast members who orbit around his star turn form a solid ensemble of alternating emotional connection and mistrust.

A bonus of sorts is an unexpected brief but delightful dance interlude that is used to lyrically illuminate the various relationships. It is choreographed by Broadway’s multi-talented Tony Yazbeck, who was a Tony Award nominee for “On the Town” and was in “Finding Neverland.” There is judicious use in other scenes as well of arresting sound (William Neal) and visual imagery.

Andrew Gmoser’s masterly lighting schemes always deserve mention. Guided by cerebral director and stage magician Dan Foster — who is co-producer of Hudson Stage with Denise Bessette and Olivia Sklar — it all adds up to an engaging, compelling theater experience.


Edouard’s wife Madeleine (Susan Pellegrino, left) informs daughter Isabelle (Susannah Schulman Rogers) of her plans. Photo by Rana Faure


I found Edouard an inspiring character from whom I could learn new things. He likens humans to plant species in how both exhibit a natural inclination toward expanding their territories.

His curiosity about ecology lends itself to the elegant stage design, which is a proud signature of every production at Hudson Stage. Here, Steven Kemp earns applause for his striking ingenuity. The monochromatic motif fills the proscenium space with white cylindrical shapes that emulate stalagmites and stalactites, to connote trees in a forest. There also are outbursts of silver flora to represent common phragmites. Even if you’re unsure how to pronounce it (frag-mighties), you’ve surely seen it around northern Westchester. 

Phragmites are tall and slender amber reeds that populate fields or roadsides and sway lazily in the gentlest breeze. Their notoriety for crowding out other plant life reminds Edouard of mass culture killing off high-minded culture, or of superpowers like the U.S. and China bulldozing whatever obstructs their path to world domination.

For me, the strands of the phragmites stood as apt analogs for the frayed synapses tormenting both Edouard and those in his thrall.


John Hutton as Edouard (l) repeatedly asks Patrick (Chris Kipniak) what he does for a living.                   Photo by Rana Faure


Edouard’s onsetting dementia, in my mind anyhow, is a metaphor for a self-induced dementia in society at large, as we give ourselves over to simulated reality and ersatz emotions rooted not in passion but in pretense. We bicker over weighty matters we don’t even take the time or energy to fully understand. We talk before we think. We let noise drown nuance. We let superficial party labels dictate who we are and what we think. We don’t work hard enough to distinguish ourselves through rigorous introspection and the humility of self-doubt. We let ourselves down through sheer laziness.

There’s an existential overlay to the goings-on in “You Will Remember Me,” articulated in Edouard’s dismissive declaration that “You are all prisoners of an endless present moment.” On its face, that observation is an indictment of how we mock the substance of ourselves through social media, which glibly devolves character into caricature and ideas into idiocies. What Edouard says doubles as a depressing description of Alzheimer’s patients, who steadily lose their grasp on the continuum of personal content and context.

As we watched the play, my wife Elyse and I happened to be sitting next to a woman from the Hudson Valley Alzheimer’s Association, Jonelle Ward, director of outreach. Afterwards, she explained to us the distinction between the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s. The former is a general term that encompasses many different conditions, of which Alzheimer’s is the most notorious and prevalent. In some cases, said Ms. Ward, other forms of dementia are reversible.


The Alzheimer’s Association hosts free informational sessions in cooperation with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS). The next is Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 7:30-9 p.m. at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners. It will offer “advice on how to handle tough topics when a loved one has dementia.” For more information, visit Alz.org or call 800-272-3900.

Another free opportunity is offered on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the offices of elder law attorney Salvatore A. Di Costanzo in Yorktown Heights. He is hosting an informal “Fireside Chat” for adult children who want to learn more about such topics as estate planning. Additional free Fireside Chats are scheduled for Nov. 29 and Dec. 29. For more information, contact Melanie Harrison at mharrison@mfd-law.com or (914) 245-2440.                      


Translated by Bobby Theodore
Costumes by Charlotte Palmer-Lane
Stage Managed by Katie Kavett (Actors Equity)
Casting by McCorkle Casting Ltd.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency and Certified Google AdWords Professionals. As “Bruce The Blog,” Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and PennySaver, and a contributing writer for Westchester Magazine. Follow Pinpoint Marketing & Design on Facebook and LinkedIn, and as @Pinpointments on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Remember Decoration Day

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By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk

You can tell to which generation someone belongs by whether she or he remembers when Memorial Day annually was held on May 30, regardless of what day of the week that date occurred.

In 1862, a Civil War general, John Logan, proposed that May 30 be designated a day of remembrance throughout the land.

It was 45 years ago (1971) that Memorial Day for the first time ceased being observed exclusively on May 30. It instead became part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, to be held on the last Monday of May, as enacted by Congress three years prior (1968).

It just so happens that this year’s Memorial Day 2016—next Monday—lands on the commemorative date of May 30. That calendar coincidence presents an opportunity to recall another bygone characteristic of “Memorial Day”—it used to be called Decoration Day, for reasons worth remembering.

National Cemeteries Created

The unprecedented number of fatalities in the Civil War—the cause of more deaths than any conflict in American annals—necessitated the creation of our first national cemeteries, according to History.com.

By the late 1860s, a ritual evolved in which the graves of the Civil War’s fallen were decorated by locals in towns across the country. The show of respect and gratitude paid homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and fellow citizens.

Therein lies the primal sanctity of a communal remembrance whose profound meaning too easily is buried by the more mundane imperatives of our mechanized society. The singularity of Decoration Day falling on May 30 for the first 100 years has yielded to the cookie-cutter convenience of a generic three-day holiday weekend, which was created as a perk for federal employees.

Waterloo, N.Y. Is Memorial Day Official Birthplace

The upstate New York town of Waterloo first observed Decoration Day in 1866, and 100 years later it was declared by the federal government “the official birthplace of Memorial Day.” The reason it was so honored, as reported by History.com, is because Waterloo was among the first to hold “an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.”

The solemnity of that early American Memorial Day is muted in our day by the sound of retail sales trumpeting “Happy Memorial Day!” As oxymorons go, that one is hard to beat and even harder to justify when reading about the birth of the holiday.

I encourage any business to promote itself with thematic sales events, but perhaps in this case a more fitting declaration of our independence is “Salute Memorial Day!”

Let’s do whatever we can to keep it a secularly holy day; to remember warriors by decorating their burial places; to publicly thank neighbors and strangers who endured the ravages of war; to salute them all, as they parade along your main street and wave the flag of freedom we never for one second should take for granted.

On a personal note: Thank you, Dad (aka “Sarge” in WWII), for all that you gave your family and your country.  

Solders' Memorial Day-May 30

Memorial Day 2016 falls on May 30, just like it did for more than 100 years, until 1971, when a federal law moved it to Monday every year, regardless of the date.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency, where he is a partner with Pinpoint CEO and Google Adwords Certified Professional Bruce Mishkin. Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and the PennySaver, and a writer for Westchester Magazine. Under the banner of APAR All-Media, he is a consultant for Hudson Valley events and organizations. Follow him as Bruce The Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

Lives as Fragile as Origami


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Animals Out of Paper
by Rajiv Joseph
Directed by Stephen Nachamie
Through May 14
Whippoorwill Hall
19 Whippoorwill East, Armonk, N.Y. 10504
Hudson Stage Company

Who would dare to hinge a stage drama on the exotica of origami? (which the dictionary describes as “the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures.”) Only a writer with the confidence, skill and rigor to employ it as a metaphor for the fragility and myriad twists and turns that define every life.

Meet playwright Rajiv Joseph, whose “Animals Out of Paper” holds us in thrall as it unfolds to reveal the inner workings of its three strongly delineated characters. Thanks to first-rate acting and direction, Mr. Joseph’s clever and insightful play is well worth seeing in a splendid production by Hudson Stage Company at North Castle Library’s Whippoorwill Theater in Armonk (HudsonStage.com). It runs through May 14.

As the play begins, we are inside the apartment of origami guru Ilana (Jenny Sheffer Stevens, Actors’ Equity). Brought to life by Broadway-quality set design, it’s a living space that is as much of a mess as the life of its occupant. Ilana’s in divorce mode and her toothless, earless, 12-year-old three-legged dog has run away. Ilana, by her own admission, is not a people person.

Eccentrically engaging Andy (MIchael Guagno) finds that out quickly enough when he comes knocking and Ilana doesn’t bother to disguise her discomfort when this garrulous stranger lumbers clumsily into her reclusive world.

Ilana may be an indifferent host but she’s enough of a renowned origamist that high school calculus teacher Andy beseeches her to tutor one of his students, whose brilliance is blinding.

Michael Guagno-Jenny Stevens-Animals out of Paper

Andy (Michael Guagno) sheds his anxiety to show his feelings for Ilana (Jenny Sheffer Stevens).


Like Andy before him, student Suresh (Adit Dileep, Actors’ Equity) barrels his way into Ilana’s apartment, posing with hip-hop swagger, grooving to the music plugged into his ears. He’s a whiz not only at calculus, but, to hear Andy tell it, is also “the Jimi Hendrix of origami.” Flaunting his many-splendored gifts, Suresh milks an opportunity to impress Ilana further by creating freestyle rap lyrics without blinking.

Analogous to Ilana’s escaped canine, this trio resembles a lost, three-legged creature that teeters its way through a progression of naked truths and raw emotions that reveal the vulnerability, confusion and potential for salvation in all of us.

If that sounds oh-so-heavy, leave it to a crafty, cerebral dramatist like Rajiv Joseph to pull it off with the elegance and lightness epitomized by Ilana’s origami, whether it’s an oversize pterodactyl mobile or a heart-shaped mesh that could revolutionize non-invasive cardiac surgery.

Along the way, we witness a clash of attitudes and even cultures (when Ilana comments on how Suresh speaks, he replies, “You think I should sound Indian?”). Each character lives fully within his or her own world, and needs to let others in, but struggles to figure out how.

We also peer in on the various sides of each character, mirroring origami as a geometry of surfaces connected by creases.

Suresh’s outward brio masks his emotional needs and the profound pain he lives with after losing his mother in a fatal hit-and-run accident.


Andy lives in a bubble of blessings, which he literally counts by writing them down in his not-so-secret diary that Ilana ends up reading one night. “When I was 12,” he tells her, “a fortune cookie said ‘Count your blessings,’” and so he does, every day. His obsessive-compulsive tendencies have resulted in almost 8,000 “blessings.”

When Ilana questions how “pain” qualifies as a blessing, as Andy has entered in the diary, he observes, “it’s not pleasant, but it’s real.” That is how Andy, who says he’s never been truly hurt, conditions himself to both feel and to see the bright side of life, even when it’s melancholy. After all, how would we know mirth without knowing melancholy?

Ilana, who hasn’t “folded” since her dog Demba flew the coop, as if in mourning, warms to Andy and to Suresh, almost to her surprise. Sparks start to fly in separate semi-trysts she has with each of the two men, both signs that Ilana finally is returning to the fold. 

Jenny Stevens-Michael Guagno-dinner-Animals out of Paper

Literal-minded Andy (Michael Guagno) gets down on his knee to suddenly propose to Iliana (Jenny Sheffer Stevens) on — what else — Valentine’s Day.

Early on in the proceedings, Andy philosophizes, “Life is short, opportunities are scarce, love is rare.” Suresh tells her, “Meeting you is a blessing.” By the final curtain, all have grown aware of their respective blessings and ready to move on.

“Listen to your heart,” advises Andy. “It’s a reliable narrative.” I felt the same about the enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable “Animals Out of Paper.”

The three actors create palpable stage chemistry throughout, and are well served by the sure-handed direction of Stephen Nachamie. The pacing is as crisp and wise as the dialogue.

As always with Hudson Stage productions, the technical proficiency is first class. Sound design (William Neal) plays a prominent role in this show and it is coolly dynamic, whether hip-hop or Sinatra on the speakers.  Andrew Gmoser’s lighting is as illuminating as ever, maintaining his status as the gold standard.

Special mention also is due the authentically detailed and impactful set designs by Shoko Kambara, and the smooth, efficient set changes governed by stage manager Genevieve Kersh.

Costumes are by Charlotte Palmer-Lane. Executive producers are Denise Bessette, Dan Foster and Olivia Sklar.

Adit Dileep-Jenny Sevens-Animals out of Paper

Adit Dileep (l) as Suresh shows his talent for origami to Jenny Sheffer Stevens as Ilana. All photos by RANA FAURE


Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. He writes a weekly column for several periodicals and hosts public access TV series Hudson Valley WXYZ with Bruce The Blog. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Small Is All: Harrison’s Gift of Spring


By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk


During the 2000 Mildred Strang middle school’s Frost Valley retreat, Harrison’s classmates cheered him on as he made every last effort to scale a wall. He did not want to be pitied or treated as different from average-size kids.

This is the time of year — specifically, this weekend — we’ve awaited for months.

Spring is fragrant with possibilities, with renewed spirit, with romance.

If you Google “songs about spring,” the search engine will shower you with 142 million results. There’s much to sing about as we warm to the therapeutic balm of Mother Nature.

For our family, spring brings a flowering of intermingled memories and emotions. It was 13 years ago on March 20 — the vernal equinox — that our son Harrison went in for his third open-heart surgery, at age 15.  

Continue reading

Leap Day Daze

Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog
By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk

Hoppy Leap Day

What does self-help guru Tony Robbins have in common with William Tell composer Giaocchino Rossini and Pope Paul III? They all were born on Feb. 29, the two-thousand-year-old calendar correction that pays us a visit once every four years and was the brainchild of one Julius Caesar.

Leap Day babies has its own category in The Guinness Book of World Records. One family in Great Britain has the distinction of three successive generations, spanning 56 years, being born on Feb. 29.

Speaking of long odds, none of us should expect to win the lottery, but it’s no leap to say that, this year, each of us wins one-quarter-of-one-percent more time, thanks to magical Day No. 366 (though sequentially it’s Day No. 60).

And what better gift than to have Leap Day fall on a Monday! Who wouldn’t leap at the chance to celebrate an unscheduled three-day weekend? Hoppy Leap Day!

Michael Kay

New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay always calls extra innings bonus cantos.

New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay would call it bonus cantos, his homage to Latin players’ phrase for the extra innings tacked on when a beisbol game is tied after the regulation nueve innings.

To make the most of bonus cantos, we all should take a quantum leap and use the day to do something we might not otherwise think, or have time, to do.


Immortal emperor and general Julius Caesar is the (Ro)man who gave us Leap Day.

Don’t like Caesar salad? Order one anyhow, in tribute to the historical figure who bequeathed us the day.

Tell someone you secretly loathe to take a leap, and then add that you’re only kidding. Oops! That’s what we do on a different quasi-holiday that kicks off the month of April.

Lover's Leap

Here’s one of the exotic pursuits that it’s advisable not to do on the extra day of the year that arrives Feb. 29.

Those on a romantic rebound shouldn’t get too close to Lover’s Leap. For those deep in a relationship, why not take a leap of faith and propose.

According to Irish legend, Leap Day is when women propose to men.

Balancing gender roles is in harmony with the day’s purpose of balancing the year. (If we didn’t have a leap day quadrennially, the world’s atomic timekeepers assure us, we would lose six hours every 12 months.)

Antique crochet gloves

An olden European social custom dictated that a suitor who did not accept a marriage proposal from his lady on Leap Day was expected to buy her a dozen pair of gloves to hide the shame of naked fingers sans engagement ring.

In the old country, European aristocrats were unflinchingly serious about a young man’s obligation to accept a young lady’s marriage proposal on Leap Day. At one point, it was legislated that spurning the conjugal overture required the lout to buy a dozen pair of gloves for the lovely-lass-turned-lonely-lass, thus enabling her to mask the absence of an engagement ring.

The Greeks were suspicious of this extra day, with an attitude that said, “What? You come around once every four years and expect us to fall all over ourselves in giddy rapture?”

The Greeks actually preached “look before you leap,” and deemed it unlucky to be married anytime in a Leap Year, let alone on Leap Day.


(from left) Pope Paul III, motivational maven Tony Robbins and William Tell Overture composer Giaocchino Rossini all are Leap Day babies.

If our friends Rossini, Robbins or Pope Paul III were Scottish, the day they were born would have sent shivers into their parents.

The Scots believed it was bad news to enter the world on Feb. 29, so they presumably would just as soon have scotched the extra day.

By the way, if you’ve ever wondered how Tony Robbins, born in 1960, is able to retain his boyish good looks, now you know: In leap years, he’s only a precocious 11-year-old. 

Click here for a fun read of the “20 Craziest Facts about Leap Year,” in U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also is an independent content and media consultant under the banner of APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Bruce The Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

Patsy Cline & #1 Fan, Together Again


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

Westchester Broadway Theatre
Created and Originally Directed by Ted Swindley (
based on a true story)
Directed by Amiee Turner
Musical Direction by Ken Lundie
Through February 28, 2016
Tickets > www.BroadwayTheatre.com

WBT Patsy Cline program

Cover of the program given to each patron at Westchester Broadway Theatre

One of my wife Elyse’s favorite pieces of music is “Crazy” (maybe because in part it reminds her of me). That beautiful song also serves as a timeless reminder of an extraordinary voice that was stilled at the tragically tender age of 30.

Written by country music maker Willie Nelson, “Crazy” is the signature recording of Miss Patsy Cline, owner of a quintessentially clarion country sound that crossed over to the pop charts in the 1960s, and continues to thrill listeners with its heavenly tonality.

patsy band (2080x1664)

The Bodacious Bobcat Band is part of the cast on stage for the duration of the show as it backs up Erin McCracken as Patsy Cline. Photo by John Vecchiolla

The ardor and admiration that defines Patsy Cline’s legion of fans was on full display at the opening of Westchester Broadway Theater’s current dinner-theater production, “Always… Patsy Cline.” You can see it through Feb. 28 (ticket info: (914)-592-2222; BroadwayTheatre.com).


The jukebox musical is built around more than 25 of her trademark tunes, including “Walkin’ after Midnight,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “I Fall to Pieces.” Helping to propel the hit parade — which also includes standards like “Stupid Cupid,” “You Belong to Me,” “True Love,” and “Shake, Rattle & Roll” — is a lightly-played storyline about the singer’s improbable friendship with a Houston fan, Louise Seger.

The two crossed paths in a honky-tonk one night when Ms. Seger came to see her idol perform. Their warm friendship extended to chatting over coffee in the fan’s home. They remained avid pen pals from 1961 until Patsy perished in an airplane accident in March 1963.

Patsy Opry

When Louise Seger first heard Patsy Cline on the radio, she was star-struck by the singer’s incomparable voice. Photo by John Vecchiolla

As familiar as the Cline catalog is to her erstwhile admirers, it’s a revelation to hear it recreated by the larger-than-life talent of Erin McCracken, who comes crazy close to sounding like the one-and-only original. 


Close by her side throughout is the thoroughly engaging comic relief and storytelling antics of Susann Fletcher as Louise Seger. These ladies are classic show biz troupers, backed on stage by the high-energy Bodacious Bobcat Band, comprised of piano (Ken Lundie), steel guitar and fiddle (Guy Fischetti), bass (Geoff Marrow), and drums (Ken Ross).

The three-sided dinner-theater stage nicely conveys the down-home ambience and period feel of a Texas bar, with a jukebox and the band upstage, while downstage is a dinette set for the homey kaffee klatsches between the women. One of my favorite set design choices is a sign that reads “Houston Colt .45s,” the city’s national league baseball club that started in 1962, which three years later was renamed Houston Astros. 

This joyful and touching show starts, Grand Ole Opry-style, with a rollicking rockabilly number, “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round,” and rises to a rousing finish with the traditional barn-burner, “Bill Bailey.” Along the way, along with the tasty meals served at WBT, we’re treated to a feast of song and patter that’s free-wheeling and fast-moving.


patsy louise blue (2080x1664)

Singing star Patsy Cline and Number 1 fan Louise Seger maintained an avid pen pal relationship until Miss Cline’s tragic death in an airplane crash in 1963. Photo by John Vecchiolla

Louise Seger and yours truly are kinda kindred spirits, if several times removed.

More than 35 years ago, rock star Peter Gabriel — he of British group Genesis before setting out on a hugely successful solo career — somehow ended up sitting in my Manhattan living room. He had called me at my office, out of the blue, to ask if he could pick my brain about the new thing called “Video” because he saw me listed as editor of a magazine of the same name.

Alas, unlike the Cline-Seger relationship, I never heard from my pal Pete again. I guess you could say this Gabriel, even though he’s not a trumpet player, blew me off.

Given the estimable success that has resulted from immortalizing the Patsy-Louise connection, it’s astonishing that nobody has been inspired to cash in on the momentous coming together of Peter and Bruce. That’s somebody’s loss (just don’t ask me whose), for I have to believe that buried somewhere in our historic meeting — a dozen stories above the big-city din of Second Avenue and 23rd Street — is the genesis of one sledgehammer of a Broadway blockbuster.


Erin McCracken, Bruce Apar, Susann Fletcher

Bruce “The Blog” Apar congratulates stars Erin McCracken (right, Patsy Cline) and Susann Fletcher (Louise Seger) after the press night performance. Photo by Chris Jamison

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.




Set Design, Steve Loftus
Lighting Design, Andrew Gmoser
Sound Design, Jonathan Hatton and Mark Zuckerman
Costume Coordination, Heidi Giarlo
Hair/wig design, Gerard Kelly
Technical Director, Steve Loftus
Production Stage Manager,Victor Lukas
Properties by Grumpy Props
Lisa Tiso, Associate Producer

Westchester Broadway Theatre
1 Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10526

Reservations  Call (914)-592-2222 -or- BroadwayTheatre.com
Group Reservations  Discounts for groups of 20 or more: call 592-2225.
Luxury Boxes  Call 592-8730 for private parties of 6 to 22. Enjoy dining and theatre in an elegant private box. Additional features include an expanded dinner menu, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, private powder room, and Luxury Box reserved parking. Call for pricing details.
Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56-$84 plus tax, depending on performances chosen. Beverage service & gratuities not included in ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Also check our website for on-going special offers: BroadwayTheatre.com

Coming to WBT Mainstage
Man Of La Mancha– March 3
May 1
Happy Days – May 5
July 17
Million Dollar Quartet –July 21
Sept 11
Saturday Night Fever – Sept 15
Nov 27

Flakes in the Forecast

Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog
By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk


Several weeks ago, moonlighting meteorologists advised me that winter 2016 was going to be much milder compared with what we slogged through a year ago. With no substantial snow to speak of through the first half of January, that’s holding true so far.

snow forecast

The Farmers’ Almanac (FA), which harbors a legendary clairvoyance that envisions weather patterns many months ere everyone else, sees it differently.

The FA predicted that “Over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, the winter will be stormy with a good amount of snow (italics mine).”

The Almanac continues, “We are ‘red-flagging’ the second week of January and the second week of February for possible heavy winter weather with a long, drawn out spell of stormy weather extending through much of the first half of March.”

With a frigid front rearing its blustery head in mid-January, the nearly 200-year-old bible of long-range forecasting was looking to be what Larry David would call “pret-ty” prophetic thermometer-wise, though less all-knowing in its snowfall forecast.

After the fraught year America (and the rest of planet Earth) had in 2015 — the enormity of devastating death tempered only by the most glorious summer in many a moon — who wouldn’t welcome an unseasonably mild Hudson Valley winter right about now?  We need to catch our breath to take stock of our shaken sanity.


Defective drones are enough to make a grown man moan. Photo source: droneinjurieslawyer.com


Hoverboards that burst into flames also make great kindling wood for your fireplace. Photo source: express.co.uk

In more mundane matters, 2015 gave way to 2016 with the prospect of fire underfoot (in the form of inflammable hoverboards), aided and abetted by identified flying objects hovering skyward (those dastardly drones that need to be grounded with an industrial-strength fly-swatter).

If both of these futuristic playthings persist, when we’re not busy dodging bored kids on boards wherever we walk, we’ll be ducking battery-powered propellers to avoid unwanted haircuts out of shear [sic] thin air.

How either of those clearly-not-ready-for-prime-time, wondrous gadgets were allowed to be marketed to consumers so prematurely and recklessly is a wonder in itself.

Tiger Woods with tiger

Hold that Tiger in your memory because you won ‘t be seeing much of him playing any time soon. Photo source: zap2it.com

Hard to believe we’ve entered a year when a virtually decrepit Tiger Woods is fading fast instead of shaping fade shots. Not that he’s alone on the back nine: The NFL’s bruised Bronco, Peyton Manning, is at 4th and goal with precious little time left on the clock. The NBA’s scowling sharpshooter Kobe Bryant is about to hear a buzzer even he can’t beat.

We may not have those athletically-aging greats to enjoy watching anymore on the playing field, but we can look forward this year to the greatest show on earth in the form of the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.

Speaking of the national election, I need to double check the Farmers’ Almanac right now to see if it predicts a recordsetting snow job through Election Day, precipitated by a steady stream of flakes.

When it does snow, don’t forget to shovel it… which reminds me: also don’t forget to vote.

Here’s wishing you a Sweet ‘16!  

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also is an independent content and media consultant under the banner of APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Bruce The Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

Peekskill’s Magic Show Is Simply ‘Fantastick’


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

Embark and The Flatz

The Fantasticks
Directed by Katie Schmidt Feder
Through Dec. 19
The Flatz
1008 Main Street
Peekskill, NY 10566
Tickets >
or at Big Bang Coffee Roasters (at The Flatz).

There are a lot of entertaining reasons to hang out in resurgent Peekskill, but — even in this hot spot of a Northern Westchester river town that knows how to sing, swing and sizzle — there is nothing like The Fantasticks.

The musical runs one more weekend (through Dec. 19) at The Flatz, 1008 Main Street.

If there were a Mount Rushmore of the American musical theater, this show surely would sit atop it as one of the iconic faces.

Filled with a timeless, ear-pleasing score — who doesn’t remember the pop standard “Try to Remember”? — and a feathery love story everyone can embrace, The Fantasticks played off-Broadway for a world-record-setting 42 non-stop years, at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village.

The Fantasticks stage

The Fantasticks can be seen in an intimate, Greenwich Villagesque space at The Flatz in Peekskill at 1008 Main Street. Erik Contzius (left) is The Narrator/El Gallo and Suzi Tipa is The Mute. Photo by Bruce Apar


To put that unmatched longevity into perspective, when the remarkable musical debuted, our president was Dwight D. Eisenhower; when it closed, more than 17,000 performances later, the White House occupant was George W. Bush.

That spans two generations, and the beat goes on. Even today, at a theater on Broadway named for its original star, Jerry Orbach, the indestructible entertainment continues to perform its unique magic, 20,000 curtains and counting.

But no need to bust your budget on dinner and a show (plus a king’s ransom to park) in the big city, when The Fantasticks is casting its spell right in our backyard’s own city.


In the smoothly-produced Peekskill edition, the musical is as fresh and fun as ever, like a life-long friend who always makes you feel warm and fuzzy. This show, in fact, is my life-long friend. I’ve known it intimately for as long as I remember — the vinyl cast album I’ve owned since the Sixties is like a talisman I always can turn to, as a comforting muse.

Among the life-affirming lyrics that lift the score into immortality is “without a hurt, the heart is hollow,” from signature song “Try to Remember.” I have my own intensely personal reasons that bring the sentiment home. When talented actor Erik Contzius, as The Narrator, beautifully sang the phrase, in his rich baritone, a tear spontaneously appeared in my eye. That is the power of this show to connect with each audience member.

Every song note and lyric, from the mischievous and insightful wit of “Plant a Radish” and “It Depends on What You Pay” to the gently infectious lyricism of love songs “Metaphor” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” is ingrained in me.

I didn’t think I could loveThe Fantasticks any more than I already do. Boy, was I wrong. This is the first time I have seen it on stage, and I can’t get it out of my head, or my heart. It’s a show for the ages that has found a loving home in Peekskill.

Presented by Embark Peekskill and The Flatz, this endlessly engaging local production of The Fantasticks is a perfect marriage of talent and space. In addition to the canny direction of Katie Schmidt Feder and her homegrown cast, the show has the good fortune to be staged at The Flatz, whose Greenwich Villagesque interior oozes charm and cool and coziness. With business partner Sol Miranda (who can be seen in Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Ms. Feder is co-founder of Embark Peekskill, which will be based in The Flatz starting January 2016.


At the core of the show’s near-perfect proportion and compelling composition is a book and lyrics by Tom Jones (no, not the “Delilah” singer!), complemented brilliantly by the captivating music of Harvey Schmidt. Everything is so of a piece, there’s not a false note to be detected.

The mirthful, magical musical’s single biggest asset may be its powerful compactness.

That doesn’t mean it is easy to produce. Rather, it takes ingenuity and savvy stagecraft, not mere money, to nurture a vision into a theater experience that transports us fully for a couple of hours, which in this case go by in what seems like a few minutes. Ms. Feder deserves an ovation — and full houses — for her admirable achievement.

Exemplified by this lovingly-mounted version, the immortal The Fantasticks is a testament to the beauty and virtue of simplicity. There happens to be a chandelier gracing the space in front of the stage, but this ceiling fixture, thankfully, doesn’t come crashing down, as it does famously in a certain Broadway spectacle that leans operatically on special effects and bloat. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

The Fantasticks team.

The Peekskill team behind The Fantasticks: Embark co-founder Katie Schmidt Feder, director; The Flatz co-owner Monica Flaherty, co-producer; The Flatz co-owner Erik Contzius, co-producer and actor; Embark co-founder Sol Miranda, co-producer, and her husband David Roach. Photo by Bruce Apar


The virtually split-level stage that has been custom-built for The Fantasticks as you enter The Flatz gives away nothing in entertainment value. If anything, it focuses your attention squarely on what matters most: the music and the performers telling a universal tale that is easily relatable and palatable. 

The Fantasticks proves more than any other show that you don’t need scale to scale the heights of classic musical theater.

In addition to Mr. Contzius — who is co-owner of The Flatz with wife Monica Flaherty — the talented cast features the hilarious Tom Campbell, a local theater veteran, as a ragtag Shakespearean actor, and his equally loopy sidekick, played by Stephen Velichko. The pair pratfall all over the stage to very humorous effect.

Melody Munitz (The Girl) and Torian Brackett (The Boy) each bring considerable pathos and polish in their singing and acting. They are adolescent lovers whose fathers, a vaudeville-like duo in the persons of Luis Alonso Guzman and Frank Reale, pretend to feud to join their children in matrimony. Things don’t go exactly as planned, but of course, they live happily ever after.


One cast member who might literally be tagged an “unsung” hero is Suzi Tipa, whose character, “The Mute,” does not speak throughout. She does plenty of other things, though, that are vital to the suspension of disbelief and that create a visually romantic motif. Ms. Tipa, a dancer as well as actor, is ever so graceful and ethereal as she goes about her stage business.

The story behind The Fantasticks is based loosely on The Romancers by Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac. It carries important messages, presented with a deft touch, about the human condition, and how we should keep our eyes, and our minds, wide open as we travel through this life to get the most out of it.

“What happened to you? The Boy is asked, after he has seen enough of life to better appreciate its ups and downs.  “The world happened to me,” he answers. 

As a bona fide lifelong fan of The Fantasticks, I admittedly am biased, but also feel blessed to know this show. It has that kind of heart-warming effect on people.

If you see me with a big smile on my face, please ask what happened to me–just so I can tell you, The Fantasticks happened to me.”

Let it happen to you too.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Mom + Pop Culture Think Thanks


Mom + Pop Culture


MOM CULTURE: Well, it’s our favorite time of year, Pop.

POP CULTURE: I know, Mom. Time to for me to feast on football!

MOM: I meant Thanksgiving, bozo.

POP: I know what you meant, Mom. And I can’t wait to pig out on pigskin.

MOM: Not exactly what I had in mind. We have lots of reasons to give thanks. 

POP: We sure do. Thank goodness we don’t live in Syria.

MOM: Those poor people.

POP: Yeah, well, they can stay poor over there instead of coming here to sponge us off poor slobs.

MOM: I feel bad for them, Pop.

POP: Feel as bad as you please. Thank goodness we live in the land of the free.

MOM: Sure as shootin’.

POP: Speaking of which, thank goodness for that 2nd amendment.

MOM: First things first. Thank goodness for the 1st amendment.

POP: That too, that too. The second protects us against the insidious, sissy gun-control lobby, and the first protects us against the obnoxious politically correct do-gooders who want to control speech instead of keep it free.

MOM: I know, Pop. How else could equal opportunity offenders like you have your say?

POP: Now you’re talkin’! I knew you’d come around one of these decades.

MOM: While we’re at it, thank goodness for our Founding Fathers.

POP: Thank goodness for having faith.

MOM: Faith in what, Pop?

POP: In our convictions. In our future leaders… as long as they are of the right political persuasion.

MOM: You mean as long as they are politically correct?

POP: Yeah—NO! Don’t try and trick me.

MOM: Oh, you don’t need my help in that department.

POP: You’re darn right I don’t.

MOM: How about faith in humanity?

POP: Good luck with that one. Thank goodness we have a higher power to look to beyond humans.

MOM: Yes, WE do, but not everyone believes in a higher power.

POP: That’s sinful.

MOM: They don’t believe in sin. Maybe they are atheists or agnostics.

POP: That’s illegal.

MOM: It is?

POP: If it isn’t, it should be. Make it a constitutional amendment.

MOM: Pop, there is nothing more personal or internal than faith. Those people have faith in fate. They just don’t believe in any organized religion. Their faith is inside them. It just doesn’t have a name.

POP: Yes, it does. Satan! I’m not ashamed of my faith. I wear it right on my sleeve for everyone to see. And I want to see it on everyone else.

MOM: You do?

POP: You know what I mean.

MOM: I’m not always sure you know what you mean. In any case, I don’t need to flaunt my faith.

POP: Bully for you.

MOM: Exactly. I don’t need to bully others using my religion as a pulpit. People who do that are more full of fear than full of faith. Faith hinges on humility and acceptance of humanity in all its flaws and all its variety. Fear hinges on exploiting your faith to justify intolerance and a hollow claim to moral superiority.

POP: Thank goodness you know the difference.

MOM: Yes, thank goodness one of us does.

POP: I’m a God-fearing man, Mom. And will be until I take my last you-know-what…

MOM: … your last chug of beer?

POP: Funny. You should do stand-up. 

MOM: Let me ask you this. What if someone – a good person, let’s say – is not, quote “God fearing” unquote?

POP: God help them!

MOM: Oy vay!

POP: That God also can help the God-fearless. Lord know they need all the Godly help they can get.

MOM: I’m curious, Pop. How many Gods do you think there are?

POP: Only one, as far as I’m concerned.

MOM: Which would that be, pray tell?

POP: Mine.

MOM: Well, glory be, I agree. It’s the God in each of that matters, if we choose to believe in a higher power.

POP: Choose? You have no choice. God just is. And he shall reign forever and ever. End of discussion. Period. Next.

MOM: I say thank goodness for Evil.

POP: What?! Have you gone nuts?

MOM: Without Evil, there can be no good. Without dark, we wouldn’t have light. Without hate, we would not know love.

POP: Well, that is true. We do live in a world of opposites.

MOM: And of apostates.

POP: Who?

MOM: Apostates. People who renounce religion or political beliefs.

POP: I think they are called Socialists. Communists. Radical terrorists. Name your poison. Thank goodness I have a lot of names to brand those ne’er-do-wells so I can protect myself when I see them coming.

MOM: You mean like the refugees?

POP: Bingo!

MOM: Thank goodness for Emma Lazarus.

POP: You mean that young actress with the raspy voice?

MOM: That’s Emma Stone, goofball. Emma Lazarus is an American-born poet of the Jewish faith. Her ancestors were refugees who came to America to escape anti-Semitic violence in Russia.

POP: Okay. So…?

MOM: Emma Lazarus wrote about her refugee relatives as an homage to the universality of freedom and basic human decency: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

POP: Sounds like the Syrian refugees should erect a statue to her with those words on it.

MOM: This country beat them to it.

POP: Beat them to what?

MOM: Emma Lazarus’s words already grace America’s most sacred symbol of freedom.

POP: Freedom Tower?

MOM: Yes, the original freedom tower, which came from France: The Statue of Liberty.

POP: Happy Thanksgiving, Mom.

MOM: Thank goodness for liberty, Pop.

POP: Thank goodness for you, Mom. 

MOM + POP: Thank goodness we live in America.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

‘Hold Tight to your Mothers… Reach out to your Sons’


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

There’s one more weekend of performances in Armonk to see Mothers & Sons actress Misti Tindiglia, seen here with director Anthony Valbiro. The longtime friends and theater veterans have worked together frequently with much success. Photo by Bruce Apar


Mothers & Sons
by Terrence McNally
Directed by Anthony Valbiro
Through Nov. 21
Whippoorwill Hall
19 Whippoorwill East, Armonk
The Armonk Players

In his powerful one-act play, Mothers & Sons, celebrated playwright Terrence McNally gives full voice to a specific strain of intolerance. He reminds us that if hate comes easier to some more than others, it may be because of an inner sadness — call it a deficiency of happiness — that leaves the hater feeling forever alone, even when surrounded by family. That unshakable sense of aloneness, without the salve of distraction, invites resentment and even ridicule of others.

And so it is with widowed Katharine Gerard (Misti Tindiglia), a Westchester native from Port Chester (but tells folks she is from Rye), who long ago relocated — or, more precisely, dislocated — to Dallas, whose people and culture she virtually grades with a big D.

As the play opens, Katharine’s just arrived in the Big Apple to reluctantly visit her late son Andre’s lover, Cal (Adam Welsh), who now is married to Will (Brad Metz). The same-sex couple have a 6-year-old son, Bud (Nathan Ilany).

A Wall Between Them

Cal and Katharine — who’ve met only once before, at Andre’s funeral 20 years prior — are facing the audience when the lights go up. Each may as well be standing on either side of a brick wall running down the middle of the room, for all they have in common.

Cal is a money manager whose success landed him in a posh Central Park West co-op with panoramic views of the park and beyond. Given his apparent wealth, there’s no small irony in his down-to-earth sincerity placed alongside the haughty airs of Mrs. Gerard.

Without any evidence to support her suspicions, the imperious woman implicitly blames Cal for her son’s death by AIDS. She also resents Cal’s upwardly mobile fortunes since her son’s demise. In her jaded eyes, she has lost her son and suffered while Cal has taken her son and prospered.

Katharine hails not only from a different generation, but from a different universe. She admits to having difficulty “transitions,” which means any kind of change whatsoever.

‘Choice’ Words from a Mother in Mourning

To Katharine, who is emblematic of many others, being non-heterosexual is a “choice,” like choosing a place to go on vacation.

She goes so far as to say her son was not gay when he left Dallas for New York. She objects to the very word “gay” being co-opted from her comfortable context of when it meant “something good.”

Adam Welsh invests Cal with a beautifully affecting and tender earnestness as he tries valiantly and respectfully to joust with the steely Mrs. Gerard.

Veteran and versatile actress Misti Tindiglia is perfectly cast as a woman who doesn’t let anybody in and lashes out at whatever she disapproves of. As the play progresses, the skilled actress lets us see the hurt deep inside that accounts for her character’s lifetime of corrupted emotions and judgmental impulses.

Doting Father, Politically Promiscuous

As Will, who is 15 years younger than husband Cal, Brad Metz plays a doting father to Bud, and is far less concerned with being politically correct than the more self-conscious and proper Will.

Kudos too to Nathan Ilany, whose Bud is as bouncy, curious and unvarnished as you’d expect a six-year-old boy to be. He is a little like a Greek chorus, commenting on the adult activity.

The play is lovingly directed by Anthony Valbiro, a man of many roles who is a master of the theater arts. His personal note in the program is both achingly poignant and inspirational. It talks of his own life experience and relationship with his mother, which mirrors what we see on stage.

Despite the differences between him and his mother, “I never gave up,” writes Mr. Valbiro. “Gay men connect to their mothers like no other… I hope this piece speaks to you in a way that will make you forgive… love… that’s what it’s all about. Hold tight to your mothers… reach out to your sons.”

In life, as in the play, redemption is within reach, if you stretch enough.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. He writes a weekly column for several periodicals and hosts public access TV series Hudson Valley WXYZ with Bruce The Blog. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Searching for a Ray of Sunlight in the Darkness


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Writer-director Joe Albert Lima (right) and actor Steve Allen enjoy meeting playgoers after each performance of “A Short Walk into Sunshine,” in Ossining through Nov. 28. Photo by Bruce Apar

‘A Short Walk into Sunshine’
Written + Directed by Joe Albert Lima
Through Nov. 28
Steamer Co. Firehouse
117 Main St., Ossining
Westchester Collaborative Theater

K.C. Johnson is a charmer–on the outside. He has a knack for stylin’ and jokin’ and swaggerin’. On the make with a foxy lady, he’s liable to break into the pop song “Lean on Me.” In the talented person of highly animated actor Steve Allen, the persona rings true. Who doesn’t know someone like that?

What’s going on inside K.C. is another matter. He’s a tempest of torment and lost chances. K.C. is the first person we meet in Joe Albert Lima’s arresting drama “A Short Walk into Sunshine,” at Steamer Co. Firehouse in Ossining through Nov. 28.

K.C. is a 41-year-old recovering drug addict and psychiatric patient who’s camping out on the living room sofa of older sister Sarah Bates (played by the superb Tracey McAllister) in her Queens apartment. She took her brother in to help see him through outpatient treatment at a neighborhood clinic. Trouble is that K.C. doesn’t like going to treatment because he doesn’t want to be medicated.

Fractured Families

K.C. and the girlfriend he courts in Act I, Peaches (Maiysha Jones), are a pair of lost souls from fractured families. Having met at the treatment center, their kinship in large part stems from their history of addiction and depression mingled with a mutual struggle to clear a path to a fruitful future.

The tagline for Mr. Lima’s work is “Destiny is not a matter of chance.” In a refreshingly straightforward and concise style, he probes the proverbial influences of “nature vs. nurture” in shaping personalities and life histories.  Environments play a role in who we become, but, ultimately, it’s only our “self” who can shape personal destiny.

K.C. may have had a fraught family life, but so did sister Sarah, who is self-sufficient, disciplined and responsible. She administers tough love to K.C., but he continually chafes under her tightly-held reins. We also learn K.C. was academically accomplished, having attended Columbia University, if only for half a semester before drugs dragged him down and out.

Looking Forward to Fatherhood

It’s only when the prospect surfaces of K.C.’s becoming a father that he begins to pull himself up and act with a sense of responsibility. His entire outlook changes, as he starts to walk out of darkness and into the sunshine, as Mr. Lima poetically phrases it.

As writer and director of the slice-of-life play, Mr. Lima brings a facile way with dialogue. His words and idiomatic locutions sound like they are spontaneously spoken by real people rather than written by a disembodied dramatist.

The author told me his goal was to humanize the mentally ill, and he certainly succeeds in that pursuit. He added that, despite Sarah’s obvious good heart and love of her brother, many audience members side with K.C. against her. I guess some people just don’t love tough love.

Charisma + Naturalism

Mr. Allen and Ms. McAllister are extremely effective actors who are able to convey both stage charisma and deeply-felt naturalism at the same time. They propel the play in a way that keeps you engaged every moment, which is no small feat.

As glazed Peaches, whose hazy past of post-partum depression has left her pregnancy-phobic, Maiysha Jones is suitably fragile and frightened. In the role of Sarah’s ex-husband Max — who is opening a “healthy soul food” restaurant — Keith Bullock’s dry delivery makes him a fine foil for the firecracker that is Ms. McAllister’s Sarah.

Adding to the immediacy of this theatrical experience is the intimacy of the performance space, on the second floor of the Steamer Co. Firehouse on Main Street. You can’t get any closer to actors than here.The proximity helps glue audience members to the action, tension, and emotion — not to mention humor — that suffuses this provocative and thoughtful look at lives that matter even when they go tragically astray.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Reagan Republicans at Sea in the Desert


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

(From left) Family Feud: Malachy Cleary as Lyman Wyeth, Davy Raphaely as Trip Wyeth, Colleen Zenk as Polly Wyeth, Brenda Withers as Brooke Wyeth, Peggy J. Scott as Aunt Silda Grauman. All photos by Rana Faure

When the stage lights come up on actress Brenda Withers as Other Desert Cities begins, she intones, “This endless sunshine. It’s so predictable.”

In those few words, writer Jon Robin Baitz packs layers of symbolism. On the surface, the sunshine is synonymous with therapeutic and geriatric Palm Springs, Calif., where the story is set, at Christmas 2004.

As familiar as I am with Armonk’s Whippoorwill Hall, both from the audience as a patron and from the stage as an actor, I barely recognized it after the magical transformation wrought by Hudson Stage scenic designer David L. Arsenault.

His gleaming set is a stunner, with a dreamy backdrop of floor-to-ceiling picture windows peering into the mountains and palms of the California desert as if you could not only touch but smell their earthy fragrance.

Lyman has a hear-to-heart with recovering daughter Brooke.

About that symbolism that Baitz baits us with: Where the Wyeth family is concerned, “endless sunshine” is about to be eclipsed by a cloud that rains down the kind of recrimination and resentment that rips apart the closest of families.

As for “predictable”… all I have to say is Ha! I dare you to predict where this story ends up. It’s as much mystery as high dudgeon drama.

The only thing that would have made this beautifully balanced, by turns light-and-dark entertainment more intriguing is if I was sitting next to a Reagan Republican (RR), or even in back or in front of one, to observe that person’s reactions.

For all I know, the silver fox who sat in front of me was an RR, though I suspect his hair was too lengthy and artsy to fit that profile.

No matter. I was more than satisfied watching the Reagan Republicans on stage, led by paterfamilias Lyman Wyeth (Malachy Cleary), a retired Hollywood B-movie star whose loyalty to the Grand Old Party earned him a coveted U.S. ambassadorship.

ODC scenic design

Hudson Stage scenic designer David L. Arsenault’s stunning set will make you believe you’re watching this compelling drama in Palm Springs, California, with the desert and majestic mountains right outside the picture windows.

If Lyman’s career arc sounds more than vaguely familiar — even presidential — you’re as right as he is to the right. He served under President Reagan, and is married to Nancy Reagan-worshipping Polly (Colleen Zenk).

Somewhat ironically, she’s a retired screenwriter, a vocation not brimming with right-wing females. Polly and sister Silda Grauman (Peggy J. Scott) were creative partners in the craft of turning out light comedies.

That explains the zingers that the quick-witted Mr. Baitz plants on their equally sharp tongues. Those are some garrulous genes they inherited.

Silda, though, would rather be righteous than right and doesn’t subscribe to her sister’s politics of pretension and bully-pulpit persuasion.

“You’re not Texan,” Silda chides Polly. “You’re a Jew.” A Jew sporting a Christmas tree, the better to hang with the blue bloods and mask her true bloodline. “Telling the truth is a very expensive hobby,” Polly warns whomever is listening.

Even the high-style home interior on stage conjured by Mr. Arsenault has a Wrightness about it–a vintage Frank Lloyd Wright Palm Springs moderne abode. It’s a gorgeous piece of stagecraft that also is coolly functional, with a sunken living room, a majestic fieldstone fireplace, and a tidy little bar that gets plenty of visits from this contentious clan, thirsting for self-medication.

The storyline by Mr. Baitz revolves around the privileged and proud Wyeth family, which includes children Brooke (Brenda Withers), a newly-successful novelist; Trip (Davy Raphaely), producer of a popular reality series, “Jury of Your Peers”; and a black sheep son, Henry, who fell in with an underground cult of anti-war domestic terrorists that blew up a recruiting office, claiming the life of a homeless veteran.

Disconsolate, Henry went off the deep end, literally, with evidence that he drowned himself by jumping off a ferry into icy waters. A suicide note was left behind.

ODC performance-Brooke, Polly, Trip

Polly is all dolled up to go shopping, while her kids Brooke and Trip are content to hang out and renew sibling acquaintances.

As the play unfolds, Brooke is welcomed back by the brood after years of hospitalization for drug addiction and depression. Her brother’s descent into oblivion became too much for her to handle. Now that she’s in full recovery, Brooke has what she thinks is exciting news: she just finished a new book.

The good news quickly turns sour when Brooke elaborates that it’s a tell-all memoir about her high-and-mighty family. The carefully nurtured veneer worn by the preening Polly and status-conscious Lyman is about to be shattered by their “leftie” daughter. It’s a tough way to find out how much mightier is the pen than the sword.

Jon Baitz proves that adage himself with razor-sharp observations that slice open nuggets of wisdom and withering criticism. “Families are terrified by their weakest member,” says Polly. “This is America. We get warm and fuzzy about war,” says Silda.

She’s not finished either: “These people driven by fear have taken ownership of an entire country just to protect the way things were,” Silda says of the Palm Springs $1000-a-plate benefit set that are Polly’s and Lyman’s bosom buddies.

Polly is so horrified by the prospect of family secrets being laid bare in the book — which will ostracize her and Lyman from their ultra-conservative friends — that she threatens never to speak to her daughter again. Silda, like an angel on the shoulder, urges Brooke not to back down: “Fight on. You have ideas. They only have fear.”

Brenda Withers’ Brooke is a relentless fireball of energy that drives the narrative and spars spiritedly with her Ice Queen mother Polly. Colleen Zenk told me in an interview that she didn’t audition for that role. Director Dan Foster offered it to her, telling Ms. Zenk’s agent he never had seen a better match between character and actor.

The actress amply fulfills Mr. Foster’s perceptive instincts with a powerful performance. A veteran of more than 30 years’ standing on legendary soap opera As the World Turns (as Barbara Ryan), Ms. Zenk’s rigid posture and haughty attitude signal what Polly avers is the “way to live… order, precision, discipline.”

Yet, we also are not blind to the deep, deep hurt that hides behind her veil of posing and carefully manicured pride.

Brooke and Aunt Silda see life differently. They fire back that Polly and her kind have no time for compassion but plenty of time to indulge in intolerance. Silda castigates her for the “zealots who have overtaken your party.”

Zenk-Apar-ODC in theater

Colleen Zenk says hello after the opening performance to Bruce “The Blog” Apar.

Malachy Cleary is outstanding as Lyman, who can kid about his best talent being the death scenes in his movies, yet still hold his own with the others, even though his mouth is not as fast on the draw as his gunslinger and gumshoe characters. Lyman arguably is the most authentic and level-headed of the bunch, taking life as it comes and enjoying it while he can, in “hail fellow well met” Reaganesque fashion.

Rounding out an impressively solid cast is young Davy Raphaely as the laconic, Manhattan Millennial, Trip. He has his mother’s charm and bluntness plus his father’s sangfroid casualness.

Along with sardonic Silda, the pair form a Greek chorus that serves as a reality check for the others. Aunt and nephew stay at just enough of a remove to comment on the proceedings without getting too wrapped up in — or warped by — the bitter brawling.

Credit cerebral director Dan Foster with shading the tragedy and comedy adroitly enough to remind us that, as with all things in life, none of these characters has a monopoly on the truth or right or wrong.

Trip puts it perfectly: “All what will have mattered when you take your last breath is how you loved.”

How you lived is left to others to decide.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887

Hudson Stage Presents
Other Desert Cities
by Jon Robin Baitz

Through Oct. 31
Whippoorwill Hall
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504

For ticket information… 
Visit Website

March Gladness


Bruce caricatureBRUCE THE BLOG

For our family, this is the historic week that was.

It is the week everybody welcomes spring, a date that marks my first day on earth.

The next day marks our son’s last.

This is the week a dozen years ago when the U.S. invaded Iraq.

HA 2003 NCAA Bracket

In his 2003 NCAA picks, Harrison correctly picked Texas and my alma mater Syracuse in the Final Four, but predicted Kentucky — this year’s even-money favorite to take it all — as the champion instead of winner Syracuse.

It is the week a dozen years ago when my alma mater, Syracuse, began its triumphant march to giddy madness, winning the NCAA basketball tournament (OK, so our son the sports whiz picked Kentucky, but he did put ‘Cuse in his Final Four).

This is the week in 2003 Harrison entered Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for his third open-heart surgery.

It is the same city where, in 1987, Harrison sprang to life from Elyse in Pennsylvania Hospital, the place Rocky Balboa’s son was born, in the movies. (Harrison literally came out fighting, with superficial bruises under his eyes that looked like shiners.)

Fifteen years later, we sensed serendipity in returning to the city of Harrison’s birth for a life-saving operation, scheduled, no less, on my birthday of March 20.

This is the week Harrison — whose dwarfism stopped his stature at 37 inches, 37 pounds and caused heart-and-lung disease — started a secret diary on the eve of his surgery, writing in it, we later learned, that he optimistically envisioned an outcome that would, in his words,  “… give my dad a refreshing birthday gift wrapped in flesh — a son’s healthy heart.”

Indeed, he exited the operating room with my birthday gift pulsing like new, but the brief relief was a mean tease. A day later, notwithstanding the best efforts of six puzzled doctors huddled over him in the intensive care unit, Harrison’s 15-year-old heart halted.

Our son was no more, and we were lost in lonely despair. The surgeon, his face ashen, his voice numb, sorrowfully told us our son’s rare condition put him beyond the reach of medical salvation. “I’m so sorry,” chimed in Harrison’s nurse, then broke down sobbing. We lay awake all night, doing the same, while staring into the darkest, deepest emptiness a parent can know.

Elyse and Elissa on Norwegian Dawn-Dec. 2003

In December 2003, when Elissa was 13 (pictured with mom Elyse), nine months after Harrison passed, we went on a Caribbean cruise with other families to “get away from it all,” at least for a week.

“Will daddy ever be happy again?” 12-year-old Elissa asked Elyse, as family and friends embraced a once-happy home suddenly awash in tears.

Five years later, at Yorktown High’s Senior Awards Night, from the podium, where each year we present a scholarship in her brother’s name, I proudly told our daughter, for all to hear, “The answer to your question starts with a “Y,” because You have made me happy.”

HAGC generic logo copy

The annual fall charity golf outing hosted by Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation raises money for recreation and education for the betterment of families and youth in our community.

It makes me happy to give back to the community through the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation, which we started in 2003 with the generous support of Yorktown Athletic Club (YAC) and Yorktown Police Benevolent Association.

It has taught me that when you lose a child, what you gain is the privege and duty of helping others in your child’s name.


Harrison strived hard to be just one of the guys, and pushed himself beyond his physical limits to show good things come in small packages. On the 7th grade weekend retreat at Frost Valley, he proved his true grit by stepping it up on the rappelling wall.

Harrison played and officiated baseball and basketball for YAC, to which I forever will be indebted for lifting my son’s self-esteem to where he felt 10-feet tall on the field, court, or stage.

Thanks to Harrison’s passion for sports — he competed against peers virtually twice his size — I learned the inner resolve it takes to hold your head high even when closer to the ground than everyone else.


Shaquille O’Neal (l) and Hakeem Olajuwon had a “pick-up” game with 8-year-old Harrison Apar at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Despite knowing he never would sink a basket or hit a ball past the pitcher, nobody had more fun being out there than did Harrison. Because of his severe physical limitation, he took nothing for granted; he made the most of the least.

TIme cannot heal this mortal wound, but it can help you learn to cope with the gushing gash of grief. Celebrating Harrison’s life gives us strength. If he made the most of every inch of his being, how dare those of us blessed with decent health come up short.

Within days of Harrison’s passing, 7th grader Brendan Frail (since deceased) took it upon himself to rally the town of Yorktown to rename a public park Harrison Apar Field of Dreams. Fittingly, the field has a bench in memory of Brendan.

At the foot of the field’s flagpole, a memorial plaque is posted three-feet from the ground, by design the same height as Harrison, as a reminder to kids and adults alike that the true measure of a person is not a matter of inches, but a matter of character.

Joey DiPanfilo reading plaque at Field of Dreams

Each spring on opening day of Harrison Apar Field of Dreams in Yorktown, a player for Yorktown Athletic Club reads the memorial plaque dedicating the field in Harrison’s name. The pedestal is three-feet high to symbolize Harrison’s actual height. It’s a reminder that stature is not a matter of inches but a matter of character.

Such is the legacy of a little person who continues to inspire those who knew him, and to influence those who never met him.

This is the week of the long-awaited vernal equinox, when the rites of spring are renewed in all of nature’s many-splendored glories.

March makes me glad to revel in the return of kids like Harrison to the great outdoors, hearing the joyful noise of bat on ball, seeing them cheer on teammates.


When he no longer could play basketball or baseball for Yorktown Athletic Club after heart surgery, Harrison refereed and umpired those sports. Here he officiates on Pinetree Field, which would be renamed for him, thanks to 7th grader Brendan Frail, who also passed. A bench at the field fittingly is dedicated to Brendan.

I can hear that tiny umpire voice right now on the field that bears his name, uttering two of Harrison’s favorite words: Play ball!

For all my March 20s, it will gladden my heart to know that Harrison kept the birthday promise he made 12 years ago. He gave his dad nothing less than the gift of a lifetime: His.


Bruce Apar owns and operates APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley agency for advertising, content, marketing and public relations. Follow it on Facebook. Reach him at bapar@me.com.


Harrison’s dad was privileged to share with his son historic sports moments (Yankees winning ’96 World Series against Atlanta Braves; David Wells’ perfect game in 1998) and events (1996 Atlanta Olympics).

An Immaculately Faithful Production of Shanley’s Masterwork


Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog Beyond Broadway  

Online + Print Syndicated Reviews
Covering the Region’s Top Theater Companies — from Ridgefield to Armonk to Pleasantville to Stony Point to New Paltz

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Philipstown Depot Theatre and GoJo Clan Productions Present
by John Patrick Shanley
With Julia Boyes, Dawn Brown-Berenson, Robin Gorn, Duane Rutter
Directed by Ed Friedman
Julia LaVerde, Stage Manager
Duane Rutter, Technical Director (Lighting, Sound, Video Design)
Evan Schweikhart, Light/Sound Board Operator

Through December 16, 2018
Philipstown Depot Theatre
Garrison Landing
Garrison, New York 10524

Order Tickets Online
$25 General; $20 Students + Seniors

[NOTE: The author of this review is a paid marketing consultant for GoJo Clan Productions who regularly reviews local theater.]

‘The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.’
Ann Lamott, based on Paul Tillich

There’s a general assumption in these parts that the best way to see dynamic live theater is by traveling to Manhattan. That notion is being disproven in dramatic fashion right now at Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison Landing (Putnam County).

That’s where I strongly recommend you go to catch one of the three remaining performances this weekend of GoJo Clan Productions’ scintillating staging of “Doubt: A Parable.” 

Depot is a jewel of a theater (as well as a historic landmark) that is ideally suited to both contain and amplify the tight, tension-filled, eloquent, elegant moments that make this John Patrick Shanley prize-winning play a modern classic.  

Robin Gorn (r) as Sister Aloysius asks Duane Rutter (Father Flynn) what he’s jotting down in his little book.

We are witness to a high-pitched battle of wit and will where the stakes on each side reach up to the heavens. Acting like an advocate on the side of the angels, as if appointed by St. Peter himself, is Sister Aloysius (Robin Gorn). She’s a stoic, hidebound catholic school principal in the Bronx in the early 1960s.

Sister Aloysius seethes at the sight of a ballpoint pen being used instead of a fountain pen. To her disciplinarian’s mind, the modern writing instrument might as well be the devil’s trident.

Caught like trapped prey in her cross-hairs is progressive priest Father Flynn (Duane Rutter). His solicitous relationship with Donald Muller, the school’s first black student, has Sister Aloysius high on her haunches, suspicious as (excuse the expression) hell.

Caught between the pair’s battle royale is callow young nun Sister James (Julia Boyes) and Donald Muller’s mother (Dawn Brown-Berenson).

Video is projected above the stage to supplement the live action below it.

All of the actors are on point in bringing their complex characters to vibrant, theatrical life. It is a gift to audiences to feel the emotional pulse that courses through the actors’ instruments and touches us even if we’re seated in the last row.

Undoubtedly, the gravitas that pulls all the pieces and people together is Sister Aloysius, who is in just about every scene, and, thanks to the bravura acting of Robin Gorn, just about dominates every scene. That is until Dawn Brown-Berenson enters the picture and fairly shocks the sister with her attitude about her son Donald’s alleged predicament.

The two actors infuse this high point in the play with the kind of sparks we attend the theater to hopefully experience. They deliver the goods first class.

Julia Boyes is fitfully timid and poignantly vulnerable as Sister James, who emerges from her shell gradually and with grace.

Father Flynn (Duane Rutter) shares his concerns about allegations against him with Sister James (Julia Boyes).

As charismatic Father Brendan Flynn, Duane Rutter deftly threads the needle by being highly likable while also conveying a teetering over-confidence that suspicious souls like the Sister are certain is hiding something unholy.

The high-caliber acting and masterly direction of Ed Friedman add up to a transcendent and fast-moving 90 minutes (without intermission).

This show is airborne from the first scene, and even before then. Wrapping epochal context around the action about to unfold is a moving montage of video clips capturing the zeitgeist of the ’60s — from the assassinations and race riots to Dylan, The Beatles, and Vietnam. Cleverly crafted by multi-talented Duane Rutter, it is projected above the stage and used sparingly but effectively during the play as well.

Any familiarity with this powerful play is most likely based on the film version starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. That’s quite an all-star lineup, to be sure, but the natural habitat for “Doubt” is in live performance, as this impactful production impressively proves.   

That’s a testament to its immaculately skilled author, John Patrick Shanley, whose four flesh-and-blood characters and and muscular narrative justly anointed him with the Pulitzer Prize for drama and Tony Award for Best Play.

I don’t doubt Mr. Shanley himself would express admiration for this faithful, finely-tuned realization of his timeless masterwork.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.