MIDDLETOWN: PLAYERS DISH UP FINE ‘DINING’

The cast of ‘The Dining Room’ is mostly under the table as the Monmouth Players present A.R. Gurney’s engagingly experimental ensemble comedy for six performances.

When last we looked in on the Monmouth Players, that longest-running of all area community stage troupes was offering up a holiday-season production of A Long Christmas Dinner, a Thornton Wilder playlet in which a single dining room serves as the setting for a century’s worth of action, with a small cast playing multiple generations of characters in the life of an American home.

When the players resume their Season of Classics this weekend (their 63rd overall, if you can wrap your head around that), it will find them still lurking about the dining room — or more precisely, The Dining Room, an ensemble “comedy of manners” that packs its own playfully experimental edge.

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LINCROFT: PLAY WRINGS HUMOR FROM PHONE

Dead MansIt begins with that bane of live theater companies everywhere: the persistently ringing phone.

But in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, at Brookdale Community College, the unwelcome noise is not only part of the show: it’s the catalyst that sets off a bizarre chain of connections involving Jean (the woman at the next café table, who answers the call when it becomes evident that the phone’s owner is very much dead) and various family members or acquaintances of the dead guy, Gordon.

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LINCROFT: A HAUNTED HOMECOMING AT BCC

hauntedtheater3Prepare to diorama as the staff of Brookdale Haunted Theater creaks open the doors of their live-action eeks-cursion beginning Friday night.

hauntedtheater4While it sometimes seems that the shambling zombies and vamping bloodsuckers of a walk-thru haunted house can’t hold a candle to the horrors of the real world, we do take strange comfort from the annual appearance of those hooded goblins and snooded ghouls.

And here on the Greater Red Bank Green, where we embrace our hometown traditions, one of the weirdest rituals of the calendar year returns this Friday, when Brookdale Haunted Theater rises once more for the first of two pre-Halloweekends of pop-up chills.

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RED BANK: HIGH SCHOOL THESPIANS OF OLD

  rbhs theater 020615 4rbhs theater 020615 3Now playing in the lobby display case at Red Bank borough hall: photos of Red Bank High School thespians, believed to have been taken in the 1950s.

The exhibit, the latest in a series of works by RBHS photography teacher Anthony Trufolo, was assembled by volunteers from the public library, and spotlights kids in rehearsal, getting ready backstage and hitting their marks at showtime.

We’ve got lots more after the ‘read more.’ Do you know any of these folks? (Photos of photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK: COMING SOON

rb boro hall 062414Theatergoers and others who just want to pull up a seat opposite the Count Basie Theatre will soon have an outdoor option outside Red Bank borough hall, where RiverCenter and the Basie are installing 40 feet of benches framed by new landscaping. The project cost about $14,000 before the cost of the benches, which are being donated by the theater, said RiverCenter director Jim Scavone. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

RED BANK: EARLY BIRDS GET THE… CHILLS

rb basie sale 021714 2The annual Presidents’ Day ticket sale at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, with ducats for a host of shows available for $10 each, drew its usual waiting line in spite of temperatures in the teens Monday morning. The earliest, including borough resident Carl Colmorgen, arrived around 6:30 am., though the box office doesn’t open until 10 a.m. (Photo by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: CHOWING DOWN AT THE COUNT

Bloody Marys, ribs, wine, doughnuts, bourbon, coffee: Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre had all that and more for hundreds of eaters and drinkers this weekend. Its four-day Appetite festival included a live pasta throwdown between restaurateur Victor Rallo and Mayor Pasquale Menna on Saturday night. Rallo won the cooking contest to see who could make the better dish in 30 minutes, but it was close, requiring a tiebreaking vote. (Photos by Peter Lindner, except for Rallo-Menna.)

FOODFEST TO SERVE UP A PASTA SMACKDOWN

Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, seen above at a 2007 primary school function featuring his cooking, faces restaurateur Victor Rallo, below, in a stovetop showdown at the Basie next Saturday.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

One’s a municipal chief executive with a “total amateur’s” love of cooking – though he does have a chef’s smock with his name embroidered on the breast.

The other’s a serial restaurateur and wine expert who hosts a TV food show set in lush Italian locales.

The premise: a pasta smackdown cooking event pitting Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna against Victor Rallo, owner of Basil T’s in Red Bank, Undici Taverna Rustica in Rumson – and newsboy-cap wearing star of ‘Eat! Drink! Italy‘ on public TV.

The Saturday-night faceoff, on the stage of the venerable Count Basie Theatre, is one of the highlights of a four-day food smorgasbord – dubbed Appetite – that also features wine tastings, Scotch and bourbon swilling, a bevy of food trucks, screenings of food-themed movies and more.

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RED BANK: BASIE COURTYARD TO GET CANOPY

Less than a year after its debut, the Count’s Courtyard, the terrace bar at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, is slated for a tweaking Friday with the installation of an over-all canopy.

The canopy, which will have no sides, will only be in use, like the courtyard itself, from May 1 to October 31, Basie CEO Adam Philipson told the borough planning board, which approved the change earlier this month. Use of the courtyard is limited to theater patrons two hours before and after performances and during intermissions. (Click to enlarge)

WEEKENDER: CHANCES ARE, CATS WILL FLY

At the Basie Saturday afternoon: dogs and cats rescued from shelters and given a new, ahem, leash on life as circus performers. Matt O’Ree, below, brings his guitar chops to Jamian’s tonight.  (Click to enlarge)

Friday, May 3:

RED BANK: The high-energy Marty and the Martians make their debut in a series of Friday night appearances at the Walt Street Pub, playing an upbeat set including hits by Neon Trees, U2, Foo Fighters and more. The show begins at 8 p.m. 180 Monmouth Street.

RUMSON:  Join the electro-acoustic/pop/rock singer Brian Bisbee at Molly Maguire’s Black Point Inn, 132 East River Road, at 9 p.m.

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STANDING UP FOR FOOD AND SONG

Several hundred visitors packed the lobby of the Two River Theater to sample the culinary offerings of more than a dozen Red Bank restaurants as the appetizer to a buffet selection of Broadway show offerings Monday night. Restaurant-promotion group Red Bank Flavour organized the event, which was billed as Broadway in Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

BALDWIN & PAL: UNPLUGGED AND ELECTRIC

dias-baldwin-and-cumpsty-photo-by-mike-mclaughlin2Alec Baldwin and Michael Cumpsty (right) join Two River Theater artistic director John Dias (left) for an “unscripted and unrehearsed” UNPLUGGED fundraiser at the Bridge Avenue artspace Monday night.

By TOM CHESEK

According to Alec Baldwin, there’s a certain comfort to be found in the eight-shows-a-week Broadway grind, in that “at 8pm I know exactly where I’ll be, who I’ll be with, and what I’ll say.”

As for an admittedly “confessional” Michael Cumpsty, the British-born actor allowed that “I feel more myself when I’m playing someone else.”

The two stage veterans were in a casually confessional mood on Monday night — with several hundred eavesdroppers listening in on the unscripted and unrehearsed conversation — as Two River Theater hosted a full house for an intimate evening of scenes and stories presented under the name Baldwin. Cumpsty. Unplugged.

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‘A LOVE LETTER TO TEACHERS’ AT TRTC

nilajacarolroseggNilaja Sun stars as teacher, students, parents and faculty in NO CHILD…, the Obie winning one woman show going up at Two River Theater in Red Bank. (Photo by CAROL ROSEGG/ Berkeley Repertory Theater)

By TOM CHESEK

Regular followers of Two River Theater Company might find themselves a bit taken aback when they check out the new show inside the mainstage Rechnitz auditorium — where the 2011-2012 season recently opened with a Much Ado About Nothing that boasted a large cast of Broadway vets, a Tony-nominated director and a script by one Will Shakespeare.

When the play known as No Child… goes up in previews beginning Tuesday, theatergoers will look upon a spare set design populated by a single performer — a player who also happens to be the playwright.

Those who feel they’re not getting their money’s worth should know that No Child… is a critically acclaimed, Obie-winning hit that’s been seen by over a million ticketholders, with over 600 performances Off Broadway as well as major productions on both coasts and both sides of the Atlantic pond.

They should also know that No Child… is not a monologue but a full-fledged comedy-drama featuring some sixteen speaking parts — young and old, students and faculty, male and female, funny and not so — all of whom just happen to be played by native New Yorker Nilaja Sun. In fact, Ms. Sun, who won that 2007 Obie for her work here, originally scripted this play for a quartet of actors, and has been carrying the workload of four people ever since the play’s earliest performances.

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THE STUFF OF TWO GENIUSES, AT TWO RIVER

picassobAlfredo Narciso (as young Pablo Picasso) takes to the floor with Rachel Botchan in PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE, the Steve Martin comedy opening this week at Two River Theater. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

Ever since the invisible curtain went up on its first mainstage production in 2005, the Two River Theater hasn’t been shy about showcasing the stuff of genius — be it Shakespeare, Shepard or Shaw; Moliere or Beckett; Noel Coward or Tennessee Williams.

You can add Picasso and Einstein to that Mensa mix — but if you do that, you’ll have to make room for Steve Martin too.

Yes, the star of The Man With Two Brains and Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid has a history with the Two River Theater Company, which brought a revival of The Underpants — Martin’s springtime-fresh take on a musty old German farce — to Red Bank in 2007.

Three years later, TRTC revisits the oeuvre of the Emmy- and Grammy-winning renaissance guy — with a new staging of Martin’s all-original play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, previewing tonight and continuing through June 6.

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IN TRTC’S LINEUP: SHAW, BREL & A SPIDER

charlottes-web1Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (as Charlotte the spider) and Owen Doherty (as Wilbur the pig) perform a scene from CHARLOTTE’S WEB, scheduled to go up in December at Two River Theater. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

There’s a classic work by the most formidable scribe this side of Mr. Shakespeare. A reimagining of one of the most timeless tales in children’s literature. Some long-overdue encores for a couple of New York favorites from the 1960s — and a pair of exciting new items that you may not have heard of.

It’s all on the agenda beginning next September as Red Bank’s resident professional stage troupe, Two River Theater Company, announced its 2010-2011 season of shows with a full-house reception last night at its Bridge Avenue auditorium.

Here’s the lineup:

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WEST SIDERS GETTING SOME OVERDUE TLC

danny-murphyDanny Murphy, outside his Bridge Avenue restaurant, is leading an effort to boost the Arts & Antiques District’s profile.

For years, a cluster of businesses west of Red Bank’s downtown has felt like a neglected stepchild.

That was supposed to change with the inclusion three years ago of a portion of the West Side in the special improvement district managed by Red Bank RiverCenter, the quasi-governmental entity that collects a tax on commercial properties and uses the money to spruce up and market the covered area.

The love has been slow to materialize, though. So business owners led by longtime restaurateur and nostalgia maven Danny Murphy have banded together to do the squeaky-wheel thing. And already, they’re starting to get some grease.

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THE ART OF DECEPTION, AT RBR

rbr_playsilo_ir Matt Dubrow, opposite Madelyn Monaghan and Ray DeLuca, does double duty in RBR’s staging of ‘Is He Dead?’ playing both the artist Millet and (in drag) that  character’s fictional twin sister.

The Red Bank Theatre Company at Red Bank Regional High mixes the contemporary and the past with it’s latest staging, which gets underway Thursday night.

The company will present ‘Is He Dead?’ a farce adapted from a long-lost Mark Twain play of the same name.

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