May 13, 2010
Mine, and the Truth
Raconteur Theater Company
May 27-29, June 3-6 & June 10-12
by Rick Brown
Has it really been two years since I was invited to review the very
first “Flex Series” from Raconteur at Kafe Kerouak?
Apparently it has. So congratulations are in order for the success
of this fine troupe of actors. I especially enjoy the flex series
because it is a series of one acts and theatergoers get the option
of watching the first, or both halves of the performance. Only the
foolish leave early.
Yours, Mine, and the Truth got off to a wonderful start
with William Borden’s “Quarks”. Rudy Frias played
Joseph who got more than he bargained for while trying to pick up
Veronica (Jill Ceneskie) in an upscale watering hole. Mr. Frias
and Ms. Ceneskie had a playful chemistry that shifted sexual swagger
from one character to the other seamlessly. In the end Veronica’s
smoldering sensuality wins out…not that Joseph loses.
Next up was “My Name is Art” by Peter Snoad. This was
a deliciously twisted con job disguised as art. Culture aficionado
Anthony (Robert Foor) meets college student skeptic Gloria (Jessica
Parker) in a museum of modern art. They get into a heavy debate
on what is and is not art when Art (Sam Blythe) himself shows up.
Mr. Foor is convincingly self-righteous…albeit graciously…in
his argument while Ms. Parker’s impetuousness only adds convincing
charm to her con. And Mr. Blythe nearly steals the scene with his
almost naked, self-promoting and smirking Art. It was worth the
price of admission to witness Art’s unabashed preening.
Kate Monaghan’s “The Jam Jar” was a little herky-jerky.
Sisters Celia (Heather Fidler), Grace (Tammy McClellan) and Margaret
(Susan Sheaffer) stumbled a bit through conversation at a family
get together. Celia’s husband had recently died and she announces
that she is moving far, far away. Fortunately, the seriousness of
the premise made the early awkwardness of the conversation seem
realistic. And the actors performances jelled in time to make their
dancing joyfully celebratory by play’s end.
“A Stake in Cake” by Justin Boyd involved a young couple
getting severe pre-cake sharing relationship counseling from dueling
lawyers. I found Adam (Rudy Frias) and Elise (Katelyn Semer) convincing
as a young couple in love, especially at the conclusion when they
decide to chance it without a legal agreement. Elizabeth Huff-Williams
(Jill Fairweather) and Sean Reid (Garrard Mercy Hudson) were convincing
enough as hardball lawyers. But personally I believe jokes concerning
the absurd, like negotiating the quantity of blowjobs in a relationship,
work better with sarcasm. The lawyer characters were so heavy handed
that the essence seemed more cynical. Mr. Frias and Ms. Semer turned
it around in the end with their charming, yet not at all trite,
The first half ended with Christopher Buckley’s “The
Cliff Thing”. This was a totally silly story of ghosts in
a graveyard. Yet it served as a nice palate cleanser before intermission.
The second half opened with “You Know This Is Fucked Up, Right?”
by Ry Herman & Koby Granville. Again Rudy Frias shined as Man
and Catherine Rinella dominated as Woman, a dominatrix, albeit a
somewhat reluctant one. I enjoyed the outrageous complexity of this
piece. The actors did a fine job convincing the audience their Dom/client,
ex-lover, what now? relationship actually happened. Flashing back
and forth from past to present and in between helped as well. Both
actors made their characters real…even if Ms. Rinella was
using a riding crop like a whip. (I read about this stuff in books
and have seen it in foreign films!!)
Arguably the strongest play of the show was “Line” by
Craig Kenworthy. Dan (Sam Blythe) has to fill in for Brent (Tom
Shafer) when he is called away from work unexpectedly. Unfortunately,
Brent works for a suicide hotline and Dan is on the phone with a
distraught and deeply depressed Jenny (Jill Ceneskie) before he
has time to size up his situation. The interplay between Ms. Ceneskie
and Mr. Blythe was impressive indeed, each struggling to control
the conversation, each equally desperate for entirely different
reasons. Their relationship developed dramatically over the course
of the play. This piece had a dynamism that set it apart.
Closing Yours, Mine, and the Truth was Justin Warner’s
“Parent Interview”. Parents trying to get their child
into an exclusive private school, Jeff (Mackenzie Worrall) and Amanda
Nemkoff (Lorelei Moore) will do anything to get the kid admitted.
At play’s end Jeff does. This would have seemed way over the
top to me if I didn’t live a block away from a school infested
with “My Child is a Prima Dona at (fill in the blank) Academy”
bumper stickering parents. Mary-Alleen St. Cyr was marvelous as
cold, manipulative interviewer Marla Truno. All three actors clicked
in this fitting ending to a wonderful evening.
All in all, Raconteur’s Third Annual Flex Series was an entertaining
success. I enjoyed the “all over the place” approach
and the exuberance of the troupe. I was also impressed with the
range of the actors. Jill Ceneskie, Rudy Frias and Sam Blythe were
particularly great this evening. Their next performance will be
right in my neighborhood…Clintonville at the newly opened
Civic Theater this August! I’ll be there.
more information about Raconteur Theater Company go to – www.raconteurtheatre.com
by Rick Brown
is a true story. The names have been changed to…uh…well…I’m
not really sure why I’m changing the names; to protect the
innocent perhaps. Or maybe I’m calling the lead character
Edith simply because she reminds me so much of my late aunt. I’m
keeping my name the same. There’s nothing particularly innocent
about me. And you’d figure it out anyway.
center I work for, as a part time driver, is like most social agencies
I’ve had experience with. By that, I mean it’s wonderfully
unorganized. So in early December came the realization that too
few excursions had been planned for the year and funding would be
lost if a few more weren’t added. I signed up to drive seniors
to a cafeteria called Stacy’s Buffet. I had no idea the adventure
that would unfold.
One thing I’ve
learned about seniors is that they will ask you to take them to
the Olive Garden 30 miles away…even though there is one only
5 miles down the road. At first I thought this odd. Are the bread
sticks longer there? I mean…every Olive Garden is the same
isn’t it? “But we haven’t been to THIS one”
they’d say. Sooner or later I realized the longer the trip,
the better. It was the journey more than the destination. Almost
every senior I’d met felt this way…until I met Edith.
Stan, the other
driver, was to pilot the 14-passenger bus while I took “Big
Red”. “Red” is an aging Ford Econoline Van…a
comfortable albatross…and this was to be my virgin excursion
in it. I chuckled when I saw the schedule and the plan was to meet
at Stacy’s for dinner…at 4 in the afternoon. The “Early
Bird’s Early Bird Special” I suppose. And because Edith
used a 4-wheeled walker and lived across the river at an assisted
living facility, I had only two others. And they lived on their
own. I knew Don…a nice man who smoked cigarettes with the
intensity of a greaser behind the high school between classes. I
was also familiar with Edna…an elderly, stoned faced woman
who mostly sat in chilling silence.
was not remotely a short drive. Best-case scenario, the trip would
take 45 minutes each way. So, when I heard the weather report of
possible sleet and temperatures in the mid 30’s I felt somewhat
anxious. I climbed in Big Red at 2:30 and headed to Edna’s
apartment building. I honked the horn and shortly she made her silent,
almost zombie like trek down her sidewalk and into the middle seat
of the van. Don was a few minutes away and as I pulled into his
parking lot I saw him standing in front of his door, frantically
sucking in the last hits from his cigarette. The two of us exchanged
pleasantries and he took the front seat next to mine.
Don and I chatted
for most of the 15-minute cruise to Edith’s place. I pulled
up close to her apartment’s door and she emerged, a little
hunched over yet persistently pushing herself along with her 4-wheeled
walker. This was my first time meeting Edith and I was polite and
Edith! We’re going to Stacy’s Buffet today!” I
sit in the front seat! Can’t get into the back! I’m
using a walker ya’ know” she seemed to snarl.
Don was congenial
about giving up his seat and took his place way in the back. As
I helped Edith into the van, I immediately realized that my personal
space was getting a radical makeover.
nobody better be SMOKING on this trip ‘cause if you even come
CLOSE to me with smoke you will have to take me to the emergency
room!” Edith barked.
I assured her
that no one would be smoking in the vehicle and thought to myself,
“THIS is why I’m driving PART time!”
plan was for Stan’s people and mine to meet at Stacy’s
so everyone could eat together…or at least within a similar
time frame. You know…dinner at 4 o’clock. But the weather
already began to turn lousy. There was a steady drizzle as I pointed
Big Red east towards what was supposed to be Buckeye Lake but turned
out to be Heath…which is 20 miles north of the lake.
How this happened is beyond me. I guess the unorganized is not ALWAYS
wonderful. I tried calling Stan. His phone was dead.
About 20 minutes
into the excursion…and we’ve been out of the city for
a good 10 miles now…Edith turns to me and says, “How
far away IS this place?”
a 45 minute drive” I replied.
a long way to go for DINNER! It better be worth it!” proclaimed
just driving. I can’t guarantee how good the food will be.”
I said through clenched teeth.
have asked me how far away Stacy’s was 10 times on this drive…or
at least it seemed that way.
a long way to go for DINNER! It better be worth it!”
And about halfway
to Heath she turns towards me and shouts, “I FORGOT MY TEETH!!
I forgot MY TEETH!!”
as I could, I told her there was no going back…not for teeth…not
better be GOOD then! They better have soft stuff I can eat!”
This is when
I thought about my own Aunt Edith.
After a couple
missed turns I finally pulled Big Red into Stacy’s parking
lot at a little after 4 p.m. Stan’s bus was nowhere in sight.
My three senior passengers filed into the buffet while I parked
Big Red. The rain was beginning to turn to sleet…not frozen
yet…but certainly cause for concern. I had never driven this
van before and was not interested in snow, sleet or freezing rain
on my maiden voyage.
into Stacy’s and the hostess immediately gave me an earful
about “that woman over there” lipping off to her and
being a general pain in the ass. It seems Edith couldn’t decide
where she wanted to sit and then complained when no one wanted to
sit with her. I sure didn’t.
I said to the
frustrated hostess, “HEY! Don’t bitch to me about her.
I just sat next to her for the past hour and have to take her back
When I went
to pay for my dinner (you paid up front since it was cafeteria style)
she gave me a senior discount. And that made me feel a
LOT better about things. Now I’m not just the driver…I’m
one of THEM!
was surprisingly busy for “The Early Bird’s Early Bird
Special”. I sat with Don, ate my giant iceberg lettuce salad
with the Kraft French Dressing, while we moaned about the return
trip with Edith. I ate salad because this place was a fried food
lover’s utopia. I think the green jello with carrot shavings
was deep-fried…maybe even the chairs.
Edna is quiet” I offered to Don.
she’s just waiting to explode” is what he speculated.
Before I was
half finished with my food I see Edith sitting by the front door
arguing with the hostess. She has her coat on. She then shouted
across the room to me, “I AM DONE! Let’s GO! I couldn’t
eat hardly NOTHIN’ ‘cause I got no TEETH!”
by Rick Brown
If common folks
have common sense
by Rick Brown
When I cut my ear
as I always do
shaving those Amazon hairs.
I feel old.
And a little like
Join Naked Sunfish on Facebook
In the shadow
Of the mountain,
More shadows glide
As hawks and crows,
Crowd against a sun
That's pale and sullen
In a dreary sea
Of mist and sky.
Far in the
Tiny and serene
Lay rolling farms
Like a small train table
In dappled light and
Like a perfect
And frozen in an
Infinite depth of field.
And the fog
And a chill that seeped
Through the cabin's walls
And every tree glistened
In the dimming light
Like gossamer wings
Visit Dennis' Blog at:
Clouds Over the Neighborhood
Three of Morris
Jackson's drawings will be in the Fine Arts Exhibition at the Ohio
State Fair, July 28-August 8
Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
– Tropicana Field, Saint Petersburg, Florida. Section
111, Rows QQ and RR. Both rows face the back of the
stage and are filled with people watching a baseball game
at the rear of the stage. Rick and Yvonne sit in the very
middle of row RR. In front of Rick, and one seat to his right
in Row QQ sits a very…VERY…large man in a bright yellow t-shirt.
A young boy about the age of 9, presumably his son, is to
his immediate left. The remaining
seats are filled with various Rays’ fans.
beer vendor enters stage right carrying a large cooler of
vendor – ICE COLD BEER! Who needs an ICE COLD BEER?!! ICE
COLD BEEEEEEER HEEEEEERRRRE!
111 is unresponsive. The beer vendor appears perplexed.
vendor – Who needs an
ICE COLD BEEEEEEEEER?!!
111 remains fixated on the ballgame.
Vendor – I KNOW SOMEONE
NEEEEEEEEDS A BEEER!!
Who NEEEEEDS an ICE…COLD…BEEEEER?
111 is quiet on the subject and the beer vendor becomes somewhat
vendor – C’MON! I KNOW
somebody NEEDS an
(shouting and dripping with sarcasm)–
No one NEEEEDS a
BEEER! No one EVER…really…NEEEEEEEDS…a…BEER!
vendor (undaunted) – Who NEEDS an ICE…COOOOLLLD…BEEEEEEEER?!!!
(again sarcastically) – STOP PRESSURING US!!
very, very large man in the bright yellow t-shirt sitting
in front and just to Rick’s right, immediately stands up,
turns to Rick, and makes a toasting gesture with a cup of
beer he already had been drinking.
very large man in a bright yellow t-shirt – I know exactly what you mean!
displayed on the very, very large man’s bright yellow t-shirt
for all to see reads this message:
I SWEAR TO DRUNK I AM NOT GOD!
Vendor – himself
very, very large man in a bright yellow t-shirt – A very,
very large man in a bright yellow t-shirt
very, very large man in a bright yellow t-shirt’s son – himself
by Sue Lense
The Best of Shadowbox 2010
Easton Town Center
After almost 8 ½ years of reviewing Shadowbox shows Yvonne
and I finally won the raffle! I figure the “free night out”
consisting of dinner at Olive Garden and passes to the Funny Bone
only cost us about…oh…around a thousand bucks! This
is why I no longer bother with the lottery. At least I get to
see a good show in this deal.
And The Best of Shadowbox 2010 doesn’t disappoint.
The Eurythmics’ “Would I Lie to You?” gets the
night off to a rousing start. Bandleader Jennifer Hahn (backed
by Amy Lay and Nikki Fagan) commands the stage as if it were the
closing song. These three fine singers together make the tune
visually and aurally sultry without the smarminess of much of
today’s pop singers.
The first sketch “Welcome to Hell” is a good comedic
beginning as well. Mary Randle plays Georgia, Hell’s receptionist
who along with JT Walker as Wilmer, hilariously welcomes a nonplussed
newcomer Craig (David Whitehouse). It’s a fluid segue from
“Would I Lie to You?” to humor from hell.
“I Love Britney” soon follows. Spoofing the old “I
Love Lucy” show, Mr. Whitehouse is classic in his portrayal
of Ricky Ricardo, complete with pseudo Spanish that Amy Lay’s
Britney/Lucy ridicules as Ms. Ball did decades ago. Mary Randle
plays neighbor Ethel and keeps the skit together despite its delightful
disjointedness. And while the ending is a bit abrupt, Ms. Lay’s
“WAAAHHS” are right on the money.
“The Kama Seusstra” is a play on Dr. Seuss and the
Kama Sutra (as if that isn’t obvious to you huh?) It’s
a relentless string of silly sexual innuendo that is clever enough
to get some laughs. Dirty Dr. Seuss…what a concept.
The highlight of the first act is “The Newly Unwed Game”,
a backwards version of the old game show where couple compete
for a divorce. Audience favorites Misty (Amy Lay) and Puck Duck
(David Whitehouse) display their usual trailer park charm uproariously.
Straight laced Ted and Diane (Tom Cardinal and Julie Klein) add
a nice dorky dimension to the sketch. And binge drinking college
couple Dennis (Jimmy Mak) and Michelle (Kaleigh Lockhart)…who
do not even remember getting married…round out
a cornucopia of dysfunction. I am always impressed with the physical
humor of Mr. Whitehouse and Ms. Lay, but additionally, Ms. Lockhart’s
Michelle is quirky, perky and funny. Her “hands on my hips”
pose made me chuckle more than once.
Act II reprises “Dr. Mystery Meets Frankenstein”.
This sketch is always surreal. Utilizing puppets, an announcer,
a sound effects guy and real life characters, the sketch resembles
a burlesque routine written by Salvador Dali. Zombies, The Village
People, Frankenstein…all inhabit this skit. The starring
trio of David Whitehouse, Jimmy Mak and Katy Psenicka can make
the campiest bit work…like a “hidden vibrator”
joke. What delighted me most this evening however, was not the
falling down…the boob jokes, et al. While funny, it was
Sound Guy Andrew Cioffi’s “What choo talkin’
‘bout” out burst…a nod to recently deceased
Gary Coleman. Julie Klein deadpanning the response “WAAY
too early!” is a reference to the first time this skit was
included in a show. In the original, which was shortly after the
death of Michael Jackson, Jimmy Mak as Vigo broke into a “Thriller”
dance with the zombies. Then stopped, looked at the audience and
smirked “Too SOON?” This kind of wink, wink…tip
of the hat to Shadowbox regulars is a classy move.
“Love is a Battlefield” is also good. Mr. Mak and
Ms. Lay play a couple arguing while their respective “war
cabinets” manipulate the direction of the “battle”.
The piece is clever, convincingly funny and ends well without
a hint of mean spiritedness.
Closing sketch “AT 40 – Van Hatin’ is mostly
good but does have a flat spot or two. While the impersonations
are excellent, the ending is a bit clumsy…which is a shame
considering how well the rest of the performance unfolds. Maybe
it’s me. I’m not much of a 1980s guy. (I mean…what
next? Camping with Kajagoogoo? Might work!) So jokes about New
Kids On The Block and Van Halen don’t strike me as much.
And I still cannot stand the song “Girls, Girls, Girls”
despite the visual beauty displayed onstage. Matt Hahn’s
guitar work and Julie Klein’s outstanding vocals on Robert
Cray’s “These Things” more than made up for
my Motley Crue disdain. Ditto for Stephanie Shull’s torrid
take on Boston’s “Don’t Look Back”. And
I will make an 80s exception for Noelle Grandison’s
command of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
The Best of Shadowbox 2010 has a little something for
everybody. Check it out for some summertime respite. Hey…you
might even win the raffle! Maybe I’ll see you at the Olive
Best of Shadowbox runs at Easton Town Center until August
28th. For more information please go to www.shadowboxcabaret.com.
by Cyndi O’leary
she heard voices
FBI agents stealing her
Secrets, what were they
I never knew she kept them
all her life
I think about her all
my grandmother great
the violets and the shrinking
of them and her
5'2", 5'1", 4'9"
she may have disappeared
on day if she was still
here not just inside of me
my head all the time
Black men in black
stealing the white light
stealing what belonged
to someone else
poising the waters
green and gaseous
she scattered power
a sign of where they'd
been, what they stole
again last night, again
I scatter the powder
inside my head
what I still have
left, what is still
what can not
the white light
maybe it makes
her feel safer in
there inside of me
I think maybe it
makes me feel safer
sometimes to wear
of hers and take
it off again and
lovingly hang it
up on a peg hook
where I look at it
and am grateful for having
loved her and lovinig her still
so tightly so desperately
clinging to madness
since it comforts me
like it frightens
summer '05 *
I play this keyboard
in time to a kettle drum
it is warm and I feel almost high
a kangaroo in a red hat wears his suit
near a liquid blue sky; buddha's head
floats in the pond while
an electric yellow banana splashes the water
but my feet are touching the cool
of the linoleum I am grounded
under the spring sun growing older
breathing in breathing out breathing
I dream in the color
of rose quartz
I search in the gardens until
I find my mother's mother's mother
she tells me a secret I already knew
now I will heal here her secret's secret too
unfolding the drying trace elements
cool water, behind this scene
love beyond measure
I am the warrior in
the tie dyed t shirt
and electric green sandals
the weird sheep of the family
hear me little beau peeps .. waggin
my tail behind and in front of
and just because I can me
my grandmother great
grew african violets
( they shrink)
I prefer a scarlet
reaching it's face up
some grow to be 8 feet tall
8 x 8 x 7689543389799000
I stretch and breathe in the sky and
close up my eyes my
heart beats in 3/4 time
I sway sway the fat
my gray and white are proper for
women ancestors to a shockingly
pink rhythm.. greeting their dismay
with a tray of strawberry rhubarb pie
and never apologize for my swaying
trees that bend with
the wind seldom
break and are never sorry for their
My uncle Priestly contributed
he found it just floating around the
universes, I leave behind myself
strange brilliant kind and free
by Rick Brown
Van Gogh never
He saw to that.
Could it be
the man loved his art
but could not live
with the way
by Rick Brown
with a thumb hole?
Or is it