Thursday, September 30, 2010

They're animals

By Alex Rush

The circus and communist Russia never had much in common, but House of Yes is looking to change all that.

Starting on Oct. 1, the Bushwick art space will present “Circus of Circus,” a burlesque-style adaptation of George Orwell’s 1946 classic literary satire of the Russian Revolution, “Animal Farm.” 

Instead of Orwell’s radicalized farm-working beasts, “Circus of Circus” will feature performers who rebel against their ringmaster. But the actors in the show aren’t just pretending to be circus folk — they’ll showcase their actual trapeze, fire-breathing, contortion skills.

“The show is very tongue and cheek,” said Kae Burke, who co-runs the House of Yes art space and wrote “Circus of Circus.” “And all the characters are directly based on the characters from ‘Animal Farm.’ ”

That means there’ll be a version of Napoleon, the corrupt pig who is depicted in this adaptation as a clown. Boxer, the brawny workhorse, is a muscular acrobat.

Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” to express his disillusionment with Soviet communism under Stalin. Burke’s work, on the other hand, wasn’t the least bit politically motivated. She was just inspired to find that so many characters in the novella reminded her of her friends.

“I’ve been writing this show in my head for more than three years,” said Burke, who also is a circus performer. “The book just had so many characters to explore.”

“Circus of Circus” at House of Yes (342 Maujer St. between Morgan Avenue and Waterbury Street in Bushwick, no phone), Oct. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16. Tickets $20, $30 for VIP. For info, visit


This fiesta is hot hot hot!

By Joe Anuta

The world is a volatile place — so perhaps it’s no surprise that the only thing that everyone agrees upon is the beauty and joy of the fiery chili pepper. 

That’s why the annual Chile Pepper Fiesta at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Oct. 2 is a multi-national affair, featuring peppers from the Caribbean to the Himalayas, sample recipes from New Orleans to Seoul, international music, and even mouth-charring cocktails.

“The chili is one of the few plants used all over the world,” said Kate Blumm, spokesperson for the festival. “And we want to use it to educate people about different cultures.” 

Two Brooklyn chefs will demonstrate their zesty specialties: Corwin Kave, excutive chef at Fatty ’Cue will make Malaysian food, while Simon Glenn, owner of Tchoup Shop, will cook Cajun-style. Other demonstrations will feature Mayan, Mexican, and West Indian meals. 

The dessert only gets hotter with the chili chocolate competition. It was such a hit last year that organizers had to go back for seconds.

“People are surprised about how well the chili and chocolate bring out the best in each other,” said Brian Sell, part of the team from Nunu Chocolates on Atlantic Avenue, which will be participating again. “It may make them rethink what chocolate can be.”

If there’s one thing that complements chocolate (and just about anything else), it’s booze. Luckily, Kara Newman will be mixing up spicy mocktails, since alcohol isn’t allowed in the park, from her book “Spice and Ice.”
And of course, it wouldn’t be a party without music.

Bands playing music from West Africa, North India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean will play all day to round out the festival.

Chile Pepper Fiesta at Brooklyn Botanic Garden [1000 Washington Ave., at Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, (718) 623-7220]. Oct. 2, noon–6 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit


Meet the Godfather of Brooklyn's comic book scene

It's been a busy month for Dean Haspiel. First, he released a new graphic memoir, "Cuba: My Revolution," a collaboration with the artist Inverna Lockpez. Then, a new show at Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook opens on the new graphic novel this Friday. And he finished up his six-part web series, "Street Code," from his studio in Gowanus.

Thanks to his part in that space - dubbed Deep6 Studios, Haspiel has put himself in the center of the Brooklyn comic book scene. We sat down with the acclaimed artist in his studio to catch up with his work, and find out in his own words what he thinks of this scene and his place in it.


Silent movies + live music = perfect time

By Joe Anuta

It’s hard to keep quiet about silent film this good.

This fall, the Brooklyn Public Library will continue its popular pre-talkies series, featuring some great films that are so last century: “Grandma’s Boy,” a slapstick comedy starring Harold Lloyd; “Daddy Long Legs,” a comedic drama starring the immortal Mary Pickford; and “The Strong Man,” another slap-and-tickle fest starring Harry Langdon. 

But just because the soundtracks are empty doesn’t mean today’s audience won’t have plenty to listen to. As in past years, Stuart Oderman will provide the live piano accompaniment (which, in a Harold Lloyd film, means plenty of fast fingers). 

“Stuart is our secret weapon,” said Ken Gordon, host of the first-Sunday-of-the-month Silent Movie Matinee series. “He is like a jukebox for that era of music. You aren’t just in a movie, you are in a concert.”

The ninth season of the series will take place in the basement theater in the main branch of the library, but Gordon says the audience will feel like transported back in time.

“Films are like time machines,” he said. “They froze a moment in history that we can revisit.” 

With the combination of live piano and a theater full of people, this is an experience that can’t be replicated by watching a DVD.

“You need shared laughter in a room to experience these comedies correctly,” Gordon added. “You can feel that human touch.”

Silent Movie Matinee at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch [Flatbush Avenue at Eastern Parkway in Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, (718) 230-2100]. Oct. 3, Nov. 7, Dec. 5 at 1:30 pm. Free. For info, visit


This event seems kinda fishy

By Aaron Short

It’s has been widely said that if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. But if you teach a man to fish in the East River, he could win the Brooklyn Fishing Derby.

The so-called “common man’s fishing competition” returns at the stroke of midnight on Oct. 1 and, for the next six weeks, encourages amateur anglers to catch the big one and bemoan the ones that got away.

Derby founder Ben Sargent (pictured) has been fishing off nooks and crannies on Greenpoint’s dilapidated piers for several years, but created the three fortnight contest to share the hobby with other fishermen — and convince doubters that you can eat the fruit of the East River.

“Most people are total doubters about the Hudson and the East River saying there aren’t any fish or that the fish will kill you,” said Sargent. “That’s the same fish you catch in Montauk and spend $15 a pound for sustainable line-caught cod at a farmer’s market.”

Catching your own saves you money — and it’s good exercise, too. 

“Striped bass and bluefish put up such a fight,” said Sargent. “I love to catch bluefish. The fight is unreal.”

Sargent also advises would-be winners to head to the river at night, dusk, or early morning. Fish don’t bite during the day.

The party begins tonight, when Dream Fishing Tackle on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint hosts an opening soiree for anglers to stock up on gear before the derby begins in earnest at midnight.

Brooklyn Fishing Derby, Oct. 1 to Nov. 21 at various locations on the East River. For information, visit Registration costs about $100, though at press time, it’s unclear if that includes a $10 New York State fishing license.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great way to ring in 'Oktober'

By Meredith Deliso

The main event may be in Germany, but over here, you can still get some Oktoberfest action, thanks to Kelso of Brooklyn’s own outdoor brews, brats, and beats event on Oct. 2.

Kelso, Heartland Brewery and Captain Lawrence Brewing Company will be offering up some seasonally inspired ales, from pumpkin brews to, of course, Oktoberfest-style beers. There will also be music from jam band Small Kraft Warning.

The vibe will be “real casual,” said Kelso owner Kelly Taylor, who was inspired by a hot dog cook-off/fundraiser he held this past summer to do more events at his Clinton Hill brewery.

“We’ve always been involved in charities, donating kegs to nonprofits, theater companies, whatnot,” said Kelly. “It just occurred to us that we have a pretty good venue and can pull off some of our own fundraising efforts.”

To that end, proceeds from the block party will go to the Brown Memorial Community Development and Food Pantry, which is a stone’s throw away from the brewery on Waverly Avenue.

“There’s literally a line around the corner of the church with people waiting to get cans of food,” said Taylor. “It makes sense to have people come and be gluttonous and enjoy good food and drink, and have the money they paid go to people who can’t afford to eat bread.”

It’s a party with a purpose.

Oktoberfest Street Party at Kelso of Brooklyn [529 Waverly Ave. between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenues in Clinton Hill, (718) 398-2731], Oct. 2 from 1-5 pm. Tickets $40 and includes a plate of food and three craft beers. For info, visit


Lord of the fleas

By Meredith Deliso

Last week, we introduced our new column, Market Watch. This week, we continue it!

Here’s a look at what’s on our watch this week:

Head to Prospect Lefferts Gardens for a community arts and crafts market that’s not as cheesy as that sounds. On Oct. 2, Lincoln Road will be taken over with handmade jewelry, including Lingua Nigra’s alluring gold bangles, knitwear, clothing, pottery, and even instruments. More than just artisanal arts are on display: there will also be affordable pieces from area photographers, lithographers and painters; live music; and ethnic food from Enduro and Meytex Lounge that will make the trip to the 11225 worth sticking around for a while.

ArtMart 11225: A Community Arts and Crafts Market (Lincoln Road between Ocean and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens), Oct. 2, 10 am-5 pm. For info, visit
Every first Friday of the month, the Loom, a Bushwick mini-mall featuring 15 independent retailers, offers discounts, deals, art and special performances for an evening of truly diverse experiences. For October, for instance, you can stock up on knitting supplies and treats at Brooklyn Yarn Cafe; comb through handmade designs at the Better Than Jam co-op; buy a moped at The Orphanage; take yoga at The Loom Studios; or get your nails done by Miss Fleury Rose at Tomahawk Salon. And that’s only a fraction of the retailers that call the Loom home. 

First Friday at the Loom [1095 Flushing Ave. at Porter Avenue in Bushwick, (631) 377-2500], Oct. 1, 7-10 pm. For info, visit

After a brief summer hiatus, the Artisan Market has reclaimed its sidewalk adjacent to the Fort Greene GreenMarket, highlighting the neighborhood’s art and design. This fall season, running now through the end of the month, has an extra special treat: Kevin Barry, designer for Prada and Betsy Johnson, is selling his unique creations, from coats to dresses to bags and hats fit for a runway, but without the runway prices.

Artisan-Market [Washington Park and DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 855-8175], Saturdays, 9 am-6 pm through Oct. 30. For info, visit


Deadly theater

By Adam Warner

Don’t let the name fool you, “Je Suis Dead” (or, “I Am Dead”), is a play very much about the living.

The New York debut of Fool’s Proof Theatre’s play, opening Sept. 30 at the Irondale Center, teeters the line between the fictional and everyday, borrowing from the real-life experiences of company members — and, no doubt, a touch of Sartre.

The darkly comedic result is a puzzling piece centered around three strangers in the aftermath of a near-fatal train accident — a bit of “No Exit” if we ever heard it. Hell is other people? You betcha.

In this version of the ultimate Existential question, though, each character’s unique reaction to the post-trauma world is front and center. The aloof teacher, for example, must get down and dirty; the master-of-the-universe businessman adjusts to being knocked off his perch; and a lonely office worker finally learns to reach out to others.

Along the way, ghosts of the past — including a Berlin Dadaist, a turn-of-the-century British explorer, and a housewife from the South — flit in and out.

Tough to understand? But of course.

“The play is thought provoking,” said Mary Pearson, one of Fool’s Proof Theatre’s three core members. “We don’t try to make work that is too easily consumed. We’re happy if it stays with viewers for days.”

The director of the Irondale Center said she was honored to have the U.K.-based theater company debut its work in little old Fort Greene.

“It’s compelling, but it’s funny,” said Lucy Walters-Maneri. “There are only three actors, so it’s highly visual in terms of light and costume. The play is a wonderful self-reflective piece that reveals certain truths about us all.”

“Je Suis Dead” at the Irondale Center [85 S. Oxford St. between Lafayette and Greene avenues in Fort Greene, (718) 488-9223], Sept. 30–Oct. 2 at 8 pm. Tickets $25. For info, visit


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More 'Murder'

There’s more time to see “Murder in the Cathedral.”

Due to popular demand, the production of the T.S. Eliot play at the Church of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights= has been extended. You have now until Oct. 10 to catch the production that we hailed as a “gripping, memorable performance.”

The remaining performances:  Thurs., Sept. 30 – Sat., Oct. 2, 7:30 pm;  Thurs., Oct. 7 – Sat., Oct. 9, 7:30 pm and Sunday, Oct. 10, 2 pm.

The Church of St. Joseph is located at 856 Pacific St. between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues in Prospect Heights. Tickets are only  $10 (suggested), $5 for groups of four or more. For info, visit


M.I.A. playing free show

This has been spreading like wildfire.

But in case you haven't caught wind, M.I.A. will be playing a free show - yes, FREE - at Brooklyn Bowl on Oct. 6.

Tickets are first-come, first-serve, so, goes without saying, get there early, and are on Maya, according to the release. Doors open at 9:30 pm, with - more important - lining up beginning at 7 pm.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Brooklyn's got character[s]

Daniel Mate will sing you a song about Brooklyn.

By Meredith Deliso

Move over, Manhattan; this month, musical theater reigns in Brooklyn.

Tonight, Galapagos Art Space hosts “Brooklyn’s Got Character[s],” an evening of original songs about Brooklyn people by up-and-coming songwriters.

“New York musical theater is very Manhattan-centric — people writing about Broadway and 42nd Street,” said Daniel Maté, director of the event. “But if you really want to capture the local flavor of what New York City is about, you have to go to the other boroughs.”

For that, Maté has recruited award-winning songwriters to find their Brooklyn muse and channel it into a song. 

“This is a borough full of characters who are out there, loud, self-expressed, and uninhibited,” said Maté. “I thought, if I can sic some writers on this borough, it would be a really cool exercise.”

That explains songs about a Coney Island sideshow freak; a Puerto Rican go-go dancer in Crown Heights; a Pakistani pet shop owner in Brooklyn Heights; and an eccentric Prospect Heights ophthalmologist.

“He’s the textbook definition of a ‘character,’” said Tina Lear, who’s writing the song about her eye doctor. “It’s the conversation during my appointments with him, conversation that often fuses political commentary, spiritual teaching, standup comedy, and therapy.”  

Maté, a Vancouver native who moved to Brooklyn five years ago, is writing about his “love affair” with the borough and his favorite spots here, from his nearby Sunset Park (“The views are unbelievable”) to Outpost Cafe in Clinton Hill, where he used to DJ, as well as simply finding his way around on his bike.

“If you love life and have a diverse mindset, Brooklyn feels like home,” said Maté. “That’s what the song is about — finding that Brooklyn is home, which is so corny I can’t believe I’m even saying it. Marty Markowitz, eat your heart out.”

“Brooklyn’s Got Character[s]” at Galapagos Art Space [16 Main St. at Water Street in DUMBO, (718) 222-8500], Sept. 27 at 8 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Weekend: 9.24-9.26

Friday, Sept. 24

Park Slope: The New York Craft Beer Week kicks off at Rock Shop tonight with Freaktoberfest. It's not as scary as it sounds.

Coney Island: The Coney Island Film Festival is back for a whole weekend of diverse cinema. Don't miss the annual "Warriors" screening.

Prospect Heights: See T.S. Eliot's acclaimed play, "Murder in the Cathedral," in, fittingly, a church.

DUMBO: The DUMBO Arts Festival takes over the neighborhood this weekend.

Fort Greene: Laurie Anderson allures in "Delusion" at BAM, the kick-off to the space's Next Wave Festival.

Saturday, Sept. 25

Williamsburg: Willifest takes over the neighborhood, with film, art and music, with free jams all day long at Washington Plaza.

Fort Greene: Explore the Brooklyn Navy Yard by bike.

Coney Island: Clean up the beach, and take in some dance, during the Artichoke Dance Troupe's "Human Mapping Project" performance.

Sunday, Sept. 26

Boerum Hill: The city's largest street festival takes over Atlantic Avenue once again, with music, food and general antics.

Brooklyn Heights: Take a pause from the Antic and explore the borough's largest stoop sale, ever!

Your house: Jonathan Ames much-loved Brooklyn-based TV show, "Bored to Death," returns for its second season tonight. Tune in to HBO or find a friend who has it!


Coney Island Film Festival is back

By Thomas Tracy

It’s time to get your celluloid freak on!

Celebrating a decade of proud impertinence, the Coney Island Film Festival promises to bring 90 unconventional flicks to the people’s playground beginning tonight — then flip everything on its head and honor Hollywood-entrenched Brooklyn-born auteur Darren Aronofsky.

Yes, it’s a contradiction, especially since Aronofsky may helm the big-budget “X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2” next year. But its still oddly in line with the gritty, “I don’t care what you think” pluck that’s defined the festival, and Coney Island, for so long.

“It’s amazing we’ve lasted 10 years this way,” marveled festival Director Rob Leddy. “We’ve never been as uptight or as snooty as some festivals. We’re more laid back and embrace the vibe of the whole neighborhood.”

As always, Coney Island’s famed and faded amusement area will be showcased. There are more than a dozen films dedicated to its unique beauty, history and controversial revitalization (or Disneyfication, according to some).

Offerings include documentaries “Last Summer in Coney Island,” about the neighborhood’s current transformation and “Last Night in Astroland with Jimmy Prince” which examines how the famed amusement park’s closure affected longtime patrons.

But it’s not going to be all fun and games … or non-fiction.

In what’s become a festival tradition, the violent cult classic “The Warriors” will be screened to a host of fans who will sport gang vests and scream out lines from the film.

Aronofsky’s dark drug abuse drama, “Requiem For A Dream,” which was filmed in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, will also be shown.

Afterwards, Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island, will name Aronofsky as the festival’s 2010 honoree for his “independent spirit” — even if it’s waned a bit.

“Hey, the guy went from a big Hollywood film like ‘The Fountain’ to the smaller Indie flick ‘The Wrestler,’ ” explained Leddy. “You’d be hard pressed to find any working director that can stay completely Indie these days.”

The Coney Island Film Festival at Sideshows by the Seashore [1208 Surf Avenue at West 12th Street in Coney Island (718) 372-5159], Sept. 24-26. For a list of films and show times, visit


That Marcia sure makes a mean pot roast

By Helen Klein

I’m a veggie gal, but my husband is a true meat-and-potatoes guy, whose idea of comfort food contains beef — and lots of it.

No surprise, then, that one of his favorite meals is pot roast.

Now, I’ve spent years avoiding the stuff. When I was a kid, my mother had to make me a separate dish (chicken fricassee, usually — look forward to that recipe in a future column) because I steadfastly refused to put even a single piece of pot roast in my mouth.

I had to rethink my objections, however, when my husband made it clear, years ago, that he wanted to be indulged, at least on occasion, and that he didn’t want any fancy Frenchified or Italianized stuff.

No, he wanted his mother’s pot roast, whose sauce comes from ketchup — one of my least favorite substances — long cooked until it really doesn’t resemble the glop in the bottle.

Marriage is all about compromise, right?

I certainly have compromised. I have streamlined my mother-in-law’s recipe, and clarified some of its instructions, but, basically, when the urge to eat pot roast comes upon him, I cook it just like mamma used to make it.

After hours of cooking, the meat is meltingly tender, and the sauce, studded with chunks of potato and carrot, is sweet and unctuous.

And, amazingly, I like it ... at least once in a while, though I can’t help wondering whether it would taste better with a cup or so of burgundy tipped in to spike the stewing mixture, or with some mushrooms added along with the potatoes and carrots, or with a couple of tablespoons of brandy to enrich it.

But, needless to say, I have never suggested any of my ideas. Nor have I tried them. I wouldn’t dare.
So, here, then, is Marcia’s Pot Roast, in all its meaty glory.

Serves 8

2 lbs. beef brisket
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 cup beef stock
2 Tbl. sweet Hungarian paprika, or more, to taste
1 cup ketchup, combined with stock and added water, if necessary, to cover meat mixture
4-6 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and chunked
1/2 lb. baby carrots
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In large nonstick pot (stockpot or sauté pan), brown brisket on both sides in its own fat, adding a little oil (or some cooking spray) as necessary.

Once meat is browned, add chopped vegetables, beef stock, paprika, ketchup and salt and pepper.

Cook, covered, over medium heat for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 1.5 hours, remove meat and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Return meat to pot and add chunked vegetables.
Cook at least another hour, covered, over medium heat, till meat is tender and infused with flavor.

Adjust salt and pepper, and serve.


It's kind of not really a funny story

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”
One and one half stars

By Gary Buiso

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a breezy look at teen angst that does for mental illness what “Birth of a Nation” did for race relations.

The film, written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson”), is based on a young adult novel by Park Slope-native Ned Vizzini — so a heavy-handed treatment of the plot might not exactly be appropriate.

But the story transcends pandering: the feather-light touch the material receives is downright anachronistic in its understanding and depiction of mental illness, resulting in a weird, unintentionally funny backdrop to the main plot — a trite presentation of a self-absorbed teen.

Keir Gilchrist plays suicidal Craig Gilner, a solidly middle class chap stressed out by the usual troubles of a youth of his standing: applying to an elite summer school program, girl troubles, and spaced out parents (played by Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan). 

Instead of jumping off a bridge, he checks himself into a psych ward, where he meets wacky patients such as clinically depressed Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), and a seemingly comatose Egyptian roommate who refuses to get out of bed — until he is stirred by the power of music!

Of course, there’s love to be found between the bedpans, inspiration mixed in with the monoamine oxidase inhibitors. 

Craig falls head over heels for fellow-patient Noelle (Emma Roberts), who seems perfectly well-adjusted, save for the light scratch on her forearm and cheek.

Performances are solid across the board, if periodically saccharine and lacking any chemistry. The writer/directors are happy to cut gravitas out of the equation, and instead are content to leave the audience to founder in the happy world of the psych ward, where dreams really do come true. 

In that sense, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is laughable.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language. 101 minutes. With Zach Galifianakis, Keir Gilchrist, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Emma Roberts, Zoë Kravitz and Jeremy Davies.

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