NAVESINK: MONMOUTH PLAYERS BESEECH THEE

AJ Melnick GodspellAJ Melnick heads a youthful cast as Jesus, as the Monmouth Players present their production of GODSPELL inside the Navesink Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth Players)

The 2014-2015 season of shows from Monmouth Players continues apace at the Navesink Arts Center — the reborn and rebranded former Navesink Library at Monmouth and Sears Avenues in Middletown — with a busier-than-ever slate of entertainments that hasn’t let a little thing like a particularly rotten winter spoil its fun. When the figurative curtain went up this past weekend on the latest community production from the long-running troupe, veteran watchers of the Players were treated to something rare indeed: a musical.

Continuing through March 22, the Players production of Godspell matches the 1971 perennial from songsmith Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) with a cast of fresh faces — many of them brand new to the Navesink company that’s been in business since before its current executive producers (Lori and Paul Renick) made their own entrances on the world stage. Based on parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the show that birthed the hit “Day by Day” puts forth an age-of-Aquarius message of love and tolerance via an eclectic score that ranges from folk-infused pop to vintage vaudeville — and it’s a spotlight opportunity for one prominent member of the company who’s “happy to be joining a community comprised of such fanciful characters.”

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MIDDLETOWN: A ‘RABBIT’ RUN IN NAVESINK

Rabbit HoleDavid Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer winning drama RABBIT HOLE makes its local debut this weekend in a staging by the Middletown-based Monmouth Players.

rabbit hole logoAs the area’s longest continuously operating theatrical troupe — established over 60 years ago, in a time long before the arrival of professional companies like Two River Theater — the Monmouth Players made their mark as purveyors of comic specialties from the likes of Neil Simon, or lightweight mysteries from the typewriter of Agatha Christie and that ilk.

But while the Navesink-based company hasn’t exactly knocked the Doc (refer to their 2013-2014 “Season of Simon”), the players, under the stewardship of husband-wife team Paul and Lori Renick, continue to rethink the boundaries of what a small-town community playhouse can do.

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NAVESINK: SUDDENLY, THIS SUMMER

Tennessee-Williams-631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropThe short plays of the late great Tennessee Williams are explored by the Monmouth Players, in a special two-weekend presentation at the troupe’s Navesink Arts Center homestage.

When last we looked in on the venerable Monmouth Players, the area’s longest-running stage troupe was making its frankly mind-boggling sixtieth season all about the Neil Simon — but, feeling energized after completing the inaugural season at the reborn and rebranded Navesink Arts Center, the company under the stewardship of Lori and Paul Renick added a pair of surprise bonus features to the normally dormant summer season. For the second production of the summertime, the Players put aside the Simon for a serious look at one of the Twentieth Century’s most celebrated playwrights, Tennessee Williams.

The author known best for such classics of the American stage as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was also a prolific writer of short-form dramas throughout his long career — two of them, Suddenly Last Summer and This Property is Condemned — are better known than many of his full-length works. For the next two Saturdays and Sundays (August 16, 17, 23 and 24),  the Monmouth Players host An Evening of Tennessee Williams’ One Acts, with the Saturday performances going up at 8:15 pm, and the Sunday matinees at 2 pm.

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