Sunday, July 10, 2011

Was Flannery O'Connor 'bananas'?

Often, the first words that students in my Writing II class at Kent State at Ashtabula use to describe Flannery O'Connor's writings are 'weird, out there in left field, and strange'. As Enoch Emery dons the gorilla suit in Wise Blood or in “Enoch and the Gorilla”, those readers guffaw at his quest to be accepted. Read the passages!

However, this news article about a Wireless Center’s gorilla mascot (the guy who holds the sign announcing the day’s bargains) may just out-Herod Herod when it comes to being stranger than fiction:

Ohio shop’s gorilla mascot attacked by banana
By Yahoo! Local | Local Cleveland – Fri, Jul 8, 2011

Jeff Stacklin, Yahoo! Cleveland Editor

It's not your everyday assault.
Fox8 Cleveland reports that the gorilla mascot at the Wireless Center, a cellular phone retailer in Strongsville, was attacked last week by a kid in a banana costume.
According to Fox8, the store has the gorilla as a marketing tool a couple of days a week. Brandon Parham, the store manager, told the TV station that he had seen the kid inside the store prior to the attack.
"Then he just emerged, dressed up as a banana, and sprinted as fast as he could at our gorilla," Parham said. "The kid just speared our gorilla."
Check out this video from Fox8, complete with audio from a police dispatcher when the attack was reported to police:
Fox8 reports that after the attack, the person dressed up as a banana split and headed south on Pearl Road.
Meantime, the store manager feels his guy got a bad deal: "The gorilla should have won," Parham said.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Doubt - A Parable

‘Doubt’at Rabbit Run’ good as any production
By ROGER SMITH - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon The Star Beacon Fri Jun 24, 2011, 01:00 AM EDT

MADISON — Having seen “Doubt” at The Cleveland Play House and on the silver screen, the goal for seeing the play at Rabbit Run Theater on Chapel Road was simply to answer a question: Does this version measure up to others that have been produced in the area?

One’s perspective is called into play once the curtain goes up on “Doubt,” the script that addresses the questionable actions of a Catholic priest toward a 12-year-old boy who is a student in St. Nicholas Parish School where Father Flynn is the pastor. Many people — even after viewing the 80 minute/no intermission offering — still were ‘on the fence’ about whether Father Flynn was guilty of the things Sister Aloysius accused him of doing.

At Rabbit Run, audience members have the opportunity to stay after the show for coffee, desserts and the sharing of perspectives and asking questions about the play. Needless to say, when 30 or more people are in conversation and offering their own ideas, it is impossible to definitely conclude anything other than “I’m not sure.” Though the scene is set in 1964, the show plays to an audience that, sadly, has seen that same theme time and time again in the last 10 years on the front pages of newspapers.

Expect your own perspective to be influenced by the stellar performance of Nancy Shimonek Brooks in the role of Sister Aloysius, whose accent alone lets you know she is street wise. Brooks’ portrayal of the determined nun who has to deal with many factors as she decides whether to pursue her ‘gut feeling’ about Father Flynn elicits a variety of emotions which range from distaste of her actions to cheering her on.

Maria Thomas Lister is cast in the role of Mrs. Muller, the mother of the youngster in question. Mrs. Muller, a person of color, is the mother of the young boy who is the only black student in the school. Lister’s performance is outstanding as she confronts Sister Aloysius’ fears and her own, as well.

Sister James, Aloysius’s on-again / off-again supporter, is very ably played by Evie Koh. In her role as the 8th grade teacher with the desire to know her students and have them know her, Sister. James may very well be the catalyst for Sr. Aloysius’ hidden doubt. Koh, too, was excellent in her assigned role.

Father Brendan Flynn is portrayed by David Malinowski. As a parish priest, Malinowski was strong and kind. As the one who was accused of improper behavior with the young boy, Malinowski’s Father Flynn exhibited strengths and weaknesses as he plead to be believed — thereby raising the doubt. Malinowski was able to move in and out of moods and stances with ease, the sign of a weathered priest and a seasoned actor.

Back to the question: Does this version measure up to others that have been produced in the area? Quite simply put, the answer is yes. As a matter of fact, it may surpass most.

“Doubt – A Parable” runs tonight and Saturday night at 8. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the Rabbit Run Theater box office at428-7092.

Jersey Boys Review

July 1, 2011

What a night with ‘Jersey Boys’
By ROGER SMITH - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon The Star Beacon Fri Jul 01, 2011, 01:00 AM EDT

CLEVELAND — Oh, What a Night!

Three thousand people can’t be wrong. That’s how many were standing and clapping and yelling at the end of “Jersey Boys,” now playing in the State Theater at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

And clap and yell they should! “Jersey Boys’” is one of the most exciting shows going. It won the Tony Award for the Best Musical in 2006, the Best Musical Album 2006 Grammy Award, and the Olivier Award in 2009 for the Best New Musical.

Because I began dancing to the pop songs of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Eastern Kentucky University in 1962, the music brought back part of my youth — and I like that. Most of the audience at the State had either white hair or no hair, but they had big smiles and lots of ‘do you remember’ conversations as they exited the theater. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the minds of the teenagers I saw at the production, teenagers who are subjected to a different kind of music and a different kind of society.

The singers onstage treated the audience to 30-plus memorable songs, each of which could be sung by almost everyone in the theater. And there was some audience singing going on. Ultimately, the show is about Franki Valli and The Four Seasons, sung and acted by a quartet of pure talent.

Of course, the favorite of the evening was Joseph Leo Bwarie, who was cast in the role of Valli. In addition to having toured 35 cities in that role, his recent film roles include “The Princess Diaries 2,” “Race to Witch Mountain” and “Valentine’s Day.” Oh, What a Voice! This young man grabbed the audience and held them in the palm of his hand the entire evening. His vocal range and onstage presence combined to amaze everyone within earshot.

Steve Gouveia, Quinn Vanantwerp and Matt Bailey as “Seasons” Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito, were equally talented players in “Jersey Boys,” making the evening nothing short of a magical return to the 1960s. Each of these guys boasts musical and theater experience that most actors would kill for.

Simply but effectively staged, the sets and scenes changed rapidly, allowing for no break in the action. And the “Jersey Boys” orchestra was nothing short of spectacular. All in all, the songs, the memories, the music and the visual ambiance combined to make an evening that will hang around for a long, long time.

Oh, What a Night you’ll have if you make the trek to Playhouse Square between now and July 17 to see “Jersey Boys.” And just a little heads up, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons will be at Playhouse Square performing his catalog of hits on Dec. 10. Tickets for all Playhouse Square events may be ordered by phoning 241-6000 or at