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ETHAN LIPTON LOVES HIS JOB, AT TRTC

Playwright-singer-songwriter Ethan Lipton brings a jaunty and knowing look at disenfranchisement the Two River Theater’s “black box” starting Saturday. (photo by Heather Phelps-Lipton)

By TOM CHESEK

Time to give the pink slip to those working-class-hero rockers with their too-easy arena anthems. The clock-punching, cubicle-crawling, real-deal working stiff in all his/her “permanent part time” glory has a new musical mouthpiece — and it’s a middle aged, mustachioed, suit-and-tie spinner of songs and stories by the name of Ethan Lipton.

Over the course of several indie albums and the odd orphan track, the Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter and playwright is a man whose frankly honest and devastatingly funny sketches of modern millennial life have regularly tweaked and/or tipped such sacred cows as pet lovers, parents, police, the Greatest Generation and the tawdry ritual of the holiday gift basket. It’s all delivered with a certain jaunty good cheer over arrangements that mix lazybones back-porch blues and blue-yodel Americana with hotel-lounge jazz and the many moods of Randy Newman, Warren Zevon or early Tom Waits.

At the same time that he was brewing up his own peculiar musical cup o’ soup, Lipton was honing his craft as a dramatist — one of whose plays (Luther) was hailed last June by the New York Times as a “wine-dark satire… both hilarious and horrifying,” and another of whose plays (Red-Handed Otter) recently made its world premiere at the Off Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre.

Somewhere along the line, the California native wed his way with words to songsmithing savvy — and the result was No Place To Go, a song-cycle described as “a musical ode to the unemployed” and inspired by the artist’s own experiences with sudden job loss, dislocated self-esteem and whatever dark passenger brings a grown man back to his parents’ doorstep. Commissioned by NYC’s venerable Public Theater, the show made its premiere inside the Public’s Joe’s Pub earlier this year — earning its creator an Obie Award, a Village Voice cover and a December trip to the UK, where the work will be seen as part of the annual All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.

Before that, however, No Place To Go makes itself quite at home inside the Marion Huber “black box” space at Red Bank’s Two River Theater, for an extended engagement that’s being helmed by Leigh Silverman — acclaimed director of the show’s run at the Public, and not coincidentally associate artist with the borough-based Two River Theater Company.

The Drama Desk at redbankgreen spoke to Ethan Lipton on the eve of the show’s run of previews — a string of performances that begins tomorrow night, October 6, and continues to the doorstep of Opening Night on October 19.

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TRTC: ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH

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)

By TOM CHESEK

“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.

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SOMETHING’S ALWAYS UP IN TRTC’s HOUSE

johndiasTwo River Theater artistic director John Dias presents IN THIS HOUSE, the first in a new series of staged musical readings, beginning Monday night at the Bridge Avenue artspace.

By TOM CHESEK

Things are seldom at a serene standstill inside the Two River Theater, the Bridge Avenue space whose creative team is right now prepping for previews of the latest mainstage production, Candida.

The classic play by George Bernard Shaw makes its Red Bank bow on Tuesday — about which more to come next week in redbankgreen. In the meantime, John Dias, artistic director of Two River Theater Company (the entity that’s the brainy matter within the brick and mortar of the Two River performing arts center) has some equally exciting things happening around the house, from the troupe’s upstairs offices to the street-level “black box” of the Marion Huber room.

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