Patsy Cline & #1 Fan, Together Again

Cline, Seger
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Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Westchester Broadway Theatre
Presents
ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE
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.

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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).

IMPROBABLE FRIENDSHIP

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. 

CLASSIC TROUPERS

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.

POST SCRIPT

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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.


 

 

 


PRODUCTION CREDITS
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
HELPFUL INFO ABOUT WBT

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

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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.

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

Hoverboard-on-Fire-UK-Hoverboard-Explodes-Into-Flames-Explodes-Hoverboard-China-Fire-WKRG-US-Price-Amazon-Fire-Explosion-LiveLea-403616

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?

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


Westchester Broadway Theatre
Presents
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. 

THE SAGA CONTINUES

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

A CLASSIC STORY CASTS ITS SPELL

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.

HEAVENLY VOICES

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’

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


Embark and The Flatz
Present

The Fantasticks
Directed by Katie Schmidt Feder
Through Dec. 19
The Flatz
1008 Main Street
Peekskill, NY 10566
EmbarkPeekskill.org
Tickets >
 http://m.bpt.me/event/2473934
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.

LIKE A LIFE-LONG FRIEND

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.

A CLASSIC MUSICAL THEATER SCORE

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

TELLING A UNIVERSAL TALE

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.

UNSUNG HERO IN THE CAST

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

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Mom + Pop Culture

BY BRUCE APAR


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’

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Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
BY BRUCE APAR
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
ArmonkPlayers.org

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

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


WCT-Allen_Lima

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
WCTheater.org

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.