Archive: June, 2011
Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers has a lot of hype to live up to — the show has, after all, accumulated four Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. But as its opening night proved, the Plays and Players cast was up to the task of filling some dauntingly big shoes.
The story revolves around brothers Arty (Gavin Beckor) and Jay (Jordan Mottram), who go on a 10-month sojourn to their Jewish German immigrant grandmother’s (Helen McCrane) Yonkers home while their father, Eddie (Jim Ludovici), attempts to piece together their lives after some serious mixups with loan sharks. While Eddie combs the South for money to pay back loans he used on his wife’s surgery, the young brothers learn the hard knocks of life and love through their over-the-top relatives.
The roles of Eddie, his two sons and Uncle Louie (Ryan Ruggles) were performed with tremendous conviction; the brothers’ witty banter helped ease the tension of Yonkers’ often solemn and intense dialogue. Aunt Gert (Catherine Moroney),who emerges later in the play, musters up a few memorable moments.
There were a couple of awkward moments, and occasionally jokes fell flat, but this production’s shortcomings were few and far between; for the most part, Young’s classic was a spectacle to behold, pleasantly plump with humor.
Overall, there were many positives to take away from this play. It was lengthy, but was jam-packed with action and laughs from beginning to end. The actors, especially the grandma (McCrane) and Aunt Bella (Angela Carolfi), were stellar. And the plot, even with all of its complex layers of family drama, still managed to convey an overriding message of faith in family, even when your family’s dysfunctional.
Plays and Players’ rendition may not be perfect, but, as Lost in Yonkers emphasizes, nothing quite is.
Lost in Yonkers runs through June 25 (extended run) at Plays and Players Theatre.
See Also: City Paper's Performing Arts listings
When karaoke's on the mind, the only way to shake it is by singing as much karaoke as you can in one night. At least that’s how a few people seemed to feel Tuesday at the Italian Market's 12 Steps Down.
The first song I caught was the Wallflowers' “One Headlight,” sung by Drew. It felt like an early-in-the-night kind of pick. I’d blame it on no one in the bar being drunk enough yet, including Drew. However, it didn’t seem like the same could be said when he sang a Backstreet Boys number with a partner later on.
Next, Katie chose Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” which is perfect given this hot ass week we're having. She danced and sang her heart out, but the highlight of her karaoke night was when she sang “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli. Just about the entire bar chimed in with the unmistakable chorus, “I love you baaaby/And if it’s quite all right/I need you baaaby,” reminding everyone what karaoke should be like — an event that everyone takes part in.
Similar renditions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” filled the smoky room when two ladies tried to give Bonnie Tyler a run for her money. In a similar fashion, a couple of guys crooned one for Africa when they sang a ditty by Toto. Mixed in between these sing-a-longs were songs by Biggie, Dre and Snoop, complete with two-stepping white-boy dance moves.
“Rolling in the Deep,” by British pop star Adele was as recent as the song selection got. Maggie picked it but with good reason, because she had some pipes to rival Adele’s. The rest of the bar took note. Her rendition was right on point.
12 Steps Down is definitely a "regulars" type of bar, so come prepared to mingle with a well-established scene. From what I saw, though, they quickly warm up to newcomers — especially if you choose classic tunes that'll get the crowd moving and singing along.
Nitty gritty for performers: Tuesdays, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., free, 12 Steps Down, 831 Christian St., 215-238-0379, 12stepsdown.com.
See Also: City Paper karaoke listings
Everyone’s new favorite Greek restaurant in the Gayborhood, Opa, is planning a series of Bacchanalian events for the hot summer. This Thursday is the start of their weekly art-music-fashion event Glendi which just happens to be Greek for “party.” On June 9, Sansom Street between 13th and Juniper will be shut down at 9 p.m. and transformed into a runway with local clothiers Carmelita Couture, Bus Stop Boutique, Priscilla Costa and more hitting the catwalk. Somebody please bring ice scarves for the models, really nice ones.
The dreaded “closed for renovation” hsign can be found this week on the doors and windows at Tweed on 12th off Sansom (we hear it’s a roof repair thing) and Carlucci’s on 10th in the Italian Market area. One space whose worries are gone is that of the Apollinare spot in the Piazza at Schmidts. Brian Nagele, CEO of Philly2Night.com snagged that location (a permanent name is pending) and re-launch in September. Until then he and chef Dayna Russo (formerly with Liberties in Philly and 10th & Willow in Hoboken, NJ) will get things going this week with a Sunday Brunch & Beats party, some minor décor changes and something different from the space’s previous outlook toward Italian fine dining. “The neighborhood is young and energetic, and so are we,” says Nagele. “I’ve been holding out on owning a place for 10 years and finally gave in. Our brick oven pizza will be the focus, plus small plate eclectic items, salads and sandwiches.” Sounds like a party plan.
For four years, The Roots have turned the Festival Pier’s stages at Penn’s Landing into a picnic/concert worthy of attending, lineup unseen. That’s something. You hear that The Roots are bringing their guests to the side stage or the main stage and you don’t have to consider whether or not it’s Nas, Public Enemy, Wu Tang Clan, Esperanza Spalding, TV on the Radio, whoever. You just go. But one thing that few (if any) report is the what-what regarding the inner sanctum of the Picnic’s backstage, a city unto itself where celebs like Zoe Kravitz and Bam Margera dodge basketballs (yes, I got hit in the head with one) and MCs from the smaller tent talk up their set and do interviews with Toure (all sorts of Flip camera crews were in the house). If you weren’t running into Philly music fellaheen King Britt, Aaron Levinson, Beanie Sigel and Freeway (the latter two attached at the hip) or bumping head first into Wiz Khalifa (get off my foot, Wiz) you were finding out some primo info about comings and goings within (and without) the Roots camp. Like the fact that David Grasso’s Beach and Cumberland Street House of Blues blueprint plans are nearly ready and the look of the mega-live-music club is akin to “Johnny Brenda’s and World Café Live only bigger and suited for 3,000-plus people” according to one Live Nation rep. Then there’s the flyer-ready info on the remainder of The Roots’ Fourth of July Jam 2011 plans where starting July 3, participating venues such as Legendary Dobbs, Johnny Brenda’s, TLA and Voyeur will host Roots-related DJ events with Work Dogs, Firm Tactics, Kuf Knotz and, at Voyeur, the DJ combo of Jazzy Jeff and ?uestlove along with Diplo and Spinna. The backstage is a ritual I’ve loved reliving year after year. In 2012, though, I’m wearing a helmet. Those basketballs smart when they land.
The Stagecrafters Theater might employ professionals, but that doesn’t mean the term “community theater” is lost on them. As a staple of Chestnut Hill for over 80 years, Stagecrafters has been consistently creating productions with an incredible focus on detail and professionalism, especially considering their size. As Yaga Brady, one of the group’s directors and my tour guide, tells me, “The overall quality that we strive for is much higher than most community theaters. The idea is always to get the best possible actors.” By employing semi-professionals and aspiring young actors they have been able to put on shows that attract people from all over the Philadelphia area to fill their 185-seat theater.
Starting on June 10, the Stagecrafters Theater will show Arthur Miller’s The Price, which is centered around two brothers trying to determine the worth of their dead parents’ belongings. While this play focuses on the struggle between making money and retaining integrity, the Stagecrafters seem to have no problem finding a middle ground. They seem to be able to strike the perfect balance between professionalism and avocation by hiring by “professional” actors and still taking the opportunity to serve their community.
During the off-season, they offer pay-what-you-will” readings for anyone who wants to see them. This summer, the Reader’s Theater will start July 15, featuring Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Edward Albee’s The Goat, Who is Sylvia and Menage a Trois. The Stagecrafter’s Theater is also open to the community for presentations during the Chestnut Hill Book Festival and hosts an annual Halloween show written by a local child as well as the occasional jazz concert.
New technology has always been difficult to place in its destined context. Alexander Graham Bell would never have predicted we'd all have phones in our pockets. Twenty-five years ago, Bill Gates probably didn't know we'd all have the Internet on our phones (Steve Jobs probably did, but I digress). The CEO of Iomega circa 1998 would have never predicted that in 2011, nobody cares about the zip drive.
The psychology of online dating is an interesting arch on which we're smack in the middle. When it first arrived, it was seen as desperate. It was a way for people who simply couldn't get a date to meet other people who couldn't get a date. Twenty years from now — mark my words — anyone who doesn't meet their sig-oth online is going to look shallow, slutty or desperate. And something else: As the percentage of marriage increases as a result of online dating, you can expect the divorce rate to decrease.
Human chemistry will always yield workplace romances, childhood sweethearts, meetups through a friend, etc. But after the divorce is finalized, everybody's going to turn to the Internet. Why? Because deep down most people believe in a soul mate. Don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean people believe in magic. And they don't all believe their soul mate is someone they'll meet through fate. And they don't necessarily believe that their soul mate is someone who is spiritually bound to them (you can believe in a soul mate without believing in a soul). And the likelihood that this person works in the cubicle next to you — despite how pretty, handsome or nice — is a statistical unreality that most people are starting to come to terms with.
Each week, Emily Apisa puts together a rundown of book-centric events that’ll keep you “lit” like a firecracker all week long.
[ Wednesday ]
➤ Neela Vaswani
As part of the Writers and the Process Series and the Women of the World Book Club, Vaswani will be reading from and discussing her book “You Have Given Me A Country.” The part memoir, part fiction book recounts Vaswani’s personal heritage that includes her Irish-Catholic mother and her Sindhi-Indian father. Her mixed racial and religious background allows Vaswani to draw from cultural traditions around the world and bring them to life with her artfully written prose. Wed., June 8, 7 p.m., free, Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane, 215-844-1870.
[ Thursday ]
Neighborhood Watch looks for Philly’s most fashionable. This week, our newest style team, Diana Campeggio and Kelsey McGlynn, braved the heat in search of this summer’s most popular trends — and they worked on their tans in the process.
Philadelphians have a way of putting their own spin on style and with this week's heat wave, the term “less is more” is more fitting than ever. Case in point: Lauren, who we stopped on South Street after spotting her unique style from a block away. She told us she spends most of her time shopping in thrift stores and converting her winter clothes into cropped tops and shorts. She says she looks forward to “wearing less clothes and more bikini tops” this summer.
Sometimes a step backwards can also be a step in the right direction. For San Francisco’s Dodos, a return to their successful duo setup and longtime producer was just what they needed after 2009’s lackluster Time To Die. Guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber recorded most of No Color on their own, with a handful of vocal appearances from Neko Case. The album is a refreshing effort, evoking the tribal feel of Visiter, their breakthrough. The Dodos’ live shows are breathtaking in the how Long and Kroeber sprint from the beginning of the set to the end. With a new batch of songs that really show off the dynamics that the pair can achieve, this show is sure to be a thrill. w/ Gauntlet Hair, 9 p.m., $15-$23, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.
11th Hour Theatre Co. and Montgomery Theater's production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical reminds me of the slogan on those obnoxious Hooters T-shirts: “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.”
In this comedy, a cast of seven shows an intimate audience at the Arden Theatre what life is like in Armadillo Acres, an “exclusive manufactured home” park in Florida. What follows is a silly but sincere story of a love triangle among Norbert, a toll collector; his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie; and Pippi, the stripper who comes between them.
Over a '50s rock 'n' roll soundtrack, three longtime Armadillo Acres residents serve as a Greek chorus while slipping in and out of their own supporting roles. And just when you’ve had enough of the cast crying in their cowboy boots, the show picks up steam again with a ridiculously campy disco number. Brace yourself for some of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) afro wigs you’ve ever seen.
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