RED BANK: COLORFUL SHAPE-SHIFTERS @TRT

th-vhc-orangesTHE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR and other stories by Eric Carle are brought to colorful life on the stage of Two River Theater by the puppeteers of Mermaid Theatre. (Photo by Margo Ellen Gesser)

It represents a departure from past Holiday Family Show productions at Two River Theater, in that it’s not a homegrown production in the spirit of 2012-2013’s A Wind in the Willows Christmas. It’s also a limited engagement that offers just three days of public performances — nearly all of which are sold out at this point.

That said, the touring production known as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites fits in nicely with the pro-literacy theme of past Two River offerings, being based upon a trio of works by the prolific children’s book creator whose vividly illustrated fables have delighted “kids of all ages” for nearly 50 years.

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RED BANK: SHARING A COMMUNITY’S STORIES

Camelot_press_photo_4A special performance of CAMELOT on December 13, captioned for Spanish-speaking audience members, is among a slate of free events designed for Monmouth County’s Latino community at Two River Theater. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

Press release from Two River Theater Company

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, has announced a series of free events and productions for Monmouth County’s Latino community and Spanish-speaking audiences throughout the month of December. Tickets to the three events on December 13 and 21 are free of charge to Latino and Spanish-speaking patrons.

The special schedule begins with a free event presented under the name Nosotros: A Community Gathering and Sharing of Stories. Hosted inside Two River’s Marion Huber Theater on the afternoon of Saturday, December 13, the 4 pm event is hosted by playwright Tanya Saracho (a writer for television’s Looking and Girls) and Jerry Ruiz (director of Two River’s annual Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays), as part of a project in which they will collaborate with Two River on creating an original play inspired by Monmouth County’s Latino community.

Saracho and Ruiz invite members of the community to share stories from their lives at the gathering, with no theatrical or public speaking experience necessary to participate. For more information or to reserve a spot, patrons should call (732)345-1400 (English) or (732)936-8843 (Spanish).

There’s more in store this month at Two River — including specially captioned performances of Two River Theater Company‘s current musical production Camelot, and this year’s upcoming all-ages family show.

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RED BANK: ONE MORE SHINING MOMENT

Camelot_press_photo_2The eight-actor company of CAMELOT — augmented by a heads-on-a-stick ensemble — spend a thrilling day at The Jousts, in the re-imagined musical classic that continues on stage at Two River Theater. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

It’s a shining kingdom of law and virtue that boasts a population of just eight humans — and only one woman in town, at that. But if the Two River Theater Company production of Camelot seems to be missing a few of its usual fixtures — the dour middle-aged actors, the cardboard castle walls, the pointy hats — what stands revealed at its heart is one of the true evergreen musicals of its (late 1950s/ early 1960s) era, with one of the most sharply delineated triangles in stage history, and a memorably introspective score by the Lerner and Loewe team that previously brought the world My Fair Lady.

Directed here by the Emmy winning sitcom impresario David Lee (Frasier, Wings), this is a Camelot the likes of which you may not immediately recognize — one that dispenses with several of the familiar characters (including Merlin), and which paints over the memory of Richard Harris and other brooding King Arthurs with a fresh-faced cast of young pros that take the story back to basics, against a functionally spare multi-level staging that sometimes substitutes pantomime for pageantry (and, in the percussively choreographed opening moments, a healthy bit of STOMP in place of pomp).

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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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RED BANK: CURTAIN UP THIS WEEKEND

Sound SchoolLindsay Wood as Maria joins the Phoenix troupe in bringing ‘The Sound of Music’ to the Basie boards beginning this Friday — while Moliere’s ‘The School for Wives’ receives a bold new production design, as Two River Theater opens an all-new season with a Saturday night preview.

One is that family favorite that you grew up on, the one where “the hills are alive,”while the other is a new take on a theatrical classic that’s nearly old as them thar hills.

While Red Bank’s world-class professional Two River Theater Company and Red Bank’s community players Phoenix Productions would seem to approach their art from totally different places, there’s a common mission to give the audience a production that’s awesome to behold: a show that makes for the centerpiece of a memorable night out.

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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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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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LATINO COMMUNITY URGED TO SHARE STORIES

RuizTanyaAlban(L-R): Director Jerry Ruiz and playwright Tanya Saracho (pictured with actor Carlo Albán during a past edition of the annual CROSSING BORDERS festival at Two River Theater) invite Red Bank’s Latino community to the first in a series of Storytelling Workshops on Saturday, April 26.

Press release from Two River Theater Company 

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, a generous $40,000 grant through the foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program. The initiative, which launched last year, funds inventive partnerships that create new methods for reaching the public and developing their interest in and access to the performing arts.

Two River Theater will host a residency for Tanya Saracho (an award-winning playwright and writer on TV’s Girls, Looking, and Devious Maids) and director Jerry Ruiz (curator of Two River’s annual Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays and free community programs) to build demand for theater among Latino audiences. Through the Duke residency, Saracho and Ruiz will create and lead storytelling workshops (utilizing both writing and multimedia) for Red Bank’s Latino community, bringing them into direct contact with the process of creating theater and allowing them to experience the art form as something that is vital and relevant to them. As a result of this project, Two River will commission Saracho to write a play that speaks directly to experiences and challenges that are specific to this community, which will be developed at the theater and directed by Ruiz.

Two River Theater invites Red Bank’s Latino community to participate in the first community workshop on Saturday, April 26, 2014. No experience is necessary to join. The workshops are open to all people who identify as Latino or Latina, regardless of national or ethnic background, and young people, women, and transgender people are especially encouraged to participate. Workshops will include opportunities for the participants to talk, share stories, and play games, using storytelling models devised by Saracho. In addition to the workshops, participants will be invited to events, shows, and programs at Two River throughout the year, all free and at no cost. For information, interested community members should call (732)936-8843.

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WEEKEND: IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING

ice-boat-011011-500x375It’s an open house icebreaker when the nation’s longest-established ice boat club welcomes the public in from the cold for a Saturday of tours and presentations. Below, Bobby Bandiera brings the Rock ‘N Soul Revue back to the Basie for a Brill-iant bow to the hitmaking “American Troubadors.” 

Friday, March 21:

BobbyBandieraHallmarkIIok_zpsc164352eRED BANK: Taking the old recruitment slogan, “Join the Jovi and See the World” to heart, Bobby Bandiera has done his share of  globetrotting as touring guitarist with Bon Jovi. But when the veteran of more than 40 years’ worth of local barband gigs puts in to Shore, he tends to “relax” by staying audibly visible everywhere from the barstool in the corner at your favorite hometown watering hole to the Count Basie Theatre, where he intermittently assembles the jukebox Justice League known as the Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue for a special salute to the “American Troubadors.”

When the 11-piece “Basie House Band” reconvenes Friday night at 8 pm, Bandiera and bandmates (including star-quality songbird Lisa Sherman, and Joe Jackson’s longtime bassist Graham Maby) will be paying trib to the great songwriter-performers of what’s commonly called the “Brill Building” era of late 50s-early 60s pop – a teenaged Tin Pan Alley that spawned some of the earliest and most immediately exhilarating work of Carole King (“The Loco-Motion”), Neil Diamond (“I’m a Believer”) and Burt Bacharach (“Baby It’s You”). Tickets ($25 – $99) can be reserved right here.

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WEEKEND: RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY

MusicManGroup_718x370The cast of THE MUSIC MAN brings the Broadway evergreen to ‘Two River City’ for five concert-style performances this weekend. Below, Jersey music Jedi master Glen Burtnik leads an all-Shore team of guests to the Basie stage on Saturday, for a SUMMER OF LOVE salute to the sounds of the original Woodstock festival. (Above photo courtesy NJPAC)

Friday, March 14:

glenburtnik-4-kurdzukjpg-907ec69606a7eef9RED BANK: “Seventy Six Trombones.” “Marian the Librarian.” “Til There Was You.” “Ya Got Trouble” (right here in River City). If you’ve seen but one golden-age Broadway classic performed by a class of drama-club kids, a community of earnest amateurs or a summer-stock touring troupe, it was probably The Music Man, the 1957 Tony winner in which traveling con man Professor Harold Hill brings an outlandish scheme — and, in the process, a healthy dose of life, love, laughter and music — to the stodgy folk of a circa-1912 Iowa small town. What you probably haven’t seen is a Music Man brought to you by an African American cast and director — and this weekend, Two River Theater Company offers up five chances to catch a talent-packed production that’s being presented in cahoots with Newark’s NJ Performing Arts Center.

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WEEKEND: MOODY BLUE & MINTY GREEN

stPatsThe second annual Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes to the borough streets on Sunday. Below, the Moody Blues.

Friday, February 28:

MoodysRED BANK: From the harmonies of their early, raw recordings to the dramatic sweep and ambitious scope of their orchestral masterpieces – to their repeated reunions, and a new century of crowdpleasing tours – one might be tempted to call them the British Beach Boys.

But the Moody Blues have done what they’ve done without all the meltdowns, litigation, and endless appearances on the county fair circuit of their American cohorts. And this weekend, the longtime trio of Justin Hayward (guitar), John Lodge (bass) and Graeme Edge (drums) comes to Red Bank for two consecutive nights (Friday and Saturday, 8 pm) at the Count Basie Theatre, on a Timeless Flight Tour that promises to mix those lush album-era radio classics (“Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question,” “Ride My Seesaw” and the game-changing “Nights in White Satin”) with more recent vintage oldies (“Your Wildest Dreams,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”) and highlights from solo projects past. Leaving the symphony orks at home, the core Moodies are joined by an auxiliary corps of young musicians on keyboards, flute and extra drums. Tickets ($50 – $145) can be reserved right here.

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TONY, TINA, BOBBY, SANTTU-MATIAS & MORE

ChampianTuzzoAbove: Champian Fulton, Bob Tuzzo and Tony Corrao take the bandstand when the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra presents “An Enchanted Evening of Song” at Two River Theater. Below, twentysomething European conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes his NJ Symphony debut at the Basie. 

Friday, February 28:

SantuRED BANK: While it admittedly ain’t Shakespeare, the interactive “environmental” phenomenon known as Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding can be said to be one of the most influential theatrical offerings in a generation — even indirectly spawning a stroll-through spin on Macbeth at a seedy Manhattan hotel.

Beginning tonight, and continuing for four more performances this weekend, lovebirds Tony Nunzio and Tina Vitale repeatedly renew their vows in a production presented by the Count Basie Theatre — hosted NOT at the venerable Monmouth Street venue, but practically next door, at the nearby Buona Sera Ristorante. It’s there that guests can “eat, drink, dance, converse and get caught up in the festivities” as they stand in for Tony n’ Tina’s various extended family members and frenemies. The comedy and the comedic “drama” unfold with seatings at 7:30 pm Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, and 12 and 6 pm. Sunday. Tickets ($100) include the ceremony, reception, baked ziti dinner, champagne toast, wedding cake, music and dancing. A $150 VIP option includes a “classic Italian meal and seat up close to the action.” Check here for reservations, close to selling out as we post this — and toss that bouquet for some more great catches and matches, as we Mach it into March.

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A LAND OF PURE IMAGINATION, AT TWO RIVER

Pinkolandia2Gaby (Andrea Morales) encounters an inhabitant of PINKOLANDIA in the play of the same name by Andrea Thome at Two River Theater.  (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

By TOM CHESEK

Just days after striking the set from Mr. Shakespeare’s fanciful Forest of Arden, the folks at Two River Theater Company got busy realizing another setting where occasional magic, romance, poetry and acts of heroism happen — a little place called Pinkolandia.

Don’t bother checking the map. Take it instead to the “black box” Marion Huber Theater inside Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue artspace, where a couple of young sisters named Gaby (Andrea Morales) and Beny (Maria Helan) have escaped with their family from their native Chile in the days of the Pinochet dictatorship to the cold and alien landscape of Reagan-era Wisconsin.

For playwright Andrea Thome — who grew up in Madison, WI with her Chilean mother and Costa Rican father — Pinkolandia represents a public triumph that’s interlaced with personal family history. An actor, author, dancer and sought-after translator, Thome has forged an eclectic resume of activity that sprawls from the West Coast (where she founded the Red Rocket Theater Company in San Francisco) to the East (where she serves as co-director of the “New York-based satire collective” known as Fulana). The Drama Desk at redbankgreen was pleased to speak with her during a “delightful, peaceful” week of rehearsals in Red Bank. Read on…

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WEEKEND: THE GREENHOUSE HEATS UP

Home-Free-Colder-Weather-The-Sing-Off-VideoAbove: The champion vocalists from the NBC show THE SING-OFF come to Red Bank for two Friday night shows…while below, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ben E. King is the “Stand By Me” special guest, during a Saturday benefit concert at Red Bank Regional HS. 

ben-e-king-1337080315-view-0Friday, February 21:

RED BANK: Time was, a hidebound rule of show business stated that people would never pay to attend a live version of something they could see for free on TV each week — but nowhere has that been disproved more than the Count Basie Theatre, the venerable venue that’s regularly booked sold-out events starring some of the most fervently followed singers, comics, emcees, psychics, ghost hunters, dog whisperers, cake bosses and skinnygirls this side of the flat screen. Tonight, the Basie adds another hi-def highlight to the mix, as they host the first-ever touring edition of the hit NBC talent contest The Sing-Off. Home Free, the winners of this past season’s a capella competition, headline a program that also features fellow finalists Voiceplay and The Filharmonics — with a special guest performance by The Princeton University Footnotes. It’s a chance for fans to “be up close and personal with their favorite groups as they perform with no instruments and voices only” — and response has been such that they’ve added a second, earlier show (5:15 pm) to the 8 pm main event. Tickets ($29.50 – $69.50) can be reserved right here.

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WEEKEND: VALENTINES AND OTHER FISH TALES

AsULikeItMiriam A. Hyman and Jacob Fishel in ‘As You Like It’ at the Two River Theater, above.  Scott Szegeski’s print impressions of vintage “fish surfboards” at Salon Concrete. (Top photo by T.C. Erickson)

Friday, February 14:

sg-prints-14RED BANK: Valentine’s Day — that interlude of cabernet and clinking cocktail glasses; of candlelight coronas, candy kisses and cardboard cupids — also sounds a keynote for the final weekend of As You Like It, the Shakespeare play on stage at Two River Theater.

Michael Sexton’s take on the Bard’s characteristically convoluted “comedy of cross-dressing heroines and triumphant heroes” comes complete with some of the author’s funniest gags and laugh lines, some solid comic turns (by Brendan Titley and former Cosby Show regular Geoffrey Owens), and a double-dynamite lead role by Miriam A. Hyman as the exiled beauty Rosalind and her flannel-shirted alter ego, Ganymede. Throw in some savvy use of song (put forth with gusto by J.D. Webster) and you’ve got a fine point of entry to the Shakespearean perspective on romance, mating, and gender politics. Take it here for tickets to the last round of shows 8 pm Friday; 3 and 8 pm Saturday; 3 pm Sunday).

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WEEKEND: 60 MORE HOURS OF WINTER FUN

ALSAYLI-herobar

Above: A cast of local high school students brings A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: AS YOU LIKE IT to young theatergoers at Two River…while below, Ms. Lauryn Hill appears to have cancelled her (already previously rescheduled) Homecoming appearance at the Count Basie. (cast photo by Ozzie Rodriguez)

laurynFriday, February 7:

RED BANK: If we’ve learned anything from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, it’s that springtime comes in turn to even the bleakest of wintry landscapes. So, with that warming thought in mind — well, that and the caveat that all events described herein are subject to change due to “no enemy but winter and rough weather” — we sally forth once more, where no groundhog dare tread.

While Two River Theater Company carries on with its vibrant and tuneful mainstage production of the Bard’s cross-dressing comedy, a talented troupe of high school performers have put together an intriguing bonus feature inside TRTC’s “black box” Marion Huber space. Adapted and directed by Jason McDowell-Green, A Little Shakespeare: As You Like It is a 75-minute version of the play, aimed at audiences age 9 and up, and designed “to fulfill the not-so-secret grand ambition of Artistic Director John Dias: to have some Shakespeare resonating in every corner of our theater, and to get everyone in our community turned on to the thrill of his exquisite language.” Red Bank Regional students Alicia Moeller and Patrick Monaghan are the lovestruck leads Rosalind and Orlando — and they’re joined in the cast by fellow RBR actors Halle Butler, Raquel Diaz and Alyssa Rogers, plus Michaela Farrell of Red Bank Catholic, and student players from several other Monmouth County high schools. Public performances, for which the actors will also be performing a score of original music by Shanna Jones, are Friday at 7 pm, and Saturday at 12 and 4 pm. Take it here for tickets ($15) and bios of the cast members — or here for tickets to the grownup version of the show that continues this weekend through February 16. 

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ELKS HOST TRTC’s ‘EXPLORATION OF JUSTICE’

GreasonSharonGildaMonmouth University professor Walter D. Greason, former Red Bank council member Sharon Lee, and Frank Talk’s Gilda Rogers are among the guest panelists discussing “The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s and Today,” during a February 10 event at the Red Bank Elks Lodge.

Press release from Two River Theater Company

“The Fight for Equality in Red Bank in the 1950s — and Today” is the topic of a free panel discussion event on Monday, February 10, presented by Two River Theater Company and hosted at the Red Bank Elks Lodge #233, 40 West Front Street.

The 7 pm panel is the first in a series of Inside Two River humanities programs that will focus on race, the Civil Rights movement, and evolving issues of equality under the umbrella title Exploration of Justice. Panels will take place monthly in connection with Two River Theater’s production of Trouble in Mind, written by Alice Childress —the first African-American woman to have a play professionally produced in New York City. The play, directed by Jade King Carroll, will run April 5 through 24.

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WEEKEND: CHEER FOR JERSEY, ROOT FOR SNOW

snowprojectAbove: Maxine Snow and the Snow Project lend a jazzy chill to the Steamy Nights house party at the Woman’s Club while, below, Quincy Mumford brings a warm and beachy vibe to Jamian’s.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHGot anything going on this weekend? Even if your plans don’t include those twin national pastimes (handicapping TV commercials and scanning for wardrobe malfunctions in the hoary halftime air), there are still any number of alternative ways to socialize in the coming days and nights — and we’ve got a few of them right here.

Friday, January 31:

RED BANK: Those of you easily panicked by a Friday night forecast of SNOW should know that this time, the cool chills are localized beneath the roof of the Woman’s Club of Red Bank on Broad Street, where the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation hosts the first in a new 2014 series of Reckless Steamy Nights house party concerts at the old Anthony Reckless estate. The multi-talented visual artist, writer and performer Maxine Snow – co-organizer of the annual Women of Song events at the historic house  – is joined by her bandmates in the Snow Project (keyboardist Kendall Scott, bassman Joseph Peterson, guitarist Mike McKernen, drummer Tony Tomaino) for an unplugged evening that mixes music, spoken word and live art painting to “bring back jazz to the masses.”  It all happens between the hours of 8:30 and 11 pm, and it’s BYOB, with a $10 donation requested at the door (proceeds benefit the JSJBF scholarship programs). Call (732)933-1984 for more info.

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WEEKEND: DRESSED TO THE 9’S, AND BEYOND

brittninesAbove: Britt Savage and the Nines recall those 1980s nights of 75-cent ‘kazis and roses for the ladies, when they reunite for a throwback Friday at the Downtown… while below, Ziggy Shock turns Fair Haven’s K of C hall into the best kept secret on the Shore music scene. 

Friday, January 24:

ziggy-shock-would-be-johnny-cashRED BANK: With recent overnight temps threatening to put the Greenland into the greater Green, being “dressed to the nines” has tended to mean wearing nine extra layers of unfashionably lifesaving thermals.

But for just one cold dark night, clubgoers of all ages can wayback to those 1980s summers when the drinking age was 18, closing time was 3 a.m. — and the mega-barbands ruled a clubscape dotted with fortress-like institutions like the Tradewinds, Fountain Casino and Club Xanadu. Tonight, the Downtown welcomes what might just be the first-ever Red Bank appearance by one of the era’s most fervently followed cover combos — the Nines, featuring vivacious vocalist Britt Savage. Now based in Nashville, the in-demand session singer (and 1992 grand prize winner on TV’s Star Search) reunited with her classic band lineup — guitarist Adam Roller, bassist John Rogers, drummer Mick Gormaley, and Bill Dellicato subbing for the late keyboardist Bobby Gordon — for a July 2013 show in Asbury Park that brought in so much love, they up and did it again during the recent Light of Day music festival. Britt and the boys will be taking it upstairs at the double-wide Downtown for several sets of VICE-vintage favorites that could reasonably include everything from “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Kids in America” to some radio-ready originals from Britt’s recent Music City projects. And you can take it right here for a full interview with this most noble of Savages, or take it just around the corner for more frosty fun at the jiggle end of January.

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ALL RED BANK’S A STAGE, FOR ACTOR OWENS

GeoffreyOwensFormer COSBY SHOW cast member Geoffrey Owens is BACK, as Jaques — and Two River Theater Company’s got him, as previews begin this weekend for TRTC’s production of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.

By TOM CHESEK

As a regular for the last seven seasons of The Cosby Show, Geoffrey Owens was part of a pop-cultural juggernaut that TV Guide named as The Greatest Sitcom of the 1980s; a Reagan-era repository of positive role models and fatherly sweaters that consistently topped the Nielsens — before ultimately being toppled by The Simpsons and other heirs to the throne of tubeland’s most dysfunctional modern family.

While his recurring role as Cliff Huxtable’s occasionally opinionated but nice-guy son-in-law Elvin allowed him to have the odd moment of good-natured fun with Bill Cosby’s proven shtick, it wasn’t until returning to the stage that the son of former U.S. Congressman Major Owens discovered a surprising specialty — as a sought-after interpreter of the comedic and tragic characters from the quill of Wm. Shakespeare.

Seen recently on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet (with Orlando Bloom), Owens has starred and co-starred in major productions of Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and many others — including a Joseph Papp-produced As You Like It that brought him to the Broadway boards as Orlando, the exiled young noble and dashing leading man of the Bard’s “comedy of cross-dressing heroines and triumphant heroes.” Beginning this weekend, the actor returns to As You Like It‘s “Forest of Arden” setting for the first in a series of preview performances this Saturday night, January 25.

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MUCH ADO ABOUT TRTC’S ‘AS YOU LIKE IT’

muchTonight’s free screening of director Joss Whedon’s 2012 film of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING kicks off a series of special events, keyed to Two River Theater Company’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT.

It’s described as “a comedy of cross-dressing heroines and triumphant heroes,” one in which a company of vivid characters “must learn to confront their own fears and limitations — and surrender to romance.”

When the Two River Theater Company production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It goes up in previews on January 25, its entrance will have been heralded by a slate of special events designed to spark new interest in the Bard’s 400-year old play across all segments of the audience. It’s a schedule that includes an open rehearsal, informative discussions, a dedicated poetry slam — even a special “Little Shakespeare” adaptation, custom-crafted for school-age theatergoers.

Before all that, however, TRTC revisits another Shakespearean comedy — one that it staged back in 2011 — when the branded Bridge Avenue performing arts center hosts a free screening of the 2012 cinema adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Superstar director Joss Whedon took a break from shooting the Avengers blockbuster to assemble a nimble no-star cast (including Marvel’s Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg) for this contemporary take on the “merry war” of courtship and marriage, filmed (in black and white) in and around Whedon’s own home. The movie shows at 7:30 pm tonight, with free tickets reserved through the Two River box office — and attendees will have the opportunity to win a Joss Whedon Prize Pack that boasts a bevy of Buffy, Firefly and Marvel superhero collectibles.

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A SECOND ‘WIND’ FOR A NEW TRTC TRADITION

Willows 2Becca Ayers (Mrs. Otter), William Thomas Evans (Dr. Badger) and Mike Faist (Mole) co-star in A WIND IN THE WILLOWS CHRISTMAS, the original family musical now onstage in a new encore production at Two River Theater. (photos by T. Charles Erickson; click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

In an interview that appeared here last year on redbankgreen, composer Mike Reid had this to say about his working habits — and the creative process that spawned A Wind in the Willows Christmas:

“I just kind of let it rip, to remind myself of the saying that the first thought is the BEST thought. Let the initial impulse be your guide!”

Reid — the 1970s-era All Pro defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, turned Grammy winning Nashville singer-songwriter — must have had a change of game plan at halftime, as he and his creative partners (lyricist Sarah Schlesinger, book writer Mindi Dickstein) have returned to Red Bank with a re-imagined version of Willows, the original family show they developed for Two River Theater Company in 2012.

Now playing at Two River Theater through December 29, the musical (adapted from the familiar animal characters and tales by Kenneth Grahame) has been restaged with a new cast, new director, new production design, and a newly highlighted focus on the element of Christmas. And — as befits a simple story of one wetland creature’s quest for a home — it’s a show that’s succeeded in finding its heart.

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WEEKENDER: A NOT YET WINTER WONDERLAND

lennon 120513 4The 33rd anniversary of John Lennon’s death finds a traveling exhibit of the Beatle’s artwork camped out in Red Bank.

Friday, December 6:

RED BANK: In the midst of the holiday cheer, this weekend marks the 33rd anniversary of the murder of John Lennon — and it so happens that the traveling “pop-up gallery” exhibit titled “The Artwork of John Lennon” will be stationed in downtown Red Bank for the occasion. Featuring prints and some 100 pieces from the Lennon collection, the show parks it at 21 Broad Street (formerly Agostino Antiques) for three days beginning December 6. Take it here for a redbankgreen feature with complete schedule details and more.

SHREWSBURY: It’s a rare opportunity to get a close-up look at the buildings in the borough’s state and national designated “Four Corners” Historic District, as the Monmouth County Historical Association conducts Holiday Lantern Tours in the area of Broad Street and Sycamore Avenue. Tours commence at 6 pm and 8 pm, with reservations required ($15 adults; $8 ages 12 and under) available at (732) 742-1277. Christ Church will be serving up dinner (Moravian Chicken Pot Pie!) with seatings at 5 pm and 7 pm, for an additional $10.

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WEEKEND: FIRST NIGHTERS, FARE-THEE-WELLS

SherMackHeatherMorganLisa Sherman and Sandy Mack bring their all-new Sherman Mack project to the Walt Street Pub Friday night. Below: painter Martin Kammler has the floor at BCC, for a close-up look at his creative process. (Top photo by Heather Morgan; click to enlarge)

Friday, November 22:

martinLINCROFT: He’s spoken of the physicality of his artistic process, which makes sense: when he’s not creating vividly visceral canvases, Martin Kammler approaches his other career as an in-demand personal trainer with equal intensity. The native of Essen, Germany visits the Center for the Visual Arts Gallery at Brookdale Community College to talk about his work and demonstrate his unorthodox, “paint on the floor” method in a presentation that begins at 7 pm. Take it here for details.

Before arriving at CVA, stop in at the Monmouth Museum (adjacent to the Brookdale Performing Arts Center) for the opening reception of Artists Celebrate the Holidays, a group show featuring “a vast representation of holiday celebrations from the traditional to contemporary works and installations.” Reception’s on from 6 to 8 pm, and the show remains on display during regular museum hours through January 5, 2014. It’s a first-nighter as well for the Holiday Gift Gallery, an annual array of handcrafted and other one-of-a-kind gifts (including jewelry, scarves, ceramics, home items and more) from local artists. There’s live music and refreshments also featured at the reception from 6 to 8pm, and the Gift Gallery stays open for business during regular museum hours through January 12.

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