The former library, newly rebranded the Navesink Arts Center, is transformed into a spacious reading room and reception area for Monmouth Players productions. Below, Lori Renick (left) co-stars in the current production of Neil Simon’s ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs.’ (Photos by Robert Kern; click to enlarge)
By TOM CHESEK
It sits at the relatively quiet corner of Monmouth and Sears Avenues in Middletown Township, on a parcel of land that boasts an ample parking lot and a couple of asphalt tennis courts, a fixture of some hundred years’ standing, in a history-steeped village of Old Stone Churches and Little Red Stores.
And yet, even some longtime residents of the township’s Navesink and Locust neighborhoods might be at a loss to tell you anything about the old Navesink Library.
When Middletown Township Public Library decommissioned its branch locations earlier this year, the library buildings in Lincroft and Port Monmouth were shuttered; their collections and equipment donated, sold or assimilated into the MTPL main branch on New Monmouth Road. Over in Navesink — a tiny one-room facility, with a small but comfortable auditorium in back, that had served as the township’s first library headquarters as far back as 1921 — the books were left to the nonprofit entity that had maintained the historic building for decades, and to the tenant that had called the place home since the 1950s: Monmouth Players.
As the curtain came up on their mind-boggling sixtieth season of productions this fall, the Players found themselves the new stewards of a genuine local landmark — and as theatergoers arrived this past weekend for the opening of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” they entered a venue that’s been reborn and rebranded as the all-new Navesink Arts Center.