Wednesday, December 28, 2011

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

To be honest, it’s been a very good year.

Sure, there were some things that didn’t go well (the film BURIAL comes to mind off the top of my head) but overall, it was a very positive and productive year. Many of the films and plays I appeared in this past year received great reviews, which is always nice. Most importantly, the works were seen, which means more than the press, although the press was nice.

I’m hopeful that 2012 will be even more successful.

Projects on the horizon for 2012

MAY VIOLETS SPRING with Katherine M. Carter and The Other Mirror

LINDA LE THORN AND THE MUSIC BOX with Meg Skaff

GREG’S GUARDIAN ANGEL with All Things Random

MARTY AND DOUG’S NEW RELIGION, PART II with All Things Random

KINGDOM COME with Two Man Crew Productions

Who knows what else will pop up this coming year!

Trailer for LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX, Plus Orange and Purple Green Pictured Together

Here is the link to the trailer for Meg Skaff's newest film LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX

http://vimeo.com/33980348

Also, here is a picture of me as both Orange Green and Purple Green.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

THE GOOD MAN Re-Shoot On January 22nd

Due to some technical issues, I will be re-shooting my brief scenes as baddie Warren Conrad in director Mike Sgroi’s short film THE GOOD MAN on Sunday, January 22nd. I’ll be heading back to New Jersey with Mike to the home of co-star Darrin Biss to re-shoot my scenes. We had a good time shooting the first time around, so this should be a piece of cake.

LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX Next Friday, January 6th

Next Friday, I will be heading to Brooklyn to shoot a brief scene in Meg Skaff’s newest film LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX, where I will be playing Purple Green, the brother of Orange Green, the character I played in TERRY KENDALL AND ORANGE GREEN.

It’s one brief scene, so it should only take a few hours.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Next Project: MAY VIOLETS SPRING

At the start of the new year, I shall re-uniting with director Katherine M. Carter to work on MAY VIOLETS SPRING, a new project with her brand new company The Other Mirror, who also produced her recent adaptation of MADAME BOVARY, which was just fantastic, by the way.

MAY VIOLETS SPRING is a new rendering of Shakespeare’s HAMLET, adapted by my MIDSUMMER co-star James Parenti. As you may recall, I did an informal reading of HAMLET a few months back, with a cutting done by Jim. Since then, Jim has been working on the adaptation and MAY VIOLETS SPRING is the fruit of his labors.

Here are Jim’s thoughts on the project:

This adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most famous, most loved and most hated tragedies turns the story inside out. Working within the framework and style of the original play, I've reshaped the text, removed and combined characters, and added lengthy passages of original verse. I've made one other major structural change: Ophelia is now aware of all the circumstances of Hamlet's situation. She's now a more active part of the story, becoming a co-protagonist rather than a complication. This re-imagining of the play examines the present-but-slighted theme of responsibility- to oneself, to one's romantic partner, for the unforeseen consequences of one's actions- in times of extreme duress.

We’ll be rehearsing three days a week and then there will be a reading for the public.

I will be playing both Claudius and Polonius, which should be very interesting. Both are great roles, especially Polonius, which has been a dream role of mine for ages, so the chance to investigate the character from a new perspective should be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned for more information on this.

For information about The Other Mirror, please visit http://www.theothermirrortheatre.com

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS Comes To A Close

The three final performances of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS this weekend all went wonderfully and we went out in style (and a full house) for the final performance yesterday afternoon, which was attended by a number of my good friends, including director Katherine M. Carter and her boyfriend Nick Ronan; playwright Mya Kagan and her boyfriend, actor Alex Pappas and director of 12th Night of the Living Dead, John Hurley. Thank you all for attending and to everyone who showed their love and support of this production.

We put this wonderful show together in one month. When director Larry Lesher told me about the project, all he said was that the script wasn’t quite finished yet, but that it was going to be funny. I had seen two of playwright Todd Michael’s previous productions and enjoyed them, so I knew that he’d write one heck of a script. After he got my good friends Chris Kateff and Matt Harris involved, of course I was hooked.

Everyone who made a creative contribution to the production deserves high praise. We all worked hard and we created one heck of a product that I am damned proud of.

Prior to the beginning of this process, Todd was told by an individual, who shall remain nameless, that this show was ‘’un-producible.’’

Oh, really?

I would like to direct that individual to the 6 great reviews we received, including being chosen as the ‘’Holiday Pick’’ by nytheatre.com and the consistently great houses we received, with audiences (friends, family and complete strangers) loving every minute of this show.

But I guess that individual who made that ‘’un-producible’’ remark knows better?

Nope.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last Night's Show

After Thursday night's fantastic audience, it's easy to get spoiled and expect that kind of reaction always...doesn't always happen. The show last night was pretty solid and the laughs came, but not as much as the previous night.

Great news...we are getting close to selling out our final 3 performances, which is exciting. Nothing better than playing to full houses, especially at the end of the run.

Off to the theate in a bit for prep for the 2PM matinee.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ryan's Review.com Review of GUNDERSON'S

GUNDERSON’S
Description (from imdb.com):
Max, about to start his first week of teaching health at a middle school, finds out he has a rare venereal disease with only one symptom.

Major Cast:
Max Azulay as Max, Dan Azulay as Dr. Grossman, Jeremy Fernandez as Ray, Eoin Cahill as Simon, Mike DeGasperi as Carl, Timothy J. Cox as Principal Cox

Special Features:
None

Written by Max Azulay, Matt Porter, Phil Primason and Mallory Westfall
Directed by Matt Porter

Wow, what a sucky doctor’s office visit. Max, getting a routine check-up required to be a teacher, finds out that he has “one of the newest STDs on the market:” Gunderson’s. The only symptom: The Gunderson Twitch. Now, he has to start teaching a bunch of middle-schoolers about health, and part of his curriculum is VDs… including Gunderson’s.

GUNDERSON’S is a movie with very, very little action but it moves at a quick pace regardless. It reminds me of the early films of Kevin Smith; lots of talking and not much doing, but the talking is so well-written and funny that it draws you in anyway. I love the fact that one of Max’s close friends – he sits around with his buds, drinking beer in the woods, and going over his newly discovered ailment – is also a student in his class. The dialogue is very witty and very naturally delivered, and overall the acting is strong.

The video is obviously HD, and looks really good, and the shots are well-planned and look good. Like Smith, there is not a whole lot of camera movement, but there is enough to keep things visually interesting. The sound is not as good as the visual aspects; the music is often too loud, and the dialogue seems to have been recorded with an on-camera mic, so it is not as crisp or as loud as it should be. Don’t get me wrong; G’S sound is not so bad as to make the film unwatchable, not even close, it just does not stand up to the quality of the other aspects of the film.

G’S does a lot of good things for a low-budget film. Especially finding not only a bunch of kids to be in a movie all about a STD, but also finding a talented child actor that can hang with the big boys. The filmmakers were able to secure good locations and good participation by a class full of young extras. The acting quality is also very good on this film, well about the average low-budget. Azulay carries the weight of the film easily as the lead, but all of the supporting actors are also strong. I especially enjoyed the young man, and Cox’s rendition of the middle-school principal that so desperately wants to be cool (but is so obviously not) is also a standout.

Overall, I really enjoyed G’S. It was a well-scripted, well produced dialogue driven comedy that was a lot of fun to watch. I am interested in seeing other things made by this group of talented filmmakers.

Overall 7.5 / 10

G’S on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2007390/

G’S is not for sale.

G’S for viewing online: http://player.vimeo.com/video/25697122

G’S site: http://dialtonepictures.com/

Ryan's Review.com Review of THE WATCHERS

THE WATCHERS
Description (from imdb.com):
After several strange encounters a man begins to question his own sanity in search of what he believes is the truth.

Major Cast:
Jeff Moffitt as John Porter, Timothy J. Cox as Dr. Orwell, Peter Francis Span as Mysterious Man, Darrin Biss as Phil

Special Features:
None

Written by Jeff Moffitt and Sy Cody White
Directed by Sy Cody White

THE WATCHERS delves into a genre that low-budget films often shy away from: the suspense thriller. Doing these reviews, I watch lots of comedies, and even more horror flicks, but it is not too often that I get a suspense thriller. This is a genre of film that does not necessarily require a large budget, so it does surprise me how infrequently independent filmmakers choose to attempt this sort of film. On the other hand, a suspense thriller is not nearly as “easy” of a genre to do. Not to say that making a low-budget comedy or horror is an easy task, but with a thriller every little thing must be right to achieve the overall feeling needed to make the film effective, and this perfectionist need becomes even more imperative when you add in the “psychological” element to the thriller.

TW tells the story of John, a man who is either under surveillance for something he is unaware of, or is becoming a paranoid psychotic. Either way, he is seeing Dr. Orwell (a little heavy handed of a moniker for a “they’re watching me” kinda movie, but a nice nod nonetheless) to try and get his life straight. Between visits with the Dr. and the rest of his ever-increasingly erratic life, John continually attempts to get in touch with his estranged wife and daughter and mend some unknown past hurt. The stress of his life compounds the stress caused by his possible stalkers, and combined his life falls apart.

The scripting for TW is tight. When you make a psychological thriller you have to drop hints at what’s truly happening without giving up the ghost too early; TW does a decent job at this. I figured truth out before the film came out and said it, but it was not plainly obvious, it did manage a bit of subterfuge. TW does a good job of building the story and the suspense in a limited (just under a ½ hour) running time; the character development is not as fulfilling, but if the film gave too much about the characters it would be much easier to give away the plot. The dialogue is well scripted and functional, nothing too snappy but this is not the kind of film that you would expect repeatable lines from.

On the technical side, there were a lot of things TW did well. The direction by White is solid in both the visual aspects and in the direction of the talent. Moffitt is very believable as the disheartened protagonist, carrying the suffering of an unknown loss in his eyes. Cox is also strong as Orwell, as he projects caring and warmth into his character, the one shoulder John has to rest his troubles. The video quality and sound recording was also above par for this budget level, and it’s always great when you can feature a recognizable big city (NYC) in your film.

However, there were some things that TW did falter on. The biggest sore spot for me was the visual effects. If you are going to make a low-budget film, you need to know your limitations. If you cannot afford to film an explosion, or if you do not have access to someone that can make a believable explosion, don’t feature an explosion. TW has an explosion that came across so fake to me, that it completely pulled me out of the story and ruined my suspension of disbelief. Normally I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of something like this, but the fact that TW did everything else SO WELL made this shortcoming much more readily apparent to me. There are ways to get around a scene like this without going cheesy – put it in the background, put it off-screen, make is something that we learn about from a bystander but we do not see – any of these options would have kept my interest in the film from be wrenched away and kept my attention on the plot instead of being diverted to the effects. There were also a few minor characters that did not have the acting chops of the major players; this is to be expected in a low-budget film, but again the disparity in the quality between the key actors and the back-up also made that lowered quality stand out so much more.

Overall, TW is a strong film that delves into a less oft portrayed genre in the low-budget world, and does it pretty well. The quality of much of the film is well above par for the budget level it is created within, and for the most part TW gets things really right. Normally such high quality would be a boon for a film with a low budget, but with TW that high quality makes the few low points seem so much lower. TW was a good low-budget psychological thriller, and with just a little more planning, a little more restraint, a little more design, it would have been great. I look forward to seeing what these talented filmmakers can do in the future, and definitely hope to see more from them.

Overall 6.5 / 10

TW on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1729237/

TW is not for sale.

TW site: http://twomancrewproductions.weebly.com/

Ryan's Review.com Review of OVER COFFEE

OVER COFFEE
Description (from imdb.com):
Andrew only comes to work for one reason, and that reason is Carla. She may not know it, but he’s crazy about her and will do anything for her – something he might have to prove sooner than he thinks.

Major Cast:
Erik Potempa as Andrew, Jocelyn DeBoer as Carla, Michael Oberholtzer as David, Timothy J. Cox as Hamilton Rice, Mallory Portnoy as Laura

Special Features:
None

Written and Directed by Sean Meehan

OVER COFFEE is a sweet little story about an office romance-to-be, and what a guy will go out of his way to do for the girl he crushes on. Carla is the office admin, and has to deal with not only the standard scheduling / prepping / running things, but also has to have hard-ass boss Mr. Rice’s complicated coffee order perfect and hot when he comes in the door. Andrew would love to show Carla just how much he likes her, while David would just like to show Carla (and any other female) to his bedroom. Mr. Rice comes in with little warning one day, and Carla has not had a chance to get all her other stuff done, much less get the über-complicated coffee, giving Andrew the chance to step up.

With a running time of only about 15 minutes, OC does a good job of character development in a short span of time. The dialogue is natural and snappy; it’s no Tarantino, but it definitely has some style. All of the actors are strong; Oberholtzer as David could have stepped right out of OFFICE SPACE (“Gonna show her my ‘o’ face” could have been one of his lines), and I loved the juxtaposition of Cox’s very controlling Mr. Rice, who is in turn controlled by his mother.

The story was fun, and I loved the thieving coffee woman. There were a couple of logical issues that go to me though. For example: what kind of gainfully employed person would not have a credit, or at least a debit, card? And on the very slight off-chance that there really is a person like this, I have a hard time believing that they would not have cash in hand. On the other hand, I realize that with any of this the central conflict of the story would not be there… but you always could have had a sign on the cash register that says “Credit Card Scanner Down, Cash Only” and then I would not have wasted all of this brain power on this!

The video quality was very good, and the composition of the images was pleasing. There was good use of handheld video – some movement to the shots but it wasn’t THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – and good sound quality. The lighting was a bit spotty; in some shots it is very natural and unobtrusive, while some other shots are not as well lit and the lighting’s much more apparent.

Overall, I enjoyed OC. It was a fun little flick that moved at a good pace and never got boring, and you’ve got to love a character that is mean to everyone because they’re mommy is mean to them at home!

Overall 7 / 10

OC on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1672176/

OC is not for sale.

OC for viewing online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpVBOQL3cLI

OC site: http://www.overcoffeemovie.com/

The Perfect Audience

If an award can be given to the best audience, it would have been given to last nights’ crowd, as they enjoyed the hell out of the show. They jumped on the band wagon early on and enjoyed the ride for all 80 minutes. It was a real pleasure to perform for them.

Back again tonight…with hopefully an audience that is just as spirited.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best if Off-Broadway Review of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW OF THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

Reviewed by Ron S. Covar
Published 2011-12-15

Dark Christmas

White. Merry. Happy. What do these words have in common? They usually precede the word Christmas. But asphalt is a word which we don't normally associate with Christmas. That's why a show called The Asphalt Christmas makes an intriguing title. It grabs you right away.

Grayce Productions' The Asphalt Christmas is about a young girl who gets possessed by the devil (complete with the infamous 360-degree turn of the head a la Linda Blair in The Exorcist), causing her to harm people she dislikes. In the end, she eventually gets rid of the devil in her and, as a bonus, she also gets reunited with her estranged mother.
With its glittery costumes, cross-dressing actors, nun and priest characters, numerous references to old movies and occasionally risqué dialogue, The Asphalt Christmas reminds audience of Charles Busch's The Divine Sister which was seen last season at Soho Playhouse.

The Asphalt Christmas indeed provides a slew of references to relics from a bygone era: singers and songs (Cole Porter, It's De-lovely); movies (Casablanca, Double Indemnity, I'll Cry Tomorrow); iconic names (Kowalski); Broadway tunes (Send in the Clowns); Hollywood trademarks (Kirk Douglas' cleft chin, Rosebud). This show is not meant for the twitter generation which is not likely to catch the humor in all these. This is probably part of the reason why some of the punchlines which were meant to elicit laughter fell flat.

But this parody does not stop at movie references. Director Lawrence Lesher stages it like a B-movie. Louis Lopardi's light and sound design are reminiscent of late night horror movies. Even the actors' deliberately campy acting would delight Ed Wood.

In the context of today's off-Broadway casting trend which leans heavily on smaller cast, The Asphalt Christmas' cast of nine actors, with some playing double or even triple roles, can be considered a Cecil B. De Mille production in scope.

The show's talented actors are effective in their respective roles. David L. Zwiers as Sister Mary Bernadette is a riot with her un-Christian antics. Nancy Kellogg Gray as Sister Mary Joseph is delightful to watch as an authentic-looking nun who is prone to accidents. Matt Harris as the annoying brat, Mickey Loomis, provides the perfect foil to the ambitious Veda Munson, played by Jessica Luck with just the right blend of sweetness (until she descends to Linda Blair territory). As Dixie La Hiff, playwright-actor Todd Michael struts the stage with such panache which could put the Kardashian sisters to shame. Timothy J. Cox displays versatility in his triple roles. Brian Hopson is equally impressive in three totally different characters. In her dual role, Courtney Cook is funny as the obligatory sexy character. Chris Kateff as Father O'Day is effective as the only seemingly sane character which provides the common thread in this show’s highly convoluted plot.

David L. Zwiers' vintage costumes are appropriate for the show's period and genre. Joemca and Todd Michael's The First Syllable of Christmas is the Greatest Syllable of All, which serves as the final song number, is a showstopper, literally and figuratively.

Todd Michael's complex script serves the audience with a huge dose of coincidences and multiple subplots borrowed from old movies. Although one does not expect to see the usual character arc and logical plot development in a show of this genre, one wishes that the team of Michael and Lesher have upped the ante and not let this show be just a rehash of everything we have seen before. Still, this show is silly fun.

This Asphalt Christmas is as darkly funny as any show could get this holiday season. A dark Christmas. Like the color of asphalt.

The Return Of The Show

The return of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS last night was a spirited one.

It was as if the cast hadn’t had a break at all. We came back together and gave, what I consider, our best performance of the entire run.

We played to a house of 40 (not bad at all for a Wednesday night) and everything just felt right.

I’m hoping for an even bigger crowd tonight.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Quazen.com Review of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

Theatre Review: The Asphalt Christmas

Published on December 14, 2011 by Emily Cole in Theatre

Looking for something naughty AND nice this Christmas season? Emily Cole suggests you head over to the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios in Manhattan and see Gracye Productions’ new concoction The Asphalt Christmas, a glorious 80 minute giggle-fest that parodies film classics from the 30’s 40’s and 50’s.

Looking for something naughty AND nice this Christmas season?

Then I suggest you head over to the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios in Manhattan and see Gracye Productions’ new concoction The Asphalt Christmas, a glorious 80 minute giggle-fest that parodies film classics from the 30’s 40’s and 50’s and for some added fun, The Exorcist.

The production, which runs at Theatre Row on 42nd Street until the 18th, is about Veda Munson (Jessica Luck) who raises holy hell at St. Celestine’s Parish when she becomes possessed by the devil, causing injuries to numerous students who stand in her way to glory at the upcoming annual Christmas pageant, directed by the parish’s new curate Fr. Patrick Dennis O’Day (Chris Kateff) a former song and dance man who left his partner Eddie Knight (Timothy J. Cox) in the dust to take up the priesthood. O’Day’s faith is tested when he becomes infatuated by Veda’s long lost mother, a burlesque star named Dixie La Hiff (Mr. Michael), who happens to be engaged to O’Day’s former partner Knight, who is now a film quoting copper. Hilarity ensues as Fr. O’Day not only does battle with the devil, but with his own inner passions and feelings for Dixie.

The Asphalt Christmas is presented as a farce in the tradition of the films of Mel Brooks and the sketches ofThe Carol Burnett Show where the performances are all grounded in reality, yet there is complete chaos taking place on the stage.

The whole affair is seamlessly directed by Lawrence Lesher, who keeps things moving along at a break neck pace.

Mr. Lesher is also to be commended for employing many wonderful visual bits into the production that called to mind comparisons to the theatrical productions The 39 Steps and Greater Tuna, specifically the classic head spinning scene from The Exorcist, as well some amusing bits involving a bird on a stick that taunts actor Timothy J. Cox.

Solid performances come from Mr. Michael, Mr. Cox and Chris Kateff as Dixie, Eddie Knight and Fr. O’Day, respectively, each driving all of their scenes with enthusiasm and energy. Mr. Cox also scores in two brief supporting turns as an embittered convict about to face the electric chair and as a harried stage manager at the burlesque house where Dixie works. Brian Hopson, Courtney Cook and Matt Harris are also standout, with Mr. Hopson and Ms. Cook excelling in a number of colorful character turns, while Mr. Harris earned well deserved laughs as a scrappy juvenile delinquent, especially in one of the evenings’ funniest scenes, where Mr. Harris tries to do battle with Jessica Luck’s demon, only to get beaten up pretty bad, with hilarious results.

David L. Zwiers’ costume designs sparkle, while Louis Lopardi’s sound designs add style and flair to the proceedings.

A real holiday delight, The Asphalt Christmas runs at The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios until December 18th.

Tickets are available at Telecharge.com

For information on the production, please visit www.gracyeproductions.org

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS Returns Tonight

While it has been nice to rest for a few days, I am now chomping at the bit to jump back on stage again in THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS which returns tonight.

AUTOPHOBIA Completed

Writer / Director Chai Dingari forwarded me an online copy of AUTOPHOBIA, which has been re-titled THE MISOGYNIST, last evening, which I watched right away and I was very happy with the finished product. My role as Frost, the agent to photographer Harlan (wonderfully played by Pascal Yen-Pfister) whose life and career are slowly unraveling, was brief, but I think I scored my points. I had a great time working on the film with Chai and Pascal and hope for the chance to work with both of them again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vote For THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

The Asphalt Christmas needs your help!

We're trying to secure nominations for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards and we need your help.

Please take a moment to visit and sign up (takes seconds) at http://www.nyitawards.com

After you've signed in, please click ''Vote'' on the left hand side of the page. You will then see a list of shows. Scroll down and you will see The Asphalt Christmas. Follow the directions and submit your vote.

Thanks so much for your support and be sure to spread the word!

AuthSpot Review of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

Gracye Productions’ THE Asphalt Christmas Celebrates The Magic and Wonder of Theatre

Nicky Howard reviews Gracye Productions’ THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS, a parody of Christmas films, written by Todd Michael and directed by Lawrence Lesher.

When discussing parody, I believe that there are two schools of thought on the matter.

There’s the ‘’mindless parody’’, where there’s not much of a plot, but really only a flimsy clothesline to link gags and where the characters are not really characters, but nothing more than targets for punchlines.

Take the Scary Movie films for example, where it tried to link various horror film scenarios together in a comical way. It made an attempt at cohesive story lines, well at least the first film did and sometimes it worked, but after a while, it got stale and the films and their comic bits became driven by scatological based humor, which can be funny, but it also gets tiresome, as evidenced in other parody attempts like Disaster Movie and Not Another Teen Movie (and many others of that oeuvre) which all proved to be dismal misfires in the genre, mostly because they relied only on the scatological and on nothing else.

Like any good film or play, story is everything, even in a parody. Just look at the classics like Airplane and The Naked Gun, which were able to combine some scatological with the clever and still engage the audience with the story, something films like Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans were not able to accomplish.

To this critic, caring nothing for the high box office receipts some of these films have acquired, feel that many of these films of late have given the art form of ‘’parody’’ a bad name. Yes, I called it an art form.

In discussing the other school of thought, which I shall call the ‘’detailed parody’’, let’s take the theatrical production of The 39 Steps, which I had the pleasure of seeing both in London and here in New York a few years back.

While not a parody per se, it did, quite perfectly, present a wonderful send up of that original Alfred Hitchcock film, which was not a comedy, but the production elevated that original source material and proved to be hysterically funny because of it’s quick pace, intelligent and imaginative staging and most impressive of all, a certain reverence and dedication to the period and style that was being parodied. I don’t get that feeling from the Scary Movie films.

What made The 39 Steps so marvelous was that it was all in the details. The staging, the costumes, the casting. The details equaled more laughs and that attention to detail is what’s makes playwright Todd Michael’s latest piece The Asphalt Christmas, which sends up the Christmas films of Bing Crosby, spliced with the gritty films of Cagney and The Exorcist, so rousing a success.

Michael’s tale follows Patrick Dennis O’Day (Chris Kateff), a one-time vaudevillian who after the demise of the art form, has broken up his act with partner Eddie Knight (Timothy J. Cox) and answered God’s call to become a man of the cloth. On his next assignment at St. Celestine’s though, O’Day finds that his faith is about to be tested, in more ways than one, chief among those are the demonic possession of a young student (Jessica Luck) in his parish, who bears a striking resemblance to the evil Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed and a possible romance with a burlesque star (playwright Michael) who happens to be the possessed student’s long lost mother and the fiancé of O’Day’s former partner, Eddie, who is now a cop with a penchant for quoting movies.

Throw in a few nuns, some rascally teenagers, a creepy groundskeeper in the Karl Lee Childers mold, drunken priests, heads spinning (yes), pigeons on sticks (yes) and other farcical lunacy and you have The Asphalt Christmas.

Joy was what I felt as I left the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios last evening after attending a performance of Mr. Michael’s riotous production that featured all of that and much more including imaginative staging and direction from Lawrence Lesher, a funny and sharp script by Mr. Michael and a team of professional performers who play every moment, comic or otherwise, for all its worth.

The production, playing at The Studio Theatre until December 18th, is a great example of the ‘’detailed parody’’ I was speaking of earlier. Like The 39 Steps, this is a production that truly celebrates the magic and wonder of theatre.

When you incorporate farce into a parody, which director Lesher incorporates throughout, you need a solid script and Todd Michael’s is a real winner here, with a story as smart as it is entertaining, with dialogue that crackles with wit, grit and even a little heart. If you’re a fan of classic movies, this is one production that you will appreciate and adore.

Michael’s script is brought to life by veteran comedy director Lesher, who keeps the laughs coming for the entire 80 minute production, which zips along, but never feels forced or rushed. He also keeps the comedy/ farce grounded in reality, which only adds to the humor and at times, downright lunacy. Lesher also managed to incorporate (with hilarious results) the famous head spinning scene from The Exorcist that had me and many others rolling in the aisles. It was one of many ingenious visual treats incorporated into the production. The production also benefits from some strong and imaginative sound design by Louis Lopardi.

Lesher also scores big because of his casting and his team of actors, across the board, are fantastic, each investing their roles (several actors play 3-4 different roles) with variety, energy and imagination. Leading the pack is the extraordinary Chris Kateff, who brings humor, charm and warmth to his performance as the Bing Crosby inspired Father Patrick O’Day. Playwright Todd Michael is equally skilled comically in his performance as Dixie La Hiff, a burlesque performer with a heart of gold. With the arch of his eyebrow, Michael receives uproarious laughter and applause. Razor sharp in three supporting roles is the solid Timothy J. Cox, who soars in the play’s prologue in a great turn as death row inmate Moose Kowalski, a tough guy in the Cagney mold; in a brief turn as a crotchety burlesque house manager and finally, magnificent as Eddie Knight, a Robert Stack-esque cop, with a habit of quoting movies again and again and again. Mr. Cox was involved in one of the evenings’ funniest visual bits. I won’t give it away, although I will say it involved him and a pigeon on a stick. Matt Harris is also stand out, playing it broad as the degenerate kid Mickey Loomis, a combination of Mickey Rooney from Boys Town and Lennie from Of Mice and Men and it works marvelously with Mr. Harris proving to be an astonishingly gifted comic actor. Of the remaining cast, Courtney Cook, Brian Hopson, Jessica Luck, Nancy Kellogg Gray and David L. Zwiers (who also designed the vivid costumes) all deserve immense praise for their high-spirited performances.

The Asphalt Christmas plays at The Studio Theatre until December 18th, but hopefully this will not be the last time we see this production, director Lesher, playwright Michael and this amazing cast in action.

For information on tickets to The Asphalt Christmas, please visit the production’s official website at www.gracyeproductions.org

Quazen.com Review Of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

Off-Off Broadway Theater Review: The Asphalt Christmas

Published on December 9, 2011 by NYCTheaterLuvah in Theatre

Gracye Productions’ new parody The Asphalt Christmas was a charming and delightful homage to the classic films of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

The farce / parody The Asphalt Christmas, which opened Thursday evening at The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios, was a charming and delightful homage to the classic films of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, with specific references to the Christmas films of Bing Crosby, the gangster films of James Cagney and the tearjerker films of Spencer Tracy. Oh, and there’s references to a little known film from the 70’s called The Exorcist.

Playwright Todd Michael, a veteran of these types of parodies for a decade in New York City, crafted an amusing tale about kindly priest Father O’Day (Chris Kateff), a burlesque diva (Mr. Michael) and her demonically possessed chiild (Jessica Luck) who wreaks havoc on the nuns and students of St. Celestine’s Parish as it prepares for its annual Christmas pageant.

The production was directed with precision and flair by Lawrence Lesher, who proved with this outing that he is not afraid to go the outrageous route, as evidenced by his staging which integrated Linda Blair style head spinning, a pigeon on a stick for an amusing bit late in the play and many more visual treats that you would have to see for yourself to enjoy.

Added to the mix are a score of unique characters, from a ruler wielding nun (David L. Zwiers), to a creepy, giggly groundskeeper (Brian Hopson), to a cine-phile cop (Timothy J. Cox) and many others.

Playwright Mr. Michael and Director Mr. Lesher have given us a sharp and detailed parody production, with many of the scenes sparkling with the fire of the early Warner Brothers pictures that made Cagney and Bogart stars. Mr. Lesher did an exemplary job of keeping all of the scenes moving at a solid pace and his staging was well complimented by Louis Lopardi’s appropriately overly dramatic music, which was edited together from the classic scores of numerous films, adding tension to all of the scenes, but more importantly, adding to the comedy and lunacy.

The outrageous characters created by Mr. Michael were brought to life by an outstanding cast with favorites including Chris Kateff, who anchored the production with a strong performance as Father O’Day, performing quite the feat, as he somehow managed to play the straight man wonderfully amongst a complete sea of madness, but it was the innocence and honesty that he brought to the role that made the characterization such as success. Courtney Cook was also a favorite, scoring big time in her portrayals of a Rosalind Russell stylized newspaperwoman; as dingbat burlesque star Bubbles Flamour and was a hoot as the boozy Heloise Fralick, the mother of one of the children victimized by the possessed students’ demonic powers. Another stand out was Matt Harris as wicked juvenile delinquent Mickey Loomis, inspired by the Whitey Marsh character in Boys Town, made famous by Mickey Rooney. Mr. Harris was engaged in a number of physical comedy bits throughout the show and he proved more than expert in that physical comedy department. My hands down favorite though was the fantastic Timothy J. Cox, who hit the bulls-eye with three great character turns, changing skillfully from the tough as nails death row inmate Moose Kowalski; to the cantankerous burlesque stage manager Ziggy and finally to his wonderful turn as the movie quoting cop Eddie Knight. In all three of his characterizations, Mr. Cox had the style and delivery of classic Hollywood down pat.

Rounding out the great cast are Nancy Kellogg Gray, Brian Hopson, Jessica Luck, playwright Mr. Michael and David L. Zwiers.

Mr. Zwiers is also to be commended for his outstanding costume designs, which added color and flavor to the characterizations and to the entire production.

The Asphalt Christmas plays at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios until December 18th.

For information on the production, please visit www.gracyeproductions

Used New York Review of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

Gracye Productions Presents “The Asphalt Christmas”

Posted on December 10, 2011

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

When you think of any theatrical production that has the word “Christmas” in the title, usually images of Tiny Tim, baby Jesus, or jolly ol’ St. Nick come to mind. Wholesome, pure characters that evoke the reason for the season, albeit a bit stereotypically. For those of you who have had your dose of wholesome for the season, scrap watching reruns of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and get down to Theatre Row Studio to see your not-so-typical Christmas performance, The Asphalt Christmas.

Presented by Gracye Productions, The Asphalt Christmas is a play written by Todd Michael and directed by Lawrence Lesher that tells the story of St. Celestine’s annual holiday pageant in New York City, circa the roaring 1950’s. Replace the Virgin Mary with a possessed fifteen-year old girl, throw in her long-lost burlesque queen mother, a singing priest with a past, a few very eccentric nuns, and a very special janitor, and you have the perfect ensemble for your slightly off-kilter Christmas play! The Asphalt Christmas explores the season-appropriate themes of forgiveness and love, with a side of betrayal and lust thrown in for good measure.

The cast must be applauded for their amazingly high-energy performance. Several of the performers played multiple roles, never missing a beat. I was particularly enamored by Brian Hopson’s portrayal of the character Willard, the very special janitor. I’m quite sure in all my year’s of theater-going, I’ve never seen someone’s lips snarl quite like his. It may sound trivial, but trust me, you’ll be laughing so hard your side will hurt.

For a true theatrical treat, turn off “A Christmas Carol”, throw on your favorite reindeer sweater, and head down to Theatre Row to let “the power of Christmas compel you”. For holiday laughs like these, we’re quite sure Tiny Tim will understand.

WHERE: Studio Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York, new York 10036
WHEN: Showing through December 18th, 2011
TICKETS: $18, may be purchased online.

Opening Weekend A Success!

The opening weekend for THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS went very well. Houses were of medium size, with the exception of Saturday night, where we were close to full capacity. Saturday nights’ performance also proved to be the best received performance of the run so far. We’re riding high on the great review by Martin Denton of nytheatre.com, as well as a another nice review from the site Used New York, which I shall be posting shortly.

Back on Wednesday.

Friday, December 09, 2011

nytheatre.com Review of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS

nytheatre in review by Martin Denton

The Asphalt Christmas: My Holiday Season Pick

The Asphalt Christmas, the new holiday-flavored comedy/parody/satire by Todd Michael, will NOT remind you of the True Meaning of Christmas, nor will it challenge your assumptions in a transgressive way about dysfunctional holiday family gatherings, nor will it deconstruct or merrily discombobulate holiday cheer and its iconography. No: unlike the umpteen dozen December shows in NYC that do one or more of those things, The Asphalt Christmas is happy to simply do one thing extremely well: give the audience a rip-roarin' fun and funny evening. I highly recommend it for anyone who is od'ing on Christmas Spirit in any form.

Because, although Christmas is part of the title and a Christmas pageant is an important part of the plot in The Asphalt Christmas, this delicious ersatz film melodrama of early '50s vintage is not about Christmas at all. What it is about—like all of Todd Michael's marvelous plays—is The Movies, in all their silly, glitzy glory. Usually Michael focuses on just one or two films which he mashes up to make something weird and hilarious (for example, his recent Right Cross Rhapsody improbably melded Golden Boy and 42nd Street together). This time, Michael has poured literally dozens of classic flicks into the stew: everything from Holiday Inn to Going My Way to The Singing Nun to The Exorcist to (natch) The Asphalt Jungle is in the mix, along with lots of others (including some I probably didn't catch). And there's some Broadway here as well: the opening vamp of the 1932 Ethel Merman song hit "Eadie Was a Lady" is used quite brilliantly, for example, as is a reference to an iconic Merman role later on.

The plot is astonishingly complex, considering how neatly it's all tied up in just 80 minutes. Let me try to summarize. 15-year-old Veda Munson is a student at St. Celestine's School in New York City in 1950. She's a favorite among the sisters who run the school, but lately any student who has crossed her has ended up in the hospital. Father Patrick Dennis O'Day, the new curate assigned to St. Celestine's, finds out that Veda's long-lost mother is none other than Dixie La Hiff, a stripper at Pishky's Burlesque. He manages to reunite mother and daughter, exorcise the devil that has taken possession of Veda, and triumphantly stage the school Christmas pageant, despite all sorts of obstacles, including a gangster breaking out of prison, a drunken Irish priest mentor, a teenage boy with a crush on him, and the very formidable Sister Mary Bernadette, a large nun with shockingly bright red lipstick who is the mother superior.

As always, Michael's dialogue and plotting mines familiar cliches in fresh ways and juxtaposes things that shouldn't go together (a burlesque queen and a ruler-wielding nun, for example). The result is near-non-stop laughter.

Michael takes the role of Dixie La Hiff, another of his trademark tough-talking-dames-with-a-heart-of-gold. Also in drag is David L. Zwiers as Sister Mary Bernadette, who is just as much campy fun. Chris Kateff is charming as the constantly ambivalent Father O'Day (and shows off a fine tenor singing "Toorelora"), while Jessica Luck is dead-on as the sometimes sweet but mostly preternaturally evil Veda. Matt Harris is fun as the inept Mickey Loomis, the kid who is taken with Father O'Day, and Nancy Kellogg Gray is very funny as the dithery Sister Mary Joseph. In multiple roles are Timothy J. Cox (particularly spot-on as Eddie Knight, Dixie's fiance, a vaudevillian-turned-cop), Brian Hopson (as an assortment of nasties), and Courtney Cook (who excels as both Dixie's dressing room-mate at the burlesque house and the mother of one of Veda's rivals).

The enterprise is directed by Lawrence Lesher and produced by Gracye Productions, with economy and spunk. On-target costumes are by Zwiers, and an appropriate and helpful soundscape is provided by Louis Lopardi, who also designed the lighting.

With commercialized Christmas cheer bombarding us relentlessly from about Halloween on, these days, a Christmas show that's not about Christmas is a surprisingly welcome treat. As is anything Todd Michael and company dream up. The Asphalt Christmas is my pick for this holiday season.

Opening Night

The opening night for THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS went fairly well.

We played to a nice sized house and people seemed to enjoy themselves, but, overall, the run didn’t feel 100 percent perfect to some of my colleagues (is it ever?), although I felt okay with my own performance. I felt relaxed and at ease in the work, which is when I work best.

No worries if my colleagues felt off...the joy of theatre is that you get to do it again. Every night is an opening night, because it’s new and fresh for the audience and for us the actors.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pictures From Last Evening's Final Dress of THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS









THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS – Final Dress Rehearsal

Eight people attended last evenings’ final dress rehearsal, including actress and colleague from THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE, Deja Aramburu, who attended the production with her boyfriend Daniel. They enjoyed the show very much and I would like to thank them for their support of the production.

Overall, I thought the evening went very well, although we do need to shave about 3-4 minutes from the running time, but that can be easily fixed by picking up cues.

As we enter opening night, I feel very positive about the show and know that people are going to enjoy themselves. The cast is still having a good time, so if the audience sees us having a good time, they will have a good time.

Pictures were taken from last evenings’ performance, so I should be posting them on here and on my website soon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS - Tech Part Two

After finishing some cue to cue issues left over from the previous night, we ran the entire show for the first time in the space and aside from some expected bumps with scene changes, the run went pretty well.

For me, it felt great to run the show in the space and yes, there are things to improve on (always is) but overall, I feel very good about the show.

Back again tonight for the final dress rehearsal, which will include a few audience members, which will be great to play to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX

I will be shooting my scene as Purple Green in LINDA LETHRON AND THE MUSIC BOX on January 6th.

GREG'S GUARDIAN ANGEL Update

The reading for GREG'S GUARDIAN ANGEL has been moved to mid-January, but shooting to take place in February.

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS - Tech Part One

Last evening was cue to cue night and the start of tech week for THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS. Most people call it ‘’hell week’’, but to me it’s only hell if things aren’t running smoothly and organized and our cue to cue was, while long, pretty smooth going all the way through. With the help of every actor in the show, we able to easily maneuver all of the scene changes with a minimum of fuss.

The evening was mostly for Louis Lopardi, our hardworking and trusty sound designer and light board operator, who worked his butt off from noon to when we ended at 10:30 last evening and the hard work has really paid off. Louis’ sound designs are fantastic, capturing the mood of the piece perfectly. It adds so much to the scenes and to the show as a whole. Thanks for the hard work, Louis!

After rehearsal, the cast was treated to a very nice email message from actor, writer and producer Todd Michael, who said the following:

You all are the most talented, wonderful and funniest group of people I've had the pleasure to work with. It's an honor and privilege to be on stage with each and every one of you!

Thanks, Todd!

Back again tonight for a run through with costume pieces. I get to sport my fedora as Eddie Knight, so I’m real thrilled about that.

Monday, December 05, 2011

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS – Twelve and Thirteen

This past weekend, THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS had its final two rehearsals in the Ripley Grier Studio. With each run, the show gets more and more solid and as we begin tech at The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios this evening, I feel very confident about the show and where it is heading.

Now is when the fun really begins!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS Returns Tonight

Rehearsals for THE ASPHALT CHRISTMAS return tonight nd I'm thrilled to jump back in after a few days rest. Tonight and tomorrow will be our final rehearsals at Ripley Grier Studios, then we move to the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios. The plan is to get 4 runs in over these next 2 days.