Thursday, March 31, 2011

Come on, feel the Noisefest

By Haru Corynefor 

Coney Island is kicking off the spring season the only way it knows how.

On April 3, Noisefest will bring an eclectic celebration of history, music, vaudeville and, of course, mermaids to the Boardwalk.

The festivities begin with a ringing of the old Dreamland Pier Bell to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the fire that engulfed and ultimately destroyed the old park that once stood in Luna Park’s place.

Then, the Jambalaya Brass Band will lead an honest-to-goodness New Orleans jazz funeral down the Boardwalk.

“There’s going to be some satire, there’s going to be some dead mermaids,” said photographer and video artist James DeMaria, who will be filming the “funeral.”

Finally, London-based artist Mr. Pustra will deliver a performance on his musical saw, an instrument once common in vaudeville that involves drawing a bow across the flat end of a handsaw.

So, why all the noise?

“A lot of people have been missing old Coney Island and protesting, and it’s time to wrap that up,” said Dick Zigun, artistic director of Coney Island USA, which is organizing the festival.

“That’s what jazz funerals in New Orleans are about,” he added. “Coney Island moves on.”

Noisefest [1208 Surf Ave. between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street in Coney Island, (718) 372-5159], April 3 at noon. Free. For info, visit www.coneyisland.com.

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New experimental film at MOVES

By Meredith Deliso

Get to Greenpoint this month for highly original, experimental film.

This Saturday, the newish space MOVES shares its favorite videos and artists for a night of new cinema that ranges from the cute to the avant-garde.

First up though, there’s a presentation from video artist Roxie Turner, who’s also an instructor at 3rd Ward in Bushwick. 

Then, the couple that brought you the adorable short, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” is back for more, as Jenny Slate and Dean Fleisher-Camp present a new film that’s sure to then make the Internet rounds.

It’s all warming up for a screening of “Video Musics II: Sun Wu Kong” (pictured), Alexis Gideon’s beautiful — and strange — reimagining of the 16th-century Chinese novel, “Journey to the West,” which follows the trials and tribulations of the Monkey King.

The hour-long screening of the psychedelic, dream-like tale features live musical accompaniment from the renowned multimedia artist, who’s on the drum machine, plays guitar, sings and raps to the video opera.

It’s just like YouTube, only live.

Film night at MOVES (214 Franklin St. near Calyer Street in Greenpoint, no phone), April 2 at 8 pm. $7. For info, visit movesbrooklyn.wordpress.com.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is just tragic

By Meredith Deliso

This is no joke — on April Fool’s Day, a Bee Gees all-metal tribute band will rock your socks off.

On April 1, the band Tragedy brings bright-white Spandex, satin scarves, carpet-like chest hair and such Bee Gees hits as “Staying Alive,” “Jive Talkin’” and “How Deep Is Your Love” cranked up to 11 at Brooklyn Bowl in Wililamsburg.

“The songs are done up in such rockin’ metal fashion that you’ll never again be able to hear disco music again without banging your head,” said Jake Szufnarowski, aka Barry Glibb.

This being April Fool’s Day, the band is sure to have a few surprises in store, such as metal tributes to other disco icons like Donna Summer. Or maybe not.

“How could we not have some crazy s— planned?” said Szufnarowski. “Or maybe our big April Fool’s gag is not having one at all. How ironic would that be? In Williamsburg, no less.”

Tragedy at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963-3369], April 1 at 8 pm. Tickets $8. For info, visit www.brooklynbowl.com.

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For the love of Miss Peggy Lee

By Meredith Deliso

Watch out — this show will give you fever.

Peggy Lee lives again in a Bay Ridge cabaret that will have men and women impersonating the blonde, smoky-voiced legend.

On April 3, the Scandinavian East Coast Museum hosts a tribute to the incomparable jazz singer, actress and songwriter with a variety of song-and-dance numbers.

“She’ll be turning over in her grave if she saw my replica of her,” said Bob Carlson, 71, who will be donning a blonde wig, dress, sombrero and a beauty mark on his right cheek for a lip-synched rendition of “Mañana.” “I hope I don’t get wrapped up in one of my boas.”

The Bay Ridgite will be accompanied by four female dancers in drag as he dances and interacts with the audience.

“My whole life has been a party, I always like to have fun,” said Carlson. “Peggy Lee had a feel for life, too. She had a terrific sense of humor.”

In addition to songs like “Mañana,” the cabaret will span the length of Lee’s varied career, from her early penned pieces like “What More Can a Woman Do,” recorded by Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespe and Charlie Parker, and hits including “Fever” and “Is That All There Is?” to projects like the soundtrack for Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” (where she did both voices in “The Siamese Cat Song,” purring and all).

“You can see the breadth of what she did, from Benny Goodman to the 1980s,” said Museum founder Victoria Hofmo, who decided to put the cabaret together after learning Lee was of Scandinavian heritage (plus, who wouldn’t want to put together a Peggy Lee tribute?). “The style changes a lot, but she always has an amazing voice.”

Audience members are also invited to participate in a look-a-like contest, where the winner gets $50. And there may be a few other surprises in store, as well.

“As far as I know, Miss Piggy was fashioned after Peggy Lee,” said Hofmo. “So Miss Piggy might be there, too.”

Peggy Lee tribute at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church [440 Ovington Ave. at Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 748-9502], April 3, 3-7 pm. Tickets $35 (includes appetizers, drinks and dessert). Reservations recommended. To sign up for the look-alike contest, call (718) 748-5950.


Photo by Steve Solomonson

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Get pitching

By Meredith Deliso

Book ideas are like belly buttons — everyone has one. But not everyone knows how to make a solid book pitch.

Enter Pitchapalooza, the “American Idol” of books that is coming to Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene tomorrow. Then, author hopefuls can pitch to a panel of publishing experts, where they’ll get feedback.

The good ones will get more.

“In the real world of publishing, for an unknown writer, you’re lucky to get a minute in front of a great agent or publisher,” said David Henry Sterry, who wrote “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” with his wife, Arielle Eckstut, and has brought Pitchapalooza to over 20 cities since starting it last fall.

No matter the city, the game is the same: “contestants” are randomly picked out of a hat and then have one minute to do their pitch, which then gets critiqued by the panel including Sterry and Eckstut — is there too much plot? Too little? Not enough characterization? Marketplace potential? The person with the most promising pitch gets introduced to an agent.

Kurt Christenson will be among the Pitchapalooza hopefuls trying for his shot at literary gold. The Clinton Hill-based writer hopes to pitch his book, “Tower of Brahma, a “part pulpy adventure, part Beat Poet novel” about his journey from late 20s suburban office worker to 30-something writer in New York City.

“My work is often too ethereal and poetic to be considered by most publishers, so I’m looking for one that might be more along my lines,” said Christenson.

Greenlight owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo had people like Christenson in mind when she decided to bring in Pitchapalooza.

“Part of our mission as a bookstore is to be a community resource, and a place where people can come together over books; offering a fun way for authors to get connected to potential publishers and readers seemed like a perfect fit for us,” she said. “And it’s always exciting to host a contest!”

Pitchapalooza at Greenlight Bookstore [86 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200], March 30 at 7:30 pm. For info, visit www.greenlightbookstore.com.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

A visit from Jennifer Egan


By Meredith Deliso

The last thing Jennifer Egan wants is for you to get tired of her.

But since her book “A Visit from the Goon Squad” came out last June, the Fort Greene writer fears that she has been on a constant book tour to support the praised piece of fiction.

“It did not sell very well [at first], though it got really good reviews, so I felt like it really had to continue to support it,” said Egan. “In another situation, I might have just said, ‘Enough, I’m going to let it sink or swim on its own.’ I felt I couldn’t do that with his one.”

That effort — her “endless babbling,” as she calls it — seems to have paid off: the book is in its 11th printing, made numerous year end top-10 lists and, just this month, it won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle award for fiction, beating out the much-hyped “Freedom” by a non-Brooklynite named Franzen.

The Circle praised the experimental form of Egan’s third novel — her most ambitious, inventive piece to date — as it follows intersecting characters in the music industry, including an aging record exec, Lou; his protégé, Bennie; his troubled assistant, Sasha; and her children, whose chapters are told in surprisingly moving PowerPoint slides. It’s a tale that spans decades, jumping around from present day New York to 1970s San Francisco to a dystopian future — and is one as much about time (that cruel goon in question) as it is the music industry.

“The book is about time, and time and music are so interwoven. We walk around awash in our own past, listening to songs that meant a lot to us at certain points,” said Egan. “As a journalist, I had always wanted to learn more about the music industry, but I never did. It was just a yen to write about this world that was unfulfilled in the nonfiction realm.”

Now that she’s gotten that out of her system, Egan is looking to get back into her next big project — a novel about the women who worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. But not before she does a bit more babbling, including two readings in Brooklyn in one week — at BookCourt tonight and the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday.

“I’m keenly aware you can’t do this forever, or you will become deeply boring,” said Egan. “I’m happy to do it a bit longer, then I think I’m going to have to close my mouth for several years and go back to what I do — which is write.”

Jennifer Egan at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], March 28 at 7 pm. Free. For info, visit www.bookcourt.org; also at the Brooklyn Academy of Music [651 Fulton St. near between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], March 31 at 6:30 pm as part of its “Eat, Drink and Be Literary” series. Tickets $50 (includes dinner, wine, tax and tip). For info, visit www.bam.org.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Weekend: 3.25-3.27

Friday, March 25

Bushwick: Dance your pants off for Japan tonight, as House of Yes hosts a dance party to benefit the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake Relief Effort. Tickets $5-$10. Open bar 11 pm-midnight. Our bad, this event has already happened, and raised $1,813!

Fort Greene: See what everyone's laughing about with "The Comedy of Errors," now at the BAM Harvey Theater through Sunday.

Park Slope: For more serious drama, take in August Wilson's poignant "Jitney," now at the Gallery Players.

Gowanus: For a modern take on the creation myth, check out "Original Innocence," a rock opera at Issue Project Room.

Saturday, March 26

Gowanus: Love puppies and beer? Head to "Beer for Beasts," a boozefest and benefit for the Humane Society.

Park Slope: In other dog news, the Mutt Show returns to the Brooklyn Lyceum. Also Sunday.

Flatbush: For an exhilarating drumming experience, see Soh Daiko at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

Sheepshead Bay: Grillers the country over will be firing up the grill for the annual Grillin' on the Bay cookoff. There will also be a chili competition.

Sunday, March 27

Greenpoint: Here's another one for the dogs — McGorlick Park will host a pet disco today. All animals welcome.

Manhattan Beach: Bring the kids to Kingsborough Center for the Performing Arts — the Paper Bag Players are in town!

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Peru is as close as Sunset Park

By Helen Klein

You want fries with that?

That may be the last thing you’d expect when venturing out to a Peruvian restaurant, but the biggest, most delicious surprise of Pio Rio Riki is the way continents seem to collide on your plate.

At the Sunset Park spot, traditional Peruvian dishes are often combined with noodles (and by noodles, we mean spaghetti) and, yes, even French fries.

It’s fitting, though, for a country renowned both for its beef and spuds. And there’s no better representation of that than the lomo saltado ($11.95) — soy sauce-marinated beef — with a side of French fries.

For Andean comfort food at its finest, order the tallarin saltado ($12), where chunks of beef or chicken are combined with sautéed onions and tomatoes, with a side of spaghetti spiked with soy sauce. It’s simple and satisfying.

The rotisserie chicken ($7.35, half chicken) is a standout, with skin that’s crispy, dark and intensely flavored. On a bed of white rice and soupy red beans, it’s also supremely satisfying. What makes the meal is the marinade, which imbues the meat with irresistible tanginess, a savory blend of garlic, cumin and vinegar and, yes, more soy sauce.

No discussion of Peruvian food would be complete without making mention of the dipping sauces that accompany most dishes. Ají verde — which is redolent with cilantro and hot pepper — and a garlicky white sauce are both extremely tasty, and can be spooned over just about anything from rice to the grilled meats, including anticuchos ($6.50) — that’s grilled beef heart — a classic street food served on skewers.

Traditional Latin American dishes are also on the menu, and the maduros fritos ($3) — fried sweet plaintains — are soothing and crispy, providing a pleasant counterpoint to the savory meats.

Leisurely service means that there’s plenty of time to savor everything that’s brought to the table, washed down by glasses of Peruvian beer or sangria — yes, sangria.

Pio Pio Riko [5911 Fourth Ave. between 59th and 60th streets in Sunset Park, (718) 492-4505]. Credit cards accepted. Open seven days.

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Drumming to the extreme



By Meredith Deliso

Taiko may be the Japanese word for drum, but you can expect more than mere banging from Soh Daiko.

For more than 30 years, the ensemble has practiced the traditional taiko drumming style — which combines movement and vocals with Shinto rhythms — with a more contemporary spin thanks to one piece of spectacle: size.

“In the traditional style, you may see one or two drummers playing,” said Teddy Yoshikami, a Brooklyn Heights resident and 30-year Soh Daiko member. “This has been contemporarily made into a mass drumming style.”

That means nearly a dozen drummers at a time beating their wine barrel-sized drums in ecstatic, expertly placed rhythms.

Regulars at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, the group performs at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on March 27 for a longer performance of traditional Shinto music, pieces adapted from existing taiko compositions and original arrangements by members of Soh Daiko —– which all show off their strength and seemingly limitless energy.

“It’s a total experience playing it,” said Yoshikami. “And people who are watching come away with that.”

Soh Daiko at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College [2900 Campus Rd. at Hillel Place in Flatbush, (718) 951-4500], March 27 at 2 pm. Free. For info, visit www.brooklyncenteronline.org.

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Another one for the dogs

By Meredith Deliso

Now here’s an event that’s for the dogs.

On March 27, McGorlick Park will turn into a pet party when animal activist collective Love Your Pet! hosts an outdoor disco for our four-legged friends.

Emeline Rouvre threw the party, amusingly called Yes Disco Pet, You Can Boogie, in her native France last year with great results — more than 400 animal lovers turned out to boogie with the animals.

Rouvre, who now lives in Greenpoint, is expecting about half that number at the Brooklyn edition, where you can boogie with your pet to DJs, bands including dream poppers Suspicious Package, and take in a “canine catwalk show” of pet products.

“Brooklyn was the perfect borough to do this party,” said Rouvre, who has a cat named BoyGeorgeMichael back home. “There’s a lot of space and green areas, a nice neighborhood life, and people are really sensitive to new and different propositions!”

Pet discos apparently included.

Yes Disco Pet, You Can Boogie at McGorlick Park (Driggs Avenue and Russel Street in Greenpoint, no phone), March 27, 4-7 pm. For info, visit loveyourpetnyc.blogspot.com.

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Good, old-fashioned fun at Kingsborough

By Alex Rush

This is one theater troupe that can act its way out of a paper bag!

The Paper Bag Players, a kid-friendly musical theater ensemble, has delighted audiences around the globe with sets and costumes made out of cardboard boxes and brown wrapping paper. And this month, it brings its newest makeshift musical, “Whoop-De-Doo,” to the Kingsborough Performing Arts Center.

“Kids love the look of our set because it reminds them of when they end up playing with the box and wrapping paper after opening up presents,” said artistic director and performer Ted Brackett, who comes to the Manhattan Beach theater on March 27. “And parents love the show because it takes them back to their childhood.”

But “Whoop-De-Doo” is more than just an exercise in recycling. The show features 10 skits, which include puppetry, original songs backed by a live keyboardist and even an interactive game show.

“It’s a great way to keep the audience jumping around,” said Brackett. “There’s no fourth wall to separate the audience at our show.”

“Whoop-De-Doo” performed by the Paper Bag Players at the Kingsborough Performing Arts Center at Kingsborough Community College [2001 Oriental Blvd. at Decatur Avenue in Manhattan Beach, (718) 368-5596], March 27 at 2 pm. Tickets $12. For info, visit www.kcckpac.org.

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For the grill

Jim Ryan is busy gearing for the annual Grillin’ on the Bay competition, but the Sheepshead Bay cook was willing to share with us the recipe for one of his favorites — marinated catfish. Fire up the grill!

Marinated catfish
Recipe courtesy of Jim Ryan
Serves eight

Ingredients
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice and zest of lemon
2 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
8 catfish fillets

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl and blend well. Rinse fish and pat dry. Put fish in a Ziploc bag and pour in marinade.  Mix it around to coat all over. Start your fire to medium hot and throw in a small handful of wood chips (soaked in water a half hour).

Remove fish from marinade. Put marinade in a small pot and boil for five minutes. Set aside this is your baste. Spray your cooking grate with cooking spray, place on grill and put the fish on it. 

Cover and cook until the fish flakes, basting with the marinade every two minutes or so.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

An event for the dogs

By Michelle Manetti

Meet the mutts, meet the mutts.

For the second year in a row, the Brooklyn Lyceum is hosting its version of the slightly more famous Westminster and American Kennel Club shows — but you won’t find any stuck-up pooches here.

“We focus on having fun and being silly,” said Regan Fishman, who is organizing the March 26-27 event.

“The Mutt Show,” celebrates the unique qualities of dogs, that can’t be learned or mimicked, like “Best Beard,” “Best Ears,” and “Softest Coat.”

But the biggest paw-pumping category will be the “Snook-a-like” contest, where contestants will compete to see which bad-to-the-bone pup looks most like Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi from “Jersey Shore” (owners are encouraged to dress-up as well.)

“Sure, you can see a dog do a trick,” said Fishman. “But where else are you going to see them dressed as ‘Jersey Shore’ characters?”

Participants will be competing for a variety of prizes including ribbons, medals and grab bags filled of treats.

And even if there’s no seriousness to the categories, the event is more than just some satire.

“We have so many passionate pet owners here in Brooklyn,” said Fishman. “A lot of them adopt or rescue, so here is place to encourage more of that."

“The Mutt Show,” at the Brooklyn Lyceum [227 Fourth Ave. near President Street in Park Slope, (718) 857-4816], March 26-27, 11 am-7 pm. Free for viewers. For info, visit www.brooklynmuttshow.com.

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For the beasts

By Meredith Deliso


If you like Sweet Action and puppies, you’ll find yourself in good company at the Bell House this month.

That’s because on March 26, the Gowanus hosts “Beer for Beasts,” a day of good food, beer and tunes that benefits the Humane Society.

Better still is that Sixpoint Brewery will present at least 16 new brews created specifically for the fundraiser.

“We’re excited to be working with our friends at Sixpoint to celebrate our passion for good beer, food, people, and our love for animals,” said Todd Alström, founder of BeerAdvocate, an online network of beer enthusiasts.

Beyond the beer and beasts, JerseyFresh Burlesque will provide some live entertainment, and Calexico, Mile End, Pizza Moto and Prime Meats will provide some food pairings to match the Red Hook-made brews. Because after all that beer, it’ll be wise to have some food in your stomach.

“Beer for Beasts” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], March 26 from 1-5 pm and 6-10 pm. Tickets $60. For info, visit beerforbeasts.com.

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An opera for the ages

By Meredith Deliso

Issue Project Room is taking a chance on a creation myth.

Dave Nuss, drummer for the improvisational No Neck Blues Band, has spent the last five years working on “Original Innocence,” a rock opera written with playwright Eric Sanders that puts a contemporary spin on Adam and Eve.

“It’s a new creation myth for our time,” said Sanders. “We wanted to retell Genesis in a way that we could connect with, that wasn’t so didactic.”

Major departures from that tale include the incorporation of Eastern spiritual concepts of liberation, a more feminist interpretation, where the world-saving sacrifice is performed by a woman, and sin itself championed not as corruption, but salvation.

“It doesn’t mean we’re advocating some sort of bacchanal love piece. It’s a middle way that’s being proposed here,” said Nuss, who knows something about finding a middle ground with religion — he grew up in a very evangelical Christian community in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the 1980s. “The Christian religion, as I was taught it, was about a war of opposites,” he said. “That’s not where I’m at right now.”

Writing it was almost the easy part; as for performing it, the opera’s proven to be too much of a departure for the experimental musician, who’s known more for heady, free-form pieces than devotional rock songs.

“I’m thought of as an avant-garde musician, and so when people heard the renditions of these songs, it was a surprise,” said Nuss, who plays drums in the show. “Some said no, but Issue is willing to take a chance.”

Curator Lawrence Kumps admitted that there “is a bit of a risk,” but added that “Issue Project Room should be able to support these projects.”

And, given the subject matter, Nuss’s most-recent work may also be his most accessible.
“This is a story of life. Everyone has these experiences,” said Nuss. “It’s a connecting point on a heart level, rather than a head.”

“Original Innocence” at Issue Project Room [232 Third St. at Third Avenue in Gowanus, (718) 330-0313], March 25 at 8 pm and 10 pm. Tickets $12. For info, visit www.issueprojectroom.org.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brooklyn gets in the swim with Malia Mills

By Meredith Deliso

Several ups and downs in the Market Watch with week, with two big openings and one quiet closing.

Mills sister
Swimsuit season is just around the corner. And right there waving hello is Malia Mills. The swimwear company just opened in Boerum Hill on Atlantic Avenue, bringing in high-end suits for all sizes — with tops and bottoms available for almost every fit. The store also carries accessories, bags, hats, sweaters and scarves for a complete look.
“We create items that we want to pack in our dream suitcase — so women feel like rockstars whether home or away,” said Mills.

Malia Mills (375 Atlantic Ave. between Hoyt and Bond in Boerum Hill, no phone).

DUMBO ‘Industries’
After a sneak peak earlier this month at a sample sale, the Brooklyn Industries in DUMBO is now officially open. In keeping with the location, the store — the brand’s sixth in Brooklyn and 15th nationwide — is modeled as an art installation within a gallery, with white walls, high ceilings and even sculptures.

“We will feature art by artists within the company and we will redesign fixtures and the overall design of the space every six months,” said the company’s aptly named CEO Lexy Funk.

As well as, of course, the brand’s signature hip apparel, accessories and messenger bags.

Brooklyn Industries [70 Front St. near Main Street in DUMBO, (718) 797-4240].

Indie collapse

After four years, the Brooklyn Indie Market — the little local designer marketplace under a red and white-striped tent at Smith and Union streets in Carroll Gardens — has called it quits. The spot took a break during the winter earlier this year, but decided not to continue in the spring, instead evolving into an event/wedding coordination and styling company, Clementine Events. There is currently a For Rent sign on the tent, reports the blog G’Day Brooklyn. So you’ll have to look elsewhere for your eco-friendly notebooks, bib necklaces and mini cupcakes for now.

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Theater review: Gallery Players does August Wilson's 'Jitney'

By Meredith Deliso

The play may be called “Jitney” and set in a gypsy cab station, but August Wilson’s early work is not about driving cars.

Now running at the Gallery Players in Park Slope, the playwright’s eighth installment in his much-heralded “Pittsburgh Cycle” is an imperfect yet engrossing glimpse at the lives of men — young men, old men, failed men, poor men, alcoholic men, ambitious men, generous men, wise men, hot-headed men, all of them black men — working as drivers in the 1970s.

From the start, there’s a sense of familiarity among them, conveyed through the teasing, the debates (who’s prettier — Lena Horne or Sarah Vaughan?) and even the punches thrown. It’ll take some paying attention, but you’ll get familiar with them, too.

There’s Youngblood, a 24-year-old Vietnam vet who’s trying to buy a house for his girlfriend and 2-year-old son; the gray-haired, stuttering Turnbo, who likes to know everyone’s business; Doub, the voice of reason; Shealy, who uses the incessantly ringing phone to “take numbers”; Fielding, a former tailor who made suits for Count Basie back in the day, but now risks job and health by drinking; and, at the helm of this tired ship, Becker, a retired miner.

Essentially two things happen in the play — first, Becker breaks the news that, in two weeks, the city is tearing down the shop’s block in an attempt at urban renewal. That, though, is almost an afterthought; a latter rallying cry against the destruction plays as insincere and pat.

The main meat comes from the second news — Becker’s estranged son, Booster, is being released from prison after serving 20 years for killing his rich, white girlfriend after she falsely claimed that he raped her.

That father-son relationship, and, in turn, the moving performances by Lawrence James, a Wilson veteran, as Becker, and Gil Charleston as Booster, make for the show’s best moments. There’s a tearjerker of a speech from James on being known as the man who raised a murderer — it elicited a few audible “wows” at Sunday’s matinee —followed by a glimpse of Charleston’s tear-streaked, helpless face, one of director Gregory Simmons’s beautifully crafted moments.

It’s an ensemble piece, so thankfully, the rest of the cast turns in solid performances. Kwaku Driskell is a weary yet charming Fielding, and Terrence Charles Rodgers is funny as Turnbo — though his inexplicable stutter only seemed to serve as a cover for more than a few flubbed lines.

However rich the performances, the technical aspects of the play left much to be desired. The pace is intentionally contemplative, but it dragged nonetheless. It also didn’t help that even though there are no necessary scene changes — the play takes place entirely in the station — the multiple scene transitions left us sitting in the dark for much too long while canned music — street sounds or period music — attempted to fill the awkward silence.

I was impatient to get back to the otherwise fine drama at hand.

“Jitney” at the Gallery Players [199 14th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenue in Park Slope, (718) 832-0617], now through April 3. Tickets $18 ($14 for children and seniors). For info, visit www.galleryplayers.com. 

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Theater review: Laugh-a-minute 'Comedy'

By Gersh Kuntzman

The new production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” at the BAM Harvey is laughable.

In this case, that’s good and bad news.

Propeller Theater’s bawdy, gag-filled version of the Bard’s early comedy is hampered throughout by something that the English troupe can’t control: a poor script that relies on silly wordplay and puns, a play that is not even in Shakespeare’s top 10.

The good news is that the game players barely bother to adhere to anything except Shakespeare’s actual words. Beyond that, pretty much anything goes.

Before the play even starts, the audience is greeted by a crew of actors wearing garish Mexican soccer uniforms and singing mariachis and 1980s pop songs with ridiculous Spanish accents and 1970s porn star moustaches.

The play begins in true Shakespearean fashion, with a dull monologue that explains the absurd plot to come: Two twin brothers, both named Antipholus, and their twin servants, both named Dromio, are separated at sea and end up in different countries. One Antipholus-Dromio team goes in search of the other, and, upon landing in Ephesus, is constantly being confused with the other.

Raucous hijinx are supposed to ensue. But in Shakespeare’s day, the comedy came from the tension when the out-of-town Antipholus ends up in bed with the hometown Antipholus’s wife only to fall in love with her sister; and the hometown Antipholus ends up in bed with a prostitute and in jail for “crimes” that his long-lost brother actually committed.

In reality, it’s boring. As audience members, you spend most of the time maddeningly waiting for the brothers’ identities to be resolved so the happy ending can play out. Fortunately, instead of relying on the script for the comedy, Propeller director Edward Hall turns the very staging of the show into an out-of-control farce.

It’s an all-male company, so plenty of easy laughs come from the oldest of gags: men in drag (especially Kelsey Brookfield as a busty hooker). But beyond that, mirth is conjured up in the craziest of ways: a nunchuck-toting noblewoman, a fight scene in which the Village People-style police officer ends up being comically sodomized with a nightstick, a hilarious church revival scene — none of which bears any resemblance to the stuff they did back in the Globe Theater.

Or perhaps it does. After all, Shakespeare was constantly balancing the need to enlighten the people in the good seats as well as entertain the coarser folk in the cheap seats, so in many respects Propeller is living up to the Bard’s high (and not so high) standards.

You’ll laugh heartily throughout — especially during Tony Bell’s riotous turn as an aging Evangelist — though don’t expect to heighten your appreciation for William Shakespeare.

“The Comedy of Errors” at BAM Harvey [651 Fulton St. between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], through March 27. Tickets $25-$95.

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About a boy

By Meredith Deliso

When you just publish a book, it helps to have some distractions from all the publicity, reviews and Amazon rankings. Luckily, Ben Dolnick has plenty.

The Fort Greene author is on his fourth or fifth attempt at “War and Peace,” is starting to obsessively gear up for the 2012 election, and, of course, is constantly writing.

“My method seems to be just flailing away and writing tens of thousands of words, most of which get thrown out,” said Dolnick, who this month celebrates the release of “You Know Who You Are.”

That method seems to work. In the follow up to his debut novel, the enjoyable, much praised “Zoology” (2004) about an 18-year-old who falls in love while working at the Central Park Zoo, Dolnick felt compelled to rewind a bit and tackle childhood.

“I felt like I had a lot about childhood I hadn’t gotten to say,” said Dolnick, 28. “I had a frantic feeling — I’m never going to be closer to childhood than now, so I better write it down.”

As is his preferred strategy, Dolnick started aimlessly putting down everything he remembered about the ages from 8-20. The result is a coming-of-age story about one Jacob Vine, a relatable boy growing up in 1980s Maryland, that’s informed by moments both big and small – the death of his mother, his first crush, the unspoken rules of teenagers, the strained relationship with siblings. It’s a solid, elegiac novel that has a touch of the requisite teenage angst, but also some refreshing dark humor.

“Jacob wondered, occasionally, whether the fact that his mother was dying was a help or a hindrance, on balance, when it came to his getting a girlfriend,” states one passage of the book.

At home in the themes of family and relationships, Dolnick, not surprisingly, is a big fan of writers like Alice Munro — that master of the short story. And though he’ll write the occasional essay, he’ll never stray from the novel.

“It seems to be the form that has the most give in it — you can really shape things with a lot of freedom,” said Dolnick. “For some reason, I tend to think in more novel-sized chunks.”

Ben Donick at Greenlight Bookstore [86 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200], March 24 at 7:30 pm. Free. For info, visit www.greenlightbookstore.com.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Free performance of 'Black Watch'

Want to see "Black Watch" for free?

You can — if you're an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, active duty officer, or a family member of someone who.

The theater is giving out free tickets to the April 27 performance of the highly acclaimed play from the National Theatre of Scotland, which is about a Scottish Army regiment's eye-view of the war in Iraq.

A Lieutenant Colonel who saw the production in an earlier run praised it as "without doubt among the most stirring experience I have ever had; in or out of a theater — profound, beautiful give to this world."

Eligible candidates can enter a lottery by April 6 here. A limited number of tickets will also be available for free at 7 pm on the night of the show.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Weekend: 3.18-3.20

Friday, March 18

Park Slope: Rabbit Hole Ensemble brings the second installment of its "Frankenstein" series with "Doctor Frankenstein's Magical Creature" at the Old Stone House.

Fort Greene: Shakespeare gets multiple doses of the absurd in Propeller's production of "The Comedy of Errors," now running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's laughable, in a good way, says our reviewer.

Saturday, March 19

DUMBO: Head down to DUMBO for the opening of the newest Brooklyn Industries. While there, fully explore the neighborhood with the help of our crawl.

Flatbush: Ladysmith Black Mambazo come to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, bringing their joyful a capella with them.

Sunday, March 20

Flatbush: Is Gershwin's more your thing, today, the Brooklyn Center hosts "'S Wonderful," a tribute to the songbook of the brothers. It's sure to be 's marvelous.

Gowanus: Calling all Minnesotans! The Bell Houses hosts a state fair devoted to our neighborhood to the north, with none other than Al Franken in attendance.

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Grab a fork — it's Dine in Brooklyn!

By Meredith Deliso

For Brooklyn foodies, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

More than 200 restaurants will participate in Dine in Brooklyn, a 10-day feast of discounted prices at restaurants all across the borough starting on Monday — so start making those reservations now. 

There will be three-course dinner menus for $25, three-course lunches for $20.11, and even some two-for-the-price-of-one deals.

“Foodies, start your engines,” said Borough President Markowitz. “Whether you fancy the French fare in Brooklyn’s Bastille Day hot spot, Carroll Gardens, or you want to savor a little sushi, ‘bib up’ for barbeque, ‘mangia’ some mostacholi, sample ethnic food from everywhere on the planet, find the newest, freshest seasonal, locally-sourced artisanal menus, or you are simply looking for comfort food, American-style — in Brooklyn your table is waiting!”

You can find tables at restaurants in nearly every neighborhood, including such Dine in Brooklyn veterans as the Greenhouse Café and Tanoreen in Bay Ridge and the River Café in Brooklyn Heights. Some of the borough’s newest restaurants are also joining the party, including Park Slope’s Soigne, Strong Place in Carroll Gardens and Loreley Williamsburg.

“It’s always good to have new people come to the restaurant,” said Loreley Williamsburg manager Doug Jacobson. “Dine in Brooklyn’s always a good time.”

Dine is Brooklyn is from March 21 to March 31 at participating restaurants. For info, visit www.visitbrooklyn.org.

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Laugh on at the new Freddy's

By Meredith Deliso

This show is a real trip.

The stand-up hour “Ed Sullivan on Acid,” a regular in the back room of the old Freddy’s when it was in Prospect Heights, has followed the bar to its new Park Slope location.

And it’s better late than never.

“The neighborhood was just starved for something like this,” said Pat O’Shea (pictured), whose every-other-Monday show is back on March 21. “The crowds have been great.”

O’Shea started the whacked-out variety show (hence the name), but soon stuck to just comedy, bringing in a handful of up-and-coming comedians each time. When the original Freddy’s closed last year, he couldn’t bear the thought of finding it a new home, and held out until the bar reopened last month in the South Slope.

“I actually missed running the show,” said the Clinton Hill-based comedian, who’ll bring in the likes of Angry Bob (HBO’s “Bored to Death”) at the next show. “It can be a pain in the ass — people are always asking for spots, and sometimes I would rather do my act than host. I didn’t think I’d miss it, but I did.”

Ed Sullivan on Acid at Freddy’s Bar [627 Fifth Ave. between 17th and 18th streets in Park Slope, (718) 768-8131], March 21 at 9:30 pm. Free. For info, visit freddysbar.com.


Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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