MIDDLETOWN: MOVIE MAYHEM MATINEE

Tom-Cruise-Edge-of-TomorrowBegin Again: The Tom Cruise sci-fi suspenser EDGE OF TOMORROW screens for free at Middletown Library, kicking off a month of Movie Monday matinees. 

With the “what-were-we-thinking” hiccup of the Academy Award season now a fast-fading memory, Middletown Township Public Library continues its ongoing series of free movie screenings with another month-long slate of recent feature film releases; another chance to catch up with both the multiplex blockbusters and the arthouse curios that slipped between the sprockets.

It’s been called “the best video game you’ll never be able to play;” a smash-up sci-fi epic that unspools like a “Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers” story pitch. Riding a recent wave of futurama action roles, Tom Cruise stars as an awkward and reluctant warrior whose bum luck in the heat of battle — he’s repeatedly killed in action, only to be time-looped back into the fray — finds him forever poised at the Edge of Tomorrow. Kick-ass mentor Emily Blunt molds Cruise into a fighting machine capable of taking on the alien nasties, and Doug Liman directs the 2014 thriller that screens in MTPL’s Community Room today, March 2 at 2:30 pm — with much more to come.

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M’TOWN: INTIMATE CLASSICS, REVERENT JAZZ

JoelDeWittJohnGronertViolinist Joel DeWitt (left) presents a program of chamber duets at Middletown Library on Monday evening…while drummer John Gronert (right) is among the cats taking part in a February 19 jazz service at Lincroft Presbyterian.  

The post-Valentine days and evenings offer discerning music lovers a chance to get all intimate with their preferred sounds — be it a chamber recital at the bibliotheque, or the return of a rather unique public-invited Jazz Service at a local place of worship.

This coming Monday, February 16 sees the Community Room of the Middletown Township Public Library welcoming back an artist who’s frequently made himself at home in that cozy venue, for the latest in a series of MTPL-produced classical music offerings. Violinist Joel DeWitt teams with pianist Brian Gilmore, for a 7 pm session spotlighting masterful duets by Mozart, Debussy and Prokofiev. It’s an hour-long program, for which no advance registration is necessary (and admission is of course fabulously free).

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RED BANK’S FORTUNE PROJECT SPEAKS

TTF houseThe nonprofit that’s working to save the former home of T. Thomas Fortune hosts readings from the words of the pioneering African-American journalist, with events in Middletown, Red Bank, Shrewsbury and elsewhere.

T. Thomas FortuneAs part of Black History Month and the National African-American Read-In, the not-for-profit T. Thomas Fortune House Project will host a series of readings from the works of the pioneering civil rights journalist – and onetime resident of Red Bank – T. Thomas Fortune.

Entitled “The People Speak: the Words of T. Thomas Fortune, ” the series includes public-welcome events at Middletown Township Public Library and Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch, in addition to a student-faculty fundraiser at Red Bank Middle School.

It’s the latest in an ongoing program designed to raise funds and awareness toward the effort to acquire, stabilize and restore the T. Thomas Fortune House, the National Historic Landmark at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard where the editor, publisher, poet, author and early civil rights activist resided from 1901-1908.

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MIDDLETOWN: A FEB FILMFEST, FOR FREE

12yearsMichael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor appear in the Oscar-winning 12 YEARS A SLAVE, one of several recent films screening for free this month at Middletown Library.

While February is of course Black History Month, that shortest and some-say-cruelest of calendar pages also serves as a lead-in to the annual Academy Awards; a chance to catch up with some things you’ve missed, on the way to handicapping this year’s current field of (disappointingly white, to many observers) horses. When the ongoing series of free movie screenings continues apace at Middletown Township Public Library this week, it’ll inaugurate a worth-another-look slate of recently released features — a couple of them illuminative of the African American experience, with the rest of the stories drawn from precincts that range from South Asia and the Great White North, to just this side of the afterlife.

It all begins at 2:30 pm on Monday, February 2, when MTPL hosts a free showing of the historical drama that took home the Oscar for Best Picture in 2014 — 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and pressed into servitude in antebellum Louisiana. Chiwetel Ejiofor offers a star turn as Northup in the harrowing and unflinching feature, with strong support from Lupita Nyong’o (AA for Best Supporting Actress), vividly villainous Michael Fassbender, and an array of actors that includes Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch and American Horror Story‘s Sarah Paulson.

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MIDDLETOWN: CATCHING UP WITH 2014

jerseyboysmovieimageFrankie Valli meets Dirty Harry — when director Clint Eastwood’s cinema treatment of the Four Seasons musical bio JERSEY BOYS screens as part of a month of free 2014 releases at Middletown Library.

Remember 2014? Even if you’re the resolute type who actually meets your personal goals, and who wraps up The Year That Was with a neat little bow, there no doubt remain a number of tiny but torturously nagging regrets — chief among them “that movie you were meaning to go see.” Fortunately, for the latest monthly slate in their ongoing series of free movie screenings, Middletown Township Public Library presents a month of Mondays (and one Friday) designed to offer a chance to catch some last-year releases that may have slipped between the sprockets.

It begins this coming Monday, January 5, with a 2:30 pm showing of a biopic that boasts a special resonance for regionals: Jersey Boys, an adaptation of the Broadway jukebox-musical smash detailing the early career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Director Clint Eastwood (who, it must be recalled, acquitted himself well with the Charlie Parker jazzman bio Bird) works with a cast featuring Tony winner John Lloyd Young (originator of the Frankie role on Broadway) and Christopher Walken — as well as a slew of vintage Bob Gaudio/ Bob Crewe songs that include of course “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Rag Doll.” The January screening schedule continues from there, with some cinematic studies in art, commerce, cooking, passion, and romance with a decidedly mature shading.

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MIDDLETOWN: VERY MERRY MATINEES

Reginald-Owen-right-with-Leo-G-Carroll-as-Marley’s-Ghost-in-A-Christmas-Carol-1938Marley’s ghost rattles old Scrooge in the 1938 MGM treatment of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, one of several holiday-themed films screening for free this month of Mondays at Middletown Library.

The ongoing series of free movie screenings continues apace at Middletown Township Public Library here in December — with the holiday season setting the theme for the next several Monday afternoon offerings, as well as the debut of a New Film Fridays series in the week to come.

Showing at 2:30 pm this Monday, December 8 is the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, one of the screen’s first full-length treatments of the Charles Dickens chestnut. Produced by top Hollywood studio MGM — albeit with a second-string cast that featured character actor Reginald Owen in a rare starring turn as Ebenezer Scrooge — the film’s not without its charms, even if it creaks and groans in comparison with Alastair Sim’s nuanced 1951 turn in Scrooge. Then on Friday, December 12, the new series kicks off with the final(?) film of the late Robin Williams — A Merry Friggin Christmas, in which a father and grown-up son (Joel McHale of Community and The Soup) are forced to go on a desperate road-trip in an effort to salvage the holiday for their family of misfits. Released just last month, the black comedy screens at 2 pm — with more movie merriment around the corner.

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MIDDLETOWN: POETIC VOICES PLEASE

CoraGreenhillAcclaimed British poet Cora Greenhill visits the Middletown Library on Monday, December 1, in an event hosted by the Red Bank Writers Group.

As her official bio states, “She lives in the Peak District in middle England, and in the Greek Island of Crete. Her poetry is strongly influenced by these places as well as other parts of the world, such as Africa, where she has traveled.”

So what brings Cora Greenhill to the greater Green this week — specifically Middletown Township Public Library, where the British wordsmith makes an exceedingly rare Stateside appearance on Monday, December 1? As it turns out, she’s visiting family right here in Red Bank — and when The Red Bank Writers Group got wind of those plans, it became necessary to engineer this opportunity for the poet (whose most-visited themes include feminism, spirituality, the natural world and global cultures) to meet some of her American fans, make new friends, and sign some copies of her books.

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MIDDLETOWN, SANDY HOOK: A GHOSTLY TRIO

FortHancockThe isolated, wind-whipped battlements of Fort Hancock are the setting for a moonlit tour of local lore and legend, (g)hosted by the American Littoral Society on October 30.

Laugh if you will at the tales of haunted places and half-buried secrets that form such a big part of our local cultural heritage. When the ghost stories have all been told, and attention spans wander back to the fast-paced, plugged-in Here and Now, that’s when the real fun begins — the walk outside in the dark; the uneasy trip back home, when sudden sounds encroach from all directions, and unidentifiable things skitter just off the edge of view.

The fun begins during daylight hours on Sunday, October 26, when Middletown Township Public Library welcomes the good people of the New Jersey Ghost Organization for a 2 pm reading that celebrates both the coming of Halloween and the Garden State’s “NJ350” birthday year. The Ghost Org guests will read from their latest book, Folklore of the New Jersey Shore, with signing copies available for perusal and purchase — and a set of “haunted artifacts” on display. Still, if the sworn-testimony tales of spectral apparitions and other unexplained phenomena fail to set your nerves on edge, stick around Middletown after dark — and take part in a nocturnal tour of one the greater Red Bank Green’s most history- and mystery-shrouded places.

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MIDDLETOWN, RED BANK: ARTISTS IN MOTION

Commuter artArtist Suzanne Ritger’s mini-watercolors — done in real-time during her morning bus commute to NYC — are a highlight of her exhibit opening Saturday at Middletown Library, while Jon Peters offers up star-spangled examples of American Art (below) at Laurel Tracey Gallery.

LaurelTracyIt’s kind of a cliche for an artist to talk at great length about their “journey,” but in the case of Suzanne Ritger, that journey was a very real way of arriving at a point of inspiration — hurtling through space at 65 mph, and with a busload of fellow passengers along for the ride, whether they realized it or not.

A resident of Red Bank for the past three years, Ritger spent a solid two of those trips around the sun going back and forth from the borough to Manhattan, where her job at a nonprofit agency required her to spend a considerable chunk of her time on a NJ Transit commuter bus. Scenes of that morning journey — hundreds of them; captured in watercolor on postcard-size canvases — form the centerpiece of Are We There Yet?, a solo show of the artist’s work going up on display at Middletown Township Public Library, beginning with a reception this Saturday, October 11.

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MIDDLETOWN: JERSEY-FRESH FILM STOCK

the_station_agentPeter Dinklage co-stars with Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale in THE STATION AGENT, one of a series of “filmed in New Jersey” movies screening for free, Mondays in October at Middletown Library.

The Movie Mondays series of free afternoon film screenings continues apace at Middletown Township Public Library, where the keyword for October is “locally-sourced” — as in filmed (in whole or in part) around the highways, hamlets, ivy-covered institutions or barnacle-encrusted pilings of the Garden State.

It’s a slate of four features that kicks off at 2:30 pm this Monday, October 6, with a quiet, quirky, 2003 comedy-drama from writer-director Tom McCarthy: The Station Agent. A pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage stars as Fin, an introverted train buff who’s inherited an isolated old railroad station in the nowheresville netherland of Newfoundland, NJ. Making great use of its Jersey countryside scenery, the intimate indie   explores the growing bond between reclusive Fin and his fellow misfits Patricia Clarkson (Six Feet Under) and Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie).

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MIDDLETOWN: THE MARTIANS ARE HERE

war-worlds-broadcast-1938Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 broadcast of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is evoked in a live radio play performance by Raconteur Radio, Saturday afternoon at Middletown Library.

It’s coming up on 76 years since a young upstart barely out of his teens proto-punk’d a nation, with a loose radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells thriller The War of the Worlds. Framed as a breathless breaking-bulletin account of a real-time Martian landing in rural New Jersey, the drama employed tools like fake news, fever-pitch pacing and fear-mongering — back when those tools were shiny and new.

Those who sneer at the thought of Depression-era hayseeds barricading their corn cribs from giant robot attack — and let he who hasn’t fallen for an internet celebrity-death hoax cast the first stone — can put themselves in the shoes of their forebears, when Middletown Township Public Library hosts a live recreation of that infamous Halloween horrorcast. Approximately one hour in length, the performance is scheduled for Saturday, October 4 at 2 pm — so as not to send the easily spooked out into the long shadows of a witching-season night.

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RED BANK, MIDDLETOWN: CLASSICAL DUETS

Calmes KoharskiKeith Calmes and carry on: the classical guitarist teams with flautist Marjorie Koharski for a free public recital at Middletown Library, on Monday evening.

Classical music connoisseurs in and around Red Bank have long known that the borough has stood as the county’s capital for quality orchestral, chamber and choral concert offerings — all of it accessible minus the gown-and-tux price tags of the big-city halls and theaters. A big reason for that is the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music, whose monthly series of weekend afternoon concerts (in the casual and quite convenient setting of their downtown White Street all-purpose room) resumes on Sunday, September 21, with a recital of rare pedigree.

Going up at 4 pm and presented free of charge, the concert is a mother-son duet featuring pianist Nina Kogan and violinist Daniel Miklis — respectively the daughter and the grandson of legendary violinists Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels. Kogan often performed with her Ukrainian-born father — one of the Soviet Union’s most celebrated international musical ambassadors — and she extends the family business into a new generation with this program of chamber selections with her son. Bring a free-will donation to the door — and take it around the corner for more.

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RED BANK & MIDDLETOWN: LIBRARY VOICES

rbpl-book-saleAfter a preview party Friday evening, the two-day Red Bank Public Library book sale gets underway Saturday morning. Below, ‘The City and the Shore’ come alive as graphic artist Mike Quon open an exhibit of his works at Middletown Library.

QuonSeptember means time for a shout-out to the Red Bank Public Library — and, rather than shushing some of the more enthusiastic shouters, the Friends of the Red Bank Public Library are encouraging all citizens of the greater Green to come out to support this community resource during a used book sale that stands among the area’s most anticipated such annual events.

Much more than just a casual card-table-and-cashbox affair, the sale kicks off with a special preview party at the library on Friday evening, when, for an admission charge of $25 (free to member Friends), attendees can enjoy first dibs on the selection of books, CDs, DVDs and more — as well as wine, appetizers, raffles and a performance by Red Bank’s own jazz legend trio, the Al Wright Unit.

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MIDDLETOWN: WORD IS BOND AT MTPL

007 BondChristopher Lee and Roger Moore pace it off in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, as Middletown Township Public Library hosts a month-of-Mondays worth of classic James Bond thrillers.

Even if some of them haven’t quite weathered the years too well, the classic films in the long-running James Bond franchise are never in any danger of going out of style — and with Middletown Township Public Library having decreed that All Things 007 is the theme for September’s series of free film screening events, fans will have their pick of four distinct Bonds.

The series gets underway on Monday, September 8 with a 2:30 pm showing of The Man with the Golden Gun — the second of Roger Moore’s seven turns in the tuxedo, and an entry that casts horror master Christopher Lee as the suave assassin Scaramanga (with a pre-Fantasy Island Herve Villechaize as his sidekick). An improvement on Moore’s Bond debut — even with a tad too much comic relief — the 1974 romp found TV’s former Saint getting comfortable in the role that he’d play over the course of the next decade.

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MIDDLETOWN: MONUMENTAL MOVIE MONDAYS

MonumentsJohn Goodman, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bob Balaban and Bill Murray ARE The Expen…check that, THE MONUMENTS MEN, as Middletown Township Public Library hosts a month-of-Mondays worth of recent Hollywood releases.

They don’t have the five-dollar bottled waters or nine-dollar popcorns of the mega-mall multiplex. You won’t have the option of paying almost twenty bucks for the privilege of wearing someone else’s greasy, used 3D glasses. Chances are you won’t even be seated near someone doing the play-by-play on their phone. But for everything you’ll miss about the blockbuster movie house experience, you’ll congratulate yourself for waiting to catch those movies you always meant to see — when they come to the climate-controlled screening space at the Middletown Township Public Library.

The weekly series of free matinee Monday Movies continues in August, with a selection of very recent films that’s keynoted by The Monuments Men, the fact-inspired World War Two tale from producer-director-screenwriter-costar George Clooney. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman are featured in the ensemble piece about an elite Army unit charged with recovering and preserving stolen or endangered art treasures during the Nazi occupation, with the film unspooling at 2:30 pm on August 4.

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MIDDLETOWN: DINOSAURS OF ROCK RETURN

Walter C Loren FisherPhotographer, naturalist and New Jersey history expert Walter Choroszewski goes looking for fossils — and finds more than one kind of classic rock — when he visits the Middletown Library on Wednesday evening. (photo by Loren Fisher)

It’s an epic saga, etched in rock, that begins with the dinosaurs — and arrives full circle, in a manner of speaking, at the classic-rock era of the Jersey Shore. It’s the history of the Garden State, told as you’ve probably never heard it before, by Walter Choroszewski. When the photographer, author and NJ historian visits Middletown Township Public Library on Wednesday, July 30, he’ll be treating young listeners of ages 6 and up to a “New Jersey Rocks!” presentation that spans the big “Freeze-Out” of the Ice Age, and stands in the footprints of the giants who walked the jungleland of JurAsbury Park.

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MIDDLETOWN: LOST IN AUSTENLAND

Persuasion 1995 screencaptureCiaran Hinds and Amanda Root star in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of PERSUASION, one of four Jane Austen-themed films screening Mondays in July at Middletown Library.

Nothing says “summertime” like the stifling manor homes and constricting social mores of Regency era, country-life England. But the classic romantic novels of Jane Austen — dating as they do from an interlude when ladies temporary lost those whalebone corsets — have perennially been a breath of fresh air on summer reading lists, so it’s only proper that Middletown Township Public Library dedicates the Movie Monday month of July to a slate of films adapted from (or otherwise inspired by) the increasingly popular author whose 240th birthday will be marked next year.

It’s a schedule that begins on the afternoon of July 7, when MTPL hosts a screening of Persuasion, the 1995 BBC production of Austen’s posthumously published final completed work. Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds star in the made-for-BBC production, a feature that was noticed for its somewhat grittier, more realistic take on the “prettier” Austen adaptations in circulation around that same time. The film unspools at 2:30 pm inside the climate controlled Community Room, where the rest of the Monday series follows in short order.

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MIDDLETOWN: THERE’S JOY IN MUDVILLE

international-mud-dayMark your calendars: it’s another opportunity to Dress for Mess, when International Mud Day is observed in style at Middletown Library this Monday.

It started in Australia, just a few years ago — when school-age kids from the Land Down Under collected a mass donation of new clothes, soap and towels to Nepalese orphans. As the story goes, the children of both countries marked their connection with “a Dress for Mess celebration, enjoying art, science, and games involving mud, sand, and more.”

Fast forward to 2014, and International Mud Day is what we in the USA call A Thing — a “celebration of the joys of childhood, and a recognizing that children around the world have many of the same needs.” It’s a celebration that comes to the greater Green for the first time, when Middletown Township Public Library invites kids of all ages to Dress for Mess on the officially designated date of “Mudday,” June 30.

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LITTLE SILVER, M’TOWN: LIBRARY LEGENDS

eileen-moon-021814-500x375LEGENDARY LOCALS OF RED BANK author Eileen Moon visits the Little Silver Library on Monday evening…while Next Stage Ensemble brings a little Shakespeare to the Middletown Township biblio.

There’s the pioneering African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune, whose historic home is currently the subject of an intensive rescue effort. Industrialist Sigmund Eisner, whose legacy includes a public library, a Galleria, and a former chairman of the Disney entertainment empire. Trailblazing attorney Florence Forgotson Adams, the father-and-son Drs. James Parker, the Dorns, the Irwins — and famed illustrator James Avati, the “Rembrandt of the Paperbacks” remembered in a 2011 feature that appeared here on redbankgreen.

They are all among the Legendary Locals of Red Bank profiled by veteran newspaperwoman Eileen Moon in her new book, an entry in the series from Arcadia Publishing that the author will discuss in a free Monday night reading/ signing appearance at Little Silver Public Library. Going up at 7 pm, it’s part of a busy itinerary by the equally legendary reporter and editor, who in a recent feature on redbankgreen described her concept of a Legendary Local thusly: “It takes a strong personality, and a vision, and a risk-taker sometimes, to change what is into some new evolution of that.”

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MIDDLETOWN: A PACK OF ONE

Rat_Pack_Flashback_PromoSinger Dave DeLuca channels Dino, Sammy and Frank in a RAT PACK FLASHBACK that comes to Middletown Township Public Library on Monday,  June 9.

You’ve seen those tributes to the fabled Rat Pack of Vegas lore and legend — and its heart-‘n-soul core of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin — at Atlantic City casinos, New Year’s parties and our own Count Basie stage. But have you ever seen a one-man treatment of those three consummate entertainers, who together defined a cocktails-and-cufflinks era of old school cool?

Meet Dave DeLuca — onetime Motown songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist and, it tuns out, a masterful musical impressionist. It stands to reason that such a multi-talented guy might have nurtured a set of multiple personalities when performing — and when the singer brings his Rat Pack Flashback show to Middletown Township Public Library on Monday evening, June 9, he’ll be traveling in the HOV lane, accompanied by his spot-on channelings of Dino (“Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”), Sammy (“That Old Black Magic”) and The Chairman of the Board (“Summer Wind”).

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MIDDLETOWN: AND THE OSCAR WENT TO…

gravity-Press_240713

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney assess the GRAVITY of the situation, as Middletown Township Public Library hosts a month-of-Mondays worth of recent box office hits, Oscar nominees and critical faves.

While it doesn’t have the red-carpet, press-party glamour and cachet of the Academy Awards, the June series of free film screenings at Middletown Township Public Library does boast a lot of the same spotlight films from the last Oscar ceremony — with the possible added bonuses of NO celebrity selfies, NO celebrity-on-celebrity mispronunciation mayhem, and NO live mic handed to Matthew McConaughey.

The 2:30 pm events inside the library’s air-conditioned Community Room begin on Monday, June 2 with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in writer-director Alfonso Cuaron’s end-of-your-tether space suspenser Gravity, a seven-time winner at the 86th Oscars and a bonanza for box offices and Bullock alike.

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MIDDLETOWN: FAT-FREE FILM AT THE LIBRARY

Hungry-for-Change copyNo empty calories here: Middletown Township Public Library is the setting for a free Wednesday night screening of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE, the doc feature that aims to blow the pop-top off the mega-billion dollar diet industry.

It’s the documentary that THEY didn’t want you to see; the one the industry just HATES — and for just this once, those claims might not be so much sour persimmons. Released in 2012, Hungry For Change takes a produce-squeezing hard look at the food, diet products and weight-loss industries — a veritable Axis of Eatville consuming billions of dollars in the service of a body-image ideal that’s downright unnatural for the majority of humans. Packed with “interviews with best selling health authors and leading medical experts, plus real life transformational stories with those who know what it’s like to be sick and overweight,” the advocacy documentary film by James Colquhon and Laurentine ten Bosch screens Wednesday evening at Middletown Township Public Library, in a 7 pm event that’s free of charge, to the public at large.

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MIDDLETOWN: CHOPIN SPREE

GerdLucianPianist Gerd Nowaczyk — pictured at left, with flautist and Monmouth Symphony associate conductor Lucian Rinando — performs a solo concert at Middletown Township Public Library on Tuesday afternoon.

“Whoever planned the library must have had a great knowledge and love for music,” the Monmouth Conservatory of Music exec director Vladislav Kovalsky said of Middletown Township Public Library, in a 2008 interview here on redbankgreen. “It seems to go against all laws of acoustics and building materials, but it’s been a wonderful place for music.”

Over the past several years, the Red Bank-based MCM and the MTPL have continued to make beautiful music together, via an ongoing series of free afternoon and evening chamber concerts in the library’s Community Room — a slate of offerings designed to bring many of the region’s first-quality classical performers to a broadly based, all-ages audience. The series continues at 3 pm this Tuesday, April 22, with an encore by acclaimed keyboard artist (and Conservatory faculty member) Gerd Nowaczyk.

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WEEKEND: ALL YOUR EGGS, MANY BASKETS

TROUBLE_press_1It’s opening weekend for the Two River Theater Company production of TROUBLE IN MIND, above. Below, the kids from Rockit! polish Janis Joplin’s PEARL as part of the annual Brookdale Guitar Festival. (TRTC photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13: 

view_image.aspRED BANK: Although the late Alice Childress is known these days primarily as author of the young adult novel A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, among her many firsts and foremosts was becoming the first African-American woman to have one of her plays produced in New York. She also became the first female playwright to win an Obie Award, for a 1955 play entitled Trouble in Mind.

On Friday night at 8 pm, Two River Theater Company opens a new production of the comedy-drama directed by the acclaimed Jade King Carroll, associate director for the recent Broadway Streetcar Named Desire. It’s a “backstage” portrait of a multi-racial theatrical troupe, a play-within-a-play about a Southern lynching, and the fireworks that fly when the show’s black leading lady (Brenda Pressley of TRTC’s In This House) questions the inaccuracies and stereotypes being perpetuated by her white director (fellow Two River returnee Steven Skybell).

Surprisingly resonant today, the oft-overlooked play costars Tony winner Roger Robinson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), with McKinley Belcher III, Jonathan David Martin, Brian Russell, Hayley Treider, Amirah Vann — and Robert Hogan, the octogenarian character ace of stage and screen interviewed here on redbankgreen, when he starred in Two River’s recent On Borrowed Time. The show continues with performances at 3 pm and 8 pm Saturday, as well as 3 pm Sunday; take it here for schedule details and tickets ($20-$65). Then stick around after Sunday’s matinee show (or drop in free of charge at 5:30 pm), when director Carroll is joined by Pressley, TRTC Artistic Director John Dias, and her longtime associate, Tony winning actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, for a panel discussion on “Modern African American Theater (1950s to Today),” presented as part of Two River’s “Exploration of Justice” slate of special events.

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WEEKEND: THE SECRET WOID IS VARIETY

rb street fair 041413A first responder benefitting spring edition of Street Fair returns to Red Bank Sunday while, below, the one and only GROUCHO goes wild, in the person of Frank Ferrante, Friday night at the Basie. 

grouchoRED BANK: “We all want to be Groucho,” Frank Ferrante told us a few seasons back, “to be that wild, irreverent pulverizer of those in power.”

In the acclaimed stage show An Evening with Groucho, the actor-director gets to be all that and more, as his spot-on channeling of the classic comic force of nature Groucho Marx comes to the Count Basie Theatre for the first time. Performed with piano accompaniment, minimal set and trademark makeup, the 90-minute, all-ages friendly tour de farce mixes canonical Marxist quotes, anecdotes from a life in show business, signature silly songs (“Hooray for Captain Spalding,” “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady”), and — in a bracingly contemporary touch — an interactive element that finds Ferrante/Groucho duckwalking the theater aisles. “Fully one-third of it is improvised,” says Ferrante. “That’s what Groucho’s magic was, really – the ability to create comedy on the spot.” Get your tickets ($19 – $49) right here — and when you take it ’round the corner for more Weekender wonderment, tell ’em Groucho sent you.

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