Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Mockingbird Brings Literature Alive at Bay Street Theatre

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Thomas Schiavoni, Jemma Kosanke, Carolyn Popp and HudsonTroy in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Thomas Schiavoni, Jemma Kosanke, Carolyn Popp and HudsonTroy in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

By Annette Hinkle

Chloe Dirksen narrates as the older Scout in Bay Street Theater's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Chloe Dirksen narrates as the older Scout in Bay Street Theater’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Getting kids to connect with great literature isn’t as easy as it once was. These days the simple book vies for attention in an increasingly competitive world against the likes of video games, online streaming and social media.

Fortunately, Bay Street Theater has designed a sure fire way to get kids excited about the classics. Each fall, the Literature Live! program takes a classic novel that is typically part of middle or high school curriculums and brings it to life on the stage.

Now in its 6th year, this year’s Literature Live! offering is Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The play runs November 7 to 29 with weekday performances for school groups and weekend shows for the general public.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is the story of Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer and the father of two young children, Scout and Jem, who becomes embroiled in controversy when he takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a local black man accused of raping a white woman. Passions and prejudice run deep in Depression-era Maycomb, Alabama, where the story is set. Atticus, a widower who is raising his children with the help of his housekeeper, Calpurnia, not only speaks frankly with them about the sensitive nature of the case he has taken on, but also tackles the issue of prejudice via the open hostility directed toward them all as a result, all while carefully avoiding the fostering of hatred and intolerance in his own children.

It’s a powerful piece of literature and director Joe Minutillo is in a unique position to turn it into a theatrical offering that is both educational and entertaining. For close to 35 years, he worked as a teacher in the Eastport/South Manor school district where he taught the classics, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to his students.

“If you took a poll of English teachers — and teachers in general — they would probably say this is one of the best novels to teach,” says Mr. Minutillo. “The narration throughout the story is so colorful, as is the way Harper Lee describes things. It’s almost impossible not to get the flavor of that time period in the south.”

“The thing about this play, it’s such a great opportunity to teach not just the literature part of it, but that time period of our history which is kind of ugly,” concedes Mr. Minutillo.

And it’s not entirely behind us.

Though the novel is more than 50 years old, Mr. Minutillo notes it remains as relevant as ever given the racial tensions that have boiled over in recent months in places like Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by a white police officer in August.

“This is still happening,” says Mr. Minutillo. “I think teachers see that and realize the importance of it today. It’s not over. There is still so much work to be done on acceptance — whether it’s about race, religion or sexual preference.”

Because it is geared toward school-age audiences Mr. Minutillo has just 90 minutes to tell the whole story of the novel. For that reason, he has decided to rely on the narrator to fill in the gaps where characters and scenes can’t be included. In this production, that narrator is the adult Scout (played by Chloë Dirksen) who reflects back on the seminal events of her childhood and puts them into perspective.

It’s a bit of a departure from the script in which the Finch’s neighbor, Miss Maudie, is the narrator. But Mr. Minutillo felt strongly that because the book is written as a recollection of the grown up Scout, it made sense from an educational perspective to use her as the narrator’s voice.

“Everything I say is straight from the book – it’s the most gorgeous prose and so exciting to speak Harper Lee’s words,” says Ms. Dirksen, a resident of Sag Harbor who remembers reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” when she was 13. Though she hadn’t read the book since, the voice of Scout has stayed with her.

“There’s something special about the way this character is reflecting on her loss of innocence at a time when her world went from being quaint and small to the bubble bursting,” says Ms. Dirksen. “She comes to understand not just the darkness, but her father and what a hero he was.”

Atticus Finch is, indeed, one of the most iconic characters in American literature. Which means Scott Eck, the New York City-based actor who is playing Atticus, has some big shoes to fill.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the actor,” admits Mr. Eck. “It’s a lot to live up to from the literary, theatrical and historical standpoint. Atticus is a man who’s aware enough of the conditions of segregation to know what he’s up against.”

Yet he’s a character who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, even if it means putting his own children at risk.

“One of the great things Bay Street does is choose plays for their literary series to get the conversation started,” says Mr. Eck. “Theater is one of the best educators we have. If one student has his or her thinking changed by coming to this play, then it’s worth the whole run.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs November 7 to 29 at the Bay Street Theater. The cast includes Chloë Dirksen, Cooki Winborn, Jemma Kosanke, Carolyn Popp, Rob DiSario, William Sturek, Jessica Mortellaro, Joe Pallister, Hudson Troy, Thomas Schiavoni, Scott Eck, Chauncy Thomas and Al Bundonis. In addition to weekday shows for school groups, public performances are offered at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There will also be Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on November 15, 22 and 29. Students are admitted free with a valid ID and adults are $25. Call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org for tickets.

Round Table Brings the Prince of Danes to Guild Hall

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A rehearsal of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the John Drew Theater on Sunday, 11/2/14

By Annette Hinkle

“Hamlet,” Shakespeare’s most famous play, is a tragedy that has it all…even by today’s standards. There are ghosts, murders, lust, revenge, a probable suicide and, at its core a family feud within the Danish royal family that rivals anything reality TV has to offer — all set against the backdrop of Denmark’s Elsinore Castle.

That’s a lot of angst to digest…. so just imagine the conversations that are taking place these days around the dinner table at Morgan and Tristan Vaughan’s house in East Hampton.

The Vaughans are not only married, they are also classically trained Shakespearean actors. Both studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, but they didn’t meet until later, while they both were pursuing MFA degrees from The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University.

The Vaughans are also co-founders of the Round Table Theatre Company & Academy, an East End based non-profit dedicated to the education, promotion and presentation of works by classic playwrights (like the Bard). Offering classes to actors and non-actors alike is part of their mission, but so is producing plays, and tonight, the company’s production of “Hamlet” opens at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall for a three-week run with Ms. Vaughan directing.

And who will be playing Hamlet, himself? Mr. Vaughan, of course.

Aye, there’s the rub.

“Some couples argue about money, we argue about Shakespeare,” laughs Mr. Vaughan.

Actually, while Hamlet’s family may be angst ridden and openly hostile to one another, the Vaughans, conversely, have largely figured out how to work well and happily in the theater together.

“This is the first time I’ve directed Tristan in a production,” says Ms. Vaughan. “We met at grad school, but did not start dating until the end of school. For that reason, I think we have a good understanding of each others’ failings and challenges and the good parts of our acting.”

“Hamlet” will be Round Table’s second production on the East End. Back in early 2013, the company performed “Macbeth” at LTV studios in Wainscott. That time, Mr. Vaughan was the director and Ms. Vaughan acted in the title role of Lady Macbeth.

“He directed me in ‘Macbeth’ so he knows my bad actor habits,” admits Ms. Vaughan. “That said, we live together. After rehearsal I want to get home and not think about it, and he’s like, ‘What do you think of this?’”

“It was the opposite in Macbeth,” smiles Mr. Vaughan.

Chalk it up to the stress of directing since ultimately, it’s the director’s job to make it all work seamlessly. One of the biggest challenges with Shakespeare is presenting the material in a way that makes it assessable to all, yet keeping it true to the original intent of the words.

At times, that can be a difficult line to walk and since accessibility is a key part of Round Table’s mission, it’s a task Ms. Vaughan takes seriously. There have been plenty of kitschy Hamlets over the years, set in times and places far removed from the original setting. For this production, Ms. Vaughan wanted a modern setting. While her husband felt that modern was fine, he pressed her to narrow it down to a somewhat specific time frame.

“I had to persuade him in certain ways — he’s the artistic director — so we met in the middle,” says Ms. Vaughan.

The result is a “Hamlet” that takes place in the early 20th century, sometime between WWI and WWII.

“I will say, I kept it in Denmark and Hamlet is the prince,” says Ms. Vaughan. “If you change the stakes and Hamlet is just some screwed up kid, it loses the impact. It has to be that he’s going to be the king and all the power that comes with it.”

“We have updated it in terms of dress but it’s timeless in terms of emotions and what we can identify with,” adds Ms. Vaughan who also decided to make quite a few cuts to the script, specifically removing those political references from Shakespeare’s day that are entirely irrelevant or incomprehensible to today’s audiences.

“We also cut out the stuff between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Hamlet about theater of the 1600s,” she adds. “Nobody knows what that means and I don’t want anyone to feel stupid. I don’t want people to leave saying, ‘I don’t get it.’”

“Being a teacher at heart, you have to reach across to bring people up,” adds Mr. Vaughan.

“If people don’t understand it when they leave, it’s our fault,” counters Ms. Vaughan. “As a director, I have to say, ‘Is this comprehensible?’ It’s not contemporary language, but it’s our job to make it understood.”

Teamwork is also vital. For Ms. Vaughan, directing is not about imposing her singular vision, but rather creating it collaboratively by calling on the talents and instincts of the actors around her.

“Actors need to feel comfortable with where they are in a space and how they’re progressing,” says Ms. Vaughan. “I’m not a director who says, ‘This is the way it should be.’ They’re the character. With all the actors, I’d say, ‘How was that?’”

“That’s how I direct,” agrees Mr. Vaughan. “Macbeth was hard — there was so much to do. This time, I’m really happy to have someone I trust so much directing. It takes a huge weight off me.”

And in the end, for the Vaughans it all comes down to Shakespeare’s words.

“Because we had the same training, ultimately it comes back to the text,” adds Ms. Vaughan. “If you can support it by the text, we know that it’s right and agree with that.”

Now that’s the way to make a marriage — and a theater company — work.

Round Table Theatre Company’s production of “Hamlet” is presented in partnership with Guild Hall. The play runs Friday, November 7 through Sunday, November 23 in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. The cast includes Jeff Keogh, Tristan Vaughan, Josh Gladstone, John Tramontana, Dianne Benson, Peter Connolly, Sawyer Avery, Evan Daves, Michael Bartoli and Fabrienne Bottero. Set design is by Brian Leaver with costumes by Yuka Silvera and lighting by Sebastian Paczynski. Tickets are $25/$23 for adults and $15 for students. For tickets, call (631) 324-0806, visit guildhall.org or theatermania.com, or call 1-866-811-4111.

Morpurgo House Awaits a White Knight

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Heller_Morpurgo House 10-8-14_7534_LR

The Morpurgo house on Union Street in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller

By Stephen J. Kotz

It sits forlorn and forgotten, obscured by overgrown shrubs and weeds, barely visible from the street.

Long declared unfit for human habitation by Sag Harbor Village, the Morpurgo house, which is tucked behind the John Jermain Memorial Library on Union Street, may be the closest thing Sag Harbor has to a haunted house.

The subject of a decades-long fight between sisters Anselm and Helga Morpurgo, the house was eventually sold at auction in 2007. But it then became entangled in a nightmarish mortgage fraud scheme that landed former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi in prison, and the man who held an $800,000 mortgage for the property, trying to foreclose on it, so he and his investors could obtain the deed to the house and either rebuild it or raze it and start anew.

But this week, Samuel Glass, a Brooklyn attorney, who led that group of investors, said, he has washed his hands of the place and sold the mortgage to another New York attorney, Joel Zweig, who is leading yet another investor group in the effort to realize a profit from it.

“I loved that piece of property,” Mr. Glass said on Friday. “But I was dealing with 13 investors and after awhile, they got disgusted. We got caught in the maze.”

Mr. Glass, who said he believed Sag Harbor was still a good place for real estate investors to put their money, said “I would have loved to have taken title to that place.”

He said at this point, the house, because of its dilapidated condition, was probably a teardown, but he said if the new owners work with the village, they will be able to build “a beautiful house next to the library.”

Mr. Zweig was unavailable for comment for this article.

Despite the legal troubles swirling around the house, the question remains why Sag Harbor Village has taken a hands-off approach to the property.

The most recent entry from village officials in a file on the property in the village Building Department dates to February 16, 2007, when Anselm Morpurgo still lived there.

In a five-page report then Fire Marshal Tim Platt, who toured the house with Al Daniels, who was the building inspector at the time, pointed out numerous health and safety concerns, from a wood burning stove with a large gap in its flue, to structurally unsound stairways, crumbling plaster, and missing window panes.

In his own letter to the village board accompanying that report, Mr. Daniels cites. His own list of concerns, including the fact that the interior of the building was colder than the outside temperature, which was only 16 degrees on the day of the visit. He listed the elecrical wiring, water supply as concerns and added that the house was strewn with garbage and raccoon feces.

“Obviously, there are pictures showing the dangerous and unsafe conditions that exist in this structure,” Mr. Daniels wrote. “The rodent infestation presents a danger to the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the public and the people that occupy this structure. This structure is definitely unfit for the purpose for which it may be lawfully be used.

“In closing, this building is unsafe, dangerous and beyond repair,” he concluded.

On Tuesday, building inspector Jose Escalante, who joined the village in the summer, and has been dealing with a building boom that includes major renovations and new construction across the village, said he had not received any complaints about the Morpurgo house and did not believe it was in his authority to launch an investigation on his own.

Mayor Brian Gilbride conceded that the village has taken a cautious approach in large part because it is concerned about liability.

“The frustrating part about this job is you can walk by that place and say it is terrible, but it is private property,” he said.

He pointed out that the property has been owned by a series of limited liability corporations. “Are they taking any personal liability? No,” he said. “But the minute we start doing something to that property, we become part of the liability.”

“I always thought the library was going to end up with it, and it would become a moot issue,” he added. In the 1990s, the library board tried to purchase the property to expand, but Anselm Morpurgo resisted its efforts. The library eventually abandoned the idea and turned its attention first to a new site next to Mashashimuet Park before settling on a major expansion and renovation of its existing building.

In the meantime,  Anselm Morpurgo’s sister, Helga Morpurgo, tried to force her sister to sell the property, in which they had a shared ownership. That battle eventually ended with a court-ordered auction of the property in 2007 for $1.4 million.

Mr. Glass said that he was defrauded by two attorneys, Brandon Lisi of Dix Hills, and Dustin Dente of Rosalyn, who bought the property at auction and came to him for financing and then stopped paying the mortgage. He and his investors have sought to foreclose on the property in state Supreme Court, but that proceeding will now be turned over to Mr. Zweig’s group.

Mr. Guldi, who was Mr. Lisi’s attorney for the purchase of the property, was found guilty of mortgage fraud in 2011 in what Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota desribed as the largest case of mortgage fraud in the county’s history. He was  sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.

Just last month, Mr. Guldi’s request for parole was denied. The parole board, which heard his case, concluded that he showed a lack of remorse for his crimes, which could lead to him being a repeat offender. He can next apply for parole in 2016.


Developers File Notice of Claim Over Dock Removal

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The owners of property slated for development into condominiums along Sag Harbor’s waterfront have filed a notice of claim over the village’s removal last summer of a dilapidated dock there.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The would-be developer of condominiums on the Sag Harbor waterfront  has filed a notice of claim in New York State Supreme Court against the village for ordering the removal of a dilapidated dock at the site in August.

The claim was filed by attorney Tiffany Scarlato on October 10 on behalf of three limited liability corporations, East End Ventures I, II, and III, whose principals are Michael Maidan and Emil Talel.

A notice of claim is not a lawsuit but it acts to protect one’s right to file suit at a later date. The claim filed against the village says the owners will seek “to recover attendant damages, together with declaratory and/or injunctive relief” for the removal of the dock, which was once part of the Remkus Fishing Station.

Just last week, Ms. Scarlato appeared before the village Planning Board to present a new plan to build eight condominiums in four separate buildings at the site.

Ms. Scarlato said on Tuesday the village violated her clients’ right to due process by ordering the structure removed without holding a hearing. “In Southampton, we go through a whole public hearing process,” she added. Ms. Scarlato is also the Southampton Town attorney.

There is an ongoing dispute between the village and the developers over a portion of the property slated for development, with East End Ventures saying they purchased it from the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the village continuing to claim a portion of it.

“My client owns the property, and the village removed the dock without our permission,” said Ms. Scarlato. “We have deeds, we have title insurance, we own the property.”

Mayor Brian Gilbride disagreed. “The bottom lime that dock was on village property,” he said on Tuesday. “If you start researching this a little further, you’ll find they have made claims to property they don’t own.”

“That corner there is village property,” Mr. Gilbride said in a separate interview in September. “The old Remkus Fishing Station was built right in the middle of the old Route 114 back in the day. Everybody thought Remkus owned that beach because they had boats down there you could rent.”

Mr. Gilbride said a concern about the safety of the old dock was brought to the village’s attention by one of the village’s attorneys, Denise Schoen, who, the mayor said, saw a large group of adults on the old dock last summer.

“The village board decided it was a problem and we should act,” Mr. Gilbride said, noting that village officials were concerned that they would be liable if the dock were to collapse.

He said the village solicited three bids, and hired David Whelan Marine Construction to remove the structure.

The village’s attorney, Fred W. Thiele Jr., in September agreed that the village was well within its rights to remove the dock, “which everyone agrees was in total disrepair” and which the village believed was on its property.

“I know there is a disagreement as to whether or not the village owns the property,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that East End Ventures’ main concern was “if they have a vested right to have a dock in the future. There is nothing the village did in taking away the dock that would take away their right to have a dock there” provided the ownership dispute is settled in their favor, Mr. Thiele said.

It is not the first time that East End Ventures has found itself at legal loggerheads with the village. In 2009, when an earlier condo plan was derailed by a village-wide upzoning, the developers filed two suits against the village, one seeking to challenge village’s right to halt their application, and the other a civil rights suit that sought more than $30 million in damages. Both suits were dismissed.



Radcliffe, Temple, and Hill Toot Their “Horns”

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By Danny Peary

Horns, Alexandre Aja’s genre-bending adaptation of Joe Hill’s cult novel, opens theatrically Friday in New York City and elsewhere.  You can also see it on VOD. Just as Ben Affleck’s character is wrongly accused of murdering his cold-hearted wife in Gone Girl, a young man, Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe gives still another excellent post-Harry Potter performance), is blamed for the rape and murder of his virtuous long-time girlfriend, Merrin (an appealing Juno Temple).  Unlike Affleck’s ineffectual character, Ig grows a pair of horns that have the power of making everyone he comes into contact with reveal their most despicable thoughts and desires.  Ig sets out to find the real killer, and as he gets closer, he increasingly transforms into the Devil.  He is even accompanied by snakes during his pursuit.  He may be the Devil and is capable of brutality, but he isn’t such a bad guy.  That’s one of the many quirks in this daring, well-cast and acted, zany hybrid that is at once a love story, a parable, a murder mystery, a satire, and a horror film with images that are not for the squeamish.  It’s a wild ride that I hope you take to the end.  On Tuesday, I was part of this lively roundtable with Radliffe, Temple, and Hill (Stephen King’s son) at the Trump Soho in Manhattan.  I note my questions.

Joe Hill, Juno Temple and Daniel Radcliffe.

Joe Hill, Juno Temple and Daniel Radcliffe.

Q: Joe, before this project got off the ground, what did you perceive would be the biggest challenge a filmmaker would face when adapting your book to the screen?

Joe Hill: I never thought it would be a film. I thought it was such a weird, unlikely story to be adapted.  My leaping off point was Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.  You have Gregor Samsa, a man with a meaningless job, waking up one day as a giant insect.  He was an insect even before he turned into an insect and even his family didn’t respect or care about him.  When he becomes a bug, the internal truth becomes external.  Horns is pretty much the same way.  In my other stories, even fantasies, there’s usually an explanation of a conventional sort.  But this is more surreal, magical realism, and very Kafkaesque.  It has a black sense of humor and a tragic love story and a lot elements and I thought that was so strange that I couldn’t imagine anyone really making it into a film.

Q: Daniel, what was your first impression of Joe’s book, which is quite different from his father Stephen King’s books.

Daniel Radcliffe: I wasn’t looking at Joe’s work through the frame of his father’s work.  I just viewed it as an incredibly original, daring, witty, and emotional piece of writing.  I was pleased how that transferred into a script. Obviously things change when a novel is adapted into a screenplay but the one thing you don’t want people to be upset about is the absence of the book’s tone.  What makes Joe’s book unique is that it rampages through different styles, and we have remained very faithful to that and hopefully fans of the book will respond to that in the film.

Q: How did you feel about a movie that mixes so many genres–romance, satire, crime, horror, mystery…everything?

DR: Joe has said how he likes old movies that did many different things, and one of my favorite films is A Matter of Life and Death [1946], which has some amazing flights of fantasy, including a court case in heaven.  It is very funny and imaginative, and also has real drama and dramatic tension throughout. It does everything successfully.  That’s what excited me about the script for Horns.  We live in a world of people who obsessively categorize everything and I like that this film is very hard to pin down.  If you can describe a movie in one sentence and do it justice, it’s probably not a very good movie.  I think Horns will take many sentences to define.

JH: I wouldn’t call Horns a horror movie exactly.  In bad horror you get the jock and the cheerleader and the geek and the virgin and other one-note characters, and the character who has the most dimensions turns out to be the serial killer.  I find that morally odious because I don’t want to root for the bad guy, I want to root for the good guy.  I don’t think horror should be about disgusting people, about shock, or about sadism, but about characters you can really love so that when you see them suffer you will root for them to pull through.  It should about empathy rather than nastiness, and a sense of humor and a sense of romance brings more to the story.  What we see more and more, especially in the last decade, are horror movies that do only one thing.  They’re only scary, or sadistic, or funny, or romantic.  Because that’s so much easier to market.  They know how to sell a movie like Ouija because all it does is try to be scary for an hour and a half.  But that’s not necessarily better storytelling.  I love ambitious storytelling.

DR: Also, if you were to look at your life as a film, you’d be very hard pressed to pin it down to being only one genre.  A script like this without a sense of humor wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in doing. Because even the darkest times in life often result in the use of humor even as a coping mechanism or something else.  It’s a lot more complicated and real this way.

Q: The movie is many things, but, Joe, what do you think of the original religious aspect in the book being toned down in the film?

JH: I don’t know if I agree that the movie toned down the religious aspect, I just think it has a lighter touch.  It doesn’t hammer you over the head with religious subtext and it’s good that it’s not a theology lecture because I doubt if people would buy a ticket to that. Ig is a giving, loving person who thinks about others.  And Merrin is also a giving, loving person who thinks about others. In that way, it has a kind of quiet, Christian idealism, I guess.  But it’s not a religious film like a Mel Gibson movie. [Laughter]

DR: It’s interesting that you can watch this film as a very religious person and enjoy it.  There’s a lot of Old Testament-style justice. And you can see Ig as sort of a Job figure.  But I think we’re using religious symbolism and imagery to tell the story of humans, rather than the other way around.

Danny Peary: What I find most interesting is that when you expect Divine Intervention and God to save the day and goodness to prevail as in many good vs. evil films, Ig must go back to being the Devil to get the job done.  At one point it’s stated that “God turns a blind eye,” so is God present at all in this story and is the Devil an antihero rather than a villain?

JH: There is one viewpoint that God and the Devil aren’t adversaries, they’re actually on the same side.  In some ways that makes sense if you think that God hates sinners and the Devil punishes them.  The first time we ever see him, he frees two people from a jungle prison where they are being held by a megalomaniac and awakens them to their sexuality at the same time–which is kind of awesome and progressive.

Juno Temple: Weirdly when you look at Ig when he become a devilish, demonic creature, you see that he’s in that guise for good to solve a horrible crime.  So it’s the idea of playing with good and bad and how good can be bad and bad can be good.

JH: I’ve always thought that the Devil is kind of a superhero and he’d fit right in with The Avengers.  He has superpowers and has a really cool look with the horns and red costume.


Q: Daniel, how much of your look was makeup and how much was done on computer?

DR: It was all really there.  from I wore the horns and extensions and everything else. If there was some touching up in special effects, it was minimal. And there is only one snake in the film that is visual effects–it was actually a real snake but it looked like it was made out of rubber. [Laughter]

Q: Daniel, I saw you this year in the play The Cripple of Inishmaan and you were amazing.  You were the cripple in the play and now in this movie, you wear horns almost the entire time.  Can you talk about altering your body to play Billy and using props with Ig?

JH: I really enjoy being physical and being challenged with different roles.  With The Cripple of Inishmaan, I had to do something myself to change my body.  On Horns, the acting and attitude was obviously in my jurisdiction but the transformation itself was the work of other people and I was the beneficiary of it.  Any time you can look in the mirror, and you’ve gained distance between what’s looking back at you and the person you normally see in the mirror that’s a good thing.

DP: Joe, did you name Merrin after the priest who tries to rid of the girl of the demon in The Exorcist?

JH: I did.

DP: Juno, your character is portrayed as totally good, even angelic, keeping demons out of Ig while she’s alive.  Yet despite her being established like that she has premarital sex, which is progressive in that it breaks movie rules.

JT: First and foremost, Merrin is good, but she’s human good.  Being human is being naughty and nice, you’re going to be a bit of both.  I think that enjoying lovemaking can be seen as a sin, especially within her character.  But it’s complicated because she’s also truly in love with somebody and I think sex is a big part of being in love.   She is obviously this presence.  I truly feel you need people like Merrin in the world who just have this light around them.  You feel so happy and lucky to know them.  Do I feel she’s really good in a religious, angelic sense? No.  I think she’s human but, my God, I think she’s a good human.

JH: The Devil is okay with sex before marriage! That’s another reason he’s so awesome!

DP: Ig is a nice, caring, decent young man.  But if Merrin hadn’t existed, would he have gone down the wrong road with all of the other kids he grew up with?

DR: It’s really hard to say but it’s undeniable that if someone like Merrin walks into your life and adapts to who you are you and your lives become intertwined, then the relationship is going to be special.   It is special because Ig and Merrin meet each other in their formative years and they become for each other what the other one lacks. Seeing Ig as an adult and knowing about his past relationship with Merrin, I find it hard to even imagine what life would have been like for him if they had never met.  Probably it wouldn’t end like it does or as early as it does!   You know, better to have loved and lost.

JT: Yeah.

DP: Talk about that and the film’s tag line, “Love Hurts Like Hell,” which makes it clear we’re watching a love story.

JT: I think it’s a good tag line because ultimately when you look at this relationship it hurts like hell because his love has been taken away.  Not only has the love of his life been ripped away but also he’s suspected of murdering this young woman.  He did love her and everybody around her loved her. This is an honest love story in which Merrin and Ig are both wholeheartedly in love and I think have an incredible balance.

DR: Going back to what Juno said, Ig and Merrin are such a loving, committed relationship.  My mom and dad have been married for over thirty years and the institution of marriage is not something I have any personal problems with. But getting married doesn’t prove that you love someone.

JH: My favorite scene in the movie is when Merrin and Ig break up.  You have these two people who love each other so deeply and they say such agonizing and painful things to each other.  They obviously care for each other but stick their knives into each other over and over again.  It’s easy in films and novels to make it seem like bad things happen because of evil but actually a lot of bad things happen because of people trying to do the right thing. You almost always suffer because of love, not only because of hate.  People are much more likely to kill because of love than hate.

Q: Daniel, after shooting such emotional scene, when the director said “Cut,” did you go right back to being yourself?

DR: No. Particularly if you’re not done yet it’s not helpful to snap back to yourself.  By the time Juno and I filmed that diner breakup scene, we were getting along, but when you do intense scenes like that it kind of solidifies your relationship with the other actor. We shot it for two days and it was very emotional.  We were there for each other but because of the nature of the scene we needed to be in our own spaces as well.  It wasn’t possible to flip back and forth in and out of character.

Q: That was my favorite scene, too.  I was interested in whether they are looking at love in a child-like way, talking about their love lasting forever, or an adult way, realizing they might not know each other after all.

JT: I’m a hopeless romantic.  I believe in true love and that at any age you can fall madly in love with someone and it can last forever.   That also applies to friendships because I think love shows itself in many different ways.  I think it’s interesting that we can never totally know each other because that’s a joy of being human.  I think every human should have a bit of mystery because if you fully know someone you might not be in love with them entirely.  It’s the idea of having things that are only yours.

JH: That’s actually one of the things the story is about.  What does it do to you when you know everything about someone else, including their worst thoughts?  Would seeing their darkest places destroy your feelings for them?  I know that before I wrote the book my idea was to take this decent, sort of perfect young man and destroy him and turn him into Satan.  While writing the book, I discovered that destroying someone who is decent is harder than I expected.  Even when they are faced with the worst in the people they love, they can still find the power to forgive them and still care about them.  And for a pretty dark story, that’s kind of hopeful.

DP: Juno, at the film’s premiere, you spoke about Merrin being “a memory” because she’s dead when the picture begins.

JT: That’s something that drew me to the character.  Because memories are so precious.  Even as an actress, you draw on so many memories–memories of being sad or happy, or maybe being bored while taking a train from one city to another.  You wrack your brain for some of your favorite memories.  You can sit by yourself and laugh at your memories or be taken into another universe.  Memories are the most brilliant thing the human mind is capable of storing, I think.  Getting to play a memory was such an honor, especially to play the memory of someone who truly loves her.

JH: There’s also the Rashomon thing where we keep seeing her through other people’s eyes.


JH (cont’d): For instance, it’s great going into Lee’s head and seeing that he doesn’t get it.  He’s reading things in Merrin that simply aren’t there.

Q: The Devil’s not the villain in this movie.  It’s Lee, Ig’s long-time friend and lawyer.

JH: You have this character of tremendous malice in Lee Tourneau. He obviously yearns for Merrin, but what he really yearns for is to be complete. Ig is complete because he and Merrin together finish each other.  Lee has never had that and can’t imagine what that feels like. Max Minghella poured so much emotion into that role and it’s wonderful.  I really think that he’s one of the film’s secret weapons.  If there is one thing in the film that I think is so much better than what’s in the book it’s the depiction of Lee Tourneau.  In the book, he’s kind of the boogeyman.  He seems perfect but we know he’s an empty box, a hollow sociopath.  But in the movie he comes across as basically sort of a good guy with some nasty impulses.  You see a man, one of the bros, one of the friends, who could be guilty of sexual assault.  I’ve talked to people who feel that’s so real.  Usually the men who commit sexual assault and murder are not Ted Bundy figures.  It’s usually a friend, someone you trusted who took advantage.


Q: Daniel, did you ever have a betrayal from a friend that you could draw on for the friendship between Ig and the real killer?

DR: No, no! I’ve never had a friend like that to draw on, which I’m very grateful for. [Laughter]  I’m sure I’ve had something but nothing that is comparable.  Obviously you draw from whatever you have experienced and with some friends we reached a point where we couldn’t be friends anymore but that’s not really the same thing.

Q: Joe, in regard to the issue of violence against women, I’m curious what it was like for you to write the scene where Merrin is raped and killed.

JH: I’m not sure how I can respond to that. [Note: Hill donates to the Pixel Project.] Indie rockers will sometimes say, “I don’t know how you can dance to that song because I was in such pain when I wrote it.”  And you kind of want to swat them because they seem so full of themselves and pretentious.  But Horns was a really unhappy and paranoid book that was written by an unhappy and paranoid man.  The whole thing is just kind of this muddle of being depressed and not feeling like I could write a novel.  The end came out really well and I’m proud of it, and for me it’s a lot easier to connect with and enjoy the movie because I have a little distance from it and I could just sit back and enjoy it while all these other people [like the director Alexandre Aja and screenwriter Keith Bunin] did the heavy lifting.  I don’t know how the actors had the courage to do what they did in the film. I want to know how you, Juno, could do that?

JT: Shooting something like a rape and murder scene is never going to be easy and shouldn’t ever be easy. When you sign on to play a character who is going to go through that, you have to be ready to do it. We shot in the middle of the night in the forest in freezing cold Canada.  It was important to respect Merrin and not wear a warm coat and not drink a hot chocolate, because if I was really her in that situation I would be so frightened.  As you said, Joe, someone you have grown up with and trust can turn on you just like that–it’s such a chilling thought.  Alexander Aja created such an intense environment that night.  It took a long time, it was cold, it was miserable in the right way.  I was so lost in it.  It was a horrible scene but I wasn’t going to be a starlet and say, “Oh, sorry I’m not going to shoot that.”  You have to go for it and let go and allow yourself to be frightened.  And to be honest, it does take time to shake it off.  You should respect a scene like that and for any woman who has gone through something like that I didn’t want to be fucking pampered when doing it.

DR: And you weren’t.  That was like your first or second day of shooting. I got there a week later and Juno had set such a high bar.  The crew was saying, “That girl stayed under those rain machines four hours without complaining.”  That was not representative of how most actors would be.


JT: Max is actually a very good friend of mine.  I see him on a regular basis because we’re neighbors in Los Angeles.  I know him so well but when Lee does that sudden shift in personality, it really was frightening.


JT (cont’d): What was amazing about working with all these young actors was that we all just went for it.  All we could do was react to each other, so it was so great that we could trust each other.  That’s all thanks to Alex creating this universe.  You do it, and the next day you want to have cocktails together.  Everybody around you respected the position you’re in.  That was something I was blown away by when making this film.  Not only was that rape and murder scene brutal, there were a lot of brutal scenes.  Every single actor was challenged.  Even the kids who played us when we were young had challenges, physical challenges, real fear, hard situations.  I can say everybody respected that.

Q: Daniel, what was the most poignant thing for you in the film? Was it listening to Ig’s parents say awful things to him and reveal how they truly feel about him?

DR: That was horrible but the thing that brought me up short every time, whether reading it or doing it, was the scene in the treehouse in which Ig reads Merrin’s letter and finds out what was really going on with her.  That is what makes this story stay with me.  That love story Juno talked about is so key to the film.  We created this perfect, universal dream relationship between young lovers–which Joe then destroyed! [Laughter]  There is something so blissful and golden about it and I think everyone has had some version of that relationship, so what befalls them is hard to see.  But I believe the end of that storyline, with Ig reading the letter, makes the movie really special.


Ferry Road Developers Back with Smaller Condo Plan

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Ferry Road

The old Harborview Professional Building, left, and Remkus Fishing Station in Sag Harbor Village, are once again slated for replacement by a condominium development.

By Stephen J. Kotz

East End Ventures, LLC, the development firm that has tilted with Sag Harbor Village for years over its efforts to build waterfront condominiums behind the 7-Eleven convenience store and next to the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, is back with a new plan.

In a pre-application submission to the Village Planning Board on Tuesday, attorney Tiffany Scarlato said the firm now wants to build a total of eight condominiums that would be distributed among four separate buildings, with views looking west over Sag Harbor Cove under the name 1,3,5 Ferry Road.

None of the units would be over 2,500 square feet, said East Hampton architect Frank Greenwald, although board members asked why cellar space devoted to family rooms, home gyms and similar amenities was excluded from that calculation.

“The intention is to break the buildings down to as many pieces as we can to keep the mass down,” Mr. Greenwald told the board. The designs would reflect “a Sag Harbor vernacular” with some construction in brick, others in clapboard or shingles, he added.

Ms. Scarlato told the board the project as proposed would not require any variances, and Planning Board chairman Gregory Ferraris said his board would lead the review of the project through the requirements of the State Environmental Review Act process once a complete application is submitted, perhaps as early as next month.

The property is in the office district zone, but apartments can be built in the zone if an applicant obtains a special exception permit. The old Harborview Professional Building and the former Remkus Fishing Station buildings would be razed as part of the project.

In prior applications, the developers have claimed a right to build up to 40 units and submitted varying proposals calling for 22 or 18 condos at the site.

In 2009, their plans were caught in the middle of a villagewide upzoning, and the firm, whose principals are Emil Telal and Michael Maidan, filed two suits against the village, one seeking to challenge the village’s right to halt their application, and the other a civil rights suit that sought more than $30 million in damages. Both suits were dismissed.

Mr. Ferraris, who was mayor at the time of the prior application, said the East End Ventures application could not be processed at the time because the firm had not submitted a complete application before the village changed its zoning code.

The property being eyed for the latest development totals 71,630 square feet, although a site-plan filed with the application indicates that some 13,443 square feet of property would be given to the village as a gift. That parcel would apparently be next to a parcel the village is considering developing as Cove Park.

The developers also plan, at some time in the future, to come in with an application to redevelop the site of a large white residence formerly owned by the attorney Bruce Davis of 1-800-Lawyer fame.

SEQRA requires that the two applications be reviewed together, Mr. Ferraris said, because they are adjacent parcels.

In taking their first look at the application, planners had two basic concerns. New board member James Larocca questioned why the 1,250-square-foot basements in each unit were not listed as habitable space, even though floor plans said they would be used for things like family rooms and home gyms.

The board’s attorney, Denise Schoen, concurred that they application should be amended to include those areas in the habitable space.

Mr. Larocca and board member Larry Perrine also said they were concerned by how the condominium property would interact with the neighboring public waterfront.  Ms. Scarlato said the developers’ chief concern would be security, and Mr. Greenwald added privacy would also be an issue.

Harbor Heights Project

In other action, the board adopted a negative declaration under SEQRA for the amended and vastly scaled back redevelopment of the Harbor Heights service station under the name Petroleum Ventures, LLC.

A negative declaration means the board will not require an environmental impact statement with the project. It also issued a negative declaration in 2012 for the original project.

The board also scheduled the application for a public hearing at its next meeting, on November 25.

In its prior incarnation, the plan spurred heated opposition among neighbors who raised concerns about increased traffic and lighting and who objected to plans to expand a pre-existing business use in a residential zone. Petroleum Ventures sought a slew of variances from the village Zoning Board of Appeals, of which one, were denied.

The board’s environmental consultant, Richard Warren, said the applicant now plans to use a 600-square-foot portion of the existing 1,855-square-foot building for a convenience store and plans to have three pump islands under a 15-foot canopy. A 30-foot landscaped perimeter between neighboring properties is also proposed.

Promotion for Clerk

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The Sag Harbor Village Board, during a work session Tuesday that touched on many unresolved issues in the village, could agree on one thing: that Beth Kamper, the current village clerk should be given the additional title of village administrator.

“It should be looked at. I think Beth deserves it,” said Trustee Ken O’Donnell.

Mayor Brian Gilbride noted that former clerk Sandra Schroeder, who is now a trustee, was also given both titles and said there was money in the budget to pay for the added duties, although he did not specify how much.

As village administrator, Ms. Kamper would be able to sign certain permits and applications, and other duties delegated by the village board that would oversee the day-to-day operations of the village, the mayor said.

Although the board agreed it would make the appointment, it decided to hold off until its next formal meeting, on November 12.

Mayor Gilbride, responding to what he called a “manifesto” of unfinished business raised by Trustee Robbie Stein, suggested that the board should try to hold more regular work sessions to try to whittle away at the list. Among the items on Mr. Stein’s list was the need for a capital spending plan; Municipal Building renovations, including the installation of a new elevator to the third floor; finding more spaces in existing village parking lots; and tackling stormwater runoff and groundwater issues, among others.

In other action, the board hired Bonnie Engelhardt to assist with clerical duties at a rate of $23 per hour related to a Records Management Grant awarded to the village. It also agreed to give village Treasurer Eileen Tuohy a raise, although the resolution did not specify an amount.

The board also agreed to hire Robert C. Rozzi as a part-time police officer at the rate of $23 per hour and allowed Chief Thomas Fabiano to hire Robert T. Sproston and Christian Denton for training purposes to become part-time officers. Both will remain on unpaid leave of absence at least until training starts at the Suffolk County Police Academy on December 1.



ARB Takes Dim View of Renovation Plan for Historic House

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42 Church Sreet

The Captain David Hand House at 42 Church Street is one of the oldest houses in Sag Harbor Village.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A plan to renovate and expand the historic Captain David Hand House at 42 Church Street ran into a brick wall when it was presented for the first time to the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Monday, October 27.

Anthony Vermandois, the architect for the property’s new owner, Alex Akavan, said the cottage could date to the late 1700s and is one of the oldest houses, if not the oldest, in Sag Harbor.

He said the building had been well maintained until it suffered foundation damage that has manifested itself through “visible cracks” that opened during heavy construction at the Watchcase condominiums in the former Bulova building across the street.

Last year, the property’s then owner, John Krug, said the construction work had first cracked his windows before causing damage to the foundation that caused his house to sag and the front door to not close properly. He sold the property to Mr. Akavan earlier this year.

Mr. Vermandois told the ARB his client was mindful of the historic value of the house and did not want to make major changes, but he added, at about 1,000 square feet, it was simply too small for his needs.

“It’s a one-and-half bedroom, not one-and-a-half bath,” Mr. Vermandois said. “He wants two functioning bedrooms and two baths.”

But his plan calling for a modest side and rear addition, as well as digging out the foundation on the rear side to allow for a ground-floor bedroom met stiff resistance from the ARB, which was meeting with only three members, including alternate John Conner.

“This needs to be a restoration,” Mr. Conner said, noting that the house was too important historically to be demolished and rebuilt in kind. “If he wanted a two-bedroom house this is the wrong purchase.”

“Any addition at all is off the table,” Mr. Conner added later, stressing that any work could cause damage to the streetscape.

“It’s a little gem and a treasure. It’s going to have be repaired where things have happened to it from Watchcase,” said ARB member Christine Patrick.

On Tuesday, Mr. Vermandois said he was not discouraged by the board’s reaction. “I think they may have misunderstood our intent,” he said. “We are not planning to do major work.”

He added that the intention of last night’s appearance during the discussion portion of the meeting was “simply to let them know this should be on their radar.” He said he would likely request a continued discussion when the board has a full complement of members at its November 13 meeting before submitting a formal application.

According to a “Guide to Sag Harbor” by Henry Weisbery and Lisa Donneson, the Hand house was built in Southampton before 1732. It is possible the house was actually built in the 17th century. The house was moved from Southampton to Sagaponack in 1752 and then moved to the intersection of Madison and Main Streets at the site now occupied by the Stanton house. In 1840 it was moved to its current location on Church Street.

The house belonged to David Hand, a legendary figure in Sag Harbor who outlived five wives all whom he is buried beside in Oakland Cemetery. Author James Fenimore Cooper was said to have been so impressed with Captain Hand that he modeled him for the character Natty Bumpo in “Leatherstocking Tales.”

A ranch house at the corner of Madison and Susan streets could be undergoing a major renovation if the new owners, Todd and Maureen Powell get their way.

Architect Ryan Kesner of McDonough Architects told the board, the house was constructed in 1960 and is outdated and in need of repair. The owners want to build a series of additions around the house, add a second floor and convert the garage into a pool house, but what got board members’ attention was a proposal to have nine sets of French doors along the back of the house.

Board members asked Mr. Kesner to bring the plans back for another discussion when a full board is present, but they advised him that a plan to have a driveway with three curb cuts, two on Madison Street and one on Susan Street, should be eliminated.

Julian Terian’s proposal to renovate a long vacant house at 39 Howard Street won the board’s approval, although it told Mr. Vermandois, who is designing the house, that it wanted him to remove a cupola that was proposed to house an antique bell.

Mr. Vermandois said a portion of the house would have to be demolished and rebuilt. “The house has been abandoned for almost 30 years now,” Mr. Vermandois told the board. “It’s a question of what condition it will be in once we start to open up walls.”

He said it was the owner’s intention to “keep as much as we can.” Acting chairman Tom Horn advised Mr. Vermandois, “If you find something you have to come in and tell us.”

Neither Mr. Conner nor Ms. Patrick liked the proposed cupola. “Just because they have an antique bell doesn’t mean we have to accommodate the bell with a cupola,” Ms. Patrick said.

The project, which has already received approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, will have four on-site parking spaces and an 8-by-15-foot pool.

The ARB also signed off on the Sag Harbor Historical Society’s request to add a 14-by-18-foot accessory structure behind the Annie Cooper Boyd House on Main Street. Jim Laspesa, the society’s architect, said the building would be used for educational purposes and be shingled in cedar with a shingled roof. The building would be built to the rear of the property and does not require any ZBA variances, he told the board.

The next Sag Harbor ARB meeting is on Thursday, November 13 at 5 p.m.

Seasonal Food Shines at Long Island Restaurant Week

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The Living Room Chef Mathias Brogie. Eric Striffler photo.

The Living Room Chef Mathias Brogie. Eric Striffler photo.

By Gianna Volpe

November is upon us, meaning time again to taste three courses of some of the South Fork’s finest for less than $30.

Long Island Restaurant Week now comes but twice a year—the pre-fixe promotion designed as a culinary stimulus for those who stay in the edible business off-season—saw it’s dates double in 2011 due to popular demand. The week is now featured in April, in addition to November. It was founded, and continues to be run by executives at the East Hampton-based Wordhampton Public Relations.

Nine South Fork restaurants are listed as participating in Long Island Restaurant Week between November 2 through November 9, including The Cuddy and Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor, Almond and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, Cowfish and Rhumba in Hampton Bays, The Living Room at c/o Maidstone The 1770 House in East Hampton, and The Patio in Westhampton Beach.

Reservations are encouraged for restaurants that allow such as the dates tend to fill up quickly.

“Just last night I had a little anxiety dream of like, ‘Oh my god, Restaurant Week’s tomorrow, we have 150 on the books and I don’t have staff,” joked Jason Weiner, the executive chef/owner of the participating Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton, “It’s all good though—we get to see a lot of new faces, make some new friends and see some old friends, so it’s great.”

Regular menu items are often available as part of the price-fixe plated dinners and though many participating restaurants create dedicated menus for all of Long Island Restaurant Week, Chef Weiner said he likes to change things up at Almond.

“We’ll basically do a different miniaturized version of the regular menu every night,” he said. “A lot of places do low cost items that they can produce en masse, which is a fine way to do things as long as it tastes good, but the thing about Restaurant Week is you often get folks who don’t often come to your restaurant for the rest of the year…so I figure the best way to get them to understand who we are is to give them a taste of what our regular menu is about; that’s our approach to the week.”

Chef Weiner said he focuses on using local ingredients for his menu – “slightly whimsical” spins on classic dishes—counting Pike’s Farm and Marilee Foster in Sagaponack; Tom Falkowski’s Bridgehampton potato farm and Amber Waves in Amagansett among those local purveyors to provide him with produce.

“It’s all about ingredients,” said Mr. Weiner. “I’m lucky enough to be on the East End of Long Island, where even now my cauliflower, my celery, my cabbage, my Brussels sprouts; the greens and potatoes, are all coming locally.”

Almond’s restaurant week menus will feature such dishes as its Lamb braciole with bitter greens and polenta raviolini and a variety of steaks, including marinated hangar steak, a grass-fed flat iron steak and a 13-ounce New York strip, which may be chosen for a slight upcharge.

“We’ll also do one of our two soups, one of which is a smoked oyster and cauliflower soup,” he said. “We get our oysters from our friends over at Montauk Shellfish Company and our cauliflower comes from Pike’s Farm.”

Almond isn’t the only restaurant that will rely heavily on its regular menu to outline its restaurant week offerings. East Hampton’s The Living Room, restaurant of luxury hotel c/o The Maidstone, will derive its menu entirely from its regular fare.

“We want to give a representation of what we do year-round, not just something done specifically for that week,” said The Living Room’s restaurant manager Adam Lancashire. “We want people to have a three-course meal that will be available to them both the week after and the week before…We will be telling everyone that comes, ‘These dishes haven’t been watered down and we haven’t gotten a cheaper product to put it together; we stuck with our philosophy.”

The Living Room’s entrees will include its popular new poached cod and a beef Bourguignon Mr. Lancashire suggested enjoying with a glass of pinot noir.

“We’re very excited to be part of restaurant week,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to show people what you offer year-round.”

If you’re searching for short ribs, try the participating Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor as director of operations Eric Peele counted the dish among its planned restaurant week menu.

“We may rotate in and out a hangar steak, but we’ll always have fish on the menu,” Mr. Peele added. “Our standard far is what popular, like our rigatoni Bolognese and salmon.”

Long Island Restaurant Week begins November 2 and runs through November 9. For more information, visit longislandrestaurantweek.com. 

“The World Goes ‘Round” Brings Kander & Ebb to Southampton Cultural Center

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The cast of “The World Goes ‘Round, the Songs of Kander and Ebb.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

The cast of “The World Goes ‘Round, the Songs of Kander and Ebb.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

By Annette Hinkle

The legendary songwriting duo of Kander and Ebb have been responsible for some of the biggest hits on Broadway in the past half century. Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb first began their collaboration back in 1962, and in the years that followed, the pair wrote a prolific number of songs and scores including “Cabaret,” which is currently enjoying a revival on Broadway in the old Studio 54 space, “Funny Lady,” and, perhaps their most memorable (and biggest) hit, “Chicago.”

And because he has been denied the rights to produce “Chicago” time and time again (it’s been 17 consecutive years, but who’s counting) this fall, Michael Disher, director of Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center, decided to approach the challenge from a totally unique angle by bringing the music of Kander and Ebb to the stage in an entirely different form.

“The World Goes ‘Round, The Songs of Kander & Ebb” kicks off Center Stage’s new season and the production is playing at the Southampton Cultural Center now through November 9. The show takes its title from a tune the songwriting team wrote for Liza Minnelli in the 1977 film “New York, New York.” That film’s title song, also included in the show, was, of course, a standard by Frank Sinatra.

Those expecting a night of musical theater filled with plot structure, intriguing narratives and a boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again kind of experience may be disappointed. In fact, this production is not a structured play, but rather, a musical revue. Which means that audience members who can’t get enough of wall to wall song and dance numbers will get their fill and then some.

In this show, there are no sets, precious few props and the costumes consist of a simple selection of basic black wardrobe pieces. The songs of Kander and Ebb are the stars here, and to pull it off, Mr. Disher has assembled a varied cast of 10 singers and dancers, some of whom are admittedly more comfortable in the song and dance role than others. They include Richard Adler, Isabel Alvarez, Holly Marie Dunn, Sharon Mulvaney, Jaclyn Randazzo, Mary Sabo, Jack Seabury, Kyle Sherlock, Josephine Wallace and Edna Winston.

And though you won’t get the whole play, the music of “Chicago” is well-represented in this production with “All That Jazz,” “Class,” “Mr. Cellophane” and “Me and My Baby” all in the line up. Also expect songs from “Funny Lady,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and yes, Sinatra’s signature song, “New York, New York.”

Also expect to hear some long forgotten numbers that only true Kander and Ebb fans are likely to know, including a lovely rendition of “Colored Lights” offered by Ms. Dunn from “The Rink,” one of their less successful Broadway plays, and “My Coloring Book,” a song that comes not from a musical, but rather Barbra Streisand’s second album recorded in 1963. In this production, the number is performed sweetly by Ms. Randazzo.

Despite the fact that Kander and Ebb wrote their material in the last half of the 20th century, some of their numbers feel oddly dated today in an “aw, shucks” kind of way. Younger audience members may not always appreciate the sappy nature of some of the duo’s more sentimental pieces, but in some cases, that dated quality works well here. Particularly impressive in the first act is “There Goes the Ball Game” from “New York, New York.” Performed in this production by a trio consisting of Ms. Randazzo, Ms. Dunn and Ms. Alvarez, the singers’ Andrew’s Sisters-esque treatment of the song, with harmonies that are stellar, is evocative of another era in the best of ways.

But ultimately this revue show is at its best (and most dynamic) with numbers like “All That Jazz” when the whole cast gets into the act with more compelling staging and dance moves (thanks to choreography by Mr. Disher and Bethany Dellapolla).

Act Two begins on a particular high note with the versatile Ms. Sabo offering a very fun rendition of “Ring Them Bells” (from “Liza with a Z”). This narrative song tells the story of a young woman from Riverside Drive who travels the world in search of Mr. Right, only to meet the boy next door, literally, on a beach in Dubrovnik. The whole cast gets in on the act on this one as well, and the addition of ankle and wrist bells, along with the cleverly written lyrics and expressive singing by Ms. Sabo, add great charm to the piece.

There are fine moments too where multiple songs are offered at once to great effect. This technique is particularly effective when Mr. Seabury, Ms. Dunn and Ms. Sabo perform as a trio by offering up “We Can Make It” (from “The Rink”), “Maybe This Time” (from “Cabaret”) and “Isn’t This Better” (from Funny Lady”) simultaneously.

Mr. Seabury continues to shine in the final numbers of the revue, which ends on a high note with music from “Cabaret” in which he assumes the role of the Master of Ceremonies, first with “Money Money,” followed by the show’s title song. Finally there comes, “New York, New York” itself with a Sinatra-inspired imitation that is spot on.

What else could you possibly imagine ending the evening with? And when it comes to revisiting the music of Kander and Ebb, what more could you possibly want?

Center Stage at SCC presents The World Goes ‘Round, the Songs of Kander and Ebb through Sunday November 9, at SCC’s Levitas Center for the Arts. Karen Hochstedler is musical director. Other Kander and Ebb shows represented in the revue include “Woman of the Year,” “The Happy Time,” “Flora, The Red Menace,” “The Act” and “70, Girls, 70.” Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. on the stage of The Levitas Center for the Arts, 25 Pond Lane, across from Agawam Park in Southampton Village. General admission is $25 (students $12). Group rates are available and reservations are encouraged by calling (631) 287-4377 or visiting scc-arts.org.