Why a Naked SunFish?
Our Top 5 Picksby Ted Kaneby John Bennettby Cory Tressler by Patrick O'Malley by David HochmanTravel SectionRecipes and MoreBack Issues

Bittersweet Swansong
by Rick Brown

My wife Yvonne and I attended the final performance at 2Co’s Cabaret on February 25th. It was an “invitation only” affair that I was flattered to be a part of. I saw their final blues themed show ... for the third time ... and loved it as much as the first. Maybe even more. With the room full of avid, loyal supporters the show became a “command performance” for the audience as well as the performers. Manager Tom Cardinal did the opening monologue for the very last time. And when he said the familiar lines “2Co’s is a theater that serves drinks ... ” the crowd finished his trademark line by shouting “ ... not a bar that has theater. So be good or be GONE!” without missing a beat. Ditto for Tom’s cell phone spiel as the audience affectionately chimed “So turn those fuckers off!!!” The actors acted with inspiration. The musicians of Downtown DFN played as if it was their final gig together. And even with the optimistic talk of playing out together again sometime ... it may very well have been.

Steve Guyer

Immediately following the show, Shadowbox Cabaret grand boompa Steve Guyer said some very nice things about the troupe, the crowd, and the intimate relationship between the two. He called Mr. Cardinal back onstage for a champagne toast ... which Tom understandably struggled to get through. Mr. Guyer then invited everyone to the upstairs gallery space for a reception.

Rick & Tom Cardinal

Both of us enjoyed milling around chatting ... hugging ... sometimes choking up with our friends. But it wasn’t exactly the weepy, huggy affair I had envisioned. While there was that, I noticed a sort of grieving I hadn’t anticipated. Many expressed frustration in losing 2Co’s because it was a perfect place for people with a day job ... actors and singers who were beginning to raise a family. 2Co’s afforded them the opportunity to use the talents they had worked so hard and long to hone while still live a “normal life”. This saddened me. And reminded me of bands I’ve been in with the same struggle. Of course there was talk of “what if” and “maybe if”. I expected that. I willingly participated.

Ernie Cordy & Yvonne

I learned ... and in some instances re-learned ... things about “show business” this night. Like how performers and musicians ... some of the best of them ... are really kind of shy. How someone with the superb singing and acting talent of Stephanie Shull appreciated the accolades I at times wrote about 2Co’s. Stephanie quietly ... modestly ... said to me, “Thank you for all the very nice things you said about us.” Us ... collectively. I could not have been more flattered.

Dane Terry

Young keyboardist Dane Terry showed me a practical wisdom some people twice his age don’t have. He told me this. “Keyboardists get guitarists laid”. And I don’t doubt him for a minute. I thought back to the only band I’ve ever played guitar in that had a keyboard player ... a woman keyboard player. Of course there was also a woman bass player who happens to be my wife. So both realities certainly put a damper on any wisdom gathering I might have experienced in this area.

Stephanie Shull & Pam Callahan

And to have a seemingly macho guy like Joseph Lorenzo hug me because he appreciated the support I’ve given them all. I didn’t know what to say really. To learn what I wrote in Naked Sunfish about their performances was genuinely important to these people ... to have them tell me it’s because I “get it”. Well ... I couldn’t be paid a higher compliment. And I can’t begin to explain my quietly sad satisfaction in this moment. All the joy these actors and musicians gave to me and the people I know and they are thanking me. Pam Callahan, Carrie Lynn McDonald, Chris Lynch, the Rev, Ernie, Gabe Smith ... I’ll miss them all as both entertainers and friends.

Joe Lorenzo & Rick

Gabe Smith & Yvonne

Coming to a knowing of all this made the evening that much more bittersweet. A bittersweet epiphany for sure. It’s the feeling that you know life will go on ... that you really do appreciate and care for each other ... yet knowing full well ... from this moment on ... it will never ... ever ... be the same.

Yvonne & Chris Lynch

Proper Etiquette in a Bank Line
by Andrew Wood

Not everyone knows that there’s a specific way to behave when you’re in line at the bank. Most people patiently wait their turn, or make polite conversation with others who are waiting instead of, say, hitting them with a sack of hundreds. Not doing that and then saying, “Yeah baby, those were huns!” is obviously a mistake, as is not doing the following:

When you first enter the bank, make sure to point at the tellers and say that you’re coming for them, but it’s still anybody’s guess as to who the lucky one is. Make sure that while you say this, you are also drawing your name into the air with a sparkler. This way they will be able to pull up your account well before you arrive at the desk. This saves everybody time, and will allow you more opportunity to siphon gas out of cars in the parking lot.

Like I said before, while you’re standing in line, make sure you’re hitting anyone around you with a sack full of hundreds or, if you’re feeling generous, thousands. They’ll appreciate the feeling of coming that close to that much money. And, if you don’t feel like saying the words suggested above, just go ahead and start eating a few bills. This will show everyone that not only do you not mind waiting, but that you don’t really care where your money is stored, and that the bank better treat you well, or you’ll take your business elsewhere.

by Ted Kane

Less is not More, More
is More; generally, though,
Enough is Enough

Head of the Glass
(Click Above)
by C. Mehrl Bennett

Blank Sight
by John Bennett

Pot Luck
by Ted Kane

Observing the Giant Where Its Heart Beats
by Amelia Hapsari

The Path of Least Resistance (Part I)
by Patrick O'Malley

It’s part of the human condition and instinct to fear that which is new to us or that which we do not understand. It’s perfectly natural and has served us well as a species through thousands of years of evolution. In some cases, fear is still warranted as a first impression/reaction and that which causes fear is not always unreasonable. This is the exception, not the rule. More often than not what we fear as a knee-jerk reaction is unworthy of the serious and taxing condition that is fear. Additionally, we are often coerced or conditioned to fear that which is not worthy of fear, or is only worth paying a tinge of fear to.

There was a brief respite from these tendencies during the scientific revolution, but unfortunately it wasn’t for everyone and wasn’t for very long. The remedy to almost all fears that are exaggerated, irrational, or simply made up is science. Not even scientific proofs or thought processes necessarily but let’s just say calm, collected, reasonable, rational thought. Interest, curiosity, observation, awe – these are what allay fears. Protection is what we are taught to combat fear with, but to protect oneself from what one fears does nothing to rid oneself of said fear.

by John Maurer

When a boy, living on a small Wisconsin farm, I walked or rode my bike to the eight grade one-room country school about a mile and a half away--down the gravel road from our place, which was nestled at the base of a wooded hill which had about 15 acres of woods behind it, over the next hill a quarter of a mile or so away in the other direction--the hill with the swiss cheese factory on the other side of it--down to the corner at the paved road, right turn, up the grade past Joe Milk's farm, over the crest by Walt's farm, and there down the blacktop you could see Poplar Grove school, trees and outhouses and all, about another half mile away. It was a spring morning, and I had done my chores, had my breakfast, said good-bye to Ma, and went out to get my bike and head off to school.

Years before, a bedraggled dog had dragged itself up to our place, from somewhere. Pa looked it over, and said "It's been shot. I'll have to kill it", which raised a great hue and cry from my little brothers and I--"No, Pa! We'll take care of it! Don't shoot it Pa!" and he relented, most probably saying "Well god-dammit then, you better damn well take care of it, 'cause I sure as hell ain't!" while he walked away to his busy day of farmer things.

The first thing we did was give the dog water, which it refused for a day or so, making us think the dog was going to die anyway. But, on the second or third day, the water was thirstily lapped up by the new 'patient', who still just laid where he had arrived, now for days. We still thought the dog was going to die. It didn't eat any table scraps we brought it, again for days, but there was hope because it did then regularly take water, which we left next to it in a pan. We kids never did see exactly where it had been shot, but I think is was in the gut, below and in front of the hump of its rear hips.

Well, Pa had told us it was a boy dog, and after those few days it began to eat, making us kids feel real good about our caregiving abilities, and about the power of love and attention. But, all along it had really smelled bad, its fur was filled with stickers, and come-alongs, and cockleburs, but it began to recover. Pa told us it had to have a bath, once it healed a bit, and that first bath was a real adventure for us all--boys, washtub, hose, soap, dog--we all got clean, and we boys were really aware that the dog would have rather just stayed ragged and dirty and stinky. He did not appreciate that particular attention. Once it got up and began to move around a bit, we kids were all sad, because we knew it would run away.

Well, we were wrong. The dog had finally found a home, but it didn't have a name. We kids hoped to keep it at our place, because we didn't already have a dog, and because we didn't want to see the investment of our time and care run off to get shot again, and we had to call it something when we had food for it, so, knowing it was a He dog, we would holler "Here, boy! We got some food! Here, boy", which in a short time, slurred into 'YeahBoy, food', and 'YeahBoy' became his name.

Well that spring morning, with breakfast in my belly and chores done, I was headed off to school, pushing my bike the first few steps away from home. YeahBoy, now on in years, walked down our short driveway with me to the road that came down the hill by the woods. As I was petting him, saying good-bye because I was heading off for a day at school, I heard a commotion up the road, over the hill, back by the woods. I looked up and saw someone I didn't recognize, driving a tractor I didn't recognize, pulling a haybaler and a haywagon, barrelling up and over and then down the hill at full throttle in high gear. In an instant it neared our driveway.

Old Yeahboy saw an opportunity to protect his master by showing that he could still chase a tire. Before I could do anything, he ran out to the tractor, yapping at the big rotating rear tractor tire for a yard or two, intending to run back to me to show me what a great guard dog he was, how much he loved me, and how well he could protect me.

My heart broke at the same time YeahBoy's back was broken by the outside tire of the haybaler. One side of a baler sticks out past the tractor tire probably eight feet, to pick up the dry hay from the windrow and then roll it down a screw mechanism into the chute and compression arm that creates the bale of hay. Old Yeahboy didn't move as fast as he used to, and had probably never chased a train of equipment like that before, and didn't realize that as he dropped back from the tractor tire to run back to me, he would run right into that eight foot end-wheeled extension of the hay baler.

Yes, his back was broken, but I didn't immediately realize that. I knew he was hurt, because that part of the baler jumped a couple of feet in the air as it went over him, while that still-unknown driver continued racing on down the road toward the cheese factory hill. YeahBoy yelped, and dragged himself up to the boy who had thrown down his bike and run to him, and while looking up at the boy with some unspoken plea in his eyes, died.

The boy, now a man, can still cry when he tells this tale, but will go on to relate that he did not go to school that day, although his mother had said he had to. She relented to his protests that YeahBoy was dead, and needed proper respect, and a burial, and that school that day was of lesser importance. After all, we were a God-loving family, weren't we?

I carried the remains of my friend up to the small bluff out past the barn, where the family had planted the pine trees some years before, and where I had many pleasant days, both winter and summer, played with that dog, and with my brothers, and after some tears, and prayers, and looking at the rocks, and earth, and sky, and hearing the bird's songs and the wind in the pines, and breathing in the life and death around me, finally dug the hole, and made the cross out of sticks which was then placed over the small mound of fresh earth that was now and ever shall be YeahBoy. Ma didn't even wake or tell my little brothers that morning, because that wouldn't have helped anything. Luckily, all they knew was that he was gone. They probably yet have never looked into a loved one's dying eyes.

Am I a dog person? I don't know. I have difficulty becoming attached to a dog.

Mistuh Wick
Part I
by Rick Brown

During my senior year at college…followed by the first year of my marriage (aka as the “What the hell do I do NOW year) I drove kids to and from school in a Volkswagen Microbus. For those too young to remember the Microbus, suffice it to say it as a van with an air cooled, low horsepower engine in the rear. I was a driver for the Franklin County Crippled Children School. Cripple…when was the last time you heard THAT word? I believe it’s simply called Easter Seals now. And my dog Daisy rode with me. The kids LOVED Daisy. My bus was dubbed the “Daisy Bus”. But that’s a story for another day. The kids were instructed to call me Mr. Rick…and they did.

I had one of the longer routes that took me outside the county. So I got to know these kids pretty well. I still fondly recall many of them. They were after all, just kids. That’s how they looked at themselves. There was Chris…a boy born without legs…as well as a mild speech impediment. He had artificial legs the school had made for him. His speech was out of their league I suppose. He would walk with a cane. Perched atop the prosthetics…ambling through the school’s hallways he looked like a tiny British aristocrat. Chris hated his legs. He would say to me, “Mistuh Wick…I hate these wegs!” When I asked him why he replied, “Cause I can’t wide my Big Wheel with them. But I can sit on the seat without them and use my awrm to cwank the peddle. I can go FAST! Faster than some kids WITH wegs!!” Sometimes when the Microbus would go around a corner Chris’s legs would fall over with a thud…and I’d hear “Mistuh Wick!! My WEGS FEWL OVUH!!!” So I’d reassure this little gentleman I would correct the situation at the next stop.

There was Tina…Chris’s girlfriend. Tina couldn’t talk. She was mute because once her young mother gave her too much aspirin when she was an infant. It burned out something in her brain that affected her speech. Chris loved her all the same. The two of them would sit together directly behind me in the Microbus…Chris’s legs standing in front of them…and sing along with the radio. At the time Helen Reddy had a hit that I couldn’t stand. Tina and Chris however, loved it. And I could NEVER switch the station before they recognized it. I’d thrust my hand to the radio and change the station only to immediately hear Tina’s “Uh! Uh!” and Chris would politely say, “Mistuh Wick. Pwease put it back on Hewen Weddy!”

I drove a lot of kids born with brain and spinal problems. These are the children you will never, ever see on a poster. They aren’t considered cute by most people’s standards. And…at least back then…they didn’t live to see their 8th birthday. Three of these severely handicapped kids died in the two years I drove them to and from school.

And two kids were autistic. The one boy I heard say a few words to his mother…once. The other boy…Jimmy…said one word. He would look me straight in the eye…his eyes wide and wild…thrust his tiny fist violently into the air and proclaim “GO! GO! GOOOOOOOO!!” He was a boy of few words…but I liked him. He had style.

The very first day I drove this group of kids home from a day at “cripple school” my boss showed me how to put seat belts on…strap in the children in car seats…the ones with the short lives and no chance to be a poster child. Once I had everyone ready I made my way to the driver’s seat…fastened my own seat belt…and turned on the radio. I had never done my route before and was more than a little nervous.

“GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Jimmy cried from the farthest seat in back. And off we went.
Using my crib notes I tried to navigate our virgin journey through neighborhoods as Chris and Tina serenaded us all from the middle of the bus. “Gyspies! Twamps and thieves!!” Chris would sing enthusiastically accompanied by Tina’s “Uh! Uhs!”. But I was a nervous wreck. And I invariably got lost. A couple times I heard “Mistuh Wick! My wegs fewl ovuh again!!” And I’d stand them upright at the next stop. Why we didn’t just decide to lay them down I can’t tell you.

As I began to get waaaay over schedule…I mean a driver can’t be taking a handicapped kid home at 6 pm when school let out at 3 now can he?... I got a little frantic. Hey…I was 21 years old! Upon realizing I had…once again…missed a turn I whipped the VW Microbus into a driveway. Blam! Chris’s legs hit the deck. Then…from the back…again…I heard, “Mistuh Wick!”

“I know Chris. You’re legs fell over” I replied.

“It’s not my WEGS Mr Wick. It’s JIMMY! I think he needs youwr HEWLP!!.” I looked to the very back seat. Jimmy was dangling…upside down…hanging in mid air by his seat belt. It probably wasn’t…but I swore his face was blue. He had only been that way a minute. Still…I almost panicked. I ran to the back of the little bus…sat Jimmy upright…hugged him and asked him if he was okay.

Jimmy looked up at me…his eyes wide and wild…violently thrust his little fist into the air and proclaimed for all to hear, “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

And that's what we did.

The Who’s Tommy
Shadowbox Cabaret
Easton Towne Center
Columbus, Ohio
* * * * *
by Rick Brown

I’m not sure Pete Townshend intended Tommy to be a staged rock opera when he wrote it. In fact, I could make a good argument that Tommy…the recording originally released in 1969…is more a concept album than “rock opera”. But given the radio success of “I’m Free”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and most notably “Pinball Wizard” it became inevitable Tommy would be on the stage and eventually celluloid. And ironically Townshend’s pinball theme was added later…at the end to add continuity to an incredibly ambiguous story line. It’s my understanding this project was conceived after a rejection of the excessive “rock star lifestyle” and Townshend’s embrace of mysticism…in particular the works of Meher Baba.

Although I approached this performance with some mild trepidation…the movie after all is quite horrible…I was amazed by how well Shadowbox Cabaret brings out the best in Tommy on many levels. Even Townshend’s sense of mysticism is there for those who wish to see it. Of course the music is very strong like any Shadowbox show. But it was the staging I was most impressed with…particularly the choreography of Katy Psenicka. Admittedly the actors bounce around the stage 60’s style at times…think part Hair…part Oh Calcutta…but their exuberance helps keep the show from taking itself too seriously while skillfully avoiding the appearance of a “period piece”. Use of the overhead video screens adds a visual texture nothing short of wizardly.

Updating the story line from the early 20th Century to Tommy’s birth in 1969 not only pays tribute to the recording’s release but brings a relevance to younger audience members. The song “1921” becomes anachronistic because of this. But in the context of the entire performance it’s hardly noteworthy. Townshend’s tunes sound as good as ever. And no matter how well Tommy is staged…because literally almost every line is sung…the music is what sells it. Matthew Hahn and Allen Talbot (guitars),Anthony McCoy (bass), Brian Westbrook and Noelle Grandison (keys), backed by Dan Abdelnour on drums would bring a smile to Townshend’s face.

Adam Fauth does a spectacular job being Tommy. Playing a deaf, dumb and blind character is no small feat. Even the Who’s own Roger Daltrey was awkward as Tommy in the film version. Johnny Parezek (Tommy age 4) and Erik Rau (Tommy age 10) set the table for the Fauth’s character with believable…albeit subtle…childlike poise. Mr. Fauth not only superbly handles the difficult melodies but evokes genuine sympathy and connection with a deaf, dumb and blind kid rather than merely getting the audience to feel sorry for him. Consequently at the story’s conclusion…after Tommy gets his senses back…after he is worshipped by his followers…he rejects the idolatry of it all and Fauth’s stunningly nuanced acting let’s Townshend’s underlying allegory shine through.

Tom Cardinal does an impressive performance of Tommy’s father Captain Walker. The same goes for Stacie Board as his mother. Early on in the story both seasoned actors skillfully help construct the reality onstage. This is when I noticed the wireless mics…and the larger stage that was closer to the crowd. Between Mr. Cardinal and Ms. Board’s strong stage presence, the mobility to move and sing gracefully, and the proximity of the audience…Tommy began to jell and mature until it was spellbinding.

Shadowbox Columbus (this performance includes actors from both Columbus and Newport, Kentucky theaters) newcomer Sara Tomko is a delight as Tommy’s love interest Sally Thompson. Even a deaf, dumb and blind boy could see Ms. Tomko’s Sally is sexy, smart and tough. And the woman can sing. Which brings me to diva extraordinaire Stephanie Shull. With the voice of an angel Ms. Shull sings like the devil. She doesn’t so much play the Acid Queen. She becomes the Acid Queen.

I have to make special mention here of Brian Westbrook. Brian happened to be our waiter this evening…a charming young actor/musician from the Newport Shadowbox who is a torrid keyboard player. Besides tickling the ivories Mr. Westbrook’s portrayal of smarmy, child molesting Uncle Ernie is incredible. The scene in which Uncle Ernie is left to tend to young Tommy only to molest him while singing “Fiddle About” is powerful and obvious without being either gratuitous or exploitive. And Westbrook’s vocalizing of “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” is carnival barker terrific.

Beginning and ending with a crowd around Tommy and his pinball machine…Christina Connor starting everyone off singing “Pinball Wizard” may not have been Pete Townshend’s initial intention. But Shadowbox Cabaret’s wonderful staging, production and musical dynamics make The Who’s Tommy a special treat for sure. The skillful use of video and wireless microphones seems quite liberating for the actors rather than competition for the audience’s attention. The sum of all of Tommy’s parts is glorious rock and roll theater. And while I was standing there applauding…watching the curtain calls…it dawned on me. Shadowbox Cabaret…that sketch comedy and rock and roll palace…had just done THEATER!!!

And it was great.

The Who’s Tommy runs through April 2 on Sundays only at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. More shows may be added in May. For further information go to ShadowboxCabaret.com.

Our Top 5 Picksby Ted Kaneby John Bennettby Cory Tressler by Patrick O'Malley by David HochmanTravel SectionRecipes and MoreBack Issues

© 2001-2005 NakedSunfish, All Rights Reserved

Issue 1 - January 2002