THE ART OF DECEPTION, AT RBR

rbr_playsilo_ir Matt Dubrow, opposite Madelyn Monaghan and Ray DeLuca, does double duty in RBR’s staging of ‘Is He Dead?’ playing both the artist Millet and (in drag) that  character’s fictional twin sister.

The Red Bank Theatre Company at Red Bank Regional High mixes the contemporary and the past with it’s latest staging, which gets underway Thursday night.

The company will present ‘Is He Dead?’ a farce adapted from a long-lost Mark Twain play of the same name.

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IN oRBit: TOUCHING ALL THE BASIES

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That seductive siren giving you the come-hither is one Dolores O’Riordan, and she’s here (with her band the Cranberries) in Red Bank this mid-November’s Monday to see us off on a six-nights/ one day package tour aboard the good ship Count Basie Theatre.

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit has the scuttlebutt and the skinny on the coming days at the Count’s crib; a week that kicks off with the long-awaited return of Ms. O’Riordan’s platinum-plated alterna-band tonight, followed by a rare (non-arena) appearance by one of classic rock’s ageless golden boys (Tuesday), one of the most original young voices in comedy (Wednesday) and a familiar, family-friendly face from TV and features (Thursday). All this plus the return of Miss Saigon.

As your self-appointed cruise directors we urge you to get out of that cabin and sample at least some of what’s in circulation — and tune in the rest of the week for the latest arty cheese, drinks with the author, a pre-holiday visit from Alec Baldwin and more — right here, coordinates Red Bank oRBit.

‘MIDSUMMER NIGHT’ GETS EXTENDED FALL RUN


Scenes from the opening night reception at the Two River Theater last Saturday night. To enlarge the display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Now in its first full week of stagings, the Two River Theater Company‘s run of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ has already been extended by a week.

The Red Bank company, citing boffo activity, announced the tag-on yesterday.

Star-Ledger theater writer Peter Filichia pretty much raves about the production top to Bottom in a review today.

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IN oRBit: WELL-FED BY MOONLIGHT

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit has the goods on a pair of events scheduled to invade the major stages of the borough these next few midweek nights — and we’ll take the time right here to remind you all of the ongoing Dine Downtown promotion that continues Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the month, at select RB restaurants.

First up is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the latest Shakespearean shake-‘n-bake from Two River Theater Company and visionary artistic director Aaron Posner. We have a Q&A with Posner (the guy who made the banks of the Navesink run red with TRTC’s bloody good Macbeth) on this classic comic frolic of faeries and lovers and royals and actors and asses. The show starts a three-week engagement with discounted previews Tuesday and Wednesday night; perfect for pairing with a lush salad or anything else that smacks of the great outdoors.

Then there’s Lewis Black, the gravel-voiced gadfly whose hilarious brand of vein-popping vitriol is usually an inducement to agita — but with another triumphal two-night stand at the Count Basie lined up for Wednesday and Thursday (and another chance to get a Dine Downtown prix fixe on Wednesday), this finely aged Black Label could be a splendid post-dinner digestif to your culinary experience of choice.

It’s all on the menu, along with highlights from the day and nights to come, only in Red Bank oRBit.

IN oRBit: A SUCCESS PILE

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In one of his greatest-hit bits, funnyman Patton Oswalt described the peculiarly American artifact known as the KFC Famous Bowl as “a failure pile in a sadness bowl.” With the standup guy (right) on the verge of big things — and even being taken seriously as a dramatic actor for his sensational turn in the indie film Big Fan — life might seem like one big Success Pile as he comes to the Happiness Bowl of the Count Basie for a Friday night set.

Here at Red Bank oRBit, we call him “Patton Pending,” though, as tickets to see the great and powerful “Os” are available for as little as $19.50 each — a most affordable price for a national act at the Count’s crib, and a great incentive to see this breakout act before he, you know, breaks out.

That’s not all that’s going on beneath the shadow of the Boss this weekend. We’ve got a couple of TV faces (Kate Voegele, Michael Boatman) in Asbury, the amazing Alejandro Escovedo at Monmouth University, Quirky Movies and (local teen singer) Quincy Mumford, plus poetry slams and sounds ranging from classical to Celtic to crooning to ‘coustic.

Think of it as our very own Famous Bowl; a merry mash-up of tastes and textures you’ll find nowhere else but in the pixelated pages of Red Bank oRBit!

IN oRBit: ONE ITALIAN TRIO (FOR HERE)

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit presents the view from the Idiot Spot — the name that standup comedians apparently have for when they’re booked into performing the middle set on a three-comic program.

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Actually, Dom Irrera doesn’t mind being the lunchmeat on the standup sandwich — not when he’s playing the Count Basie Theatre for the first time in his long career and sharing the stage with veteran Pat Cooper and newcomer Tammy Pescatelli in a Saturday night three-for-all entitled The Italian Laugh Pack.

In an exclusive interview, Philly native (and LA transplant) Irrera tells us about the places where Italian-American humor does and doesn’t go over; why he considers himself “an equal opportunity ballbuster,” and why simply living in New Jersey can make you Italian.

It’s all here — along with a chillingly prescient Cooper quote from last year about the coming economic crisis — only in the minestrone that is Red Bank oRBit.

IN oRBit: JASON’S NEW CLAYMATE

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit spotlights a guy who’s got the ear of “titans of industry, Hollywood celebrities and leaders from around the world” — America’s Fourth Leading Motivational Speaker, Mr. Donny Clay.

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Actually, we couldn’t get the busy self-help guru to sit for a lengthy interview, so we did the next best thing — rang up his good friend Jason Alexander, the star of stage, screen, sitcom and stud (poker) who travels with Clay wherever he goes, including an appearance this Thursday at the Count Basie Theatre.

The actor who will forever be linked (by fan devotion as well as residual checks) to Seinfeld‘s George Costanza discusses the origins of the Donny Clay phenomenon on the corporate-seminar circuit — along with why the self-help set aren’t all phoneys, what he might have done for a living in an alternate reality, and what might have become of the characters from Seinfeld in the age of the life coach.

You can do it; you can click on that link and go to that place and let Donny Clay show you the way; here in Red Bank oRBit!

IN oRBit: WHERE THE GIRLETTES ARE

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It’s a story worthy of an Off Broadway jukebox musical, or at least a Lifetime TV movie — three old friends unite over their shared passion for classic girl-group pop, go their separate ways in life, then get back together for one more heartfelt Da-Doo-Ron-Ron after 25 years.

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It’s also a true-life adventure, and in today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit you’ll find out how Cindy Wolfson Ciullo of Red Bank retro boutique Backward Glances managed to reassemble the original 1984 lineup of her band The Girlettes (right) for one more “modest yet milestone” mini-concert in front of her store this Saturday evening. We’ll bring you the exclusive story, and also recommend a couple of possible casts.

From Broad Street, we’ll take it over to Asbury Park, where the annual Road Trip Weekend opens (unofficially) tonight with at least one event that promises to turn the Shore’s most iconic club “gay for a day.” We’ll run down the busy slate of RT8 happenings — and even offer up a few that aren’t officially part of the schedule.

It’s all here for your Thursday, with a slew of additional weekend picks to come on Friday — only in the pixelated pages of Red Bank oRBit.

IN oRBit: KICKING IT JERSEY-CENTRIC

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit turns its sky-eye on an event that brings together a short shelf of New Jersey writers for a night of readings and book signings.

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Saturday’s program — dubbed “Beach Reads: Take Us With You” — promises a four-hour block of pure word-love. Curious readers can take in a murder mystery set in a Highland Park
movie house; vicariously tour the great cemeteries of the Garden State; learn how to speak “Bayonnease;” take a good long
look at our vintage nudist colonies; and
get a preview of organizer Helen Pike‘s latest, a Prohibition tale.

oRBit correspondent Dorothy Creamer has the table of contents for this local-organic event, going on at
the happening little Showroom in Asbury Park.

We then take it over to the Eatontown Playhouse, where the scrappy little storefront stage
hosts the world premiere of a new, original comedy by Jersey-guy playwright
Frank Van Syckel. We’ll tell you how a need to ad-lib and a penchant for
“working blue” led him to create the talk-TV satire called You Can’t Say That.

It’s all spelled out for you in the virtual pages of Red Bank oRBit.

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IN oRBit: SERENADERS & SUPERMOMS

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit offers a preview of something that’s
become a summertime staple: JudyGold

the return of Red Bank Street Life, the series
of free outdoor mini-musicfests that take place at the sidewalks and
storefronts each Saturday night.

We’ll give you the rundown on the featured
talent for the 9th annual series, sponsored by Bank of America (what, you’d
rather they spent the bailout money on another fancy wastebasket?).

As Red Bank RiverCenter‘s Nancy Adams explains,there are some exciting
changes in store this year: new performers, new hours and more
scheduled events than ever before — including a Jazz & Blues
weekend that adds two extra sessions, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Then we take it down to Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, where we talk
to Emmy-winning comedienne Judy Gold (right), who returns Thursday with her
solo show MOMMY QUEEREST — a proudly opinionated, highly personal, naturally
funny work from the woman who brought you 25 QUESTIONS FOR A JEWISH MOTHER.

There’s more where that came from, and you know where to find it first — in
the pixelated pages of our sibling site, Red Bank oRBit.

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IN oRBit: IF IT’S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE…

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Today's Red Bank oRBit tourbus offers up an exclusive chat — yes, it's a talking bus — with a true
living legend of show business: Uncle Floyd Vivino, fabled farouk of
local cable and UHF broadcasts, and a man who will famously perform
everywhere from a Bar Mitzvah to The Borgata.

Floyd Vivino Everywhere, that is, except
the Red Bank Street Fair — and you'll have to look in to find out his reason
why.

Floyd will be visiting the area this weekend, and we caught up
with the ridiculously hard-working entertainer and father of seven to glean some words of wisdom on showbiz,
television, print media — and some sobering thoughts on the prospects of
making a living on the internet.

It's all here in oRBit, along with a "grand tour" of your guided-excursion
options during this weekend's TriCity Arts Tour. Whether it's a horse and
buggy jaunt through the historic streets of Red Bank, a trolley ride around
the "urban sculpture park" of Long Branch or a creep through the allegedly
haunted corners of Asbury's Paramount, we've got your ticket — along with
more inside info than you'll find in the event's official sponsor, the APP.

Get on the bus, and let us direct your view — to the oRBit side!

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IN oRBit: MARTIN SHORT & RETURN OF RBIFF

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MartinShortToday’s edition of Red Bank oRBit gets a running start on the coming weekend with a focus on two major events.

One is the Count Basie Theatre‘s annual Benefit Concert and Gala —
a swell, street-closing affair for which the board of directors have secured the services not
only of showbiz shaman  Martin Short but his whole gallery of crazies, from
Jackie Rogers Jr. to Ed Grimley.

And so with Jiminy Glick as our
inspiration, oRBit serves up a long version of a Short interview
before anyone else. What, you didn’t think we would?

The other event is the highly anticipated return of the Red Bank International Film Festival — the 2008 edition.

You read that correctly. Seven months late and at least temporarily not in Red Bank, the filmfest has been cut down to a tightly packed 12-hour day of screenings from the customary three. But the cinema showcase lives on, with a new crew, a new website and plans to get back onto the Gregorian calendar. 

Check out these stories and more at culture center, aka Red Bank oRBit, folks.

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IN oRBit: TRUE MARXMANSHIP & JOY OF ROY

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit pays tribute to the talented men who in
turn pay tribute to some of the most iconic figures in showbiz history.

First, we introduce you to Frank Ferrante, a non-household name who
nonetheless has built a reputation as the world’s foremost channeler of the
one, the only,  Groucho Marx . He’ll be bringing his dead-on (and drop-dead
funny) homage, An Afternoon with Groucho, to the Pollak Theatre at  Monmouth University this weekend,
and the oRBit desk chatted with this amazing performer on the reasons why,
when all’s said and done, Marxism will prevail.

Back in Red Bank, we issue a reminder for fans of the sublime singmaster Roy Orbison to stop by the Count’s crib on Thursday, when Bobby Bandiera and the
Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue present an encore Salute to Roy Orbison,
with the consummate Shore rocker and crew hitting those unearthly notes and
conveying the dramatic sweep of some of the greatest pop records of all
human history.

It’s an audience with greatness, and it happens only in the pixelated pages
of Red Bank oRBit.

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IN oRBit: THOROUGHLY MODERN YET RETRO

Noworbiting_iconMillieTheater Week tramps on over at Red Bank oRBit, with a look at THOROUGHLY
MODERN MILLIE
, the latest musical extravaganza staged by Red Bank's own Phoenix Productions at the Count Basie Theatre.

It's a thoroughly modern
move for the Phoenix, as producer Tom Martini and his long-running
troupe are keeping it fresh with a new show, a new director and, with Donna
Missal (pictured) as Millie, some new faces in the cast.

Switching channels, we head down to Asbury Park, where TV star Timmy Williamss — you know, from that show The Whitest Kids U’ Know? Wednesday
mornings at 1:30 on the IFC cable network? Well anyway, he'll be presenting
his "comedy stylings" at the center lanes of the retro rock palace Asbury Lanes this weekend; dodging bands and bowling balls and maybe a Tot or two.

All this plus the latest listings from The Orb, only on our savvy satellite
site, Red Bank oRBit.Email this story

IN oRBit: ROCKIT SCIENCE AND MOHR

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Tuesday’s Red Bank oRBit brings you an update on the kids from Rockit! For Kids, the Red
Bank-based classic rock conservatory whose students have been leaving
parents, professional musicians and even Rockit commander Bruce Gallipani
“blown away” with their rapidly evolving chops.

In fact, when those road-grizzled veterans in the Marshall Tucker Band
return to the Count Basie Theatre this weekend, they’ll be sharing the bill with an
opening act of their own special request — the kids from Rockit, who
impressed the Tuckers (and, in one case, even jammed with them) with their
scary-good prowess on everything from Patsy Cline to Rush.

All this and Mohr — actor-comedian Jay Mohr — when Red Bank oRBit dopplers
in for a listen.

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IN oRBit: CHANNELING BILLIE HOLIDAY

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Today’s Red Bank oRBit brings news of a real treat for fans of  Billie Holiday.

Holiday Express/The Shirleys/Springsteen
vocalist Layonne Holmes (right) takes the spotlight at Rumson’s David Burke Fromagerie this Friday night only in a jazz-combo salute to the legendary singer.

Today’s oRBit also spotlights two pairs of comics:

• Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, as they make their sixth trip to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, a well-planned stop in a
career known for happy accidents and fast thinking.

• And Cheech and Chong, reunited for a big tour that
takes them to Asbury’s Paramount Theatre this weekend — and, from the sound
of things, pleased and proud to be breaking out the same routines that made
weirdly discolored snot shoot out your nose back in 1972.

It’s all in Red Bank oRBit.

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IN oRBit: JOKE MAN WALKS INTO A BAR

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Jackie When
Jackie Martling enters an establishment of mixology, the scatology hits the fans, as the Joke Man breaks down all resistance with his patented blend of good cheer and appalling taste.

The longtime Howard Stern sidekick comes to Monmouth
County’s venerable alternative music club the Brighton Bar this week, and
Red Bank oRBit arrived early to scoop up an interview.

Want to know Jackie’s favorite New York kiddie TV host? The topic that even he thinks is off-limits to joke about? The most disgusting joke he’s ever
heard on the radio?

Well, actually, we opted not to print that one — but the
rest of it is here today, only in today’s oRBit.

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IN oRBit: THE KEY TO SECOND CITY

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John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Candy, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert — and Shad Kunkle?

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Well, why not? Today, Red Bank oRBit, talks to one of the
rising stars of Second City, the legendary comedy troupe that spawned all of
those titans of titter and more.

Kunkle joins the rest of the Second City Touring Company for an
evening of sketch, satire and script-free improv, tomorrow night at the Count Basie Theatre.

It’s a regular Shad Fest, and it’s catchable only in oRBit.

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STAND-UP IN oRBit

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Making her first-ever appearance in Red Bank tomorrow night: comic Kathleen Madigan, the pint-sized scourge of pompous polsLarry King and optimists in general.

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit — the pint-sized scourge of boredom in these parts — tracks Madigan down for a pre-Basie interview in which she riffs on her worst gig ever, midnight show crowds and somewhat-misleading military recruitment advertising. 

Only in Red Bank oRBit

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IN oRBit: D.C. SATIRE & THE BASIE’S BOOKER

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In conjunction with tonight’s reopening of the Count Basie Theatre after four months in mothballs, today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit contains a two-fer:

• We’ve got an interview with a Mark Eaton, a 15-year Capitol Steps veteran (and former lobbyist) who dishes on the comedy troupe’s Friday-night show and what happens after the Nov. 4 bubble deflates…

• And, if you’re wondering how acts like the Capitol Steps, Rufus Wainwright, the B-52s and Patton Oswalt wind up on the Basie’s boards, check out our interview with Numa Saisselin, who not only runs the theater as its CEO, but personally books every act.

We’re oRBit, and we approve this message…

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CAUTION: BLIND BABY AREA

KkKristie Koehler-Vuocolo is one of five members of the Chicago-based Neo-Futurists who will make themselves at home around Red Bank as they bring their show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, to Two River Theater this month.

By TOM CHESEK

Maybe you’ve seen the ads for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the new summer-season production that kicks off a four-week run at Two River Theater this Thursday; and maybe you’ve wondered just what this show is, you know, about?

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Well, it’s about an hour. Pretty much exactly sixty minutes solid from the top of the clock. And within that hour, so it’s been promised, a paying customer can expect to see some thirty separate plays, some lasting for a matter of seconds, together comprising a body of work that runs the gamut of the theatrical experience — you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you know the drill. Beyond that, you’ll have to ask a Neo-Futurist.

To anticipate your next question, a Neo-Futurist is a member of a performance troupe that was formed some 20 years ago by Greg Allen in Chicago — home to Second City, Steppenwolf, David Mamet and other titanic touchstones of the stage arts. It’s a company that’s counted among its alumni the creator of Urinetown, Greg Kotis, as well as the technically-not-a-member Stephen Colbert. And, for a generation now, it’s been the proud purveyor of Too Much Light, an institution that’s been as much a part of modern Chicago life as night-game home losses by the Cubs.

Unlike other ridiculously long-running stage offerings like The Fantasticks and The Mousetrap, the “signature” work of the Neo-Futurists is an ever-morphing entity that bears little resemblance to itself from night to night, let alone compared to its younger self. But it’s not an “improv” show — it’s entirely scripted and rehearsed. And it’s not necessarily a comedy, as you’ll discover soon enough. It’s also not a tuneful revue, although the company includes such musically minded types as Screeching Weasel founder John Pierson. And, if you’ve read about Too Much Light… playing an ongoing engagement in Manhattan, well, it ain’t that, either — that’s an independent production created and performed by the satellite troupe the New York Neo-Futurists, whereas the version that Red Bank audiences will take in is an authentic reconnaissance pod off the old Mothership.

Fortunately, the oRBit desk at redbankgreen was able to track down an actual Neo — five-year veteran Kristie Koehler-Vuocolo — as she and her fellow Futurists Jessica Anne, Jonathan Mastro, John Pierson and Jay Torrence prepare to set down roots on the crimson banks of the Navesink for a stand that continues Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 27. Here’s how that played out.

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BOATERS STILL CROWDING DOLPHINS

Dolphin_boatSome boats are zooming past the dolphins in the Shrewsbury River; this one idled near the pod this afternoon.

Boaters continue to navigate the Shrewsbury River without regard to the presence of a pod of stray dolphins in the waterway, people who’ve been observing the mammals say.

“You get these knuckleheads zooming through here,” says Sea Bright resident Andrew Mencinsky, whose home backs up on the river.

During a mid-afternoon visit today, redbankgreen saw three boats pass the pod about a quarter-mile north of McLoone’s Rum Runner restaurant. One idled to a near-stop on the Sea Bright side of the channel, but two others ran right through the area where the dolphins had been just seconds earlier. One was moving at a moderate speed, and another at high speed.

No law enforcement vessels were present at the time.

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ASTIN FAMILY VALUES IN HOLMDEL

Astin3_3John Astin, haunted by his famously macabre characterizations Gomez Addams and Edgar Allan Poe. The actor visits the area this week for a pair of special appearances. (Recent photo by David Colwell)

By TOM CHESEK

Who wouldn’t want to be Gomez Addams? Always looking your best, never bored, never having to work. Living a life centered around romance and hobbies in a houseful of strange creatures, explosives and drawers full of cash.

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As personified by John Astin in the classic 1960s sitcom The Addams Family, Gomez was a virile lover of both life and death — unflappable, full of savoir faire (Tish! You spoke French!), and a far different character than the sketchy, nameless little figure who appeared in the panel cartoons by Charles Addams. His performance was in fact the template for all Addams projects to follow — and it takes its rightful place in the canon of crazies from the never-duplicated universe of 1960s TV. It’s ight up there with Barney Fife, Granny Clampett, Batman, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

With the old black-and-white episodes forever in reruns, Astin has lived the blessed/cursed existence of the actor who’s eternally pegged to a single gig, prosecuting a career that’s swung wildly from serious theater to such camp/cult touchstones as the Killer Tomatoes movies and his recurring role as Harry Anderson’s dotty dad on Night Court. There was also a 12-year marriage to fellow ’60s sitcom icon Patty Duke (Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings is his adopted son) and, beginning in the ’90s, a new career as a respected member of academia.

As director for the program in theatre arts and studies at Johns Hopkins University, Astin is largely responsible for a resurgence in the school’s performing arts. He’s further distinguished himself as a lecturer on literature, with a particular specialty in the life and works of one Edgar Allan Poe. He’s written a highly regarded essay on Poe’s little-known (but positively mindblowing) piece Eureka, and he’s toured the continent as the master of the macabre himself, with the one-man show Once Upon a Midnight — a presentation he’s brought to Monmouth University and to Holmdel in recent years.

Astin returns to the Holmdel Theatre Company‘s charming, comfortable and criminally underutilized Duncan Smith Playhouse — just minutes from Red Bank on Crawfords Corner Road, adjacent to Holmdel High School — for two very special personal appearances this weekend. Entitled An Evening with John Astin, it’s a program of “readings, storytelling, anecdotes and reflections on acting” that’s been custom-designed specifically for this occasion: as a benefit for the Holmdel troupe and its education and community programs.

The oRBit desk at redbankgreen caught up with the dynamic 78-year-old a few nights back for a lengthy discussion that touched upon topics ranging from presidential politics and the Stanislavsky Method to the art of slapstick and the proper way to jump off a horse.

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A MUST-SEE THURSDAY IN RED BANK

Jimmy_vivino2Jimmy Vivino appears in Red Bank Thursday night.

By TOM CHESEK

Guitarslinger extraordinaire Jimmy Vivino can appear to be everywhere at once.

You know him from his standing… er, sitting… gig with The Max Weinberg 7 on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. But he also he maintains membership in combos ranging from the Vivino Brothers (alongside sibling saxman and fellow Weinberger Jerry Vivino), Al Kooper’s ReKooperators, the 60s trib trio Prisoners of 2nd Avenue, and nearly a dozen other one-offs, side projects and happy accidents.

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And oh yeah, he’s also a charter member of those world-class WannaBeatles, The Fab Faux — with whom he’ll be performing in the all-star band’s annual fundraiser at the Count Basie Theatre on June 28.

Tomorrow night, the Jersey-bred guitar guy goes straight from his Conan taping to a special appearance at the Downtown nightclub in Red Bank.

But why does Vivino continue to play these little jam gigs in little bars, staying up til the wee small hours and making wee small money, when he’s one of the most in-demand session and touring musicians in the observable universe?

Alas, the oRBit desk was unable to track Vivino down for this story. But musicians who know him say Vivino’s got that just-tell-me-where-to-be attitude about playing — and the snugger the room, the better.

“It’s my understanding that Jimmy still loves playing the smaller, more intimate venues,” says Chris Masi, music booker for the Downtown.

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SHOW, DESSERT AND CUP O’ JOE

SimonelliJoe Simonelli

By TOM CHESEK

Chicago has the profanely profound David Mamet; Pittsburgh the late great August Wilson. New York? Well, at least as the rest of the country sees it, there’s no playwright more attuned to Manhattan than the beloved Neil “Doc” Simon.

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Here in the great metropolis that is Monmouth County, the boards of our local stages are getting Simonized in style by our own comical Bard of the Bayshore, a scribe who was once branded by a correspondent for the Asbury Park Press (not me) as the Next Neil Simon.

Digging around in the basement of the First Avenue Playhouse for a stray prop or suitable stick of furniture, Joe Simonelli doesn’t come across as a self-important peer of Mamet or Albee or, for that matter, even Dan “Nunsense” Goggin. While none of those gentlemen of letters would rightly be expected to decorate their own sets, the regular-joe Simonelli can often be spotted around the Atlantic Highlands dessert theatre doing whatever needs to be done — painting flats, providing musical accompaniment, even serving coffee to faithful patrons.

This summer, lucky local audiences will get a chance to catch two offerings from the Simonelli playbook, beginning with Roommates, a comedy of relationships that kicks off a month-long engagement at First Avenue this Friday, with the author himself in the lead.

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