Saturday, February 28, 2015

The King of Second Avenue Book and Lyrics by Robert Brustein

The King of Second Avenue
Book and Lyrics by Robert Brustein
Muisc by Hankus Netsky
Directed by Matthew ‘Motl’ Didner
July 12-15
New Repertory Theatre
at the Arsenal Center, Watertown, MA

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

My wife Susan absolutely loved this musical enjoying its world premiere at the New Repertory Theater in the Arsenal Center, Watertown, MA. In fact, she loved it so much she went twice and I understand.

The story is based on “King of the Schnorrers” by Israel Zangwill that takes place in early 20th century England. Robert Brustein has transplanted the play to New York’s Lower East Side in the format of the long dead Yiddish Theatre. It also throws in a bit of Brustein’s affection for Shakespeare in the form of a “Romeo and Juliet” theme, which when you add music and disagreeing tribes of Jews instead of Puerto Ricans and whites, harks on the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim masterpiece of “West Side Story.” Many Yiddish words and Klezmer music add to the atmospheric by-gone days.  What has been created is a 1920s time piece that takes place in the 1960s.   Go figure.

The play is a comedic gem, especially appealing to the older Jewish audience the evening I attended. It also provides a window into what – more than a century ago – was a schism between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.  In the Zangwill/Brustein view the Sephardic in the persona of an out of work actor named Da Costa is a kinder, gentler, smarter man than his Ashkenazi foil named Lapidus.  In the  course of the play Da Costa outwits Lapidus conning him out of his pants, his food and especially his money. 

The play has a many one liners, catchy songs and dance numbers with Klezmer music, often called Jewish Jazz. The orchestra is perfectly matched to the performance and actors. The music by Hankus Netsky, who is founder and director the New England Conservatory’s Klezmer Conservatory Band has served up a plate of music that had the audience clapping and toe tapping to the hypnotic tunes. 
Matthew ‘Motl’ Didner’s direction was precision perfect, bringing out the best of the actors.He also assured exactness of the timing between actors and orchestra while using the scenic designs of Jon Savage and costume designs of Frances McSherry to portray the rundown areas of the Lower East Side along with the schnorrers (beggars), fishmongers, early 1900s police.

As for the actors, Da Costa, played by Will Lebow was excellent, his con man-schnorrer convincing and humorous.  His singing was well done and even his attempts at Eastern European dancing did nothing to distract from the action on stage.  The same can be said of Jeremiah Kissel’s Joseph E. Lapidus who played the snookered foil as if he were one himself.  Kathy St. George as Lapidus’s wife Rosalie played her dual role – she was also one of the schnorrers – flawlessly and her take off on a torch song would probably be a show stopper on Broadway.  Dolores, Da Costa’s daughter was finely portrayed by Abby Goldfarb, Ken Cheeseman was a funny butler, perfect “ nothing, see nothing” policeman, fishmonger and schnorrer.   Remo Airaldi (Schmuelly), who kept reminding me of Danny DeVito was one of the highlights of the evening with his singing and acting.  If there was one disappointment it would be Alex Pollack as Joseph E. Lapidus Jr. in that he was hard to understand and, while his character was not likeable, one felt he was not up to the task.

The play has proved popular enough to have several performances added to its stay at the New Rep and if you can find a ticket to this mostly sold out run, pay the money and go see it, on one of these cold, snowy days. It will bring you warmth, perhaps make you qvell.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

City of Somerville: Official Notice of the New Poet Laureate: Nicole Terez Dutton

 City of Somerville, Massachusetts
Joseph A. Curtatone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 February 24, 2015

Somerville resident and accomplished poet, Terez Dutton will serve two year term.

SOMERVILLE – Last month, the City of Somerville gained its first-ever Poet Laureate in Nicole Terez Dutton, a Somerville resident with an impressive literary background. A teacher at the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College, Nicole’s work has been featured in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review, and Salt Hill Journal. She has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

“Somerville has so much creative energy and power, and we are well known for our vibrant arts scene. Similarly, we have a talented, well-educated, and thoughtful writer’s community that needs a voice. In Nicole Terez Dutton, Somerville gains a tremendous advocate and partner for the writing arts, and I am proud to welcome her as our City’s first Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.

The City announced in late 2014 that it was seeking candidates to enhance the profile of poets and poetry in Somerville and surrounding communities. The Poet Laureate is expected to bring poetry to segments of the community that currently have less access or exposure to poetry: senior citizens, youth, and schools. The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term, appointed by the Mayor, and will be provided an honorarium of $2,000 per year.

“Nicole’s work is poised and insightful, and I think it will really resonate with the Somerville community,” said Greg Jenkins, Director of the Somerville Arts Council. “She conveyed a thoughtful perspective on her approach to this new position, and has a passion for promoting poetry through collaboration with youth, elders, and community groups. We’ve gained an impressive ambassador in Nicole Terez Dutton.”

The Poet Laureate was chosen based on a series of criteria, including excellence in craftsmanship, professional achievement, and creating a vision for the position.

“I am thrilled to have been chosen as Somerville’s Poet Laureate and am excited to collaborate with the very talented and passionate members of our community to make poetry more accessible,” said Terez Dutton. “It is an amazing opportunity to share what I love, to connect with writers and readers, and to bring poetry into wider conversation.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thursday, March 5th, will be the hottest night of the year. Women Musicians Network 18th annual concert.

Thursday, March 5th, will be the
hottest night of the year.
Women Musicians Network
18th annual concert.

By Kirk Etherton

    The Berklee Performance Center is the place to be. You'll see 11 original acts: Jazz, Latin, spoken word, funk, pop/R&B, rock, and more. The focus is on Berklee women students and their bands from around the world. 25 countries are represented (including the U.S.).

    This year's special guests are Berklee faculty Melissa Ferrick (acclaimed singer/ songwriter who's released 17 albums), plus Helen Sherrah-Davies and Vessela Stoyanova. (Vessela on midi-marimba and Helen on five-string violin; they play a unique Balkan/jazz.)

    This high-powered, eclectic show is always memorable, and always different. It's directed by Berklee faculty Lucy Holstedt and Christiane Karam.

    Student standouts include Cuban pianist Zahilli Zamora, Mexican poet Joaquina Mertz, and Thai singer/songwriter Prong Praison (to name just three).  NOTE: men are not excluded; you'll see plenty of very fine, non-female musicians.

    Tickets are only $12. Go to

Women Musicians Network
18th Annual Concert, 2015
Thursday, March 5th, 8:00 pm
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cindy Hochman: Habeas Corpus

Cindy Hochman
Habeas Corpus
Glass Lyre Press, LLC
Glenview, IL
© Copyright 2015 by Cindy Hochman
ISBN-10: 1941783023
ISBN-13: 978-1941783023
Softbound, 27 pages, $12

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

This is a book about body parts.  Before you say yuk, let me tell you it is very entertaining. Let me also, for disclosure say that Ms. Hochman published my poetry in her magazine, First Literary Review - East and I will be publishing her this fall in Muddy River Poetry Review.  Having confessed, I can now say that I did judge this book objectively and of the body parts she writes about I have never thought of in quite the same way, except one, which you will figure out if you read this short (27 pages, 13 poems) book.  She writes about the womb, legs, tongue, mouth, liver, fingers, eyebrows, heart, mind eyes, ears, ears (revised), breasts and full body scan.

Yes, she has really written these, and they are quite personal, and all as prose poems, some half a page long, some only one line or two.

Hochman also is prone to puns such as “Eve didn’t know her asp from her elbow because she was too busy tendon her garden.” (from “Womb”).

“Tongue,” on the other hand, is a one line touching tribute to both religion and her father:
“This tongue has said hello to God—and good-bye to Dad.”

Her poem “Heart (a sonnet)” is a hysterical take on former vice president Dick Cheney, and unless you are fan of his or his former boss, you will enjoy her take down of this forever politician. 

And when you read “Full Body Scan,” you will wonder whether it is all true, and I believe it probably is, given she lives in Brooklyn, NY and has survived all these adventures, years and people she has encountered.

Hochman has her own style and way of saying things which is very enjoyable and easy to read.  She is, however, more difficult to classify.  Is she a confessional poet, a dramartic poet or a humorist?  Maybe all of them—sometimes in one poem.  

I really did find the book not only funny but serious – a dichotomy, yes, but nonetheless one which I recommend to all.  You can probably get it by emailing the publisher, Glass Lyre Press at or you can order directly from the poet by emailing

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8