THEATER REVIEW: In Ghent, sour notes make for lumpy ‘Mattress’

Once Upon a Mattress / Ghent Playhouse

IT’S A MUSICAL. “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opened last Friday at the Ghent Playhouse, is a musical about a moat-swimming princess who must compete with a vain, Oedipal queen for the hand of the Prince. It’s based on the well-known “Princess and the Pea” story.

Did I mention that it is a musical?

At Ghent, the castle-interior set spills out along the side walls of the Playhouse, evoking a huge hall and large musical expectations. Read more…

Work of Leon Smith opens wide a world of wonder

WIT IS THE FIRST and lasting word that comes to mind about Leon Smith of Ancramdale, whether one’s viewing his sculptures large and small, or chatting with him while he works in his studio.

Smith has been a sculptor for more than 40 years, 20 of those years in Ancramdale. Born in 1933 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, which he describes as “tropical,” he started out in dentistry at Sydney University. Soon, however, he turned to art school in Sydney and then London. Read more…

BOOK REVIEW: This local history is quite a plateful

“Cook and Chatter” by Jill Peck Vona

JILL PECK VONA, RAISED IN COPAKE, has written a fascinating piece of Roe Jan history. It’s a cookbook. How is it history? The answer is that there are various types of histories: political, economic, and social histories are three broad ones and culinary history is a type of social history.

“Cook and Chatter” is subtitled “A Trip down Memory Lane.” In that spirit, in addition to many old Roe Jan area families’ recipes, the book features relevant photos. They are of (and from) old familiar Roe Jan/Columbia County names like Albright, Ackley, Blass, Fuller, Hermans, Miller and Peck. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Are there no…playhouses? Well, yes, Ghent

The Turn of the Scrooge / Pantaloons 2016 / Ghent Playhouse

“THE TURN OF THE SCROOGE” is Ghent Playhouse’s 2016 leap of Pantoloons into fractured storyland. It features satire, silliness, songs, blatant anachronisms, good and bad jokes, cross-dressing and (this year) a lot of plot. Playhouse actors create it, and Playhouse aficionados love it. It sells out.

This year it is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that gets lovingly poked and abused. Of course, all of the story’s original Christmas propaganda survives. (“What? You didn’t expect a happy ending?” the rehabilitated Scrooge says to the audience as he exits.)

The sure hand of Cathy Lee-Visscher’s staging has been laid on this on this production. It has inevitability without banality. That her work is sometimes sloppily executed does not seem to matter a lot. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Ghent takes ’39 Steps’ in (very funny) bits and pieces

The 39 Steps / Ghent Playhouse

BEN BRANTLEY, WHEN REVIEWING the play The 39 Steps in 2008, said it nicely: This ’39 Steps’ isn’t using its source material as a satiric target but as an accomplice.

The source material is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller-film, and the accomplicing may have been between some particularly stingy producers and an ingenious playwright with his inventive director and actors. (And maybe not.) Still, for the comic version, the original movie, with its contrasting settings and expensive cast, has been shrunk here to four actors and a lot of trunks and chairs. Read more…