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Friday, February 28, 2014

A Bright Idea

From the Tech Vault Dept.: The X-10 company is still around, now positioning its products more for home security. Back in 1996, when I scattered a bunch of these modules throughout my house, they proved to be more trouble than they were worth for reasons I can’t remember. But that was only after I wrote the flag-waving piece below. (Photos by Aaron Lauer.)

                                                                                      

WE ALL TRY TO live by schedules, but humans are inclined to get creative about those things, which is a polite way of saying that we forget stuff. Your PC can help. Computers, with their constantly ticking clocks, can make great butlers once they’re properly equipped.

I have a tendency to hole up in my office and forget to manage the rest of the house. Then, when I pack it in for the night, I forget to turn off the light in my office. That is, I did until I put IBM’s new Aptiva C66 on my desk. This computer comes with X-10-based Home Director, a combination of hardware and software that lets you automate anything that plugs into a wall.

The Home Director package that comes with the Aptiva C66 includes one lamp module, which can control a standard plug-in lamp, and one appliance module, which handles the greater power requirements of a coffeemaker or TV set.

Plug your computer into the included interface module and you can control the lamp, the appliance, and any other household module you might add. The software controls the modules, automatically turning your lamp, coffeepot, or toaster on and off at preset times. You can set a schedule for each module, or you can put a group of modules on the same schedule to coordinate their functions.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Lost Repartee

Guest Blogger Dept.: More verse by P.G. Wodehouse, proving that even a century ago we lamented the lost art of chit-chat, and with no electronics to hold as scapegoat.

                                                                                              

P. G. Wodehouse
O! bitter the grief that it causes to me,
The thought of that wonderful, lost repartee.
In its youth and its beauty it fled from my brain,
And never, I fear me, ah! never again,
If I wait all my life, from today till I die,
Shall I find such a chance for a crushing reply.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Deadly Sins

From the Vault Dept.: Itzhak Perlman comes to Schenectady’s Proctors Theater on Saturday, which prompted me to check the archives for previous archives. Here’s one from 2004. Below, you’ll find my account of a concert that took place a deecade before that.

                                                                                              

THE CROWD PLEASER – and crowd puller – of the evening was Itzhak Perlman, who played the violin concerto by Brahms. No doubt the idea is to lure the gamblers from horses to warhorses. Charles Dutoit conducted the orchestra, and they did a gorgeous job, making the most of the shimmering textures of Brahms’s orchestration.

Itzhak Perlman
Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Perlman is certainly on familiar ground here, and, except for some arrhythmic passagework, had no trouble with the piece. But he had nothing new to add to it, and teetered on the brink of boredom. No exploration, no risk taking. There has to be a reason besides sheer familiarity to drag a piece like this out of the repertory year after year, and competence alone isn’t enough. That’s when it becomes the concertgoing equivalent of listening to a recording – which similarity was heightened by the miking of Perlman’s violin, fed through the main amphitheater speaker. Lawn auditors need it, of course, but can’t we have natural sound in the theater itself? The ongoing encroachment of electronics is unfortunate.

Amplification was understandably needed in “The Seven Deadly Sins,” which comprised most of the first half. This was the last collaboration between composer Kurt Weill and librettist Bertold Brecht, written in Paris in 1933, but the music is much more lyrical than their earlier pieces while still sporting a sardonic, punchy edge.

Monday, February 24, 2014

North by Southwest

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: Let’s check in with this week’s Metroland review.

                                                                        

HAS IT BEEN that long? The ever-reliable lack of time and money means I can’t return to favored restaurants as often as I’d like, yet when I walked into Sunset Café recently, it felt as if I’d last been there a month or two ago. It was nearly 13 years.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
This was just after the place opened, succeeding Auguste Café (and a string of other eateries, dating back decades) at that address. The chef-owner then was Jim Koines, who’d grown up in the town and worked for a number of area restaurants before opening his own place. He developed the menu of Southwestern-inspired fare, and ran the Sunset for four years before selling it to current owners Tim and Annelise Kavanaugh, who also brought chef Dan Skawinski on board. “They asked me to stay on for a couple of weeks to help them get acclimated,” he told me recently. “That was nine years ago. I’m still coming in part-time to tend bar.” (And it’s worth noting you’ll find an excellent selection of affordable wine and beer here, with several good brews, including selections from Davidson Bros., where Koines once worked, on tap.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Proctor’s Golden Silents

From the Vault Dept.: They drew audiences of varying size, these silent movies at Proctor’s in Schenectady, and the series limped along for a few years before giving way to the olla podrida of titles that continues to liven the theater’s dark nights. But here is my 1986 preview of what I consider the best series of all: a Harold Lloyd festival.

                                                                                         

HERE’S S. J. PERELMAN describing himself at the 1919 premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s “Male and Female,” starring Thomas Meighan and Gloria Swanson: “(I) was hanging out of a balcony seat at the Victory in a catatonic state, impervious to everything but the photoplay dancing on the screen. My absorption was fortunate, for at regular intervals the ushers circulated through the aisles, spraying the audience with an orange scent that practically ate away the mucous membrane.”
Harold Lloyd

There was nothing like it. Audiences accustomed to the variety bill of vaudeville found that they could pay far less to watch the travails of incredibly handsome, colorless faces enlarged to Brobdingnagian proportions while an invisible orchestra or organist provided a musical counterpoint to the action.

Of course the “pictures” were lambasted as criminal, sinful, immoral – what fun thing isn’t? But they sure caught on. Palaces were built to house the showings, structures larger and more ornate than any live-performance theater. Blind worship of these black-and-white stars made them the most popular (and recognizable) figures on earth.

We’ve all seen a few of those silents on TV. They suffer freakish fates of being shown at the wrong speed or being made asinine with stupid musical accompaniment. So I went to the silent movies at Proctor’s in Schenectady two summers ago with reluctance. And I was astonished.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hudson Air

"We're the voices in your head . . . "

Clockwise from bottom left: Lincoln Mayorga, Lora Lee Ecobelli,
Byron Nilsson, Andrew Joffe, James Occhino, Nancy Rothman.
2 February 2014 | Photo by B. A. Nilsson

Friday, February 21, 2014

Eat Me

Playing with Bacon Dept.: Last fall I was asked to contribute a short play to a festival of one-acts on the theme of bacon that was presented Oct. 3, 2013 at the Ding Dong Lounge, on Columbus Ave. near 105th St. in Manhattan. I played the role of Will opposite a good friend and terrific actor named Libby Skala. Here’s the script of Eat Me.

                                                                                

AT RISE:  SHEILA is seated at a cafeteria table with a tray of tea and a danish.  SHE reads a magazine.  WILL, who is large and unkempt, appears with a tray of stew and rolls and butter.  HE places the tray beside hers, sits, and butters his rolls enthusiastically.  HE regards his food longingly, then dives into it with messy gusto.  SHEILA is horrified.

SHEILA: You’re a pig!  (WILL looks up in alarm.)  Gross!  (SHE moves as if to leave.)
WILL: Don’t go!  Please!  I didn’t mean to offend.  I can’t help myself sometimes. (SHEILA relents and sits.)  Eat me.  (SHEILA slaps WILL’s face.)
SHEILA: You are a pig!
WILL: How did you know?
SHEILA: Look at you!
WILL: I guess it’s still obvious.  I can put on clothing, I can put on shoes – there’s almost nothing left of my tail – but I’ll never really look like one of you guys.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Restoration

SIXTY YEARS LATER, the sought-after amount seems even more pitifully tiny, but the pursuit of that stash of cash has lost none of its plausibility. These people want that money and are prepared to do whatever it takes to be first to find it.

Drawing by Jack Davis
“It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” premiered in 1963 as producer-director Stanley Kramer’s attempt to impose the widescreen, blockbuster model on a comedy that William Rose (“The Ladykillers”) wrote to take place across Scotland. Kramer, upon receiving the script, had other ideas.

What probably was intended as a small Alec Guinness feature swelled into something that required two scripts for the actors, one of them for stunt effects alone. This was one of the first films to make extensive use of car chases and crashes, and it was filmed in Ultra Panavision, a Cinerama replacement that didn’t require three cameras (and projectors) to achieve its widescreen effect.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Naughty is Nice

From the Sock Drawer Dept.: While strip joints have proliferated in the Albany area since I wrote this piece in 1986, the Harwood House (run by a retired state trooper is long gone, and the Governor’s Inn went downhill until hit with a fire four years ago. But Deja Vu is still around, albeit reduced to one location at 145 Wolf Road (Shopper’s Park) in Albany.

                                                                                       

WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH the fact that taking off your clothes, no matter how dull the body underneath might be, is often considered naughty. And as soon as something is declared naughty it becomes a lot more exciting.

Valentine’s Day offers an excellent motivation for getting naughty. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider the following: You can watch a professional remove her clothes; you can spice up your own bedroom routine with some sexy adornments, or you and your mate both can do so in the privacy of an exotic hotel room, complete with special lights and mirrors.

Professional strip-tease is becoming harder to find. Locally, legislation has been passed in Halfmoon and Schenectady laying out the specifics of what clothing a dancer can remove, and this nearsighted lawmaking has been instrumental in returning a highly charged style of exotic dancing to the area.

While legislating against “obscenity,” the lawmakers are encouraging eroticism. The word “suggestive” means just that: something suggested, not spelled out. If you want to see somebody naked, the suspense lies in wondering when that last bit of clothing is going to come off.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mid-Winter Sports

Guest Blogger Dept.: It’s Robert Benchley time – and who better to comment on a current and very annoying preoccupation?

                                                                         

THESE ARE MELANCHOLY DAYS for the newspaper sporting-writers. The complaints are all in from old grads of Miami who feel that there weren’t enough Miami men on the All-American football team, and it is too early to begin writing about the baseball training camps. Once in a while some lady swimmer goes around a tank three hundred times, or the holder of the Class B squash championship “meets all-comers in court tilt,” but aside from that, the sporting world is buried with the nuts for the winter.

“He was further aided by the
breaks of the game.”
Drawing by Gluyas Williams
Since sporting-writers must live, why not introduce a few items of general interest into their columns, accounts of the numerous contests of speed and endurance which take place during the winter months in the homes of our citizenry? For instance:
The nightly races between Mr. and Mrs. Theodore M. Twamly, to see who can get into bed first, leaving the opening of the windows and putting out of the light for the loser, was won last night for the first time this winter by Mr. Twamly. Strategy entered largely into the victory, Mr. Twamly getting into bed with most of his clothes on.
An interesting exhibition of endurance was given by Martin W. Lasbert at his home last evening when he covered the distance between the cold-water tap in his bath-room to the bedside of his young daughter, Mertice, eighteen times in three hours, this being the number of her demands for water to drink. When interviewed after the eighteenth lap, Mr. Lasbert said: “I wouldn’t do it another time, not if the child were parching.” Shortly after that he made his nineteenth trip.

Monday, February 17, 2014

V-Day Blues

From the Vault Dept.: Back in the prehistoric days before Albany’s Metroland magazine officially became an alternative newsweekly, I was able to sneak all kinds of stuff into its pages. Here’s something that ran in the Valentine’s Day issue (which is now the Sex issue) in 1987.

                                                                                     

“I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF HER. Can you put up with the kid for a couple of days?” It was my brother-in-law Ted the Yuppie, trying to fob his uncommunicative kid, Melanie, off on me. “Valentine’s Day is approaching and she’s real depressed over some guy.”

He dropped her off at my house and she marched sullenly up the walk, entered, said nothing, and dropped into a chair at the kitchen table. She grunted in response to my greeting. “Take off your coat,” I suggested. She didn’t.

She’s an attractive kid, for 15. Actually, I find it hard to judge adolescent beauty any more. The farther I race away from that age, the more they look like ungainly foals.

“So who’s this guy you’re worried about?” I boldly asked.

“Terry,” she said.

“And you like him?” I asked stupidly.

She gave a wry laugh. “He’s such a gronk!”

“He’s ignoring you or something?”

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Carmine-O Mio

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s Metroland food piece revisits a chef about whom I’ve written a few times before – and I’ve appended one such piece to the end of it, so keep reading.

                                                                                               

YOU WALK INTO A RESTAURANT on what’s supposed to be a slow night and spot two eight-tops who have yet to order as well as some scattered deuces and you’re tempted to turn on your heel, an impulse countered by the chill of the night air and the amount of time it took to find a parking space.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
Yet as our dinner at Carmine’s restaurant progressed, we not only were well attended but also watched, impressed, as the three waiters and hostess stepped up their tempo to accommodate the influx of more and more.

“We weren’t expecting it,” our waiter said, “but we’ll take it.”

Carmine’s Restaurant is the latest eatery to feature the culinary stylings of one of the area’s most dynamic and voluble chefs, Carmine Sprio, who first established himself on an uptown stretch of Central Avenue.

In 1996, he took over the Albany location of what had been Alteri’s. That version of “Carmine’s” lasted 14 years, during which time he also had success as an engaging TV cooking show host who tied in food with community activity. (And I’ll confess that I once was a guest on the program, when my hair was many shades darker.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Snowtime!

And tonight, for me, it's show time. So I'm indulging in a re-run, referring you to my previously blog-published piece about the snowblower army that would jolt me out of sleep of a snowy morning when I lived in Schenectady, NY's Stockade area.
 

Keep shoveling!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love-In Tomorrow

Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, 8 PM,
Valentine's Day. Love to see you there!

Malcolm Kogut, Amy Prothro, Byron Nilsson
Photo by Lily Whiteman

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Saluting Sid

"Ten from 'Your Show of Shows'" was my introduction to the amazing art of Sid Caesar (although I did see "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" when it hit the Ridgefield Playhouse in 1964); I first saw him in person in "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" at Connecticut's Candlewood Playhouse, a tour of which he claimed to remember very little thanks to his booze consumption at the time. Next time it was at Proctors in Schenectady, in 1988, and I filed this report.

Madame’s Butterfly

From the Vault Dept.: My interview, such as it was, with the legendary Natalia Sats is here. The relationship between her Moscow Musical Theatre for Children and NY’s Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts brought her company back two years later for the performance reviewed below.

                                                                               

IT'S STILL A PUZZLE, this choice of Puccini's “Madame Butterfly” as one of the Moscow Musical Theatre for Children’s offerings this month at the Egg.

Moscow Musical Theatre for Children
Thanks to a cultural exchange program (which took the Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts to Moscow with “Rag Dolly”), Natalia Sats’s venerable company returned this week with more productions, and the opera was another dazzling example of this company’s no-holds-barred theatricality.

But why “Butterfly”? It doesn’t paint a terribly nice portrait of America, as U.S. Navy Lieutenant Pinkerton trifles with the love of an uncommon Japanese woman, whose devotion to him brings about her own tragic end.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Smut in the World!

Guest Blogger Dept.: It was quite the scandal in 1925 – at least as far as New York’s theatergoing public was concerned. One “dirty” show after another was opening on Broadway (“Desire under the Elms” and Mae West’s “Sex” not the least of them) and they were being castigated from the pulpits and threatened with closure by District Attorney Joab Hamilton Banton. One show in particular caught not only scorn but also the eye of Herman J. Mankiewicz, whose New Yorker essay on the topic is reproduced below. The show was titled “The Good Bad Woman,” written by William J. McNally, and it opened on 9 February 1925 and ran for 16 performances, during which time it was never out of the news as producer William A. Brady repeatedly offered to shutter it if the other controversial shows also closed their doors. The attention it received through articles in the NY Times and NY World contributed to what longevity it had. Even after it was revised and re-opened later that year, it ran for only 64 more performances.


Herman J. Mankiewicz
Could its plot have had something to do with that? Here’s the summary from Thomas S. Hischak’s exhaustive Broadway Plays and Musicals: Descriptions and Essential Facts of More Than 14,000 Shows through 2007: “Ex-streetwalker Eileen Donovan (Helen MacKellar) gets a job working in the home of the Capper family and cannot resist seducing the son Archie (Donald Cameron). She gets pregnant but the baby dies. Eileen feels she ought to make it up to Archie so she goads her father (Walter Laws) into killing the cruel Dr. Carlyle Lawler (Robert Strange), knowing that Archie loves the doctor's wife June (Edith King). With Archie and June united, Eileen sets off to do other good deeds.”

Here’s Mankiewicz’s take on the subject. (The word in question probably was "goddamn.")

                                                                            

Monday, February 10, 2014

Minneapolis Fire

From the Vault Dept.: I got a lot of mileage out of a train trip I took to Minneapolis in 1990, spending a week with friends when a show I was supposed to appear in fell through. I wrote about the Summit Brewing Company, and the piece below accompanied an account of the train ride, and here’s another piece about my Sri Lankan meal.

                                                                               

IN MANY RESPECTS, Minneapolis is the American equivalent of London. There's that river, first of all, the country's largest, splitting the metropolitan area in two. The other side is called St. Paul, of course, and maintains a fairly autonomous identity. But each of the cities also is made up of a cluster of component villages.

Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Those villages are both the outposts of old and the ethnic enclaves grown up in recent decades. Minneapolis and St. Paul have a cultural diversity in all senses of the word: many cultures are gathered, and an active artistic life reflects an awareness of this variety.

So do the restaurants. During a week-long visit, I dropped in on Vietnam, Mongolia and Sri Lanka along with the more familiar outposts from Texas and Northern Italy.

Although these cities are smack dab in the middle of a midwestern area settled by Scandinavians and Germans, the metropolitan area has attracted an ethnic mix as varied as those restaurants suggest. Yet there's a wide-eyed friendliness about the people in the cities, something so awfully accessible that it's hard to think of the place in metropolitan-area terms.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Itchy and Scratchy

Day at the Opera Dept.: Opera has always been juicy, reworking the bloody moments of classic drama into entertainment all the more satisfying because the music intensifies the emotion. Mascagni took it a step further with the 1890 premiere of Cavalleria rusticana, which sought to offer a more realistic look at the lives thus portrayed. Verismo, as it was called, was furthered by Leoncavallo, whose Pagliacci enshrined the image of the tormented clown. The two short operas, often paired, are known as “Cav and Pag,” and it just such a pairing by Glimmerglass Opera a dozen years ago that I reviewed for the late andante.com

                                                                                 
              

A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN TWO MEN silently plays out on a platform center stage. Beyond it, in bleachers, an audience reacts. The confrontation grows more violent. There’s a stabbing. Then the orchestra kicks in with the prologue from Pagliacci.

Alice Busch Opera Theater
It’s the unorthodox start of the unorthodox staging of the verismo twins, presented in reverse of the traditional order. That’s so the villagers of Cavalleria rusticana, most dressed in green, can enjoy the performance of the Pagliacci cast before plunging into the drama of their own – and isn’t that Turiddu having a passionate smooch with Lola while the Pagliacci Intermezzo sounds?

Before Tonio addresses the audience, he’s presented as the author of this drama (baritone Ned Barth displayed a Leonard Warren-rich voice and an appropriately menacing presence). But his assurance that we’re in for a big slice of truth already has been undermined by the stagy self-consciousness of the setting. Which actually is a good thing: Pagliacci is hardly the verismatic piece it was when new, and we might as well acknowledge its melodramatic makeup. Tonio becomes, in fact, the godlike author of it all: it’s he, at the end of Cavalleria, who hands the murder weapon to Alfio with dreamlike inevitability.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Steamboat Round the Bend

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s restaurant review looks at an enterprising Asian eatery on Albany’s Central Ave., where a hot pot buffet is among its unusual offerings.

                                                                    

IT WAS THE START of the Chinese new year and a cluster of smokers huddled outside the restaurant. Inside, the place was in full party mode, with most of the main-dining-room tables filled – we snagged the last two seats there – and people visiting from table to table, reconfiguring them by placing chairs in the narrow aisles but never impeding the foot-traffic of the buffet-bound.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
What formerly had been a desultory Chinese buffet transformed, three months ago, into a different kind of all-you-can-eat enterprise. The buffet now offers ingredients for you to poach in a hot pot, which is a very different kind of gustatory delight.

Szechuan hot pot is also known as steamboat or shabu-shabu, and you also can enjoy it locally at downtown Albany’s Shining Rainbow restaurant. There you’re buying the components a la carte; here, most of it is laid out for you. Meat will be brought to the table: frozen shavings of fatty slices of beef or pork (chicken had sold out, to my wife’s distress).

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Working in Coffeehouses, Vol. 18 mos.

PROVING THAT IT’S NOT a seasonal phenomenon, today’s away-from-home work session is punctuated by the non-stop shrieks and burbles of an infant whose caterwauling clearly is the finest vocal recital ever unleashed. The cries are arrhythmic and know no tonal center. They emerge at full volume, offering only diminuendi for contrast. And they are being performed by a child whose mother was on her way out of the coffeehouse, spotted an acquaintance at a near-the-front table, and stopped to chat. And chat.

Back in her single-digit days, there were social occasions at which my daughter, having been told we’d be leaving soon, get ready, would ask, “Is this a real ‘soon’ or a grown-ups ‘soon’?” A fair question, as it forced me to recognize just how dilatory I could be in getting my ass out of a place with friends. When I honestly answered, “Grown-up ‘soon,’” she’d shrug obligingly and go back to whatever she was doing.

I’m cursed with a very long memory. Fortunately, it has stopped accumulating information with anything like the intensity of its younger years. But I can remember back to an age when I was frustrated at being unable to articulate myself with the words that were making more and more sense around me, and felt particularly pissed when grown-ups (which included anyone over the age of five) would address me with baby talk. It wasn’t the way they spoke to one another, so why waste my time with it? I thought, although I’m sure it was in simpler terms.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hi-Def Carmen

From the Dress Circle Dept.: It’s a snowy day, perfect for the outdoorsies who live to shovel and a ski, even better for those like myself who see it as a chance to catch up on movies. Here’s my brief review of an early-winter outing a few years ago.

                                                                                 

I TRIED TO FEEL ballsy about it, like a toreador advancing into the bullring. In this case, I was fighting cultural indifference by flinging myself into a movie-theater seat at Crossgates Mall, asserting, by my presence at a Metropolitan Opera simulcast, that a small beacon of enlightenment still shone. Until I realized that Crossgates and all it stands for doesn’t give a shit provided I’m forking over cash.

Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen
So the snob in me (and it’s a very large presence) took much more satisfaction in attending an opera simulcast last week at Proctor’s GE Theatre. Furthermore: This was the opening night at La Scala. Take that, Lincoln Center.

A new production of Bizet’s Carmen is opera-world newsworthy; in this case, it also featured the debut of 25-year-old mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role, a casting gamble by conductor Daniel Barenboim that paid off brilliantly. She has a big, gorgeous voice with a rich top end, and she acted the role with passionate conviction.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Brant-ching Off

From the Concert Hall Dept.: A double-feature of reviews, both of which ran on the same day. Sadly, the Brant Quintet never achieved traction as such, although those members who are still in the Albany area continue to perform in various ensembles.

                                                                         

WHEN INSTRUMENTALISTS GATHER in a player’s living room, they have a wealth of charming pieces available to them which mightn’t succeed in a large concert hall: duets, trios, and so on, written for every conceivable combination of instruments.

The Brant Quintet, an Albany-based group consisting of string quartet plus double bass, made its debut Thursday in the Recital Hall of the State University at Albany’s Performing Arts Center. The quintet gave us a sampling of some of that music along with a fine performance of Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2.

The group opened the program with a string sonata by Rossini, one of a group of six he wrote which are also performed by wind ensembles. The players were violinists Robert Taylor and Ann-Marie Barker, cellist Susan Ruzow and bassist David Scott Allen. It’s a tough piece filled with lovely, singing lines of melody, all of which only work when the group has a common idea of interpretation.

This is why it’s important to encourage a group such as the Brant, because chamber music benefits from ensembles which make a specialty of concertizing together.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Back to Main Street

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: It had been twelve years since my last visit to this location, and I’d forgotten a restaurant sat at this spot – I’d missed its interlude as an Italian eatery. Here’s the recent review, followed by what I wrote in 2002.

                                                                                       

“DID YOU KNOW there’s a restaurant there?” My friend Malcolm had driven to the Round Lake area to meet me for a rehearsal, and spotted an attractive-looking barn on a rural Main Street north of Clifton Park. It was only when we ventured there for dinner that evening that I recognized the place as a restaurant I reviewed a dozen years ago, a place then called Crabapple Farm Restaurant.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
Now it’s the Main Street Grille. It’s got the same owners, and the menu is reminiscent of its former days—but there are significant, and worthy, differences.

The story, as described by co-owner Karen Esposito, is that she and her husband, John, decided to get out of the business some years ago and leased the space to Fabio’s Italian Restaurant, which operated there for about five years until relocating.

“Then my husband wanted to get back into the business,” says Karen, her tone of voice acknowledging how crazy that sounds. “We decided to do it again but to change a few things.”

Saturday, February 01, 2014

It Needs Character



Sometimes you should let the character actors take over the show. Here are Edgar Kennedy, Sam Levene, Allen Jenkins, Teddy Hart (whose brother wrote song lyrics), and Frank McHugh in a key moment, thoughtfully recreated for this still, from George Abbott's "Three Men on a Horse."