Tag Archive | "Bay Street Theater"

East End Weekend: Highlights of August 22 to 24

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Dean Taylor Johnson, MARILYN. Courtesy Monika Olko Gallery.

Dean Taylor Johnson, MARILYN. Courtesy Monika Olko Gallery.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sick of the beach? That’s strange, but luckily there’s ample else to do around the East End this weekend. Here are our weekend highlights:

 

Introducing his latest body of work, Dean Johnson will show “Living Legends” at the Monika Olko Gallery, with an opening reception on Saturday, August 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The show, which features iconic figures in “living pieces,” of mixed media, always changing LED light panels composed of plexi-resin, pigmented inks, film and encaustic wax dyed with oil paints. The Sag Harbor gallery is sponsoring a fundraising event to benefit the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center‘s Southampton office as part of the opening reception.

The Monika Olko Gallery is located at 95 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call Art Curator and Gallery Manager Wafa Faith Hallam at (631) 899-4740.

 

Dougenis, Abstract Rubber Plant (Blue), c. 1977, watercolor on Arches, 25 x 13 inches. Photo by Gary Mamay.

Dougenis, Abstract Rubber Plant (Blue), c. 1977, watercolor on Arches, 25 x 13 inches. Photo by Gary Mamay.

At the Peter Marcelle Project in Southampton, Miriam Dougenis will show her early selected watercolors, with an opening reception on Saturday, August 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Known primarily for her contemporary oil on canvas landscapes, characterized by her unique style and the use of familiar locations around the East End, the local artist is also an award-winning watercolor artist. The exhibition, on view from August 23 through September 9, showcases examples of her earliest watercolors from the 70′s and 80′s.

The Peter Marcelle Project is located at 4 North Main Street in Southampton. For more information, contact Catherine McCormick at (631) 613.6170.

 

Before you head to Sag Harbor Saturday, stop by Marder’s in Bridgehampton where there will be free, live music from 3 to 5 p.m. A string trio in the garden will play classical music featuring Vivaldi, Bach and select composers. The concert is free of charge and all are welcome.

Marder’s is located at 120 Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton. For more information, call (631) 537-3700.

 

Stages presents “The Wind in the Willows” at the Pierson High School auditorium this weekend, with performances on Friday, August 22, at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 23, at 4 p.m., and Sunday, August 24 at 4 p.m.

Based on the English children’s classic by Kenneth Grahame, “The Wind in the Willows” follows the comedic story of Mr. Toad and his friends, McBadger, Rat and Mole, as they go on the classic, hilarious adventures.

Mr. Toad in his infamous motor car.

Mr. Toad in his infamous motor car.

Helene Leonard will direct the full-length musical production, an original version of the script that was written for television by her late father, Jerry Leonard. Mr. Leonard wrote the music and lyrics along with John Petrone, and there is additional music by Larry Loeber.

All tickets are $15. For reservations, call (631) 329-1420.

 

 

At Duck Creek Farm in East Hampton, Amagansett artist Christine Sciulli will show “Quiet Riot,” an immersive site-specific projection installation presented by the John Little Society.

The installation will be open to the public by appointment and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 7 p.m. through September 20.

In her primary medium of projected light, Ms. Sciulli “asks us to consider the potential of simple geometry by projecting these forms onto a network of materials that fragment and expand on their structures.

The installation will be in the John Little Barn at Duck Creek Farm, located at 367 Three Mile Harbor to Hog Creek Road (enter and park at north access to Squaw Road) in East Hampton. For more information on the artist, visit sound and vision or vimeo.

 

BLACKOUT at Bay Street. Photo by Lenny Stucker.

BLACKOUT at Bay Street. Photo by Lenny Stucker.

In the second installment of the new BLACKOUT at Bay Street, Bay Street Theater will feature a cabaret evening of performers from its latest hit, “My Life is a Musical,” on Friday, August 22 and Saturday, August 23.

The cabaret performance is complimentary for those who attend the 8 p.m. Mainstage production of the musical and $15 for those only attending the cabaret at 11 p.m.

BLACKOUT, an evening of cabaret and comedy, will feature the performers singing both musical theater and rock songs. For more information on BLACKOUT at Bay Street, call the box office at (631) 725-9500.

East End Weekend: Highlights of What to Do August 15 to 17

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


"Pont de Tournelle" by Stephen Wilkes is on view at the Tulla Booth Gallery in Sag Harbor.

“Pont de Tournelle” by Stephen Wilkes is on view at the Tulla Booth Gallery in Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

Art, films, and alternative energy; there’s plenty to do on the East End this weekend:

 

“Water 2014″ opens at the Tulla Booth Gallery in Sag Harbor on Saturday, August 16, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

The annual exhibition features contemporary and classic photography “depicting life in and around the most powerful force of nature,” said the gallery. Dan Jones, Karine Laval, Herb Friedman, John Magarites, Blair Seagram, Tulla Booth, Anne Gabriele and Jay Hoops will show their work at the gallery, which is located at 66 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

 

Furthering on your water weekend, visit the Parrish Art Museum for the Maritime Film Festival, a 70-minute screening of short film selections, on Friday, August 15, at 7 p.m.

The program includes a brief talk by artist Duke Riley, a live musical performance and a special sampling of Sag Harbor Rum.

The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information, call (631) 283-2118.

 

Hosted by Alec Baldwin, the Hamptons International Film Festival presents “Last Days in Vietnam,” on Saturday, August 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The documentary, produced and directed by Rory Kennedy,  follows United States soldiers during the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, when the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon as the South Vietnamese resistance crumbled.

A question and answer session will follow the screening, which will be held at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call the box office at (631) 324-4050.

 

The East End Climate Action Network will host its first annual Sustainability and Renewable Energy Fair on Saturday, August 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the grounds of Miss Amelia’s Cottage in Amagansett Village.

The event features exhibitions from leading companies in the sustainability and renewable energy fields, as well as informal lectures from energy and environment experts, local food and fun games and other activities for kids. Local artists will perform at the end of the day.

Tony award-winning John Glover will read "The Tempest" at two outdoor performances for the new Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative.

Tony award-winning John Glover will read “The Tempest” at two outdoor performances for the new Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative.

There will also be opportunities to get involved in local sustainability and climate change efforts, including solar energy consultations, beach clean-ups and membership sign-ups for local environmental groups. For more information, visit Renewable Energy Long Island.

 

Celebrating the launch of The Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative, Bay Street Theater will present two outdoor staged readings of The Tempest starring Tony award-winner John Glover as Prospero, on August 16 and 17.

On Saturday, the first performance is a VIP benefit held on a private waterfront estate on Shelter Island. The evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails followed by a 7 p.m. reading, includes a reception with the cast.

Sunday’s reading, which is open to the community free of charge, also starts at 7 p.m. at a thus far undisclosed location. There will be bleacher seating, although guests are encouraged to bring chairs, picnics and blankets. The reading will take place as the sun sets, with the stars coming out as Mr. Glover reads Shakespeare’s most beloved plays.

For more information, call the Bay Street box office at (631) 725-9500.

Review: “My Life is a Musical” at Bay Street Theater

Tags: , , , , ,


Photo by Lenny Stucker.

Brian Sills, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Danyel Fulton and Adam Daveline in Bay Street Theater’s production of “My Life is a Musical.” Photo by Lenny Stucker.

By Dawn Watson

The musical is one of those things that theatergoers either love or hate. For some, there’s nothing more transcendent than immersing themselves in the combination of spoken dialogue, singing, acting and dancing. For others, the entire construct rings false, somewhat hokey and attempts and fails to push beyond the limits of suspending disbelief.

“In real life, people don’t burst into song,” a character critical of the genre said early in Act One during the sold-out Saturday night performance at Bay Street Theater. Exactly.

“My Life is a Musical,” making its world premiere in Sag Harbor, is one show that is guaranteed to make a fan of everyone who sees it. Gently poking fun of the genre, the musical comedy tells the story of Parker, played by Howie Michael Smith, a likable but shy everyman who hears and sees people excitedly singing, dancing and carrying on instead of what they are really doing, which is talking, walking, and acting normally. The rub: Parker hates musicals.

Turning the Broadway form on its ear, “Musical” allows those who watch it to feel very much that they are in on the joke.  Charming, clever, and full of heart, style and verve, the Adam Overett (he brilliantly wrote the musical comedy book, music and lyrics) and Marlo Hunter (she directed and choreographed) production is sure to be a smash. I predict that it will be the next big thing to hit the Great White Way.

The writing is tight and laugh-out-loud funny. The musical numbers are catchy and enthusiasm provoking. The pacing between serious and outrageous scenes is impeccable. The characters are likable and relatable. And the cast, of which there are no bold-faced names, is absolutely superb.

Smith in particular, a talented triple threat that looks like a blend of Jason Biggs, Ben Stiller and Bradley Cooper, is perfection as Parker. He’s the socially awkward underdog who audience members find themselves rooting for before he even opens his mouth, and then that much more so once he does.

Playing JT, his love interest, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone is pitch perfect as a tone-deaf rock and roll band manager. She’s plucky and full of passion, just what Parker needs in order to grow and accept himself and his perceived flaws. Monteleone, who has a phenomenal voice, particularly shines in “Someone Else’s Song,” where she beautifully belts out that she can’t sing a lick.unnamed-2

Deeper level fun poking comes in the form of The Zeitgeist’s band lead singer, Zach, a pretty-boy hack who is the recipient of Parker’s musical-inspired songwriting talents—a Christian de Neuvillette to Parker’s Cyrano de Bergerac if you will. Justin Matthew Sargent, who starred in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages,” totally nails the intellectually challenged rock star persona, to great comic effect. He’s thoroughly watchable.

The most entertaining character was Randy, an overly dramatic 1940s-era film noir-esque gumshoe, who had the best lines and the funniest setups of the entire play. Robert Cuccioli, a veteran actor with considerable stage experience, hammed it up in a way that was beyond brilliant. Think Adam West playing himself as the Mayor on “Family Guy.” His fast-talking antics included insisting that Parker meet him at 1 a.m. at a bar called “Midnight” and at another called “The Corner,” which was located in the middle of the block. Cuccioli’s portrayal of Parker’s foil had me laughing so hard that I was crying many, many times throughout the night.

The multi-talented supporting cast—which includes Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton, and Brian Sills—was amazing. Keeping count of the dizzying number of characters (though my favorite was Sills’s bellhop) and super hot quick changes was impossible but each was memorable and mesmerizing. And each and every one of actors in the show gave it with gusto.

Every single detail of this production—from the cheeky set to the cleverly utilized musicians, and far, far beyond—is an absolute winner. And judging from the very enthusiastic response of the audience on Saturday night, I’m definitely not alone in my thoughts. As the entire cast sings in the musical finale, “It’s the kind of show that I love.” Nobody could say it any better than that.

Bay Street Theater Brings World Premiere of “My Life is a Musical” to Sag Harbor

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


 

A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of "My Life is a Musical:" Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

A rehearsal photo taken at the New 42nd Street Studios in NYC with the cast of “My Life is a Musical:” Danyel Fulton, Wendi Bergamini, Howie Michael Smith, Adam Daveline, Brian Sills, Justin Matthew Sargeant, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Robert Cucciolo. Photo by Barry Gordin.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parker has lived his entire life seeking solitude, trying to hide his affliction from the rest of the world. He doesn’t make new friends, he doesn’t have romantic relationships and he most certainly does not want to join the local chorus.

Parker, a straight-laced accountant, is suffering from a rare condition that makes his entire life take the shape of a musical. Bay Street Theater’s latest play, “My Life Is a Musical,” follows Parker’s struggle as he tries to navigate a world in which everywhere he goes people are singing, dancing, and going through life with an energy that is only found in musical theater—which he happens to despise.

The musical, written by Adam Overett and directed and choreographed by Marlo Hunter, “both real rising stars in musical theater,” according to Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz, will have its world premiere in Sag Harbor.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter, playwright Adam Overett and music director Vadim Feichtner. Photo by Barry Gordin.

The play opens on a normal—and thus strange—day in the life of Parker, who quickly sees the order through which he controls his affliction turned upside down when his accounting firm sends him to work for none other than a rock band.

“Of course, it’s his worst nightmare,” Ms. Hunter said in an interview on Friday, July 18, “because he has to be around music all the time and he won’t have any idea what’s going on.”

With his company’s future hanging in the balance, Parker accepts the position.

In a structure similar to “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, the play follows Parker’s struggle to discern between what is song and what constitutes a person’s inner thoughts.

“He hears the truth of their emotion in the song,” explained Ms. Hunter.

Although the proximity to music is what terrifies Parker, in the end, it is what helps him to see the value of his affliction.

“It’s about how this person struggles with and ultimately embraces the thing about him that he thinks makes him a freak, which is a very universal theme,” the director said.

“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land.”

The cast, which Ms. Hunter called “sensational,” has appeared in celebrated shows including “Evita,” “Hair” and “The Lion King.”

It stars Howie Michael Smith as the confused Parker, and Robert Cuccioli, who plays the rising rock star Zach, with Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone and Justin Matthew Sargeant playing other the principal roles.

The ensemble, “the hardest working people in show business,” according to Ms. Hunter, features Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton and Brian Sills. They play over 70 characters between the four of them.

“It’s pretty astounding what they do,” Ms. Hunter said of the cast, “and they have to sing, dance and have broad comedic ability—they were hard to find.”

The show’s music is as varied as the ensemble’s roles.

“We really run the gamut stylistically,” she said. “It’s not all just traditional musical theater. There’s some pop, rock in there.”

Through Mr. Cuccioli’s character Zach, who Parker hears singing like a musical theater star, Mr. Overett shows how musical theater moments get transformed into rock songs.

Mr. Overett, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Schwartz agree this is a show for both people who love musicals and people who hate them.unnamed-5

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in previous readings or in our workshops who have said, ‘I don’t usually like musicals, but I love this,’” Ms. Hunter said, adding she thinks both sides of the audience will walk away from Bay Street with a love—or at least an appreciation—for musicals.

The show addresses the aspects of  musicals that bother people while celebrating them at the same time.

“The form of musical theater, there’s an aspect of it that is—it’s larger than life—and in some ways, that feels inaccessible to people, because it seems insincere in its grandeur. But that’s also what other people love about the form—that it requires such a suspension of disbelief,” Ms. Hunter said.

“The beauty of the way Adam has written this show,” she added, “is that it may not seem realistic but he’s written us characters who are very real and very accessible and a story line that is incredibly heartfelt.”

“My Life is a Musical,” Ms. Hunter said, delivers the big production and entertaining numbers of a musical, but with “real heart and a strong core.”

“This is the kind of show that in your career you hope you find and I’ve been lucky enough to have found it,” the director said.

“My Life is a Musical” opens Tuesday, July 29, and runs through Sunday, August 31, at the Bay Street Theater, located at the corner of Bay Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information or tickets, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” Brings Belly Laughs to Bay Street

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Richard Kind in "Travesties" at Bay Street. Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Richard Kind in “Travesties” at Bay Street. Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

By Tessa Raebeck

Strip teases, pie fights and Lenin. The three don’t normally go hand in hand, but playwright Tom Stoppard brings them together in “Travesties.”

The Tony award-winning comedy is running through July 20 as the second production in Bay Street Theater’s main stage season, called a “season of revolution.”

The play is told through the memory of Henry Carr, an elderly man who was a British consul in Zurich in 1917 during World War I. Mr. Carr reflects on his participation at the time in an amateur production of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, in which (in Mr. Stoppard’s take on it) he worked alongside some of the early 20th century’s most influential figures: James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara.

“What it really gets at,” Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz said of the play when the season was first introduced this winter, “is the sort of passion and fire and revolutionary spirit of these guys as they’re trying to meet girls and trying to have a great time in Zürich at this time.”

When you think of Lenin in 1917, in the heat of the empire’s collapse and subsequent community revolution in Russia, you don’t necessarily imagine him spending his time trying to meet girls, but Mr. Stoppard expertly humanizes even his most notable characters with humor.

“It’s one of the most bracing theatrical challenges to be a part of—full of brilliance and fun—overflowing with ideas and using all the elements; knockabout humor, song and dance, the ‘theatre’ of theatre, to create a whirligig of intriguing ideas,” Gregory Boyd, the artistic director for the Alley Theatre in Houston, who is directing Bay Street’s production, said in an email interview.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

“There isn’t another play like it—unless it’s another Stoppard play. He is unique,” added the director.

A Czech-born British playwright, Mr. Stoppard was 2 years old when he moved with his family to England to escape the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was knighted in 1997 and the next year won an Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay” for “Shakespeare in Love,” which he wrote with Marc Norman. He has also won four Tony Awards.

Written in 1974, “Travesties” has been performed in productions across the world. The play won the United Kingdom’s Evening Standard Award for “Best Comedy of the Year” in 1974 and in 1976 both a Tony Award and a New York Critics Award for “Best Play.”

“Stoppard,” Mr. Boyd said, “is writing about art and artists, revolution and revolutionaries and how they collide. James Joyce, Lenin and Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara were indeed in Zürich during World War I, but it is the playwright’s genius that brings them all together through the eyes and erratic memory of a minor civil servant, as he (Henry Carr) looks back over his life.”

“It’s dealing with the whole question of how art and change interact in our lives,” said Mr. Schwartz, adding that “Travesties” is the “centerpiece” of Bay Street’s summer season.

Having directed or produced over 100 new productions from writers as varied—and renowned—as Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, Mr. Boyd is no stranger to the stage. There’s already one “Travesties” production under his belt; he directed the comedy several years ago at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

“He’s a brilliant director,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I’m so excited to bring his vision to the theater.”

As Bay Street’s artistic director, he added, he would like to “bring great directors in from around the country and perhaps eventually around the world.”

Richard Kind, noted for his roles on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Spin City,” returns to Bay Street, where he serves on the Board of Trustees, for his role as Henry Carr, who, like the legendary figures he hangs out with, was a real person in Zürich at the time.

Actors Michael Benz, Carson Elrod, Aloysius Gigl, Isabel Keating, Julia Motyka, Emily Trask and Andrew Weems are also in the cast.

“The cast we have is a wonderful group—and working with them on this marvelous script is the most enjoyable part of it,” said Mr. Boyd. “Stoppard asks that the actors be comedians, but capable too of giving full voice to the brilliant language.”

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Photo by Jerry Lamonica.

Credited for shaping stream of consciousness and other techniques of the modernist avant-garde movement, Joyce is in the middle of writing Ulysses during the time of the play. Tzara, a French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist, is busy creating art and poetry that gain him notoriety as a leader of Dadaism and Lenin is planning to overthrow one of the world’s largest empires, which has been in power for nearly 200 years.

But then Mr. Stoppard comes in, and—although the figures are still their distinguished selves—they are flanked by the wild theatricality of his writing, with an almost burlesque style of humor.

“I love the Bay Street Theater space—and ‘Travesties’ uses it in an interesting way, I think. From toy trains to pie fights, there are a lot of moments that come together in a fresh way,” said Mr. Boyd.

“It’s a wonderful conceit of a ‘small’ man hoping to achieve some meaning in his life through his association with these three giants,” the director added. “The play is full of comedy, gorgeous language, exhilarating ideas—and some real heart, too. That combination is very hard to resist.”

“Travesties” opened Tuesday, June 24, and runs through July 20 at Bay Street Theater, located on the corner of Main and Bay streets in Sag Harbor. General admission tickets range in price from $60.75 to $75. The “Student Sunday” matinee allows high school and college students to attend the 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays for free. A $30 ticket is available for those under age 30. For tickets and more information, visit baystreet.org or call the box office at (631) 725-9500.

After 40 Years in Comedy, Richard Lewis is Still Insane

Tags: , , , , , ,


 

Comedian Richard Lewis will perform at Bay Street Theater Saturday, June 21.

Comedian Richard Lewis will perform at Bay Street Theater Saturday, June 21.

By Tessa Raebeck

Richard Lewis’s inflection never changes. He doesn’t stray from his monotone; whether the topic is murder or birthday cake, he rambles on in the same raspy, somewhat disengaged tone. Yet everything he says is hilarious.

A veteran comic best known for his role playing his somewhat disengaged self alongside his longtime friend Larry David on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Mr. Lewis is returning to Sag Harbor on Saturday, June 21, to perform his stand-up comedy act at Bay Street Theater.

“It’s really lovely,” Mr. Lewis said of Bay Street in a phone interview Thursday, June 12. “It’s like a little theater. It’s almost like if Carnegie Hall gave birth to a child—it sort of popped out.”

Mr. Lewis has been recognized by Comedy Central as one of the top 50 stand-up comedians of all time and made it on GQ Magazine’s list of the “20th Century’s Most Influential Humorists.”

Within minutes, he’ll go from speaking about working with Jennifer Aniston to his lifetime love/hate friendship with Larry David to a story of how his acquaintance Bruce Springsteen sent him a letter telling him how he would stay in bed with his wife and watch an entire season of a show in one sitting.

In the four decades since Mr. Lewis began performing comedy in the early 1970s, his show has evolved into a nightly ad-libbed, off-the-cuff masterpiece.

“People should know that I don’t even know what’s going to happen when I get out there, so I think I need a couple of mercy laughs the first few minutes to bolster my confidence,” he said. “It’s pathetic, I know. I’m a pathetic human being.”

“But I’m looking forward to coming up there, it’s so beautiful up there,” he said of Sag Harbor. “Even though I live in LA, I’m a New Yorker, so it’s good to come back East.”

Like all good artists, Mr. Lewis is comfortable with his insanity.

He recently wrapped production on “Squirrels To The Nuts,” a movie directed by Peter Bogdanovich set to be released in 2015, in which he acts alongside Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots and Cybil Shepherd, to name a few members of the star-studded cast.unnamed-7

Mr. Lewis got a call from Mr. Bogdanovich some six months ago, asking him to be in the film alongside “a whole load of A-List actors.” The script was great, he said, but he had just three days to get to New York to film.

He immediately flew East with just four pairs of black underwear, four black socks and four presumably black shirts.  “It didn’t give me much time to get anxious. I got anxious after I finished,” he said.

“I was to play sort of a moronic redneck guy and I thought, Jews can’t be rednecks,” he said. “You know, when you’re walking around in boots and underwear and a cowboy hat, I don’t look like a cantor or a rabbi. So, I’m going to get either high marks for being so different or I’m going to have to quit the business and walk around in a disguise so I don’t embarrass my wife.”

Mr. Lewis has been married since 2005 to Joyce Lapinsky, a board co-chair and program development consultant for Urban Farming, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping people in need create gardens on unused land and space.

The two almost met in the early ’90s, but Ms. Lapinsky’s better judgment got in the way.

A mutual friend told her they could try to fix her up with Mr. Lewis “and she shudders,” the comedian recalled of his now wife. “She says, ‘He’s too nuts for me.’ She’s never even met me and she said that. But actually, I was pretty nuts back then—on a personal level… so I guess it worked out for the best.”

Today, Mr. Lewis is weeks shy of being 20 years sober and the two are happily married.

“But it turned out that I did find the right woman, I fell in love immediately. It’s uh…I recommend it to people,” he said.

Another pivotal person in Mr. Lewis’s life is his longtime friend and collaborator Larry David, who was likewise hesitant to get to know him at first. The two were both born at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, since closed, in the spring of 1947.

“I was a preemie, so I came out and then he came out a few days later, out of the toaster,” Mr. Lewis said. “We started arguing even then. We didn’t even get along as little babies and then we were at camp together and I didn’t know who he was—I didn’t recognize him from one hour old, but we hated each other then.”

“Hate’s a strong word,” he admitted, adding, “But we discovered once that we were the same teenagers that despised one another at this camp 15 years before. We were only about 12 then and then 12 years later… I mean, you change so much, obviously, from 8 to 9 to whatever the hell age I was, 12 years old to 25.”

His math may be a little off, but he remembers the loathing.

“It really freaked us out in the beginning, but then we realized that we were quite a connection,” he added.

“I had dinner over at his house a couple days ago and it was impossible,” Mr. Lewis said of going over to Mr. David’s to watch the Los Angeles Kings play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.

When they were broke kids and got to go to games, Mr. David would be on a constant hunt for better seats, “so we’d always wind up missing the game,” Mr. Lewis said.

“And this time, I go to his beautiful home with a pretty ample size television screen and as soon as the Kings scored a goal, he accused me of hexing the Stanley Cup and he turned off the TV and I left,” he said, before adding, “I love the guy, he’s that eccentric.”

“He’s twisted in the nicest sort of way, that would be the best way to put it,” Mr. Lewis said.

“We had to have been in the same baby ward and I’m sure we were arguing… it’s sort of spooky in a way…I hope it doesn’t turn into a Chucky kind of murder mystery,” he said. “It sounds like a bad Lifetime movie, two guys who always wound up with each other, until one of them turned on the other one. I could probably sell that, that’s how stupid that is.”

If there’s one thing he can always sell, it’s Richard Lewis.

“I mean, I’ve tasted property and I’ve tasted a lot of money and I’ve tasted being in the middle and I’ve tasted frustration and you know, my only goal is to be authentic and just be myself. And they can steal my jokes, but they can’t steal my soul and my personality… I have been really ripped off a lot, but in the end, they can’t think like I do—they’re lucky—they don’t have my wacky brain, so I don’t need an insurance policy on my persona. I dare them to be better than me on a Richard Lewis-like takeoff, I’ll beat them,” he said, adding, “Not that you were asking, but…”

Richard Lewis is performing Saturday, June 21, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater, located on the corner of Bay and Main Streets in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $65 for side seats, $75 for center seats and $125 to see the show and attend a reception with Mr. Lewis beforehand. For tickets and information, call the box office at (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Review: “Conviction” at Bay Street Theater

Tags: , , ,


Brian Hutchison, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in "Conviction" at Bay Street Theater.

Brian Hutchison, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in “Conviction” at Bay Street Theater.

By Annette Hinkle

Belief is perhaps one of the most powerful motivators in the arsenal of human emotion. Whether it is held in the absence of tangible proof or in the presence of damning evidence, often little can be done to assuage a deeply held position once it is ingrained in the psyche.

It’s true of politics, it’s true of religion …and it is especially true of relationships.

The notion of belief and trust are at the core of “Conviction,” Carey Crim’s powerful drama which opens Bay Street Theater’s 2014 summer mainstage season. Directed by Scott Schwartz, Bay Street’s new artistic director, “Conviction” enjoys its world premiere at the theater now through June 15.

But be prepared. Despite its fairly simple and straightforward approach, the subject matter is complex and this is one of those plays that will keep you thinking (and talking) long after the final curtain falls.

“Conviction” tells the story of Tom Hodges (Garret Dillahunt) a popular high school teacher whose enthusiasm for Shakespeare is infectious. When bright and engaged students come to him eager to learn more about the Bard, in his mission as an educator, he can’t help but share his enthusiasm.

As the play opens, Tom and his wife Leigh (Sarah Paulson) are arriving home with their best friends, Bruce (Brian Hutchison), also a teacher at the school, and Jayne (played by Elizabeth Reaser) following the school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which Tom has directed.

As they joke about the length of the play and the talent of the lead teenage actress, Tom and Leigh’s energetic 13-year-old son, Nicholas (Daniel Burns) makes a brief appearance to raid the fridge before heading off to a friend’s house for a sleep over. Then the phone rings — it’s the school’s principal calling for Tom and from that point on, life will never be the same.

The bulk of the play takes place three years after that phone call. Tom is coming home from prison after being convicted for inappropriate sexual relations with the teenage actress who starred as Juliet in his play, and in those years, much has changed. Leigh adamantly believes her husband’s professed innocence and makes his homecoming special by inviting Bruce and Jayne to be there when he arrives. But it soon becomes clear this will not be an easy reunion and picking up where they left off nearly impossible.

Bruce puts on a brave face and acts like little has changed, but tension, anger and fear soon surfaces in Jayne, who literally takes on the role of “doubting Thomas,” giving voice to the unspoken suspicions about her old friend. She thinks he is guilty and her own conviction wreaks havoc on the couples’ long-standing friendship. Bruce and Jayne’s two daughters, who have been friends with Nicholas since they were babies, are no longer permitted to spend time at the Hodge’s home, which now shelters a convicted sex offender.

For his part, Nicholas is a young man struggling to come of age in a community that believes his father is a sexual predator. He has undergone a particularly dark transformation during Tom’s incarceration and is a withdrawn and friendless 16-year-old who dabbles in drugs and disappears for long stretches at a time.

Leigh smiles and does her best to keep her family intact, but the stress of the situation is evident. Tom’s purported indiscretion has been front page news. They rarely share a bed and suspicious glances, harassing anonymous phone calls and financial hardship has taken its toll. Leigh works at the hospital, but has been unable to keep up on the mortgage payments and the family is in danger of losing the house. Tom has lost his job, his direction and the respect of the community.

The best plays are those which provide no easy answers, and in fact, leave audiences with more questions than when they came in. “Conviction” does exactly that. Schwartz’s direction of the material is impressive and he has assembled a stellar cast for this production. The material is not easy, yet the actors bring the issues to a crescendo with great skill and sensitivity — particularly Paulson who is quite impressive as the long-suffering and stoic Leigh. Anna Louizos’ well-designed set exudes the comforts of suburban living. But she wisely offsets the American dream with a painted backdrop of neighboring houses which lurk menacingly close, pressing in on a private family drama which is being played out in public.

While the community’s awareness of the situation is key to the characters’ motivations, the power of “Conviction” comes from the fact the play looks intently at the collateral damage of sexual misconduct. Yes, the act is abhorrent, and while society’s revulsion of such crimes is well placed, lost in the debate are the families left to pick up the pieces. Not just the victim’s family, but the perpetrator’s as well — people who are subjected to harassment, judgmental stares and whispered gossip simply because they happen to be related.

So how does a family survive when someone has been convicted of a sexual offense? Can they survive? What if the accusations are false? These are just some of the many sticky questions which “Convictions” sets out to explore.

During a talk with Tom after a night out, Bruce tries to reconnect by pointing out that many teenage girls invite attention from men by dressing and acting far older than they are. Though he’s trying to sympathize with his friend, Bruce’s sentiment is disturbing in its familiarity — how many times have we all heard similar statements made in conversations with our own friends?

It’s a slippery slope indeed. When does a child become an adult? Actually, it depends on where — and when — you live. Shakespeare’s Juliet was just 13. Today, most people would agree a 15-year-old student sleeping with a 36-year-old teacher is a clear case of abuse. But what if the student is 17 and the teacher 23? Is Tom’s accuser a victim or a temptress? Is she a naïve child or a jilted lover? In our effort to protect children from abuse, have we gone too far by not allowing teachers to comfort distraught students with an embrace or offer counsel behind closed doors without witnesses?

While “Convictions” doesn’t set out to answer these questions, it does go to great lengths to explore them. That’s what makes this such an intriguing offering. Whether or not Tom “did it” is beside the point. This is a play about how we go on afterwards and one that considers the many victims beyond the obvious one

There are no easy answers — and in the end it does, indeed, come down to the power of convictions.

“Conviction” runs Tuesdays through Sundays with evening and some matinee performances through June 15 at Bay Street Theater, Long Wharf, Sag Harbor. The play is produced by Bay Street in association with Dead Posh Productions, Rubicon Theatre Company, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Off-Broadway Across America. Tickets are $60.75 to $75. To reserve, call (631) 725-9500.