Walter Anderson’s Almost Home Is on Parade at the Acorn Theatre

If someone were to ask me the proverbial question, “Can you go home again?”  I would kindly reply, “Why yes.” But the real questions are home the same once you get there and are you the same person that left?  These themes are skillfully explored in Walter Anderson’s Almost Home, currently playing at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, located at 410 42nd Street.

3041Almost Home centers on Johnny Barnett, played by Jonny Orsini, a young marine returning home from Vietnam to his parents’ Bronx apartment.  No longer the good kid with a street edge, Jonny has trouble with coming to terms with events that happened in combat and his participation in it.  It is a parallel journey that has plagued his troubled, alcoholic father who served in World War II.  Uncertain about his future, Johnny has three roads he could take.  The first, accept the Marines offer to become a drill instructor.  The second is to go to college in California and the third is to become an internal affairs cop, an offer presented to him by the local police captain who wants to use Johnny’s hero status to his advantage. But before Johnny can  walk down the path of his destiny, he must first grapple with new and old demons that are creating roadblocks, namely his guilt over his best friend’s death in Vietnam, his poor relationship with his father and the police captain who has had his family under his thumb for years.  In the end Johnny makes peace with who he is and is free, in more ways than one, to choose the path he wants.

2896Playwright Walter Anderson crafts a sensitive tale about a boy coming into his manhood and creates the perfect balance of grace and the harsh realities of war and street life. With its autobiographical roots, Almost Home also is a coming home of sorts for Anderson.  Before becoming the editor of Parade Magazine for 20 years and the Chairman and CEO of Parade Publications, Anderson, a high school dropout, enlisted in the Marines attaining the rank of sergeant and serving in Vietnam.  During his time in the Marines, Anderson earned his GED.  Like Johnny, Anderson attended college after his discharge from the Marines attending Westchester Community College and Mercy College.

3045The cast of Almost Home bring you to the edge of your seat.  The audience becomes immediately enthralled with the complicated relationships between Johnny and his family and Captain Nick Pappas.  Neighbor Luisa Jones, Johnny’s elementary teacher, is a constant ray of hope that circles a cloud steeped in various shades of gray.  She, along with his mother, reminds Johnny that he is not limited by his circumstances or his past.  Johnny Barnett is played by Jonny Orsini.  I became familiar with Orsini when he appeared opposite Nathan Lane in The Nance.  I thought he was spectacular in that production and in Almost Home he is equally impressive.  James McCaffrey is masterful as the manipulative Nick Pappas.  His performance made me want to scream, “Where’s Serpico when you need him!”  Karen Ziemba and Joe Lisi bring heart and soul to the roles of Harry and Grace Barnett, and Brenda Pressley shimmers as the sassy teacher with a heart of gold.

3046The tension presented in Almost Home ends on an anticlimactic note, but the subtle ending is more realistic than some puffed out, melodramatic climax. It leaves the audience circling with questions about the future of Jonny and his family and a desire to want to see more, and leaving an audience salivating for more is never a bad thing.  If this show was part of the Bronx Bombers’ roster I would venture to say the boys in pinstripes would have no more worries.  Almost Home knocks it out of the theater. Anderson’s play is definitely a winner.

Photos: Carol Rosegg

Advertisements

Sex and the City Slot Game: A Huge Hit among Fans

If you’re a fan of Sex and the City’s fab four, you’re going to love this. One of the oldest slot machine makers in the world, IGT, developed a game that carries with it the commercial license of HBO’s hit romantic comedy. Fans of the show will feel at home playing it, as they will find a lot of recognizable slot machine reel symbols that are actually based from the characters, setting, and theme of Sex and the City.

The Sex and the City slot machine is a colossal success at the Resorts World Casino in Queens. An article by New York Mag, stated that some of the guests even came all the way from Manhattan when they learned that Sex and the City slot machines were being offered by Resorts World.

“I came just for this game,” said Janis Savit, a jewelry designer that the New York Mag interviewed for their Sex and the City slot machine feature. “It was more fun than doing work.”

Perhaps the success of slot machines can be attributed to how they change along with the times. No longer the traditional coin-op and lever machine, these slots have become the money-spinners of casinos thanks to their high-definition graphics, surround sound entertainment, and progressive jackpot features. According to data, the slot machine business is so successful that not only is it a $160 billion industry, but companies that offer it online are also doing very well. Cryptologic,the operator of the first online casino brand in 1996 InterCasino, is still in operation and has recently optimized their games to HTML5 in order to make their titles playable on many gaming platforms. In the U.S., the online gaming market is predicted to be valued at around $73 million by 2015.

Sex and City is the epitome of a modern slot machine. Apart from the 5-reel interface, the game offers bonus rounds and huge jackpots to players who are patient enough to hit them.

The bonus features of the game also carry with them the identity of the show that millions of Americans have come to love. For example, when players hit the “Shoe Closet” feature they will be able to see stylish shoes that the Fab Four wore at some point in the show. Another bonus feature of the game is called “Simply Fabulous” and features Charlotte wearing an engagement ring. In this game, players need to select four engagement ring boxes that would reward them credits in the end.

Click here to learn more about the Sex and the City slot machine game.

9/11 Reflected Through Color – The Art of Ken Kaminski

One of my favorite childhood fables was the story of Henny Penny.  What always stuck with me was the repeated use of the phrase, “The sky is falling.”  It was the first time I was ever confronted with a tale that dealt with hysteria.  How could I had known that one day I would feel driven to scream those exact words, but when I saw the twin towers ablaze and the mayhem that was unfolding in real time as we helplessly watch on TV,  I felt like that manic chicken wrought with panic and fear.  September 11, 2001 is a mental scar I’ll always carry with me.

20140825_184212As intense as the memories are of that day, I can scarcely remember any color with the exception being the perfect blue sky that offered the delusion that nothing that terrible could befall us.  What I remember most are the feelings that coursed through me at rates so fast I could barely record them, terror firmly placing a grip around my neck, anxiety tapping Morse code up and down my arms, disorientation mushrooming in my brain and grief taking possession of my heart.  I returned home from my job, where we had to evacuate because of a bomb threat, turned on my TV and laid down on my bed to hear the sounds of faint whistles from dying firemen.  I felt absolutely defeated.

The tragedy of 9/11 left this country reeling and sent us all on our own journeys as we tried to reconcile what happened.   Ken Kaminski’s journey took him to the canvas creating a series of work that spans well over a decade. Using the template of abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Emerson Woefler, Kaminski has attempted to record the events and emotions of that day as well as the recovery period that continues to shape us. His efforts also allow those who are too young to remember 9/11 the ability to witness the emotion of that day.

20140825_183455FAMERS I am here to report that his endeavors are wildly successful.  I had the pleasure of viewing a few of Kaminski’s 9/11 paintings at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Hackensack campus. The exhibit includes eight selected works that brilliantly convey the events of that day brightly expressed in various hues. The exhibit begins with Blue Sky Day – triptych.  This three panel painting brings you face to face with speed of these flying bombs and the majestic sky that it corrupted. With each panel the viewer sees the countdown of the planes getting closer and closer until it hits making its bloody and destructive impact.

20140825_183549911 The Moment It Happened is an eerie mix of color.  The space surrounding The World Center no longer is colored in blue like the atmosphere painted in Blue Sky Day, instead the blue is muddled with streaks of different colors showing the chaos that followed the impact of the first plane, represented in an explosion of oranges and reds bursting from the side of the tower.  Streams of black cover one of the towers like a foreshadowing of despair to come.

20140825_183614Blindsided shows the line of fire going straight into one of the towers then blasting out of the other side.  Crippled from the blow, the tower bends and the pain is obvious.   All that is missing is the scream, but if you remember the sound of the planes hitting the towers, then this painting will ensure that the awful roar of the plane echoes in your ears.  Blindsided is an acute observation of a drive-by.

20140825_183653Twins! is a stoic, almost haunting, vision of The World Trade Center towers before 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001.  They were proud and victorious, a symbol of might and power.  They represented everything that was great about The Big Apple.  In Kaminski’s painting they appeared alive and vibrant again instead of frozen as they are in photographs.  The yellow background also contributes to the energy of the piece.  It makes you long for the nostalgia of what used to be.  If this painting were a song, it would be called The Way We Were.

20140825_183844Wounded Towers is a kaleidoscope of disorder.  The colors vividly capture the confusion permeating the area as people scrambled for safety and the bent, smoldering towers desperately tried to remain the symbols of glory that they once were, a last valiant effort before they ultimately disintegrated into dust.

20140825_183922Collapse is engulfed in a blending of hues that bring chills to the spine.  The voices of those who were lost don’t just whisper, they shriek.  It shows the true potential of visual art.  There are no words necessary, this painting is one of the most telling portraits of pain and suffering that I’ve ever saw.  If someone wanted to understand the mood of the country when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, all they would have to do is view this painting.

20140825_184108Considering this year will mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, I believe Kaminski’s exhibit couldn’t visit the New York metropolitan area at a better time.  It allows another way for us to remember and venerate a day that will forever be a part of our history.  Kaminski’s work carries with it a raw, emotional ambiance.  It pulls you in.   No matter how hard the visuals may be to look at, Kaminski’s work burst past your pupils and forces you to deal with whatever memories or residual feelings you may have buried.   For as much as Kaminski’s work is steeped in tragedy, it is also immersed in the resilience of the city of New York and its people.  Yes, the sky did fall, but we didn’t get mired in the pain.   We stood atop the ashes; we rebuilt and honored those we lost.   The 9/11 paintings are not only powerful and healing; they are a testament that when an artist creates from his or her soul the work that is generated is timeless.

 

To learn more about Ken Kaminski and view more of his work check out, http://www.kenkaminski.com/.  Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings will be on display at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at 150 Kotte Place, Hackensack NJ, until 9/26/14.  Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Photos and Video: F.A.M.E NYC Editor