Christina Liang, Stan Egi, Kathleen Kwan and Fenton Li are featured in ISSEI, HE SAY, the play by Chloe Hung that makes its world premiere this weekend at New Jersey Repertory Company. (Photo by SuzAnne Barabas)

Published in the Asbury Park Press, April 20 2018

“It’s what we think of as the American Dream…work hard, and all your dreams will come true,” says playwright Chloe Hung of Issei, He Say, the four-character drama that makes its world premiere this weekend at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. “But it’s not like that at all.”

Subtitled “The Myth of the First,” the play that was workshopped before audiences at DC’s John F. Kennedy Center ‘breaks the myth” of immigrant families inspiring their first-generation offspring toward easy assimilation and success, by “exploring how you don’t really know what it’s like until you get there.”

The American Dream — or, more to the point, the North American Dream — is examined here through the experiences of 13 year old Lucy Chu (Christina Liang), a recent arrival whose parents (Kathleen Kwan, Fenton Li) have recently emigrated from Hong Kong to a suburban community in Canada. Set in the late 1960s — a time when the wounds of the Second World War were far from healed — the script is “semi-based” on the playwright’s own grandparents, mother and other relatives, and their experiences as residents of Toronto’s Scarborough district.

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Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, April 19 2018

Keepers of the punk flame invade the market stalls and mini-malls for an entirely respectful “wreck-a-store-day” weekend…the mayor and friends saddle up the Pony during a Rodeo for Recreation…acapella devotees go LIVE without a net, on the Pollak stage…magical PJs at the Paramount, and a Lenny Centennial at the APAC…Runapalooza pounds the boards for the Special Olympics NJ…trash is treasure is TRUE at an Earth Day After Party…and a wise old Byrd comes back to roost on the MU campus.

It’s WHAT’S UP in and around Asbury town these next seven days and nights…check the printed pages of THE COASTER for the full rundown of music, movies, art, theater and more…and dig if you will the highlights HERE, on the upperWETside!

SCENES: A Weekend of Punk Rocking ‘n Shopping

Here in the place Where Music Lives, old-timers are still talking about the time that Michigan-based proto-punk godfathers The Stooges and the MC5 waged informal band-battle at the old Sunshine In…while over at Convention Hall, fellow Wolverine staters Grand Funk Railroad added to a legendary 1960s/70s roster that famously included Jim Morrison and The Doors. On the unofficial high holy day of 4/20, those concert memories of yore flashback in style, as our still-standing Circuit landmark the Wonder Bar hosts a Tribute Fest that features Black Licorice as Grand Funk; Manzo Rising summoning the Lizard King and company; Future Now kicking out the jams as MC5, and the Street Walking Cheetahs channeling the raw power of Iggy Pop and the Stooges. It’s all-in at 7 pm for Friday’s fest, with tickets ($10 advance, $12 at the door) gettable at wonderbarasburypark.com.

Any vinylphile could tell you that April 21 is Record Store Day at indie institutions like Holdfast and Groovy Graveyard — and on Saturday afternoon, the latter outpost of pop culture (inside the Shoppes at the Arcade, 658 Cookman Ave) celebrates Platterday with another in a series of super-fun live music presentations on the upper level of the engagingly offbeat mini-mall. Returning to the Graveyard shift FREE-for-all at 4 pm are the Brunswick-based cowpunk/psychobilly cats The Junk Rumblers (pictured above), followed at 5 pm by Asbury’s own unique band of pirate-themed punkaneers, The Jolly Daggers (featuring merrily moonlighting members of such upstanding organizations as Battery Electric and The Black Flamingos).

The weekend’s worth of alternative NOWstalgia comes to a climax on Sunday, April 22, when the forces of Groovy join more than 100 other local/regional purveyors of vinyl records, CDs, movies, magazines, books, toys, collectibles, wearables, and MORE for the springtime edition of the Asbury Park Punk Rock Flea Market. Hosted inside Convention Hall, the three-ring flea circus opens its big heart to all, and its doors at 10 am, with admission $5 between 11 am and 5 pm (and an earlybird rate of $10 for savvy scouters). There’s live and DJ music in the air as well, with a full rundown of vendors viewable at asburyparkpunkrockfleamarket.com.

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The cast of the Brian Friel play “Dancing at Lughnasa” conjures a slice of Irish life in the 1930s, in the Two River Theater production on stage beginning this weekend in Red Bank.  (Photo by Yurik L. Lozano)

Published in the Asbury Park Press, April 13 2018

“It’s one of the great plays of the twentieth century,” says the director Jessica Stone of her latest project for Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company. “And it’s because of how universal its themes are.”

While its characters, cultural references and conflicts are very much of a piece with its setting in the Irish countryside of 1936, there is a certain quality to Dancing at Lughnasa that resonates with audiences in the here and the now…and when Two River’s John Dias suggested Brian Friel’s Tony- and Olivier award winning 1990 play to Stone, the director “jumped at” the chance to “explore this world; to explore the bond of these five sisters, and the ways in which we live through our memories.”

Kicking off a month-long limited engagement this weekend at Two River’s mainstage Rechnitz Theater, the production represents something of a hat-trick for Stone, a young veteran Broadway actress (her credits include the 2011 revival of Anything Goes, and a debut as Frenchy in the 1994 staging of Grease) who has credited the late New England-based theater legend Nicholas Martin with mentoring her journey from player to professional director. It’s a road that’s seen her helm some acclaimed projects throughout the eastern United States, including a 2014 Boston staging of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike that carried on in the spirit of Martin’s Tony-lauded Broadway production — and for Two River, the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Absurd Person Singular, plus her own all-male, all-madcap take on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

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That’s right, it’s our weekly roundup of highlighted happenings in and around Asbury Park! Check this selfsame space for our feature on this weekend’s DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN Springsteen Symposium…and check the printed pages of THE COASTER for the most comprehensive listings of music, movies, theater, art and special events in town!

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, April 12 2018

SOUNDS: Asbury Music Awards at the Stone Pony

“As crazy as it gets, I’m committed to these awards…and a lot of people look forward to them,” said Scott Stamper, ringmaster of rock’s downtown boxcar berthplace The Saint, and the patron producer behind the peer-reviewed promenade that is The Asbury Music Awards. Back for its 26th annual edition, the “gala night of celebration for our music community” returns to the Stone Pony stage (having long since outgrown the Main Street musicbox and its original home at the long-gone T-Birds Café) for a glittering tribute to “the men and women who put their self-respect, their solvency and their sanity on the line for our entertainment, day and night.” Returning host and Asbury Award-winning comedian Taylor Allen (pictured up top) emcees the affair that features mini-sets by Waiting On Mongo, Dentist, Black Suburbia, The Double Negatives, Billy Walton and the proverbial many more. It’s all ages admitted for $20; 21 to drink, with nominees (of which there are many, in some 50 separate award categories) admitted free. Check thesaintnj.com/asbury-music-awards.php for a full list of nominees — and catch Allen on the bill with Derek D and Friends Who Are Funny, Friday at House of Independents. April 12, doors at 6:45 pm; $20

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Poet, playwright, producer and powerhouse performer Rock Wilk returns to Asbury Park on April 13, for a one-night engagement of his Off Broadway solo piece BROOKLYN QUARTET at Palette Artspace. (photo courtesy Rock Wilk)

Published in the Asbury Park Press on April 6, 2018

The potentially taxing month of April spells many happy returns for theater fans, suddenly faced with a springtime smorgasbord of choices. We’ve got your roundup right here — and it begins with a couple of intriguingly original oddities on display in and around Asbury Park.

One of the area’s best-kept-secret showcases for new original stage works is happening within the halls of a high school — the old Neptune High School, that is; alma mater of Tony winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens, and a place rebranded in recent years as Ocean Grove’s Jersey Shore Arts Center. It’s there that La Strada Ensemble Theater has made a home for itself, with the collective of Shore-based playwrights and performers having workshopped and debuted dozens of full-length and short works for the stage. On Friday, April 6, it’s Brick Township playwright Darren Debari’s turn in the spotlight, as the troupe presents its premiere production of the drama “Destruction of the American Male.” La Strada artistic director A.J. Ciccotelli stars as a hard-drinking actor turned stockbroker who’s had (and lost) it all more times than once, with Lite-FM radio personality Christine Nagy co-starring in the play that takes an unflinching look at the relationships, personal demons and identity crises that define men in 2018 America. Evan Black (who also appears in the supporting cast) co-directs with Donna Ault Jacobson, and “Male” call is at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with an additional 7 p.m. show on Sunday, April 8. Tickets ($25; senior and student discounts) can be reserved by visiting http://www.lastradaensemble.org or calling 732-455-2748.

He’s a poet, a playwright, a record producer, a spoken word artist, a vocalist and musician — and on the evening of Friday the 13th, Rock Wilk is a panorama of vividly realized characters, as the multi-talented, multi-tasking performer brings his one man show “Brooklyn Quartet” back to Asbury Park for a one night stand. It’s a return to his onetime “stomping grounds” for the artist who previously workshopped the full-length piece at such area venues as the historic Stephen Crane House — and whose Off Broadway and touring engagements of “Quartet” built on the momentum of his acclaimed (and autobiographical) solo piece “Broke Wide Open.” A fast paced, passionately performed script that’s been honed to razor-edged precision by its author, “Brooklyn Quartet” sketches a group of urban neighborhood friends as they make an uneasy, sometimes tragic, and cautiously hopeful transition from youth to adulthood. It’s a bracingly adult work for audiences in search of something different —and it’s on exhibit at Palette Artspace, the “arts block” gallery located at 716 Cookman Avenue. Admission is just $5, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. sharp. Continue reading


Here are just a few additional reminders highlighting things to do in and around Asbury Park this week…for a complete rundown of music, movies, art, theater, words and MORE, check out the weekly WHAT’S UP section, ONLY in the printed pages of THE COASTER!

SCENES: A downtown Devil  of a Festival 

It is decreed, by proclamation of the Mayor of AP: the Jersey Devil is the official cryptid of Asbury Park. And not a moment too soon, as Kathy Kelly of the recently re-opened Paranormal Books and Curiosities has staked out this very weekend to honor our homegrown haunter of the deep dark pines (and a few roadside rest stops), with a Jersey Devil Festival that offers all due sympathy for the Devil by folding in film, art, spoken word, scholarly study, and a cloven-hoofed cavalcade of activity along the Cookman Avenue corridor.

Having added a whole new dimension to the local year-end holidays through her annual Krampus Festival, the mistress of the arcane and eldritch hosts a salute to the Garden State’s proprietary gargoyle that begins in earnest on Friday evening, April 6 at The ShowRoom. It’s there that a one-night-only Jersey Devil Film Festival unspools at 7:30 pm, with a selection of Devil-themed short subjects followed by a 20th anniversary screening of The Last Broadcast, the ultra-indie horror epic that staked a claim to being the first feature shot on handheld video camera and edited on a desktop suite. Director Lance Weiler joins Asbury Park Press correspondent Alex Biese for a live discussion of the 1998 film, during the program for which tickets ($10) are available at theshowroomap.com.

Then on Saturday, April 7, the legend and legacy of the Jersey Devil — from the storied spawn of Mother Leeds, to such cryptid cousins as The Big Red Eye — takes center stage in and around the all-new Paranormal Tower at 621 Cookman. Beginning at noon, attendees will thrill to a Devil-themed Hall of Images exhibit, author/ storyteller readings, lectures on our state’s freakish folklore, plus contests (tattoos, stories, posters, and costume contest at 4 pm), free walking tours of haunted history — and, at 4:30 pm, a March of the Jersey Devils to a Summoning Site at which “competitors will hoot, howl and growl…enough to wake the Jersey Devil!” The devil, as they say, is in the details…and the details are there for the searching, at paranormalbooksnj.com (events are free, but registration is recommended). Continue reading


Paul D. Miller — aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid — joins Monmouth University faculty members on March 21, for a free performance of music, words and images inspired by his travels to the Antarctic continent. (courtesy sozo artists)

(Expanded from an article published in The Coaster newspaper, Asbury Park NJ, March 15, 2018)

“I think of Antarctica as a place of meditation and deep time,” says Paul D. Miller, the multimedia master who explores an array of creative frontiers under the name DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid. “Everyone who has been there is humbled by the scenario — it really is the most un-Earth like place on this planet.”

Even for a multi-platform artist who’s traveled the world — delivering his  work to audiences at universities, museums and concert halls in cities on several continents — it might seem just a step or two out of accepted bounds to take one’s act to the place that he calls “a kind of Utopia at the end of the world…the only place with no government.”

But then, accepted bounds (or any other creative protocols and pigeonholes) mean pretty close to nothing, to a  man who describes himself as “an ‘interdisciplinary’ artist…and that means all boundaries are blurred.”

In the space of some two decades in the public eye, the native of Washington, DC has compelled attention as a trip-hop/ “illbient” recording artist; a turntable DJ of expansively experimental vision; a software designer; a composer for ballet troupes, orchestras and filmmakers; an exhibited media artist at major galleries; an artist in residence at NYC’s Met museum; an author (of the MIT-published The Imaginary App); an educator, a magazine editor (ORIGIN), and a performer who’s mixed and matched with everyone from avant garde composer Iannis Xennakis and Yoko Ono, to members of Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, and Slayer.

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Director and choreographer Luis Salgado (center) conducts rehearsals for RAGTIME, the musical on stage now at Axelrod Performing Arts Center. (photo courtesy of Hahn Films)

(Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park, NJ, March 8 2018)

It could be the excitement generated by  productions like a “Jekyll & Hyde” that featured dynamic Shore vocalist Remember Jones in the title role(s). It could be the news that  they’ve secured the services of Andrea McArdle, the original Broadway “Annie,”  to play the heinous Miss Hannigan in a November production. Whatever the source of the buzz, there’s no denying that Andrew De Prisco and his Axelrod Performing Arts Center team have really upped the ante on a bid to take their place among the state’s vanguard venues for musical theater.

It was just about a year ago that artistic director De Prisco and the APAC audience got their first look at the work of an exciting guest artist — dancer, director and choreographer Luis Salgado. The young Broadway veteran (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “On Your Feet”) brought his skills to the Ocean Township stage with a local debut production of a show that he himself had been a part of  in its original cast — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” — and the question on everyone’s mind was, what can this partnership do for an encore?

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