Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Fool Me Once" by Harlan Coben - Is Maya's Murdered Husband Alive Or Dead?


Harlan Coben never fails to delight and surprise me. In "Fool Me Once," we meet Maya, a former special-ops pilot who has returned from a deployment to find that her husband has been murdered. In the midst of her grief, she encounters an image that indicates he may still be alive. How could this be? Is she losing her mind? Is her deep grieving causing her to imagine things? As Maya seeks answers to these haunting questions, she learns a great deal about herself, about her departed husband, and about the life that they shared.

The setting is the territory that Coben knows well - suburban New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Maya's search takes her to some shady places where she meets a few equally shady characters. The answers she finds surprise her - as they did me. Coben strikes again.

Enjoy!

Al

"The Stranger" by Harlan Coben - How Well Do We Really Know Our Loved Ones?


This Harlan Coben novel, "The Stranger," is chilling. Several individuals are approached by a stranger who reveals to them a dark secret about an important person in their lives. In each case, the person who has been surprised by the stranger must decide how to act upon this new information. In a major plot thread, Adam must decide if he wife, Corinne, is who she appears to be, or if she is in fact hiding a secret. He confronts her, and she disappears? Adam is forced to conduct an extensive search, bringing his sons into the mystery of where Corinne may have gone - and why. The answer is not one that I had anticipated.

No matter how many of Coben's novels I read, he always manages to keep me guessing and engaged. After I finish a book, and I ready to dive into the next one.

Enjoy!

Al

"Home" - A Novel by Harlan Coben - Myron Bolitar and Win Reunite


I have been on a bit of a Harlan Coben binge lately, catching up with some titles that had previously escaped my attention. "Home" is one of those novels. This is a spine tingling tale of two boys who were kidnapped, and Myron Bolitar's attempt to find them in concert with his sidekick, Win. The action pivots between London and New Jersey. The plot twists are complex - the kind that I have come to expect from a Coben novel. The denouement is surprising and heartbreaking

It is good to have Win back in the picture, after he disappeared for awhile. One of the boys has been spotted in London and rescued - or has he? What about the other boy who was kidnapped at the same time? Where is he? Can he be found alive? Win and Myron follow a lot of rabbit trails before they uncover the truth. Coben always finds a way to weave in compelling social themes. In this case, he examines the sordid underbelly of human trafficking.

Enjoy!

Al

"The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O." - A Novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland


Neal Stephenson is my favorite science fiction author. In "The Rise of Fall of D.O.D.O." he has partnered with co-author Nicole Galland to produce an absolutely fascinating novel about time travel, based on theories from quantum mechanics. The fact that much of the action is set in my current neighborhood of Central Square, Cambridge made this book even more compelling for me. Central Square sits halfway between Harvard and MIT, and these two august institutions play a major role in the plot of this novel.

The government has decided that magic and witchcraft could be strategic tools if they could be resurrected, but they died out with the birth of photography - specifically the photographing of the solar eclipse that occurred in 1851, captured by the Prussian photographer Berkowski. The complex plot finds a motley crew of government officials, academics, scientists, witches, Vikings, Puritans, courtesans, and bankers embroiled in complex stratagems to reverse the effects of Berkowski's photograph.

There are extended scenes in which Vikings travel in time to a present day Walmart and pillage it as if it were un unprotected village in the Dark Ages. This scenario alone is worth the price of the book.

Along the way, the authors comment upon government inefficiency, ineptitude and bureaucratic inanities. The action encompasses many continents and centuries - including present day Cambridge and D.C., Cambridge in 1640, Antwerp in 1560, London in 1601, Constantinople in 1203, San Francisco in 1850, Normandy in 1045, and London in 1851.The Novel is a wonderful compendium of scientific research and literary imagination.

This is a must read for any fan of Stephenson, and of good science fiction.

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Found" by Harlan Coben - Book 3 in the Mickey Bolitar Series


Reading Harlan Coben novels is a guilty pleasure for me. I love his Myron Bolitar series. The concept of a former Celtics player turned sports agent turned detective is intriguing to me. The subsidiary series featuring Myron's disaffected nephew, Mickey, is equally engaging. This book, "Found," is the third in a series about Mickey's adventures and misadventures helping to rescue lost or abducted children and teenagers. Uncle Myron plays a role, as do Mickey's colorful partners in crime, Ema, Rachel, and Spoon.

I love the fact the Mr. Coben uses these nail biting tales to address relevant social issues. In this case, bullying, the hazards of online dating, hazing by sports teams, and abuse of steroids are all treated in depth. While Mickey is busy trying to find several lost souls, he finds himself while discovering a shocking secret about the death of his father, and the subsequent breakdown of his mother. It is a fast-paced and ultimately emotionally moving tale of a young man who will not give up on himself or on those he cares for.

Enjoy!

Al

"Jerry's Girls" - York Theatre Company Continues To Delight With Its Musicals In Mufti Series


York Theatre Company has a wonderful tradition of mounting concert versions of beloved musicals. They call the series "Musicals In Mufti - Musical Theatre Gems In Staged Concert Performance." This season's series has just come to a glorious conclusion with "Jerry's Girls," featuring more than 30 numbers taken from musicals written by the acclaimed composer and lyricist Jerry Herman.

This project began by reuniting Director Pamela Hunt and Music Director Eric Svejcar. They then cast three of the most versatile musical theater actresses working in New York - Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Christine Pedi. The result was an uplifting show that highlights Herman songs from shows ranging from "Hello Dolly," "Mame," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Dear World," "The Grand Tour," and "La Cage Aux Folles."

The flow of the show, broken up by a 15 minute Intermission, featured a nice blend of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces. Each of the women brought her unique signature style and versatility to this concert. Using only music stands on wheels as props (with an occasional feather boa or fan thrown in for fun), they created instant characters, acting each song rather than being content to merely sing them. They were backed up by the incomparable Mr. Svejcar at the piano, whose virtuosity at the keyboard is astounding. Each of the women had several moments to shine as solo artists.

  • Stephanie Umoh - I have had the opportunity to follow Ms. Umoh's stellar career beginning with her student days at Boston Conservatory. She created a strong and memorable Sarah in the final Broadway cast of "Ragtime," Her purity of tone lays a solid technical foundation for the work she does in interpreting songs, adding hypnotic eye engagement, nuanced gesticulation, and fluid body language that enables her to tell a convincing story with each song she sings. In this concert version of "Jerry's Girls," she was most engaging in "It Only Takes A Moment," "I Won't Send Roses," "and the rollicking "I Am What I Am," which caused the audience to go wild. She combined with Ms. D'Abruzzo in a wonderfully arch version of "Bosom Buddies" from "Mame."
  • Stephanie D'Abruzzo - This star of "Avenue Q" can be both comic and poignant, as demonstrated by her interpretations of "Wherever He Ain't," "So Long Dearie," "Before The Parade Passes By," and the heartbreaking "Time Heals Everything."
  • Christine Pedi - This Broadway veteran of "Chicago," and current Guest Diva in "Spamilton," knows how to sell a song with the best of them. She often uses self-deprecating humor to draw in her audience. This was the case in "Just Leave Everything To Me," "Two A Day," "Gooch's Song," and "Nelson." She was most moving in her haunting rendition of "If He Walked Into My Life" from "Mame."
Stephanie Umoh, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Christine Pedi
Eric Svejar
"Jerry's Girls"
"Musicals In Mufti"
The York Theatre Company

If you are not already a subscriber or fan of The York Theatre Company's "Musicals In Mufti" series, I suggest that you get on their mailing list so you will be one of the first to know about next season's offerings.

York Theatre Company Website

Enjoy!

Al


Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Influence Redefined" by Stacey Hanke - "Be the leader you were meant to be, Monday to Monday


With "Influence Redefined," author Stacey Hanke makes a significant contribution to the growing corpus of book that address the role of influence as a crucial leadership dynamic. I particularly appreciate her strong emphasis on communication as a foundation stone upon which all influence is built.

"More than three thousand managers surveyed by the Apollo Research Institute rated communication as the most important twenty-first century skill " (p. 43)

She breaks down the six essential characteristics of influential individuals:

  • Trustworthy
  • Credible
  • Confident
  • Knowledgeable
  • Authentic
  • Passionate (p. 49)


She ties together these two important dynamics: "I often describe the connection between influence and communication this way: Behind every influential individual sit the six influence characteristics, and behind these characteristics sit effective communication skills." (p. 51)

She makes the strong point in tying together the relationship between conversation and presentation: "A leader from a large pharmaceutical company had a big a-ha moment during one of our mentoring sessions: 'I get it! A presentation is really an extension of a conversation.'  He hit the nail on the head. How we show up for every conversation and interaction determines the level of influence we have, rather than simply turning on our 'A' game for presentations." (p. 95)

Mr. Hanke offer this important perspective on considering the needs of audience when prepare a presentation: "Need - What does your audience need to know in the amount of time you have with them in order to take the action you want them to take?" (p. 168)

Finally, she offers this perspective on using eye contact to exert influence while making a presentation: "Eye connection is the primary delivery skill that builds trust. Eye connection goes beyond eye contact. Eye connection is looking at an individual  in the eyes and being 100 percent focused on that person for a full sentence. . . . You only speak when you see eyes. No eyes, no talk." (p. 190)

Read this book and use its many insights to "be the leader you were meant to be, Monday to Monday."

Enjoy!

Al

Reagle Music Theatre Presents "42nd Street" - Life Imitates Art - Final Weekend


The classic musical "42nd Street" is basically a story about a show that is about to open, but at the last minute, one of the leads is unable to appear on stage. Will the show go on? In steps an unexpected replacement who wins the hearts of audiences and cast mates. That is the make believe world of "42nd Street"; it is also the real world story of this Reagle production of the musical. Just hours before the preview performance, lead male actor Tom Wopat ran afoul of the law, and was removed from the cast. Could the show go on? Long time Reagle cast member Rich Allegretto rose to the challenge and went on as Julian Marsh - to great acclaim. The show must, indeed, go on! A new chapter was written in Boston theater history.

Cast in "We're In The Money"
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell

"42 Street" is one of the great old chestnuts of the musical theater canon. Music is by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin, Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, original Choreography by the legendary Gower Champion. This production is Directed by Eileen Grace, with Musical Direction by Dan Rodriguez. The orchestra is Conducted by Jeffrey Leonard. Original Scenic Design is by Robin Wagner, Original Costume Design is by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by David Wilson, Original Choreography reproduced by Eileen Grace and Susan M. Chebookjian.

The opening of this show is iconic and breath-taking. The curtain rises just enough to reveal the feet of the entire cast tapping away to the rhythmic beats of Mr. Warren's score. The audience went wild. Things continued on a high note as each member of the cast embraced the challenge of putting on a show under duress. It is no accident that the Director is named "Grace," for grace and grit are just what were on display by this courageous company of actors, singers, dancers, and creatives.

  • Mr. Allegretto as Julian Marsh had the best opportunities to show what he could do in the well known numbers "Lullaby of Broadway" and "42 Street." 
  • Rachel York as Dorothy Brock was every inch the Broadway diva she was cast to portray. This Broadway veteran and Drama Desk and IRNE Award winner shone most brightly in "Shadow Waltz" (kudos to the Lighting of Mr. Wilson), "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me," and "About A Quarter To Nine," a duet she shares with Peggy Sawyer (Mara Cecilia).
Rachel York as Dorthy Brock
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell

  • Peggy is the chorus girl who steps on- and then steps in for - Dorothy. Ms. Cecilia is an outstanding dancer, and shows off her vocal chops in the aforementioned duet, "About A Quarter To Nine," as well as "Lullaby of Broadway."
Rachel York as Dorthy Brock
Mara Cecilia as Peggy Sawyer
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell
  • Addition principal roles included Charley Borden as Andy Lee, Scarlett Brunson as Anytime Annie, Beth Martin Pierce as Maggie Jones, Harold "Jerry" Walker as Bert Barry, Jack F. Agnew as Abner Dillon, Paul Reynolds as Pat Denning.
  • The outstanding cast excelled in their ensemble singing, and were extraordinary in their energetic and perfectly synchronized tap dancing. They are Anelise Allen, Anya Axel, Bernie Baldassaro, Jessica Bodner, Louis Brogna, Anna Chesny, Patrick Clark, Emma Clinch, Allyson Duarte, John Eldridge, Leo Galleto, Natalie Hall, Olivia Hytha, Nicollette Lebrun, Helen Lee, AJ Manuel Lucero, Kevin Patrick Martin, Kelly McCrue, Conor Meehan, Daniel Moore, Heather Morgan, Danielle Naugler, Victoria Newhuis, Brad Foster Reinking, Julia Shapiro, Connor Shea, Ansley Speares, Brianna Webb, Suzi Weisberg
Cast
"42nd Street"
Reagle Music Theatre
Through August 13th
Photo by Pete O'Farrell


This is the final weekend for "42nd Street," with performances Thursday at 2:00, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 2:00.



Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

"Only Love Is Real" by Brian Weiss, M.D. - A Story of Soulmates Reunited


Reading "Only Love Is Real" was a challenging and provocative exercise for me. Dr. Brian Weiss and his description of past life regression therapy flies in the face of my traditional conservative Christian heritage, so I had to be open to considering new ideas that I may have previously discarded. The fact that my friend, Josh, whom I respect deeply, had sent me the book made me willing to open my mind as I opened the pages of this fascinating account of Dr. Weiss and his practice.

I was impressed by the fact that a trained psychiatrist, well respected in his field, would put his reputation on the line by following his patients' requests that he lead them through an examination of past life memories under hypnosis. This book focuses primarily on the cases of two patients, Elizabeth and Pedro, neither of whom was familiar with the other, yet who shared remarkably similar stories of their past. I was fascinated with how Dr. Weiss chose to handle an ethical hot potato. If these two had been connected in past lives, should they not be made aware of one another in this life? Yet, as a physician, he was pledged to maintain confidentiality. He came up with a creative solution to ensure that they would interact in some manner.

In the midst of recounting some fascinating memories revealed under hypnosis on the part of his patients, Dr. Weiss also interjects his own philosophical musings about the nature of relationships and love and healing. This quotation lies at the heart of his message:

"Reach out with love and compassion, and do not worry so much about outcomes. Do not attempt to end your life before its natural time. A higher wisdom deals with outcomes and knows the time for all things. Free will and destiny coexist. Do not measure healing by physical results,  Healing occurs at many levels, not just the physical, and real healing must occur at the heart level.  Somehow I would learn about healing the hearts of men. Most of all: Love one another. Timeless wisdom, easily grasped but practiced by only a few." (Page 134)

Just as patients Elizabeth and Pedro would able to find connection through the work that Dr. Weiss put them through, so we can find hope and connection by embracing the message of this book.

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, August 07, 2017

Ogunquit Playhouse Presents "Ragtime" - The Best Show I Have Seen All Year - An Absolute MUST SEE!



Fasten your seat belts, for this will be a lengthy review of a show that is deserving of every accolade it can collect. The current production of "Ragtime," running through August 26th at the Ogunquit Playhouse, is the best show I have ever seen at Ogunquit, the best show I have seen this year on any stage, and the best production of "Ragtime" I have ever witnessed. Get to Ogunquit to experience this miracle of artistic perfection and timely political commentary.



Not only is this a production that shines in every creative and artistic aspect, but it is one that speaks clearly to many of the dilemmas that face our nation today. As we entered the theatre from the lobby prior to the show, I was struck by the large mask of a woman's face that was suspended above the darkened stage, taking up much of the space in the proscenium. I said to my sister, "What does that woman's face have to do with 'Ragtime'? Being the more perceptive sibling, Di answered, "That is the face from the Statue of Liberty." I gasped. For it was indeed her face, but she was bereft of her welcoming torch, and had been stripped of her majestic crown. As I sat to read the Playbill, the Director's Notes by Seth Sklar-Heyn made it clear that Lady Liberty and the current assaults upon her legacy and ethos are at the heart of Ogunquit's telling of this tale, originally penned in the novel of the same name by the brilliant E.L. Doctorow.

The Notes begin with a reminder of the Emma Lazarus poem, "The New Colossus," not in any manner a dead letter, but one that rings with timeless truth in today's world. Its iconic words, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," were the fodder for a lively contretemps last week in the White House. This story of immigrants' struggles at the dawn of the 20th century reverberates with poignancy in these early years of the 21st century. Current social and political themes that test our nation's resolve - such as White Privilege, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, the plight of immigrants, affordable health care, a living wage, caring for the downtrodden, and the question of how a terrorist is born - all are limned to dramatic effect in this musical that was spawned by the novel.

With a book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty, and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the original creative team were insightful in the ways in which they translated Doctorow's watershed novel to the musical stage. Ogunquit's creative team have been equal to the task of carrying that commitment to artistic excellence into this production. Director Seth Sklar-Heyn has made brilliant staging and blocking choices, using the gorgeous and malleable Scenic Design by Tim Mackabee to full effect. Lighting by Richard Latta is particularly effective, as is the Sound Design of Kevin Heard. The costumes, based on original designs by Santo Loquasto and Coordinated by Molly Walz are exquisite. Music Director Jeffrey Campos translates Mr. Flaherty's sumptuous score beautifully, coaxing lush sounds from the 8-piece orchestra. Choreography by Jesse Robb is outstanding.

Now let's discuss the stellar cast.
  • Darnell Abraham commands the stage as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Whether he is seated at a piano playing his ragtime tunes, driving his gleaming Model T ( a wonderful working model that is a nice touch), serenading Sarah, or confronting redneck Fire Chief Willie Conklin, he is in charge. This complex character is both a delight and a challenge to portray, and Mr. Abraham shows consummate skill in taking Coalhouse through a broad array of emotions and facial expressions as he traverses a path from delight, to pride, to concern, to rage, to despair, and finally to resolve and resignation. His nuanced acting is matched by his powerful vocal interpretations, especially in "Gettin' Ready Rag," "Wheels of a Dream," in which he is joined by Lindsay Roberts as Sarah, "Till We Reach That Day," and "Make Them Hear You."
Darnell Abraham as Coalhouse
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
  • Lindsay Roberts as Sarah also conveys a vast spectrum of emotions. She is almost catatonic after trying to dispose of her unwanted child, resistant to Coalhouse's persistent courting, ecstatic when she realizes that he loves her and wants to marry her, and doggedly determined to help him find a way to receive justice after his Model T has been destroyed in an act of pure racial hatred and bigotry. She shines in "Your Daddy's Son, and "Sarah Brown Eyes."
  • Kirsten Scott as Mother is a revelation. In the opening scenes she is bedecked in a gorgeous outfit of off-white, the very embodiment of a turn of the century stay at home patrician wife and mother. Ms. Scott brings a wondrous warmth to Mother's voyage from complacent help mate to a practical and bold feminist, making choices with her head and heart that Father never understands and seldoms approves. She turns song into story in "Goodbye, My Love," "What Kind of Woman," "Journey On," and especially in "Back To Before," a gentle feminist anthem. She pairs with Josh Young as Tateh in the deeply moving "Our Children."
  • Josh Young! Never have I seen such a fine and evocative Tateh. His is another beautifully conceived complex character, a young widower who dreams of providing a safe home for his young daughter. This impoverished Jewish immigrant from Latvia, arriving in New York on one of the "rag ships," works his way up the ladder of the American Dream by hard work and imagination. He comforts his terrified little girl with the sweet "Gliding," and then celebrates his business success with "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc." He scales the invisible wall that had been erected on the border of the socioeconomic chasm that separates him from Mother when he joins her in singing "Our Children," a wonderful foreshadowing of what is to come for them both. Ella Luke-Tedeschi is fragile and expressive as Tateh's daughter.
Josh Young as Tateh
Ella Luke-Tedeschi as Daughter
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
  • As Father, Jamie LaVerdiere is the very quintessence of rigid rectitude and patrician cluelessness. Throughout the show, his light slowly fades. He expresses his bemusement when he returns from Arctic exploration with Admiral Peary to find that his white enclave in New Rochelle has been overrun with people that are not "our kind." The song is "New Music." Father does not understand the changes, while everyone else rejoices in them. It seems that the more he travels the world, the more distant he becomes from understanding those he claims to love.
  • Julian Decker stands out in the difficult role of Younger Brother. He is trying to find himself, but like Prince Pippin, fails in several attempts. Smitten with Vaudeville sensation Evelyn Nesbit (a delightful Carly Hueston Amburn), he becomes embittered and turns to revolution  and support of the militant Coalhouse. His moments to shine are in "The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square," and "He Wanted To Say."
  • Carly Hueston Amburn tickles the audience and the courtroom with her saucy "Girl on the Swing" routine in "Crime of the Century."
  • The role of Emma Goldman is crucial in this show as the voice of social conscience. Klea Blackhurst is perfectly cast in this role, also standing out in the two songs she shares with Younger Brother, the aforementioned "The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square," and "He Wanted To Say."
  • Rod Singleton stands out as Booker T. Washington, the voice of moral authority for the Negro race in the opening decades of the 20th century. He makes an impact near the end of the play in "Look What You've Done."
  • Freddie Kimmel does not escape our attention as Harry Houdini, an immigrant who made a splash on the American stage. His big numbers are "Success," and "Atlantic City."
  • Young Sol Thomas, making his professional debut, is excellent as The Little Boy. His plangent repetition of "Warn the Duke!" stills echoes in my ears.
  • Galyana Castillo's powerful voice moves us in the heartbreaking "Till We Reach That Day."
  • The excellent ensemble is comprised of Valeska Cambron, Darius Crenshaw, Amy Decker, Joseph DiPietro, Jack Doyle, Joey Elrose, Sam Hartley, Dion Montez Jarrett, Megan Lione, Lexi Lyric, Mary MAlaney, Anna Noble, Joel Robertson, Michael Santora, David Studwell, Nya Trysha, Kate Turner, Klton Washington, Eric R. Williams. In alternating performances, Ella Riley and Tyler Wladis play the role of the children.
Cast
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng


The opening montage, "Ragtime," is one of the mostly brilliantly choreographed in all of musical theater. Three groups - the White ruling class, Black migrants to New York from the South, and Eastern European immigrants - intertwine and interact with each other. They bump up against one another in groups - foreshadowing coming conflicts in the narrative of the play. Individuals from the three groups come in contact with one another, giving a glimpse into relationships yet to come. I am in awe each time I see this sequence acted out and danced. This cast performs it with precision and exuberance.

Cast - The Three Groups
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng
One final comment. At the emotional heart of this story is the love and shared dream that develops between Coalhouse and Sarah. As a Black man, Coalhouse is in awe that he is able to dream of success - "own a car, raise a child, build a life with you . . ." That dream is aborted - the wheels come off - when Willie Conklin desecrates the car. I could not help but think of our current POTUS as a modern day Willie Conklin, systematically taking a lug wrench to the wheels of the American Dream and dismantling it, in cahoots with his enablers and abettors in the Swamp in Washington. Coalhouse resists. Art, such as this show and this production, is a way to resist and to tell the story of a better way - a better American. Let's put the crown back on Lady Liberty's brow and hand her back her torch so it can once again shine brightly to welcome home those who need refuge.

Lindsay Roberts as Sarah
Darnell Abraham as Coalhouse
"The Wheels of a Dream"
"Ragtime"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through August 26th
Photo by Gary Ng

Come to see this show - through August 26th, and then "Go Out And Tell The Story"!

Ogunquit Playhouse Website

I plan to return to see this show a second time. I hope to see you there.

Enjoy!

Al


Friday, August 04, 2017

"A Walk With Purpose" by Michael D. Becker - A Pharmaceutical Executive Shares His Own Journey With Cancer



"A Walk With Purpose" is a moving memoir that parallels two journeys taken by author Michael D. Becker. The first journey is the one he has taken as a senior executive with pharmaceuticals, striving to improve treatment for several forms of cancer. The second journey is his personal battle with his own diagnosis of cancer, that eventually saw him as a user of the very products he had helped to develop.

Along the way, Mr. Becker shares intimate details of his life as a top industry executive, husband, father, and cancer patient. He invites us to laugh with him at some of life's absurdities, and to cry with him over the sobering reality of impending death. This is a book that will serve as an inspiration to anyone facing cancer, family members of patients, medical professionals, and research scientists dedicated to eradicating this haunting network of diseases.

Enjoy!

Al

Thursday, August 03, 2017

"Performance Partnerships" by Robert Glazer - The Checkered Past, Changing Present, & Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing



Author Robert Glazer has done an outstanding job in clearly explaining the complex world of affiliate marketing. I have known of Mr. Glazer and his work for a number of years. It is for good reason that he enjoys a reputation for being an innovator and deep thinker in this space.  Most of us as online consumers are exposed many times a day to the front end of affiliate marketing campaigns, but I warrant that few of us understand it, and few of us know how best to use if to benefit our businesses. In the space of 250 well utilized pages, Mr. Glazer clears away the fog.

The subtitle of "Performance Partnerships" gives a good preview about the author's intent and structure for telling the affiliate marketing story: "The Checkered Past, Changing Present, & Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing." Through this book, his frequent speaking and blogging, and through the services of his firm, Acceleration Partners, Mr. Glazer is leading the way in establishing standards and best practices in an emerging and rapidly developing industry sorely in need of just this kind of structure and visionary leadership.

Whether you are an online marketing professional, a consumer of these services, or simply someone who wants and needs to understand this arcane world, this is a book that you will value.

Enoy!

Al

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"South of Broad" by Pat Conroy - A Love Letter To Charleston And Its Colorful Denizens


When the literary world lost Pat Conroy in 2016, we lost a great one. I have delighted in his novels over the years, and was thrilled to read "South of Broad." This is Conroy at his best, rhapsodizing about the charms of his beloved Charleston, while at the same time exposing its vulnerable underbelly of racism and classism.

Leopold Bloom King is saddled with the name of the hero of James Joyce's novel "Ulysses," because Leo's mother was obsessed with Joyce. We follow Leo's adventures with his quirky family, and his coterie of friends that span the spectrum from abandoned orphans, to a pair of troubled twins,  to the flower of Charleston society. Along the way, their loyalties are tested as Sheba, one of the twins, returns to town after a spectacular Hollywood career. She needs help in finding her flamboyant brother, whose has disappeared in San Francisco in the midst of the AIDS crisis.The friends
respond and go kinetic in the bowels of the Tenderloin.

Conroy paints vivid pictures of places that he loves, and of people that the reader learns to love. They are colorful, quirky, and unforgettable. He keeps the focus on the personal and relational level while exploring faith and societal issues. It is a winning combination.

The bottom line is that I cannot wait to get to Charleston and breathe some of the air that filed Conroy's lungs and soul for the length of his career.

Enjoy!

Al

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company Presents A "Romeo & Juliet" To Die For - Through August 6th


The young star-crossed lovers from fair Verona have brought their tale of woe to Boston Common, compliments of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. This sumptuous production of the Bard's iconic tragedy, "Romeo & Juliet," is delighting audiences as CSC continues their 22 year-long tradition of offering free Shakespeare in the Park (Suggested donation of $20/per person helps to support this valued Boston tradition).

Artistic Director, Steve Maler, has delegated the directing chores for this production to Allegra Libonati, and she has justified his faith in her artistic sensibilities by pulling together a creative team and cast that make this chestnut sizzle with life and vitality. The gorgeous set by Julia Noulin-Merat transports us instantly to the palazzos and streets of Verona where the deadly feud between the Capulets and the Montagues sets in motion tragic consequences with which we are all too familiar. Period Costumes are by Neil Fortin. The Lighting Design by Jamie Roderick subtly directs our eyes to the part of the vast set where the most relevant action is taking place. David Remedios' Sound Design enhances the feel of the time and place. Choreography by Peter DiMuro deftly places the cast members where they need to be in the masked ball scene. Important fight sequences have been Directed by Angie Jepson.

The cast is superb, wielding the Elizabethan verse with agility and grace to tell the story that has been beloved for centuries.
  • Gracyn Mix as Juliet is right out of central casting, and is magnificent in this production. Fair of feature and flaxen haired, she exudes the subtle combination of innocence, passion, resolve, defiance, and despair that one would desire to perceive from this young bride cut down just as she is about to fully bloom as a wife and woman. Her simple and resplendent white gown appears to be almost gossamer in its delicacy. Hers is a moving portrayal of one of the great characters in theater history. The chemistry between Juliet and her Romeo are palpable and electric.
  • Her Romeo is also impressive. I had been familiar with the work of John Zdrojeski from his role as John Hinckley in the BU production of "Assassins," and his starring role in "Monster" at Atlantic Stage in New York. So I was expecting a special performance, and was not disappointed. John is taller than many actors who are cast as Romeo, and he uses his stature to advantage. His height made the contrast all the more poignant when he knelt in supplication before Juliet, and before Tybalt (an ominous and imposing Kai Tshikosi) to beg that the swordplay be stopped and a truce be declared between the warring factions.
John Zdrojeski as Romeo
Gracyn Mix as Juliet
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva
  • The role of Nurse is always crucial in any production of this play, and Ramona Lisa Alexander lives up to expectations in this crucial role. She combines the requisite physical humor with the non-stop verbiage that makes Nurse such a lovable clown. 
  • The always outstanding Boston actors Celeste Oliva as Lady Capulet and Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Lord Capulet are outstanding in these roles, especially in the scene when Juliet refuses to marry Paris (played splendidly by Adam Ewer). Lord Capulet's rant at Juliet earned an exit applause from the appreciative audience.
Celeste Oliva as Lady Capulet
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva
  • Mercutio departs the stage - and life - early in the story, but Kario Marcel makes a strong impression in the scenes in which he is featured. He lights up the stage with his physical vibrancy and verbal adroitness. His oft repeated mantra, "A plague on both your houses," still echoes in my remembrance.
  • Equiano Mosien is an impassioned Friar Laurence, whose plans and machinations are central to the plot of this tragedy. He is effective, as well, as a one man chorus, introducing the action of the playing and moralizing about its meaning at the end.
  • Although Lord and Lady Montague are less in evidence in this play than are Lord and Lady Capulet, they are portrayed ably by Mark Soucy and Chris Everett.
  • Brandon G. Green makes a strong impression as Romeo's friend, Benvolio.
  • Kaci Hamilton portrayed the Prince.
  • Other cast members are Alex Deroo, Cassie Foote, Tim Hackney, Keith Hale, Jamil Joseph, Stephanie King, Sarah Mass, Andrew Prensky, and Joey Tyler.
Cast
Commonwealth Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
Boston Common
Through August 6th
Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

The Director made an interesting choice to open the second half of the program following intermission. There was a brief recapitulation of the major action that had occurred before Intermission. It was a helpful reminder for audience members that may have been new to this play and to Shakespeare.

The play can be seen through this Sunday at Boston Common.

Wednesday through Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00 PM
Sunday at 7:00 PM

The show must close after Sunday's performance.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow . . . "

Enjoy!

Al