Saturday, April 30, 2011

TFF: Discordant 'When the Drum Is Beating'

The trumpet section of Septentrional during a concert in Plain du Nord, Haiti. Photo by Daniel Morel.

“WHEN the Drum Is Beating” does a competent job of recalling the devastating effects that colonial rule, neo-colonial rule, corrupt dictators, poor fiscal policies, outside meddling and so forth have had on Haiti, the so-called poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Indeed, “When the Drum Is Beating” is a handy cliffnotes version of Haitian history. The footage of the acute poverty and squalor of this once beautiful country is affecting.

The documentary, making its world premiere at the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, also tells a story of the country’s beloved 20-piece band, Septentrional, famous for its Haitian Voodoo beats and Cuban big band rhythms. Various members who have joined this institution since its founding in 1948 recount what it means to be a part of it. They express their hopes, dreams; they bellyache. Some have ambivalence about changes in the band; others express the necessity of it.

“When the Drum Is Beating” tells the story of the country and the band. Why then does it not resonate. Why is it not gripping?

For one, it fails to live up to its basic premise of explaining how the band has survived amid the country’s travails. Rather than interweaving these events, it tells them in a parallel fashion. It’s akin to watching tennis players trade volleys. On this side, a little piece of the country’s history. On the other, a few words from a band member or a rehearsal scene.

Ulick Pierre-Louis has been a member of Septentrional since its founding. Photo by Daniel Morel.

“When the Drum Is Beating” almost feels like two, separate documentaries. Events in the country and the band’s evolution against this backdrop are twain that rarely meet. On one rare occasion when they do – something about a song paying tribute to François "Papa Doc" Duvalier – it’s a passing mention that deserves a much fuller explanation. Here was an opportunity for director Whitney Dow to reveal something with real substance.

Speaking of revelations, the Haitian history in this film does not advance beyond anything one might learn from a Haitian schoolgirl or Wikipedia. The two biggest failures, however, of “When the Drum Is Beating” are its tendency to tell a lot more than it shows. On too many occasions someone is jawing about doing something, rather than being shown to be doing the thing.

Septentrional circa 1955. The band was formed in 1948. Photo courtesy of Orchestre Septentrional.

The film also falls short in its treatment of Septentrional. Too much time is spent on showing the band in rehearsals. Alas, the rehearsals do not hint at the great musicianship of these talented musicians. Further, Septentrional is reportedly beloved in Haiti, particularly in the north, yet one does not get this impression. Two pieces of concert footage don’t advance this notion either. Lacking more concert footage – and why is there not more? – this sense could have been conveyed through conversations with fans. Inexplicably, WD neglects to do this.

While well-intentioned and reverent, “When the Drum Is Beating” is ultimately unsatisfactory.

Additional screenings of “When the Drum Is Beating”:
Saturday, 30 April at 3 p.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas

Visit http:// to learn more about the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival.

After the Love Is Gone in 'Marie and Bruce'

Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley as a bickering couple in “Marie and Bruce.” Photos by Monique Carboni.


WALLACE Shawn’s “Marie and Bruce”
is an offbeat story of love gone askew in which the titular couple is locked in a dance of regrets and recriminations.

As the play opens, Marie (Marisa Tomei) spews a torrent of nasty at Bruce (Frank Whaley) as he snores beside her. Addressing the audience, Marie announces her intention to leave Bruce.

When Bruce awakens, he phlegmatically answers her jeers with “Well, darling.” It is one of his standard responses to her acrimonious assaults.

Much of the action in “Marie and Bruce,” in a revival by The New Group at the Acorn Theatre through 7 May, is explained by Marie’s expositions. For instance, she describes how her day has passed as she prepares to meet Bruce at a dinner party.

Tina Benko and Frank Whaley as dinner party guests in "Marie and Bruce."

Incidentally, Marie doesn’t understand why Bruce likes parties so much because she really doesn’t enjoy them at all. At this gathering, the scene breaks out into pockets of combative conversation. It becomes clear as the evening wears on that Marie and Bruce are mutually abusive, he passively and she more aggressively.

There have always been couples like this. “Marie and Bruce” is a day in the life of a married pair who take pleasure in torturing each other, repeating skirmishes from the night before and fighting and forgiving the unforgivable things they say to each other.

The cast is rounded out by the host, Frank (Adam Trese), and the dinner party guests : Gloria (Alison Wright), Herb (Devin Ratray), Janet (Tina Benko), Ann (Cindy Katz), Nils (Russell G. Jones) and Ralph (Alok Tewari).

Marie (Marisa Tomei) and Bruce (Frank Whaley) at a café in "Marie and Bruce."

“Marie and Bruce,” niftily directed by Scott Elliot, has a ‘60s scenester quality, particularly during the cleverly staged dinner party scene. On the set by Derek McLane the dinner table moves in a circular motion.

Eavesdropping on the dinner conversations as the table turns lends the play the feel of a weightier, more serious episode of “Laugh-In.”

Visit to learn more about "Marie and Bruce.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

TFF: Unusual Tale of Africa in 'Grey Matter'

Balthazar (Herve Kimenyi) will not allow a lack of financing to put the breaks on his first film in "Grey Matter." Photo by Ari Wegner.

THERE’S been much ado about the fact that newcomer Kivu Ruhorahoza’s “Grey Matter (Matiere Grise)” is the first film from a Rwandan director who actually lives in the country or who lived in the country at the time he made the film. The reserved, sad-eyed young star-on-the-rise has a residence in London.

One supposes that this would be considered remarkable. Even more remarkable, however, is the subject matter.

The film that financially strapped director, Balthazar (Herve Kimenyi), shoots takes on a life of its own in “Grey Matter,” which had its world premiere yesterday at the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival. The film within a film, touchingly and affectingly explores the post-traumatic stress syndrome suffered by Yvan (Shami Bizimana) in the aftermath of the Rwandan civil war and genocide. He and his sister, Justine (Ruth Shanel Nirere), are the sole survivors of their family, which included prominent activist parents. They are two young people alone in a culture that prizes family.

Yvan spends his days and night in the sparsely and shabbily furnished home he shares with his younger sister. Wearing a helmet he refuses to remove, he whiles away the hours painting the same photo over and over. That is, when he is not seeing burning bodies, rape and torture.

Nothing Yvan does - praying to Allah, fondling rosary beads, dousing fire on a TV screen projecting burning bodies - can erase the images. No amount of encouragement Justine gives or the sacrifice she makes to ensure that he gets visits and pills from a doctor help either. Yvan’s world is very small, insular and solitary; it is as if he is trying to live as he imagines a cockroach would. It is this disparaging term that the majority Hutus used to refer to the minority Tutsis.

Most remarkable of all is that Yvan was in Belgium when the atrocities occurred. He was not there! How, then, can he be so affected? It is a riveting performance by SB. He lays himself bear as a young man who is almost rendered prostrate with anxiety and inertia. He is unafraid to cry, wail, curl up in the fetal position, to run and hide.

As Justine, the gorgeous doe-eyed RSN is effective in a restrained performance. Justine, too, has suffered and is still suffering atrocities, but keeps a cool exterior, making one wonder when/if she will blow her top.

Kivu Ruhorahoza, writer, director and producer of "Grey Matter." Photo by Eljah Molanba Tanda.

"Grey Matter" is not the sort of personal psychological study one is accustomed to seeing out of Africa. Most of the few that address such issues usually revolve around the effects on Europeans or nominally address the effects on Africans through the eyes of Europeans. Here is an African meltdown told from the point of view of an African by an African.

One can safely assert that “Grey Matter” is inspired by KR’s life. During the war, he was almost 12 and living with his grandmother in a western province of the country near Congo. He was in touch with his family by phone and could hear the “terror” in their voices. He internalized this, KR told the audience during a Q&A following the screening.

Once the war was over and KR returned home - his family survived but families of some of his friends did not - no one talked about the war. “We are the Japanese of Africa,” he said in reference to that group’s well-documented stoicism among Asian peoples.

In response to a query about whether "Grey Matter" could cause upset when it is shown in Rwanda, KR noted that his country must come to terms with the after-affects of the war. “Grey Matter,” the director disclosed, has been cathartic for him. He hopes it will be so, too, for his countrymen.

With such a weighty subject out of the way, KR can “go and make nothing but cartoons,” though he is working on a screenplay about sexuality - a taboo subject in Rwanda, if there ever was one.

Additional screenings of “Grey Matter”:
Saturday, 30 April at 9:30 p.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas

Stay tuned for more from the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival http://

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beans & Other Things That Prevent Wrecks

Many people are just as banged up as this sports car because they do not have a balanced, mindful and healthful diet. Photo from Car Insurance Comparison.


the old adage, “You are what you eat.”

It’s so true. Looking back at what I used to eat as a child, teenager and in my 20’s ... all I can say is YIKES! I’m surprised I didn’t turn into a big mound of sugar.

No wonder I was fat, sick and tired all the time. As I entered my 30s, I started seeing a relationship between the food I was eating, my health and my moods. They were all connected.

This discovery totally fascinated me. I would be happy, joyful and energetic before eating a meal. Then a little while later … errrr CRASH! I would turn into a huge mess with symptoms of fatigue, congestion, irritability, muscle fatigue, etc. Talk about a total mood killer on a first date. Au Gewalt!

Lemon Tarragon Smoked Salmon Spread (with crackers) is good as a snack or as a main dish. An extra bonus is that the spread contains a good daily dose of Omega 3s. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

Joshua Rosenthal, founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, says, “If you eat chemicalized foods – you have chemicalized thoughts, behaviors and actions.”

Looking back, I can see that I didn’t always exhibit the best thoughts and behaviors when I was eating a lot of processed pasta, bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, chips, frozen foods and more. These days I’m more in tune with what makes my body feel and look great.

Shhh! ... Don’t tell anyone, but this is one of my true confessions as a health coach. I love to look into people’s eyes. No, not to hypnotize them, silly. I check for clarity and brightness while I'm engaging them in conversation. Eyes that appear yellowish and cloudy indicate that the person is not healthy. Another sure sign is their skin. Whatever unhealthy food or beverages they are consuming shows up on the outside.

I know from personal experience when I don’t drink my 64 ounces (8 cups) of water daily, it shows up immediately on the outside. My skin looks ruddy with the appearance of fine lines all over. This is not attractive at all - especially for NYC Healthy Chick.

Eyes that are vibrant, clear and bright, not only add a layer of excitement to flirting, they suggest something of the health of their owner. Photo from Dreamstime.

Other signs of poor diet and health are dryness, redness, acne and uneven pigmentation. These indicate that things aren’t quite working on the inside. Don’t worry, should we ever meet I won’t be looking you over with a magnifying glass.

So what is the plan, Stan, to getting that healthy glow every day, starting from the inside out? You simply must eat a variety of whole and natural foods as much as possible. Not sure what some of these healthy foods are?

Drumroll please, ...
1. Sweet Potatoes:
They're packed with carotenoids, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Plus they are a sweet treat that can help curb unhealthy cravings for sugar.

2. Leafy Greens: These are the powerhouse to any healthy eating program. You get vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, lutein,and good old fiber.

3. Garbanzo Beans: All beans are good for you, these just happen to be my favorite because they are so versatile. Garbanzos are rich in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

4. Crispbreads: Great brands are Wasa, Ry Krisp and Ryvita. These are loaded with fiber and often fat-free.

A good source of a natural, healthy glow is a diet rich in whole foods, including plenty of vegetables. Photo from Dreamstime.

5. Wild Salmon: Hmmm ... delicious way to get your Omega-3 fats which is good for heart health. Salmon from the wild contains fewer PCB contaminants. Stay away from farm-raised salmon because they are fed pellets to make them pink.

6. Cacao Beans: These tasty little treats are minimally processed and are a great brain food because they are loaded with antioxidants, flavonoids, catechins and many other brain and body-enhancing elements.

7. Blueberries: AKA brainberries are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins essential for the body.

8. Oatmeal: Please, no instant oatmeal because it's loaded with a lot of junk. The regular variety is a great way to get vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol-lowering fiber in every day.

9. Green Tea: A good alternative to coffee, plus it has been shown to have double the benefit for battling obesity while boosting metabolism with the green tea polyphenols. Remember to go easy on the caffeine if you have adrenal challenges.

10. Avocados: They have good unsaturated fat and helps with reducing overall cholesterol. Also a good source of fiber.

You are probably sitting there and saying, "OK, NYC Healthy Chick, this is great but I don't like to cook, and I eat on the go! How do I make this work for me?"

Connie's Turkey Guacamole Burger is packed with flavor and nutrients. Photo from The Eat Clean Diet.

Agreed, we all live very busy lives and cooking can be a drag, not to mention inconvenient. Remember, you don't have to eat gourmet meals all the time. Apply the KISS principle - Keep It Super Simple. It will take some pre-planning, but I promise it will be totally worth it.

Below are two of my favorites. They are great starter meals that you can make in minutes.

Lemon Tarragon Smoked Salmon Spread ( is best paired on a Wasa Cracker with a side of greens. Delicious anytime and portable.

People love, love, love burgers. So give Connie's Turkey Guacamole Burgers from The Eat Clean Diet a try. (

So ... the next time you are heading south and starting to looking like a car crash, have some berries beans leafy greens and green tea.

TFF: Bleakness in 'White White World'

Ruzica (Jasna Djuricic) during one of many despairing moments in "White White World." Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

RUZICA (Jasna Djuricic) makes a huge sacrifice for those she loves in Oleg Novkovic's "White White World.

The film, making its North American premiere at the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, is a modern-day Greek tragedy with a chorus and requisite assortment of tragic creatures. In the dying southeast Serbian mining town of Bor, inhabitants have little to occupy them other than drink, smoke and illicit drugs.

Surrounded by bilious smoke from factories that has made the sky permanently gray and foggy, they don't laugh to keep from crying. They shed tears and resort to songs - sad, sad songs. The next screening is tonight at 10:30. More later.

Visit to learn more about the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival.

Monday, April 25, 2011

TFF: Carol Channing & Yves Saint Laurent

Footage from "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life" of Carol Channing and the "Dolly Boys" at "Gypsy of the Year" program on Broadway. Photo by Peter James Zielinski.

TWO of several icons – Carol Channing and Yves Saint Laurent – get the documentary treatment at the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival.

“Carol Channing: Larger Than Life” is director/screenwriter/producer Dori Berinstein’s very reverential tribute to the Broadway legend. It was love at first sight, DB, said during a Q&A after the world premiere a few days ago, when her mother took her to see “Hello Dolly” on Broadway. More later ...

Whereas “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life” is a love letter, “L’amour fou (Mad Love)” is a postcard – a delightful one, with a few throwaway bits.

Carol Channing shows off her "Hello Dolly" headdress in "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life." Photo from Dramatic Forces.

The documentary hangs on a flimsy premise: the sale of the uber impressive art collection of business and life partners, YSL and Pierre Berge. It is a lot to hang 100 minutes on, and director Pierre Thoretton making his feature film debut, wisely does not do so.

L’amour fou” is nominally about the art, and what a collection amassed over more than 50 years. Who knew it would start with a Mondrian painting? PB gives brief bios of various arts and objects as they are being packed and and prepared to ship for auction at Christie’s.

Partners Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in "L'amour fou." Photo from 2011 Alice Springs/IFC Films.

The film also provides a backstage tour into the life of one of the world’s greatest designers, as well as a window into the life of PB. The latter is not so interesting and seems like filler. PB is an engaging and informative tour guide. However, a little of him goes a long way. The homes, though, oh la!

The biggest treat in L’amour fou” is the archival footage. There is a young, gangly YSL when he was tapped out of obscurity to design for the House of Dior after the death of Christian Dior. Fooling around in front of the camera, he agrees to be the interview subject of a mock serious PB. In answer to the query about what makes him happy and what make him sad – a full bed and not a full bed.

Included, too, is footage of the exquisite and elaborate wedding gowns over the years, the standing ovations after the shows, the spectacular show at a stadium featuring 300 models from five continents. YSL’s last walk down the runway at his retirement. Much of this is goosebump-producing.

Yves Saint Laurent relaxing at home during the off season. Photo from 2011 IFC Films.

Not an insignificant amount of time in “L’amour fou” is spent on YSL’s struggles with drugs and alcohol. It’s more titillation than edification. The film could have done nicely without it. Another 20 minutes could have been saved, too, had there been less focus on PB analyses of YSL’s state of mind and PB’s close association with Francois Mitterrand. And while PB’s work in the cause of AIDS is admirable, mentioning it seemed a tad self-aggrandizing.

The last frame in “L’amour fou” is of PB starring blankly back at the camera, presumably after the art has been sold. Incidentally, the collection sold for millions; one piece sold for 22 million euros. The final tally: Who knows.

Yves Saint Laurent with mannequins. Photo from 2011 Pierre Boulat/IFC Films.

Additional screenings of “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life”:
Wednesday, 27 April at 12:15 p.m. at SVA-1
Friday, 29 April at 6 p.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas
Saturday, 30 April at 11:30 a.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas

"L’amour fou":
Tuesday, 26 April at 9 p.m. at SVA-1
Thursday, 28 April at 2:30 p.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas
Friday, 29 April at 9:45 p.m. at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas

Stay tuned for more from the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival http://

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Going ‘Gaga-Gaku’ at Armitage Gone! Dance

William Isaac and Emily Wagner in “Three Theories.” Photos by Julieta


Cambodian court theater, Japanese Noh and Balinese dance and the result is “Gaga-Gaku,” choreographer Karole Armitage’s latest work, making its world premiere at the Joyce Theater.

Gagaku, which means “elegant music” in Japanese, is a court music. In “Gaga-Gaku,” the Tony-nominated KA pairs her Armitage Gone! Dance hoofers with young ballerinas from the Dance Theatre of Harlem. “Gaga-Gaku" and a second program run from Tuesday (26 April) through 8 May.

Bennyroyce Royon and Abbey Roesner in “Gaga-Gaku.”

Sharing the “Gaga-Gaku” program are “Ligeti Essays” from 2006 and “Drastic Classicism.” The latter work, revised in 2009 and when originally created in 1981, earned KA the nickname “punk ballerina.” (See a video of "Drastic Classicism" at

“Three Theories” (2010) is the title of the second program. It considers three bulwarks of 20th century physics – Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and String Theory.

Visit to learn more about Armitage Gone! Dance at the Joyce Theater and to learn more about the Armitage Gone! Dance company.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

TFF: In 'Neon Flesh,' a Gift for Mama

Mario Casas as Ricky in "Neon Flesh (Carne de Neon)." Photo courtesy Tribeca Film Festival.

WHAT better way for a street kid to welcome mother, a prostitute, back into a warm embrace after a stretch in prison than to open up a brothel as a homecoming present?

It’s easy, too: Occupy – and it is not clear whether you are leasing or squatting – an abandoned, dilapidated building and gussy it up. Of course, if you run a brothel you need girls. To that end, you buy them on the sex trafficking mart, that is if you don’t get them direct from the sea.

Much of the action in “Neon Flesh (Carne de Neon)” revolves around these events. Spanish director Paco Cabezas’ film, making its North American premiere at the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, nicely lives up to its premise. It is indeed stylish and full of wild humor, much of it informed by the struggles that Ricky (Mario Casas heading a strong cast) faces in opening up the “Hiroshima.”

One quibble with “Neon Flesh” is the melting away of a language barrier a little too quickly. Another: some of the violence is gratuitous and cartoonish.

The broadly drawn characters in this stew are the types of lowlifes, cretins, pawns and cut-throats that populate Elmore Leonard novels. Not surprisingly, women get no respect but they are survivors.

Additional screenings of "Neon Flesh" at the Tribeca Film Festival:
Saturday, 23 April at 11:30 p.m./Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
Thursday, 28 April at 11:59 p.m./Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
Friday, 29 April at 5:30 p.m./Clearview Cinemas Chelsea

Stay tuned for more from the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival http://

In 'Love Song,' Imagination Takes Flight

Andrew Pastides as Beane and Zoë Winters as Molly in "Love Song." Photo by Jeff Larkin.


JOHN Kolvenbach’s “Love Song,”
is a fantasy which raises a glass to toast [the] “death to literalism.”

JK suggests eschewing pedantry and thinking outside the box but “Love Song,” playing through 7 May as part of the celebration of American Theater called “Americas Off Broadway” at 59E59 Theaters, has an unfortunately blurry premise. Its tantalizing hypothesis squanders this comedy’s genuine charm and whimsy.

An imaginary love, Molly (Zoë Winters), enlivens the drab and withdrawn Beane (Andrew Pastides) and brightens the lives of his sister, Joan (Laura Latreille) and brother-in-law, Harry (Ian Barford).

Beane falls in love with Molly when she appears in his dull under-furnished room as a “fearsome force” who robs him of his second pair of pants. Molly is everything Beane is not – aggressive, unpredictable. She is also, as Beane fully understands, a figment of his imagination. Her energy awakens all his senses, but the hitch in this plot is that Beane has conjured her up as the object of all his affections.

Laura Latreille, Andrew Pastides and Ian Barford in "Love Song." Photo by Jeff Larkin.

Even when she inspires the taciturn Beane to become curious, sensual and talkative, Molly is more like his alter ego than his lover. Joan accepts her brother’s folly rather than have him revert to the sad sack he was. Will having known Molly give Beane the impetus to go ahead and embrace life?

Despite the failings of “Love Song” it is still an agreeable entertainment. And the actors are delightful, ably and credibly conveying the over-arching message of the play – that imagination can make us better.

Visit http:// for more information about “Love Song.”

If the Brits Can Have One, So Can the Yanks
last year, 59E59 Theaters presented “Brits Off Broadway,” a celebration of award-winning productions from the United Kingdom.(See review:

Andrew Pastides and Ian Barford in "Love Song." Photo by Jeff Larkin.

Now U.S. American theater is the focus with “Americas Off Broadway.” Running through 3 July, it features seven plays, a musical and a revue showcasing the music of Cy Coleman with some very nice Broadway names attached.

“Love Song” kicked off the festivities.
(See video of the 59E59 Theaters at

The revue, “The Best is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman,” premiered at the Rubicon Theatre in California in 2009. It will run in 59E59 Theater A from 18 May through 3 July.

“The Best is Yet To Come" will be making its New York premiere and features a cast of six award-winning and award-nominated Broadway stars (accompanied by an eight-piece band). The cast is Lillias White, Billy Stritch (also the musical director and conductor for this production), David Burnham, Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin and Rachel York.

Tony Award winner David Zippel devised and directed this revue, which will include favorites from Broadway (“Sweet Charity,” “City of Angels,” “Little Me,” “The Will Rogers Follies”), pop hits made famous by the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand, as well as new songs written toward the end of Coleman’s life.

Justin Preston and Marley McLean in “Julia.” Photo by Alex Moy.

Also included on the festival menu is “I Married Wyatt Earp” presented by Prospect Theater Company and New York Theatre Barn. It is based in part on Glenn G. Boyer‘s book of the same name. “I Married Wyatt Earp” runs from 20 May through 12 June. The cast includes Carolyn Mignini as Josephine Marcus Earp and Anastasia Barzee as Mattie Earp.

The Pacific Resident Theatre is bringing “Julia” by Vince Melocchi through 15 May. In this story about love lost 50 years ago at the start of the Korean War, Lou Perino (Richard Fancy) returns to his hometown to try to right the wrong he did when he went off to fight and then to Detroit.

Jack Finnegan (playwright/actor) presents a portrait of our country, constructed from the character of 24 American cities and the land and waters between them in “City Love Song.” This 21st century travelog runs from 3 May to 15 May before embarking on a tour of 13 international cities.

Visit http:// to learn more about “Americas Off Broadway,” including a schedule of programs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kosher, Pt. 2: Hold Meats & Pass the White

A plate of greens, olives, cheese, spreads and so on is welcome after a two-day diet heavy on meat and poultry. Photo by Neil Gould.


carnivore’s best friend: A Brazilian grill or a Passover Seder. Both are typically chock full of beef, chicken, sometimes lamb, and in only one case, pork.

After two nights of back-to-back hearty eating, anyone but a Texan would scream, “Please, no more meat!” Vegans and vegetarians, liberation is on the way. Cows, chickens, Porky Pig and Little Bo Peep: breathe easy.

Weinstock White W, rather than being syrupy, is refreshingly peachy with a good middle finish. Photo from Weinstock White.

Hold the meats, but pass the wines. (BoPeep, expect to be carded.) For a little bit on the lighter side, try these delicious Kosher white wines. Gone is the syrupy sweet spiked grape juice. Instead, luscious wines are but a click away. And with a few more days of Passover left to go, white wines are a welcome switch from the usual red:

Weinstock White by W
Blend (Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc) 2009
Central Coast, CA$8 online at The Wine House

Weinstock White by W is a wonderful value. Inexpensive without being cheap, fresh without being crass, W smells like a bouquet of wildflowers (floral nose), betraying its splash of Sauvignon Blanc. Ever-so-slightly sweet on the tongue, W’s fruit flavors tend toward peach (fruit forward) and then fully open up in the mouth, becoming even richer (good middle finish).

The dry Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc likes cheese and smoked fish. Photo from Goose Bay.

The Sauvignon Blanc keeps this wine rooted: a little hint of green (vegetal; dill, to be precise) cuts the sweetness at just the right point. A fabulous little “let’s grab a bottle on the go,” this wine will compliment most summertime dishes.

Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Marlboro, New Zealand$21; on sale $16 at Skyview Wines

The furthest thing from the stereotypic sweet Kosher wine, Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc will knock your socks off. Big floral notes jump out of the bottle (nose) with just an edge of musk. Don’t let that get in the way of savoring a fine dry wine.

The fresh snap of green pepper comes through loud and clear. Bring out the cheese and the smoked fish. This wine will make the rest of the meal on its own.

Yatir Viognier 2009
Judean Hills, Israel$ 38; on sale $33 at Skyview Wines

Partly owned by Carmel Wines, Yatir produces unusual – and unusually beautiful – boutique wines. Its 2009 Viognier is a case in point: crafted on the dry side, this Viognier can actually stand up to a steak on the one hand, and compliment a fish dish without overpowering it on the other.

No more of Little Bo Peep's sheep need go missing, after all, it is Day 3 of Passover. Photo from Wikipedia.

Imagine that. A hint of earthiness despite being made in steel, Yatir Viognier initially smacks of mushrooms. The softest hint of citrus fruits rolls in (middle finish), leaving a delightfully complex lingering taste (long finish). If you need a wine to make a fine impression, this is it.

How to find these wines? Try your local wine store. If the pickings are slim and time is short, enter cyberspace. All are available online. Enjoy!

NEXT: Portuguese Wines – the next big thing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Go Back to Where You Are' Takes Its Time

For David Greenspan and Brian Hutchison, love is in the air in "Go Back To Where You Are." Photos by Joan Marcus.


it Pessimus who said, “Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed?”

This adage is proved wrong by “Go Back to Where You Are,” where expecting the worst does not set the bar low enough. It is playing at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater through 1 May.

Passalus (David Greenspan, who also authored the play) is released from an eternity in hell to do an errand for God (Tim Hopper in a dual role). His mission: to repair to a houseparty on Long Island to help Caroline (an unseen character) liberate herself, though from what exactly is unclear.

If Passalus completes his mission as asked, only taking care of Caroline’s predicament, he will be granted the utter oblivion he has requested. He fails by meddling in the lives of others he encounters, including falling in love with Bernard (Brian Hutchison), a playwright.

Lisa Banes and David Greenspan are shape-shifters in "Go Back to Where You Are."

Every character in “Go Back to Where You Are” is theatrical. Passalus, once a chorus boy in ancient Greece, is now a shape-shifting demon. Bernard’s sister, Claire (Lisa Banes), the hostess, is a well-known stage actress. Her son, Wally (Michael Izquierdo) is a television writer in Los Angeles (See a video at

It is a pleasure to watch LB oozing insincerity and unctuous backbiting phoniness as she welcomes her guests. In fact, the players pluckily attempt to put over the drivel that is “Go Back to Where You Are,” and they are all good.

Still, it may be the longest 68 minutes you’ll ever spend in a theater.

Visit to learn more about “Go Back To Where You Are.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sorting Things Out in 'The Other Place'

Aya Cash as a stranger and Laurie Metcalf as Juliana, a scientist, in "The Other Place. Photos by Joan Marcus


JULIANA (Laurie Metcalf)
is a research scientist promoting a new drug she has developed when she suffers “a thingy.” She attributes her medical incident to brain cancer, which she claims, runs in her family.

LM is seated, holding centerstage, long before the lights dim. For the next 80 minutes in “The Other Place,” she continues to dominate in monologues lobbed directly across the fourth wall, as well as in fiery encounters with both her husband, Ian (Dennis Boutsikaris), an oncologist, and her doctor, Cindy Keller (Aya Cash, billed as The Woman and playing several parts).

As Juliana falls apart, LM remains marvelously in control of the energy of “The Other Place,” in an MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre until 1 May

LM is a powerful dramatic actress who makes good use of her comic timing. Here, she displays perfect pitch in portraying Juliana’s brusqueness to be the rudeness of a sad and delicate illness. (See videos at

Dennis Boutsikaris as a man who doubts, but supports his wife (Laurie Metcalf) in "The Other Place."

Ian is skeptical of the self-diagnosis, and his colleague, Dr. Keller, diagnosis dementia. Adding to the trauma of her condition, Juliana is reliving the disappearance of her daughter, Lauren, 10 years ago.

The minor irony that the drug Juliana developed will be used to help restore her memories is a little pat, and “The Other Place” unfolds a little disconnectedly, like synapses misfiring. Further, Juliana’s interactions with Richard (John Schiappa – The Man in the credits and also playing more than one part) are awkward and full of “the regrets” she says she often experiences.

Aya Cash as Dr. Cindy Keller and Laurie Metcalf as her patient, Juliana, in "The Other Place."

Yet, none of this diminishes the power of Sharr White’s tale. The awkwardness of the play’s timelines and jumbled settings underlines the excellent storytelling and strong performances.

In all her characters, AC is adroit; she is especially charming as an unnerved, but kind stranger Juliana encounters. DB is excellent, revealing Ian as weary, faithful and stoical despite the wild accusations Juliana makes against him.

Dennis Boutsikaris, Laurie Metcalf and Aya Cash in "The Other Place."

Since “The Other Place” is not linear, moving back and forth like a reluctant witness to Juliana’s disintegration, it maintains a tension and mystery from beginning to end. But it also requires a steady hand to guide it. Joe Mantello directs with a clarity and wit, getting the most from his cast.

Visit to learn more about “The Other Place.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Possible Injustice in 'The Conspirator'

Robin Wright as Mary Surratt in "The Conspirator." Photo from Roadside Attractions.

IN the week (Tuesday, 12 April) that marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the War Between the States aka Civil War and Emancipation Day (moved up one day this year to today) comes “The Conspirator.”

The film opens nationwide today.

Directed by Robert Redford, “The Conspirator” revolves around the trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright nee Penn). She is the proprietor of the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth&Co. hatched the plan to kill Abraham Lincoln, as well as his Vice President and Secretary of State. Though her guilt is in doubt, Surratt is tried and convicted and would become the first woman in the United States to be sentenced to death. She was hanged.

More on "The Conspirator" later. See trailer:

“The Conspirator” is rated PG-13 for some violent content.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did You Lose the Keys to Your H.O.M.E.?

You can have your burger and eat it, too. Make sure, though, that the beef comes from healthy cows. Photo from Whole Foods Market.


"WISDOM is your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other." Steven R. Covey (“The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”)

LET'S face it. Our lives have become so goal-driven, results-oriented, packed with deadlines and appointments that we have lost the keys to our H.O.M.E.

Getting in touch with emotions is an effective way to achieve goals and to get rid of bad habits. Photo from Dreamstime.

You're probably thinking, "OK, NYC Healthy Chick what are you about here?" It's real simple actually. When I started my practice a few years ago I came up with a principle called Joy Begins at H.O.M.E. :
H - Healthy Living
O - Optimal Nutrition
M - Mediation
E - Exercise

Practice this principle daily and you will become mindful of what's missing in your life and what is causing the imbalances. The real challenge arises once you identify the causes.

Often, we are entrenched in old beliefs, thinking patterns and behaviors that adversely affect our relationships, careers and physical and spiritual practices. We become overwhelmed; stuck. Slowly, we begin dying inside just a little each day. Sounding familiar?

A little personal investigation will reveal those heavy loads that are weighing us down. Photo from Dreamstime.

Stop! Pause here and take the NYC Healthy Chick Quick Self-Assessment Test.
(Think about one area of your H.O.M.E. you wish to improve.)
1. What's working?
2. What shapes me?
3. Why I do what I do?
4. How does this serve me?
5. How can I do it better?

Now think about all the excuses and reasons you failed in the past at having better health and wellness, an ideal relationship, career, physical activity or a spiritual practice (not religious).

As an example, below, are a few reasons we fail to achieve permanent weight loss:
1. Didn’t have enough time to exercise;
2. Didn't have enough money to join a gym, hire a personal trainer or health coach;
3. Didn't know enough about how to lose weight;
4. Didn't have the right support;
5. Didn't know how or what to eat and drink.

There are keys to your home and there are keys to your H.O.M.E. Photo from Locksmiths Phoenix.

According to Tony Robbins, one of my ultimate favorite gurus, these all may be true. Further, these claims are about missing resources but they are not the defining factor for failure. What's missing? A few things actually:
Decision: it's the ultimate power in any area of our lives;
State: our emotional and physical states;
Why: our reason for our decision to improve;
Plan: the steps we take each day to get us closer to our goal;
Tools: the right systems, actions, practices, habits;
Mentor: someone who has successfully achieved it whom we can follow.

Now, think back to a time when you were a kid. You wanted something so bad, like a dog or new bike or dress. You had no access to any resources, except you tapped into your emotions, and you knew with all your heart you would have it. Remember being certain, laser-focused, determined, passionate, resolved and very creative in achieving that very thing.

Mine was in the 7th grade when I bugged my mother to death for a pair of clogs. Hey, it was 1980, cut me some slack will yah! Don't you understand? I had to have them because Kelly, my BFF, had them and they were so en vogue that year.

Hitting important targets encourages us in our quest to have overall wellness. Photo from Free Coupons.

How phenomenal was this? Through the power of my own human emotion, as a 7th-grader at Clinton Junior High School, I achieved the unimaginable! Tony Robbins says when we have the right human emotion we can do anything we want. It must also meet one or more of our six human needs which are: (1) Certainty (2) Uncertainty/Variety (3) Significance (4) Connection&Love (5) Growth (6) Contribution.

After my near-death experience in 2004, I knew without a doubt my mission was to get healthy in all areas of my life (mind, body, spirit, financially, career, relationships, food). How? I didn't know. I simply made the decision to get there. I took all the negative and positive human emotions I experienced during a very difficult time in my life and made a decision to get healthy. I just knew I had to do this for me and for others.

Gradually, I started implementing upgrades to all areas of my life. It started with my diet. Breakfast consisted of pancakes or French toast with sausage every morning. OMG! Talk about food-itis. I made a healthier choice like A Better Breakfast Pita Pocket (http:// It was still enjoyable, not to mention I don't get food-itis after eating it.

A pita with vegetables and eggs is a good breakfast alternative to pancakes and bacon or sugary cereal. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

Typically, lunch was a hamburger on a processed white-bread bun with French fries. I switched to a healthier version like the Apple & Cheddar Grass Fed Beef Burger – only I would 86 the bun and put it atop healthy mixed greens (

Dinner – um, well I was known as the "Order in Chick." All the delivery people in my 'hood knew me by my first name. VERY SCARY! I started cooking something light and healthy, yet hearty enough to keep me from gnawing my arm off before bedtime from hunger pangs. Something like Spiced Lamb & Lentils with Cucumber-Tahini would hit the spot, not mention the fact that it is even better the second time around. (

This lamb/lentils dish is hearty and better the second time around. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

My transformation started with the decision to change. These gradual changes that started with my diet made me feel better. I had more natural energy and the stamina to exercise, plus to do other things that matter to me. Eventually, I reintroduced regular forms of exercise and mediation into my regimen. Next thing I know, I'm enrolled in health-coaching school and a personal training academy. It all resulted from my commitment to change myself and inspire others to follow.

Before I close I want to make one thing clear: I'm still a long way from where I want to be in all areas of my life. And let me tell you, I finally figured out that my journey is to be here for growth, contribution, connection, love, significance, variety and certainty.

Getting up every day and practicing a sassy, juicy and balanced lifestyle is my way of becoming the change I wish to see in our world. Remember, nothing worth doing is ever easy. I believe in you and so can you – all you have to do is make the ultimate decision.

You have the keys; open the door to your H.O.M.E.
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VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
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