Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Closing for Ka-Son

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA held a Closing Reception as a fitting adieu honoring the work of Ka-son Reeves who began showing his work at the establishment as part of their “Espresso Yourself” Series on Friday March 4th and will continue to do so until Sunday May 1st. A large number of people came out to experience the engaging work which included long time fans of the artist who‘ve come to appreciate the deeper meanings and intricacies of the work, colleagues who have come to respect the artist’s skills, and those who entered the Coffeehouse merely seeking a beverage and discovered something to quench their artistic thirst waiting for them upon its walls.

The music accompanying the reception was provided a favorite among those who frequent The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse. Jeni Hacket shared her repertoire of established and original songs to the delight of those who experienced them. The music enhanced the conversations inspired by the work some attendees engaged in while others were either silenced as they embraced her voice or playfully moved to the joous rhythms and lyrics embodied in many of the songs. In any case, the art and music combined to create a wonderful atmosphere as those present said and affectionate and appreciative “Good bye” to Ka-Son Reeves and the work that inspired them while preparing their anticipations to welcome another fine artist who will be presented upon the Cheeky Monkey’s walls in the near future.

The next Artist’s Reception The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse* in Stroudsburg, PA will feature the work of David Ohkerling as a continuation of their “Espresso Yourself” Series and be held on Friday May 6th beginning at 6pm. This Exhibition will continue until June 30th. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Cheeky Monkey 2011 Gallery at

Future events at The Cheeky Monkey include their Open Mic Night with Takes place every Tuesday evening, The “Just Say It: A Spoken Word Symposium” events which take place every Thursday evening, The Urban Mountain Voices’ Youth Open Mic Night on Saturday May 28th, and The Forwardian Arts Society Film Lovers’ Gathering on Friday May 13th. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse also offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at or Call 570-420-8222 for more information.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Springtime for Gershwin at ESU

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) of PA presented their Music Department’s Spring Choral Concert titled, “A Gershwin Portrait” under the direction of Dr. James Maroney on Wednesday April 27th in The Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall which is located within the Campus‘ Fine and Performing Arts Building. The concert featured the ESU A Cappella Ensemble, their Concert Choir which consists of both University Students and members of the community, and a small orchestra comprised of musicians well known for their considerable talents.

The recital hall was nearly filled to capacity when the ESU A Capella Ensemble took the stage. Their combined voices created a soulful harmony on which each audience member could linger long after the performance came to its conclusion. The Ensemble’s performance was followed by the Concert Choir whose blend of voices transcended even the those who came before allowing each concert attendee to appreciate the art of music and all it can inspire even more. It wasn’t long before the evening’s musicians entered the recital hall to lend their instruments to the vocals in order to present the selections composed by George and Ira Gershwin. These selections were presented in six sections.

The First Section was titled, “Opening” which served as a reflection of how the composers’ introductory musical prelude created an anticipation to the larger work which was to follow. The Second Section was titled, “Gershwin at the Opera” which explored their contributions to the Operatic Arts through the compositions they created through their opera “Porgy and Bess” which premiered in 1935. The Third Section was titled, “A Gershwin Swing Set” which reflected the influence the musical styles of the era had on the composers. The remaining sections furthered illustrated the influences the times had on the composers as well as the influences the composers had on the times. This was notably demonstrated by the concluding segment titled, “Sing a Gershwin Showstopper” which included songs contained in musicals and other works which stood out by basically stopping the show.

Although there were many wonderful voices that contributed to the performance, they are too many to record in this article. However, there were a number of soloist and duals who lent their voices to the evening and they should be noted here. They are Danielle Tretola, Deanna Knapp, Janay Keys, Robert Wehe David Yablonski, Dawn Krautter, Patrick Mertz, Susan C. Prtune, Lauris Braman, Krista Montgomery, and Hillary Beal.

As mentioned earlier, the small orchestra comprised of musicians known for their considerable talents. They were Pat Turner on Flute, Clarinet, and Tenor Sax, Danny Sahn and Patrick Dorian on Trumpet, Jim Daniels on Trombone, Paul Rostock on Bass, Bob D’Aversa on Drums, and Pauline Fox (who also served as the Choir’s Accompanist) on Piano. The music they created to accompany the singers enhanced the program which led the audience to their feet at it’s conclusion. You’ll find more photographs taken during the concert in The Music 2011 Gallery at

The ESU Spring Choral Concert was the final one for the 2011 Spring Semester. Other music related presentations for the remainder of the semester to be performed in The Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall includes The Pocono Flute Society Concert on Saturday April 30th at 7pm and The 24th Annual Spring Band Concert on Sunday May 1st at 7pm featuring The University/Community Concert Band as directed by Otis French and The University Percussion Ensemble as directed by Jim Wilson. The Student Voice Recitals featuring the Students of James Maroney and Wendy Grice will take place Tuesday May 3rd and 6th at 7:30pm.

The ESU Concert Choir invites all students, faculty, and staff along with community members who love the art of music and our like to perform in their 2011 Fall Semester Concert to join them. The rehearsals will begin Tuesday August 30th at 7:15pm. The Semester’s Concert is scheduled to take place Wednesday December 7th. Please Contact The ESU Music Department at 570-422-3483 for more information.

Artful Portfolios Abound at ESU

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) of PA held an Artists’ Reception on Wednesday April 27th for their Senior Seminar and Portfolio in Art Student Exhibition in The Madelon Powers which is located within the Campus‘ Fine and Performing Arts Building. The well attended event presented many colorful portfolios which were created by the artists in order to be shown to potential employers and galleries so their work will be displayed and/or utilized in the commercial field.

In addition to the students who presented their portfolios, there were several participants from the ESU Art Department who had their work hung in the gallery. After a brief introduction by the professor moderating the independent studies, each student began describing the processes that went into their work. This also included the sharing of insights relating to the pieces, art, and life they have gained along their creative journey.

The artists who presented their work includes John Carroll, Elizabeth Dugan, Drew Dvorsky, Kevin Galligan, Amanda Hoffman, Agnetta Krechner, Ben Koch, Ashlay Mytyk, Trevor Nash, Tanisha Parker, Malinda Peters, Christopher Schtzle, Evan Sells, Stephan Simork, Maria Sorrentino, and Nicole Thomas. The work of each artist caught the eye and captured the imagination. It leaves one hard pressed to contemplate why any gallery or industry would not want to have the talents of these students a part of their endeavors. The Exhibition Continues until May 4th. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery at

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) of PA Senior Seminar and Portfolio in Art Student Exhibition is the final Exhibition for the 2011 Spring Semester. However, the Fall 2011 Semester which takes place between the months of September and December will provide plentiful opportunities to experience the creative energies the University’s students have become well known for. Please Contact The ESU Art Department at 570-422-3216 for more information.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth Day at Night

As a chilled darkness touched the streets of Stroudsburg, PA, a small group of dedicated individuals traveled upon its sidewalks on Friday April 22nd brought an eternal light to the town. This light was reflected by the candles they held as they were warmed by their flames and the camaraderie they shared. This Special Celebration of Earth Day was organized by a group dedicated to protecting and enhancing the environment called, “Heartsphere” and, while the gathering who walked the streets of Stroudsburg were small in number, they were not alone. Several businesses along the town’s main street turned off their lights for an hour in order to express their appreciation for all this planet has given them.

These businesses included The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse, Goombas Pizza, Le Persil Bistro, and Brooklyn Hero‘s Italian Deli. The celebration also included music provided by Holly Avilla whose performance in front of Brooklyn Hero‘s Italian Deli included opportunities for those who attend to sing along and to follow the beat of her selections upon some drums that were provided by Heartsphere. The parents and children who shared the first steps of this gathering were soon joined by passersbys who discovered a joy and understanding which they placed in the sphere of their hearts. Lorraine Fritz of The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse came by to bring some Vanilla Lattes to add warmth to the souls who gathered that night. You’ll find more photographs taken during the celebration in the Special Events 2011 Gallery at

Heartsphere offers ecologically minded individuals Heart-Centered programs which foster and spark deeper awareness, respect, and knowledge leading to living life in a balance reflected through the acknowledgment of our interconnectedness with all life in the immediate and greater environment. You’ll be able to learn more about Heartsphere and all they have to offer by exploring their website at or by contacting them at

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Films Fit for a Forwardian

On a seasonally warm Spring day, The Forwardian Arts Society held their 1st Annual Forwardian Film Festival at The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA on Friday April 15th.. The event featured five short films showcasing the talents of local filmmakers and actors and was greeted by a vast number of film lovers who came to enjoy the works and the meaningful conversations they would inspire. The evening would end with a deeper appreciation of the skills and techniques a filmmaker must employ to manifest their cinematic dreams.

After a few welcoming remarks, the festival began with a screening of “Misty Mountain” which is a science fiction piece from Denmark dealing with time travel. It starred local actor Bob Walz who was present during the festival. The film had the ability to draw many who experienced into the world it created which moved from the past to the present in unique ways. The enjoyment of this film was enhanced by the insights of its creation provided by Bob himself.

The second film was titled, “The Lottery” which was based on a short story written by Shirley Jackson. It was published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1948 and received a very negative response due to its controversial themes. This response was so profound, readers canceled their subscription and the story was banned in the Union of South Africa. Since then, it has been accepted as a classic short story while being taught in schools as an example of what a short story is capable of accomplishing in the literary world. Again, Bob Walz, who appeared in the film, lent some insights to how the film was made.

The third film was titled, “lucky” and was filmed as a theatrically staged drama featuring three characters who were a little bit on the criminally shady side. This character driven piece captivated the audience with its dialogue and it’s filming techniques. Again, Bob Walz, who appeared in the film, lent some insights to how the film was made.

The forth film was titled, “Battle of the Bedpan.” As its title suggests, this was a comedy about an elderly man who wages a battle with his home care nurse. This leads to some very funny antics inspiring some light hearted chuckles from the audience. Again, Bob Walz, who appeared in the film, lent some insights to how the film was made.

The film was followed by a brief intermission which allowed the audience to partake of the many delicious beverages The Cheeky Monkey has to offer while commenting on the sinfully satisfying cookies the establishment offered as a complimentary treat to be enjoyed while watching the films. The Cheeky Monkey also provided an opportunity for the participants to support the publication of The Forwardian Arts Society’s Literary and Arts Magazine titled, “Forwardian” though a raffle with prizes donated by the establishment. This proved to be a very joyous and unexpected addition to the festival as those in attendance gleefully took advantage of the opportunity.

The final film shown during the festival as titled, “Spill” and starred Joseph Paul Carnevale who appears at The Cheeky Monkey during its monthly Comedy Night featuring the Off Track Players. The film was a comedy about a janitor who learns of an art competition and decides to participate when he also learns there is no experience necessary. The film reveals he not only is lacking any artistic experience but he is also lacking the tools and equipment he needs to create his work of art. This leads to an amusing process as he endeavors to manifest his masterpiece using the objects that are readily available to him. Other than the music on it’s sound track, the film was presented in silence. Many have commented on how this aspect of the film communicated its ideas more effectively than if there were any spoken words employed. Luckily, Joseph was present during the festival to share his experiences with the audience.

The screenings was followed by a discussion in which conversations led to friendships and a deeper love for the art of film. The winners of the raffle were also selected and the prizes were awarded. The festival ended with many words of appreciation and news of The Forwardian Arts Society’s upcoming monthly Film Lovers Gatherings. The next one is scheduled for Friday May 20th at 7pm and all film lovers are welcomed to attend this free event. The film shown will be selected from those suggested by the festival’s attendees and will be announced at a later date. You’ll find more photographs taken during The First Forwardian Film Festival in The Forwardian Arts Society 2011 Gallery at

The next event held at The Cheeky Monkey will be an Artist’s Reception featuring the work of David Ohkerling held on Friday May 6th beginning at 6pm. This Exhibition will continue until June 30th. Other future events at The Cheeky Monkey include their Open Mic Night taking place every Tuesday evening, The “Just Say It: A Spoken Word Symposium” events taking place every Thursday evening, their comedy night featuring the Off Track Players on Friday May 27th, and The Urban Mountain Voices’ Youth Open Mic Night on Saturday May 20th. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at or call 570-420-8222 for more information.

The Forwardian Arts Society is a fellowship for people who love the arts seeking to enhance the creative community by encouraging those interested in the arts to go forward toward their dreams, by supporting those groups and individuals who are manifesting their dreams through performances and/or presentations, and by loving them and all they do. In addition to their annual Forwardian Film Festival, the Film Lovers’ Gatherings, and their literary and arts magazine titled, “Forwardian” mentioned earlier, The Forwardian Arts Society presents a series of “ArtSmash of the Poconos” festivals showcasing the creativity of all visual and performing artists throughout the creative community. These festivals are presented at various times and locations throughout the Summer. The Forwardian Arts Society also offers information and news relating to the arts through its website. Please Explore The Forwardian Arts Society Website at to learn more information about all they have to offer the creative community.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Theatrical Review: Blithe Spirit

Theatrical Review: Blithe Spirit
Written by: Sir Noël Peirce Coward
Directed by: Stephanie French
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

“HAIL to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert—
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.”

From “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre and Stage II presented their production of “Blithe Spirit” written by Sir Noël Peirce Coward who was well known as a versatile creative force especially during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Not only was he a playwright, he also acted and directed a number of productions and composed several songs which were equally popular. His plays became known for their wit and flamboyant style which reflected his own personality traits. He was knighted in 1969 and continued writing until shortly before the time of his death in 1973 at the age of 74.

As with almost all productions presented at ESU, the first experience of the play the audience encounters it the well designed and visually stunning set. The scene created for “Blithe Spirit” is no exception. The scenic designer and the construction crew who built the walls, floors, staircase, and other fixtures didn’t just decorate the stage, but built a house in which became a well pronounced character contributing its impressive attributes to the play. Several audience members were seen stumbling while taking their seats as their attentions were consistently distracted by the shear scope and detail of what lied before them on stage.

However, presenting this degree of detail and craftsmanship upon a stage is a very risky venture. It brings the expectations of what the audience will experience once the play begins to a very high level. If the acting or blocking of the play doesn’t meet the scene’s standards, a great disappointment may become prevalent in spite of the fact the theatrical experience would have been very satisfying with a more modest approach to the set’s design. But, as this reviewer is pleased to report, this was not a concern for this production as the acting and direction not only met the expectations created by the scenic design but exceeded them to a great degree.

“Blithe Spirit” was written in 1941 during the WWII bombing of London and was first presented in the city’s theatrical district known as the “West End” where it set a record for non-musical British plays with nearly 2000 performances. It ran for over 650 performances in the New York, NY theatre district known as Broadway and adapted was to film in 1945. Noel Coward also created a musical version of the play titled “High Spirits” which appeared on Broadway in 1964. The title of the play is taken from the poem “To a Skylark” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1820.

“Blithe Spirit” has often been served as a shining example of a comedic style known as “comedy of Manners” or “Bedroom Comedy” which are considered the highest form of comedy. The lowest forms are often said to be “Puns” and “Slapstick.” Perhaps this is because they generally get more laughs from a larger spectrum of people. Regardless of one’s understanding of comedy or one’s level in regards to their sense of humor, this production manages to mix the sophistication and humor Noel Coward was well known for into a delightful concoction enjoyable to any comedic palate.

The play begins when an author named Charles Condomine (as portrayed by Gabryal Rabinowitz) and his wife Ruth (as portrayed by Kristin Walsh) invites their friends Dr. Bradman (as portrayed by Shamus Halloran) and his wife Mrs. Bradman (as portrayed by Kimberly Konczos) to a séance in order to gather material for a future book relating to the paranormal. Except for the highly infectious comedic entrances made by their maid Edith (as portrayed by Stephanie Clare), the play’s beginning seems rather boring and contains the overly dignified upper crust British traits commonly associated with the well to do citizens of the island nation. However, it is soon revealed these archaic and heavy handed mannerisms merely serves as a counterweight to the frivolity that delightfully dominates the majority of the play.

The entrance of Madame Acarti (as portrayed by Marshall Haskell who also served the production as part of its set construction crew) enlivens the play with her (well his) other worldly presence especially after a few martinis are consumed. This presence of Madame Acarti is soon enhanced by the arrival of the spirit of Charles’ first wife Elvira (as portrayed by Shannon Leigh Christmann). It is interesting to note the play seems rather dull until those akin to the dead show up. As a quote accredited to Sir Noël Peirce Coward presented in the play’s program states, “We have no reliable guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one, have we?” Well, the afterlife may not be “any less exasperating” but it seems those who dwell in it have a bit more fun as they’re able (perhaps due to the lack of the daily cares and social constrictions encountered in the living life) to let their hair down.

The plot of “Blithe Spirit” develops as the relationship between Charles and his long dead wife begins to rekindle. This first concerns his present wife, Ruth, who feels his mental condition is deteriorating. However, once it is proven to her the ghost does exist, she feels the jealousy and frustration known to anyone who ventured into a relationship with someone who has a deceased spouse. It is quite unsettling to have one’s attempts to gain undivided attention and affection when there’s an unseen and irreproachable pedestaled entity in their midst.

However, Ruth does not sit idly by while her husband is our “dilly dallying” (did I really write that?) about with his former wife. She soon contacts Madame Acarti and plots to get rid her undead rival once and for all. She is also not above telling her rival off through a series of angry exchanges which are often misdirected as she doesn’t have any idea where Elvira is at any given point in time. All this adds to the comic effect of the work and it is presented with great deal of relish by the cast. The sense the actors truly enjoyed themselves while being on stage made them a joy to watch.

The play was further enhanced by musical performances of several songs written by Sir Noël Peirce Coward. These songs were sung by members of the cast along with Karen Guilliams (who served the production by providing Sound Effects) and Paula Dixon creating a zeitgeist allowing the audience to place themselves in the times the play was written and first presented. It is rumored the director replaced some scenes from the original work in order to include the songs.

This directorial act may stir some degree of controversy as many theatrical purists feel all works should be presented on stage as written by the playwright unaltered. However, this seldom happens as even the best of actors often forget every single word they’re given in a script and occasionally resort to adlibbing a few words or sentences here and there. This is recognized as acceptable as long as the actor stays in character and it doesn’t cause other actors to forget their lines. There is also a school of thought the director may override the script in order to reveal a more meaningful production. This “going off book” is often done to emphasize aspects found through a deeper analysis of the play and not readily apparent in the work as written.

While this reviewer can readily associate himself with either side of the argument, it seems Ms. French’s approach (if the rumor is true) does the Sir Noël Peirce Coward’s work a great service by including his songs to underscore the period and thus bringing an enhanced understanding to a modern audience. These changes (if they occurred as rumored) reflected a deep respect and admiration to the play which was translated well to the audience. It would be quite a challenge to find any member of the audience not wishing to see another Noel Coward play even if they knew of the alleged changes that was made to the work. Of course, if the rumored this reviewer shared is untrue, a reader might rightfully suppose those who originated it is full of what those who practice the art of theatre refer to as “Blockage.” Regardless of this or any other rumor that may be associated with this production, it is a well acted and directed one.

This reviewer seldom mentions the technical aspects of the theatrical art other then those comments directed to the scenic design of the piece due to the fact technical theatre was never my forte. I do know, however, there are certain effects one can gain with lighting that creates a mood along with a sense of time and space. It would be remiss to conclude this review without mention of the uncanny and impressive lighting presented during the production which illustrates this property in textbook exactness. If for no other reason to see this play (and there are a multitude of reasons beyond this one), the effects of lighting can have to enhance a scene should be experienced.

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre and Stage II production of “Blithe Spirit” by Sir Noël Peirce Coward was Directed by Stephanie French (who also served as the production’s Vocal Coach as assisted by Michelle Jones) and was assisted with her directorial duties by Felicia Revero who also served the production as a member of the set construction crew. The production was Stage Managed by Jessica Pachuta who also served as one of the production’s Props Assistants. She was assisted by Elyse Burnett and Zenobia Colah who both served the production further as Prop Assistants. Margaret Joyce Ball served the production as its Musical Director and Vocal Coach while Charles Cole served as the production’s pianist. The English Dialect and Cultural Advisor was Patricia McKenzie.

Yoshinori Tanokura designed the set as assisted by Tiffany Cruz (who also was a part of the Set Construction Crew and was a scenic artist) and Costumes as assisted by Ahleea Zama and Gillian Reinartz. The Lighting was designed by Wilburn Bonnell while Robert McIntyre served as the production‘s Master Electrician (as well as a member of the production’s Set Construction Crew) and was assisted by Katie Dembesky, Kelsey Pulzone (who also served as a member of the production’s Set Construction Crew and prop assistant), Mary Dennis (who also served the production as a member of the Set Construction Crew), Tim Carpenter, and Tyler Whitman who was also the production‘s Spotlight Operator. The Light Board Operator was Meg Dowling who also served the production as a member of the Set Construction Crew and Property Master, Michael Thomas was the production’s Technical Director and also served as a member of the production’s Set Construction Crew.

Stephanie Carifi was the production’s Hair and Make Up Designer as assisted by Agnetta Kerchner who both served as Costume and Makeup Artists alongside Sarah Martins. The hairstylist for Elvira was Caitlyn Pulzone. The House Managers were Joey Dougherty and Joey Goldstein while the Box Office Managers were Justin O’ Hearn and Mervant Rivera. The Poster and Program Cover Design for the production was done by Greg Back. Those members of the Set Construction Crew not already mentioned are Eric Lang, Michelle Tuite, Brad Reigner, Paul Cenci, and Spencer Hartey. Yoshi Tanokura was a Scenic Artist and Tyler Adams and Jackie Knollhuff were part of the running crew.

This production of “Blithe Spirit” by Sir Noël Peirce Coward will continue its run at The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center in it’s Smith-McFarland Theatre until April 17th and is recommended for those who wish to partake in a theatrical experience from a bygone time that is kept alive. From its beginning with the high powered frantic entrance of Edith who delighted the audience to the superbly droll appearance of Charles, Ruth, and their borderline snobbish friends, to the wildly bizarre Madame Acarti, to Elvira whose spirited manifestation enchants the entire audience toward some otherworldly laughter, this is one play not to be passed over. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information about future productions and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by David Dougherty of

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Theatrical Review: “Love, Sex, and the I. R. S.”

Theatrical Review: “Love, Sex, and the I. R. S.”
Written by: William “Billy” Zandt and Jane Milmore
Directed by: Debbie Kilfoil
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented Prestige Productions’ “Love, Sex, and the I.R.S” by William “Billy” Zandt and Jane Milmore. The play (originally titled, “Tax My Mistress”) was written in 1979 and has become a favorite among numerous community theatre companies who perform it during the US Federal Tax filing season whose deadline is April 15th. However, it has also been presented in foreign countries as well. It is known for its plentiful sight gags, double entendre, and funny lines. This production of “Love, Sex, and the I. R. S” presented them all intact.

The play centers around the premise a young man named “Jon Trachtman” (as portrayed by Joe Arner) has been filing his Federal income tax returns declaring his roommate, “Leslie Arthur” (as portrayed by Jim Lynch), as his wife for several years. Complications (which are more of them in this play than the tax code itself) begin when Jon discovers he’s being audited in which he tells Leslie of his deception and pleads with him to present himself as his wife when the Auditor, named, “Floyd Spinner” (as portrayed by Fred Broadbent) arrives. Of course, he agrees.

I did mention there’s a lot of complications in the plot of this play, didn’t I? Well, here are a few of them. Jon is having a romantic relationship with a woman named “Kate Dennis” (as portrayed by Samantha Crawn) who is also having a romantic relationship with Leslie with whom she plans to leave Jon for. Leslie has a girl friend named “Connie” (as portrayed by Jenell Manzi) who he loves but is broken hearted since he feels his love for her is unrequited. Jon and Leslie rent their apartment from Mr. Jensen (as portrayed by Dan Luddeni) who has a clause in their rental agreement that no unmarried couples are allowed to cohabitate which allows him to check the apartment from time to time to make sure there are no women living there. Then, there’s Jon’s mother “Vivian Trachtman” (as portrayed by Pat Van Varick) who further complicates things as only a mother could. This is especially evident when she obtains a Justice of the Peace, named, “Arnold Grunion” (as portrayed by Merlin Clarke) to marry her son and her “Fiancé.” Are you still with me?

The play does seem a bit dated as many of the attitudes among the characters toward women, homosexuals, and life in general are associated with those prevalent nearly 30 years ago. Even the style of acting is reminiscent of the time. This is especially true of Jim Lynch’s over the top performance of his role which brought to mind a combined Tony Randall and Jack Lemmon “Odd Couple” performance. However, if one can remember they’re watching a play written during (as the author once mentioned in a reminiscence of his work) “a more innocent age when a car jack was something you fixed a tire with and crack was something you saw on a plumber,” its fun and frivolity shines through making it an enjoyable theatrical experience and one comes to realize Jim Lynch could not portray his character any other way without betraying what the author intended.

In fact, the overall acting was spot on and enhanced the comedic effect of the production. The timing was very fast paced as a slapstick comedy requires while taking the time to slow it down long enough for the audience to absorb a gag line delivered in the mayhem. This balance is a very difficult thing to achieve and the direction of the play given by Debbie Kilfoil creates this balance with a great deal of finesse. And, the 1980’s mindset of the play soon becomes as easily forgotten as the realizations modern feminism can be while enjoying William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

The Shawnee Playhouse presentation of Prestige Productions of William “Billy” Zandt and Jane Milmore’s “Love, Sex, and the I. R. S.” was Directed by Debbie Kilfoil and was Stage Managed by Irene Garner. The set was designed by Mike Crawn while Joseph Bednarchik served as the production’s Lighting Director. All of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are produced by Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood. The Executive of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky while its group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Chrissy McMannus and Ariel Hudak. Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director.

Prestige Productions’ “Love, Sex, and the I. R. S.” by William “Billy” Zandt and Jane Milmore continues its run until April 17th. It’s fun night at the theatre and I would recommend seeing it to anyone who would enjoy a good laugh or a mere smile. In any case, the joyously complicated roller coaster ride is worth the price of admission. Just bring some smelling sauce or some bad smelling cheese to revive yourself.

Prestige Productions is creator of The State Theatre of Easton, PA Summer Acting Camp. It is directed by Denise Crawn and is now in its 9th year teaching young people the skills associated with the theatrical arts. The 2011 Summer Acting Camp will be held July 11th - 22nd with a camp recital held Saturday July 23rd. To learn more about Prestige Productions and their Summer Acting Camp (including registration information), please Explore The State Theatre Website at of call 610-252-3132.

Future presentations at The Shawnee Playhouse will include The Center Stage Players production of “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney April 22nd - May 1st, “The Seafarer” by Conor McPherson, “River’s Edge: The Story of Shawnee” by Midge McClosky and Rod Foote May 20th - September 2nd, “Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters” by Beth Gilleland, Bob Beverage, and Raymond Berg June 1st - September 3rd, and “Nunsense 2: The Second Coming” by Dan Goggin June 17th - September 4th. Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of The Shawnee Playhouse Productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies). Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at for more information and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Elementary, My Dear Dreamland

The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Sunday April 3rd which featured the work of numerous artists for their exhibition titled, “The Elements Show.” As with all their themed exhibitions, “The Elements Show” provided artists an opportunity to explore their creative imaginations as they are encouraged to devise their own interpretation to what the particular theme means to them and how it should be envisioned. This never fails to lead to an array of styles and approaches to the theme which enhances the experience for those who attend the exhibition as well.

The were many depictions of Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire which are elements most familiar to many who attended the show. But, there were many pieces that challenged the imagination to decipher its association to the theme. Some of the images examined and even re invented the very nature of these familiar elements while other artists explored an entirely new direction. This led those who experienced the work to a deeper understanding of the theme inspiring them to questions such as “What is the elemental nature of the world we experience?, of life?, of my very being?”

As if to propagate this line of questioning further, the music for the evening was provided by Rezlep and the Apparatus. Rezlep is well known for is ability to up the ante of consciousness through his multilayered performances in which he combines his original lyrics and music with dialogues from films and other audio sources. It’s a mind trip into the macabre that invites all who come to listen to partake of. The elements we are accustomed to are twisted and distorted to the point where we begin to see their true essence and recognize aspects we have been taught to forget. It is through listening to Rezlep and the Apparatus we begin to fully understand what many of the artists were trying to convey through their work and we become more enlightened because of it. The pairing of the visual work and music was an excellent one to experience.

The visual artists participating in “The Elements Show” include Rendi, J. J. Schutz, Shane Izykowski, Abby Braman, Michael S. Cooke, Brianna Ace, Ana Marie Hendricks, Myke Maldonado, Tim Nebel, Shirley Escribano, Susan Field, Will Mohlenhoff, Crystal Handelong, Noel Leas, Alison Grey, Ka-son Reeves, Mary McCauley, Victoria Penna, Janet, Morgan Lola Crespo, Sander Martijn, Heather Hummel, Mark Purcell, david Schappert, Joel Vazquez, Emilio Arostequi, Sean Cash, Sophie Crumb, Chris Frantz, Fake 111, and Paul (yeah, that‘s me). The Exhibition continues until May 30th. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Dreamland Creations 2011 Gallery at

The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA serves as a studio where individuals can adorn their forms with a variety of body art such as tattoos and piercing reaching out to the vast community of conventional and non mainstream artists throughout the area. Their next Artists’ Reception will feature numerous artists who will present their work for an exhibition titled, “The Mythology Show.” The reception will take place Sunday June 5th beginning at 4pm. The Exhibition will continue until August 1st. Please Explore The Dreamland Creations Website at or call 570-421-6313 for more information about the artists, the current and future exhibitions, and all they have to offer.

The Art of Rendi at the Jukebox

The Main St. Jukebox in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception on Saturday April 2nd which featured the works created by an artist simply known as Rendi who is well known throughout the area for his skills in creating body art (aka tattoos) for those who wish to adorn their earthly and spiritual forms. There were those among the numerous attendees who are intimately familiar with his life enhancing endeavors but much of this was not on display due to the chilled outdoor temperatures still prevalent in the Pocono Areas of PA. However, the pieces placed along the walls of The Main Street Jukebox provided an insight to the artist’s imagination from which they are of a common origin.

The public display of Rendi’s work inspired those who came to experience it an opportunity to explore the nether regions of spirits in order to discover the lighter and darker aspects of their beings. However, this journey was not as a solemn one as one might expect as many of the pieces contained a great deal of humor which served to lighten our loads while we traveled with the artist to our individual destinations. In doing so, we come to realize embracing both the darker and lighter aspects of our beings allows us to accept ourselves as a whole thus enriching our experiences and relationships in the human realm with ourselves and others.

The musical guest performing for the reception was Rezlep and the Apparatus who has become quite well known and a favorite among who frequent The Main Street Jukebox. By combining original music and lyrics along with segments of dialogues lifted from films and other sources, a world is opened up before the audiences who are present during his performance who Rezlep mischievously invites to explore. Once they enter, he is free to amuse, bemuse, and confuse them until they are filled with a delightful uncertainty of where this journey will lead while tempered by a thoughtful laughter deriving from the fact the trip is a very enjoyable one. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Main Street Jukebox 2011 Gallery at

In addition to the Art Exhibitions held at The Main Street Jukebox, they offer recordings made on CDs, Tapes, and Vinyl. The Artwork of Rendi Exhibition continues until April 29th. The Next featured event to be held at The Main Street Jukebox will be their annual Record Store Day on Saturday April 16th beginning at 10am. During the day, there will be special sales on records and live music. The Next Exhibition will feature The Art of Shirley Escribano with an Artist’s Reception held on Saturday May 7th beginning at 6pm. The exhibition will continue until May 27th. Please Explore The Main St. Jukebox Website at or call 570-424-2246 for more information about these events and all they have to offer.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Theatrical Review: “Skyscraper”

Theatrical Review: “Skyscraper”
Written by: David Auburn
Directed by: Rob Ramos
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Worthington Players production of “Skyscraper” by David Auburn who is best known for his play “Proof” which was awarded the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play and The Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It also became a film in 2005. “Skyscraper” was Mr. Auburn’s first full length play and was first presented in 1997. Prior to writing this play, he spent two years in The Juilliard School's playwriting program in which he study under Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang. For those who are familiar with their work, their influence on Mr. Auburn can be clearly seen. Yet, “Skyscraper” does have Mr. Auburn’s individual voice which became more profound in his later works.

This well acted production of “Skyscraper” takes place in the city of Chicago, Ill in 1997 and begins with an awkward prologue in which the characters are introduced. It’s awkward in that it seems unnecessary and does nothing to provide meaning to the play or it’s characters. This awkwardness is made more evident but the fact the characters are clumsily bumping into one another and falling flat upon the stage. Perhaps the playwright was commenting on what he feels about plays who find it necessary to present an air of self importance by adding a pretentious prologue to the work, but it’s real presence in this play eludes this reviewer.

However, once the play begins with a scene on a rooftop between a woman named “Vivian” as portrayed by Amy Cramer (who also as the production’s Scenic Designer) and a 110 year old man named “Louis” as portrayed by Robin Kessler, it begins to captivate the audience by bringing them into the relationship of the two characters. Their pivotally to the play isn’t fully realized until the end of the production, but their comic/tragic relationship faithfully reflects the essence of the theatrical arts as it compels us with a desire to learn more about them.

We are then introduced to characters who aid us in our discovery while establishing their own individual characteristics from which we would like to learn more about. They include Jessica (as portrayed by Juliet Dunham) who is a photographer filled with the desire to save a historic building doomed for demolition, Jane (as portrayed by Kate DiGerolamo) whose purpose in life seems to be to date lots of men, Raymond (as portrayed by John Bradley) who owns the company responsible for the building’s impending demolition, and Joseph (as portrayed by Ryan Moore) who is Raymond’s philosophical employee and brother who becomes unemployed and mistakenly becomes the focus of Jane’s sensual desires. The cast is rounded off by the appearance of Cameron Cramer as the waiter who also serves the production as a stagehand.

It’s been said the “Skyscraper” is “a serious comedy about the deterioration of ingenuity and art.” While it is indeed a serious comedy, it is much more profound than a play about the deterioration of ingenuity and art. But, trying to define this play by placing any description to what it’s about would be a great disservice to the work. It is about a good number of things as the play doesn’t evolve through the typical plot driven narrative most theatre goers are accustomed to. Instead, the play’s exposition is revealed through its characters and the stories they have to tell through their words and deeds.

This theatrical approach tends to involve the audience more deeply into the play as they are inspired to think “Ah, that’s what the play is about” until another exchange between the characters cause the audience to think “Oh, wait. This is what the play is about.” Perceptions of what the play is saying to the audience change throughout the production and this make the theatrical experience much more engaging, Of course, there are times when this approach becomes a devise just used to confuse the audience so they avoid realizing what a bad play it is, but this is certainly not the case with “Skyscraper.”

Except for the presence of the prologue this reviewer has already mentioned, the play is well crafted and the acting presented in this production was very good. This is especially true of the portrayal of Louis by Robin Kessler. It is very difficult for a young actor to play a much older one without succumbing to the temptation of creating a characterization of the role. But, Mr. Kessler’s portrayal brings Louis to life in a very believable way. This does not discount the talents of the other actors in the play as their individual theatrical skills are quite considerable. However, the play does tend to center around the Louis character and any violation to the “suspension of disbelief” by the actor portraying the role diminishes the believability of the entire play along with all of its the characters.

The well crafted direction of the play should be acknowledged as a definitive element to bringing Mr. Auburn’s work to a meaningful and faithful production. Rob Ramos has appeared in several productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse and other venues. The skills he accumulated as an outstanding actor translates well in his role as a director. It is said a director who wishes to be a good one must first become an accomplished actor. The thought behind this is not only does the director needs to have an intimate understanding of the play and all it’s themes (apparent and implied), but he/she needs to know how to inspire the actors to bring about performances that honors the work. This production of David Auburn’s “Skyscraper” gives credence to this mindset and kudos to Mr. Ramos for giving it a great deal of validity.

The Worthington Players production of “Skyscraper” by David Auburn was directed by Rob Ramos and Stage Managed by Tom Nordon. The Lighting and Sound Technician was David Schappert. All of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are produced by Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood. The Executive of The Shawnee Playhouse is Midge McClosky while its group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Chrissy McMannus and Ariel Hudak. Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director.

The Worthington Players production of “Skyscraper” by David Auburn continues its run until April 3rd. It’s unfortunate this reviewer was unable to review this production earlier during its presentation, but there is still time for those who read this review to see it. I would recommend doing so as it does hold a great deal of meaning for those who manage to attend the production before it closes. You may do so by contacting The Shawnee Playhouse from the information found at the conclusion of this review.

The Worthington Players serves as the artistic arm of The Shawnee Institute which was formed in December of 1999 as a 501-C3 organization designed to provide diverse, quality artistic programs to the residents of the historic village of Shawnee and the surrounding areas. In addition to holding its Annual Playwright Completion, The Worthington Players performs their non-musical productions from January to March. Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse to learn how you can become a part of The Worthington Players and support The Shawnee Institute.

Future presentations at The Shawnee Playhouse will include The Prestige Productions presentation of “Love, Sex, and The I. R. S.” by William Van Zant and Jane Milmore April 8th - 17th along with The Center Stage Players production of “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney April 22nd - May 1st and “The Seafarer” by Conor McPherson. Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of The Shawnee Playhouse Productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies). Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at for more information and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse.