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Polly, Unsaturated: Poet, painter, priestess of (re)purpose Kathy “Polly” Polenberg — taking a brief breather from creating the scenery and the awesome “Audrey II” for the Forrestdale School production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS — is among the artists represented in AWAKENINGS, the new installation at Gallery U in Red Bank.
“Freedom of Choice is what you got/ Freedom FROM Choice is what you want” sang the sage men in the flowerpot hats back around 1980-’bouts. It’s a bluesy lament we can simp-athize with, if for no other reason than the fact that our nights generally present such a senses-shattering range of options, invites and tentative commitments. The situation practically guarantees that somebody, somewhere who was kind enough to invite us to their event will be stood up in favor of some equally nice person (or, as happened all too many times this winter, a “Dirty Stay-at-Home” night of cartoon reruns).
Beggars, they say, can’t be choosers — but for experienced freeloaders, the world’s an erster. See if you can help us choose between competing options over the next seven days, March 16 through March 22..
FRIDAY 3/16: AWAKENINGS in Red Bank… Since they hit the Red Bank ground running with the opening of their second gallery space (a hiptown homestead of the original Montclair location), the folks at GALLERY U have brought a “freath o’ bresh air” back to the borough’s largely dormant artscape — and beginning this evening, the busy Broad Street hive hosts a new “mixed medium group show;” an assembly of more than 20 “established and emerging artists” spearheaded by Laura Brunetti (of Caring Canvas Project fame). There’s live music by The Aster Pheonyx Project — and among the many other creative folk represented will be one of our fave locals, Kathy Polenberg, a seemingly tireless creator of indoor/outdoor art, poetry, prose, theatrical scenery (including an awesome made-from-scratch killer plant for a school staging of Little Shop) and home accents that’ll make YOUR expensive decorator take a long walk off a very short Pier One. Gallery U and Boutique, 80 Broad St., Red Bank • 6-9pm/ FREE
…or Colin & Brad at the Basie? In an interview we did several years back with rubberfaced improv action figure Colin Mochrie, the star of TV’s long-(re)running Whose Line Is It Anyway? opined that “We have more of a communal, collaborative relationship with the audience than an adversarial one…you’re laughing from a different part of your brain.” For the better part of the past decade, Mochrie and his fellow Whose Line veteran Brad Sherwood have made an entirely planned and non-spontaneous point of performing an annual show at the Count Basie Theatre — and on March 16, The Two Man Group returns to Red Bank for another evening of impishly improv’d interactions including, but not limited to, “Standing, Sitting, Bending,” “Helping Hands” and the dreaded Blindfold Mousetrap Alphabet Game. Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 8pm/ $19.50 – $49.50
…but that ain’t the 1/7 of it; flip the pixelated page for enough pulse-pounding choices to knock you clear into next Thursday…
SUNDAY 3/18: ReJOYCE at the Crane House… Back here at our homebase inside Crane’s Crib, your host Mr. D offers an earlybird and entirely civilized way to decompress from a St. Pat’s hangover, with one of his patented word-and-image literary salutes — this one to the game-changing Irish author James Joyce. Featured will be readings from Joyce’s Dubliners, as well as a screening of the 1988 film The Dead — itself adapted from a Dubliners story and a Huston family project (John, Angelica, Tony) that stood as the final directorial effort of the always-surprising patriarch John Huston. Refreshments are served and there’s no charge for admission, but reservations accepted at email@example.com, and donations accepted for Asbury Park Little League. The Crane House, 508 Fourth Ave., Asbury Park • 3pm/ donations accepted
…or SONDHEIM at the AxPAC? Although his musically sophisticated, sometimes experimental songs are uniquely tied to the shows they’re written for, the tunes of Stephen Sondheim can make for one very satisfying revue — as the producers of Side by Side by Sondheim proved when the show wowed crowds in London and New York in the late 1970s. Spotlighting hits that span the early classics Gypsy, West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to the 70s era of Follies and Company, the retrospective treats the audience to several “dropped” numbers and items from some all but forgotten projects — all of it framed by illuminating narration on the songs’ origins and the composer’s creative process. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, “Side by Side” sidles onto the stage at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center (at the JCC of Monmouth in Ocean Township), for a very limited engagement under the direction of Anthony Greco and musical direction of Mary Lough. Frequent AxPAC leading man Ken Wasser (whose acting career began with the original Broadway production of Sound of Music!!) joins an ensemble that features Ruthie Zekaria Levy, Ali Gleason and Tina Kaye; tickets ($25; senior and group discounts) can be reserved online or at (732)531-9100. Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Ocean Township • 3pm/ $25
MONDAY 3/19: THE GREAT MAN at NJ Rep… Their past script-in-hand offerings have featured the participation of Linda (Terminator) Hamilton, John (Addams Family) Astin, Betsy (Friday the 13th) Palmer and Stephen (Stephen Colbert) Colbert — and now the Upper Wet Side’s only playhouse dedicated entirely to new and challenging works for the stage presents another in their long-running series of staged readings. This one’s an all new script by playwright Charlie Schulman, loosely inspired by James Atlas‘s decade-long, painful experience writing the biography of the Nobel Prize winning author, Saul Bellow. New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway (at Liberty St.), Long Branch • 7pm/ donations accepted
…or Pat Guadagno at Jamian’s? A Monday night tradition in Red Bank (most recently at The Downtown) continues, as the Shore’s celebrated, self-described “saloon singer” Pat Guadagno brings his weekly solo sets to the musician-friendly environs of Jamian’s on Monmouth Street. The affable Guadagno, of course, remains highly visible up and down the WetSide seaboard — and remains a man on the move here in 2012, when he relocates his long-running Bobfest concert to the Count Basie stage. Jamian’s Food & Drink, 79 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 8pm-1am
TUESDAY 3/20: Punk Rock Happy Hour at the Brighton… Last we spoke to old pal and eternal optimist Russ “Pus” Bucci (of Rotting Moldy Flesh and Pink Frog fame), the former proprietor of The Book Pit — a man who’s lived in a store, in a van, under a nightclub dance floor and on half the mattresses in the observable universe — was keeping house under what even for him has been the most challengingly makeshift (and not at all amusing) conditions ever. While we wish this underground scene True Believer the best and the basics, HOME on Tuesday evenings has been the similiarly iconic Brighton Bar, where he’s joined by The Graveyard School‘s Kim Kaos (pictured above) for the Upper Wet Side’s bestest (and yeah, onliest) Punk Rock Happy Hour. It’s a frantically relaxed interlude beneath the Brighton Wall o’ Fame, equipped with “Music Videos, Movies on the Big Screen, Pool Table Action and The Cheapest Drink Specials This Side of Gotham City!!!!” There’s no cover for admish, and food/drink specials continue on through the night at the Home of Original Music. Brighton Bar, 121 Brighton Ave., Long Branch • 7pm/ FREE
…or LIVE Social Media at The Downtown? Dunno about you guys, but the only people in our acquaintance who’ve been able to score decent jobs in the past few years have all been hired as Social Media directors/ consultants/ liaisons for companies who, even if they don’t quite claim to know what Social Media is, know that it’s a thing worth devoting resources to. Tonight, the double-wide Downtown in Red Bank is the setting for Using Social Media: The W Forum, a seminar featuring guest speaker Deborah Smith, a social media marketing consultant who explains “which platforms will work best for your business, non-profit, or hobby gone haywire….it’s all about people; how to find them, how to meet them, and how to make a great impression.” Ticket includes dinner from the D’town’s kool kitchen, and a portion of proceeds goes to one of our pet causes, the Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean. Register at 732.500.6600 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Downtown, 10 West Front St., Red Bank • 9pm/ $35
WEDNESDAY 3/21: Obsessive Compulsives at SICA… Among the more encouraging sagas of survival and success on the regional gallery-scape has got to be Doug Ferrari and his Shore Institute Of The Contemporary Arts, the forward-thinking artspace that relo’d recently to an all new site on Asbury Park’s Cookman Ave corridor. While we were sorry to see SICA depart its longtime industrial-era digs in downtown Long Branch (where it stood as a rare beacon of adventure and culture in a too-often frustrating town), the sporty and luxurious Mr. Ferrari has wasted no time in becoming a crucial part of the fabric within the more supportive AP scene. The current installation OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Design) shows off the new space at its best, with a collective display of wildly multimedia two- and three-D works that, true to its theme, border on madness even more than most group shows. You’ll see graphomaniac squiggles composed entirely of human hair; a room-scale repurposing of twisted plastic bags; crawling infestations of oversize insects; scrupulously detailed drawings partially obscured from view — and contributions by the likes of Asha Ganpat, whose “sin eater” candies allow purchasers the option of assuming responsibility for the artist’s transgressions (and whose plaster Mary figures, pictured above in a shot by Rob Leecock, feature a diamond baked into of them). Take it form us, this is a MUST exhibit, and it continues during regular gallery hours through April 27. SICA, 608 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park • 1-5pm (check website for additional days/hours)
…or Partners in Prog at The Saint? We have seen some of the best minds of our generation happily warped by PROG, the gadget-heavy, technique-savvy, merrily go-for-baroque rock subgenre exemplified by the likes of Yes, King Crimson, Rush, and even Primus in their own whimsical way. We (and the folks at the electric utility) are glad to know there are still some keepers of the effects-laden flame here in a largley unplugged age of Americana acousticana — and on Wednesday night, Scott Stamper’s midtown musicbox The Saint hosts a taste of “Prog Spring” that boasts (in addition to “the late night debut of Dumpster Kitty“) some of our old fave scene standbys. Order in the next ten minutes and you’ll get Colie Brice and the New Age Blues Experience, along with Alan Gowa, a veteran of 80s NJ bands (Itchy’K, Fresh Fish) whose live, Robert Fripp-ish “soundscape” explorations at local Starbucks once made for a refreshing alternative to the usual coffeehouse brew. Then there’s Mike Black — science teacher; actual Guitar Craft student of the aforementioned and entertaining Mr. Fripp; breathtaking lensman; aficionado of all things NASA; former WHTG-FM deejay; championship concertgoer and a creator/ appreciator of just-off-center music whose own stage appearances are regrettably few and far between these days (hey, YOU try navigating a music career while working, chasing bald eagles, scanning the night skies and posting to Facebook 15 times daily). We’re not even sure how these guys team up (or not) within the evening’s lineup, but we can tell you that with visionary musicians like these involved, everything just this side of time/space continuum rifting is fair game. The Saint, 601 Main St., Asbury Park • 7:30pm/ $8
John Travolta, Robert Pastorelli, Andie McDowell and William Hurt co-star in MICHAEL, screening for free at the Paramount (as a tribute to Pastorelli) during the tenth annual Garden State Film Festival.
THURSDAY 3/22: Free MICHAEL at the GSFF… It’s the coming-attractions teaser to the Garden State Film Festival, the 10th annual edition of the event that turns the greater Asbury Park area into one great film-freak fiesta, courtesy of producer Diane Raver and her crew of volunteers. Thursday’s kickoff to the landmark event pairs an opening reception at the historic Paramount on the AP boards with a tribute to Robert Pastorelli, the late NJ-born character actor (best recalled as Eldin the painter on Murphy Brown) who played a significant role in the establishment of the GSFF. The New Brunswick native, in whose honor a Robert Pastorelli Rising Star Award is given out each year by the festival (screen actor Adam Mucci will accept the award on March 25 at the Crystal Point Yacht Club in Point Pleasant) will be remembered by “friends, family, co-stars, current and prior Rising Star Award recipients with montage of memorable moments from film and television.” Immediately thereafter will be a free screening of Michael, the 1996 fantasy (with John Travolta as an earthbound archangel) featuring Pastorelli in a supporting role alongside William Hurt and Andie MacDowell. A post-screening reception follows at AQUA Oceanfront Restaurant & Bar at the north end of the Convention Hall complex — and watch this space for more on this year’s GSFF rave-up in and around AP. Paramount Theatre, Ocean and Fifth Aves., Asbury Park • 7pm/ FREE
…or Sassy Cabaret at Chico’s? We reported recently on Asbury Park’s own ReVision Theatre as it enters a new season AND a new phase of continued survival/ renewed activity under interim artistic director Bob Angelini. On March 22, the first event of 2012 under the ReVision banner takes place at that ever-groovy grotto Chico’s House of Jazz, where the stage troupe presents the first in a projected series of Cabaret music events — this one starring the ever-sassy Sandy Sasso, the NYC-based, road-tested big band vocalist whose travels around the globe have seen her fronting the Dorsey, Godman and Riddle organizations for audiences that have included both heads of state and jazz royalty. Take it to the ReV website to reserve (general admish) tix, or call 732.455.3059. Chico’s House of Jazz, 631 Lake Ave. (Shoppes at the Arcade building), Asbury Park • 7:30pm/ $15