THE HORROR! AN INDIE FILMMAKER TAKES IT HOME, TO ASBURY PARK

NOTE: By order of the State of New Jersey, all bars, nightclubs, theatres and performing arts centers are closed until further notice. Restaurants remain open for take-out and delivery only until 8 pm, while local cinemas and playhouses have cancelled all shows. Contact individual venues for information on regarding prior ticket sales and reschedulings of announced events…and keep the safety of our community in mind!

Director Craig Singer is pictured at left, with his “6:45″ cast members Thomas G. Waites, Augie Duke, and…….?

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), March 19, 2020

In the midst of everything that’s come to pass within these last several days — the spawling spectre of a global pandemic; the calls for “social distancing” and unprecedented disruption to everyday/night life; the mandated curfews and closings of all places of public gathering — a body can almost take a curious kind of comfort from such dependably terrorific touchstones as spooky spirits, grisly murders, and descents into vortexes of hellish horror and madness.

Of course, staying home only feels safe and snug when the house in which one lives — in this correspondent’s case, the Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park — doesn’t happen to be an in-demand location for film crews from ghost-chaser TV shows, paranormal investigators, and producers of supernatural fright epics.

So it was that one recent winter’s day found the 140 year old historic site playing host to a large crew of young actors, technicians, and production assistants, led by Craig Singer, a veteran producer/ director/ screenwriter who’s worked with such diverse talents as Robin Givens, Neil Patrick Harris, Debbie Harry, Lainie Kazan, Matthew Lillard, Michael Rappaport, and Mickey Rourke.

The Jersey Shore native was back on familiar turf — Asbury Park, where several of his projects have been set and/or filmed — to lens a few scenes for his latest feature-length work in progress; a chiller entitled “6:45.” It’s a “time-loop” tale in which a man (young horror-movie veteran Michael Reed) is forced to re-live the same day over and over — a day that saw tragedy befall his female companion (Augie Duke of Netflix’s Messiah) on an outing to the seemingly benign New England seashore resort of Bog Grove. Think Groundhog Day if you must — only in place of the groundhog seeing his shadow, substitute a mysterious shrouded interloper known only as the Shadow Man.

“It’s a great feeling, to be back doing a low-budget indie film here on the Shore,” says the industry pro whose recent résumé includes a stint as an exec with the Disney organization (“a wonderful journey; incredible company”), a gig that he secured when the giant entertainment concern acquired a small Tribeca-based company co-founded by Singer. “I get to work with a young, hungry group of filmmakers — and I get to sleep in my own bed at night!”

Currently “knee deep in post-production,” the project that wrapped shooting this past Valentine’s Day also utilized locations that included downtown Asbury’s Bangs Avenue and exteriors in Ocean Grove, as well as additional “Bog Grove” settings in such Ocean County locales as Seaside Heights, Toms River, and Lavallette. The film that’s on track to hit the festival circuit in summer 2020 (a foreign distribution deal is also in the works) further boasts an intriguing supporting cast that includes veteran character actor Thomas G. Waites (“Windows” in the John Carpenter cult horror fave The Thing), hip hop artists Remy Ma and The 45 King — and, doing double duty as actor and co-producer, former pro boxing champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

“6:45” stars Augie Duke and Michael Reed (at front left) are pictured with Craig Singer and crew, on location in Toms River.

 “Ray’s an old hand at this — he’s done seven or eight films already, and he’s working here with his son Leo, where they play a couple of police detectives,” says Singer, who credits the fact that “I’m my own casting director” for 6:45’s eclectic ensemble. “I’ve actually been working with him for years, on a Mickey Rourke picture (Monkey’s Nest) that we’re hoping to start shooting in April.”

Rourke, of course, has his own strong Asbury connection courtesy of Homeboy, the grim 1988 boxing story (filmed almost entirely in the down-and-dirty Asbury Park of the late 80s) that predated the writer-star’s own foray into pro boxing. The actor would return to the AP waterfront in 2008 for his Oscar-nominated turn in The Wrestler — while Craig Singer would mine his fascination with the city in three other passionate projects.      Continue reading

MUSIC FROM BIG PORCH, DURING THIRD ANNUAL FEST IN AP

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 26, 2019

See, here’s the thing now: just in case you think we’ve closed the books on the big outdoor events of Summer (and Local Summer, Indian Summer, etc.), here comes still another multi-stage music festival promising to make a joyous noise in the weekend ahead. That said, think of Porchfest Asbury Park as the answer, the alternative, maybe even the antidote, to the street-closing sprawl, corporate branding, tightly regulated checkpoints, (traffic) jams and (wrist) bands of last week’s mega-extravaganza — a homegrown, street-level staycation that’s “for the Shore, played by the Shore,” in the words of Jordan Modell.

A co-chair of the Asbury Park Homeowners Association — the organizers and producers of Porchfest AP — Modell and his all-volunteer team are putting the finishing touches on this year’s third annual event; one that commandeers the front-facing spaces of nearly two dozen private residences and commercial properties around the city, for a strolling/rolling sonic smorgasbord that goes up this Saturday afternoon, September 28. Inspired by the original Porchfest project in Ithaca, NY — and supercharged by Modell’s past involvement with the successful yearly event in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain — the Asbury edition showcases more than 100 local/regional bands and solo performers, working in a mad myriad of styles, even as it shows off some of the grandest and most inviting porch-architecture in this celebrated seaside city.

Best of all, it represents an opportunity for multiple generations of creative people to connect with an audience of casual, committed, or even delightfully accidental listeners — in a format that offers attendees freedom of choice, freedom of movement, and absolutely free admission.

“The key word here is diversity, all around,” says Modell. “A really diverse range of sounds, in a diverse selection of settings — this year, we’re pleased to welcome our first host house in the southwest corner of town, and we hope to have more on board in the years to come.”

Continuing a recently minted tradition, Porchfest AP sounds the keynote at noon with an official kickoff inside Booskerdoo (1321-A Memorial Drive at Sunset Avenue), spotlighting singer-songwriter Ashley Delima. One of the coffee house’s neighbors at the Shops at Sunset Point strip — City by the Sea Veterinary Clinic — is among the newly added venues for 2019, with Modell explaining that “Dr. Tom has been very enthusiastic about the event…he’s sponsored one of our other porches,” an endorsement that allows each sponsor VIP porchside seating and a banner logo display.

Despite the participation of two commercial addresses (the other being frequent festival forum Hotel Tides on Seventh Avenue), the focus remains on the residential properties that transform into concert venues but once each year, with Modell emphasizing that “we like the fact that it’s private homes for the most part…it helps keep things More Asbury, For Asbury.”

With five more host properties in the mix for this year (and about 30 more acts taking part), Porchfest presents a walkable itinerary that the festival founder has praised as “a truly amazing mix of music, culture, and history,” and a perfect fit with the spirit of 21st century Asbury.

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IN ASBURY PARK, SHE’S SURE THE DARLENE WE LOVE

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, June 21 2018

It maybe didn’t qualify as the strangest sight that’s ever been seen around these parts; that day a few summers ago when a cherry-red classic Cadillac convertible eased onto the herringboned hardwoods of the Asbury Park boardwalk, cheered on by hundreds of onlookers, and numbering among its passengers the runaway rocker Joan Jett, and a surfboard-toting Paul Shaffer.

But for the woman behind the wheel, that sunny afternoon in July 2015 represented the home stretch of a fifty-plus years journey; one marked by detours off the main road every bit as much as victory laps. After a long career as that uncredited voice behind the hit song, or that kind-of familiar face on the movie screen, or that seasoned professional working her craft “twenty feet from stardom,” Darlene Love was finally in the driver’s seat, as the justly celebrated superstar of her own story.

The occasion was the filming of the official music video for “Forbidden Nights,” the (Elvis Costello-penned) single from the (Steven Van Zandt-produced) album Introducing Darlene Love — and as a crowd of camera-ready fans gathered in front of the shoot’s beachtop stage, the star of the show explained to a “making of” documentary crew that the people of Asbury Park “adopted me as their own…so when I come here, I automatically have fans that I didn’t know I had.”

A little more than a month later, Darlene Love was back on the boards; this time as the headline attraction for a Paramount Theater concert organized and produced by Van Zandt — one that found the veteran voice of countless Phil Spector recording sessions recreating that fabled “Wall of Sound” with the full faith and fury of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra. The vivacious vocalist whose 1960s work so inspired Van Zandt and his E Street Boss has returned many times to the area since; notably for a series of Yuletide-season concerts at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre.

As Ms. Love tells it, those shows grew out of the handful of songs that she performed on the Spector-produced A Christmas Gift for You, the 1963 album that overcame its bad-timing debut (it was released on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination) — as well as its Bad Santa association with the now jailed-for-life impresario — to trailblaze an entire new market for pop/rock holiday LPs. While Darlene appeared on the record as a member of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (whose space-age Spectorization of the Disney tune “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” was an oddball hit that caught the ear of young Springsteen) — and was billed under her own name for a set of secular seasonal favorites that included “Marshmallow World” (co-written by hit composer Peter DeRose, who owned a home on Asbury Park’s Eighth Avenue) — the real standout track was “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” the thrilling Ellie Greenwich-Jeff Barry original that, as it turns out, had a very influential fan in the person of one David Letterman.

“Dave gave me a brand new career,” she says of the late night host who made a tradition of inviting her to perform her signature “Christmas” song on his show a total of 29 times, beginning in 1986. “He dubbed me the Christmas Queen…and I’ve been really blessed to be remembered for it by so many people.”

Among the people who took notice from the start was the restaurateur-entrepreneur-philanthropist and eternal Shore musicmaker Tim McLoone, whose concerts with the positive force known as Holiday Express drew a tremendous part of their sonic signature from Love’s classic Christmas repertoire. In a break from the big-event settings for which the singer is best known, the bandleader has invited her to perform several times with his combo The Shirleys, in the more intimate environment of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club. On Friday night, June 22, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love joins Tim and the Shirleys for a special summertime set, inside McLoone’s sophisticated space at the top of the space-age landmark that famously and formerly housed Asbury’s HoJo’s restaurant. Set to start at 8 pm, it’s an evening that promises “a mix of my songs…I never know what we’re gonna do until he calls me” (it’s also, happily but also sadly, an event that’s apparently sold out as we post this).

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A ‘Bridge’ of souls on Bridge Avenue, at Two River premiere

Actor-playwright David Greenspan (fourth from left) tops the cast in his adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, on stage now at Two River Theater.  (Photos by T. CHARLES ERICKSON)

(Published in the Asbury Park Press on March 2, 2018)

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead,” wrote Thornton Wilder at the end of “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” the 1927 novel now on stage in a world premiere theatrical version at Red Bank’s Two River Theater, “…and the bridge is love.”

Those who’ve come to love Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning piece of work may find this “Bridge” to be an altogether different structure. But while it takes some ever-wilder liberties with the sometimes somber source material — a meditation on mortality and the seeming randomness of the Creator’s will, set in the aftermath of a rope-bridge collapse that kills five people — the dramatization by serial Obie Award winner David Greenspan manages to preserve the beating heart of the author’s core themes, even while losing the one presence who pretty much tied it all together.

Presented without intermission inside the Marion Huber space at Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center, Greenspan’s commissioned work finds the dynamic actor-playwright-director working once more with a company of fellow players, having recently wrapped a Guinness-level gig during which he performed a six-hour solo take on Eugene O’Neill’s mammoth “Strange Interlude.” He and the other eight members of the cast collaborate here under the direction of Two River returnee Ken Rus Schmoll, whose 2017 production “The Women of Padilla” served as satisfying prelude to this time-hopping tale centered around an 18th century Peruvian village.

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‘DWELLING’ ON THE PAST, AT NEW JERSEY REP

Left to right: Dustin Charles, Maria Couch, Dana Brooke and Jared Michael Delaney share space in “Multiple Family Dwelling,” the James Hindman play that premieres this weekend at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. Photos by SUZANNE BARABAS

It’s a play that’s ostensibly set in its author’s hometown of Mount Clemens, Michigan — but as James Hindman tells it, “Multiple Family Dwelling” was directly inspired by frontier tales of gentrification here on the Jersey Shore, specifically his own experiences house hunting in and around Asbury Park around the turn of the century.

“I was standing out front of an old house in Asbury, and just as the real estate agent was putting her key in the front door, a team of police in full militarized riot gear pulled up to the house next door, and surrounded the place with assault rifles,” the playwright recalls. “Without missing a beat, the realtor says, ‘See? The neighborhood’s cleaning up nicely!'”

While he eventually settled upon Bradley Beach as his down-the-shore base of operations, Hindman would make Asbury Park’s landmark Carousel House the 2010 premiere venue for “The Bikinis,” a jukebox-musical study of a (not always harmoniously) reunited 1960s girl group that’s gone on to more than 50 productions around the country. For his return to the Shore area stage, the writer and actor whose credits range from Broadway’s “Mary Poppins,” to a recurring role on Marvel Studios’ forthcoming Netflix series “Iron Fist” expanded a ten-minute playlet into the full length “Dwelling,” which opens this weekend as the latest in a long line of world premieres at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.

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ARKHAM TO ASBURY: A SHORE CITY’S BAT-CONNECTION

Jokers Cesar Jack

By TOM CHESEK/ Illustration by Jason Robinson

Published on the website 13th Dimension, November 2014

Although its exact GPS coordinates have been scrambled by ionic continuity-storms and various multiverse brainfarts, it’s been more or less accepted wisdom for the past quarter-century that Gotham City sits squarely within the state of New Jersey.

While scholars of the sequential arts have placed Batman’s bailiwick anywhere from Jersey City (where The Gotham apartment house “cuts a unique outline”) to Vineland in Cumberland County (where the infamous eugenicist Dr. Henry Goddard first coined the word “moron”), we submit that Gotham’s Earth-Prime sister lies somewhere in between, at a place Where the City Meets the Sea — a place called Asbury Park.

The connections and coincidences linking Old Gotham to Asbury are undeniable and irresistible — starting with their carefully mapped-out designs by Judge Solomon Wayne and Founder James Bradley respectively. Each would have its heyday as a fast-growing center of commerce, and as a barely contained capital of crime, played out on dark and desolate streets. There would be times during which the cities would be held hostage by twisted visionaries — and times when it appeared as though the denizens of the local Asylum had assumed control. Each would ultimately, arguably, get the mansion-dwelling, backstreets-patrolling hero it deserved.

The realities began to converge in the late 1920s, when a young go-getter of Cuban and Italian descent secured one of his first jobs, as a clerk in Betty Ruben’s Sports Shop on Asbury’s Cookman Avenue. Though he’d make his first big splash in Hollywood as The Cisco Kid — and the studios would mold the lifelong “confirmed bachelor” into a Latin Lover of exotic pedigree (his mom was reportedly the daughter of legendary Cuban freedom fighter Jose Martí), Cesar Romero was a resident of nearby Bradley Beach, NJ when he attended Asbury Park High School for two years (his sister Maria would later teach on the faculty there). Years after his leading-guy luster had gone grey, Romero caught the fancy of an all-new generation when he donned the green wig and purple suit of The Joker in Bill Dozier’s game-changing Batman series and its ’66 feature film. Striking just the right campy tone for the occasion — and putting forth an infectiously coocoo-for-coco-puffs energy — the kid from APHS made an indelible impression that kept him working in films and TV well into his ninth decade. While many modern Bat-ficionados prefer their Jokers a bit more malevolent, the release of the Batman ’66 set has prompted a fond reassessment of Romero’s brand of candy-colored vaudeville villainy — and the digitally remastered images have made abundantly clear what wasn’t always apparent on the black-and-white Admiral back in the day: that he truly continued to sport his signature mustache beneath the Joker’s ghastly greasepaint.

Even as Cesar Romero was appearing opposite Shirley Temple in 1937’s Wee Willie Winkie, an infant by the name of Jack Nicholson was born to a household in nearby Neptune City headed by a maternal figure named “Mud” — and intermittently featuring an older-sister figure named June. It wasn’t until 1974 that Jack, by then the celebrated prince of the New Hollywood, learned that “Mud” was actually his grandmother, and “sister” June the former showgirl who’d borne him out of wedlock. As a young beauty in the chorus line, June Nicholson had done a tap act at Asbury’s Monterey Hotel, performed with Earl Carroll’s Vanities, and danced locally with Shore area vaudevillians Donald Rose and Eddie King — both of whom were rumored at various times to have been the father of the Nicholson boy. It was King who was often seen running errands about Asbury Park accompanied by young Jack (whose comic book of choice, BATMAN, was in the words of biographer Patrick McGilligan “the house of his favorite villain…the Joker”). And it was Jack — operating with a malevolent leer that seemed to draw from both his own persona, and from Asbury’s iconic grinning gremlin “Tillie” — who defined The Joker for a new generation, when Tim Burton jumpstarted the latter-day superhero genre with a wink and a nudge in 1990. The serial Oscar winning screen legend has returned for impromptu, low-profile visits in recent years — and when he accepted his third Academy Award before a worldwide audience in 1997, Nicholson thanked a laundry-list of recently deceased friends that included former Asbury Park mayor Ray Kramer, for reasons that must remain clear only to Jack.

While it would be the late Heath Ledger who’d spirit away the Oscar gold as Gotham City’s Clown Prince of Crime, Asbury Park would stake further claim to another pantheon Batman baddie — The Penguin — when local guy Danny De Vito took on the role of the freakish fowl-deed doer in Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns. At just five foot solid from the boardwalk boards, the former sitcom supporting player seemed an unlikely movie star  — but the diminutive dynamo had entered the 90s as an A-list actor (Romancing the Stone, Tin Men), savvy producer (Pulp Fiction), and an in-demand director whose first big assignment, 1987’s Throw Momma from the Train, had been given its major premiere party at Asbury’s downtrodden Paramount Theatre (he’d outfit the mildewed landmark with an all-new projection booth for the occasion). It was a fitting homecoming for the Springwood Avenue storekeep’s son who attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grammar School, then worked (as “Mr. Danny”) in his sister Angela’s hair salon after graduation from high school. A role in the Off Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (and a connection to his good friend and roommate Michael Douglas) landed him his first fllm role opposite none other than Jack Nicholson — who he’d go on to co-star with and direct in Hoffa. Having creeped the bejeezus out of audiences with his surprisingly dark and un-Meredith-like interpretation of The Penguin, De Vito would continue to maintain a part-time residence in neighboring Interlaken, NJ — and would even take part in one of the allstar Bocce tournaments organized by ex-cop and local legend Anthony “Putt Putt” Petillo.

Of course none of these old Asbury habitues would be delineating the denizens of Gotham’s underworld were it not for the groundwork of Michael E. Uslan, executive producer of the latter-day Bat-franchise and a comics writer/ scholar/ collector who grew up just outside city limits in nearby Deal, NJ. The fanboy who’d be there for the very first ComiCons in the 1960s — and who’d go on to pen the memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman — made a homecoming of his own in 2011, when he chose the Asbury Park boardwalk and beachfront as the setting for a daylong Bat-fest of signing events, screenings and speeches. And it was there, within the seedy but still-grand Convention Hall of a city that many had given up for dead at the end of the past century, that some next-gen keeper of the flame surely stood transfixed; scheming of future days, and myriad ways, in which the salty old seaside city will continue to advance the lore and legend of grim Gotham.

You can find more of Jason Robinson’s amazing portrait work online at jasonrrobinson.com — and watch for Tom Chesek’s book LEGENDARY LOCALS OF ASBURY PARK, coming in spring 2015 from Arcadia Publishing. 

9/30: Turning the Mall Into Movie Nirvana

The Broken Circle Breakdown-Belgian director Felix van Groeningen’s THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN is among the more than 20 sneak preview films screening in Chuck Rose’s Arthouse Film Festival, starting October 1st at Monmouth Mall. 

There’s the notion of the Best Kept Secret…and then there’s the sort of gem that Hides in Plain Sight; in this case for the 20-plus years that the Arthouse Film Festival has been operating inside one of the most heavily trafficked locales in Monmouth County.

Formerly known as the Filmmakers Symposium series, Arthouse Fest is a twice-yearly slate of sneak-preview screenings from major Hollywood studios and indie distributors; a schedule of ten-week Fall and Spring sessions that unspools at the AMC Loews Monmouth Mall 15 multiplex on Tuesday evenings, beginning on the first of October (a concurrent series of Monday night screenings takes place at the AMC Loews on Route 22 in Mountainside).

It’s the work of one man — Chuck Rose, a unassuming guy from Brielle and a lifelong cinephile who’s worked variously as a film prof, a story editor, a director, and a correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter. And, while it’s not necessarily a cheap ticket (a five week half-session subscription runs $133), it’s a real opportunity to see some buzzed-about features on the big screen, long before anyone else…and in a setting that’s blissfully free of talking, texting, and any of the other behaviors that make a night at the multi such a pondersome purchase.

If you’d followed the Arthouse series from its inception, you’d have been among the first people on the planet to catch everything from Shawshank to Schindler’s…and you’d have been present for guest interviews with the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ethan Hawke, Famke Janssen, Viggo Mortenson, Aaron Sorkin, and Kevin Smith. The Fall 2013 session promises fare like director Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated 12 Years A Slave, in addition to Meryl Streep in August: Osage County and Nicole Kidman as Grace of Monaco; as well as the latest from Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey), the Coens (Inside Llewyn Davis), Clooney (The Monuments Men with Matt Damon), and David O. Russell (American Hustle with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence).

Features are generally announced close to screening time and never advertised; the idea is that it’s absolutely worth dropping what you’re doing to see these films, and to maybe take part in a Q&A with a very special invited guest. So how does Chuck Rose do it? Your upperWETside correspondent decided to investigate…

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5/3: A Multi-Track RIDE in Red Bank

lisa-kron-1-500x333“That was the greatest ride,” says Lisa Kron — or rather, Lisa Kron as her own diabetic, heart-diseased, legally blind father — in “2.5 Minute Ride,” a rollercoaster that rambles up one track on an outing to a sun-baked Midwest amusement park, and swoops down another on a pilgrimage to the dark heart of Auschwitz.

The one-woman show, for which Kron won an Obie Award in its 1999 staging at New York’s Public Theater, is being performed by its creator for the first time in several years, during an all new engagement at Red Bank’s Two River Theater. It’s a production that re-teams the playwright with director Mark Brokaw — as well as with Two River Theater Company’s John Dias, who brought her play “Well” to Broadway a few seasons back.

The title notwithstanding, “2.5 Minute Ride” is an approximate hour and a half of high comedy, matter-of-fact tragedy, poignant fantasy — and the reality that life means having to drive many hours to get from one to the other. Framed as an unseen slide show on a sparsely appointed stage (designer Allen Moyer works with lighting director Philip Rosenberg and the audience’s own imagination to fill in the “missing” elements), the play finds Kron, laser pointer in hand, quantum-leaping from the slapstick sitcom of her aging family’s annual caravan to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio — to the “malevolent ground” of the Birkenau death camp, where she accompanies her ailing father on a trip to the place in which his parents met their fate.

Delivered by the playwright in a largely breezy, conversational tone that doesn’t let the pace flag for a second, it’s a “Ride” that hurtles willy-nilly through time more so than space; a midway attraction that travels parallel tracks, branching off into unexpected detours  — a strangely funny scene at a Winona Ryder movie, a Gestapo member’s thought-provoking words to his interrogators, a supermarket encounter with the ghosts of Kron’s grandparents — that somehow converge on a satisfying end point. It may take a moment to realize that the ride has reached its conclusion, but a conclusion has most surely been reached.

Kron is hardly the first performer-playwright to have collaged a solo show from a scrapbook of family memories (or to have used the spectre of the Holocaust as the glue that holds the images in place), but unlike too many “Journey to Me” theatrical pieces, the author is not the center around which the universe revolves — she’s an observer-participant who cedes the spotlight to her impressions of her notoriously picture-phobic mother; a crippled and contrary aunt; a cantankerous closet-case uncle and a lonely brother whose Jewish Singles explorations lead him to embrace the Orthodox faith. The implication is that all of these people reside within her to varying degrees — and that it takes an understanding of these (at times unsympathetic) figures to form a portrait of the storyteller.

An out lesbian in a clan that would just as soon never have to attend another wedding — and a self-appointed caretaker who’s often in need of directions herself — the Lisa Kron of the script uses keynotes like food to trigger jumps between memories, and goes from complaining about the Sandusky theme park to wishing that the hopelessly confusing real-world Poland of her travels was replaced by a more easily navigable “Poland World.”

Lisa Kron has the take-no-prisoners timing of a battle-tested standup comic, the sizing-up savvy of a seasoned sideshow barker, the laser-honed instincts of a photojournalist, and the entrancing oral-tradition skills of that one good friend whose stories are a joy to listen to. She’s no slouch as a playwright and a performer either, and for the duration of this “Ride” she’s got the audience strapped in right where she wants them.

“2.5 Minute Ride” continues with a mix of matinee and evening performances through May 12. Tickets ($20 – $65 adults) can be obtained by calling (732)345-1400 or visiting www.trtc.org.