Flakes in the Forecast

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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.

Whatever Happened to Tiny Tim & Scrooge?


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

Westchester Broadway Theatre
Tim and Scrooge: A Carol for a Later Christmas
Music by Neil Berg
Book and Lyrics by Nick Meglin
Directed by
Nick Corley
Musical Direction by Patrick Hoagland
Through Dec. 27, 2015
Tickets > www.BroadwayTheatre.com

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(Front) Marissa McGowan (as Allison) & Justin Scott Brown (as Tim). (Back, from left) George Lee Andrews (as Scrooge) & Kevin Ligon (as Marley) Photo by John Vecchiolla

Last we left Ebenezer Scrooge — best known for popularizing “Bah! Humbug!” as the anthem of cynics everywhere — the miserly moneylender had a change of heart, warming to the spirit of Christmas, and actually acting charitable toward Bob Cratchit and family, including Tiny Tim.

In the clever and entertaining musical Tim and Scrooge, at Westchester Broadway Theater through Dec. 27, we catch up to both of them a dozen years after Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” ends. 


As the synopsis goes, “Scrooge (Gerge Lee Andrews) has died a changed man and lovingly bequeathed the Scrooge & Marley Counting house to Tim Cratchit (Justin Scott Brown). Tim, while away at university, has fallen in love with a beautiful orphan girl named Allison” (Marissa McGowan).

About to turn 21, Tim on that day will take ownership of the Counting House. But he has a more noble profession in his heart: teaching.

“I find it no coincidence,” says Tim, “that the word numbers begins with numb.”

Idealist that he is, the no-longer-tiny Tim transfers the business to a couple of shady characters. That triggers confrontations that threaten to turn into a calamity. Scrooge wants to help Tim, but his dead partner Jacob Marley hovers to warn Ebenezer that he can interact with the living, but cannot intervene to change their actions.

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(From left) Justin Scott Brown (as Tim) & George Lee Andrews (as Scrooge). Photo by John Vecchiolla


This is a sweet, simple production — the stage remains spare with minimal props to shine deserved emphasis on the story, characters and tastefully-staged musical numbers by choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee and director Nick Corley.

As soon as Scrooge opens the show, he gets into his archetypal spirit with a song titled “Humbug!” Speaking of spirit, he soon is joined by the ghost of Marley. At various points, the pair of apparitions inhabit “A Celestial Environment” that is signified by smoke wafting across the stage.

We are cued that Scrooge now is a good guy by the resplendent all-white outfit he wears. Marley is in white save for a black vest festooned in chains.

The story, by Nick Meglin, who also wrote the lyrics for Neil Berg’s music, is lively, witty and smartly crafted.


By turns lovely and forceful, the songs are done full justice by the heavenly voices throughout the cast, under the musical direction of Patrick Hoagland. WBT productions are know for their showcasing of outstanding vocal chords, which is to say, you won’t find better singing north of Broadway than at Westchester Broadway Theater.

Justin Scott Brown and George Lee Andrews make commanding presences who work well together and lead a uniformly talented ensemble of energetic performers.

Needless to say, all ends well, with the shady duo of Harold Hall (Fred Inkley) & Henry Hastings (Daniel Marcus)  coming to realize, “there’s earning in learning” and talk of backing “Ebenezer Scrooge School of Business and Academic Education.”

Come to think of it, that’s not such a Bah!d idea.

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The cast of Tim & Scrooge. Photo by John Vecchiolla

Reservations:  Call (914)-592-2222. Also at:  www.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. Additional cost, call for details.
Show Times:
Wednesday, Thursday & some Friday Matinees: Lunch: 11:30 am & Show 1 pm. Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evenings: Dinner: 6:30 pm & Show: 8 pm.
Sunday Matinees: Lunch: 12 pm & Show: 1:30 pm
Sunday Evenings: Dinner: 5:30 pm & Show: 7 pm.
Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56 and $84 (plus tax) depending on the performances chosen. Beverage Service & Gratuities are not included in the ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. 

WBT Mainstage
Showboat returns Dec. 30
Jan. 31, 2016

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@pinpointmarketingdesign.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

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