Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Here's a clip of Paul Newman, in a brilliant, Oscar nominated performance, as an alcoholic attorney who retains his dignity and self respect while fighting a medical malpractice case in Sidney Lumet's fantastic film from 1982, THE VERDICT.

Staged Reading Audition on Saturday

I have an audition for a staged reading of a new work with Coffee Black Productions ( this coming Saturday.

The name of the work is THE CONNIE SAXON SHOW. I don't know much else about the project at this point, but I do know that if cast, the reading will take place in Park Slope, Brooklyn on January 18th.

Click Here for OVER COFFEE Trailer

Here's the trailer for OVER COFFEE

That's me uttering "Goddamn, that's good" at the end of the trailer.

There's going to be a website built too, as Sean thinks that it might be a nice way to promote the film a bit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Heard from OVER COFFEE director Sean Meehan regarding the status of the film. He's working on getting it scored, color timed, and foley'd over the next few weeks and then it should go up online soon after that.

As for projects in 2010, Sean has a few ideas that he's working on now and he mentioned that when they come to something more concrete that we can try to work together again, which would be great.

Working on TV Show MERCY On Monday, January 4th

I will be working on the new television series MERCY on Monday, January 4th (Upcoming Episode # 113).

MERCY is a hospital drama set at the fictional Mercy Hospital in Jersey City, NJ. On Monday, I will appearing in a bar scene as a blue collar type.

Even though I promised myself that I'd never do background work again, I'm making an exception in this case because it is an AFTRA job, where the money is a little better.

It's still background work, but money is money.

The shooting will take place in Seacaucus, NJ.

Monday, December 28, 2009

MIDSUMMER To Return on Friday

MIDSUMMER returns on Friday for the start of what will be the final weekend of performances.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Here is the great Jason Robards as Jamie Tyronne in Sidney Lumet's 1962 masterful film adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. This scene is known as "Jamie's Confession," which comes late in the play.

And here is a clip of Robards in his iconic potrayal of Hickey from another one of O'Neill's masterworks THE ICEMAN COMETH (1960 adaptation, also directed by Lumet). This speech comes at the end of Act II, during Harry Hope's birthday party, with a bit of a revelation from Hickey.

These clips are only mere samples of why Jason Robards was the greatest interpreter of the works of Eugene O'Neill.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Great Character Actresses

Here also are a few of the character actresses who have and continue to inspire me.






Great Character Actors

Here are a few of the great character actors who have been strong influences on my work.










Lawrence Lesher Directs Ken Ludwig's LEADING LADIES

Thought I'd give Larry a plug here for his upcoming show.

If you're in Florida and want to see a funny comedy, check out LEADING LADIES by Ken Ludwig at Theatre WinterHaven

Arts Notes: Are Leading Men Really 'Leading Ladies?'

By Barb Stuewe

Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 3:06 p.m.
The cast list is set for Theatre Winter Haven's "Leading Ladies," with show dates of Jan. 14-31 at the Chain of Lakes Complex in Winter Haven.

The comedy by Ken Ludwig, the author of "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Moon Over Buffalo," tells of two Shakespearean actors who find themselves so down on their luck that they are performing on the Moose Lodge circuit. When they hear that an old lady is about to die and leave her fortune to her two long-lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her relatives and get the cash. The trouble is, the relatives aren't nephews, but nieces!

Jarrod Snapko returns to the Theatre Winter Haven stage as Leo. Derek Wyatt is Duncan. Theatre Winter Haven veterans Susanna Carey and Larry Helms take the roles of Florence and Doc. Also a familiar face to the Theatre Winter Haven audience is Nick Judy, playing Butch. Judy is also set designer. Michael Kutner plays Jack. Sarah Jane Fridlich is Meg. They are first-timers at Theatre Winter Haven. Ashley Lee completes the cast as Audrey.

The show will be directed by Larry Lesher. Camille McClellan is costume designer. Lighting design is by Tom Johnson. Stage manager is Marty Stanley.

Tickets are now on sale for this production. You can make reservations by calling 294-7469, stopping by the box office or by going online to Prices are $20 for adults and $19 for 17 and younger.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Great Arthur O'Connell Quote

Here is a great quote from character actor Arthur O'Connell.

"The stage is vital to an actor. On the stage, a performance is all yours. Nobody can edit or cut you out. Actors need the stage for the rejuvenation of their abilities and equipment."

Here are some great pics of Mr. O'Connell from ANATOMY OF A MURDER, FANTASTIC VOYAGE and THE GREAT RACE.

The Year in Review

It has been a wonderful year and a busy one as well. So many memorable projects. When looking back over the last year, I can't help but wonder where I got all the time. No regrets over the course of the year. I learned quite a bit. I learned especially that I'm still learning, as at the end of the day, actors are still students.

Theatre Projects included: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, THE WOMAN OF AMAZONIA, OEDIPUSSY, AS YOU LIKE IT, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and finally A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. All of these productions were memorable for one reason or another. These projects offered countless challenges and memories that I wish cherish forever.

Film Projects included: HEART SHAPED BOX,CANDYLESS,FERRY TERMINAL,DESIGNING CONSEQUENCES,OVER COFFEE, ARGYLE, THE LITTLE MAGICIAN, THE EVANGELIST and FROSTED JUSTICE. Most of these projects have been completed and look pretty darn good. I am now awaiting the completion of OVER COFFEE and ARGYLE, which I know are going to be fantastic.

I even did one day of background work, on the film, THE BOUNTY and remembered why I disliked background work so much.

Many projects were completed and released this year, including OVERCROWDED, ARRANGEMENTS, THE RED WAGON and JACK CARSON. The results are a mixed bag, with OVERCROWDED being the highlight!

MICHAEL AND MICHAEL HAVE ISSUES premiered this year as well and I enjoyed my brief appearance (aka "The Nod") in the pilot episode.

The NORTH SHORE HEALTH SYSTEMS SHOOT in Long Island also proved to be a memorable project.

All in all...a very good year!

Now on to 2010 and new challenges and experiences.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One More Review of MIDSUMMER

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Theatre Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (2009)
By Michael Dietz

Who would have guessed that William Shakespeare and his oft produced fantasy/comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream would capture the spirit of the Christmas season? Well, capture it, it does!

Katherine M. Carter's production, running at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, set entirely in a dream, complete with colorful pajamas and magical music, is utterly delightful. It is as faithful a Dream as I've ever come across and is at the same time, by far, the most entertaining Dream I have ever seen.

The play is really a mash-up of three intersecting comedies. At its center is a love-scramble. Hermia (Angelica Duncan) and Lysander (Joe Mullen) want to be married, but Hermia's father, Egeus (Charles Baker) prefers Demetrius (James Parenti), who is adored by Helena (Katie Braden). Theseus (Brandon Hillen), the Duke of Athens, rules that Hermia must marry Demetrius or retire to a convent or face instant death.

So the two young lovers take flight. Their escape takes them through the woods, where they are pursued by Demetrius, who is, of course, hounded by Helena. Little do they know they've plunged into the middle of a domestic wrangle between Oberon (Randy Warsaw), King of the fairies, and his wife, Titania (Tiffany D. Turner).

Meanwhile, a group of rough-cut tradesmen have decided to put on a play at the wedding feast for the Duke. And off they go to rehearse in the same woods where the kids have fled and the fairies are squabbling. What ensues is an immortal hodge-podge of fairy dust, confused affections, transformations and eventual restoration of happy couples.

Carter's Dream sparkles with such luscious, sweet imagery that all one can do is sit back and wait for each magical moment to unfold and reveal the next. Her set is snow white and mostly bare, allowing for plenty of space for her ensemble to play. From Jeni Ahlfeld's adorable costumes to Jillian Marie Walker's enchanting sound design (which included the composition of a lovely dramatic score) and finally to the pleasant lighting design by Lisa Hufnagel, there is simply nothing to dislike about this production. It's as though Carter and her design team allowed their imaginations to run wild.

The ensemble is fantastic, with Randy Warsaw as a mischievous Oberon, Tiffany D. Turner, elegant as Titiana and Ahlfeld, romping all over the proceedings with cat-like tread and curiosity, as Puck. The smaller fairies are played, charmingly, by Sarah King and Trish Phelps.

The role of Bottom is taken by Chris Kateff, who bites into it heartily and seldom misses an opportunity to make his audience laugh at this dithering, good-natured fool. His fellow playmakers are just as well-cast: Miriam Mintz as unassuming Tom Snout, Timothy Williams as the cowering Snug (complete with tiny bear companion), Charlotte Layne Dunn as an energetic Robin Starveling, and especially Timothy J. Cox, outstanding as the teddy bear-like Peter Quince and Andrew Ash as Flute, the latter earning hoots from the audience for his hilarious turn as "Thisbe" in the misbegotten play-within-the-play that is one of Dream's many comic high points.

As the four mismated lovers, Angelica Duncan (Hermia), Joe Mullen (Lysander), Katie Braden (Helena), and James Parenti (Demetrius) are appealing and funny; Braden and Mullen, particularly, bring a sly contemporary flavor to their characters without compromising them, offering a neat counterpoint to the ethereal magic all around them.

Rounding out the cast are Brandon Hillen and Heidi Zenz, appealing and honest, as royals Theseus and Hippolyta, while Charles Baker is right on target as Helena's stern father Egeus.

All told, a lovely Dream and a lovely holiday entertainment as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

MIDSUMMER to Return on January 1st

Yesterday was the final performance of MIDSUMMER before the Christmas holiday and it was spectacular.

Now, the cast and crew are off until a brush up rehearsal before the January 1st performance.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yesterdays' Shows

Both shows yesterday were pretty solid and we managed to get good audiences, even with the crazy weather.

Today may be a different story, but I have not received word as of yet if the show is going on or not.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday Night

A solid performance last night, with a lively crowd who seemed to enjoy themselves.

We have two performances today, so after last nights' show, I went home and got some much needed rest. I have also been battling a cold, so the rest helped that as well.

Back at the theatre in a few hours.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Nights' Performance of MIDSUMMER

Last nights' audience was our best. They enjoyed the show from the very beginning to the very end.

It was a strong performance overall, with everyone in the cast still giving their all, although I must say that the play within a play sequence came off like a Carol Burnett episode, like when Harvey Korman tried to keep from laughing at the antics of co-star Tin Conway. That is the best way to describe how that sequence went last night. People were trying their best not to break character. I flubbed a line in the middle of one of my speeches and learned that when you get the giggles and then try to speak Shakespeare at the same time, the giggles are always going to win.

It was glorious. Live theater at its best!

It's why I do this.

Back again tonight!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

YourNabe.Com Review of MIDSUMMER

Queens Players delight with madcap ‘Midsummer’

By Arlene McKanic
Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:13 AM EST

It seems that Katherine M. Carter, the director of the Queens Players’ adorable version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” remembered that the important word in the play’s title is “dream.”

Thus, she not only has a dreamy set draped in white linens and softly lit by Lisa Hufnagel, but has costume designer Jeni Ahlfeld dress the cast in pajamas and white ankle socks; Bottom and his men appear in scarlet onesies.

The playfulness is further enhanced by having Snug the Joiner (Timothy Williams) a very tall bloke, carry around a teddy bear. Snug even has a little matching mane made for Teddy when he plays the lion in Pyramus and Thisbe.

The morning is greeted by the songs of birds — kudos to sound designer Jillian Marie Walker. The Bard would have approved.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of Shakespeare’s dopier comedies. Though it has a couple of authoritarian male figures, namely Theseus, duke of Athens (Brandon Hillen), and Egeus, father of Hermia (Charles Baker), it has none of the discordance or “slut horror” of a work like “Much Ado About Nothing.” Keeping with the title, it’s 99 percent moonlight and fluff.

The plot is this, sort of: It’s close to the duke’s wedding to Hippolyta, played by the charming Heidi Zenz, but he’s beseeched by Egeus, whose diminutive daughter Hermia (Angelica Duncan) wants to marry Lysander (Joe Mullen), the man she loves, and not Demetrius (James Parenti), the man her father wants for her. The Duke warns Hermia that the penalty for such disobedience is death or being sent to a nunnery. In the meantime, Demetrius is being aggressively wooed — nowadays one might say stalked — by the lovestruck Helena (a wide-eyed Katie Braden), who he doesn’t care for in the least.

On another plain of existence, the fairy king Oberon (Randy Warsaw, in slinky purple silk and guyliner) and his queen, Titania (Tiffany D. Turner, proud and dignified till she wakes up in love with the transmogrified Bottom), aren’t getting along because he wants her to release her page to his service. She doesn’t want to.

Because of her stubbornness, Oberon sends his servant Puck (a Goth and impish Ahlfeld), to bewitch Titania with a love potion so she falls in love with the first ugly thing she sees upon awakening from her nap. Puck also mistakenly bewitches Lysander, because (s)he mistakes him for scornful Demetrius. And Bottom (an appropriately scenery-chewing Chris Kateff) and his men (Andrew Ash, Timothy J. Cox, Charlotte Layne Dunn, Miriam Mintz, and Williams) are putting on a play based on Pyramus and Thisbe, a more tragic tale of bad timing and misunderstanding, for the Duke’s wedding.

All this is an excuse for the cast to not only show their acting chops but gambol about the little whitewashed stage like babies. The rehearsals for the play-within-a-play are only matched in hilarity by the near-brawl between Hermia and Helena after both Lysander and Demetrius are bewitched into falling in love with the latter.

Duncan plays Hermia, who thinks she’s being dissed because she’s short, like a wet cat with the evening crazies. (“How low am I, thou painted maypole?” she screeches at Helena. “Speak! How low am I? I am not yet so low but that my nails can reach unto thine eyes!”)

Parenti and Mullen play the boys as wonderfully disdainful, pugnacious and lovesick. Also good are Titania’s servant fairies (Sarah King and Trish Phelps), who think nothing of waiting on a man with the head of jackass. Perhaps they think this is normal for mortals?

This most delightful and inventive “Midsummer” will be running through Jan. 3 (they skip Christmas) at the Secret Theatre. They call it the Secret Theatre because it’s a few blocks from the Citicorp building, and hidden behind a loading bay, but they’ll have a sandwich board outside on the street. It’s a summery joy, perfect for a winter’s evening.

If You Go

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When: Dec. 16-19, Jan. 1-3 at 8 p.m., Dec. 19 and 20 at 3:30 p.m.

Cost: $15 general admission, $10 students

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City

Contact: 718-392-0722


MIDSUMMER Still Going Strong

MIDSUMMER came back last night and it's still going strong. The audiences have consistently enjoyed the show and last nights' crowd was no different.

Back again in a few hours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The callback audition for CAFFIENE ADDICT this afternoon went okay, I thought.

I was given a lot to think about, as far as the character of Andrew is concerned, prior to reading and tried to give the director and playwright what they wanted. They seemed to be happy with my readings and complimented me on yesterday's work, but
I think they're concerned that I might come off a little too old or mature for the part. Andrew is suppossed to be between the ages of 28-32 and while I'm 33, I tend to come a little older. It's a blessing and a curse.

We'll see.

Callback Audition for CAFFIENE ADDICT At Noon Today

I will be going back in to explore the role of Andrew in CAFFIENE ADDICT a little further at noon today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MIDSUMMER Returns Tomorrow

MIDSUMMER returns tomorrow and I'm hoping for big houses for all of the performances this week.

We need to get butts in seats!

Todays' CAFFEINE ADDICT Audition

Todays' audition for that CAFFIENE ADDICT, the one act I mentioned a few days back went pretty well I thought. I read the sides twice and presented a monologue and thought I did pretty well with both.

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2nd Week Comes To A Close

After two weeks of performances, MIDSUMMER is in a pretty solid place, although it is a little disconcerting that our houses have been consistently small thus far.

Maybe it's because of the time of the year, the weather and or the location.

The show is listed everywhere...especially on sites like Facebook.

Director Katie Carter intends to send a huge email blasts. Now that we are critically acclaimed, hopefully that'll butts in the seats.

Tonights' performance was okay. Some of it felt little rushed. Nothing major. I just think the cast just needs a few days rest. Lord knows I could use some.

We have another review that is expected to be released this week from Arlene McKanic of Hopefully it'll be a good one!

One Act Audition On Tuesday

On Tuesday afternoon, I will be auditioning for CAFFEINE ADDICT, a one act play that will be part of the Manhattan Rep Theatre's Winterfest in February, on the 10th, 11th, and the 12th.

The play, written by Lucky Preksto (who attended and liked my work in MIDSUMMER), tells the tale of Andrew, an American, living in Lisbon with his girlfriend, Sophia, also American. He hates the city, feels trapped in his life and relationships there and is looking for an escape. An ex-girlfriend, Caitlin, arrives for a visit unexpectedly from New York, he thinks she may be his way out. They make an evening of it.

I really enjoyed the sides that I read, so I am intrigued about where the rest of the play goes.

We'll see what happens.

Possible SAND Rep Project Coming Up

Nothing is set in stone yet, but I may be getting involved in a workshop reading of a new work with SAND Rep (SPRING JUICE).

Stay tuned.

This Weekend

Shows continue to go very well and we're receiving all of these positive reviews. It's a good feeling, being in a winner!

Another Great Review from BlogCritics

Theater Review (NYC): A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Secret Theatre

Author: Joseph Arthur Clay — Published: Dec 12, 2009

Love is in the air, and on the earth lovers of both fairies and foolish mortals collide in the forest outside Athens, resulting in one midsummer night that none will soon forget. Throw in a bunch of amateur actors, including a ham named Bottom given to making an ass out of himself, and you may think it all a dream. But on The Secret Theatre's stage, it is a dream of uncommon reality that you are unlikely to sleep through.

The production, which opened last week in Long Island City, Queens, is truly magical — an extraordinary theatrical experience. Everything about this dream-inspired production, complete with the entire cast dressed in colorful pajamas, feels honest. It also feels deeply imagined, and unique, and alive thanks to solid direction from Katherine M. Carter and great performances from a number of sensationally gifted actors.

Midsummer is widely considered one of the Bard’s most lighthearted pieces, its pre-screwball comedy and romantic roundelays easily accessible to audiences. Along with Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer is probably the Shakespearean title most frequently performed in theatres all over the world.

Ms. Carter has succeeded in drawing us in to a world of mystery, subtlety, and wonder, with a completely white set that is playful and indeed dreamlike. The stage is mostly bare, save for two blocks and four pieces of fabric (representing columns) hanging from the ceiling. And although the forest is dark (thanks to some imaginative lighting by Lisa Hufnagel) it isn't sinister, and is made appealing with the addition of evocative music composed by Jillian Marie Walker.

Shakespeare brings us three worlds: the sophisticated court of Athens, wherein two sets of lovers, Hermia (Angelica Duncan) and Lysander (Joe Mulen), and Helena (Katie Braden) and Demetrius (James Parenti) are having their problems, augmented by the interference of a second world ensconced in the nearby forest: Oberon, King of the Fairies (Randy Warsaw), who for his part is having problems with his queen, Titania (Tiffany D. Turner). Oberon's aide Puck (Jeni Ahlfeld) assists his master in all sorts of peculiar deeds, usually designed to make mortals uncomfortable, such as placing an herb into the lovers' eyes to confuse their affections. Puck does likewise for Titania, who awakes to find herself in love with an ass, so metamorphosed by Bottom the weaver (Chris Kateff) with the aid of a fluffy head band.

Theseus, Duke of Athens (Brandon Hillen) will soon celebrate his nuptials to the passionate Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Heidi Zenz).

Then we are introduced to the third world, namely, the "rude mechanicals," workmen of the area — amateur actors who will put on a production of Pyramus and Thisbe to entertain the lords and ladies of the court. They are Bottom the Weaver (Chris Kateff), Peter Quince, a carpenter (Timothy J. Cox), Francis Flute, a bellows mender (Andrew Ash), tailor Robin Starveling (Charlotte Layne Dunn), Tom Snout, a tinker (Miriam Mintz), and Snug, a joiner (Timothy Williams).

It is in the setting forth separately and later intertwining the three worlds that makes for the fascination that A Midsummer Night's Dream has held for audiences since Elizabethan times.

Angelica Duncan is a fiercely strong Hermia – she has a beautiful voice for Shakespeare – and Katie Braden is a tender, shattered Helena; they’re the emotional center of this Midsummer. Joe Mullen, an intensely giving actor, makes a heartfelt Lysander, and when he and the equally giving James Parenti's Demetrius both fall victim to the same fairy spell, the men joyously play fools of the highest order.

Surrounding A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s romantic quartet are a number of sensationally gifted actors, the breadth of their talents proves downright intimidating. Randy Warsaw and Tiffany D, Turner are magnificently imperious as Oberon and Titania, while Jeni Ahlfeld is a vibrant, devious Puck.

The company of Players, led by Timothy J. Cox as a wonderfully realized Peter Quince, are a lively group of clowns that had me laughing all the way to the very end. Special mention must go to Chris Kateff who gave a superlative Bottom. At times reminiscent of a young Tom Hanks, he was entertaining from start to finish and deservedly indulgent as Pyramus in the play within the play, which was certainly a crowd pleaser. This was counterbalanced by Andrew Ash's screamingly funny Thisbe and by Miriam Mintz's vivid rendition of Wall.

A celebration of love, community and the power of theater, this is a Dream you don’t want to wake from.

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City until January 3. For information on tickets, please visit The Secret Theatre's website.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another MIDSUMMER Review

Queens Midsummer no more yeilding but a dream

By David Rigano
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Secret Theatre is one of the best kept secrets in Queens. It took me nearly twenty minutes to find the place. Once you can deecipher betwee 44th Road, 44th Street, 44th Avenue and 44th Drive, you come to the arts building that houses The Secret Theatre (located on 23rd Street between 44th Road and 44th Avenue). But The Secret Theatre is not actually in said arts building, it's down the alley just right of the arts building. And there are two productions running concurrently, so make sure you go into the correct theatre.

However, it's all worth is for the production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream which is playing in the theatre closest to the street (go up a small set of stairs to the plateau that forms the entrance to the theatre) produced by The Queens Players and directed by Katherine M. Carter.

Ms. Carter's production was sleek without being cheap, chic without being gaudy and an all-around good time. Employing a design reminiscent of Peter Brooks' "white box" Midsummer, Carter takes us to a dreamlike no-man's land. So dreamlike, in fact, that all of her performers are dressed in pajamas! This white set (complete with flowing white columns) serves the multi-faceted purpose of indicating every setting of the play, with the help of the beautifully whimsical light design from Lisa Hufnagle.

The play concerns the forbidden love between Lysander, an Athenian youth, and Hermia, whose father Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius, beloved for Hermia's childhood friend Helena. Make sense so far? To escape the harsh Athenian law, Hermia and Lysander flee through the forest, pursued by Demetrius who is, in turn, pursued by Helena. Also in the forest are a motley crew of handymen-turned-actors, lead by Peter Quince, rehearsing a play of Pyramus and Thisbe. Got that? All of these mortals find themselves entangled in the marital feud of Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies. And, in the morning, Theseus (of the Minotaur myth) will wed Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons, from later on in the same myth). Follow?

In the central roles of the lovers, James Parenti and Katie Braden (as Demetrius and Helena) provide the more slapstick and sex-driven humor to the more pastoral and domestic humor of Joe Mullen and Angelica Duncan (as Lysander and Hermia). This does not mean, however, that the slapstick is not provided by all. Mullen must, at one point, catch Duncan as she propells herself horizontally across the stage toward a cowerring Braden.

Next up are the mechanicals, a ragged bunch of actor-wannabes, provide a far less romantic brand of comedy than the lovers. Lead by Timothy J. Cox as Peter Quince, whose power is often usurped by the dramatic Nick Bottom, played by Chris Kateff, this is about the sorriest band of crude actors with the biggest hearts anyone could ask for. The performance of Pyramus and Thisbe in the last scene of the play--always a highlight of any production--is spot on campy, ridiculous and completely honest.

Finally, the fairies. Mischevous creatures who take joy in screwing with mortals. The first we meet is Jeni Ahfield, deliciously malicious in the role of Robin Goodfellow, better known as Puck, quickly followed by the imposing Randy Warshaw as Oberon and the devestatingly elegant Tiffany Denise Turner as his Queen Titania. Rounding out the fairies are the delightful Trish Phelps and Sarah King (who provides beautiful ukelele music throughout her scenes with her queen).

The production is whimsical and farcical, but not bagatelle. In its seriousness, in its humor, in its honesty, it is a delight from beginning to end.

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs at The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd Street, LIC through January 3rd. Tickets can be purchased through OvationTix.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Greg Cicchino on MIDSUMMER

AS YOU LIKE IT director Greg Cicchino was kind enough to post his thoughts on MIDSUMMER on his blog and I wished to share them with you.

I then had the pleasure of seeing Katherine Carter’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the smaller space. It was very smart and quick. They cut it down to fewer than two hours, so it was over before you knew it. Her concept was that it was in fact, all a dream, so everyone was in colorful pajamas on a stark white space, which made for a very striking contrast. There was also some great text work, which is of course an important point for me as well. Congratulations cast.

Thanks for the kind words Greg! Greg is keeping busy with God Bless You Mr. Scrooge!, currently in performance and rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet.

For more info on Greg, please visit his website at


The show continues to go very well. The entire cast is having a lot of fun.

I would like to send my congrats to the cast of TITUS ANDRONICUS, which opened at the Secret Theatre last night. The cast includes my good friends Thom Brown III, Meg Mark and Sean MacBride Murray.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Nights' Performance

It was great to return to MIDSUMMER last night. The show went pretty well, I thought and the crowd was bad for a Wednesday night, about 10- 15 people and they seemed to enjoy themselves.

Back again in a few hours.

Queens Chronicle Review of MIDSUMMER

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ delightfully playful

by Willow Belden, qboro Editor 12/10/2009

With pajama-clad actors, a cloud-like white set and whimsical sound cues, the Queens Players’ production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” definitely emphasizes the night and the dream aspects of the play.

Their rendition of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, running at the Secret Theatre through Jan. 3, is crisp, playful and wonderfully imaginative. The acting is sharp, the punch lines are delivered perfectly and the production moves along at an energetic clip.

You’re sure to leave the theater smiling after taking in the tale of frustrated lovers, mischievous fairies, amateur actors and love potions wrongly administered.

Each set of characters — the Athenian elite, the forest fairies and the lay people rehearsing a production of “Pyramus and Thisbe” — wears a distinct style of pajamas, making it easy to distinguish the groups and adding delightful comic effect.

The four principal lovers — Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius — are clad in bright pink and green garb. Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen, along with their entourage, shimmer in sleek satin.

The prize for best fashion goes to the troupe of half-witted laypeople, though, or “mechanicals” as they’re called. The amateur thespians sport bright red “onesies” throughout the show, the kind of pajamas you wore when you were 2. Brilliant costume choice.

The mechanicals also put forward some of the best acting in the production. Chris Kateff steals the show as Bottom, the verbose, self-important weaver who plays Pyramus in the play within the play and famously ends up with a donkey’s head. Kateff’s transformation to asshood is a delight to watch.

Andrew Ash, who chews innocently on the sleeve of his onesie as Flute the bellows mender, and Timothy Williams, who gingerly steps into the role of the lion while glumly clutching a teddy bear, are also particularly entertaining.

Three of the four Athenian lovers are aptly portrayed. Angelica Duncan is an adorably pixie-like Hermia. Katie Braden captures the desperately jealous Helena with fitting intensity. And Joe Mullen is a charmer as Lysander.

James Parenti is the weak link, beaming through scenes in which a look of outrage would be more fitting.

Jeni Ahlfeld deserves mention for her portrayal of Puck, the fairy messenger, a role she plays with nymph-like agility and appropriately devious grins.

If the acting and costumes aren’t enough to draw you to “Midsummer,” know that the production also includes a ukulele and armor made of a cardboard apple crate.

All told, it’s an excellent feel-good production and the perfect way to warm up a cold winter evening.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
When: Select dates through Jan. 3.
Where: The Secret Theatre 44-02 23rd St., L.I.C.
(718) 392-0304
Ticket price: $15

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


MIDSUMMER performances return in just a few hours.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Opening Weekend A Success!

Tonights' performance was, in my opinion, the best of our run thus far. The audience was great and we were at the top of our game.

Overall, I think the cast and crew have a lot to be proud of. The show has come together nicely, with people seeming to enjoy themselves. The one review that we received was also a nice boost. I think we have 2 or 3 more reviews forthcoming, so hopefully they will be positive as well.

Now, a few days off to rest and relax.

Back again on Wednesday.

BlogCritics Review of MIDSUMMER

Theater Review (NYC): A Midsummer Night's Dream

Author: Hannah Marie Ellison — Published: Dec 06, 2009

It’s easy to throw A Midsummer Night’s Dream out of balance – there are the pairs of moon-crossed lovers, then there are those rude mechanicals. Often the lovers are in such perfect sync with their out-of-whack, juice-of-the-flower induced crisscrossing that Nick Bottom and his pals seem superfluous. Or contrariwise, the preparation and performance of “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe” can be so delightful that the romantic mix-ups pale in comparison. So it is a pleasure to report that Katherine M. Carter's dream inspired production, which opened Thursday night at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, is an adorable delight all around, thanks to a brisk pace, enchanting music and solid performances from an enthusiastic cast.

For those who don't know, Midsummer is Shakespeare's magical classic comedy that involves two pairs of lovers who, after facing a romantic dilemma, flee into the woods only to become the playthings of a group of fairies who are having their own romantic challenges. There is a royal wedding with entertainment by an inept troupe of would-be actors who also fall prey to the fairy antics while rehearsing in the woods. Much confusion ensues with magic and mistaken identities before the air is cleared and things wrap up with a hilarious play within a play (which in this production is quite hilarious indeed).

Unlike some of the Bard's plays, Midsummer's setting is pretty malleable. I have seen productions set in everything from medieval castles to unknown planets without compromising the text. From the moment I walked into the Secret Theatre for last nights' performance, I was instantly swept away in director Carter's world. She has chosen to set her entire piece in a dream, with a stage that is white as snow and bare, save for two blocks and a few pieces of fabric hanging from the ceiling, representing columns. Her company of actors are dressed in colorful and very comfortable looking pajamas (I was a little jealous). It’s welcoming, relaxing and yes, dreamlike. The original music, composed by sound designer Jillian Marie Walker, adds to the magic and wonder and the lighting design by Lisa Hufnagel perfectly captures the mood of the piece.

It is a very playful environment that Carter has created and she has directed her actors to play and boy, do they ever. Carter has gathered together a fantastic ensemble cast. Both Tiffany D. Turner and Randy Warsaw excel as the fairy royals Titania and Oberon, as does the vivacious Jeni Ahlfeld (who also designed the lovely pajama costumes) as Oberon's servant Puck. The four lovers in this play can often be generic and hard to tell apart, but this Hermia (Angelica Duncan), Demetrius (James Parenti), Lysander (Joe Mullen) and Helena (Katie Braden) all have great moments with strong individual personalities and they are also very, very funny as well.

Then there are the mechanicals. As led by Chris Kateff’s gloriously ridiculous Bottom, they are anything but common folk. All of them – Timothy J. Cox as the hapless director Peter Quince, Andrew Ash as Flute, Charlotte Layne Dunn as Starveling, Miriam Mintz as Snout and Timothy Williams as Snug (complete with tiny bear companion) – under- and over-play beautifully, making their appearances seem too few, and too brief. Rounding out the ensemble is Charles Baker, who does fine work as Hermia's stubborn father, Egeus, as do Brandon Hillen and Heidi Zenz as Theseus and Hippolyta respectively. Sarah King (who sings wonderfully in the production, like a young Joni Mitchell) and Trish Phelps also provide able support in their brief roles as Peaseblossom and Cobweb.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at The Secret Theatre until January 3rd. For information on tickets, please visit.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Queens Players

After just a few months of involvement, today I decided that it was time to step down as a member of The Queens Players, which is the resident acting company at The Secret Theatre.

To me, I feel it's time to move on to some new adventures.

I would like to acknowledge and thank both Greg Cicchino for the chance to be a part of AS YOU LIKE IT and to Katie Carter for the chance to be a part of MIDSUMMER.

Speaking of MIDSUMMER...tonight's performance was pretty good. Again the audience was a relatively quiet, but appreciative crowd.

Back again tomorrow.

Last Nights' Show

Last nights' show went very well and although the house was a little smaller (10-15 people), they were nevertheless an appreciative crowd who enjoyed themselves, especially with the "play within a play" sequence.

Back again in a few hours.

Friday, December 04, 2009

TITUS Audition

My audition for TITUS ended about an hour ago. I thought it went pretty well. While I don't think I am ideal for the role of Chiron, the evil son of Tamora, it still felt good to read and at least I had a chance to show director John Basil what I could do with the text.

If cast, I should hear something within the next week or so.

TITUS Audition This Afternoon

Today is the day of my audition for TITUS ANDRONICUS at the American Globe Theatre.

I have done all of my text work and have gone over both scenes a number of times, so I feel as ready as one can.

We'll see what happens.

Opening Night A Success!

As expected, opening night was a rousing success. The audience laughed and enjoyed themselves immensely. I couldn't be happier with the turnout.

I would like to thank the cast of TITUS ANDRONICUS (which opens next week at The Secret Theatre) for showing their support by attending the performance.

Back again tonight.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

MIDSUMMER Opens In A Few Hours

Tonight is the big night! Hoping for a full house.

We'll see what happens.

Audition For Crime Drama IN THE COMPANY OF MISFITS On Saturday

I just snagged an audition for the role of Fred, a pessimistic misanthrope who has grown tired of his life working as a hit-man for the local crime lord in the crime noir/dark comedy IN THE COMPANY OF MISFITS, to be directed by Morgan Eschmann.


I received this email from FROSTED JUSTICE director Michael Deaerborn

Hey Timothy,

Just wanted to thank you again for you participation in my film. I got the rough cut put together tonight and it looks great. Your performance definitely adds a lot to the piece. Hopefully I can have the short digitized, on a DVD and in the mail to you in the next few weeks. Once I get a DVD copy for you, I'll shoot you an email asking where I should send it.

Michael Dearborn

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Final Dress...

...just ended about an hour ago and went very well. We even had a few people in the audience, who laughed a lot and overall seemed to enjoy that tells me that we have a winner on our hands here.

Tomorrow is the big opening night.

Can't wait.

MIDSUMMER Final Dress Tonight

Tonight is our final dress rehearsal for MIDSUMMER. Hard to believe that it's just about that time for another opening.

Last night's run felt a little sloppy, but no worries...we get to do it again in just a few houirs.

I think we have reached the point where we need an audience to react. When we hear those first laughs tomorrow night...and they will come early...we will all be at ease.

More production photos were taken last night as well, so I'm sure we'll be receiving those very soon.

Opening night tommorrow. Can't wait!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Last Night

Last nights' first dress rehearsal/run went very well, I thought. Everything looks good as far as the set and the performancews of my colleagues. The sound and lights are running very smoothly as well. The music used in the production, provided by sound designer Jillian Marie Walker's sister, is extraordinary. It perfectly sets the mood for the entire show.

As far as my own scenes with the mechanicals, I thought they poppped with a lot of energy, although at times a little too much energy vocally, but that's very easy to pull back.

Overall, a fine run of the show, although we did add five minutes onto the first act, which is not good, but also very easy to fix.

Back again tonight.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two From O'Toole

Here are two scenes from the 1964 film BECKETT with the great Peter O'Toole.

Possible Film Role in Scott Goldberg's MR. MULLEN

Nothing is set in stone as of yet, but I may be working on the upcoming film MR. MULLEN, directed by Scott Goldberg.

MR. MULLEN is a film about the crash of the economy and the corruption that comes from behind the scenes with big business corporations and the Federal Reserve. Chris Mitchell, a man who has worked hard his whole life loses his life savings and his job due to government corruption. He targets Senator Edward D. Mullen, a man who is responsible for Chris’ lost life savings. Not able to take it anymore, Chris seeks revenge on Edward and his family.

I hope to play the role of Chris' father Thomas. If cast, the shooting will take place in Glen Cove, Long Island in the next couple of weeks.

For more information on Scott's films, please visit


Heard from director Sean Meehan regarding the comedy short OVER COFFEE. Sean has stepped back from working on the film a little to finish some other projects, but has estimated that he'll have something ready to show people in January or February.


Thanks to Chris Kateff for these great photos from this past weekend.

Audition for Film THIS IS STILL LIFE On Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning, I will reading for the role of an unemployed alcoholic named Russell in the film THIS IS STILL LIFE, to be directed by Martha McCann. It follows a young girl named Sinead, who is celebrating her 17th birthday in the city with her father Russell. Although they have a broken relationship, they come together on this night to try and renew their bond as father and daughter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Two days of solid tech rehearsals later, the cast and crew of MIDSUMMER are ready to enter production week. In my opinion, both tech rehearsals were the most organized and relaxed tech rehearsals I have ever been involved with. We got out early on both rehearsals, so that will tell you how organized they were. Director Katie Carter assembled one hell of a crew for this production and I'd like to thank each member by name.

Stage Manager: Griffin Parker
Sound Design: Jillian Marie Walker
Costume Design: Jeni Ahlfeld
Lighting Design: Lisa Hufnagel
Assistant Director: Paul Markert
Assistant Stage Manager: Gabby Senatore

From here on out, every run of the show is going to be treated like a performance.

As far the show itself, it is running wonderfully, with the entire cast giving strong performances. As for myself, I am having a great deal of fun playing Peter Quince once again.

Can't wait for the opening on Thursday.

TITUS ANDRONICUS Audition on Friday

I received my sides for my audition for TITUS ANDRONICUS at the American Globe Theatre, which will take place on Friday afternoon.

I received two sides for my audition. In the first side, I'll be looking at the role of Goth # 2. He's a warrior and battle hardened.

In the second side, I'll be looking at the role of Chiron. He is one of Tamora's evil, wicked sons, who rapes Lavinia and cuts out her tongue and chops off her hands. He finds delight in evil. So not light stuff.

Looking forward to this.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Thanks to actor Frank Sellers for these pictures from the FROSTED JUSTICE shoot.

MIDSUMMER Tech Begins Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Sunday will be long days at the theatre, as we are entering tech week, in preparation for the opening of the show on Thursday.

After a few days away, I feel nice and rested and ready to jump back into the mix.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BlogCritics Spotlight on MIDSUMMER Director Katherine Carter

Spotlight on Katherine M. Carter, Director of The Secret Theatre's Upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream

Author: Hannah Marie Ellison — Published: Nov 23, 2009

The Queens Players, who work out of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, are back with yet another classical work for the stage. This time it's William Shakespeare’s much loved comedy/fantasy A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opens on December 3rd.

From the press release: Follow four young lovers into a colorful and mysterious forest where fairies Titania and Oberon rule, where a band of “rude mechanicals”, led by the hilarious Bottom, rehearse a play and where love is put to the test by the mischievous Puck. In the end, will the lovers end up with their correct mate? Will the mechanicals make it to their performance before the Duke? Is Titania doomed to love an ass?

You may be thinking to yourself, "Another production of Midsummer"? I certainly thought that at first. But something about director Katherine M. Carter's production is drawing me in.

Perhaps it's Carter herself, her enthusiasm and passion for her work.

A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned a BFA in Acting and a BA in Directing, her enthusiasm and passion for the work have kept Carter extremely busy. She has directed and assistant directed productions with both the Hangar Theatre and the American Globe Theatre and has even served as a directing intern on the Tony award winning Billy Elliott: The Musical.

Actor Timothy J. Cox, who plays Peter Quince in the upcoming production of Midsummer, has said, "Katherine is just one of those bright, shining talents. I look at her and I know that she's going to work forever."

Although very busy bringing Midsummer to life, Ms. Carter was gracious enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions for Blogcritics.

Could you please give us a bit of background about yourself? How did you get involved in the theatre? Have you always wanted to direct?

I'm a Midwestern girl, born and raised in Michigan. I am the oldest of three siblings with two younger brothers. I started in theater in the 6th grade when my crush wanted to do theater and I wanted to hang out with him. From then onwards, I acted in everything. From 9th to 12th grade, I performed in over 60 productions. My senior year of high school, I directed my first production, a stage version of Clue.

After that I was aware that directing was a path I could take. During college I earned my BFA in Acting and a BA in Directing, and I would say that junior year was when the transformation took full effect. Between junior and senior year, I was a member of the Hangar Lab Company, saw that directing was really where I wanted to be and from then on it was a done deal.

The short answer to that question is: No, I didn't always want to direct, but sometimes you have to be honest enough to say "I'm a good actress and singer, but I am a much better storyteller from the outside." On top of that I have too many control issues to be an actor (laughs).

How did you become aware of The Secret Theatre and why did you want to become involved as a director with the company?

A lovely actress, Elspeth Turner, was in their production of Macbeth last spring. We were working on a production of The Odd Couple together at the time and she invited me to see her work. After Macbeth, I met Richard Mazda, the Artistic Director of The Queens Players, and we exchanged information.

I wanted to direct at this particular theater because there was so much potential with the space and the actors, I wanted to tap into it and see what I could do. As directors we are always looking for places where our skills could be of use, and since I had just come off of directing Twelfth Night, I knew my Shakespeare experience would fit right in with the company. Richard and I talked, he invited me to direct Midsummer, and that was that.

With so many productions of Shakespeare, especially A Midsummer Nights' Dream, going up every year, what made you want to direct this show, in the winter of all times?

Ah, the age old "why Midsummer" question. Very good. To tackle the Midsummer in winter question for me is simple – why should I let a shows' title dictate when it gets performed? Would you only do The Winter's Tale in winter? Or Summer and Smoke in the Summer? The seasons are ever changing and what is lovely about theater is that you enter a world away from the outside and are transported somewhere new. It's not what's happening outside that matters, but the story that is being told inside which counts.

For the show itself, I have always loved Midsummer. This production is a personal thank you to past theatre teachers who made me read the play over and over and perform in it. So many of us storytellers take this show on every year, but for me, it is about finding something new and interesting with a tried and true text. It is also a director "must do," as I say. Almost every director has done their version of Midsummer at least once, if not more, and this is my first go at it.

What is it about this play that speaks to you? What do you hope an audience will take away from your approach to the production?

The story speaks to me as a director. I love the variations of emotions, the levels of being in love, and the pure, almost farce-like comedy. As a director, when you see a good story, you want to tell it in your own voice. Midsummer has always been that way for me. I want the audience to laugh out loud and have a jolly good evening of theater.

For each audience member who sits in that theatre, the experience will be different: some will laugh at the mechanicals, some will feel for Helena, and others will dislike Puck for meddling. It's all subjective. For me, it's about communicating the story. If the audience leaves understanding the story, hopefully on a new level, and has fun, then I'm happy.

I was delighted to read that you have worked with a Shakespeare giant, John Basil at the American Globe Theatre in Manhattan. How did you become involved with the company? Have your collaborations with him and the Globe helped shape you as a director? If so, how?

John Basil has had a huge impact on me as an artist. He is a wonderful mentor and friend. Both he and his lovely and talented wife Liz are friends and supporters of my work.

John took over the fourth year of the BFA acting program my senior year of college. We got to know each other in class, and about a month in, I asked him if I could work on his next show at the American Globe. Well, that happened to be Henry V and I was one of the two associate directors working on it. John was a great teacher both in class and in rehearsals.

After Henry V, there was a director opening in the Globe's 10-Minute Play Competition. John offered me a spot and the piece was well received. To say the least, John and I spent a lot of time in the same rehearsal room. My directing style is under the direct influence of John. He gave me a great set of tools to attack any text, and a renewed love of Shakespeare. I look forward to working with AGT on many more productions.

What's next for you?

More directing. I have a few things in the works. Coming up at the end of January, I will be directing a reading of a new play, The Rose Gardener by Sarah Ashley Bischoff at The Tank. I've been keeping the spring open for some new plays and musicals. This fall and winter have been a complete blur, since September I have worked on almost ten shows, so the spring is more of a blank canvas at this time. You can always check out my website my website for the latest and greatest.

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens on December 3rd and runs until January 3rd. For information on the production, please visit The Secret Theatre's website (


The last MIDSUMMER rehearsal before the Thanksgiving break just ended about a half hour ago.

We cleaned up Act One and Act Five tonight so now, those acts will run much smoothly. The problem I had in the Act Five play within a play sequence was cleaned up as well and am very happy with the new direction it is going in.

Back on Saturday for a long day of tech rehearsal.


The FROSTED JUSTICE shoot was a nice experience. A lot of physical work on my end, as I literally had to fight someone for a donut. Not too exhausting though and director Michael Dearborn ran things pretty smoothly overall. We even finished a little ahead of schedule, which is always nice.

Michael expects the film to be completed in mid-December.

Audition for American Globe Theatre's TITUS ANDRONICUS On December 4th

Yesterday afternoon, I received a call inviting me to audition for the American Globe Theatre's upcoming mainstage production of TITUS ANDRONICUS.

I should find out in the next couple of days what part I am reading for, but just to get my foot in the door to audition is very big, as AGT is a company that I have always wanted to work with.

We'll see what happens.


I am now playing one of the cops fighting for the donut.

Last Night

As always, it was nice to rehearse in the space for our runthrough of the entire show. The show is coming together nicely, although last night, the Act Five, play within a play sequence was a little rough. I certainly felt rough. I tried something new and when I was doing it, I was conscious of the fact that it wasn't working. That's what rehearsal is for.

I get to come back and do it again tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cast As Police Chief in FROSTED JUSTICE

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be appearing as a police chief in the short film FROSTED JUSTICE for director Michael Dearborn.

It's the story of two detectives that eye the same donut in the break room at their police station. They start off by being cordial towards one another, but quickly, they start fighting over it. A scuffle ensues where they are handcuffing one another to tables and chairs, trying to keep the other from getting the donut. Then, once the two detectives are tangled on the floor and chained to the furniture, their chief comes in, sees them and then smugly eats the donut right in front of them. I will be playing the role of their victorious police chief.

The shoot will be taking place for a few hours tomorrow afternoon.

Could be fun.

MIDSUMMER Tonight and Tomorow

MIDSUMMER is going to get two solid runs of the entire show in before the holiday...tonight and tomorrow. After those rehearsals, we should be in a very good place for our tech rehearsals.

After tonights' rehearsal, the cast has been invited to help in the painting of the entire all-night painting party. It should be fun.

All of the lighting and technical issues will be looked into on Wednesday, so when the cast returns for rehearsals after the holiday, we can just go into our tech and dress.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


We worked in the space for yesterdays' MIDSUMMER rehearsal, which was nice. The more practice we get in the space, the better.

With the opening of the show about two weeks away, we continue to be moving in the right direction with everyone working really hard on their roles. I must say that this is a solid ensemble of actors.

Back again tomorrow for another run in the space.

Friday, November 20, 2009


RUN FOR YOUR WIFE, the hilarious British farce by Ray Cooney, which is slated to be the last production of the summer at the Pioneer Playhouse is going to be directed by the great Larry Lesher.

I may be heading back to the Playhouse to participate in the production. Stay tuned for more details.

Pioneer Playhouse Announces New Season

A Nice Family Gathering
by Phil Olson
June 11 – June 26

The story of a man who loved his wife so much, he almost told her! Now that he's a ghost, it makes it tough to do. But he's decided to try…during the first family gathering since the funeral where, to everyone's' surprise, his wife… has invited a date! A sweetly touching comedy that explores the hidden realms of the heart. Rated PG

Miranda: The Catch of the Day
Adapted from Miranda, by Peter Blackmore
June 29 – July 10

During a fishing expedition an uptight society doctor lands a surprising "catch"…a longhaired mysterious creature with medically speaking…a tail. This is a 36-24-36, 5'8"-tall fish that no one—especially his suspicious wife—will ever believe! Rated G

World Premiere! — The Dillinger Dilemma
by Elizabeth Orndorff
July 13-July 24

Award-winning playwright Elizabeth Orndorff has crafted an inspired and sublimely ridiculous comedy based upon the real-life rumor that notorious gangster John Dillinger spent the night inside Danville's Gilcher Hotel and then left quietly, for reasons unknown. Full of real-life people, long-ago places and over-the-top speculation, the play is a work of comic genius that explores old gossip in new sidesplitting ways. Make your reservations early for a play inspired by local legend! Rated G

For Better
by Eric Coble
July 27 – August 7

Karen and Max are Internet users who want to get married, but between texting, tweeting and e-mailing, do couples need to be in the same room anymore to exchange vows? An intriguingly hilarious romance for the digital age, poking fun at our love affair with gadgets and technology. Rated G

Run for Your Wife
by Ray Cooney
August 10 – August 21

A taxi driver gets away with having two wives on opposite sides of the city until complications cause his double life to expire! A high-octane farce that will leave you exhausted from laughing so hard! "Virtually non-stop continuous laughter!" — New York Post. Rated PG

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Mechanicals Last Night

Last night, we cleaned up all of the rough spots in the scenes with the mechanicals. It was a very strong rehearsal where each actor brought new, fresh (and funny) ideas to the scenes and to their approaches to their characters. Everyone is making me laugh, which is a joy when you're working.

Director Katherine Carter, along with Assistant Director, Paul Markert and Production Stage Manager, Griffin Parker, all seem very pleased with the progress everyone has made in these last couple of weeks.

I personally feel very good about where we are at this point in the rehearsal process, but there's always room for more growth.

Off of MIDSUMMER unil Saturday morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hopkins and Thompson in THE REMAINS OF THE DAY

Here is a sweet and tender scene between Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, two extraordinary actors in two superb performances from the film THE REMAINS OF THE DAY.

In the film, Hopkins plays a rule bound head butler, whose world of manners and decorum in the household he maintains is tested by the arrival of a housekeeper (Thompson) who falls in love with him in post-WWI Britain. The possibility of romance and his master's cultivation of ties with the Nazi cause challenge his carefully maintained veneer of servitude.


MIDSUMMER returns tonight to focus on all of the scenes with the mechanicals, to polish and sharpen all of the comic moments, as timing is everything.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 Lives

In what proved to be a very easy process, especially for someone like me who is not computer savvy, I was able to transfer to the new Weebly website I created to my domain name, so will live on.


Actors have to make tough decisions all the time. I was faced with one this morning.

A job offer came my way which has proven too difficult to pass up and unfortunately, it will effect my involvement with ROMEO AND JULIET.

I sent a letter to director Greg Cicchino stating my case and I, of course, apologized for putting him in this position, but I am sure he will find someone quickly to take over the role.

I have the utmost respect for Greg and I know his production will be a fantastic one!

One More MUCH ADO Pic

Here is a picture of me and Larry Lesher (as Dogberry) in a few moments after the final performance of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Thanks to Daniel Koenig for the picture.

Sir Alec Guinness in TUNES OF GLORY

Here is a moving scene from the 1960 film TUNES OF GLORY, a fantastic film with an amazing performance from Sir Alec Guinness as the one of a kind Colonel Jock Sinclair (Guinness considered this performance as Sinclair to be one of his finest).

The film also stars an equally stunning Sir John Mills.


I have created a website for MIDSUMMER...for fun mostly, since I am for an expert webmaster, but hopefully it'll be used as a tool to entice friends and family to attend the performances.

Production photos will be posted on the site. There is a blog which will feature updates from rehearsals.

Most importantly, there are links to the Secret Theatre main page where you can purchase tickets, which are on sale now, but as I juts mentioned, I have $10 tickets, so drop me a line if you're interested in those.

Check out the site:

MIDSUMMER - Advance Tickets

Regarding advance ticket sales for MIDSUMMER, our goal is between $1,000- $2,000. We know this is a lot and of course we will be happy with whatever number we have, but it's always good to have goals.

With that said, I wanted to start getting these advance tickets sold, so for anyone who is interested in purchasing $10 tickets from me, you know how to reach me.


Heard from director Matt Porter regarding the comedy pilot ARGYLE, where I play the over-energetic Principal Cox.

Slowly and steadily, Matt and his crew are making great progress with "Argyle"!

His editor, Matt Kazman, is working tirelessly, scene by scene, to put together the first cut of this lengthy piece. The first full cut of all 45 minutes or so should be complete in about month. In the meantime, he has shot a few pickups and inserts, as well as beginning to think about original score composition.

His most exciting news is that the project has received a grant from Columbia University for post-production. It isn't millions, Matt said, but we all know that a little bit of money in this business can go a long way! Yes, it does.

Matt hopes in his next email to be able to include some more stills, and perhaps even a few video clips.

MIDSUMMER Stumble Through

I have to say that it was a delight to watch how wonderfully MIDSUMMER is coming along last night. The entire cast looks like they are having a fun time with their roles and with each run, it will just get better and better.

The mechanicals return on Wednesday night to clean up their scenes.

One thing: It's tough being the straight man when you are surrounded by the comic lunacy of my fellow mechanicals. Hard to keep a straight face.

A model for Peter Quince poppped into my head just a few moments ago...that of Bob Newhart. Very straight laced, what some would call a square. Very deadpan.

I'll try something on Wednesday, see how it works.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I read through Greg's cutting of R&J this morning and while he has made some cuts within scenes, there's still plenty to work with.

In reading over the play and the role of Capulet, ideas are already popping into my head on the man.

Capulet is quite the mixed man. While he is sometimes interfering, commanding, and controlling (especially towards the women in his life), at the same time, he can be courteous and generous, as he appears at his party in the end of Act One. He strikes me as a politician or a military man...charming when necessary, but quickly, his angry side can come out. Very much a Jekyll & Hyde type. He sometimes lets jealousy get in the way. When Tybalt tries to incite a duel with Romeo at the party, Capulet tries to calm him and then threatens to throw him out of the family if he does not control his temper; he does the same to his daughter later in the play.

He seems to be one of those guys who goes from 0-10 with the snap of a finger.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stumble Through of MIDSUMMER Tomorrow

Tomorrow nights' MIDSUMMER rehearsal will be a stumble through of the entire play. It should prove to be a nice indicator of where we are and what we need to work on.

MUCH ADO Comes To A Close!

MUCH ADO came to a close yesterday. Our final two performances went pretty well, with the last performance being the best overall performance, in my opinion, of the entire run. Audiences laughed and enjoyed themselves, which was nice, but it still doesn't change the fact that the overall production had many problems.

That's not to say that I regret being involved in the production. Not at all. It was great to play Leonato again and it was great to work with my good friend Larry Lesher, as well as a number of other talented individuals in the cast who I am now proud to call my friends.

Like any other show, it was a learning experience.


Saturday, November 14, 2009


Director Greg Cicchino has opted to push the run of ROMEO AND JULIET back one week. We will now be opening on January 21st. Greg also asked if anyone would be available and interested for the show to run for four weeks instead of three, which I had no objection to.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rough MUCH ADO Tonight

I thought that tonights' performance of the show was a little rough. Lots of flubbed lines (myself included) and just a lot of rough moments. It was a nice sized house, but in my opinion, we never captured their attention. Nothing to be done about it.

An afternoon show tomorrow and then the final performance tomorrow night. Review of MUCH ADO

Queens Shakespeare casts The Bard in reality show

By Arlene McKanic
Thursday, November 12, 2009

William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing (or The Real World: Messina)” is supposed to be a comedy, and it does have its silly moments, but the production of this play at Queens Shakespeare made me mad. It has nothing to do with the acting or directing, which are excellent, but the story’s misogyny is disgusting. Will probably knew it was disgusting too, even subconsciously, for in “Much Ado” he has also created one of the great female characters in Beatrice, played here by the wondrous, Hilary Swankish Sheira Feuerstein.

Director Jonathan Emerson imagines the play as an episode out of “The Real World,” (see subtitle above), with TV screens playing on either end of the stage, and digital camera operators forever present, even, at some points, stopping the actors’ progress. Blackberries, cell phones and iPods are also much in evidence. The effect is charming, though it doesn’t blunt the nastiness of what happens to Hero.

And if you don’t know the story, here’s what happens, to Hero and others: Leonato is the governor of Messina, with a daughter named Hero and a mouthy niece named Beatrice. They’re visited by Don Pedro and his two pals, Benedick and Claudio. Benedick swears he’s a confirmed bachelor, as Beatrice also swears she’ll never marry (and she has good reason not to, as we shall see). Of course they fall in love amongst much rapier-sharp banter and with a lot of help from their friends, though they don’t know it until late in the game.

Claudio falls in love with Hero, but Don Pedro’s bastard half-brother Don John wants to mess things up. Since Shakespeare had as much of a thing about evil illegitimate half-brothers as he had for women’s virtue, he has Don John and his henchmen mess things up a great deal. They cause Claudio and Don Pedro to see who they think is Hero and some clandestine lover at her window after making sure her roommate Beatrice is away, even though it’s really Margaret, Hero’s maid, and Don John’s sycophant Borachio.

Claudio not only renounces Hero but does so at the moment of what should be their wedding. The accusations from all the males present (save the friar and Benedick) are so vicious that Hero faints dead away at the altar — it’s as if all the pent-up rage these guys have ever felt against women is unleashed on her. Friar Francis, who was supposed to marry Hero and Claudio, suggests to the distraught Leonato that he announce that Hero has died of her shame, Claudio and the Don having stormed from the church before the lady could be revived.

In the meantime, they’ll find out who slandered Hero, or, if the rumors are true, send her quietly to a nunnery. Of course, Hero’s good name is restored, the miscreants are dealt with, the marriages go on. Yet one has the queasy feeling that Hero’s will be miserable and she is too yielding to return the misery in kind. Beatrice and Benedick, with their lovely love/hate dynamic, will be just fine.

People could write volumes about this madness, and have.

But the company is faultless. That the actors not only handle Shakespeare’s intricate, sparkling wordplay without a stumble but actually revel in them would be enough. Feuerstein’s smart, vivacious, sarcastic Beatrice is backed up by Matthew Coonrod as an adorably cynical and silver-tongued Benedick, and though one can’t like Claudio after his public humiliation of Hero and you know he’s going to be a lousy husband, Daniel Koenig, with great dark yearning eyes, is excellent.

The Lennonesque Zack Locuson’s Don Pedro is just as good, and you feel for him after Beatrice rejects his marriage proposal because she just doesn’t think he’s serious. Still, you can’t like him either in the end. Even when he thinks Hero’s dead he takes the whole business rather too lightly. Maria Smith projects goodness and sweetness as the mistreated Hero, and we can at least hope that her devoted cousin can put some starch in her spine.

Lawrence Lesher nearly steals the show as the constable Dogberry, with his insanely funny malapropisms (“O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.”) Heidi Zenz, a pretty young woman, actually makes you believe she’s Verge, Dogberry’s elderly male headborough. She also makes a touching Ursula, the other of Hero’s maids. Nikki Bohm projects a dangerous sexiness as both a Messenger and one of The Watch. At one point she wields a riding crop, which she uses to great comic effect.

Andrew Stephen Johnson makes an appropriately sullen Don John, who must be a forerunner of King Lear’s Edmund; you can imagine the two of them on some prison island together, commiserating. Alex Simmons and Ari Lew are properly oily as his henchmen Borachio and Conrad, and Ashley Adelman makes a nicely disreputable Margaret.

Antonia Villalon is memorable in her triple roles as a messenger, the watch and a sexton, and Patrick Mahoney is good as both the friar and Leonato’s brother Antonio. One wants to despise Timothy J. Cox’s’ otherwise jolly Leonato for his willingness to believe the worst about his daughter and only child, but Cox too well conveys his bewilderment and grief as well as his contempt. He can’t help that he lives in a time when an unmarried woman’s virginity was the sum total of her worth.

Emerson and his crew make good use of the little space, both onstage and in the area before it in the Bowne Street Community Church’s parish hall, and he doesn’t gloss over the story’s difficulties. For example, after Hero’s restoration he won’t allow her unalloyed happiness at being reunited with the faithless Claudio, and at one point after their marriage they sit glumly on opposite sides of the stage apron.

The production makes do with very little: plaster statues of lions, garlands of flowers, ropes of pearls, glittering jewels (kudos to stage and properties manager Tara Schmitt), and a modern living room set and lighting design by Emerson and Joseph Sebring.

Queens Shakespeare makes the best of this troublesome play. It’ll be at The Bowne Street Community Church till November 14.

Another MUCH ADO Promo Video

Here is another MUCH ADO promo video

MUCH ADO Last Night

It was nice to return to the role of Leonato in MUCH ADO last night. We had a small, but very appreciative crowd of 6 people in the audience last night.

All the reviews are in and the critics are split on their thoughts on the production, especially the concept.

Personally speaking, if the show is ever remounted, the concept needs to be revisited and things need to be made more specific. That's my two cents on that.

Three more performances to go.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Queens Chronicle Review of MUCH ADO

‘Much Ado’ as a reality TV show? Heck, yeah.

by Willow Belden, qboro Editor


Beatrice and Benedick argue with one another (yet again) in “Much Ado About Nothing.” photo courtesy Queens Shakespeare

Don’t let the community theater-esque location fool you; the Queens Shakespeare production of “Much Ado About Nothing” is far from amateurish, with powerful acting and innovative conceptual choices.

Staged as a reality TV show, the comedy is done in modern dress (ranging from sleek cocktail dresses to Hawaiian shirts to sexy Halloween costumes), and features a bright blue set with leopard print throws on the couch.

An introductory video teaser promises to tell the true story that unfolds when 14 people converge on one house in Italy, and throughout the play, cameramen follow the characters around, with realtime footage projected on two monitors. The technique is particularly effective for soliloquies, with actors staring directly at the cameras, rather than simply talking to themselves.

Despite the updates, Shakespeare’s well-known story remains unchanged — a tale of feisty lovers, comic matchmaking ploys, blatant disguises, racey gossip, a conniving bastard son and an elaborate scheme to derail a marriage.

The actors strike the humorous chords with skill, bringing to life the goofy plots, the bawdy lines, the malapropisms and the double entendres.

Sheira Feuerstein puts forth a stellar performance as Beatrice, the argumentative, headstrong niece of Leonato, governor of Messina.

Timothy Cox is similarly dynamic as Leonato, the cheerful, generous governor who is deceived into turning on his daughter. Zack Locuson, playing the matchmaking prince Don Pedro, and Daniel Koenig as Claudio are also commendable, and Andrew Johnson pulls off the misanthropic bastard son, Don John, with fitting sourness.

Several of the minor characters also elicit laughs, most notably the dim-witted constable, Dogberry, played by Lawrence Lesher.

Unfortunately, Matthew Coonrod overacts as Benedick. The leading male character, meant to be bitingly sarcastic though secretly in love, comes off as an effeminate drama queen — which makes it hard to believe that the spirited, intelligent and exceedingly attractive Beatrice would fall for him.

While Coonrod’s performance is distracting, the play as a whole is crisp, enjoyable, energetic and well worth attending.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

When: Nov. 12-14 at 7 p.m.
Where: Bowne Street Community Church, 143-11 Roosevelt Ave.
(212) 868-4444
Ticket price: $15, $10 for students

New Website

I have just created a brand new website, compliments of

Since I haven't been utilizing the website that Kyle Pierson created for me for quite a while now, I thought it was time to create a new one.

Here is the address for the new site:


Last evenings' MIDSUMMER rehearsal was cancelled, due to a scheduling snafu with the rehearsal space. No worries! The mechanicals will be returning to rehearsal in the next couple of days.

MUCH ADO Returns Tonight

Performances of MUCH ADO return tonight. Only 4 performances left!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Shout Out to The Mechanicals of MIDSUMMER

Here's a little shout out to the mechanicals of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.

Chris Kateff (in action at the Huron Playhouse) as Nick Bottom

Andrew Ash as Francis Flute

Charlotte Dunn as Robin Starveling

Miriam Mintz as Tom Snout

Tim Williams (at left, in action in Hudson Shakespeare's TROLIUS AND CRESSIDA) as Snug the Joiner

A Quote from Billy Bob Thornton

Acting is playing--it's actually going out on a playground with the other kids and being in the game.


Last nights' rehearsal for MIDSUMMER was a lot of fun. We tackled the famous play within a play scene in the final act of the show and it was a delight to watch as well as to work on.

Everyone is bringing in really solid and funny ideas for their characters. Tim Williams, who plays Snug the Joiner as a guy who's scared of his own shadow, was given an adorable little bear by our Bottom, Chris Kateff. The bear will be featured prominently in all of the mechanicals scenes, with Tim at all times. Tim and I even came up with a good name for the bear...Copernicus, Nic for short. I like it! Charlotte Dunn, who is playing Starveling, has this frisbee that lights up when she is depicting the Moonshine in the play. Hilarious!

We get it run the scene again tonight, as well as Act Four, where the mechanicals have only one scene.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Here is the cast list for Greg Cicchino's upcoming production of ROMEO AND JULIET

Romeo - Justin Randolph
Juliet - Jessica Russell
Friar Lawrence - Katie Braden
Benvolio - Jesse Kane-Harnett
Mercutio - Dan Smith
Tybalt - Shelleen Kostabi
Paris - Charlie Gorrilla
Lord Capulet - Timothy J. Cox
Lady Capulet - Alice Bahlke
Prince - Josh Odsess-Rubin
Montague / Apothecary - Kathryn Browne
Abraham - Jeni Ahlfeld
Balthasar - Tyler Gattoli
Gregory - David Rysdahl
Sampson - Anthony Martinez



Show Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Date of First Performance: December 3, 2009

Date of Last Performance: January 3, 2010

Venue Name: The Secret Theatre located 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse or E,V & G to 23rd St/Ely.

Venue Address: 44-02 23rd St, Long Island City NY 11101 (between 44th Ave and 44th Rd)

Performance Schedule:
 December 3-6, 9-12, 16-19, January 1-3 at 8pm, December 19 and 20 at 3:30pm

Ticket Price: $15 general admission

For Student Groups Please Contact Katherine Carter at for special rates and offers.

How to buy tickets: Visit

Producer or Producing Company: The Queens Players

Author/Creator of the show: William Shakespeare

Synopsis: A Midsummer Nights' Dream in Winter? Yes, please! In director Katherine M. Carter’s energetic new staging of Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedy, follow four young lovers into a colorful and mysterious forest where fairies Titania and Oberon rule, where a band of “rude mechanicals”, led by the hilarious Bottom, rehearse a play and where love is put to the test by the mischievous Puck. In the end, will the lovers end up with their correct mate? Will the mechanicals make it to their performance before the Duke? Is Titania doomed to love an ass? A Midsummer Nights' Dream is a non-stop comedy that will warm you up in the cold winter months.

Directed by: Katherine M. Carter
Stage Manager: Griffin Parker

Sound Design: Jillian Marie Walker

Costume Design: Jeni Alfheld
Lighting Design: Lisa Hufnagel
Assistant Director: Paul Markert
Assistant Stage Manager: Gabby Senatore

The show features:
 Jeni Ahlfeld, Andrew Ash, Charles Baker, Katie Braden, Timothy J. Cox, Angelica Duncan, Charlotte Layne Dunn, Brandon Hillen, Chris Kateff, Sarah King, Miriam Mintz, Joe Mullen, James Parenti, Patricia Phelps, Tiffany D. Turner, Randy Warsaw, Timothy Williams and Heidi Zenz

MIDSUMMER Returns Tonight

MIDSUMMER returns tonight.

The mechanicals will be working on their final scenes of the play and maybe even a little review of what we did a week or so ago.

Another BlogCritics Review of MUCH ADO

Theater Review (Queens, NY): Much Ado About Nothing
Author: Nick Leshi — Published: November 9, 2009

Having seen and performed in a number of William Shakespeare’s plays in my lifetime, the hypothetical question always arises: “If the Bard were alive today, what would he write?” Since Shakespeare’s plays in his own time were such crowd-pleasers, it is easy to imagine the playwright of Avon churning out screenplays for Hollywood blockbusters or stories for Broadway or West End musicals and plays. I’ve even heard one or two people suggest that he might have become a staff writer for a daily televised soap opera. Might he have scripted the allegedly unscripted reality shows that have overtaken virtually every channel on the boob tube?

The talented cast and crew of Queens Shakespeare imagine such a heresy in their new production of Much Ado About Nothing and the results are surprisingly entertaining. The subtitle is Real World: Messina and like MTV’s trendsetting and pioneering reality program, the new staging of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy brings the shenanigans of lovelorn couples in Sicily to a modern-day mansion turned television studio where cameras record the houseguests' every public and private moment and we, the audience, serve as captivated voyeurs.

Jonathan Emerson makes his New York directorial debut with this little show at the Bowne Street Church in Flushing, and it is quite the accomplishment. A teaser video sets the tone, nicely capturing the feeling of the competitive reality genre in which real people agree to have their lives documented by television crews in an effort to gain fame and fortune. Those shows tend to be full of artificial drama as the editors (and participants) try to spark scandal and controversy in a quest for high ratings and publicity. The curtain rises and the live action scenarios that unfold before our eyes make it perfectly clear that the comedy and drama that stemmed from the mind and quill of William Shakespeare are as timely and relevant as ever.

In the program, Emerson writes what you might be thinking: “A Shakespearean comedy staged as a trashy reality TV show... what???” He explains: “We hope to illuminate the classical text by showing that the circumstances and characters are relatable, or at least relatable to what we see in our own living rooms every day on TV. Much Ado About Nothing is driven by gossip, slander, and scandal and nothing embodies these elements quite like the sordid world of reality television.”

I admit, I was skeptical of the concept (which Emerson credits cast members Matt Coonrod and Daniel Koenig with help in conceiving), but the result is an intriguing interpretation that does indeed showcase Shakespeare’s words in a fascinating new context. Some of the historic wartime back story of the tale is lost in the contemporary setting, and some plot points that were cultural norms at the time of Shakespeare become jarringly archaic when seen from a modern perspective, but the depth of character, the universal themes of the human condition, and the beauty of the language remain, proving once again that Shakespeare’s masterpieces are excellent sources for constant reimagining.

Two camera operators shoot footage of the characters throughout the play, “broadcasting” it live on monitors on either side of the stage. The action takes place on the proscenium and on the floor in front of the audience, creating an intimate, up-close feel to everything that is taking place. Rather than distracting from the performances, it is a subtle effect that reminds us of the artistic theme of this interpretation, but does not overshadow the actors and their work. By recording the actors and projecting their close-up visages on TV screens, it ran the risk of showing the differences in the two media. Acting for the stage is often broader than acting for film and television, where more subtle emoting is preferred. But the intimate blocking and staging by Emerson and the talents of the cast avoided that trap, resulting in nuanced performances by all. The camera gimmick that might have come across as an annoying diversion instead worked wonderfully, complementing the live action, which was still the main focus of the theatrical experience.

Shakespeare’s convoluted plot deals with guests at the house of Leonato, the governor of Messina, after a successful battle. Leonato throws a masquerade party and his daughter Hero prepares to wed Claudio, a lord and soldier. The couple, along with the Prince of Aragon, Don Pedro, try to make an amorous match between Leonato’s orphaned niece Beatrice and Benedick, another lord and soldier, and friend of Claudio. Don Pedro’s bastard brother Don John, however, with the aid of his companions Borachio and Conrad, tries to ruin the pending nuptials and stir some trouble by starting a rumor that Hero is far from chaste and virtuous. Chaos ensues until the truth unfolds, the villains are captured, and all ends well in traditional Shakespearean comic fashion.

The production’s format makes Leonato’s house the setting for a reality television show. The set and lighting, designed by Jonathan Emerson and Joseph Sebring, believably recreate the atmosphere of a reality show locale. The soliloquies feel like confession room segments on Big Brother or solo side interviews on Survivor. The masked party feels likes a decadent bash that we would see on Temptation Island or Paradise Hotel. As the characters manipulate each other and scheme behind each others' backs, and as the frivolous jesting mushrooms into tense confrontations, the resulting tears and anger would not be out of place in any episode of The Bachelor or The Hills.

Timothy J. Cox plays Leonato as a Donald Trump-type host straight out of The Apprentice, a man used to the spotlight, his large portrait hanging on the wall, playing to the cameras, the first to show up in costume for the masquerade festivities, opening his liquor cabinet to his guests (because we all know that a little bit of alcohol reduces inhibitions, resulting in the best booze-induced drama, ready to be caught on camera). But fun times lead to sober moments, and the best scenes in Shakespeare’s comedy are actually his most serious: the heart-wrenching aborted marriage ceremony when Hero is accused of being a loose woman in front of everyone, and later when Leonato, Antonio, and then Benedick confront Claudio and Don Pedro claiming that their accusations have killed the heartbroken and innocent maiden. Cox shows his wide range, from the happy-go-lucky Hugh Hefner-like master-of-the-house to the conflicted father, forgetting the cameras, eyes brimming with tears as the laughs turn to the horror before him.

The spark for all the mayhem is Don John, a man “not of many words,” a bitter, villainous puppet-master who yearns to throw his own melancholy cloud over others' joy. In the original text, the motivation for his dark nature is hinted at through his few lines and the description by others. Andrew Stephen Johnson plays Don John’s hatred and jealousy of his brother Don Pedro, when forced to be his subordinate, as the ultimate anti-social reality show villain. Tossing cups, kicking chairs, spitting at pictures, Johnson’s portrayal reminded me of Puck – not Shakespeare’s sprite Robin Goodfellow, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the rebellious, antagonistic, anarchist David Rainey who eventually was evicted from The Real World: San Francisco for all the trouble he caused.

The heart of the play should be Benedick and Beatrice, whose sharp-witted barbs, fiery interplay, and denouncement of love and marriage make their eventual union a satisfying conclusion, and Matthew Coonrod and Sheira Feuerstein do a nice job of expressing that emotional journey (especially the lovely Ms. Feuerstein, whose energy and timing were a constant pleasure to watch). But the real heart of the play in this production were the brilliant and genuine performances by Daniel Koenig as Claudio and Maria Smith as Hero. Their chemistry was perfect, from the love they showed each other at the beginning, to the raw rage and grief they exhibited as the scandalous lies drew them apart, and to the profound, tender emotion they evoked at their reconciliation – hesitant and frightened, but completely believable. Coonrod and Feuerstein do a commendable job of bringing laughter and passion to their keystone roles, but Koenig and Smith were transcendent in parts that in other productions are often eclipsed by the more showy characters.

Such high praise is merited when actors take their roles to new levels, making them their own, adding nuances even when there are few or no lines to speak. This version of Much Ado About Nothing had plenty of examples of smaller characters stepping up and making an impactful contribution to the story, ingraining themselves in my mind: Ashley Adelman as the seductive pawn Margaret; Ari Lew as the shaggy-haired, scheming sidekick Conrad; Nikki Bohm as the stunning Messenger and (together with Antonia Villalon) the Charlie’s Angels-type members of the Watch; and Heidi Zentz as Dogberry’s hunched companion Verge.

Lawrence Lesher brought a deadpan style and fantastic comedic skill to his depiction of the side-splittingly hilarious character Dogberry. Alex Simmons brought dimension and humanity to Borachio. Patrick Mahoney’s deep voice and towering stature brought integrity to his portrayal of Friar Francis and power to his representation of Antonio.

It is a real joy to see a production team and group of talented young actors take a chance on an idea and fully commit to it, and then witness the successful results. Even if you hate reality shows, the concept works here and makes Shakespeare’s story of betrayal, sabotage, gossip, and most important, love, feel as pertinent today as ever.

Queens Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing continues on Thursday, November 12 at 7 p.m., Friday, November 13 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, November 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at or call (212) 868-4444, or at the door. The theater is located at Bowne Street Church at 143-11 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, NY 11354. Free parking is available on-site or take the 7 train to Main Street.