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RED BANK: A SERIOUSLY FUNNY TEDx TALK

TEDxOpen Mike: Humorists Michael Phillips-Anderson and Michael O’Keeffe take the stage of Two River Theater for a special TEDx Navesink presentation on September 25, prior to the 8 pm show of THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.

They’ll be taking their act to Monmouth University in West Long Branch for their next event in 2015, but before they decamp for campus, the organizers of TEDxNavesink have one more parting event to offer the Red Bank audience — and it comes not with a taps salute, but with a comedy-club rimshot of sorts.

Something of a cross between a sophisticated “salon” and a standup showcase, the Thursday evening presentation returns TEDx to Two River Theater — scene of the sold-out 2014 event — for a special keynote to the September 25 performance of Two River Theater Company’s The School for Wives. Going up at 6:30 pm — and featuring refreshments and drinks by local purveyors Sickles Market and Carton Brewing, the program preludes TRTC’s production of the 17th century French farce by Moliere with a couple of 21st century speakers on the art of comedy — and the ways in which humor, politics and popular culture tend to intersect, despite all attempts to put on a straight face.

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RED BANK: ‘SCHOOL’ IS IN SESSION, AT TRTC

MarkWingDaveyBritish actor, director and educator Mark Wing-Davey brings a dream project to Red Bank, with a bold new realization of the 17th century comedy THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES that opens this week at Two River Theater.

When he’s donning the mortarboard of serious academia, Mark Wing-Davey serves as chair of the graduate acting program at NYU’s venerable Tisch School of the Arts. When he puts on an altogether different hat (or head), he’s the actor best identified with the role of the double-header despot Zaphod Beeblebrox, in various radio, video and stage dramatizations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of sci-fi satires by Douglas Adams.

An in-demand director from coast (UC Berkeley’s Pericles) to coast (the McCarter Theatre premiere of Greensboro: A Requiem with Philip Seymour Hoffman), the Brit-born Wing-Davey has been hitching a ride to Red Bank of late; reuniting with former Public Theater colleagues John Dias and Michael Hurst for a dream project of sorts: the 17th century comedy The School for Wives. The 1662 classic by the French farcemaster Molière is onstage now at Two River Theater as the first “back to school” session of the new 2014-2015 mainstage season.

The story of wealthy Arnolphe, the naïve young thing that he cultivates as his future Perfect Wife — and the ways in which the carefully micro-managed scheme backfires on the schemer — is on stage for three more preview performances (Wednesday at 1 pm and 7 pm; Thursday at 8 pm); opening on Friday night and continuing with a mix of matinee and evening shows through October 5. Stage and screen character actor Robert Stanton heads the cast as Arnolphe, with Phillipa Soo as the not-so naive Agnes, and Korey Jackson as her hopeful suitor Horace. They’ll be performing the best-known English translation of the original French text, by the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Wilbur.

Check the Two River YouTube page for a video in which the director details the creation of the show’s distinctive visual conceptualization — including the “phallic” features and “pubic triangle” of the set design by Tony winner David Gallo — then take it around the corner for the redbankgreen Drama Desk conversation with Mark Wing-Davey.

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TRTC NAMES SEASON OF PREMIERES, CLASSICS

RubenDavidLeeJessStoneTony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, FRASIER creator David Lee, and Jessica Stone are among the star-quality directors working with Two River Theater Company in the just-announced 2014-2015 season.

“Didn’t we just do this?” joked Two River Theater Company founder Robert Rechnitz, as he stepped up to the podium in the sleek auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself. The TRTC founder joined artistic director John Dias, managing director Michael Hurst and special guests on Monday evening, for an event that’s become a much-anticipated ritual in Red Bank — the unveiling of the upcoming season at Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center.

Spanning centuries-old classics and modern milestones from both sides of the Atlantic — and fulfilling its stated mission of “leading, not following public taste,” with an unprecedented three world premieres — the 2014-2015 slate of mainstage productions stands as one of the company’s most ambitious yet; a schedule that had Rechnitz praising the acclaimed regional theater as “a school, slyly disguised as a place of entertainment…we want to fill the place, but on our terms, and yours.”

Take it just around the corner, for the details on the season that kicks off on September 13.

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FRENCH TWISTS ON CLASSIC TALES AT RBR, RFH

tartuffeKatherine Kennedy (Avon), Alicia Moeller (Shrewsbury), and Eliana Swartz (Little Silver) rehearse the female lead roles in the Red Bank Regional Theatre Company updating of Moliere’s classic comedy TARTUFFE, opening Wednesday, November 20.

One’s a re-imagining of a French adventure classic, that’s more about the slapstick than the swashbuckle. The other takes the most timeless of comedies by the 17th century French playwright Moliére, and transplants it to the 21st century. When two area high schools present their fall drama productions this month, a couple of beloved tales from the land of the baguette promise to pick up more than a few laughs in the translation.

It all starts at 7 pm on the evening of Wednesday, November 20, when the Red Bank Regional High School Theatre Company presents a new take on Tartuffe, the play-in-rhyme by Molière that remains timeless due to its scenario of a con artist who hides behind the persona of a man of the cloth; the better to cheat a rich man out of his fortune and his frau. Set in the world of the 21st century, the 1664 classic (transplanted to a Dallas-like setting when it was staged by Two River Theater Company several seasons back) continues inside the school’s Red Bank Regional Theatre with 7 pm showtimes on Thursday, November 21 and Friday, November 22. Audiences can choose from either of two shows (2pm and 7 pm) on Saturday, November 23, and a final 3 pm matinee will be presented on Sunday, November 24.  Tickets are $12 ($7 for students and seniors) and can be purchased directly on the school website, at by calling 732-842-8000, ext. 227.

Over at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, the RFH Tower Players get set to raise the curtain on “a hilarious retelling of the classic Dumas tale of derring-do,” when they unveil The Three Musketeers: All Swash and No Buckle.”

Set in 17th century Paris and written by playwright Pat Cook, the story follows a young D’Artagnan (Christopher Brodsky) as he meets up with the Three Musketeers — Athos (John Chiarella), Aramis (Andrew Maris), and Porthos (Laurence Morales).

D’Artagnan desperately wants to join the Musketeers troupe, but first he must prove himself by winning a sword fight and attempting to preserve the reputation of the Queen (Jackie Dixon) by helping the Musketeers finding her “missing” necklace — which she had gifted to her love interest, the Duke of Buckingham (Matthew Hughes).

Will D’Artagnan prevail to earn the respect of the Musketeers and the love of the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting, Constance (Mallory McGill)? With the help of some seriously silly narrators, audiences will find out as they follow the misadventures that occur on the roads leading from France to England and back again.The hijinks include sword fights, several star-crossed lovers, a race on stick-horses, a blackmailing Cardinal (Sean Loughran) and his equally conniving assistant (Christopher Tuttle), a fund-raising telethon, and a cast filled with zany characters.

Over 45 members of the Tower Players troupe will be featured in the ensemble of the production, with Suzanne Sweeney at the helm as Director. Props and costumes are under the direction of Carole Malik, and set design under the supervision of Dino Pagano. Sound and lighting are under the direction of Matthew Leddin. Students participating in Stagecraft, a course offered at RFH, are also creating the set designs.

The Three Musketeers: All Swash and No Buckle will be presented in the school auditorium on the evenings of November 22 and 23 at 7:30 pm. The Sunday matinee will be featured on November 24 at 1 pm. Admission $10 for the general public, and $6 for students with ID cards.

Tickets will be sold in the lobby of the RFH auditorium for an hour and a half before each performance. Tickets may also be purchased in advance at the Box Office, which is located in the RFH lobby and will be open to the public from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. on November 11, 18 and 21.