June 28, 2012 —
With a bit of rest after last week’s whirlwind tour of the region, I was able to begin anew and zipped around the four corners, in search of entertainment. Having taken a lengthy hiatus from Rich Kiamco’s traveling Comedy Club (www.thelaughtour.com ), I was newly excited to make my way to the Nutshell in Lake Huntington (www.nutshellarts.com  ), which has become a monthly home for Manhattan’s up-and-coming comics, who often test new material on the (sometimes) unsuspecting audience that the tour attracts.
Kiamco’s tireless efforts to attract a crowd have paid off handsomely, since these events are always well attended, and I saw a lot of fresh faces in the room. Guest hostess Jordan Elizabeth (www.3dudesandabroad.com ), who looked almost too young to be performing in a bar, sparkled while warming up the crowd, and performed a solid, amusing set before welcoming Kiamco to the stage. Kiamco is a seasoned performer, and although it’s time (IMHO) for some fresh material, always amuses with his observations that emphasize his Filipino heritage, family, gay pride and (this time out) his new marriage.
Handing the mic to writer/comedian Naomi Ekperigin (“you had me at hello”), who has coined a new term by describing herself as a “Blacktress,” riffed on her “fish out of water” experience here in the Upper Delaware valley (“I am sooo not a nature girl”) and the sea of “lily white” faces in the room. Funny and fresh, Ekperigin’s set “killed” (as they say in comedy) and her act segued nicely into headliner Yannis Pappas’ high energy, hilarious performance that made me an instant fan. His no-holds-barred commentary on politics, the gays of Sullivan County (dot com), attendee Dharma the wonder dog, and his discomfort with country life was frenetic and funny, and once again, The Laugh Tour hit a home run. Future dates can be found on the website. Pappas’ observation that the “old days of Catskill comics has been revived” is accurate.
Switching gears, I made my way to Narrowsburg to catch the final performance of “Otello,” presented by the Delaware Valley Opera Company (DVO). The first of three attractions in the company’s “Shakespeare Sings” season, the production. beautifully staged at the Tusten Theatre, clearly illustrates the dawning of a new day for the organization, as the company “welcomes back Carol Castel as artistic director, bringing with her a raft of new ideas that will inject the old company with new life” ( www.delawarevalleyopera.org  ).
Castel’s design and stage direction were solid, and the Sunday matinee was well attended, based on “reviews and word of mouth” (according to my sources). Since the lead singers are (mostly) triple cast, I can only discuss the performances that I observed, but that said... they were very, very good. Ed Moran was evil incarnate as the demonic troublemaker Iago, and his interpretation, true to Shakespeare’s tale, served as an ideal backdrop for Giuseppe Verdi’s Italian version of deception, secrets, romance and high drama that the opera world is famous for.
Barbara Allentuch (as the beleaguered, misunderstood Desdemona) has a beautifully trained voice and her tortured trials and tribulations, laced with betrayal (of course), were effective, eliciting the requisite emotion that a lesser diva might not have been up to. Jacqueline Rose’s vocal ability was lovely, and left me wanting more, since her character is off stage more than on, along with minor players Jeremy Griffin, Dan Buccheri, Giorgios Papadimitriou and Scott Silipino.
I found Juan Blanco’s performance as the young (and insidiously double-crossed) Cassio to be amazing. His gorgeous voice (and face) were ideally cast, his acting convincing to a fault, and his stage presence made it clear that he is undoubtedly at home in front of an audience. Again, I wished that Blanco had even more story line, since much of his action takes place behind the scenes, but each time he sang, I was transported in time and place. I can’t enthuse enough about this young man’s impeccable talent.
Naturally, the centerpiece of the show is Otello himself, and Kevin Hanek’s memorable, seafaring Moor was mesmerizing. Commanding the stage, Hanek’s voice is strong and stunning in tone, clarity and range. His thrilling, vocally demanding solos were as riveting as his visage and the audience roared with approval at every turn. Impressive and incredibly versatile, the nuance and subtlety, combined with a forceful, domineering interpretation of the character, all combined to make “A Night at the Opera” an experience that left me anxious to attend the coming attractions of the DVO.
For those unsure whether opera is for them, “Otello” dispelled all doubt, but the season offers Broadway smash “Kiss Me Kate” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” next, which provide an opportunity for audiences to sample the many sides of musical theatre. For information and reservations, visit the website or call 845/252-3136.