NOT CRYING WOLF: NJ REP PREMIERE IS A GRIM FAIRYTALE OF OLD MEXICO

Published in the Asbury Park Press, October 19, 2018

L-R: Alexandra Lemus, Liz Zazzi, and Desiree Pinol are featured in WOLF AT THE DOOR, the play by Marisela Trevino Orta that makes its world premiere this weekend at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Photo by Suzanne Barabas

According to Marisela Treviño Orta, it all started with a nightmare — one in which “I was being chased by a pack of wolves…they got into my house; I could see their teeth eating their way through the door.”

From the stories of Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, to the lycanthropic legends that spring up wherever the full moon shines, the figure of the wolf has represented everything from the external threats of violence, want and lawlessness, to the uncontrollable beast within. But in Wolf at the Door, the play that makes its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company this weekend, playwright Orta “takes a different turn;” one that draws from Aztec myths of the afterlife, in which the spirits of the dead are ferried along their journeys to purification on the backs of canine creatures.

A Texan by birth, and a young veteran of the Bay Area theater scene, the author of several acclaimed full length scripts (including Braided Sorrow and Woman On Fire, itself inspired by the Sophocles classic Antigone) has been spending time at NJ Rep’s downtown Long Branch headquarters to fine-tune her latest produced full length work, and to “make myself available as a resource for everyone involved with the production.” As one of the National New Play Network’s ongoing series of “rolling world premiere” properties, Wolf at the Door will be produced additionally by stage companies in Dallas, Portland (Oregon), and Orta’s recently adopted home base of Chicago — but the Shore area audience will see it first, in the production that runs in a limited engagement through November 18.

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THE DOUGHBOYS COME HOME FROM ‘OVER THERE’

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 18 2018

“The Rolling Stones were representative of the angst of the culture in the 1960s…but as far as I’m concerned, Eric Burdon from the Animals is the greatest lead singer of all time.”

The speaker is Myke Scavone, Eatontown resident and lifelong music fan, and the opinion carries a great deal of weight, since the veteran vocalist has spent more than fifty years experiencing the rock life — hearing his records on the radio, traveling the world as a modern member of an iconic blues-rock institution, and having several of his recordings proclaimed “Coolest Song in the World” by no less an authority than Steven Van Zandt.

It’s a journey that begins and comes back around full circle with the Doughboys, the combo that the singer co-founded in his hometown of Plainfield, NJ, with his teenaged peers Mike Caruso (bass), Richie Heyman (drums), and Willy Kirchofer (guitar). The band that makes a welcome return to Asbury Park this Saturday night with an encore appearance at Langosta Lounge is a seasoned and super-confident unit whose riff-driven rockers are propelled by Scavone’s classic garage-punk snarl — but they’re also in essence the same bunch of earnest kids who first convened under the name the Ascots.

“We’d learn whole albums by the Stones, the Kinks, the Animals,” says Scavone of those early days, when the latest wave of British Invasion bands would inspire scores of American teens to pick up guitars and drumsticks. Live shows would range from the old Hullabaloo Club in Asbury Park (and its many teen-club counterparts throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), as well as the roof of the Funhouse on the Seaside Heights boardwalk — and at some point in 1966, the Ascots would become the Doughboys.

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IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 18-24

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 18 2018

SOUNDS: Sebastian Bach at the Stone Pony

Sure, he’s toured the planet with a handful of arena-ready rock acts; conquered Broadway and beyond in roles that ranged from Jekyll/Hyde to Jesus Christ; become a continent-spanning TV fixture in everything from Trailer Park Boys to Gilmore Girls and what seems like a thousand reality/talent shows. But Sebastian Bach remains an honorary Jersey guy to a big swath of local concertgoers, with the Garden State serving as a spiritual second home to the Canadian native — a Home Away From Home, which happens to be the name of the coast-to-(almost)coast tour that brings the former frontman of Skid Row back to the famous stage of the Stone Pony TONIGHT, October 18. The retrospective of crowd-pleasers from his old band (plus his many solo projects/ side gigs) sees the singer supported by Prong guitarist Monte Pittman and Saskatchewan-based rockers One Bad Son, with tickets ($30) still available at the Pony box office or stoneponyonline.com.

SYLLABLES: Jack Ford at Lakehouse Studios

The Emmy and Peabody winning broadcast journalist/ sportcaster/ legal commentator/ attorney/ novelist drops in at Asbury Park’s Lakehouse Studios TONIGHT, October 18, as the inaugural speaker in a new series of free Words and Music lectures, presented by Lakehouse in partnership with Monmouth University. The co-host of TV’s Banfield and Ford: Courtside discusses his career and current events in the 7:30 pm event, with no admission charge (but limited seating available). The series continues on Tuesday, December 11 with a talk and performance featuring Jersey music legend Glen Burtnik.

SOUNDS: The Damned at the Stone Pony

It needn’t necessarily be Halloween-time, for one to enjoy another encore visit to the Jersey Shore by that “Grimly Fiendish” gang of pioneer Brit punk rockers The Damned — but it surely couldn’t hurt, as Dave “Dracula” Vanian and a fit-and-working-again Captain Sensible take up one-night residence this Friday in the cobwebbed abbey of the Stone Pony, with a set that once more promises to span the frenetic frenzy of their earliest bashers (“Neat Neat Neat,” “New Rose”), the almost symphonic music-hall aspirations of their under-appreciated 80s work, and the proto-Goth voyages that have transcended the test of hot-topic time (and found the band touring now on the strength of their first new album in ten years). The literal band-of-brothers Radkey and the Arizona-based “garage-psych-rock grrls” The Darts round out a rollicking bill, with tickets to the 7 pm soiree ($26.50 advance; $31.50 d.o.s.) at the Pony box office or stoneponyonline.com. Continue reading

STREET LEVEL UNDERGROUND, DURING 12th ART & MUSIC CRAWL

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 11 2018

With the townies, the tourists, and the Twitterverse still buzzing about Sea.Hear.Now — the manageably major music/ art/ surf event that attracted gorgeous weather, well-behaved crowds, and high-profile jam-mates to a very late-season Asbury Park waterfront a couple of weekends back — one could be forgiven for feeling “all festival’d out” for the time being. But if you’re among those still searching for the heart of the scene — here at a time when boardwalk concessions start to close (and parking spots start opening up) — believe what those guys in that band said, when they proclaimed that “it’s just gone underground.”

This Saturday afternoon, October 13, marks the 12th edition of the twice-yearly Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl, and if you’re only just learning about it now, that’s because this celebration of the energy and spirit of the city’s creative community is often encountered in the most delightfully unexpected of places — places like the retail shops, eateries, salons, bakeries, gyms, repurposed lots, and even office spaces of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue corridor and business blocks beyond.

Founded by Patrick Schiavino — artist, gallery owner, curator, promoter, entrepreneur, vanguard Asbury Park developer, and unabashed lifelong fan of sight and sound and spoken word — the event seems a fair alternative, and a far cry, from the grand scale, sprawling ambitions and headline-making headliners of the big festivals. It’s strictly-storefront downtown instead of high-profile waterfront; hyper-local instead of bi-coastally national; as compact in both space and time as it is expansive in its vision of community and culture. And, rather than inviting celeb surfers to ride the Atlantic waves, the Crawl offers sidewalk-surfers a smorgasbord that encompasses more venues — and many more purveyors of music, poetry, prose, visual art and standup comedy — than in years previous.

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IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 11-17

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 11 2018

SOUNDS: DOYLE at the Wonder Bar

You don’t have to be in the Halloween-season spirit to feel a sense of Jersey pride in the lasting legacy of The Misfits, the horrorpunkmetal icons who lurched on out of Lodi to (almost) quietly become the biggest thing in the Garden State punkin patch since You-Know-Who (we’re referring of course to The Knickerbockers) before their initial implosion in the early 1980s. While the past 30 years have seen Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein recombining in numerous contexts with co-founder Glenn Danzig and with Doyle’s brother/ Misfit bassist Jerry Only, these days the face-painted guitar “Annihilator” is busy fronting his own band Doyle, with ex-Cancerslug singer Alex Story — and TONIGHT, October 11, “The Hulking Monster Himself” visits Lance and Debbie’s cicuit landmark Wonder Bar, in a 7 pm show that boasts Zombie Mafia for openers — and for which admission ($20) can be had at the door or wonderbarasburypark.com. Then take it to officialdoyle.com, for details on available VIP Meet & Greet packages.

SOUNDS: SiriusXM Hair Nation Tour at the Stone Pony

Just days after an allstar crew of hardrock coverband veterans performed a special “Birch Hill Reunion” salute inside the Stone Pony, the famous stage hosts a package of real-deal veterans from those hair-band wars of the 1980s MTV era. Presented by SiriusXM and hosted by satellite radio personality Eddie Trunk, the Hair Nation Club Tour brings together a bill that’s headlined by “Once Bitten Twice Shy” guys Jack Russell’s Great White (pictured — and if you’re wondering, this is the heir to the version of the band that was involved in that tragic Rhode Island nightclub fire in 2003), amply supported by the Bullet Boys (“Smooth Up In Ya”), Enuff Z’nuff (“New Thing”), and End of Sin. It all happens TONIGHT, October 11, with tickets for the 7 pm event ($30) available at the door or stoneponyonline.com.

STAGES: Whose Live Anyway? at the Paramount Theatre

Inspired by the l-o-n-g running TV sensation Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the touring show Whose Live Anyway? finds a pair of perennial presences from that improv comedy institution — both the American network edition and its original British template — working without that scripted net, on the stage of the Paramount Theatre. Fast-thinking masters of mayhem Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops are joined by veteran Whose Line guest Jeff B. Davis and sitcom stalwart Joel Murray TONIGHT, October 11, in a low-budget/ high-octane evening of audience favorites (and perhaps a couple of “you can’t do that on TV” specialties) that, you can be assured, will draw a portion of its eccentric energy from you and your neighbors in the seats. Tickets ($27-$87) from ticketmaster.com.

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From Halloween Hobgoblins to Real-World Horrors, on October stages

Actor and playwright Douglas Taurel portrays a parade of characters in “The American Soldier,” coming to Monmouth University in West Long Branch this weekend, and to Manasquan’s Algonquin Arts Theatre in November. Photo courtesy of Monmouth University Center for the Arts

Published in the Asbury Park Press, October 5 2018

There are, to be sure, the requisite number of restless spirits, wicked witches, man-eating monsters and mysterious murders at large here in this interlude of lengthening shadows. But there are also glimpses of the sort of horrors that don’t get packed away with the seasonal decorations — and in between, entertainments that range from creepy-kooky tunefests to altogether uplifting modern classics. It all starts this evening, October 5, on a Shore area stage near you.

Voyagers and Veterans

The settings span the bleak battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War to present-day Afghanistan; the people ranging from the can-do combatants of WWII to a grieving mother at the Vietnam Memorial. A solo show performed by actor Douglas Taurel (“The Americans,” “Blue Bloods,” “Nurse Jackie”), “The American Soldier” looks at more than 240 years of American history through the eyes of the people on the front lines — both literal and emotional — of the conflicts that have framed and defined our nation’s history and place in the world. Drawn from first-person stories, journalistic accounts, and letters to home, the play takes an unflinching look at the life-changing experiences of combat, and the ways in which Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicidal thoughts, and other lasting emotional scars of war continue to affect lives long after the field of battle goes quiet. Created by Taurel as a way “to say thank you and continue to help raise awareness of all the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families,” the critically acclaimed touring presentation makes the first of two scheduled stops in coastal Monmouth County on Friday, October 5, when the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University hosts the Amnesty International Award nominee in an 8 p.m. presentation for which tickets ($30) can be reserved at monmouth.edu/arts or by calling 732-263-6889. Then on Saturday, November 10, “The American Soldier” returns Shoreside for a 2 p.m. performance at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, with tickets ($25, with discounts for seniors, students, veterans and military) reserved at 732-528-9211 or algonquinarts.org. 

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CHEER THE WALKING DEAD: ZOMBIES WALK AGAIN, IN 10th ANNIVERSARY FREAK-OUT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 4 2018 (photos courtesy Michael J. Booth)

Like those famous swallows returning in springtime to the belltowers of Capistrano, the seaside landmarks of Asbury Park play host to a similar spectacle in the fall — similar, that is, if you substitute undead hordes of zombies; lumbering and lurching by the thousands onto the herringboned hardwoods of the famous boardwalk, and summoned to this place at the edge of a chilly autumnal sea, by an all-consuming hunger for “BRAINS!”

Returning rain-or-shine to the city’s beachfront and boulevards this Saturday, October 6, the Asbury Park Zombie Walk occupies a special space on the social calendar. Born as a grass-roots “underground” phenomenon — one that’s since been approved by the city government and embraced by the Chamber of Commerce — the event represents a somewhat melancholy marker between the end of the extended Local Summer season, and the Hallo/Holiday interlude beyond. Artier/edgier (and stage-bloodier) than your typical small-town Halloween Parade — yet still entirely family-friendly — the Walk remains at heart “a really fun, cheap way to kick off the Halloween season,” in the words of Jason Meehan.

A photographer by profession when he and his then-wife Christina made their home in Asbury Park back in 2008, Meehan was a monster maven and horror fan who professed to being “insanely jealous” when he learned of a massively successful Zombie Walk that took place in Atlanta — an event that drew thousands of fans from all over the map, to a living and (yes) breathing homage to those hungry-for-brains creatures who’ve been affectionately dubbed the “working stiffs” of the monster kingdom. Energized by the realization that literally anybody could become a perfectly passable zombie, the Meehans announced their first-ever Zombie Walk in 2008, armed with little more than a stack of flyers and the “viral marketing” tool that is MySpace.

The decision to use Asbury Park as the host venue was a no-brainer, so to speak — the city that had been given up for real dead not so many years prior had “the architecture and the ambience,” as well as a surplus of (soon to be demolished) structures that spoke to the once-bustling resort’s bleakest times at the tail end of the previous century. While the event organizers didn’t count on much more than a handful of family and friends, that first Walk exceeded expectations with some 400 to 500 participants — and when the follow-up 2009 event drew an estimated 1,500 members of the walking dead, the man who would be Zombie King had the not-at-all crazy notion to go for the Guinness. Continue reading

IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF OCTOBER 4-10

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 4 2018

STAGES: “The American Soldier” at Monmouth University

A familiar presence from roles in The Americans, Blue Bloods, Nurse Jackie, and Mr. Robot, Douglas Taurel has received his greatest acclaim for The American Soldier: 1774-2015, a solo show that examines more than 240 years of American history through the eyes of the people on the front lines — both literal and emotional — of the conflicts that have framed and defined our nation’s history and place in the world. Created by the NJ-based actor and drawn from first-person stories, journalistic accounts, and letters that span the centuries from the Revolutionary War through the present-day operations in Afghanistan, Soldier brings the audience face to face with the often overlooked warriors who answered the call to serve their country, as well as those who waited on the home front for the safe return of their loved ones.

On Friday night, October 5, the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University is the setting, as Taurel portrays a gallery of fourteen vividly sketched characters — connecting its disparate voices through common themes of brotherhood, loss, and the ravages of PTSD, even long before it was given a name. Tickets for the 8 pm performance of The American Soldier are priced at $30, and can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at http://www.monmouth.edu/arts. Continue reading