Saturday, June 11, 2022

In ‘Mr. Parker’, Getting on With Life as You Don’t Know It

Derek Smith is the title character in “Mr. Parker,” a middle-aged gay man who must find a way to move forward in a strange world after the death of his husband. Photos by John Quilty.


“MR. Parker”
offers what at first seems like a collection of clichés but thankfully switches course to provide insight into what resilience is all about.

At Theatre Row by way of the Penguin Rep Theater until June 25, the work reveals a middle-aged gay man who finds himself adrift after the death of his artist husband, a sexy young gender non-conforming man picked up in a bar and the stylish, powerful sister of the artist. The three play effectively off of one another.

Terry Parker (Derek Smith) grapples with his loss. No longer part of the Jeff and Terry couple, he has been reduced simply to Mr. Parker by the doorman of his upscale building. Stuck and unable to move ahead, he clings to the studio emptied by the loss of his husband until a chance encounter with Justin, a bartender/Uber driver (Davi Santos), leads to a change of outlook.

The situation is both hindered and helped by Cassandra, the artist’s sister (Mia Matthews) who has managed her brother’s work and, to some extent, his and Terry’s lives. Taut, controlling Cassandra recognizes that the Justin-Terry relationship won’t benefit either man and gives it a painful, if necessary, push.

All three actors inhabit their roles with naturalness of voice, gesture and meaning. Writer Michael McKeever could have developed just as successful a script had he eliminated a little of Justin’s backstory, but overall the situation works. The world has moved on and so must these characters with a nod to cell phones, today’s gender pronouns and contemporary art.

Things heat up quickly after a chance meeting between Terry (Derek Smith) and Justin (Davi Santos) in “Mr Parker.”

Costumes by Myra Oney are particularly effective on Cassandra whose role provides the greatest opportunity to make a fashion statement. Max Silverman’s music separates elements well without overtaking them; Joe Brancato’s direction keeps sufficient tension in the air to allow the actors the scope they need to work.

Penguin Rep Theater, where “Mr. Parker” originated, has grown over 40 years from a summer theater to become one of the Hudson Valley’s most influential nonprofit cultural institutions, reaching tens of thousands of theatergoers each year at its home in upstate New York.

In New York City and beyond, its work moves to off-Broadway and to stages across the country and around the world. Penguin has presented works by playwrights, including Ronald Harwood, Arthur Laurents, Lanie Robertson and Elizabeth Swados. Andrew M. Horn, producer and executive director, has overseen nearly 200 productions for the group.

In “Mr Parker,” Justin (Davi Santos) and Terry (Derek Smith) begin a relationship that is doomed to fail and it is left to Cassandra (Mia Matthews) to sort it all out.

“Mr. Parker” isn’t grand drama but it deals head on with major life situations, including sexuality, power and loss. The story is almost entirely believable and presented by skilled actors who fully inhabit their roles. Moving on is tough but is a necessary part of life.

Visit to learn more about Mr. Parker.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

NYGASP's ‘The Pirates of Penzance’: A Gilbert & Sullivan Classic Done to a Turn

Sarah Caldwell Smith leads “The Pirates of Penzance” ensemble in “Poor Wand’ring One.”


today’s world filled with strife and angry disagreement, it is a pleasure to see an entirely lighthearted theatrical performance. Opposite sides each have their say. Conundrums are resolved and the audience gets two-plus wonderful hours of escapism.

Thanks goes to “The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty” in its brief run at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. With music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert, the production by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) is richly rewarding.

Among the many delights of all Gilbert & Sullivan works is the overture. Though small, the NYGASP orchestra has a hearty, full sound. Founder, artistic director and general manager Albert Bergeret conducts the musicians with vigor.

Starting with “Pour, O Pour the Pirate Sherry,” the opening number sung and danced by the pirate ensemble, the production explodes with energy. As the cast guides the audience through the convoluted plot, the bright colors and clever design of Quinto Ott and Gail Wofford’s elaborate costumes (note the epaulets on Major-General Stanley’s bathrobe) fill the eye.

Now to the shenanigans: Frederic’s nursemaid, Ruth, mistakenly apprentices the boy to a band of pirates instead of a group of pilots. Frederic (Christopher Robin Sapp / Andrew Corson) has vowed to devote his life to the extermination of piracy – until a ludicrous leap year snag threatens to keep him apprenticed to the pirates for life.

Although considerably older than Frederic, Ruth wants to marry him. He demurs, realizing he lacks experience with other women. Subsequently, Frederic sees and is smitten with Mabel, one of the many wards of Major-General Stanley (James Mills).

A particular special moment in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas involves a patter song in which a character discloses his background. In “Pirates,” Mills does a splendid job with the much-parodied “I Am the Very Model of a Model Major-General.”

A group of bumbling policemen captained by Ott – as good at comedy as he is at costumes – becomes involved. The police antics with the young ladies and pirates are fun and do full justice to the number, “A Policeman’s Life is Not a Happy One.” Sarah Caldwell Smith as Mabel has a lovely soprano enhanced with a great sense of timing. Cáitlín Burke as Ruth conveys a sense of fun and good stage presence also complemented by a fine voice.

The entire company dances with verve on the small Kaye Playhouse stage. Choreographer Bill Fabris does a creative job with simple movements, especially for the hapless policemen as one inept officer struggles – and mostly fails – to match the steps of his colleagues.

The stage business is vigorous. There are many bright moments: the badminton game played by two young ladies; a policeman lying on a bench as though he is an effigy, and the Major-General’s expressive use of his handkerchief. Holding Queen Victoria’s portrait aloft so the pirates can express their loyalty to the crown, Frederic mimes a hilarious parody of the modern British Royal’s wrist-wave.

The very capable NYGASP, which bills itself as the country’s “preeminent professional Gilbert & Sullivan repertory ensemble,” gracefully covers minor mishaps. For instance, when the lights at the start of Act ll are delayed. A fallen pistol? Uncaught flag? No problem.

James Mills (front and center) as the very model of a modern major-general and “The Pirates of Penzance” ensemble. Photo by William Reynolds.

My only quibble is a lack of crispness in dialogue, both spoken and sung. This may be owing to acoustics at the Kaye Playhouse. Unfortunate because every syllable of Gilbert’s words is worth savoring.

“The Pirates of Penzance” is one of the strongest works in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon. It includes a melodious score as well as ample humor, parody and overall charm right down to the pardon of the pirates who are all “noblemen gone wrong.”

Maidens, policemen, pirates, nursemaid, Major-General and the rest of the cast deliver a very pleasurable experience.

Visit to learn more about “The Pirates of Penzance.”

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Ambitious 'Once Upon a Time Called Now’ Inflames, Then Overwhelms the Senses

Russell Hall, Roxanne King, Michela Marino Lerman, Orlando Hernández and Alfonso Horne making merry. Photo by Kevin Lau.


“ONCE Upon a Time Called Now”
is a kaleidoscope of tap dance, live jazz, creative lighting, dazzling costumes and just plain hoofing to intricate rhythms set against a spoken narration.

The work, at the Joyce Theater through 3 April, opens on a background aglow with apricot-colored lights illuminating the silhouettes of musicians and empty peacock chairs. It’s Mardi Gras, evidenced by twirling parasols and bodies – sad and joyous – in semi-single file as they weave through the imagined streets of New Orleans.

Renowned dancer Michela Marino Lerman is at the center wearing a suit ablaze with sequins. Not that of a bullfighter, but with the sparkle that befits the winner of the 2019 Hoofer Award (See video below of Lerman&Co. in action). She is also a bandleader, educator, director and all-around creative wonder behind this 90-minute entertainment set in the spirit world.

Love Moment, the band led by Lerman, plays a tight blend of original music. The mostly jazz and spiritual numbers combine with energetic arms and legs tapping one- and two-footed movements to impart a sense of community to every moment. In “Once Upon a Time Called Now,” Lerman casts herself as Kahina and invites the audience to accompany her on a journey back from the afterlife on a quest to achieve self-love, acceptance and enlightenment. Music, dancing and projections are set against a recorded narrative by writer/actress Anna Deavere Smith.

Kahina’s journey of self-discovery begins with revisiting her ancestors in ancient Egypt. There, she searches for her ba, a major aspect of the soul that can appear in bird form expressing the soul’s mobility even after death. As she works to rid herself of negative character traits like materialism and ego, Kahina recalls Orpheus whose instructions during his descent into the underworld were “don’t look back.”

These ideas, developed as Kahina’s internal monologue, are implicated in Deavere Smith’s poetic narrations. Thankfully, they move the ideas forward because these notions of Kahina are sometimes hard to follow. The narrations are also often enmeshed with self-help truisms along the lines of “find your center.” These unfortunately distract, rather than enhance the power of those brightly beating feet.

The dancing, comprising solos and group movements, is interspersed with the narrative as feet stamp out intricate rhythms. The tapping is vigorous, demanding and often flashes brilliantly, but the overall effect grows somewhat repetitive as do the steps. Sometimes, there is almost too much to take in as the mind tries to follow the narrative while the eye – and heart – is drawn to the dancing, music and onstage energy.

“Once Upon a Time Called Now,” blends internal self-seeking and a quiet, meditative state with great tapping, demonstrating the physical control evident in every step of the dancers. The costumes by Angela M. Fludd are free-flowing and designed to embrace every body type in keeping with the underlying theme of self-acceptance. Also, they have the added benefit of enhancing the exuberance of each dancer’s performance.

Michela Marino Lerman (center), surrounded by collaborators (from left) Russell Hall, Roxanne King, Orlando Hernández and Alfonso Horne. Photo by Martina DaSilva.

Meanwhile, the band and vocals add another layer of sensory satisfaction to “Once Upon a Time Called Now.” Yet as thrilling as it often is, the unceasing volume of the music grows hard to listen to as the evening wends on, making this writer wish for a brief change of decibel level.

This production is a sweeping, immersive experience with dazzling dance moves. And Lerman is a genuinely creative spirit both as dancer and leader, but she might be better served with less complex surroundings and greater concentration on what she and her talented troupe do best, minus the mumbo- jumbo.

Visit to learn more about "Once Upon a Time Called Now."

Thursday, January 27, 2022

God Save the Queens: Protecting the Mane of Palimore Triplets, as Well as Girls and Women in Every Corner of Country with CROWN Act


WITH all of the problems that plague the United States, one of the very last ones we should be dealing with – in the 21st century! – is hair discrimination. Yet, it is a problem that persists. And you, you, you and you can help from the comfort of home and device.

Are you scratching your scalp, wondering what I'm on about? I get it. It’s a ton of botheration to even bring it up, but needs must, hence the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act of 2021, for instance. But I will return to that shortly.

First, some background: Fellow Americans all across the United States – an overwhelming majority of them black, if media reports and at least one study are to be believed – have been experiencing discrimination because of their hairstyles. One might think such practices were left behind in 1919 or 1984 or 1999. Alas, no. They persist in 2000, 2010, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 …

It could be a situation where an athlete is told he must cut his locs to compete. A little girl is sent home because she is wearing braids in violation of school policy. A woman receives a job offer contingent on her abandoning her locs or braids. Little girls are bullied at school because of their hairstyles. Many of these same little girls begin to dislike their hair and desire straight hair.

This hair discrimination impacts mostly women and disproportionately black women who wear natural hairstyles like afros, braids, locs and ringlets. In fact, the 2019 Dove CROWN Research Study found in part that 80 percent of black women compared with 65 percent of nonblack women reported hair dicrimination.

The study also found that black girls as young as 5 have experienced hair discrimination (See "As Early As Five" above. It is a short film from Dove that dramatizes this finding). Yikes! This should not be the future of the Palimore Triplets or any little girl regardless of her hair type.

To paraphrase Marcus Garvey, “Don't force them to remove the kinks from their hair! Remove the kinks from your brain!

Not surprisingly, these outrages have spawned activism and legislation, giving rise to the CROWN Coalition and the CROWN Act. The former is an alliance of various non-governmental organizations, including Dove. Its mission is to push anti-hair discrimination legislation across the United States.

The coalition has had success. Currently, 14 states and more than 30 municipalities have passed hair discrimination laws under the rubric, CROWN Act.

You can follow the Palimore Triplets on Instagram (@palimore_triplets). Image from Palimore Triplets Instagram page.

The CROWN ACT, which outlaws hair discrimination (particularly the race-based type) in institutions and workplaces, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2020 and was introduced in the U.S. Senate in March 2021. There is a big push to get the bill passed in the Senate. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the CROWN Act, making it the law of the land.

I hope yous will get on board and support the CROWN Act (use the links below to act). Because in 2022, we don't have time for this.

Visit the following links to support the CROWN Coalition and the CROWN Act of 2021:
Join the CROWN Coalition:

Get help if you have experienced hair discrimination:

2019 Dove CROWN Research Study:

2019 Dove CROWN Research Study for Girls Infographic:

Sign petition to support an end to hair discrimination in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, DC):

Use online form to request your U.S. Senator’s support of the CROWN Act of 2021:

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide 2021: LoveLit Candles Is Young Hailei Beckwith’s Labor of Love (Sans Beeswax)

Hailei Beckwith, owner of LoveLit Candles, receives a Young Entrepreneurs Day proclamation from Monroe, LA Mayor Friday Ellis. Photos courtesy of LoveLitCandles.

HEADS UP: Dear Reader, we’re back with a Holiday Gift Guide after a two-year hiatus! Until 24 Dec., the elves at The Wright Wreport will introduce at least one or a series of products, items, services and/or brands that we believe are worthy of consideration as holiday gift(s).


HAILEI Beckwith
has it going on!

Not only is she a good student, nice person, attractive girl and a pageant winner (Miss Monroe's Outstanding Teen 2022), the 17-year-old is an entrepreneur. And she’s been in the game for four years as the founder of LoveLit Candles. Since she was 13, in case you didn’t do the math.

Who’s to say? One day Hailei might be mentioned in the same breath as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Frank DeLuca (Subway) and Mike Kittredge (what became Yankee Candle).

The LoveLit Candles Holiday Collection: Christmas Cabin, Mistletoe + Cranberries, Spiced Pomander and Winter Romance.

Today, she has peers like Maya Penn (Maya’s Ideas: sustainable fashion), Caroline Bercaw and Isabel Bercaw (Da Bomb: bath bombs) and Femi Adebogun (ScholarMe: platform for applying for college aid). All founded their enterprises in their teens; some are still teens.

There are no hard-and-fast statistics on the number of children in the United States who own businesses, but anecdotally the number is in the millions.

The LoveLit Candles room/linen sprays (Graceful Host, for instance) neutralize odors and refresh the air in various spaces.

It’s as though Hailei took the advice of former President Barack Obama: “We are the change that we seek.” Or many a grandmother: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Undoubtedly, these are some of the self-starter/solution-oriented attitudes – plus, a bee allergy – that led the adolescent to start her Monroe, LA-based candle company.

“Most candles use beeswax and I wanted to enjoy candles and also allow that opportunity for other people that are allergic to beeswax to enjoy candles,” she explained during a recent interview after receiving a Young Entrepreneurs Day proclamation from Monroe, LA Mayor Friday Ellis (play video for the entire interview).

Don’t want an open flame? LoveLit Candles has you covered with Wax Melts (Brandied Pear, anyone?).

Beeswax-less Lovelit Candles come in a variety of scents: Mahogany Teakwood, Kakadu Plum + Amber, Southern Belle, Jamaican Me Crazy, Monkey Farts, Baja Cactus Blossom, etc. The Christmas Cabin candle – currently, the candle BFF of Yours Truly – is simply sublime. The evergreen, mess and pine notes combine to create an intoxicating aroma of the forest. Nothing cloying and clingy, here!

Add wax or aromatic oil of choice and plug in with a LoveLit Candles Pluggable Fragrance Warmer.

Each candle comes with care instructions. Who knew that the wick should be cut by one-quarter inch after the first use?! Or that one should burn candles for up to about three hours at a time? Such best practices extend the life of the candle and improve the burning experience. A nice little differentiator, no?

Surprise, surprise, the company peddles more than candles. For those concerned about open flames, there are Wax Melts in hot scents like Cool Citrus Basil. Amongst the stock, too, are Room/Linen Sprays, Pluggable Fragrance Warmers, Diffusers and Car Air Fresheners (new).

The LoveLit Candles DIY Candle Making Kit comes with supplies for two candles (jars, lids wax, wicks, wick stickers, wick bars, fragrance oil, warning labels and instructions).

Incidentally, all LoveLit Candles scented products are made from organic and eco-friendly ingredients. To that end, there may be extra-special enthusiasm for the DIY Candle Making Kit.

Peach Magnolia over here!

Visit to learn more about LoveLit Candles.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide 2021: High Hopes for Potentially Game-Changing (and Award-Winning) Kikkerland Design Turtle Tofu Press

According to Kikkerland Design, its award-winning turtle tofu press can drain tofu within 20 minutes. Photos and video courtesy of Kikkerland Design.

HEADS UP: Dear Reader, we’re back with a Holiday Gift Guide after a two-year hiatus! Until 24 Dec., the elves at The Wright Wreport will introduce at least one or a series of products, items, services and/or brands that we believe are worthy of consideration as holiday gift(s).


years now, I have been trying to figure out how to drain tofu. Piling plates over the logs I have laid out in a sifter was an improvisation that yielded less than success.

Such fits and starts would result in my leaving the tofu in the store’s refrigerated section. Some of you might consider that a gift in and of itself. After all, the stuff has very little flavor. But, oh gosh, tofu has a tremendous amount of protein, calcium and iron. And few calories! It is decidedly good for you.

But I digress. There is a possible solution to this drainage problem: Enter the Kikkerland Design Turtle Tofu Press, a design challenge winner. Alas, there is a problem with this possible solution: The tofu press is sold out. Another supply chain issue?

And more questions. How well does the turtle press drain tofu? Is it fast, or more like a snail (or turtle)? Will it make my Tofu Life easier?

Is it really as user-friendly and effective as Kikkerland says:
1. Insert tofu in the strainer
2. Place lid over it
3. Wrap silicone band around the press
4. Excess water is drained from tofu within 20 minutes

Meanwhile, the merits of tofu are many. When prepared in a quick-and-easy stirfry or scramble, it absorbs the yummy around it to make a delicious lunch or breakfast. Tofu complements bell peppers, especially the juicy red ones. And mushrooms, garlic and black pepper. Soy sauce and edamame are a nice addition, too. Well, this is making me hungry.

The Kikkerland Design Turtle Tofu Press is made from bamboo, which fights off bacteria.

Further considering this Kikkerland turtle tofu press, it is cute as a button and exotically fashioned of bamboo. This wood is a natural for use with food because of its antibacterial property. Its place in your kitchen depends so much on the answers to those burning questions. But if it were me reading the tea leaves, I’d say it's a keeper.

Let’s revisit this pressing matter in 2022.

Visit to learn more about the Kikkerland Turtle Tofu Press.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide 2021: What Is One Thing Oprah and David Spade Have in Common? All-Occasion, 'Gift Wrap My Face' Gift Wrap Paper (and More)

The "Gift Wrap My Face" Elfie Dance Smart Gift Wrap is designed with trademarked augmented reality that is activated by a QR code. See video below. Images and videos courtesy of "Gift Wrap My Face."

HEADS UP: Dear Reader, we’re back with a Holiday Gift Guide after a two-year hiatus! Until 24 Dec., the elves at The Wright Wreport will introduce at least one or a series of products, items, services and/or brands that we believe are worthy of consideration as holiday gift(s).


see it on the Wall Art, Banner, Gift wrap paper and so on. It is you or possibly someone you know.

Essentially, some likeness is superimposed onto items with themes associated with holidays, celebrations and events. One company – “Gift Wrap My Face” – makes the magic happen. As co-owner Aryel Rivero put it during a recent virtual press conference, “We make all kinds of things with faces on them.”

When the Florida-based company was founded in 2014, it mainly produced themed gift wrap paper. Now, “Gift Wrap My Face” plasters faces on items like Christmas stockings, Posters, Socks and Stickers.

The “Gift Wrap My Face” Little Miss Elfie Selfie Wine Socks – like all of the wine socks – can replace wine-type gift bags. After the bottles are removed from them, they will be ready to wear.

It’s all “kitschy but well-designed,” Rivero pointed out with a smirk.

It’s easy-peasy, too. On the website:
1. Select themed paper (Advent Calendar, Christmas Sweater, Evergreen Christmas, Menorah Head, Selfie Ornaments)
2. Upload a high-res photo
3. Select product and theme (Banner and Birthday)
4. “Gift Wrap My Face” team does its thing and you have your customized order in as few as three to four business days.

The items are tied to themes and occasions that include Anniversaries, Birthdays, Christmas, Everyday, Graduation, Hanukkah, Motivational messages, Pets, Superheroes, Thanksgiving, Weddings, etc. (All products are made in the United States.)

Of course, selfie gift wrap paper and the like aren’t new. After all, we live in a selfie culture.

The personalized “Gift Wrap My Face” banners are 60 inches wide by 24 inches high.

Part of what sets “Gift Wrap My Face” apart, however, is that it is truly custom. It does all of the work for you, saving you the botheration of going to a Zazzle, for instance, and doing much of the custom production – which can be rather tedious and user-unfriendly – yourself.

Further, “Gift Wrap My Face” uses trademarked Augmented Intelligence that can produce floating faces like the one on the paper that Rivero used to wrap a gift that he sent to co-owner and wife, Vanessa Clavijo, who at the time was his girlfriend.

Another “Gift Wrap My Face” product is Video Paper. It has a personalized and private QR code that allows gift givers to share a video message with recipients.

Quality-wise, the paper “Gift Wrap My Face” uses is different from the gift wrap paper one buys in a store in that it is matte and of a heavier stock, preventing ink from bleeding and smudging.

The company also eschews coated paper and paper made with “harmful shiny chemicals.” Socks are a polyester-spandex blend with a reinforced heel and Christmas stockings are made from 100% polyester.

The “Gift Wrap My Face” Money Maker and Aqua socks (inset) are a crew design made from a polyester-spandex blend. All styles come in adult and child sizes.

Not surprisingly, this outfit is on the radar of the celebrity set: Khloe Kardashian and David Spade. Its biggest endorsement to date has come from none other than king and queenmaker, Oprah.

Visit to learn more about “Gift Wrap My Face.”
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