More often than not, I have such a wide variety of events to attend here in the Upper Delaware River Valley during any given week that it is sometimes perplexing as to how I will tie them all together with a neat bow when I sit down to write. Music, art, theatre and fundraisers, with a party thrown into the mix, do stimulate, but are frequently at opposite ends of the spectrum and challenge the thought process, as my fingers fly across the keyboard. The past few days were no exception and (figuratively) provided a mixed bag.
My first stop was in Liberty, NY for a festive event labeled a “Hickster Mixer” hosted by Akira and Ellie Ohiso (www.greendoormag.com ) whom I believe are on the cutting edge. Their ideas are fun, fresh and innovative, and the mixer invited members of the community to actively participate by bringing our own music (via iPods and the like) to be combined with the hundreds of vinyl albums provided by mix-master Jon Jon Thomas. He and his band of merry DJs kept the platters (and downloads) spinning throughout the evening, as folks were encouraged to purchase “Bethel Woods Center for the Arts County Cares for St. Jude Kids Boot Cards.” (Say that three times fast.) For more information on the St. Jude boot card locations and related events, visit www.thunder102.com . The party was swell, the music too loud, and ultimately Dharma (the wonder dog) and I made a not-so-hasty retreat before moving on to the next experience.
Live music was on the bill at the Silk Mill in Hawley, PA (www.silkmillharmony.com ) and (as it turns out) I was thrilled to be exposed to newcomer Nicky Egan, who, accompanied by phenomenal blues guitarist Kyle LaLone, blew the roof off the Boiler Room with her bluesy, sexy, heartfelt renditions of (mostly) original songs that reminded me of Janis Joplin mixed with Joe Cocker and a smidge of Bette Midler, while remaining truly unique and original. Egan (www.nickyegan.com ) is only 23 years old, but her stylized vocals and superb (IMHO) songwriting skills combine to create a world-weary groove that elicited an enthusiastic response from the crowd and excited me in a way that I’ve not felt in a long while. The evening was hosted by Harmony Presents’ Jill Carletti, who was rightfully effusive over Egan, declaring that she is a “legend in the making,” and I heartily concur. Honestly, I was wowed. There is something thrilling about being in on the ground floor of a performer’s career and I relish the opportunity to hear Egan again. Meanwhile, her music is available (pay what you can) online and she has just released new material (and a music video shot in the Catskills) that is destined to become classic Nicky Egan.
Adding an evening of theatre was next on my list, so the dog and I hightailed it over to Highland Lake, NY (www.NACL.org ) to soak in the Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble’s production of “Same River,” which the program describes as “an improvised, inter-disciplinary performance based on interviews with local residents.” The written material goes on to say that “the improvisations are structured so that certain characters and points are hit each performance; however, blocking, choreography and music changes from show to show.” While that much was clear, I felt that the piece was uneven and that the unstructured aspect created muddy waters that left me wanting more cohesion. Confused, I turned to the program repeatedly, which informed me that “the piece seeks to draw connections, to give voice to multiple viewpoints [on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking] and that we are all downstream, that the earth’s water supply is all the same river.” Okay.
Johnathan Carr’s striking video design, coupled with sound designer Rolf Sturm’s deft use of music and effects combined to elevate the show, even as the performers stumbled over the improv, searching for the right words, and stammering while attempting to incorporate local references (Jeffersonville, Josh Fox and Callicoon, to name a few). IMHO these mentions did not exemplify a solid use of “interviews with local residents,” but instead seemed contrived, gimmicky and at times, sloppy. Presenting “multiple viewpoints” was also unclear, especially since two of the main characters were supposedly at loggerheads over the issue at hand, but the piece (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is clearly slanted against fracking. The performers are talented, that much is clear, but the disparity between the scripted content versus the improvisational created troubled waters, that left me wondering where the direction was. Leese Walker helmed the performance and also appeared on stage (as several characters) which I rarely think is a good idea. Where her acting skills shone, her direction faltered and I found the interpretive dance/movement (Donna Bouthillier) and musical riffs (Rob Henke) distracting. To say the production was a mixed bag would be an understatement, since some of it was really polished and slick, while the rest was a bit of a mess. A perfect example of the validity that less is more, “Same River” needs simplicity, for still waters run deep.