Susan Heyward stars as Winnie, the “nearly nine year old” central character in the comedy MY WONDERFUL DAY, by Alan Ayckbourn, below.


As the author of nearly 80 produced plays, he’s been a magnet for gleaming trophies, plaques and medallions that include the Tony, the Olivier and the Moliere Award, not to mention five honorary doctorates and — what was that other one? Oh yeah, a knighthood.

You’d think then with all of that precious metal clanking about, Sir Alan Ayckbourn might make a healthy amount of noise on this side of the Atlantic. But regrettably, the works of the dramatist best known for the Norman Conquests trilogy and Absurd Person Singular are apparently in no danger of challenging the likes of Nunsense for dominance outside of America’s biggest cities and universities.

Beginning Tuesday, May 15, Two River Theater Company endeavors to change all that — as indeed they’ve worked to change the standard set of expectations for a “suburban” stage operation — when the professional troupe caps its 2011-2012 mainstage season with a new production of the 2009 comedy My Wonderful Day.

Read More »


The Trailer Park Boys, the Canadian cult cable sensations performing a bit of “community service” this Friday night at the Count Basie Theatre.


The last time the world heard from the Trailer Park Boys, the trio of petty criminals, backsliding lowlifes and substance abusers was more or less secured within their natural habitat: behind bars, and lashing out against the media attention that helped make their mugshots a household brand in dozens of countries.

It was a fitting valedictory for “Julian” (John Paul Tremblay), “Ricky” (Robb Wells) and “Bubbles” (Mike Smith), the characters who evolved (so to speak) from several low-budget film projects by Canadian writer and director Mike Clattenburg.

Dedicated to the mantra “get rich, get high, and stay out of jail;” navigating life at Nova Scotia’s Sunnyvale Trailer Park with a work ethic, a moral code and an F-bombed vocabulary that made our own Jay and Silent Bob look like Frasier and Niles, the Boys spent seven seasons as the stars of their own “mockumentary” TV series — an international cult hit seen Stateside by DirecTV subscribers.

The series that ended in 2008 — think COPS times Sunny divided by The Office— gave noisy birth to two theatrically released feature films, an all new TV vehicle for the three actors (The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Fun Hour), and several live appearance tours, the latest of which rolls into Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre this Friday night, May 11.

Read More »


A slew of classic characters from the pens of Shakespeare, Coward and Wilson and more will tread the boards of the Red Bank stage this season.  (Click to enlarge)


“I feel like I’m having a dream,” the playwright and performance artist Lisa Kron said as she faced a capacity crowd at Two River Theater Monday night.

“In high school, we, the theater people, were like the outcasts,” she said. “This is the pep rally we never had.”

The occasion for the spirited assembly was the annual new-season announcement  by Two River Theater Company — one of the most highly anticipated such events in New Jersey stage circles, and one presided over by John Dias, now in his second season as TRTC’s artistic director.

As introduced by the nationally renowned producer and some celebrated associates, the 2012-2013 schedule builds upon the successful template established in the current 2011-2012 season — a season that climaxes with the production of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day, going up in previews on May 15.

Utilizing both the mainstage Rechnitz auditorium and the “black box” Marion Huber space at TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center, the new slate of eight shows mixes classics of the English language with new American voices; intimate solos with exquisite ensembles, and new faces with a whole lot of returning favorites — with words from the likes of Noel Coward, August Wilson and a guy by the name of Shakespeare.

Read More »


Michael Zapcic with Thomas Mumme, left, during Thursday’s live ‘SModcast’ at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Below: Kevin Smith on the center monitor during a taping earlier this week in Red Bank. (Photo below courtesy of Robert Bruce. Click to enlarge)


Michael Zapcic had the “really surreal” experience earlier this week of walking past Madison Square Garden, glancing up at the massive Jumbotron and seeing a commercial for ‘Comic Book Men,’ a new cable show in which he appears as himself: a self-described comic book geek.

“I’m like holy crap! It’s them! It’s us!” he recalled Thursday, in the tone of an average, fedora-wearing citizen spotting a caped man flying overhead.

Life in the mini-Gotham that is Red Bank may never be the same.

Only, yeah, it will be exactly the same, because ‘Comic Book Men’ is a reality show, one focused on the daily interplay of three employees of  “possibly the world’s most famous comic book store” – Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash on Broad Street, where the show is set.

Over six episodes, four opinionated, superabsorbent sponges of superheroism – Zapcic, Ming Chen and Walt Flanagan, plus original store manager Bryan Johnson – spend a lot of time  “just arguing about stupid movie plot points, which happens every day without cameras anyway,” says Chen.

Read More »


alec-baldwinTwo years after his last and only visit, actor Alec Baldwin returns to Red Bank’s Two River Theater next month for a night of…

Well, chat, mostly. The pre-Internet kind, that is. Only, with a couple of hundred people looking on.

Baldwin and his friend and acclaimed Shakespearean Michael Cumpsty will settle in for an extended conversation focused on their work in, and shared love of, live theater, TRTC artistic director John Dias tells redbankgreen.

“He’s quite a formidable theater actor,” says Dias, a friend of Baldwin since they crossed paths working on a 1998 production of ‘MacBeth‘ at New York’s Public Theater, where Dias was the dramaturg and Baldwin had the lead. “He’s quite a persuasive force.”

Read More »


madeleinemrcedesMercedes Herrero (right) stars as a slightly dizzied Dean in SEVEN HOMELESS MAMMOTHS WANDER NEW ENGLAND, the “academic sex comedy” by Madeleine George (left).


Saturday, October 15, marks a momentous occasion for Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company: the first preview performance of an all-new, never-before-seen play, developed by artistic director John Dias and the team of creative people at TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue artspace.

An original comedy by Madeleine George — a college professor and writing teacher whose résumé includes some of the  best-known universities and correctional facilities in the state of New York — the show called Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England is pitched as an “academic sex comedy,” one recommended for mature audiences on the basis of “simulated sex between prehistoric college students and contemporary lesbians.”

In the production (going up inside the Two River building’s “black box” Marion Huber Theater space) under the direction of Obie winner Ken Rus Schmoll, a small-college administrator named Dean Wreen (Mercedes Herrero) must contend with the budget-axe amputation of the struggling school’s Natural History museum — at the same time that her ex-girlfriend Greer (Deirdre Madigan) re-appears to further complicate things with the Dean’s much younger current partner, Andromeda (Flor De Liz Perez).

Throw in a campus caretaker (Joel Van Liew) who apparently lives in the basement — and a come-to-life couple of Early Man exhibits (Lauren Culpepper, Jon Hoche) who “take us through the history of human relationships, without moving a muscle” — and you’ve got what Dias has championed as a play that “weaves together screwball comedy and academic satire with a truly profound view of contemporary relationships, and the different ways that people make a family.”

Dias, who’s made good on his promise (in a previous interview here on redbankgreen) to bring “a couple” of world premiere shows to local audiences — the other is In This House, opening in March 2012 — sat down with the Drama Desk to talk about what we can expect to see when the Mammoths lumber into town (spoiler alert: it’s NOT a stage full of trained elephants)…

Read More »


covertCovert operations: Elsie’s Subs co-proprietor Chris Covert (pictured in his night job as stand-up comic) brings the latest in his ongoing Comedy Night Live series to the Dublin House on Friday, August 26.


Maybe you like your humor DRY, and your subs WET — maybe vice versa. Either way, he’s got you covered.

Most days of the week, Chris Covert presides over one of the most beloved institutions within the Red Bank state of mind — Elsie’s Subs, the 52-year-old Monmouth Street landmark that’s been owned by his wife Tish for over 20 years.

As the steward of a brand about which native Red Bankers tend to get territorial (it’s not uncommon for in-the-know visitors to grab an Elsie’s special immediately after coming in from the airport — and to order a no oil/vinegar “dry” sub for the flight back home), Covert loves nothing more than to keep serving a loyal clientele that consists of “99 percent repeat customers – the best kind there is.”

That said, the honorable earl of sandwich has been known to have his other pursuits and fancies — not the least of which is an artistic bent that’s manifested itself in a series of quirky mosaic portraits, as well as a cutting-edge flair for custom-carved Halloween pumpkins.

As if he weren’t in danger of slicing himself too thin already, this Caravaggio of the capicola has an altogether separate, nocturnal calling — as a practitioner of the art of stand-up comedy, and ringmaster of a regular series of Comedy Open Mic events at the equally iconic Dublin House. It’s to the second floor of The Dub that Covert returns this Friday, August 26, for the fourth and latest in a monthly menu of Comedy Night Live events.

Read More »


trt-extArtistic director John Dias, below, and the Two River Theater announced the lineup of shows for the 2011-’12 season Monday night. (Click to enlarge)



The onstage ensemble included a formidable British-born actor who won an Obie award, for playing no less a role than Hamlet. An actor-director-playwright (and cast member of TV’s Castle) with a Tony to call his own. A young actress and singer who’s co-starred on Broadway in Les Miz and Miss Saigon.

Even with all that collected charisma, however, all eyes were on the soft-spoken guy at the podium — John Dias, artistic director of Two River Theater Company, and the man at the center of attention as the borough-based stage troupe announced its 2011-2012 season of shows Monday night.

As presented to an audience of invited guests at TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue artspace, it’s an expanded slate of eight shows that makes use of the building’s mainstage auditorium as well as its companion “black box” space, the Marion J. Huber Theater. Adding to the buzz, of course, was the fact that the upcoming season represents the first full schedule of offerings selected by Dias, who joined TRTC in August of last year.

Read More »


billy_016Playwright Billy Van Zandt is in the hot seat for an April 30 fundraiser for the Middletown Cultural and Arts Center.


No, Billy Van Zandt — to quote the late great Red Buttons and his signature shtick on countless Dean Martin roasts — “never got a dinner.” But on the night of Saturday, April 30, he’ll be getting his very own Evening.

Unlike other Monmouth County folks who went Hollywood in a big way, the comic playwright, producer and performer has, with his longtime collaborator Jane Milmore, maintained a pretty dynamic profile on the area’s artscape — particularly over at the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College, where the Van Zandt-Milmore tagteam has taught, established a scholarship and regularly premiered such new works for the stage as You’ve Got Hate Mail, currently enjoying a hit Off Broadway run at The Triad in Manhattan.

As one half of a bicoastal stage/screen writing partnership, the half brother of Steve Van Zandt spends about half his time here on the greater Red Bank Green — often with his sons and his better half, actress and author Adrienne Barbeau. None of which is to suggest that Billy Van Zandt ever does anything halfway, however.

Scheduled for 7:30p on April 30, An Evening with Billy Van Zandt (it even rhymes with An Evening with Cary Grant) presents the 1975 graduate of the old split-session Middletown High School in an “up close and personal” forum, in which he’s expected to offer advice to aspiring actors and writers — and to share some pretty priceless stories from his travels as a young actor in major motion pictures, and an Emmy nominated writer-producer for sitcoms both legendary (Newhart) and look-it-up (Bless This House).

Moderated by actor Jeff Babey (who, as a member in good standing of the Van Zandt-Milmore stock company, is similarly not known to do things in moderation), it’s a circus that manages to involve everyone from Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, and Tom Cruise, to Wiliam Shatner, the Wayans Brothers and Andrew Dice Clay — and that’s just for appetizers. It’s also a benefit for the educational programs of the Middletown Township Cultural & Arts Council, hosted at their spacious (and criminally under-utilized) Middletown Arts Center, located just seconds from Red Bank and steps from the township’s NJ Transit train platform. The redbankgreen Drama Desk met up with BVZ at the Broadway Diner recently, to kvetch and ketchup on current events.

Read More »


cremin-diasSue Cremin, who has the title role in ‘Candida,’ with TRTC artistic director John Dias after Saturday’s opening-night show. Below, former ‘Cosby Show‘ star Geoffrey Owens, right, returned to the TRTC, where he starred in ‘Opus‘ earlier this season, and ran into former ‘Frazier‘ star David Hyde Pierce. (Click to enlarge)

hyde-pierce-geoffrey-owensEarly reviews of the Two River Theater Company‘s new production of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Candida‘ find it a fresh take on a play that made its debut in 1898.

Star-Ledger theater critic Peter Filichia says the Red Bank production nears its conclusion with a moment of suspense, something not usually associated with the play’s author.

And Asbury Park Press reviewer Tom Chesek (who also writes for redbankgreen) says director David Staller “has revealed a play that’s actually contemporary at heart.”

Read More »


david-bromberg-2Master multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg makes his annual pilgrimage to the Count Basie Theatre this weekend.

We’ve sprung ahead, clock-wise, and have arrived at the middle of March with the feeling that the roar of the late-winter lion will soon enough succumb to the bleating of the lamb.

While it’s still technically not springtime just yet, a typically busy gust of activity at the Count Basie Theatre sounds the keynote for the coming months — suggesting that we’ve all made it over the wacky-weather hump. Or is it Humperdinck?

Whatever you do, never suggest that his godzillions of female fans are anywhere near “over” the British-born singer who’s been seducing ’em in song since the Fab Four were still touring. When the eternal King of Romance often known “simply” as Engelbert returns to Red Bank on the heels of his 40th Anniversary Tour, he’ll be effectively extending Valentine’s Day well into the season when many of us give up Russell Stover assortments and Pink Champale for Lent — with tickets for tonight’s Humper-palooza available here — and much more Basie-based excitement right around the corner.

Read More »


stewart_1024Jon Stewart’s riverfront houses on Alston Court, left, and Fisher Place, right, represent a combined $7 million investment in Red Bank, not counting major renovations now underway on one house. (Click to enlarge)

jon-stewart-coverJon Stewart has doubled down on Red Bank.

The host of Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show,” who quietly paid $3.8 million for a riverfront home on Alston Court late last year, has supplemented that buy with the equally hush-hush purchase of the adjoining property one lot to the west, on Fisher Place, redbankgreen has learned.

Property records show Stewart, through an entity called Red Bank River Trust, paid $3.2 million in June for the second property, the former home of Kerri and Pat McGeehan. P.J. Rotchford, manager of the Gloria Nilson Realtors office in Rumson, which was involved in the transaction, confirmed that the trust is Stewart’s.

Read More »



Standup comedian, radio personality and phone-prank specialist Roy Wood Jr. keeps up with the latest tech, as the Last Comic Standing Live! tour brings him to New Jersey for the first time. (Photo by Mykeon Smith)


As a practitioner of the lively, all-American art of the prank phone call, Roy Wood Jr. has driven people of all backgrounds to equal-opportunity apoplexy — pranking and posing as bureaucratic blowhards, nosy neighbors, unwelcome exes, crabby customers and a certain Dr. Azibo. It’s a skill set that’s landed him major exposure on nationwide shows with Tom Joyner and Jamie Foxx.

The question isn’t just who Wood is at any given moment, but where — as the busy standup, comedy writer and broadcaster can appear at any moment to be anywhere on the TV comedy circuit (Def Comedy Jam, Chelsea Lately, Letterman, Ferguson), to his native Birmingham, Alabama (where he somehow manages to deliver a daily radio show), to any of 60 cities on the current tour of Last Comic Standing Live!

When the traveling version of the hit NBC series Last Comic Standing makes its annual jaunt to the Count Basie Theatre Friday night for an 8p show, Wood will be present, in person, accompanied by a busload of his fellow finalists from the Season Seven comedy competition. In  advance, we got on the phone with Wood — not the safest thing to do under normal circumstances.

Read More »


ksmithcakebossFilmmaker Kevin Smith‘s 40th-birthday Q&A show at the Count Basie Theatre Monday night drew a scale-model lookalike. One covered in icing.

A few hours before the show, the auteur of such films as ‘Clerks‘ and ‘Chasing Amy‘ (and owner of the Red Bank comics/toy store Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash) got a delivery of a cake in his own likeness from fellow Jersey native Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss.

“It was huge,” says Basie spokeswoman Diana St. John. “I mean, like, bigger than Kevin Smith’s actual head.”

Read More »



Paula Poundstone brings her trademark asexual look and her highly interactive “autobiographical” act to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre Saturday night.


When Paula Poundstone returns to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Saturday night, she’ll bring a road-tested and audience-friendly act that bears the accumulated wisdom of some 30 years of showbiz highs and lows — ranging from coveted honors (the Emmy, the American Comedy Award, and a pair of Cable ACEs) and successful runs in such neglected niches as public radio and game show panels; to at least one of the fastest-cancelled series in TV history.

Then there was that interlude during which she made national news in 2001 — a period marked by a DWI arrest, charges of child endangerment and lewdness, the (temporary) removal of her adopted kids, and her (permanent) removal from the foster parent system. It’s a topic that she’s hardly swept under the rug, whether addressing it in her memoir There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, or in a stage act that she characterizes as having “evolved into something extremely autobiographical.”

The 50-year-old comic will be meeting and greeting her audience in the Basie lobby following her 8p show. Until then, nine questions for Paula Poundstone, coming right up.

Read More »



Steven Wright takes the stage at the Count Basie Theatre Friday night.


This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but Steven Wright in conversation comes off sounding an awful lot like Steven Wright in performance — maybe even more so.

We have no doubt that the qualities most associated with the 54 year old comedian — the methodical, mumbly, molasses-paced delivery; the tournament-grade poker face, and the entire physical being that seems an extension of his battered porkpie hat — are the stuff of utmost sincerity.

We also believe that the poker face masks a genuine love of life and sense of wonder — a fully rounded persona that the Oscar and Grammy winning writer, actor and musician carries with him like a notebook of observations. While other standup stars of his era (think of the younger versions of Steve Martin and Howie Mandel) hung their manic shtick up on the bedpost each night, Wright has moved through the decades at his own deliberate pace, never really slipping out of style and never appearing anything other than at home in his lived-in skin.

The performer who was called upon to voice Speed the Turtle in The Swan Princess would be the first to admit that he doesn’t work too fast — his two albums of songs were released 12 years apart, and his second DVD came along more than 20 years after the first — and that when he does hit the road these days, he prefers to “go out for a couple of weeks” rather than do a coast-to-coast blitz. It’s on just such an early-June jaunt around the northeast that the Boston-bred Wright comes to Red Bank this Friday night, as the latest comic legend to tread the boards of the Count Basie Theatre.

Read More »


picassobAlfredo Narciso (as young Pablo Picasso) takes to the floor with Rachel Botchan in PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE, the Steve Martin comedy opening this week at Two River Theater. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)


Ever since the invisible curtain went up on its first mainstage production in 2005, the Two River Theater hasn’t been shy about showcasing the stuff of genius — be it Shakespeare, Shepard or Shaw; Moliere or Beckett; Noel Coward or Tennessee Williams.

You can add Picasso and Einstein to that Mensa mix — but if you do that, you’ll have to make room for Steve Martin too.

Yes, the star of The Man With Two Brains and Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid has a history with the Two River Theater Company, which brought a revival of The Underpants — Martin’s springtime-fresh take on a musty old German farce — to Red Bank in 2007.

Three years later, TRTC revisits the oeuvre of the Emmy- and Grammy-winning renaissance guy — with a new staging of Martin’s all-original play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, previewing tonight and continuing through June 6.

Read More »



Friday night lights: Standup guy “Soul Joel” Richardson (left) hosts another COMEDY ON THE EDGE extravaganza in Red Bank, this one starring Reese Waters (right).


They used to blanket the map of this great land from coast to coast — places with names like The Chuckle Hut, the Guffaw Garage and the Heh-Heh Hovel. Comedy clubs, they called them, back in the days of the Comedy Explosion, and just like a video rental or a Fotomat, you could be sure to find one in any town you happened into.

Yes, even Red Bank — though we’ll leave it to you to guess which Monmouth Street storefront once housed a short-lived spot for live laffs about 20 years ago.

Here in 2010, the laughs are back within borough borders — and on Broad, no less, as River’s Edge Café plays host to a weekly session of standup (comedy) and sitdown (dinner) produced by Staten Island-based Soul Joel Productions.

Read More »


charlottes-web1Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (as Charlotte the spider) and Owen Doherty (as Wilbur the pig) perform a scene from CHARLOTTE’S WEB, scheduled to go up in December at Two River Theater. (Click to enlarge)


There’s a classic work by the most formidable scribe this side of Mr. Shakespeare. A reimagining of one of the most timeless tales in children’s literature. Some long-overdue encores for a couple of New York favorites from the 1960s — and a pair of exciting new items that you may not have heard of.

It’s all on the agenda beginning next September as Red Bank’s resident professional stage troupe, Two River Theater Company, announced its 2010-2011 season of shows with a full-house reception last night at its Bridge Avenue auditorium.

Here’s the lineup:

Read More »


There’s a creative new coalition of artists and businesspeople, on the verge of producing their first big public event. A movement to start a new, year-round, monthly series of 2nd Saturdays happenings. And don’t even get us started on the ambitious Urban Canvas project. But where is it? Where’s it all going on?

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit takes it down to our sister city Long Branch for a look at some pretty exciting things that are in the works within that sprawling seaside scene. The coming days of April, for instance, herald the arrival of an event called Imagine Long Branch, A Masquerade Ball. As the name suggests, it’s an arty party that mixes several generations of people from our local art, music, craft, culinary and commerce communities, in a most unexpected venue — and with custom decorated masks (like the one created and modeled here by Erika Rainey) not only recommended, but available for advance purchase.

We’ll acquaint you with the painters, musicians and business owners behind this slate of events — and we’ll also drop earlybird word on the National Comedy Fest, a high-concept juggernaut of jocularity scheduled to start working the room NEXT April Fool’s Day — not just in Long Branch, but in Red Bank and Asbury Park to boot. You read it here first, right here in Red Bank oRBit!


To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Well-shod theatergoers enjoyed a reception following the opening -night performance of ‘Barefoot in the Park’ at Red Bank’s Two River Theater on Saturday.

The Neil Simon classic comedy stars Meg Chambers Steedle and John Wernke and runs through February 28.



One’s the most successful writer of comedies in Broadway history. The other’s a serious scholar of classic literature, a retired college professor and founding father of Two River Theater Company. Together they’re teaming up for laughs this Valentine’s season, as Robert M. Rechnitz prepares to open a new production of Neil Simon‘s Barefoot in the Park at the Red Bank performing arts auditorium named for Dr. Rechnitz and his wife Joan.

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit the details how the professor — a man more likely to be found staging the works of Chekhov, Ibsen and Moliere — came to be “Simonized,” as he tells it, and fall in love with the 1964 comedy by the creator of The Sunshine Boys and The Odd Couple; “a delightful, compelling play that moves like lightning.”

On the eve of the first previews for the production that stars Meg Chambers Steedle and John Wernke (above), director Rechnitz talks about his personal history with this show, about Simon’s lasting legacy, and about how a good romantic comedy brings out the youthful blush in all concerned. Read all about it, right here in Red Bank oRBit!