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

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MEET THE CAST OF THE OUTING

headshot2Stone Hubbard (Salome) Stone is honored and grateful to play the role of Salome in the production of THE OUTING.  Stone is also known for his role as Bontemps in The Devil, Kerry in Damaged Goods, and Manolo in The Odd Couple.  Stone studied acting at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his career. He is also a talented designer with a specialty in handbags. He loves live music and good company. Stone wishes to thank his Mom and Victoria for their unyielding love and guidance.

ChablisChablis Quarterman (Jizelle) Chablis is a freckly, 21-year-old, half Puerto Rican, half English native New Yorker. She studied Theater at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, and has been performing stand-up comedy around the city for the past two years. She is excited to be a part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre Company’s festival.

EileenRyckman_Web1Eileen Ryckman (Jasmine) originally from Michigan, Eileen has performed on stage in such plays as 12 Angry Jurors and The Water Engine.  She has also worked on a number of short films and has an acting credit on Celebrity Ghost Stories.  She has studied acting at T. Schreiber Studio and NYU.  Eileen is also a marathon runner having officially completed three 26.2 mile races including the 2013 New York City Marathon.

ImanIman Ward (Robin) Iman is a Southern California girl now calling New York City her home. She is a recent graduate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in the Studio Acting program. During her training, she’s been blessed with the opportunity to play the roles of: Veronica in The Motherfucker With The Hat, Helena in Alls Well That Ends Well, Rose in Fences, and Young Laveer/Laveer in Long Time Since Yesterday.  Prior to her training at AMDA, she extensively studied improvisation at The Second City, which led to her own improv troupe playing on the theater’s main stage weekly. Iman is now currently studying at The Pearl Theatre by instructor Dan Daily.

Natalie Birriel (Train) Natalie is so excited and grateful to be working on such a significant and beautiful piece of theatre.   Theatre credits include: Christopher Ashley’s Dram of Drummhicit at La Jolla Playhouse, Three Sisters:Awake at New York Theatre Workshop,  Man Hat Wife, Baldwin New Play Festival, Marisol(ws) at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Natalie possesses a MFA from UC San Diego and sends infinite love and gratitude to my family.  

Luis Cardenas 8_20_07125 (2)Luis Reyes Cardenas (Director) Off-Broadway: Fools in Love; Manhattan Ensemble Theater/BAM. NY: Balm in Gilead, Barefoot Theatre Company, Tempest Toss’d,NYMF. Playwright: Last Exit in New York, Aint Gonna B E Z, Play the Papers for Lupe, Boys Like Me. Film: Shakespeare High, Executive Producer, Kevin Spacey. Regional: The Drowsy Chaperone, Evita, Tommy, Big River, Little Shop of Horrors, Angels in America. Producer:  FutureFest, FNAM, Co-Artistic Director/Founder of Open Hydrant Theater Company/Director of SNFI Individual Events at Stanford University. www.openhydrant.org and www.shakespearehigh.org.

Luck of the Draw

Question, when did putting on used shoes and rolling heavy balls down the lane to score points become chic?  The answer is when Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge came to Manhattan.  Luck Strike isn’t the type of bowling alley I remember as a child, it is a hip outing complete with an awesome lounge décor and great drinks, snack food and music.  Oh, and if you want to bowl, you can do that too.

Last Friday I ventured out to 42nd Street and 12 Avenue to attend the Models International press preview for the MTV Hired episode that features the bi-coastal modeling agency.  MTV Hired is a new show on the music network that features young adults trying to land their first gig in unique industries.  Models International is one of several high profile companies featured in the series.  Other employers included Steve Madden and American Rebel. 

The preview was held in the Luxe premium suite.  Every space of the room was utilized with people drinks and hand dancing, taking pictures, bowling and playing pool.   The DJ was spinning a set of the best in Hip Hop and R&B as the televisions overhead showed the episode.  The event was a good way to start a Friday night.  Kudos to Models International for selecting such a fashionable venue, next time you have a hankering to go bowling, I would definitely recommend making a night of it at Lucky Strike.

To learn more about Models International, MTV Hired or Lucky Strike, please visit www.mi-agency.com, http://www.mtv.com/shows/hired/series.jhtml, www.bowlluckystrike.com.

Photos:  www.bowlluckystrike.com 

Logo: www.mi-agency.com