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Wednesday
Apr092014

Theater Review - "Godspell"

Theater Review

“Godspell”

Produced by: The CM Performing Arts Center - Oakdale

Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur

After discovering the old Oakdale Theatre (a movie house that had been vacant for nine years), and negotiating lease and renovation terms with the landlord, the burgeoning Creative Ministries Performing Arts Center began the arduous task of turning an admitted eyesore into a remarkable facility capable of producing live theatre. This necessitated raising over $150,000 and recruiting dozens of CMPAC members to help with the actual renovations.

More than a hundred volunteers spent untold hours painting, sanding, re-covering seats, hanging electrical wires and laying carpet. Fleet Bank pitched in with continuous support and sent a crew of volunteer employees to assist with the renovation. What’s more, Fleet donated much of the CMPAC’s office furniture and a number of essential computers. Finally, the CM Performing Arts Center opened on an eventful evening in May, 1997—almost seventeen years ago. Appropriately, the play the group mounted was Man of La Mancha, and for Creative Ministries, ‘The Impossible Dream’ had become a reality.

As if to put his own stamp on what many have come to call this ‘miracle’ of theatrical achievement, Director Terry Brennan has brought area theatergoers a raucous, sometimes rowdy, but usually fun-fueled version of Matthew’s Gospel that runs through April 19.

Admittedly, this musical by Stephen Schwartz is not exactly your grandmother’s Bible story, but for rock enthusiasts, it seems to fill the bill, at least if last Wednesday’s audience reaction was any indication.

Schwartz, of course, is the same originator who wrote the music for the long-running ‘Pippin’ (a lot of naughty nonsense saved only by the great Bob Fosse’s direction and choreography) along with the wildly successful ‘Wicked’ (an insignificant takeoff on happenings post-‘Wizard of Oz’) and the composer brought those equally noisy productions to Broadway as well. Accordingly, the beatnik wunderkind from Carnegie Mellon University comes armed with show business credentials galore…whether deserved or not.

One’s first impression is that the cast for this local adaptation of ‘Godspell’ takes to the CMPAC stage in Oakdale like a confused troupe that’s still in early rehearsal for a show they know virtually nothing about. For that theatrical no-no, Director Brennan must accept the brickbats. After all, Brennan can hardly take credit for the considerable inborn talents of her star, Danny Amy, a magnetic Jesus who grabs our attention, steps out front, and stays there. Nor does the Director deserve kudos for the one memorable song (Day by Day) from this sometimes ear-splitting musical’s largely forgettable score.

Ironically, one of the truly memorable results of this play takes place not on stage, but in the film ‘Meet the Parents’ when Ben Stiller, playing the visiting Greg Focker, is asked by Robert De Niro to say Grace before his first meal with the Byrnes family. Nonplussed, Stiller recites what appears to be the only prayer he knows—the lyrics from ‘Day by Day.’

Plaudits for having given this production their best effort go to Meagan Materazo, Corey Martin, Brianne Boyd, Marielle Greguski, and Alyssa Caracciolo. They are better than the material assigned to them. Also, Tommy Castelli, Bobby Montaniz, and Sean Burbage are precise singers who show considerable promise, and likely will be heard from favorably. Conductor Matthew Surico is sure to be heard from as well. His feel for contemporary music is obvious.

Award-winning Smithtown writer Jeb Ladouceur is the author of eight novels, and his theater reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. In Ladouceur’s next thriller, “Harvest” due in late summer, an American doctor is forced to perform illegal surgeries for a gang of vital organ traffickers in The Balkans.

Sunday
Apr062014

Democrat Zove Announces Run For NYS Assembly

Jason Zove

“We must set the bar high to ensure that our state is a leader in economic growth, environmental sustainability and a place where our children have the resources to excel inside and outside of the classroom.” Jason Zove

My name is Jason Zove and I am a Democrat who is looking to become Assemblyperson in NY’s eighth assembly district(AD).  Oh, by the way I’m only 26 years old and I am looking to unseat Michael Fitzpatrick.  Groan, yawn, laugh may be your first reaction to the news. After all most people think Mike Fitzpatrick is popular, that his district is a bastion of Republican/Conservative voters, many of whom would not vote for a Democrat if their life depended on it. Okay, says Jason, your life may not depend on your vote but how about your wallet.  This campaign is about economics and bringing resources into the district.

In a statement released to the press Zove states, “The voters of this district deserve a representative who will fight for Long Island families and put their best interests first, and I plan to do just that.” In a phone conversation with Mr. Zove, he explained how Fitzpatrick has failed the people in his assembly district. According to Zove, Mike Fitzpatrick has failed to do his job which is to bring resources home. Jason stated that Fitzpatrick’s reputation as the guy who says NO has been detrimental to constituents. “There are plenty of Republicans and Conservatives in New York State Government who do not support the Democratic agenda and still get funding for their districts.” Taxpayers in the eighth AD are hurt financially by Fitzpatrick’s  inability to find a way to help his constituents.  

Zove said he is not interested in making his campaign an attack on Fitzpatrick. What he is interested in doing is showing people how they will benefit from having an Assemblyperson whose interest is in making a difference in the community rather than creating a reputation as the guy who says NO.

Before Jason Zove gets to challenge the Assemblyman, he needs to become the official candidate of the Democrats who will begin to screen interested candidates this month. He is well versed in politics having served as a community liaison and a legislative aide in Suffolk County since 2010.

Jason Zove is a graduate of Commack High School, was a dual major in Secondary Education and History at Hofstra University, and earned his Mater’s Degree from SUNY Stony Brook. 

Saturday
Apr052014

Legislator Wants To Make Cash/Credit Pricing Clearer At Gas Pumps

Maureen Rossi

Suffolk County’s deputy presiding officer Legislator Jay H. Schneiderman represents the second LD which includes the South Fork, Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, East Moriches and Eastport and has 58,000 constituents.  People travel from around the world to visit this bucolic stretch of land to enjoy the vast waterways, beaches and marine activities.  He says visitors as well as the residents are vulnerable to unscrupulous gas station practices.

Late in March the legislator issued a press release calling for legislation to protect consumers from deceptive practices at gas stations.   According to Schneiderman, dual gas pricing (the practice of having different price for cash and credit) should be made abundantly clear for patrons.   “Consumers using their debit or credit cards should receive proper notification from retailers of the price difference of a gallon of gas between and cash and credit purchases before they consent to that transaction,” he said.   “A hardworking resident shouldn’t be caught off guard filling up their gas tank, that’s highway robbery.”

Schneiderman’s legislation would require a consumer to acknowledge the cash/credit price difference before committing to the purchase. According to Schneiderman a screen would display a notification that says: “YOU WILL PAY _____ MORE PER GALLON FOR THIS CREDIT/DEBIT CARD PURCHASE THAN IF YOU PAID CASH. PRESS YES TO PROCEED WITH THIS TRANSACTION OR NO TO CANCEL.” 

Critics of this proposed law say most hard-working people and those living on a budget check prices before mindlessly filling up.   Suffolk County Legislator John M. Kennedy (R, 12th district) says this proposed legislation seems like overkill and in addition, is unwarranted.   “We have a posting requirement right now regarding price differential between credit and cash purchase,” he explained.   Kennedy says State law prohibits placing a surcharge on the credit card purchase but merchants are allowed to discount cash purchases – hence the disparity. 

Tom Cilmi (R, 10th district) agrees with Kennedy’s statement about the existence of sufficient laws in place.  “To protect himself, a consumer is simply required to pay attention,” he declared.  “If someone has the presence of mind to look for some sort of cash-credit differential calculator at the pump, then he should have the presence of mind to notice the relatively large displays indicating both prices also on the pump. This is a knee jerk reaction and that’s a bad way to legislate.”

Kennedy says there is a real legal question as to whether we could compel gas station operators to implement this pre-purchase consent.  “Further, based on the range of technologies out there, older, smaller stations with mechanical pumps would have to obtain new equipment,” he added.    

Kennedy points out that meeting the demands of gas station inspections has become increasingly difficult.   “With the required testing of the octane grade at each pump, the epitome of testing is Sunoco, with five octane grades per pump and with up to sixteen pumps, a Weights and Measures Inspector can be at a facility all day.,” said Kennedy.

Schneiderman says he is merely trying to protect consumers.  “Typically a driver will see the large sign in front of the gas station advertising the price and think that is what they will pay at the pump or something close to it if they use a credit card,” Schneiderman said.   “However, there are several stations where the price difference is substantial and the consumer gets tricked into paying $20 or more simply because they used a credit card.”  Theoretically, an electronic transaction should only cost a station owner a few pennies.

“The bottom line here, once again, is that government has a responsibility to make sure that a consumer can easily ascertain what the price is for a commodity, but we don’t have to beat the consumer over the head to ensure that they really actually read the notices that the merchants are compelled to put out,” declared Kennedy.

If Schneiderman’s bill gets passed, gas retailers wiil have six months to make necessary changes to their automated pumps.   He is calling for a hefty $1,000 penalty for those disregarding the law.  Is it enforceable?  Probably – and if the debated legislation is approved it would be enforced by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs, an arm of Suffolk’s government that inspects gas pumps throughout the county.

Kennedy says he sees no reason for the bill and said he will oppose it. Cilmi agrees and says the bill is unnecessary, impractical and reactionary.

“It’s amazing, New York is already at the very bottom of the list of business-friendly states and we have elected officials struggling to find ways to make us even LESS business-friendly. It shows either a complete lack of understanding or a lack of empathy for the ever-mounting challenges facing small businesses today,” said Cilmi. 

Cilmi does not deny that certain station owners use gimmicks to lure unwary customers into their stations.  However, he says those owners should be exposed and consumers should quite simply just avoid patronizing them.   Neither Kennedy or Cilmi said they have received any complaints from their constituents regarding this issue. 

 

Thursday
Apr032014

Kings Park Junior Zachary Marcone Attends M.I.T. Conference Returns Home With Award

Maureen Rossi

Zachary Marcone looks like your average high school kid but average he is not.  First of all he’s a boy and he does not play video games.  Now that you’ve regained consciousness, the teen defies his species in a myriad of other ways.  He smiles, he makes eye contact and the Kings Park teen can speak extensively on global issues, physics, the fundamental nature of the universe and the use of drones in impoverished countries.

Zachary was recently honored along with other Kings Park students at the school district’s March 25th Board of Education meeting.  Marcone is the founder and president of the Model United Nations Club at Kings Park High School. He recently won the Best Position Paper Award at a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) Conference.   “There were many different committees, one of those committees was going to be debating drones,” he explained.  

At the M.I.T. conference Zachary represented the the small South African country of Zimbabwe.  It is a complicated country with sixteen official languages and a heritage that is equally diverse.  Zimbabwe gained sovereignty from the United Kingdom back in 1980.   According to organizations like  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch the government of Zimbabwe violates the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. There are aggressions against the media, the political opposition, civil society activists, and human rights defenders.  Zimbabwe does not have a pristine record with regard to human rights.    The nation’s armed forces include approximately twenty-thousand members, their paramilitary presence is equally large with approximately twenty thousand members. 

“I had to decide should there be restrictions on drones – as a small African nation with a declining economy the use of drones might be deemed a threat by larger countries,” he extrapolated.     Marcone felt that the unmanned aerial surveillance technology would be a detriment to Zimbabwe.   “However, from a U.S. perspective, I think that drones are actually a safer form of warfare,” he added.

Drones have made headlines in the U.S. over the last year as declassified information about the nation’s use of them filtered out. Drone use inside the U.S. has become a subject of much debate.  The U.N. does not have a position banning the use of drones but often weighs in on the subject as they have been increasingly utilized on a global level as the technology has advanced. 

According to a recent statement by the U.N., “the lethal use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, came under scrutiny in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as a United Nations human rights expert argued that the internationally recognized rule against arbitrary killing also applied to extraterritorial attacks by such weapons systems”. 

Marcone is fascinated by global issues and really enjoys the club he birthed and the forty members who have since joined.   The high school junior is also involved with the Science Research program as well and is the co-founder of yet another club, Science Olympia.   “We prepare for the Science Olympiad every February, it’s hard to explain what we do but I love the Physics component,” he explained.  Marcone enjoys Physics because he says it encompasses all the sciences.   What’s on the horizon for this teen?   He says he has his eyes set on Columbia or Stanford after he graduates Kings Park High School.

Marcone shared that he has a younger brother in seventh grade.  He credits his extraordinary love of learning to his parents and primarily his mother who took him to so many museums as a child.  “My mom really fostered my love of Science, she would take me to New York City to the planetarium and all the museums, that’s probably what got me interested in learning and Science,” he shared.   He says he has always enjoyed learning new things and when he was a young boy Animal Planet was his favorite television show.   He says his parents are very smart people, his dad is in the Mathematics field and works with statistics and his mother is a stay at home mom.  

Marcone said he plans on going to Board of Education meetings in the future because he found it quite interesting.    Last week he and his mock UN team were in New York City.   He says he loves the people involved in his U.N. club and traveling around, but mostly he loves learning about the issues that shape our geopolitical climate and fate.  

Thursday
Apr032014

Smithtown Dish – small bites of foodie news 

By Nancy Vallarella 

Vegging Out

Here is a great recipe from the folks from Meatless Monday.

Although it received mixed reviews in my household, it disappeared quickly. The biggest complaint was the texture of the crust which had only a hint of crispness. The cauliflower, egg and cheese mixture for the crust produces a thin frittata consistency. I recommend baking the crust on the back of a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Modifications of convenience were made. All of the cheeses were replaced with Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio and Uncle Giuseppe’s Italian Seasoning was used in place of the green spices.  

My additional veggies of choice were asparagus, zucchini, and sliced fennel in addition to the sweet potato and kale. The fennel was the star addition. It came through slightly with a clean and bright finish. 

Get creative. Develop different veggie combinations. The folks at Elegant Eating turned the crust into toasts and topped with goat cheese and grapes.

 

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, stems removed, leaving only the florets
  • 1/2 cup (60g) mozzarella, split
  • 1/4 cup (25g) parmesan
  • 1/4 cup (60g) cheese of choice (I used cheddar)
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 egg

For the Toppings

  • 1/2 cup (135g) sweet potato, peeled, and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup kale (65g) in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (60g) vegetable 1 of your choice (such as summer squash)
  • 1/2 cup (25g) vegetable 2 of your choice (such as mushrooms)

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

Put the cauliflower florets into a food processor. Blend until it becomes fine pieces (some say it looks like snow). Place the cauliflower in a microwaveable bowl, heat, covered, for 3 minutes to cook through. Place the cauliflower onto a tea towel/dish towel laid out flat. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Twist up the dish towel around the cauliflower, and squeeze over a sink, as hard as you can, for a few minutes to remove as much liquid as possible. The more you remove, the crispier your pizza will be! Empty the cauliflower into a bowl (and throw that dish towel into the washing right away….it begins to smell pretty quickly!)

Add 1/4 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper into the bowl. Stir well. Add the egg and stir until it is well distributed, and sticky.

Using your hands, combine the “crust” into a ball, it will be pretty wet. Place the ball onto a greased pizza stone (or back of a greased baking tray) and press down to even out to make a round circle crust. It should be a little thicker than a usual thin crust pizza.

Put aside for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, brush the sweet potato with oil and put on a baking tray. Place in the oven; remove after 10 minutes to move sweet potatoes around so the potato does not stick. Add the other vegetables with a little oil, and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potato is soft. Remove and give the vegetables a few minutes cool for you to be able to handle them.  At the same time the potatoes go back in, place the crust in the oven for 15 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven, use a spatula or pie server to gently go under the crust to ensure it has not stuck. Layer with 1/2 the remaining mozzarella and half the other cheese. Place the cooked vegetables on top, along with the kale, and cover with all the remaining cheese.

Place back in the oven for 10 minutes, before turning the oven to broil for the remaining 5 minutes until it the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Cut into slices, and carefully lift onto plates! Enjoy!