A Memorable Play on Memory

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

 

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
HudsonStage.com
(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.

EDOUARD IS BOUNCED AROUND LIKE A RUGBY BALL IN A SCRUM

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.

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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

REMARKABLY CONVINCING AND TOUCHING PORTRAIT OF DEMENTIA 

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.

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

HUMANS ARE LIKE PLANT SPECIES THAT INVADE ALIEN TERRITORIES

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.

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

 WE LET NOISE DROWN NUANCE

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.

ADVANCED CARE PLANNING

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.                      

ADDITIONAL PRODUCTION CREDITS

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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Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog
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.

Small Is All: Harrison’s Gift of Spring

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BRUCE THE BLOG
By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk


HArappelling

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.  

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Leap Day Daze

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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.

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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.

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(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

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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

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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.

Life Upon the Wicked Stage

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


Show business deals in fables, and Theresa Rebeck deals in its foibles. The wise-cracking playwright has a sharp eye, and sharper ear, for the immature nonsense that makes the profession both frolicsome and infuriating for those in its clutches. (She created NBC series Smash.)

In “The Understudy,” now enjoying a fun and briskly-paced production at Lyndhurst under the auspices of M & M Performing Arts Company, the author posits Art and Commerce at opposite ends of the food chain. Guess which is the predator that feasts and which the easily-replaced plant life that gets eaten alive? 

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(From left) Michael Muldoon as Jake, Peter Lillo as Harry, Carly Jayne Lillo as Roxanne, with a baleful Franz Kafka auditing the rehearsal, in Theresa Rebeck’s “The Understudy.”

Directed crisply by Larry Schneider, the show runs Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday through July 26 in the Lyndhurst Carriage House Theater. The charming historic space (fully air-conditioned) benefits theatrically from a newly-installed stage at one end of what had been simply a large, open room. The so-called “black-box theater” dimensions afford a physical closeness between audience and actors you don’t experience in full-scale venues. (For tickets, call 1-888-71-TICKETS or visit http://www.lyndhurst.org.)


‘Bargain Basement Star’

In the course of a fitful rehearsal for a Broadway play, insecure actors Harry (Peter Lillo) and Jake (Michael Muldoon) lock horns — and lips — with jaded female stage manager Roxanne (Carly Jayne Lillo).

B-list movie actor Jake is both co-star with, and understudy for, the play’s headliner, whom we never see, but we hear a lot about him, none of it good. He is a Hollywood action-movie superstar pulling down a cool $22 million per film even though he’s “terrible.”

Talented but obscure Harry is the new understudy for Jake, a self-described “bargain basement star” coming off a blockbuster action movie for which he was paid $2.3 million for mouthing inspired dialogue like, “Get in the truck!”

Harry has a history with Roxanne she’s trying to forget and he’s trying to renew. He pulls neurotic Jake’s chain by insincerely praising his performance in the movie and in the play. In truth, Harry both resents and envies what he calls “talent-free” stars like Jake.     

Hollywood Reputations Die Hard

Ms. Rebeck leaves little doubt what real-life celebrity she has in mind — and has an oh-so-low opinion of — by transparently naming the superstar simply Bruce, who is the target of takedowns about his insufferable egocentricity.

Those attuned to show biz gossip will appreciate her choice of name because Hollywood actors’ reputations for being difficult and unlikable tend to, you might say, die hard. “Bruce is a big star,” says Roxanne, “which means there’s always a problem… “ 

(Coincidentally, in a plausible case of life imitating art, Bruce Willis is due to star on Broadway this November in a stage version of Stephen King’s “Misery,” which was a hit 1990 movie. That makes the conceit at play in “The Understudy” uncannily timely.)

The play within the play a work of unspecified title by literary giant Franz Kafka. Ms. Rebeck uses his trademark themes of alienation and dehumanization to weave in handy metaphors about actors being treated like bugs (“Metamorphosis”) and being mocked psychologically and financially (“The Trial”).

Rest assured all of this is played out with her very light but blunt touch, in her entertainingly velvet-hammer style.

‘They Pay You Not to Act’

“You have no rights, you’re an actor,” is typical of how she drives home the life of the typical performer, who couldn’t earn $22 million in several lifetimes, let alone for a single movie. Here she is on the hapless plight of an understudy: “No one will see you, you don’t exist. They pay you not to act.”

The trio of actors bring plenty of energy and stage presence to their respective roles.

Peter Lillo once again displays his consistent knack for smooth and easily relatable portrayals. He opens the show solo on stage, pulling us in to the story by both addressing the audience and half-muttering to himself about the frustrations of his current station in life.

Tall and handsome Michael Muldoon — who is half of M & M with wife Melinda O’Brien — cuts a sleek figure on stage as self-absorbed and preening Jake, coolly attired in all black, neurotically checking his cellphone to see if he was “booked” for the big movie role he covets to climb out of his second-rank rut.

Mr. Muldoon is a polished performer who makes strong choices about his character that keep the audience engaged and entertained.

UnderstudyCast

(from left) Michael Muldoon (Jake), Peter Lillo (Harry), Carly Jayne Lillo (Roxanne) star in “The Understudy” by Theresa Rebeck at Lyndhurst Carriage House.

Forceful Feline of a Stage Manager

Roxanne is the foil and the compass for both of the frustrated men in her backstage life. Carly Jayne Lillo (Peter Lillo’s real-life spouse) is a forceful feline of a stage manager whose job it is to make sure even the most hapless actors always land on their feet.

When Roxanne lets down her hair in a poignant moment of vulnerability and emotional distress, Mr. Lillo’s acting chops are fully evident as she tugs at our heartstrings using art rather than artifice.  

Theresa Rebeck does not spare in her cross-hairs the kind of theater-goer star-struck by seeing Hollywood names of mediocre talent on stage, yet less appreciative of great theater performed by gifted, no-name actors. One character bemoans the fact that “We care more about people coming in buses from New Jersey.”

And the zingers aimed at Bruce (who personifies crass Commerce) zip by with regularity: “Three hours of Kafka and they love it. Not because of Bruce. Bruce sucks in this play.” By the demanding yardstick of Theresa Rebeck, presumably her version of high praise for Bruce Willis in his upcoming “Misery” star turn on Broadway would be to proclaim that his performance “does not suck.” Neither will his paycheck.


The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck. With Carly Jayne Lillo Peter Lillo, Michael Muldoon*. Lyndhurst Carriage House Theater. Director, Larry Schneider. Stage Managers, Emmy Schwartz, Nan Weiss. Set Design & Construction, Floyd Gumble, Steve Aigner. Choreography, Jenn Haltmenn. Producers, Melinda O’Brien, Michael Muldoon. *Member of Actors Equity Association

For information about upcoming shows by M & M Performing Arts Company, visit http://www.MMPACI.com.


Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known by his nom de blog Bruce The Blog, owns and operates APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley agency for advertising, content, marketing and public relations. His professional affiliations include The Armonk Players, Axial Theater/Howard Meyer Acting, Burbio.com, Jefferson Valley Mall, New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, PinPoint Marketing & Design, Solo Sun Beatles & Jazz Instrumentals, The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Stage, Yorktown Organizations United. Follow APAR All-Media’s Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook and Twitter. Reach him at bapar@me.com.