March 24, 2008
Value City Arena
* * * * *
March 28, 2008
Stuart Opera House
* * * * *
by Rick Brown
isn’t often I can see two great concerts in the span of
5 days, let alone two American icons. Bruce Springsteen brought
his E Street Band to town and they did what they do best…rock
an arena. There is arguably no better rock and roll outfit than
these guys although this night’s lineup lacked Bruce’s
better half Patti for reasons unknown. But with both Stevie
Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren augmenting Springsteen’s guitar
playing who’s gonna complain? And while The Boss’s
shows are not the 4-hour marathons they once were (Could we
still survive the evening if they were?) there was a lot of
music packed into 2 plus hours. Gone are the storied intros
for the most part. Instead, Bruce allows his body of work to
stand on its’ own.
Mixing newer numbers from his latest Magic release
(“Gypsy Rider” and “Radio Nowhere”)
with classics (“She’s the One”, “Reason
to Believe” and “Because the Night”) cemented
Bruce’s place in American folk/rock/pop music. The show
flowed smoothly thanks to a tight band and knowledgeable fans
in attendance. And of course, there is no better drummer in
the world than Max Weinberg. Closing the set was “Badlands”
and singing the line “It ain’t no sin to be glad
you’re alive” with 20,000 other dancing fools takes
on a deeper meaning for me as the years go by.
The encore section of any Springsteen concert is worth the price
of admission and this night was no different. Stalwart gems
like “Glory Days” , “Rosalita” , and
the anthem “Born to Run” send joyous chills up the
spine…regardless of how much water has gone over the dam.
A few nights later I found myself with friends in small town
Ohio. I had never been to the Stuart
Opera House in Nelsonville before and this was to be a glorious
baptism. The place is cozy, holding a mere 200 people, although
chairs were added for the Richie Havens concert. Architecturally
I found the building an interesting blend of 19th Century Church
and Western saloon.
When I was a mere 20 years old and trying to decide what kind
of “good guitar” I wanted, I saw Richie Havens playing
a Guild in the movie version of “Woodstock”. Mr.
Havens plays with a dynamic Calypso style strum, an open tuning,
and an intensity that took its’ toll on his instrument.
I could relate, despite the fact I rarely play in an open tuning.
So for my 21st birthday I bought a Guild D-50, the guitar I
play to this day.
Seeing Mr. Havens from the 4th row of such an intimate venue
was a dream come true. He stills plays in the open tuning and
with much the same fervor of decades ago. He does however, seem
to have learned to be a little gentler with his Guild. Richie
Havens is probably best known for his interpretations of other’s
music and these proved to be the standouts this evening. Beginning
with a torrid version of Dylan’s “All Along the
Watchtower”, the intensity level was high from the start.
A jazz guitarist augmented Mr. Havens onstage to his right.
For the most part this approach worked, yet there were times
when it made a tune sound a bit cluttered.
In the second half of the performance a cellist was added. The
mix of the three instruments proved more satisfying. The brooding
sounds of the cello enhanced rather than filled in, even on
upbeat songs like George Harrison’s, “Here Comes
the Sun”. Richie Havens gave it his all. So much so that
every so often he stopped to regain his composer after giving
himself over to his performance. Witnessing a musician lose
himself like this is a rare moment. Of course he ended with
“Freedom”, the very song included in “Woodstock”.
A surprising encore of the Who’s “Won’t Get
Fooled Again” brought the crowd to its’ feet with
as thunderous a response as 200 people could possibly muster.
My friends (Thanks for getting tickets Jim!), my wife Yvonne,
and I stayed afterwards for the “meet and greet”.
And being introduced to Richie Havens was quite a thrill. I
told him my guitar story and we all chatted about guitars for
a while. I have met a few famous people in my day, but none
warmer than Mr. Havens. He embodies all that was genuine in
the Woodstock Nation. He signed my CD “Friends Forever”
and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.
by Dennis Toth
A boy age 8
by a trolley
for a train.
in her senile years
a red bandanna
around the boy's neck.
and retired within
C. Mehrl Bennett
Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
A street corner in the poor, disheveled section of a medium
sized American city. As the curtain rises a 21 year old
Rick is seen stage right in the driver’s seat of a
large, older American car facing the audience. The year
is 1973 as reflected in Rick’s attire…bell-bottom
pants, tie-dyed t-shirt, Black Converse Hi Tops. His hair
is very long and parted in the middle. He is wearing wire-rimmed
glasses. On the car’s seat next to him is a small
pile of books.
Stage left, standing on the corner is a small group of provocatively
dressed women…mini skirts with all the trappings of
1970’s fashion decadence. It is a beautiful spring
afternoon. The women laugh and carry on.
Rick (pretending to bring the car to a stop at the intersection)
– “Shit! I think I’m lost.” (To
no one in particular.)
One of the women (#1) sees him and strolls suggestively
across the street to the car. She is wearing a very short
black leather mini skirt, matching leather jacket and thigh
high, spike-heeled boots. It takes some time for Rick to
notice her (she approaches on the side of his bad eye) but
when he does he struggles to contain his composure.
The woman smiles confidently, leans onto the car door and
sticks her head in the window close to Rick’s face.
Woman (#1) (seductively in a whispered tone) – “Hi
there baaayyy beeeeeeeee! Wanna go out with meeeee?”
She winks at him.
Rick (who is visibly shaken) – “Uh, well…ordinarily
I’d really like that. But…uh…uh…I
gotta go to the…uh…library.”
Upon hearing this she steps back from the car and puts her
hands on her hips with an air of disgust.
Woman – “Say WHAT?!!”
Her companions on the street corner laugh and snicker and
point at Rick’s car.
Rick – “I’m really sorry…but you
see (pointing at the pile of books next to him)..they’re…they’re…OVERDUE!!”
Rick – himself (age 21)
Woman #1 – herself
Woman #2 – herself
Woman #3 – herself
Woman #4 – herself
Easton Town Center
* * * *
Shadowbox’s new spring show follows the precedent the troupe
has set in 2008…a great performance of almost exclusively
fresh, new material. Good Vibrations begins with a tight,
inspiring version of the Beach Boys’ classic 60’s
title tune. With dead on harmonies by Laura Douce, Jennifer Hahn,
Carrie Lynn McDonald and Tom Cardinal, lead singers Stephanie
Shull and Jerrod Wigton are able to shine and engage the crowd
“Love Stings” is a perfect spring sketch starring
bees Bill (David Whitehouse) and Scott (Andrew Cioffi). These
two buzz around Delores, a flower portrayed by Amy Lay. It seems
Bill and Delores have a history from the previous spring pollination
season which Delores is more than willing to bring up. All three
actors, and especially Ms. Lay, take these absurd characters to
a delicious metaphoric realness that is arguably the finest opening
sketch I’ve seen Shadowbox perform. Sadly, when Bill (Whitehouse)
injects Shakespeare while listing flowers by their misleading
monikers, yet states “Rose is a rose” the clever line
went over the heads of most of the audience. (an English Professor’s
night out promo perhaps?)
Jimmy Mak crawls, hops and voice overs his Australian emcee role
in “Mammal Planet” lampooning wildlife programs with
his interpretation of students on spring break. This skit is clever
on many levels and exposes the annual college ritual for the farce
it mostly is.
It’s always charming when Shadowbox cast members portray
children and Julie Klein might be their template. In “Jackie
and the Beanstalk” she delightfully distorts the direction
of her teacher (Mary Randle) making the fairy tale a ribald allegory
of accidental childish wisdom.
“Maureen and Buffy” is the only sketch familiar to
me here. But as with most of the sketches in Good Vibrations
the writing is so good it seems brand new. Maureen (Julie Klein)
and Buffy (Katy Psenicka) are insufferable, gin soaked elitists
constantly demanding their drinks be freshened by the waiter (adeptly
played between slapstick and reservation by Josh Davidson) while
they insult the other attendees at a bridal shower. The inclusion
of Flower Girl Amy Lay here give the sketch yet another foil,
elevating the humor well past the acidic one liners. The tour
de force of “Maureen and Buffy” is the strong physical
comedy of Ms. Psenicka, Ms. Klein and Mr. Davidson played off
the innocence of Ms. Lay’s not so wet behind the ears Flower
Girl. The tension between elegance and baseness is both funny
There are a couple sketches that fall a little short. “Wake
‘n’ Bake” is a one dimensional drug joke. And
try as he might, for me, Tony Stremanos could not be George Patton
enough to lift “Patton’s Spring Break Speech”
out of the cliché that is spring break. Still, the strong
sketches way outnumber these two “quickies”.
And…of course…BillWho? brings down the house tune
after tune beginning with Good Vibrations. Jennifer Hahn’s
campy, vampy “Play That Funky Music White Boy” made
all of us white folks in attendance (and there were a lot of us)
feel pretty damned funky thank you very much! Steve Guyer’s
handsome, debonair, delivery of Santana’s “Smooth”
is brilliant. Andrew Cioffi’s take on “Aeroplane”
(Red Hot Chili Peppers) is fabulously funky. (see above white
people reference) Christina Connor’s “You Can Go Your
Own Way” (Fleetwood Mac), Carrie Lynn McDonald’s “Baby
I’m a Star” (Prince) and Julie Klein’s closing
number “Piece of Mind” (Boston) soar as well. It’s
all good. But I have to write this…it’s frustrating
listening to a solid musical outfit like BillWho? sometimes. I’d
love to see them break out and lay it down like I know…and
I’m sure they know…and I’m sure they
know I know … really can. Nowhere has my anxiety
concerning this been more paramount than hearing BillWho? tear
into Van Morrison’s “Wild Nights” with Tom Cardinal
and Christina Connor at the vocal helm. Then…when it came
time for a torrid solo to mesh it all together…saxophonist
Lynsey Strouse and guitarist Matthew Hahn traded what seemed to
be 7 second solos between the two of them…well…it
all sounded a little too packaged. I mean…I realize why
it has to be this way most times. But c’mon…give the
gyrl and the dude 30 seconds each huh?
The extra minute in the show here would have been nirvana.
Perhaps this is why in the press kit “Wild Nights”
was listed as a John Cougar Mellancamp tune.
But don’t let my short solo gripe fool you. Good Vibrations
is most definitely…Good Vibrations.
Vibrations runs from now until June 7th at the Easton Town
Center. For more information go to http://www.shadowboxcabaret.com/
by Elisa Philips
France, Greece and Spain
raising cows is such a pain
goats are much easier to contain
The cheese produced is creamy, smooth and tart
some scientists say its better for your heart
It goes great with so many other foods-- or a la carte
Flavored, rolled or shaped goat cheese is especially good
with crackers and grapes
A favorite for wine drinkers - during evening escapes
Available at the corner store
or locations offering gourmet goodies and more
It is certain to suit any mood for sure
April 10-13 & 16-19, 2008
* * 1/2
This was my first foray into the land of MadLab. It wasn’t
easy to find. My wife and I wandered what felt aimlessly and for
what seemed endlessly. I was sure I had the address right. Didn’t
I? So the marital form of communication called bickering ensued
until…we realized…we were standing directly in front
of the place. The experience was reminiscent of looking for a
gay bar in 1970.
But once inside, the funky little place charmed us both. A long
narrow room with the stage off to the left in front of three or
four rows of what appeared to be old movie theater seats. We sat
down in a couple squeaky chairs and proceeded to witness the Evolution
Theater Company’s performance of the 90 minute one act by
Mat Smart called The Hopper Collection.
It seems Daniel (Dan Welsh) and Marjorie (Ellen Knolls) have had
a cold, distant marriage for some time now. And in their middle
age it all seems to be coming to a head. So they invite young
couple Edward (Billy Earnhart) and Sarah (Megan Lynch) over to
take a look at a prized portrait. The exuberance of the younger
art student is tempered by the fact Edward has a brain tumor…and
Sarah turns out not to be Sarah at all but Natalie. Sarah left
Edward. He is still obsessed with her and gets Natalie to pretend
to be Sarah so they can see the older couple’s famous artwork.
Marjorie is obsessed with the painter Hopper (who she had met
all too briefly in her youth), does not love her husband, and
tries to poison him right before Edward and Sarah/Natalie show
up. Still, Daniel’s love for Marjorie is obsessive and his
desire is to convince her he can replace Mr. Hopper and they can
live out their years in marital bliss.
Confused yet? Actually, the plot’s essence is dynamic really,
with paralleled themes and metaphors and all the delicious stuff
that made “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
both an iconic play and movie. While both Mr. Welsh and Ms. Knolls
are at times entertaining with biting dark humor, the characters
never become remotely sympathetic to the audience. And when the
ending promises hope for their marriage it is for the most part
unbelievable. I’m putting my money on either murder or divorce.
Better is Billy Earnhart as Edward. The young actor struggles
at times but his character is arguably the most complex: a young
man facing almost certain death, dragging around a broken heart
and initiating a new relationship in the hopes of smoothly replacing
his obsession. Still not realistically believable, but the interplay
between him and the delightful performance of Megan Lynch as finally
Natalie, at least makes the audience root for them. Ms. Lynch’s
character is the most genuine, not specifically because of the
script, but due to her seemingly effortless acting abilities here.
Her graceful Natalie enhances Edward enough to make his replacement-obsession
and desire for Natalie worthy a leap of faith.
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my first MadLab
experience. But the play really never allowed me to let go of
the feeling that I was still wandering around frustrated, looking
for the theater’s front door.
For more information about MadLab go to http://www.madlab.net.