RED BANK: TRTC REGRETS CASTING CHOICES

The reading’s cast includes, in top row: Blair Brown, Michael Cumpsty, Oakes Fegley, Bill Irwin, Kevin Isola and Karl Kenzler; bottom, Bebe Neuwirth, Duane Noch, Gregory Noll, Steven Skybell, Phillipa Soo and Sam Waterston. (Two River Theater photo. Click to enlarge.)

[UPDATE: On July 31, the Two River Theater announced a cancellation of this event, with automatic refunds to be made to ticketholders. In addition, the theater said it is “planning a public forum to continue this complex conversation about representation in the theater.”]

Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company issued an apology Tuesday for “not having cast more artists of color” in a star-studded play reading scheduled for next week.

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WEEKEND: OF TEA, TIME AND TAG ART

OBT(horiz)COLORTime’s running out: Oakes Fegley and Robert Hogan co-star in director Joel Grey’s staging of ‘On Borrowed Time,’ now in its final weekend at Two River Theater. Below, spraypaint specialist Demer judges taking the Jersey Shore Aerosol Art Battle Against Hunger, at Colorest.

Friday, October 11:

demer_00599RED BANK: Take a late afternoon/ early evening tea break and head upstairs to 135 Monmouth Street in Red Bank, where internationally exhibited multimedia artist (and Red Bank Community Church co-pastor) Gerda Liebmann presents a special opening event at Gallery 135, the must-see space located inside the second-story loft shared by the RBCC. An eclectic array of works in multiple media on the theme of one of the world’s favorite beverages, “Fifty Shades of Tea” spotlights the artistry of Debbie Jencsik, Ellen Martin, Wesley Sumrall, Linnea Tober — and Liebmann, who explains that “the concept of this exhibit is to have the visual reality of art and the multi-sensory reality of tea complement each other to create a truly immersive esthetic experience.” Also offered at the free 6 pm opening event will be a tasting of special-teas from Tea4U of The White House in Oakhurst. Additional exhibit hours will be offered on Saturday (3-5 pm) and Sunday (1-3 pm); call (732)687-3580 for more info.

RED BANK: It’s the final weekend of performances for “On Borrowed Time” at Two River Theater. Broadway legend Joel Grey — who appeared in Paul Osborn’s play as a child back in 1941 — directs this “Americana fantasy that filters big themes of death, devotion and stubborn determination through a Depression-era small town sensibility (and a vague unease over the gathering storm clouds of the Second World War).” Veteran stage-screen character ace Robert Hogan is a refreshingly tart and salty “Gramps” who tragic circumstance has charged with the care of his young grandson, Pud (the impressive young actor Oakes Fegley). Showtimes at 8 pm Friday and Saturday, and 3 pm Saturday and Sunday; take it here for tickets.

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TRTC OPENS SEASON ‘ON BORROWED TIME’

HoganGreyVeteran character actor Robert Hogan (left) stars in ‘On Borrowed Time,’ the season-opening Two River Theater Company production directed by Broadway legend Joel Grey (right). 

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a moving pre-war story of life, love, death and devotion, set in small-town America, shot through with a plain-speak wit and eloquence, and featuring an ensemble cast of young and old actors.

It’s not Our Town, but On Borrowed Time, a fantasy that also made its bow in 1938 — and beginning this weekend, Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company celebrates the play’s 75th anniversary with a new production that kicks off the troupe’s own 20th anniversary season. It also marks a homecoming of sorts for a genuine Broadway legend.

The script by playwright and screenwriter Paul Osborn concerns an elderly “Gramps,” whose young grandson “Pud” is left in his care after Death — personified as one Mr. Brink — claims the boy’s parents and grandmother. Wanting to keep Death away from his own doorstep — and seeking to fend off Pud’s money-grubbing aunt Demetria — Gramps employs a little wishing magic and wily wisdom to trick Mr. Brink into becoming trapped in the old man’s apple tree. When Death takes a holiday, what seemed like a victory soon poses its own set of problems.

A hit in its original run, the play was made into a film with Lionel Barrymore in 1939. Two years later, a nine-year-old performer by the name of Joel Grey stepped into the part of Pud, inaugurating a long-playing stage career that would see him win a Tony (and an Oscar, for the same role) as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret.

With TRTC’s season-opening production, Grey (whose Broadway roles in recent years have included Wicked and Anything Goes) returns to On Borrowed Time — this time as director.

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