Press Articles 2017
The world-class cultural experience New Jerseyans don't even know they have!NEW JERSEY - 101.5
This place deserves attention, and it's not getting enough. So I'm about to change it. It's a Jewel in our own backyard called the NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch.
New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch is an award-winning, nonprofit professional theater company, which develops new works for the American Stage. And this is no sloppy community theatre for bored housewives. An amazing selection of World premieres and broadway tryouts happen here and it's just around the corner!
Ken Jaworowski of The New York Times wrote an article about the theatre, "The NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch is a godsend to audiences and, especially, playwrights — a skillful, professional ensemble dedicated solely to performing new works. It is nearly impossible to overpraise the importance importance of its mission at a time when play-it-safe productions are the norm."
And that's just it: It's important. Especially in times like these where arts programs generally get the shaft or get pushed aside to fund less creative endeavors. So how do you not know about it?
And now for the even better news: This is a moment that a lot of people in Monmouth County have waited for (And New Jerseyans who don't know about it are about to be pleasantly surprised.) Their highly anticipated West End Arts Center is open at 132 West End Avenue in Long Branch.
The 1920s structure was the old west end school and is slated for a huge expansion into a major cultural arts center. It's up and running with a newly announced array of classes for adults in acting, playwriting, visual arts, jewelry making, and tapestry weaving.
NJ Rep has assembled an exciting roster of instructors for the 6 to 8 week sessions that start April 4th, with classes geared to beginners as well as more advanced students. This is a another great improvement to the cultural landscape in NJ and (full disclosure here-this is my town!) an amazing shot in the arm to the West End Area of Long Branch.
We don't have enough places to explore our creativity here in New Jersey and this one is going to be huge.
Call 732-229-3166 for further information or visit www.njrep.org. (Early registration is encouraged for all classes are designed with limited enrollment.) Classes: Improvisation, Actors Gymnasium, Acting Basics, Playwriting for Beginners, Advanced Playwriting, The Pleasure of Drawing: Learning to See and Draw as an Artist, Water Media & Collage, Metal Clay Jewelry Workshop, and Tapestry Weaving.
I'm looking forward to hearing more about what's going on at the "New" NJ Rep and will keep you posted!
By Patrick Maley | For NJ Advance Media
Take two couples, each beset by a large dose of anxiety and tension, add copious alcohol, and watch as destruction looms.
Edward Albee concocted the recipe for this theatrical cocktail with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," but James Hindman's world-premiere play, "Multiple Family Dwelling," now playing at New Jersey Repertory Company, does the form good service. This is a smart, compelling play that should have a long life after this production.
Kelly (Maria Couch) and husband James (Dustin Charles) own a house with an attached apartment that they plan to rent to Kelly's longtime best friend, Tia (Dana Brooke), and her new finance, Stuart (Jared Michael Delaney). Kelly and James need the money, while Tia and Stuart need a place to live: win-win! The play opens on a drunken evening (the late-night adult afterparty following Kelly and James's eight-year-old daughter's birthday) that turns abruptly from revelry and comradery to tenuous strife as revelations from the past leech out into the open.
The rest of the play takes its cue from this party gone awry, as each character learns more surprising details about the others --and perhaps about themselves.
The production finds its strength in the development of these characters by Hindman and the cast. Rather than just repositories of jealousy or anxiety, each of the four figures reveals unique depth. Under the steady hand of director Alan Souza, each performer locates the fears driving his or her character.
Delaney is a particular standout, not only because of his strong performance, but also for the range he shows from his last appearance at NJ Rep. In "Mad Love" he was funny as a joke-cracking, dirty-sweats-wearing, beer-and-nacho kind of guy with surprising complexity. Here that complexity comes along with real danger. Stuart is the new guy in the group, so nobody truly understands him or his capabilities. Delaney makes it clear that Stuart's demons are neither to be silenced nor underestimated.
Delaney's fellow cast members also excel: Brooke's Tia has a long history of being a mess, and clearly frets over the fact that she just can't seem to stop digging herself deeper. Kelly seems to hold herself together longest, but Couch makes clear that her composure may not be as solid as appears.
In James, a character who seems to have life figured out pretty well, Charles finds room to explore a wealth of conflicts. Throughout, director Souza's guidance seems important and insightful, as he and each cast member must find the correct pace of each character's developing struggle.
All this plays out on Jessica Parks's set that makes creative and effective use of NJ Rep's small space, while also striking just the right level of comfort: the house is nice, but these people are struggling to make ends meet, so it's not too nice.
In a taught and tense 100 minutes, the play is impressive in its ability to craft compelling characters in pitiable situations. This crew might not be as fractured and haunted as Albee's George and Martha, but "Multiple Family Dwelling" does fine work in following its great predecessors lead into the depths of fraught psyches.
BWW Review: MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING at NJ Rep is Intriguing Drama
"People see what they want to see."
The World Premiere of Multiple Family Dwelling is now onstage at New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) through April 9th. This intriguing, affecting play is written by James Hindman with superb direction by Alan Souza, and features a stellar cast. It is an up-close and personal depiction of two couples and the twists and turns of their relationships. Bravo to NJ Rep's Executive Producer, Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas for bringing another excellent show to the stage. The theater is celebrating its 20th Anniversary season and Multiple Family Dwelling is their 112th production.
Multiple Family Dwelling is set in the present in Mt. Clement, Michigan where James, a schoolteacher and his wife Kelly, a stay at home mom, reside in a two-family home in a difficult neighborhood with their 8 year-old daughter, Olivia. They plan to rent their upstairs unit to Kelly's longtime friend, Tia and her fiancé, Stuart, but the couple unexpectedly pulls out of the deal. This seemingly friendly group is dealing with real issues. Tia's flirtatious behavior provokes Stuart's jealousy and anger. Kelly is unhappy living in a dangerous area and wants better schooling for her daughter while James defends their purchase of the multi-family house as a long-term investment. Tensions rise and the situation becomes complex as secrets from the past emerge and betrayal takes center stage. The show has elements of surprise that will keep you wondering what will happen next.
NJ Rep has assembled the ideal cast for Multiple Family Dwelling. They master the play's fast-paced, well-crafted dialogue and deliver completely authentic portrayals of their characters. The company includes Dana Brooke as Tia, Jared Michael Delaney as Stuart, Maria Couch as Kelly, and Dustin Charles as James.
The Creative Team has done a fantastic job of bringing Multiple Family Dwelling to life on the Long Branch Stage. The Team includes scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty; sound design by Merek Royce Press and properties by Marisa Procopio. Kristin Pfeifer is the Production Stage Manager; Adam von Pier is the Assistant Stage Manager and the Webmaster is Merek Royce Press.
See Multiple Family Dwelling while it is being performed at NJ Rep and experience this outstanding drama. This is a show that will go far.
REVIEW: Multiple Family Dwelling: It's a Bed Of Lies
NJ Stage, by Gary Wien
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) — Multiple Family Dwelling by James Hindman takes place in the present day in Mt. Clemens, Michigan - a rather downtrodden neighborhood where Kelly and James own a house they live in and rent upstairs. They have just gotten rid of their current tenant and plan on having their friend Tia move in with her fiance Stuart. It's the latest World Premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company and one that examines which is worse: telling a lie or living with one.
Directed by Alan Souza, the play stars Maria Couch (as Kelly), Dustin Charles (James), Dana Brooke (Tia), and Jared Michael Delaney (Stuart).
The play begins long after a birthday party for Kelly and James' daughter has ended, and the two couples remain drinking and playing games. Tia and Stuart are excited to be moving in upstairs and Kelly is happy her best friend will be living in the same house. The couples begin removing the Disney party favors and cleaning up while the booze flows.
"There is nothing more fun than getting drunk at an 8 year-old's birthday party!" exclaims Tia who rapidly runs through her hopes of getting pregnant and having a daughter just like Kelly's.
It's a roller coaster opening as the inebriated adults talk about their hopes and dreams and dig into their fears. The conversations range from light-hearted to disturbingly serious. At one point James reveals the nightmares he has of seeing his daughter on top of a very large building - something like the Empire State Building - and watching her fall, unable to catch her.
Things take a strange turn when Tia and Kelly start reminiscing about a boy everyone liked in high school. The name sounds familiar to Stuart and he is certain it's the name of someone who called the other day. As his jealousy moves to the forefront, we learn that his first wife cheated on him and that he has severe anger management issues. James comes to Tia's rescue by saying that he was the one who called. He merely disguised his voice and gave a false name because he was getting a golf club for Tia to give Stuart as a wedding gift. She explained that they were soon going to get many wedding presents mostly for the wife, so she wanted to make sure he had something nice too.
Stuart doesn't buy the story at all. When he and Tia abruptly leave, James and Kelly are in shock. Part of them wonders if they still have new tenants moving in; part of them hopes they don't.
The ride home is about as tense and scary as one could imagine. Tia tries to talk to Stuart, but he remains stone-faced and doesn't say a word.
"Couples are going to fight Stuart," she says. "If you don't fight, you end up on Dr. Phil."
Stuart brings the car to a sudden stop on the side of the road and begins forcing himself on her.
In my opinion, this would have been a great place to end Act One, but as with many plays these days, Multiple Family Dwelling is one long act (90 minutes) without intermission. It's a shame because a pause at this point would have peaked the audience's curiosity over what was going to happen to the two couples. Instead, we quickly move to the next day when Tia tells Kelly that they won't be moving in after all. They're moving into an apartment over Stuart's parents' garage. And before we know it, we're at that apartment for a barbecue where all hell breaks loose aided once again by large amounts of alcohol.
The play is like a modern day version of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. It's a difficult play to love because none of the characters are worth rooting for and the subject matter is very disturbing. It's also a difficult play to pan because the playwright does a good job of diving into the choices we make, the actions we think are best kept secret, and the lies people tell. The actual plot could seem like a soap opera, but the play never feels like one. While some scenes have dialogue that feels a bit forced, others sounds spot on. As with most World Premieres, there are places that can be touched up to make the play better. The potential is there.
Leaving the theatre, I wondered what was it that made Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf such a classic. None of the characters in that play are innocent. In both plays, you're simply a fly on the wall, watching four people tear their worlds apart. Maybe Virginia Woolf shocked people because television at that time did not have daytime shows like Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil where we see deep, dark secrets exposed, destroying couples every week. If you're a fan of that drama, this play will definitely entertain you. If not, it will pose some serious questions and it might make you feel a little better about your relationship. It's not a feel good kind of play, but it's a "at least my life isn't as screwed up as their lives" kind. Many people believe theatre is supposed to be dangerous, raise disturbing questions, and make the audience a bit uncomfortable. This play certainly does that.
"When the lights go up on MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING, James Hindman's new play at New Jersey Rep, the audience is plunged full-swing into party mode. Don't let the "Little Mermaid" party favors fool you. The eight-year old celebrant has long toddled off(stage) to bed leaving the grown-ups to enjoy each other's company – along with a liberal supply of adult beverages. It's all great fun – until someone's gaze strays in the wrong direction and what was once festive turns fierce - and fast. From then on, we're witness to a four person game of truth or dare, where truth seems in short supply.
The audience fights the urge to reach for their car keys due to director Alan Souza's brilliant cast; an attractive, witty, foursome of thirty-somethings. Even on opening night this tight ensemble was firing on all cylinders. Dustin Charles (James) and Maria Couch (Kelly) are the married MFD's landlords and Jared Michael Delaney (Stuart) and Dana Brooke (Tia) are their engaged besties and possible tenants. Charles and Couch do a terrific job of embodying a settled couple with a hint of discontent beneath the surface. Delaney and Brooke have genuine chemistry, the sort that impulsively puts physical attraction ahead of common sense. Brooke has the play's toughest agenda: balancing her character's tipsy party girl presence while sensitively alluding to (and avoiding) her troubled past. Fascinatingly, Brooke makes it all work.
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING really covers no new ground in the age-old mating game, but Hindman and Souza do it in a consistently engaging way. Let's face it, if people were honest with each other from the start, there'd be no play, so we need to explore the highways and by-ways of cat-and-mouse deception in a way that sheds some light on human nature. Hindman does so in a direct, realistic way that also proves thought-provoking.
In his narrative of twisted home truths, the playwright has incorporated a subplot about gentrification; how troubled neighborhoods are reborn to profit the rich and drive out the poor. Like the persistent pet smell from the apartment upstairs or the closeted gay neighbor next door, it is a minor distraction in the 90-minute character study's narrative flow.
As a teen, I wore out my cast album of the Broadway musical ON THE 20th CENTURY. One song lyric goes "All those windows! All those people! All those lives!" For some inexplicable reason I initially heard the word "lies" instead of "lives." Long after I learned that my ears had deceived me, I still had trouble accepting the true lyric. That pretty much sums up a visit to this MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING: windows – people - lies. And once you hear a lie, it's often difficult to trust the truth.
Michael T. Mooney
The LINK News
Theater Review: Multiple Family Dwelling a multi-leveled joyBy Madeline Schulman
Multiple Family Dwelling, the new play by James Hindman now playing at NJ Rep, is a compelling play that teaches us multiple life lessons. First, celebrating an 8 year old's birthday party by getting drunk is inappropriate.
Kelly (Maria Couch), her husband James (Dustin Charles), her childhood friend Tia (Dana Brooke) and Tia's fiance Stuart (James Michael Delaney) are all very merry three hours after the end of Kelly and James's daughter Olivia's party. Everyone is happy because Tia and Stuart have rented the upstairs apartment of the house into which Kelly and James have poured their entire savings.
Tia and Stuart will live above friends and Kelly and James will get money to take Olivia out of the sub par local public school and enroll her in Catholic school. The happiness does not last long.
Too much merriment loosens Tia's tongue and inhibitions. She terrifies James with a recitation of all the horrors that can befall a child, causing him to relive nightmares of being unable to save Olivia from a fall.
After Tia taunts Kelly for her "chicken legs," Kelly brings up Tia's teenage romance with a boy named David Shaw, leading to unexpected drama. Jealous, hot-tempered Stuart recently took a phone call for Tia from a "David Shaw". Is it the same person, trying to get back into Tia's life, and worse, into her bed?
James tries to help with the world's most awkward lie, claiming that he was "David Shaw," disguising his voice and giving a phony name to conceal Tia's surprise gift of a golf club. This solves nothing, and teaches a second life lesson. Smelly messes are hard to cover up.
Later, Tia complains, after Kelly tries to clean up the previous tenant's pet odors with a pine scented cleaner, that now the apartment smells as though a dog urinated in a forest and was then hit by a tree. James's lie helps in the same degree.
Unsurprisingly, the night ends badly, and the next few days are no better. Lesson three is that once we start pulling up (metaphorical) floorboards, we might not like what we find. Quarrels in the present lead to secrets from the past, which threaten both the friendship between the two couples and the bonds within the couples.
The acting is uniformly excellent, but to me Dana Brooke has the most chance to make an impression as sad, sexy Tia, unreliable narrator of her own story. Tia reminds me of Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," always turning to men, with a hint of desperation, for love and validation. And James Michael Delaney makes opening a bag of pretzels seem like a declaration of war.
The set by Jessica Parks holds one nifty surprise. The play's revelations also hold surprises, some easier to foretell than others, and you will be waiting with anticipation for the next layer of lies to peel away to the truth below.
BWW Interview: Playwright James Hindman of MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING at NJ Rep
The World Premiere of Multiple Family Dwelling will be produced by New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) from March 9th to April 9th. Written by James Hindman, and directed by Alan Souza, it stars Dana Brooke, Dustin Charles, Maria Couch and Jared Michael Delaney.
In Multiple Family Dwelling, secrets from long ago that are best left buried are revealed when Kelly's friend from childhood rent the upstairs apartment that is owned by she and her husband. The two couples find themselves entangled in multiple deceits and betrayals, past and present and no one is truly innocent.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing playwright James Hindman about his career and Multiple Family Dwelling at NJ Rep.
Hindman's writing credits include POPCORN FALLS (Theatre Nova) Off Broadway; PETE 'N' KEELY (Outer Critics Award nomination, two Drama Desk nominations, Pub. Samuel French); A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE (Pub. Samuel French); THE AUDIENCE (Transport Group, Drama Desk nomination); BEING AUDREY (Transport Group, NEA Grant recipient) and THE GORGES MOTEL (NYFringe Festival 2016, Pub. Dramatist Play Service), THE Drama Department (Terrence McNally Award finalist, Pub. DPC), THE BIKINIS! (Goodspeed Musicals, Meadowbrook Theatre), HEAVEN HELP US (Denver Center, Carbonell Award nomination). He is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America. As an actor his credits include B'way and tours: MARY POPPINS, The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1776, City of Angels, A Grand Night for Singing, Once Upon a Mattress, Falsettos, Dancing at Lughnasa. In television and film Hindman has had recurring roles on "Public Morals", "Madam Secretary", "Forever", "Believe", "Person of Interest", "Hostages", "House Of Cards", "Unforgettable", "Henry's Crime", "The Sopranos", "Law and Order, SVU, CI", "Rescue Me", "The Blacklist" and the upcoming "Iron Fist".
Broadwayword.com interviewed James Hindman about his fascinating career and Multiple Family Dwelling at NJ Rep.
When did you first realize your penchant for writing and acting?
I actually got into theatre by accident. I was fifteen. I missed the bus home from high school and a friend said she would give me a ride if I would help her paint the set for a play. While I was covering a plywood gravestone with gray paint, the drama teacher asked if I wanted to be a toy soldier in The Nutcracker. That's all it took. The next summer I was Don Quixote in the community theatre production of Man Of La Mancha and I haven't stopped working since! As I writer, the first show I wrote was called PETE 'N' KEELY. I wrote it as a showcase for myself and my friend, Ann Brown. Ann and I never ended up doing the show, but a couple years later it moved Off Broadway with costumes by Bob Mackie and got some great reviews. Now PETE 'N' KEELY gets done around the country and will soon be opening in London!
Do you have a favorite playwright/author that has inspired you?
This is so funny, I was just wondering that myself...who inspires me. The answer I came up with...I am inspired every time I see a good play! There is nothing better than sitting back and watching a good story. So, I guess the answer is...I am inspired by everyone!
What advice do you have for young people who are interested in the theatre arts?
Do well in school!!! So many students say, 'I don't care about history...or chemistry... I want to be an actor!' I'm here to tell you, you use ALL that knowledge when you enter the theatre! You need to know a little bit about everything so study hard! I've never met a successful actor who is not smart! Another huge lesson... be yourself. That's a hard one when we are so programed to fit in. But that is what is going to make you interesting on stage - the more you can be your own person.
How does being both an actor and a playwright compliment your work?
When I act, I try to think 'What was the writer going for? What is the tempo they wanted? How does this character fit in the larger picture?' If I can figure that out, it helps with the choices I make as an actor. When I write, I'm just letting the characters act in my head. They improv in my imagination and I write down what they say. Being an actor helps me write because I've learned what will make people laugh or how long a character needs to be off stage in order to change their costume. All sorts of stuff.
What was your inspiration for Multiple Family Dwelling?
The play takes place in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, a town I grew up in that is very much like Asbury Park, NJ. I have a house in Bradley Beach and have watched Asbury Park transform over the last fifteen years the same way Mt. Clemens did a few years earlier. I am fascinated by the gentrification of an area and how that affects the people who live there. Good and bad. That is the backdrop for the play. For the plot itself, the play is about the lies we tell ourselves and each other in order to move forward in life. Do we ever really tell the whole truth? Do we always really want to know the entire truth? We can only take in as much truth as we think we can handle.
Tell us a little about working with NJ Rep.
Working with NJ Rep has been an amazing experience. What SuzAnne and Gabe do is nothing short of astonishing. There are so few theatres interested in doing new plays....and that's all NJ Rep does! I don't think there is another theatre like them in the country. And because they've worked on so many plays, they really have a great instinct about what works. Their input has been tremendously helpful. Alan Souza, the director has worked there a lot and he has been a godsend!
Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW readers to know.
The first show I had produced in the Long Branch area was called THE BIKINIS and was produced in Asbury Park at the old carousel building on the beach. That show has gone on to have many productions around the country and we hope to bring it back this summer!
I also have two other shows in the works. I'm excited to say LOVELAND SKI LODGE will have a reading at New Jersey Rep on Monday, March 13th. I'm really excited about this one because we've never heard it before and I think the audience will really enjoy the comedy. The other play, POPCORN FALLS, I wrote with my friend Christian Borle, just had a production in Ann Arbor, Michigan and will have a reading in New York this June.
For more information on James Hindman and Miracle or 2 Theatrical Licensing visit www.miracleor2.com.
'DWELLING' ON THE PAST, AT NEW JERSEY REPUpper WET Side - March 10, 2016
It's a play that's ostensibly set in its author's hometown of Mount Clemens, Michigan — but as James Hindman tells it, "Multiple Family Dwelling" was directly inspired by frontier tales of gentrification here on the Jersey Shore, specifically his own experiences house hunting in and around Asbury Park around the turn of the century.
"I was standing out front of an old house in Asbury, and just as the real estate agent was putting her key in the front door, a team of police in full militarized riot gear pulled up to the house next door, and surrounded the place with assault rifles," the playwright recalls. "Without missing a beat, the realtor says, 'See? The neighborhood's cleaning up nicely!'"
While he eventually settled upon Bradley Beach as his down-the-shore base of operations, Hindman would make Asbury Park's landmark Carousel House the 2010 premiere venue for "The Bikinis," a jukebox-musical study of a (not always harmoniously) reunited 1960s girl group that's gone on to more than 50 productions around the country. For his return to the Shore area stage, the writer and actor whose credits range from Broadway's "Mary Poppins," to a recurring role on Marvel Studios' forthcoming Netflix series "Iron Fist" expanded a ten-minute playlet into the full length "Dwelling," which opens this weekend as the latest in a long line of world premieres at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.
The comedy-laced drama details the events that unfold when young parents and first-time homeowners Kelly and James invite Kelly's old friend and her fiancee Stuart to rent the second floor of the somewhat old house they've purchased as a hopeful investment in what could only be characterized as "a neighborhood that's not changing as fast as the characters would like." What seems like a good idea at first begins to unravel during the child's party, when "a little white lie finds its way out, and opens up the floodgates of all sorts of long-buried secrets from their past history."
If anything, Hindman points out that "Multiple Family Dwelling" is situated in the landscape of lies — both the little fibs that get us comfortably through the day, and the colossal constructs that make life itself a bearable thing. With the very nature of truth, trust and facts an uncommonly newsworthy topic of discussion these days, the playwright found in his short work — one that originally ended on an unsettlingly vague note — the makings of a meditation on "the kind of lies we live with."
"When does 'harmless' end, and 'hurtful' begin?" muses Hindman. "Does the truth kill us, or help us? At some point all of us have to figure out where the truth resides…or else your head will blow up!"
Bringing the script to life are a pair of NJ Repertory returnees, Maria Couch (the Dorothy Parker musicalization "The Little Hours") and Jared Michael Delaney (the recent "Mad Love"). They're joined in the cast by Dana Brooks and Dustin Charles (both of whom have worked with Hindman on past projects) under the direction of another Rep veteran, Alan Souza, for the project that first came to the Long Branch playhouse as a staged reading in 2014.
"Working with these people is just phenomenal," says Hindman of his experience with the Repertory team. "Their input, the care they take with the plays they produce, is invaluable…I mean, how special is this place?"
"The Jaguar has a logic all its own."
NJ Rep is currently presenting the World Premiere of The Jag written by Gino Dilorio and directed by Brendan Burke. The show has a captivating plot with excellent acting and the superb staging. This must-see production will be on the Long Branch stage through February 12th.
In The Jag "Chick" Chicarella is a cantankerous seventy year-old man who owns a body shop where he keeps his prized 1967 Jaguar Mark 10, a car that requires a lot of repair. Chick's son, "Bone" is in need of cash to pay off his debts and wants to fix up the automobile to sell it for $20,000.00. Enter Carla, an expert in Jaguars, but a young woman who lacks conventional social skills. A complex family history and deep resentments surface as the two men can't agree on anything. And it is Carla who is caught in the crosshairs of their conflicts while she makes it her mission to restore the Jaguar. This drama has just the right touches of humor and heart and takes some unexpected twists and turns as the story unfolds.
The finely crafted dialogue in The Jag is delivered with impeccable timing by the show's talented cast. Dan Grimaldi as Leo "Chick" Chicarella captures the role of the irritable, elderly mechanic who also must deal with his failing eyesight, personal prejudices and frustration with his son. Christopher Daftsios is ideal as the discontented, restless young man Donald "Bone" Chicarella who can't seem to get his life in order. Estelle Bajou brings the role of Carla Carr to life, a quirky young woman with sincere charm.
Bravo to the Creative and Production Team. The NJ Rep stage has been transformed into an authentic body shop complete with the Jaguar Mark 10 taking center stage. The team includes scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; costume design by Patricia E. Doherty and sound design by Merek Royce Press. Rose Riccardi is the Stage Manager; Adam von Pier is the Assistant Stage Manager; Brian P. Snyder is the Technical Director; Merek Royce Press is the Webmaster and Marisa Procopio handles Properties. Gabor Barabas is NJ Rep's Executive Producer and Suzanne Barabas is the Company's Artistic Director.
The Jag is everything a play should be. It has a rich plot that entertains, yet informs. It is a show that will be appreciated by automotive enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys great theater. Gather your group and see it while it is on the NJ Rep Stage.
'The Jag' Gives Audiences a Good Ride
A car can play a very important role in a family's life. It can be the vehicle that takes them places such as their daily work and errands or it can represent their opportunities to go to new places such as a family vacation. In a new play titled The Jag, a white 1967 Jaguar sedan is such a vehicle. However, what is represents to the Chicarella family is much more than transportation. This play that premiered at the New Jersey Repertory Company last weekend tells the story of the family's hidden past and present struggles with each other. It uses a car as its focus to unravel the secrets held for years. The Jag has a well written script filled with great dialog, acting by a fine cast, and a real life, full-sized Jaguar on the stage to add lots of atmosphere to an old garage in which it is parked.
The Jag was written by Gino Dilario. Mr. Dilario is an award-winning playwright whose body of work includes several plays that were premiered at the NJ Rep including Release Point, Apostasy, Winterizing the Summer House and Dead Ringer. His plays have also been seen at numerous locations throughout the U.S. In March, 2017, his new play, Sam and Dede, will have its New York premiere at the 59 East 59 Theatre. Mr. Dilario's play The Jag skillfully develops its story through a step-by- step revelation of who the story's characters truly are. The dialog between the three characters is crisp and quick flowing as it brings out who these people really are. From my viewpoint, the character I liked in the beginning of the story was not the one I ended up caring up about at the end and the one I didn't like in the beginning became the winner in the end. That's how carefully the development is in this script. For those who like to watch personality evolution on stage, this play is for you.
The Jag is directed by Brendan Burke and stars Dan Grimaldi, known to many as the identical twin mobsters Patsy and Philly Parisi of The Sopranos, Christopher Daftsios and Estelle Bajou. The script is in fine hands with this cast acting jout the roles of Leo "Chick" Chicarella (Grimaldi), Donald "Bone" Chicarella ( Daftsios), and Carla Carr (Bajou).
Grimaldi plays Chick hard-nosed to open the play as he talks with his son, Donald, about the family car in need of repairs. The Jaguar has been sitting around Chick's garage needing refurbishing for years. The garage was the business Chick ran but can no longer do because he is nearly blind. But we learn later in the play that the car belonged to Chick's other son who is dead. Daftsios plays his part as Donald very firmly in the beginning trying to aid his father to try to get the car into good enough shape to sell. Chick can't seem to let go of the car and Donald desperately wants to see it leave the garage. A third character, Carla, enters as someone who gets hired by Donald to complete the repairs needed so he can make good on a fine offer he has from someone who wants to buy the car. Carla's character is the tipping point of the play. Bajou play Carla in a most delightful way as someone who is a bit naïve about life, but who knows everything there is to know about Jaguars. Her repair and refurbish skills are legendary and she comes through for the Chicarella family's Jaguar. All is going well until the car's refurbishing is nearly complete. And then, stories unravel, and all three characters need to decide how involved they can stay in this project. The end is a bit of a surprise, one that theater goers will have to decide whether they like or not because it represents a strong dose of reality that could likely occur with the dysfunctions of such a family.
The other "star" of this show is the Jaguar itself that is fully intact at all times on the stage. It is a beautiful car to see and in many ways, it just doesn't seem to fit in the setting it is in. Maybe that's a clue to those coming to see this play. The ill fit of the car will give you clues as to what the outcome is. The Jag is well worth coming to see.
REVIEW: The Jag at NJ Rep
NJ Stage, by Gary Wien
The Jag is the latest play by Gino DiIorio to make its debut at NJ Rep. It involves an aging mechanic named "Chick" Chicarella who is nearly blind from macular degeneration, his son Donald (known as "Bone"), and a female mechanic named Carla.
Chick was an excellent mechanic in his day. Bone never had the skills, the patience, or the artistry of his father or his brother Dave - known as "Head" (put together the kids are called Bone Head). The play opens with the two of them inside the car and his father criticizing his son's work at restoring the Jag. He knows his son takes short cuts, which he doesn't believe in. Exiting the car, Chick grabs a beer and some brandy — something he does quite often. Bone tells him he's an alcoholic.
"I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk," replies Chick. "Alcoholics go to meetings."
When Bone first told him he was moving in to help fix up the Jag, his father knew something was wrong. Bone has been something of a screw-up his whole life, often facing huge gambling debts. He tells Chick he has found a buyer for the Jag (a guy named Jake The Snake) and his father instantly knows that Bone must be in deep once again.
Chick isn't interested in selling the car until he hears that Jake is willing to pay twenty grand for the car if they get it to mint condition and the car can run. He tells his son that he needs to hire someone to fix up the car because he cannot do it anymore.
Enter Carla. She is a top notch Jaguar mechanic who comes highly recommended, but is a cross between a kid with ADD kid and someone bi-polar who has Tourettes's. She's also a lesbian - something that is a bit foreign to Chick's world.
"I didn't save this car for years so some fruit cake could come in and mess it up… Hey Sybil," says Chick.
He gives her a test to see how much she knows about Jaguar cars. She not only passes the test, but impresses Chick. As he watches her work, he soon realizes she knows much more than Bone and reminds him of his other son.
"Geez, you're good," says Chick. "Almost better than me and I am the best… was the best."
Dan Grimaldi is excellent as Chick. He's like Archie Bunker as a blind mechanic and utterly comfortable in his own skin. He says whatever he feels and has no filter at all. There is nice chemistry between Dan and Estelle Bajou who is hilarious as Carla. At times, Estelle reminded me of a young Goldie Hawn circa the Laugh-In era. Chick uses a myriad of expressions, which Carla doesn't understand, but the two quickly establish a friendship out of their mutual respect and love for cars. They joke about her being a lesbian and he teaches her how to dance the jitterbug, but she never gets the hang of how to make coffee.
Christopher Dafstios is very strong in a challenging role. He is off stage for a lot of the play, but has several intense and emotional scenes. Christopher has to play the bad guy and the person riding an emotional roller coaster, and he pulls it off extremely well. Through his character, we learn that the Jag was originally intended to be a birthday present for his brother — the son who was the father's favorite, but who died young. He has lived his life basically in his brother's shadow and has to relive those feelings while watching Chick and Carla work together like his brother and father once did.
"That girl's a few fries short of a happy meal, but she knows her cars," says Chick.
As the car is restored more and more, Chick has less and less interest in selling it. He never truly wanted to sell it in the first place, but the offer of twenty grand sounded good. Meanwhile, Bone sets a deadline for the project. He wants the car sold and needs his share of the money. Bone refuses to tell his father why he is in such a rush, but Chick knows it has to be a gambling debt.
"You're so full of shit, your eyes are brown," he tells his son.
Over the years, the car became more than just a member of the family — it was a stand-in for a member of the family. One of the most difficult aspects of staging this play is the necessity of having the car on stage. It is an enormous challenge getting the vehicle through the doors of most theatres, but the play absolutely needs the car. I'm not saying it steals the show, but it definitely earns its curtain call.
The Jag is highly recommended. It is a touching story with plenty of laughs and truly wonderful acting and Brendan Burke's direction keeps everything moving at a great pace. Performed without an intermission, the entire play takes place in a beautifully designed set by Jessica Parks, who has turned NJ Rep's stage into an actual garage complete with everything from tools to hockey sticks and ice melt.
The Jag is running at New Jersey Repertory Company (179 Broadway) in Long Branch now through February 12.
PHOTOS BY SUZANNE BARABAS
The Two River Times: THE JAGUAR JALOPY: NJ REP LATEST PRODUCTION
Scene on Stage, by Mary Ann Bourbeau
January 5, 2017
LONG BRANCH – When Gino DiIorio was growing up, his father, who worked as an auto body repairman, had a 1966 Jaguar sedan in the garage that he was forever working on.
"We used to joke about that thing, like it was a member of our family," DiIorio said. "It was in the garage for 35 years. Whenever my father had a heart attack, he would say, 'I can't die. I've got to finish the Jaguar.'"
DiIorio, a professor of theater at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., has had several of his original works produced at NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch, including "Release Point," "Apostasy" and "Dead Ringer."
His latest, "The Jag," runs from Jan. 12 to Feb. 12. The story is about – you guessed it – a family with an old Jaguar in the garage that is in desperate need of repair.
"The play is about how an object can become a member of the family," DiIorio said. "Sometimes we have to let it go, like a family member."
DiIorio received an arts grant that allowed him to purchase an old Jaguar, which had to be dismantled in order to get it into the theater, then reassembled on the stage.
"I always knew when I did this show that I would put a car in the theater, but I didn't believe it until I saw it," he said. "I could have done the play without it, but not as well."
In the show, the Jaguar is the prized possession of 70-year-old "Chick" Chicarella. When his son, "Bone," suggests that they finish the car and sell it off, old family wounds and failures rise to the surface. Unable to complete the task by themselves, they hire Carla, who is an expert in Jaguars, but woefully lacking in social skills. Together, the three learn some hard lessons about repairing cars and smoothing out life's jagged edges.
All three main actors are seasoned performers. Chick is played by Dan Grimaldi, who portrayed identical twin mobsters Patsy and Philly Parisi on HBO's "The Sopranos." His son Bone is Christopher Daftsios, who has an impressive body of work in regional theater, including NJ Rep. Estelle Bajou plays the role of Carla, a Jag expert with Asperger's syndrome. Bajou appeared in the musical "Once" on Broadway.
"There's a really good chemistry between the three actors," said DiIorio.
As the curmudgeonly father, Grimaldi's relationship with his stage son is often challenged. When Carla comes to help with the car, they are forced to understand someone else's point of view, someone who sees life in a different way that they do.
"It's a family drama but it's unique," said DiIorio. "The family is a little dysfunctional and eccentric. It's very funny. It has a lot of laughs. And who knows, you might even see your own family up there."
No matter what childhood memories might emerge from this play, DiIorio admits he does not own or have any intention of ever owning a Jaguar.
"When my father finally sold his after 35 years, it still needed work," he said. "They're very touchy cars. Some don't run when it rains. The joke about Jaguars is that you need one to run and one to keep in the repair shop. I would love one but I don't dare. I need a car to be reliable. I have model Jags instead."
Front Row Center
Some objects have lives of their own. Some have the power to take hold of our lives. For Americans, no object has taken greater hold than the automobile, especially cars distinct enough to have the personality of the Jaguar.
So begins our story on a set magically transformed into a garage. In this garage, stands before us a full size, real Jaguar, stubbornly immobile, while the actors move in and out and all around it, preparing it for a sale that will take it out of their lives which may or may not happen. In the process, a family history unfolds, revealing secrets.
"Chick" Chicarella (Dan Grimaldi) had two sons, but now he only has one. To our ears, he doesn't think much of "Bone" (Christopher Daftsios) — the son he still has. Nor does he think much at first of the mechanic his son has hired, "an expert in Jaguars," to help with the task of readying the car; for starters, Carla (Estelle Bajou) is, well, a girl.
Carla is a special girl. Her body language clearly sets her apart as socially awkward, mildly Asperger-like with the extreme attention to detail in a narrow focus that syndrome brings. Her focus is the Jaguar. She admits she doesn't even know anything about any other type of car. But she knows everything about the Jaguar. Bajou keeps her character completely consistent throughout. She also makes her appealing. In Bajou's hands, despite the character's lack of social skills, she becomes the center and the heart of the play.
We feel that Chick, in his seventies, senses Carla's attractiveness. He has no choice but to sense it. He's blind. This is the second time Dan Grimaldi has played a blind man on the NJ Repertory stage, although in "Lucky Me" we were never sure if his character was actually blind or faking blindness, which makes his blindness performance even more impressive. After "The Jag" he shared this with me: "Yeah, I'm the resident blind guy."
Grimaldi's performance is passionate and completely believable in every way. The best compliment you can give any actor is that in what you just experienced you forgot you were watching acting. This observation extends to the entire cast and to Gino DiLorio's script which makes the conflict feel so real.
This is the third time I have seen Daftsios on the NJ Rep stage. First in the inimitable "Swimming at the Ritz" as Pamela Harriman's Italian valet and confidant, and then as the husband in "Substance of Bliss." In the latter and in "The Jag" he excels at giving us a character who is the harbinger of an uncomfortable truth, guiding everything he does and says.
Chick is blind to this truth. He develops affection for Carla as she does for him. She has the qualities he values in the idealized vision of his favorite son – expertise and hard work – and he inches her out of her shell. Truth may be elusive, but it is sensed, yet to have real impact it has to be spoken aloud, a task which falls to the other brother, second in every way, except this one.
The Jag itself, is of course, the main character. It takes on the shape of whatever car occupies that place in your mind. Give this show a spin. It's a great ride.
The LINK News
Theater Review: Incredible actors, equally incredible set make The Jag a thrill rideBy Madeline Schulman
Did W.C. Fields say, "Never work with children or animals," or should the quote be marked with an asterisk as apocryphal? In either case, we can add "or vintage cars," because as talented as the three excellent actors in Gino Dilorio's Jag are, they are constantly upstaged by the beautiful Jaguar which gives the play its title.
The car is the centerpiece of set designer Jessica Park's meticulously recreated garage, and is the physical and emotional bond holding the three characters together.
Leo "Chick" Chicarelli (Don Grimaldi) suffers from macular degeneration, and cannot see to restore the Jaguar. His son, Donald "Bone" Chicarelli (Christopher Daftsios), is an out of work, failed gambler, living under the shadow of his dead brother David, Chick's openly acknowledged favorite. Chick and Bone are at odds over the fate of the Jaguar. Bone wants to sell it. He has a buyer who will pay $20,000 for the car if it is in mint condition and drivable by his deadline. Chick wants to keep the car, because tangible reminders of the past are hard to let go of.
Chick cannot restore the car, and he does not trust Bone, so enter Carla Carr (Estelle Bajou), an intriguing bundle of quirks. Carla is a lesbian who falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. She takes everything literally. Again and again, Chick has to explain that a metaphor or simile is a "figure of expression." She doesn't understand how to hold a conversation, answering a request for what she would like for lunch with a long dissertation on microwaving frozen pizza. With all her idiosyncrasies, this "fruitcake" is a genius of Jaguar, with an encyclopedic knowledge and an intuitive understanding of what the car needs and how to fix it.
A rapport between Chick and Carla grows into friendship, leaving Bone more of an embittered outsider than ever. We are interested in learning the characters' histories and seeing whether Chick and Bone can ever resolve their differences. But we are equally, if not more interested, in seeing whether the mechanical hero (Carla insists the Jag is masculine) will roar into life and flash its headlights for us.
The Jaguar was bought in Maryland, transported by truck to New Jersey, disassembled at a local garage, transported by pieces through the narrow doors of NJ Rep, and reassembled under the eyes of Jessica Parks and technical director Brian Snyder. If Mr. Dilorio or any other playwright is interested, I would willingly watch a play about that!
A CurtainUp New Jersey Review - The Jag
Oh, I XKE. Proud, significant automobile. Very fine. Savage.—fine, fine, fine—automobiles. Iconic automobile. Coupe, convertible, V6, V8, V12love Jaguars. Love the Jaguar, Worked on many…many jaguars? Uh, XJ6, XF, XJR, XKR, S Type, E Type! XKE! Love the — Jaguars have a logic all their own. — Carla
Probably not since the stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has a car been made the primary object of interest for a show's characters. But unlike that fantastical car that flies, the 1967 Jaguar 420 "Saloon" in Gino
DiIorio's entertaining new play remains stationary. But in its stillness, The Jag is able to move the hearts and change the minds of a septuagenarian father, his estranged son and a young woman mechanic equipped with Tourette-tinged Aspergers. DiLorio works his theatrical magic in a garage/bodyshop in Providence Rhode Island and where dispirited prodigal son Donald "Bone" (Christopher Daftsios) has returned to work on the restoration of the The Jag with his long embittered and virtually blind father Leo "Chick" Chicarella (Dan Grimaldi.)
A widower, "Chick's dream of having a family business were dashed years ago with the tragic death of Bone's brother whose artistry as a mechanic apparently didn't rub off on his less gifted sibling. A wheeler-dealer and burdened with a gambling debt, Bone has returned home determined to finally complete the restoration and sell the Jag that he originally purchased for the favored brother in partnership with his father.
Because of Bone's limited skills he hires a young woman mechanic Carla Car (Estelle Bajou.) Carla is severely lacking in social skills but she has an acute knowledge of Jags. Her entrance as she sees the Jag for the first time and caresses its "bonnet" is as close to a passionate love scene as we are likely to see in this play.
DiIorio makes good use of coarse vernacular the kind that makes sparks fly between Chick and Bone. Their "figures of expression" are a constant puzzlement and source of humor for Carla. Tightly structured and intense, the interaction of the three characters is beautifully developed for us to see how three needy people learn to test drive their disparate disabilities and dysfunctional behavior under the same roof. What we see under that roof, and awesomely created by set designer Jessica Parks, is a detailed, fully functional, completely out-fitted body shop.
The three principals, under the fine direction of Brendan Burke, keep the dramatic stakes high. Grimaldi, who is probably best known for playing the twin gangster brother on the HBO series The Sopranos, pushes the rage and regrets pedal to the floor as the hard-drinking Chick ("I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk) but reveals his ability to mellow his cantankerous nature in the light of Carla's handicapping naivete.
Ms. Bajou is giving one of the most poignantly exhilarating performances I've seen this year as the highly-strung but intensely-focused Carla. A highlight is seeing her reluctantly coming out of her comfort zone to jitterbug with Chick.
Although Bone is fueled by resentment, Daftios finds a path for us to make us his ally. A resolve with a nice twist in the relationships brings the play to a very satisfying conclusion.
In its world premiere engagement, The Jag marks an auspicious beginning to the New Jersey Repertory Company's 20th anniversary season. It's a good bet for a healthy life in regional theaters and beyond. The audience at the performance I attended was vocal in its approval and responded with prolonged applause at the curtain calls.
Estelle Bajou and Dan Grimaldi
THE JAG by Gino Dilorio
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney at
New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch NJ,
Friday, January 13, 2017 at 8 pm
Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room. In this case, the elephant is a car and the room is the 18' x 25' stage of NJ Rep. Yes, readers, the current world premier now playing on the tiny Long Branch stage features an actual 1967 Jaguar automobile. It's a tribute to the Rep's typically excellent production values that this remarkable feat was possible. It's also a tribute to Gino Dilorio's typically high caliber writing that the the car doesn't upstage the play itself. Having a real car on stage may be a first for the the Rep, but it has been done before. Alan Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves (1976) also had a garaged automobile as the center of its narrative and in Richard Dresser's Rounding Third (2002) a passenger van served as refuge for two middle-aged little league coaches, just to name two.
If you're thinking that the much-coveted car is more dramatic symbol than status symbol, you'd be correct. In this case, the Jag represents those bucket list projects that keep many of us going. The play is set in a suburban garage where Leo (nicknamed Chick) and his son Donald (dubbed Bone), work to restore the car with local jobber Carla. Irascible Chick has lost his sight from macular degeneration and must rely upon Bone and Carla to help him finish the project he started with his now-deceased favorite son, David. Bone is eager to finally sell the car to pay off some serious gambling debts.
As you might guess, the fuel this JAG runs on is a tankful of high test friction between Chick and Bone. Although some might say that the car is the play's fourth character, it is actually dead David who's presence looms large in the garage, completing the mechanics quartet. If this were a farce, it might facetiously be titled "My Brother the Car," but it's not that sort of play. That's not to say it isn't funny, (Chick: "I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.") but THE JAG is more a well-written character study with revealing spurts of wry humor than an out-and-out comedy.
Driving THE JAG (forgive the pun) is veteran director Brendan Burke, who has assembled a fine cast. As Chick, Dan Grimaldi is convincingly blind as well as convincingly gruff. Christopher Daftsios' Bone offers a nice mix of quiet sensitivity and masculine (Italian-American) pride.
But it is Estelle Bajou as Carla who is the play's most enigmatic and delightful creation. Carla is an eccentric out lesbian with a sweetly quirky personality. She hates cars, but has a passionate personal devotion for Jaguars. This is the kind of character that might derail the entire play if not properly cast. Thankfully, Bajou is absolutely perfect. She may even be a bit too perfect for the current JAG. Although Grimaldi and Daftsios' father / son conflict is truthfully portrayed, it also rings a tad familiar.
The dynamic created between Carla and Chick, however, becomes increasingly fascinating and truly unique. The brief stage time they share makes us long for a second act that further develops this odd couple. If Dilorio expands THE JAG beyond its 90-minute running time, let's hope this pair are in the front seat. As it is, THE JAG is still a satisfying theatrical joy ride.
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
Dan Grimaldi and Estelle Bajou in a scene from "The Jag." (Photo: COURTESY OF SUZANNE BARABAS)
TOM CHESEK, CORRESPONDENT
Ask any automotive enthusiast who's ever invested their heart, soul and bank account into the restoration of a vintage Jaguar: the famously finicky and contrary classic marque has elicited as many curses in its time as pledges of allegiance, from devotees of British steel.
It's a textbook one-sided relationship; the stuff of flaring tempers and unhealthy obsessions — or, as Gino DiIorio could tell you, the makings of high drama in lowdown settings.
The New York-based playwright, whose own relationship with NJ Rep has proven to be a long and mutually beneficial one, has been looking in on preparations for the latest of his scripts to make its world premiere in Long Branch, a property by name of "The Jag."
Dan Grimaldi (left) Estelle Bajou and Christopher Daftsios in a scene from "The Jag." (Photo: COURTESY OF SUZANNE BARABAS)
That would be The Jag; specifically a 1967 Jaguar 420 "Saloon" that sits stationary and silent inside the garage of septuagenarian "Chick" Chicarella (award winning "Sopranos" veteran Dan Grimaldi, returning to NJ Rep following his turn in "Lucky Me") as the seemingly never-ending project of a man whose son (Christopher Daftsios, of last year's "Substance of Bliss") is intent on convincing the old man to finally finish the car and sell it off.
When their attempts at restoring the vehicle result in frustration and the re-opening of old wounds, father and son enlist the aid of Carla (Rep newcomer Estelle Bajou), a young woman who is described as "an expert in Jaguars, but woefully lacking in social skills." With the Jag acting as catalyst for some complicated interpersonal dynamics,"the three learn some hard lessons about repairing cars and smoothing out life's jagged edges."
As DiIorio sees it, "we have relationships to objects; some more than others...which is why this play is not about 'The Toyota' or 'The Honda.' It's a play with a lot of moving parts, if you'll pardon the pun.
Dan Grimaldi and Estelle Bajou in a scene from "The Jag." (Photo: COURTESY OF SUZANNE BARABAS)
"My dad had a '66 Jaguar sedan, which was always in the shop," adds the playwright in explaining the script's inspiration. "The kind of car that wouldn't run in the rain; that wouldn't run if you looked at it the wrong way... but he'd tell you that I can't die. I gotta finish the Jag!"
The logistics of getting a full-size car onto the modestly scaled NJ Rep stage — not just any car, but a very particular year, make and model of imported driving machine — served to keep the fully produced premiere of "The Jag" on the back-burner, even as the script saw some well-received readings in Chicago and suburban Virginia.
Dan Grimaldi (left) and Christopher Daftsios in a scene from "The Jag." (Photo: COURTESY OF SUZANNE BARABAS)
When a perfectly matched "wreck" was discovered in Baltimore, NJ Rep set designer Jessica Parks and her crew endeavored (at "quite a bit of expense," according to DiIorio) to transport the vehicle to Long Branch, dismantle it (to the tune of sawing it in half), and reassemble it within a detail-intensive garage setting — an undertaking of which the playwright comments,"they somehow managed to make the stage seem bigger."
Serving as director for the production is another newcomer to the NJ Rep fold — Brendan Burke, longtime artistic director of Shadowland Stages in New York's Catskills, and a DiIorio associate who's also expressed interest in taking this "Jag" on the road upstate.
Christopher Daftsios and Estelle Bajou in a scene from "The Jag." (Photo: COURTESY OF SUZANNE BARABAS)
Meantime, the playwright is excited to be reunited with the Long Branch-based team that's "been very good to me through the years ... They've produced things like 'Release Point' (a quiet character drama of youth baseball and convicted child molesters) knowing that they might take a bath on it. They take a lot of risks, and they'll be able to do it with even more characters when they're able to produce shows in their new space."
New Jersey Repertory Company developing West End Arts Center
Newspaper Media Group
By KAREN RAPOLLA
New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) has purchased the old West End School on West End Avenue from the Long Branch School District for $2.25 million in order to convert the 1920s structure into a major cultural arts center.
The award-winning, nonprofit professional theater company, which develops new works for the American stage, will be expanding with a second location on the corner of West End and Sairs avenues.
The school previously served grades K-5 until its closure in June 2014, and students were moved to the new George L. Catrambone Elementary School.
The West End neighborhood in the City of Long Branch is well known for its artistic flair, original Jersey Shore music scene, quaint retail shops, restaurants, boardwalk and beaches. The local community is coming together and embracing the new West End Arts Center project with enthusiasm.
NJ Rep was founded in 1997 by Dr. Gabor Barabas, executive director, and his wife, SuzAnne Barabas, artistic director. Gabor Barabas has produced over 100 world premieres at NJ Rep. Producing plays has always been a passion of the pediatric neurosurgeon.
"The intent has always been to expand the theater to a larger, secondary location and to expand all of our programs. We are dedicated to focusing on new productions and are fortunate to attract high-profile scripts and enormous talent," said Gabor Barabas. "To expand the arts and revitalize the community are the goals of NJ Rep. The bottom line is in order for us to succeed, we need the support of the community. I am thrilled to report we have that enthusiasm in Long Branch and Monmouth County."
NJ Rep's primary mission is to develop and produce new plays and to make a lasting contribution to the American stage. In keeping with its mission, NJ Rep has produced 125 plays in 20 seasons. The theater is committed to nurturing the work of not only established writers, but new and unknown playwrights and has maintained an open submission policy, receiving over 500 scripts each year from throughout the U.S. and the world.
The West End location is ideal for a cultural arts center at the Jersey Shore.
"We have been looking to expand our operations for the last 10 years. This vision of a cultural arts center is our dream that is becoming a reality," said Gabor Barabas.
The purchase of the school closed on May 2, 2016. By December, NJ Rep had acquired all the necessary approvals from the City of Long Branch Planning Board to move forward with their beautifully designed building renovations and additions necessary for this ambitious dream to become a reality.
The West End Arts Center is a community development project and will have a tremendous impact economically with this exciting new landmark. In addition to the widespread, overwhelmingly positive community support, the project maintains strong relationships with City of Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Long Branch School District Superintendent Michael Salvatore.
NJ Rep has met with Salvatore to discuss partnering together for an after-school arts program. This program, along with community workshops, will greatly benefit Long Branch students.
The West End neighborhood of Long Branch is known as the traditional Bohemian section of Long Branch, with a long history of cultural undertakings. There is the well-known 1970s photo of one-time city resident Bruce Springsteen, standing on the sidewalk on Brighton Avenue within a block of the old West End School. There are many iconic local businesses that continue to enjoy success and local fame, as visitors to the area specially seek them out. These include the Ink Well, Brighton Bar, Ron's West End Pub and Richard's Deli, among others.
"I'm excited about the new arts center. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough opportunities for artists from all mediums to meet and collaborate. This is a chance to not only offer classes to students at all levels, but also to bring artists together just so they can share ideas and works," said Gino DiIorio, of Massachusetts, and playwright of the current production of "The Jag" at the Lumia Theater in Long Branch.
"For example, in music, there used to be studios like Sound City where different musicians would poke their head into this studio or that, just to hear what people were working on. I can see the arts center providing the same kind of opportunities for actors, directors, designers, playwrights, musicians — the whole ball of wax. So, this has the chance to be something very cool for artists and the community," DiIorio said.
Currently located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, NJ Rep was established in 1997 and has produced over 100 new plays at the Lumia Theater (a 68-seat theater), generously donated by David and Margaret Lumia. NJ Rep will continue to bring intimate performances to their Broadway location in addition to the productions held at the new cultural arts center. NJ Rep currently produces six shows a year at the Lumia Theater, holds 25 readings of new plays in development and holds classes for both adults and children.
The plan for the new cultural arts center in West End will include two theaters (one with 165 seats and a second with 90 seats), one cinema with two screening rooms (150 seats and 85 seats), a rehearsal theater and a Black Box theater (90 seats). The plans also include small apartments located on site for visiting playwrights, directors and performers.
The center will also have a visual art and exhibition museum, studio and educational space for musical and theater lessons. It will also have on-site parking for 100 vehicles, a rooftop cafe and a great lawn area for outdoor performances during the summertime.
The project will include a capital campaign this spring to raise the needed $15 million for the renovations and additions. Plans are currently underway to move the administrative offices of NJ Rep and utilize the newly painted classrooms — courtesy of many community volunteers this past October — for workshops and readings this spring. Construction should take approximately 18-24 months once enough funding is available.
"If we raise funds more rapidly, we will do it all in one phase," said Gabor Barabas. "We plan to reach out to corporations, foundations, government agencies and independent donors. We will have naming rights for major donations. Once the project is underway, we expect it to take approximately one year to complete."
NJ Rep's patrons can enjoy local dinner and theater deals locally. NJ Rep partners with select local restaurants, and such dinner/theater negotiations are always expanding.
"We will be also negotiating bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation packages for the future," said Gabor Barabas.
NJ Rep plans to reuse all the existing buildings (28,000 square feet) and add an addition (20,000 square feet) that will bring the total square footage to 48,000 feet. The exterior will consist of red brick with a glass lobby. Architect Robert Blakeman has been retained as the general architect, and the Holzman Moss Boffino Company has designed the theaters.
NJ Rep's current production at the Lumia Theater on Broadway is "The Jag," a world premiere by Gino DiIorio. The plot involves 70-year-old "Chick" Chicarella who has one prized possession, a 1966 Jaguar that is in desperate need of repair. When his son suggests that they finish the car to sell it off, old family wounds and failures rise to the surface. Unable to complete the task themselves, they hire Carla, who is an expert in Jaguars, but woefully lacking in social skills. Together, the three learn some hard lessons about repairing cars and smoothing out life's jagged edges.
Dan Grimaldi is an actor in "The Jag."
"NJ Rep is one of the most delightful theaters, and they have the highest professional standards. Gabe and SuzAnne produce plays, which are admirable and pleasurable [for] their subscribing audiences. It is a pleasure for me to work here," said Grimaldi.
Robin Bleeker and Van Rhonheimer of Long Branch are longtime theater subscribers of 17 years.
"We love the fact that we do not have to travel to Manhattan to see plays of this professional caliber. We usually like to come the night before opening night, and as subscribers to the theater we just have to call to secure our seats. The new cultural arts center is sure to be good for the community, and we couldn't be happier for its successful future," said Rhonheimer.
NJ Rep Board President Marilyn Perlman is thrilled with the positive support from the local community.
"Through West End Arts, we will be [the] catalyst in the economic development and revitalization of our community and will provide a wide array of cultural opportunities for its residents and young people," said Perlman.
"This is an opportunity to make Long Branch a national destination for the arts. The arts have the ability to transform a city," said SuzAnne Barabas.