Jon Stewart in a lunch truck preparing food for construction workers and employees at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
”An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be,” says a character in Oscar Wilde’s Victorian farce, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’
And just hours before the opening-night performance of the play at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Friday night, one of the theater’s employees was surprised by a real-life marriage proposal on the stage. (Photos by Yurik Lozano. Click to enlarge)
In a world where the spectre of all-out war can out-spook any hooded goblin, it might seem that the old Halloween haunts can no longer hold a flickering candle to the horrors of the day’s headlines. If anything, the cobwebbed corridors of a walk-through “haunted house” can creak with a reassuring nostalgia, as its familiar fiends create a welcome momentary refuge from the edgy uncertainties of the real world.
As if on cue, the fearless crew of Brookdale Haunted Theater is ready to serve with the return of the annual attraction that transforms Brookdale Community College’s Performing Arts Center into an indoor flesh-and-blood fright factory that runs for three big weekends, beginning — wait for it — Friday the 13th.
As their name suggests, they’ve galavanted around the globe in every kind of (atmospheric and political) climate; played in front of Soviet premiers and princes and presidents and popes; and served as cheerfully anarchic ambassadors for the sweet science of basketball, and by extension the sort of barnstorming spirit that made America famous.
But where the Harlem Globetrotters almost met their match was in the run-up to a certain winter-storm-that-wasn’t-quite-all-that, by the name of Stella.
While the most storied franchise in sports entertainment was forced to postpone its March engagement at Brookdale Community College due to a prudent tilt to the side of caution, the nearly annual matchup of courtside vaudeville and venue couldn’t possibly be held back for too long — and on Wednesday and Thursday, the Globetrotters return to the Robert J. Collins Arena on BCC’s Lincroft campus for a two-night stand of slamdunk sleight o’ hoops on their worldwide Winter Tour.
When William Shakespeare put quill to parchment and began work on The Merry Wives of Windsor, he probably wasn’t laboring under the illusion he might create something to be dissected by critics and scholars for hundreds of years to come. The more immediate tastes of the popular audience were calling out to him, and with Wives the busy Bard had the opportunity to spin one of his most crowd-pleasing creations — Sir John Falstaff, the portly and roguish companion to the future king in the two parts of his historical drama Henry IV — into a rowdy (and cheerfully out-of-time) little knock-down farce.
Beginning this Saturday night, the Two River Theater offers Red Bank audiences not one but two rather unique takes on one of Shakespeare’s silliest comedies: one an intimately scaled three-actor adaptation that goes in search of the play’s “dark undercurrent;” the other an abridged full-cast version showcasing a talented company of high school age performers.
By JOHN T. WARD
They’ve been evicted so many times it’s almost funny, and the comedians who brand themselves as Improv Jam are about to lose their current home, in Red Bank.
But they haven’t lost their sense of humor, and comedy lovers — including those willing to surrender their cellphones to the cause — can catch them at their antic best every Saturday night, for free, on Monmouth Street.
Contributors to Jon Stewart’s new HBO project — including writer Brendan O’Hare, above, in the guise of obsessive basketball fan — make an encore appearance at Count Basie’s Performing Arts Academy Thursday.
As they did two months ago, writers and other contributors to Jon Stewart‘s hush-hush new HBO-project-in-the-works are scheduled to take a stage Thursday night in what one of them called a “dope little room that probably was a garage three weeks ago.”
Hey, a little respect: that “dope little room” next door to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre was once a Wa-Wa convenience store, we’ll have you know.
When last we looked in on the Monmouth Players, that longest-running of all area community stage troupes was offering up a holiday-season production of A Long Christmas Dinner, a Thornton Wilder playlet in which a single dining room serves as the setting for a century’s worth of action, with a small cast playing multiple generations of characters in the life of an American home.
When the players resume their Season of Classics this weekend (their 63rd overall, if you can wrap your head around that), it will find them still lurking about the dining room — or more precisely, The Dining Room, an ensemble “comedy of manners” that packs its own playfully experimental edge.
Monty Python co-founder John Cleese (at lower left in above photo, and below in 2016) makes his Count Basie Theatre debut introducing a Sunday evening screening of the 1975 comedy classic ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’
You know you’ve drifted into uncharted cultural waters when the co-founder of the most cheerfully anarchic comedy institution of all time likens your nation’s new presidential administration to a “pirate ship” — with the man who famously brought you the “Dead Parrot” sketch going on to brand the skipper of that ship as “delusional.”
Having returned in recent years to his British birthplace (where he advocated for Brexit-ing the European Union) after some two decades as a resident of the United States, John Cleese comes to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for the first time this Sunday, when the self-described “writer, actor and tall person” hosts a special screening of one of his troupe’s finest celluloid moments, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
What’s Wrong With People? Aren’t You Embarrassed? Why Would You DO That?!
For stand-up comedy star (and asker of those signature queries) Sebastian Maniscalco, the real question would have to be why wouldn’t he — as in, why wouldn’t a hard-working, dues-paying veteran of the nation’s “tough rooms” continue to surf a still-swelling wave of momentum that’s seen the onetime waiter hailed as no less than Stand Up Comedian of the Year?
While the Chicago native might seem an overnight sensation to some, his was a path that had as much to do with countless open-mic sign-ups and bowling alley gigs as it did his hit cable TV specials, popular podcasts, and high-profile appearances on Fallon, Conan, and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars. When he comes to Red Bank for the first time this Thursday evening, the restless observer of modern mores will be forced to park it here for a spell, as he fulfills a commitment for six — count ’em — headlining shows on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre.
He’s made memorable appearances on the programs of former colleagues Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore. He’s been busy with his wife, Tracey, in establishing a new home for rescued farm animals. A new book titled “The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests,” has rekindled interest in his legacy. Oh, and he signed a four-year contract with HBO that had media observers salivating over the possibilities.
While Stewart’s still-untitled HBO project is said to be readying for debut by March, a live audience on the Greater Red Bank Green is slated to get an advance taste Thursday night, when the Count Basie Theatre mounts a special Evening of Comedy spotlighting its writers and performers.
Before her sudden passing in 2014 at the age of 81, Joan Rivers seemed to have lived several lives in the public eye. From her training in the hepster coffee houses of Greenwich Village and the challenges of being a “comedienne” in the Sullivan-era standup scene to a spate of late-career activity that included a hit cable TV show — and a tour stop at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre — Rivers acquired new generations of fans as readily as she made enemies in and out of the business.
So writes author Leslie Bennetts in Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers, her newly published comprehensive study of the star’s “tumultuous, victorious, tragic, hilarious, and fascinating life.” A regular contributor to Vanity Fair magazine and an interviewer of stars, Bennetts visits River Road Books in Fair Haven for an intimate “can we talk?” session Wednesday evening.
“I’ve tapped into something, man, that nobody else can talk about,” Tracy Morgan said in an interview with a national wire service earlier this year. “I went to the other side and came back bearing gifts… and I’m gonna share all those gifts with my fans.”
In case you missed the headline-making news, the Emmy nominated cast member of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock was referencing his near-death experience in a June, 2014, limo crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, an accident that killed his friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, and left Morgan comatose with multiple injuries, necessitating a lengthy process of physical therapy and speech rehabilitation.
Undaunted, the Bronx-born “cringe comic” (and co-star of films like Cop Out and the forthcoming Fist Fight) has taken to the road once more on a route that leads to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night.
Jamian’s Food and Drink on Monmouth Street in Red Bank will host a season-six premiere party Saturday for “Comic Book Men,” the AMC cable show set in film director Kevin Smith‘s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, on Broad Street.
The free-admission party begins at 8:30 p.m. and, weather permitting, will include a screenings of classic episodes on the back patio. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Best-selling author and humorist-storyteller David Sedaris (above) returns to the Count Basie stage on Thursday night…while Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood (below) bring their impishly improv’d interactions back to Red Bank on Saturday.
Even the most polarized of next-door neighbors could use a good shared laugh experience these days — and even as our Count Basie Theatre continues to reinforce its reputation as a premier stop for big-time touring comics, two separate events in the coming nights serve to point out that live comedy is a big tent, with room for more than just the tried and true stand-up standard.
Returning to the Basie boards for a third (or is it fourth?) appearance tomorrow night, October 13, author and essayist David Sedaris once again displays the audience-friendly skills that have allowed him to transfer his celebrated sense of humor from the printed page (Holidays On Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and other best selling collections of essays, observations and occasional tall tales) to the performance stage, as witness his Grammy nomination for the audio version of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. It’s a dexterity that’s allowed him success in formats ranging from Off Broadway theater to public radio and even children’s books — with a road show that will find him reading from his excerpted works, riffing on recent events, and interacting with the audience, sometimes in ways that might give pause to even the most “fearless” of comedy-club commandos.
The old greaser’s pompadour has thinned; the paunch squeaks and strains against the trademark leathers, and the glasses could have come straight off the face of your great-aunt Totsie — but let no one say that the biggest/baddest of standup comedy’s many self-proclaimed Bad Boys has lost any modicum of his mojo at the mic.
Besides, even the most outrageously offensive rants, rhymes and roast-ready insults of Andrew Dice Clay read anymore like Tuesday morning’s tweets from the 2016 Presidential campaign playbook. And when “the only performer ever banned for life from MTV” (or first contestant ever thrown off Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” or SNL host who inspired the most cast member walk-outs) takes the stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Thursday night, August 25, he’ll be once more ascending a career rollercoaster that’s taken him from multi-night sellouts of Madison Square Garden, to a humbling stint beneath the low ceilings of basement comedy clubs — and a return to form in front of theater-sized crowds.
For a breed of performers who hone their craft via roast-ready insults, scatological science, interactive combat with audience hecklers, and a filter-free delivery that’d give even the Donald pause, stand-up comedians can be real sweethearts sometimes — and no more so than when they’re joining forces for a worthy cause, as with this Saturday’s Laugh Out Loud Comedy Show at Two River Theater in Red Bank.
Back for its eighth annual outing, the popular event transforms the mainstage of the Bridge Avenue arts center into a high-class Chuckle Hut for a raucous one-night stand.
The trailer for “65 Percent,” a documentary by Mike and Jon Altino of Middletown, screens at the Red Bank Middle School at 1 p.m.
Saturday-morning cartoons, a locally made documentary and shorts-in-a-bunch enliven Saturday’s schedule of the Indie Street Film Festival, which got underway in Red Bank Wednesday night and continues through Sunday afternoon.
Click the “read more” for the full schedule and a sampling of delightful and outrageous movie trailers. Read More
Sand artist Joe Mangrum creating a temporary painting at the festival opening-night cocktail party on the Count Basie patio Wednesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Screenings at four Red Bank venues fill Friday’s schedule of the Indie Street Film Festival, which got underway Wednesday night and continues through Sunday afternoon.
Click the “read more” for the full schedule and a sampling of delightful and outrageous movie trailers.
A documentary about people who eat white dirt adds some grit to the first full day of the Indie Street Film Festival.
These and other delightfully strange and wondrous topics fill the schedule of Red Bank’s Indie Street Film Festival as it enters its first full day of screenings and other events Thursday.
Click the “read more” for the full sked and a whole dirtload of delightful and outrageous movie trailers.
The festival flickers to life with “Morris from America” on the big screen at the Count Basie Theatre. Here’s the trailer.
Day One of the first-ever Indie Street Film Festival gets underway in Red Bank Wednesday, kicking off five days of heaven for movie lovers.
The opening day schedule is light, with one just one film lighting up the giant silver screen of the Count Basie Theatre and two parties. But the festival shifts into high gear Thursday with daylong screenings and other events at five venues, and keeps up the pace through Saturday before winding down Sunday.
Check in with redbankgreen throughout the week for festival coverage and next-day schedules with tons of trailers to help you decide which darkened room to bring your popcorn to. Meantime, here’s the first-day lineup:
Kate Bader (center) performs a scene from “Titus Andronicus” during last year’s Shakespeare on the Lawn presentation on the campus of Brookdale Community College. The summer series returns on Thursday evening with “Measure for Measure.” (Photo by Brookdale Community College)
Ask any Shakespearean scholar you happen to see: the historic incubator and natural habitat of the Bard’s classic tragedies, comedies and histories has little to do with stuffy theater boxes, scratchy formalwear, and snoozing patrons of the arts. Rather, it’s an experience that’s best realized in the open air — with un-amplified voices, improvised solos by Mother Nature’s minions, and an audience of engaged, enthusiastic (and ever so spirited) folks from all walks of life.
It’s a tradition maintained locally each year on one of the greatest, greenest spaces of the Greater Red Bank Green — and, beginning this Thursday evening, Shakespeare on the Lawn returns to the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College for a 15th annual edition, with a new look at William Shakespeare’s tragicomic “problem play” known as “Measure for Measure.”