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My Wonderful Day‘ star Susan Heyward, above, plays a 9-year-girl in Alan Ayckbourn that debuted at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Saturday night. Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, right, was among those in attendance. The show runs through June 3.  (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)


Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing‘ broke open the 2011-2012 lineup for a full house at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Saturday night. Afterward came the customary opening-night reception, where the actors and audience mingled over food and drinks.


book-cover-2By TOM CHESEK

Some pig. Some spider. Some weekend.

Even the most industrious of arachnids has nothing on the folks over at the Two River Theater this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as the Bridge Avenue performing arts center continues the ongoing engagement of the just-opened Opus inside the mainstage Rechnitz auditorium.

Meanwhile, over in their black-box Marion Huber space, they’ll be hosting the acclaimed one-actor show Namaste Man as the first in a new series of Flashes of Brilliance solo pieces. Then on Sunday, between the hours of 10a and noon, the lobby reception area comes alive with area families in the keynote event to a sprawlingly spider-friendly campaign called One Book, One Community.

That book, if you haven’t guessed, is Charlotte’s Web, the classic novel for young readers by E. B. White (memorably illustrated by Garth Williams) that employed such unusual spokescritters as pigs, rats and spiders on the way to saying some valuable things about loyalty and friendship.

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matthew-arbour-102310Director Matthew Arbour oversees an ensemble cast that includes a COSBY SHOW veteran as the play OPUS begins its run this week at Two River Theater. (Click to enlarge)


With its first mainstage production (Intimate Apparel) of the 2010-2011 season, Two River Theater Company managed to hit one out of the park — a feat that set the bar pretty high for everything to follow, but is ultimately just another reason to swing for the fences with its latest, which begins previews tonight.

In Opus, by classical musician-turned-dramatist Michael Hollinger, “personalities clash, tensions rise, and four musicians grapple with how far they will go to achieve excellence,” as the members of a string quartet are forced to scramble to replace a temperamental star player who’s fired just days before the biggest concert of their careers.

Described by its director as “a play about a quartet with five actors,” it’s an ensemble piece that numbers among its players a familiar face from one of the most popular TV shows of the past 25 years — none other than Geoffrey Owens, who played the Huxtables’ son-in-law Elvin on The Cosby Show for seven of the hit sitcom’s eight seasons. The stage/screen actor (son, by the by, of former Congressman Major Owens) is joined onstage by Craig Baldwin, Anjanette Hall, Saxon Palmer, and Kevin Kelly (seen previously in TRTC’s All My Sons).

About that director. He’s named Matthew Arbour, and he’s a local guy “making good” by his own estimation — having grown up in Little Silver, graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, and gone on to become a sought-after theater professional whose projects have won acclaim from Manhattan to Missouri. A beyond-busy Arbour planted it for a few minutes during “tech week,” to give redbankgreen the dope on Opus and otherwise.

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intimateapparel284Stacey Sargeant commands the stage as Esther in INTIMATE APPAREL, the drama that continues its limited run through October 10 at Two River Theater. (Photos by T. Charles Erickson)


Is it a bit too early to proclaim the finest production of the local professional stage season?

It probably wouldn’t be fair to a lot of folks — least of all the people of Two River Theater Company, who after all are just now getting underway with the 2010-2011 slate of mainstage entertainments at their branded Bridge Avenue arts center. Still, based on the opening night evidence, this season’s curtain raiser is going to be one gloriously tough act to follow.

Onstage now through October 10, Intimate Apparel is that too-rare sort of show that reinforces the idea that choreography isn’t just confined to musicals — it’s in the awesome teamwork of a top-shelf cast, precision tech squad, visionary designers and a production unit who GET it — working from the foundation of a genuinely worthy script. It’s a work with the kind of power that can really only be served up by a great theatergoing experience — and a reminder that Red Bank, New Jersey, boasts a professional organization that’s truly poised to serve.

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