Monthly archive

March 2017

Township launches wind-alert system for trash collection

in Community/municipal government
LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS

moss@montclairlocal.news

In an effort to reduce litter being scattered, starting this Saturday the Department of Community Services will initiate a two-level high-winds declaration system to delay or cancel refuse/recycling collection when local forecasts call for high-wind speeds or sustained wind gusts, the township said Thursday.

When there is such an advisory  residents will have to refrain from putting trash and recycling to the curb until 6 a.m. on the day of collection. DCS will begin pick-up service at 7:30 a.m. to give residents sufficient time in the morning to bring their refuse/recycling out to the curb.

A severe-winds advisory will cancel refuse/recycling collection and containers shouldn’t be placed at the curb.

High/severe winds declaration notices will go out via the Montclair Events and Township Services, or METS, alert system. They will also  be posted on the township website, montclairnjusa.org, and Facebook page, the TV34 crawl and tweeted.

In addition, Remyndr, Montclair’s collection notification app, will send an alert to subscribers to let them know they need to delay bringing refuse/recycling to the curb or that next day collection service will be canceled.

“The township continues its efforts to keep our neighborhoods litter-free and the new high/severe winds declaration measure will help reduce the amount of garbage and recyclable materials strewn on roadways, sidewalks and lawns,” the township said in a press release.

Restaurants flock to ‘foodie town’

in Dining/Restaurants
Jack Tabibian, who has the successful Jack’s Lobster Shack in Edgewater, will soon be opening Jack’s Seafood Shack in Montclair on Bloomfield Avenue. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS

moss@montclairlocal.news

Restaurateur Jack Tabibian is bringing Maine to Montclair.

The Bergen County resident has spent roughly $200,000 to create Jack’s Seafood Shack, renovating space that’s been vacant for about three years, formerly Lalezar, across the street from the Whole Foods market on Bloomfield Avenue.

The interior has a nautical design, with buoys and lots of wood, and will feature an oyster bar, some counter seating at the window facing the street, and a huge tank — the size of a Jacuzzi — that can hold up to 400 lobsters, brought in from Maine.

Tabibian already has a successful seafood eatery, Jack’s Lobster Shack, in Edgewater. When he decided to expand and open a second restaurant, he chose Montclair.

“I just think Montclair has got everything you want,” he said. “It’s a foodie town. And I saw this corner that was available and I just didn’t want to miss it or lose it. So we made the deal and we made the decision to open our second location here.”

Jack’s Seafood Shack is slated to open in mid-April, around Easter.

Montclair, which already has more than 120 eateries offering all types of cuisines, is seeing a surge in new restaurants. More than a half dozen are slated to open in the next three months, and at least that many have set up shop in town in the past six months or so.

Award-winning chef Robert Cho will be bringing Kimchi Smoke to Bloomfield Avenue, where it will be joined by Tacoria, which is expanding beyond New Brunswick. Fin Raw Bar and Kitchen is opening a gastro pub, The Crosby, in a building right next to its location on Glenridge Avenue.

In addition, Belgiovine Delicatessen is renovating long-vacant space next door to build the Broughton Grill, while Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen will be debuting its first eatery.

Chef and restaurateur Robert Cho will bring his Kimchi Smoke Barbecue to Montclair, choosing a storefront on Bloomfield Avenue. He already has a Kimchi Smoke in Westwood. Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen will be opening up next door to Kimchi Smoke in Montclair. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

Finally, a contemporary Italian restaurant, Punto Russo, has leased the space on Park Street formerly occupied by Fricassee French Bistro. The new restaurant has targeted mid-April to open. Those restaurants will join Montclair newcomers such as Oh My Cod, a fish-and-chips place from the owners of Montclair Bread Company, Mezoco Mexican Taqueria, Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza, Bluff City BBQ and Diesel & Duke.

The restaurant business is a difficult one, and Montclair has seen its share of eateries being shuttered. Nonetheless, restaurateurs said that they are drawn, not daunted, by the wide array of restaurants and activity in the township, which makes it a destination for culture and food lovers alike, and its diverse population.

And several restaurateurs said that they are responding to the influx of young couples with families, some abandoning places like New York City for the suburbs, who have urbane palates and high standards when they go out to dine.

“So many of the people moving here and buying houses right now are from Brooklyn,” said Kevin Costello, development director for Willow Street Partners in Montclair. “They had a kid or two in Brooklyn and now are coming here. … And these people want kind of these more trendy, upscale places. … The things that are really cool now are not the sit-down formal dinners. Kimchi Smoke and Tacoria and Ani Ramen, that’s the kind of thing that’s really hot right now.”

Costello recently landed Kimchi Smoke, Tacoria and Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen as tenants on Bloomfield Avenue. “The market is crazy right now,” Costello said, referring to the demand for space by restaurateurs.

Cho opened his first Kimchi Smoke, which he described as barbecue ”with some Korean flavors and ingredients,” in Westwood and wanted to add a second restaurant.

“I’ve been looking for possible locations and Montclair has been on my radar before, but last year when I looked on Bloomfield Avenue it seemed like there was really no restaurant space available,” he said. “I didn’t think I would find anything in Montclair. When there is something it gets scooped up really fast. … I did a couple of food and wine events in Montclair that were really well received. I think Montclair is one of the food capitals of Jersey.”

Luck Sarabhayavanija, the owner of Ani Ramen on Bloomfield Avenue, said he is looking for a spot to open a second restaurant in town.

Cho put a query on Instagram asking for suggestions on where he should open his second place, and many recommended Montclair. So he said he took another stab at finding space in the township, and this time found a spot on Bloomfield Avenue, where he expects to open in late April or early May.

The founders of Tacoria, three Rutgers University graduates, offer what they describe as West Coast-style Mexican food at a small eatery in New Brunswick that they opened about a year ago. One member of the trio, Chuck Patel, said they had been scouting for another, much larger, location for about eight months, and considered the Jersey shore, Jersey City and Hoboken before opting for Montclair. They have leased space at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and North Willow Street that was once home to Elevation Burger and European Portuguese Barbecue, and are upbeat about their prospects in Montclair.   

“We think it’s a great mix of people,” Patel said. “The food scene in Montclair is just amazing. You can get anything you want, whether it’s ramen, Indian food. It’s very eclectic. We feel like we’re just going to be a great addition to the scene.”

He and his partners plan to have Tacoria open in the next three months.

Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen will be opening right next door to Kimchi Smoke on Bloomfield Avenue and is targeting a debut in July, according to pastry chef and owner Risa Magid Boyer. It will have a horseshoe-shaped table where patrons can sit in front of the open kitchen and watch their food being prepared. While the restaurant’s focus is on desserts, its menu will include lunch specials and “light and savory” dinner offerings as well, said Boyer, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

“People who go to Montclair to eat are often looking for something different and unique,” she said, which is why she believes the town is a good venue for her dessert restaurant.

The eatery, meant to be a prototype for other Vanillamore Dessert Kitchens, will also sell desserts to go, Boyer said.

Fin is renovating an adjacent building, formerly home of Montclair Feed & Pet Supply, to create The Crosby, a gastro pub that will serve comfort food, have 40 varieties of beer on tap and offer valet service, said Gerry Cerrigone, part of the group that owns six North Jersey restaurants, including Saluté on Glenridge Avenue in Montclair. The owners at one point were looking to open their pub at the former site of South Park at the corner of Church and South Park streets.

The Crosby is scheduled to open in April.

Belgiovine’s Deli, on the same strip of Bloomfield Avenue as Jack’s Seafood Shack, is planning a “hybrid” menu at its adjacent Broughton Grill that will include fare such as fresh-ground burgers, prime rib sandwiches, cheese-steak sandwiches made with top-round beef, New York-style corned beef and pastrami, and sausage and peppers, according to Gerard Cope, manager of the deli and coming restaurant. It will also offer ice cream from Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery in Bloomfield.

The grill is slated to open in May, Cope said.

“We’ve been here for a long time already with the deli, so we already have a good following,” he said. “So we know we can carry that over.”

The fact that another restaurant, Jack’s Seafood Shack, is opening nearby isn’t a competitive disadvantage, according to Cope.

“It sort of makes our little strip here a little bit of a destination,” he said. “It brings more foot traffic and everybody’s going to benefit from that.”

One of the town’s recent restaurant newcomers is Mezoco Mexican Taqueria, which opened in December at 25 Depot Square near the Walnut Street train station. Montclair resident Gregory Cuoco worked out a deal to operate his eatery, which he said has authentic Mexican street food, out of the kitchen of the Erie Saloon bar. Patrons order food from one counter from Mezoco, and then order their alcoholic beverages from the Saloon’s bar and then dine in an area with tables.

Tabibian of Jack’s Seafood Shack said the menu of his Montclair restaurant will be more extensive and upscale than in Edgewater because it has Jared Bennett, a CIA graduate, on board as its chef.

Even though the Seafood Shack doesn’t have a liquor license, the restaurant is putting together a list of wines that will pair well with its food. Tabibian said he is talking to several of Montclair’s many liquor stores to arrange for them to deliver wines that customers choose.

“In Edgewater I don’t have that luxury,” he said “The closest liquor store is two miles away.”

New on the scene

Restaurants debuting soon:

Jack’s Seafood Shack, 720 Bloomfield Ave.

Kimchi Smoke, 345 Bloomfield Ave.

The Crosby American Gastropub, 193 Glenridge Ave.

Broughton Grill, 712 Bloomfield Ave.

Tacoria, 367 Bloomfield Ave.

Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen, 349 Bloomfield Ave.

Punto Rosso, 6 Park St.

Recent openings:

Mezoco Mexican Taqueria, 25 Depot Square

Oh My Cod, 103 Forest Ave.

Bluff City BBQ, 21 Midland Ave.

Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza, 558 Bloomfield Ave.

Diesel & Duke, 39 Glenridge Ave.

Softball: MKA girls are primed for a big season

in High School Sports
MKA Freshman Geena Pacifico delivers a pitch during the Cougars’ trip to Florida.
Photo Courtesy of MKA Softball

By Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Kimberely Academy girls softball team is rounding into form just in time for the start of the season.
Returning from a successful trip to Florida, where they played multiple games as a tuneup for the 2017 season, coach Jessica Sarfati has her team ready to go.

With what Sarfati says is the biggest roster she’s seen since taking over the program—a grand total of 25 kids will be available for the Varsity and Junior Varsity rosters—the team could be poised for a big season.

On top of the large pool of talent to pull from, MKA has moved divisions to the Colonial Division. They’ll still see some of the same faces from years past, like Glen Ridge and Caldwell, but will face some new challenges as well.

Chief among those challenges will be Belleville and Millburn.

Both have been powerhouses over the last two years, with Belleville 13-5 over that span and Millburn compiling a 28-0 record with two division championships.

Between those two teams and Glen Ridge, MKA will see some impressive squads.

Sarfati feels she has the right pieces to put together — she just needs to see how the positions shake out in the final week of practices.

There are a few places where Sarfati knows certain players will fit.

Freshman Geena Pacifico follows in the footsteps of her two older sisters, both of whom played for Sarfati. Pacifico will take the mound for the Cougars, and give them a reliable arm to center the staff with.

Sarfatis lauds Pacifico’s mentality on the mound xqand felt the pitcher really did well in Florida last week. She especially liked Pacifico’s composure during the games and feels with the mix of pitches at Pacifico’s disposal, she should have a lot of success this season.

She’ll also allow junior Grace Turvey to move back to first base after a year pitching. Turvey isn’t a pitcher by inclination or trade, but made the sacrifice last season when the team needed her arm.

It was the sort of leadership Sarfati looks for in her veteran players and she expects Turvey to be a great example for this year’s unit.

Along with Turvey, Sarfati expects captain Erin Nicholson to be someone the younger players can follow. Nicholson, a four-year starter, is also a big part of the MKA basketball team, as is junior Kerri McGuire (who actually plays three sports).

The team has several more four-year starters as well, with Lily Gorodensky and Lamara White returning for their senior seasons.

It’s not just all about the upperclassmen, though.

Freshmen like Amanda Mack will be integral in this team’s success. Sarfati said Mack is a strong hitter, who she expects will be a force in the heart of the batting order.

Meanwhile, despite being young, sophomore Jena Seslavo is someone Sarfati sees as another leader on the team, and someone who will be a positive influence on the freshmen.

The team looks to bounce back from a difficult 2016 season which saw them struggle at times. The Cougars struggled in the middle of the season, losing seven games in a row, but righted the ship for a four-game win streak right after. They then lost their last four games in the regular season before making the quarterfinals in the state tournament.
This season, the team makes the move from the Liberty division to the Colonial. Sarfati says they will still see a bunch of the usual teams despite shifting divisions. Verona, Millburn, Caldwell and West Orange are all still on schedule.

However, now those games will be out of division. While the Cougars want to win every game they can, the new faces — Belleville, East Side, Bloomfield Tech and Glen Ridge — are the series they have to win to take the division.

More than anything, though, Sarfati is looking for improvement and progress. She says she’s excited for her team and has already seen a ton of growth from them since last season.

Now it’s up to everyone to build on that going forward in 2017.

Girls Lacrosse: Youth leads the way for MKA Cougars

in High School Sports
Senior captain and last year’s leading goal scorer Annie Wallace (pictured) will look to build on her 2016 success in 2017.
Photo Courtesy of courtesy Andrew Talkow

By Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

While the recent snow timed itself well for Montclair Kimberley Academy’s girls lacrosse team, Coach Chelsea Intrabartola still had to manage a busy schedule in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2017 season.

Running double practice sessions, including some indoor work, figuring out out which players can contribute where, trying to get some scrimmages set — all are on the list of things crowding the second-year coach’s plate.

Even though the team lost multiple starters to graduation, there’s no let-up in the 2017 schedule, which Intrabartola says is just as tough as last year’s. That schedule, filled with teams like Glen Ridge, Columbia and Millburn, led them to a 9-12 record and an early exit in the state tournament.

Many of the same opponents are back in 2017, along with crosstown rival Montclair High School. The two teams didn’t meet last season, but will clash this year near the end of the schedule.

There are also the Essex County, Prep and New Jersey State tournaments, and each will be packed with some of the toughest teams in the state.

Yet despite the schedule and the departure of multiple players, Intrabartola feels her squad has the talent to make some noise this year.

The Cougars were young last season, Intrabartola says, but a lot of those younger players saw the field on a regular basis. That makes the meaning of the term “young” relative. Young in years, perhaps, but the athletes have already gained plenty of experience.

Five players started for varsity their freshman seasons and have returned this year.

Reilly Hughes at goalie, Claire Linaugh at attack, Lily Pryor and Kirsten Zeug at midfield and Ally Raff on defense represent the sophomore contingent coming back. These players will be the core of the team over the next few years and all will have significant roles in 2017.

Intrabartola says they are an athletic group of kids who have already grown both physically and mentally in the offseason. They already had confidence, and it will only continue to grow as they play more.

Now they have to continue building on that as the Cougars enter the regular season.

They’ll have plenty of experienced help as well, though.

Annie Wallace and Kit Smith, both seniors, are the captains, and both have ample ability to lead the team on and off the field.

Wallace heads up the attack, a unit which also includes Linaugh, fellow seniors Cameron Brady, Dorothy Cucci and Carly Hatfield as well as junior Sophia Garrubbo. They’ll be tasked with generating points against some very tough defenses.

Smith is joined at midfield by Pryor and Zeug. Middies are a tough bunch, often required to play both offense and defense, and the backbone of many teams. A good, deep midfield can save a struggling offense or defense, and be the difference in a tight game.

Much of the heavy lifting on defense will be done by the sophomore Raff as well as juniors Katie Gyves and Alix Talkow.

With those 13 athletes forming the core of the team, it’s now up to Intrabartola to fill in the blanks with the rest of the roster. That group will come from 17 other players who, as of press time, could end up on the varsity or junior varsity rosters.

That leaves the program in pretty good shape, as they can add to what appears to be a very solid foundation. The key will be finding the right combinations on the lines, and making sure the balance between the experienced players and the more raw talent is right.

Five of this year’s starters are seniors, which means five more holes in the roster will be open for 2018. Getting some of the other players some experience, as Intrabartola was able to do last year with the freshmen, will be important going forward.

By the same token, that can’t happen at the expense of this season.

Last year Intrabartola found the balance. Part of the challenge will be doing so again this year but it looks like the talent is there to pull from.

Girls Lacrosse: Mounties Seniors hoping to lead team back to promised land

in High School Sports

Junior midfielder Nora Giordano was the top point scorer on the team last season.
Photo courtesy of MHS Girls Lacrosse

By Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

Change is in the air for the Montclair Mounties girls lacrosse team, as it moves up to the top division of the North Jersey Girls Lacrosse League, the Stars and Stripes.

The shift makes things interesting as they face a new, more elite group of teams on the schedule, but coach Ann Jennings feels this team can repeat the success of 2016. It’s no low bar, as the team ended with a 16-4 record, winning a pair of division titles, the Super Essex Conference-American and the NJGLL-Freedom North as well.
While they lost in the Essex County semifinal to Glen Ridge (after beating them in the regular season) and the North, Group IV sectional semifinal to Ridgewood, it was a very good season for the Mounties. Not one to rest on her laurels, though, Jennings has bigger aims — notably to make the New Jersey Group IV finals.

The Mounties certainly have the talent to do it.

At the core of the team are the captains. Natalie Rechan, Jillian Jennings and Sam Wittmann are all seniors and return as starters at their positions.

Rechan and Jennings — who is committed to play soccer at Boston College next year — will handle the midfield position, with help from junior Nora Giordano, who’s committed to Lehigh.

Giordano was the top scorer on the team in 2016, tallying 63 goals and 17 assists. Jennings isn’t too far behind, with 40 goals and 16 assists. Rechan notched 20 goals as well, making this a potent group of middies.

If MHS wants to keep the pressure on the opposition, they have to score points and between the midfielders and attackers, the Mounties offense should be able to provide plenty of scoring. building momentum when the team needs it.

Wittman leads the defense and will be joined by a pair of juniors in the form of Missy Wrede and Jen Heath. The fourth spot is still up for grabs and could go either to another junior, Sam Lee, sophomore Sosi Korian or a combination of both.

Heath didn’t play a ton on varsity last season, but Wittman and Wrede are poised to have great seasons. Both are players to keep an eye on.

Attack is another mostly veteran group, comprised of seniors Maria Daniskas and Olivia Rivera (committed to the University of Arizona), junior Eve Naturale and freshman Nanette Tarver-Walls.

Of that group, Rivera was the most productive last season, with 28 goals and 8 assists.

Finally, Olivia Lynch is back tending goal after missing all of 2016 due to a torn ACL. She’s cleared to play and Jennings says Lynch — who she called “exceptional” before the injury — is looking good heading into the season and will be a huge help to the team’s defensive effort.

Tarver-Walls and attack/midfielder Abby Romano are both freshmen Jennings is looking to see production from, though the heart of the team remains the upperclassmen.

The seniors were on a team that won the Essex County title in 2015.

“They know how to win,” Jennings said. “They know what it takes.”

That’s critical when it comes to a new division and a new schedule, which kicks off with some heavy competition.

The team gets going with games against Glen Ridge at home, then travels to Mendham before returning to Montclair to face West Morris and Ridgewood. There’s also the Essex County tournament as well, right in the middle of April and still at the start of the season.

That’s a lot of tough competition in the first half of the year.

Jennings wants the players to focus on each game on its own, though, rather than get caught up looking at the calendar ahead and worrying about each team or how tough they are.

That said, Jennings is actually very happy with the mentality of the whole team.

“They’re a good group,” she said. “Very unselfish. Very competitive.”

Those are traits any coach looks for in their team and should serve the Mounties well as they make their way through the 2017 lacrosse season.

Baseball: Booker, Brooks provide Mounties’ pitching rotation

in High School Sports
Senior Mahki Booker will be the backbone of the Mounties pitching rotation in 2017.
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF

By Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

Much like the rest of the Montclair High School spring sports, the baseball team has found itself behind the curve in terms of preseason preparations. The recent snow kept them off their newly re-sodded field, forcing them into the gym and local batting cages like Lefty’s in Clifton.

“We got a lot of good work as far as hitting,” said assistant coach Jamie Bittner. “As far as team defense, stuff like that, we haven’t been able to do it.”

Which is why the ability to scrimmage has been a godsend to the coaching staff, and the Mounties have jammed in as many as they could get over the past week. Even with access to the gym, there’s just only so much you can do inside.
And nothing replaces actual games, even scrimmages.

With the added work against other teams, Bittner feels the team is really coming together, slowly but surely. Luckily, every other team in the league is in the same spot and everyone is playing catchup. That means the Mounties aren’t as far behind as they could be.

It does mean the staff is still trying to sort out who will play where, as the season closes in on them.

Fortunately, they have some veterans to rely on.

The top of that list is senior Mahki Booker, who will lead the pitching staff after an impressive junior year. With a strong arm and good speed, Booker is the anchor for the Mounties and will also provide a good bat and second-base duties.

The expectation is that he will not only be their ace, but a leader younger players can rally around and learn from throughout the season.

He will be joined by Henry Brooks, who will also be a useful utility player as well as a pitcher. Bittner said he had a solid outing in a scrimmage against Old Tappan on Thursday, March 23.

Bittner said overall the team has quite a few arms, a necessity in high school baseball, where athletes are not as likely to throw full games. That’s especially true this season as the rules have changed and pitchers will now be closely monitored.

As of this year, high school pitchers will not be allowed to throw more than 105 pitches in a week (considered a five-day span). If they hit their pitch count in the middle of an inning they can finish it, but otherwise they are done for that period.

That means you have to be careful how often you use your pitchers and how long you leave them in a game. It also means you have to have extra arms to balance the limitation out.

Co-head coach Anthony Genchi needs his team to be focused for a tough 2017 schedule.
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF

This is critical for the health of the athletes, considering the rise in arm injuries pitchers are suffering at higher levels, including the major leagues. Mountie coaches are happy to make the adjustment for their kids, though.
Aside from pitching, the team expects contributions from several other areas as well.

John Lewis, a transfer from Paramus Catholic, will take over duties in right field. An experienced player who brings a lot of talent to the table, Lewis is expected to be a big part of both the offense and defense of the team.

Meanwhile, Dylan Scarfo will once again handle things behind the plate. It’s good to have a catcher who is familiar with the pitching staff and experienced enough to help the coaches manage them.

Scarfo will be critical to the pitching staff’s success.

MHS plays in the tough American division in the Super Essex conference, and will be seeing some very good teams.

Nothing will come easy for a Mountie team which has been sub-.500 in the division the last two seasons, and is facing the likes of Seton Hall Prep (14-2 in 2016) and Millburn (15-1). Many of the other American division teams are coming off tough years as well, so there is room for MHS to make some noise and bounce back from a 7-9 2016.
Out of their division, the Mounties had a much more successful year, going 9-3.

Teams like Passaic, Columbia and Elizabeth will still be challenging, as will crosstown rival Montclair Kimberley Academy, but if MHS can combine a solid out-of-division record with some wins within the division, they should set themselves up for a shot at some postseason success.

Montclair’s Adegoke Steve Colson: jazz and the city

in Arts/Music
Adegoke Steve Colson. Courtesy Iqua Colson.

Montclair resident and Grammy nominee Adegoke Steve Colson presents “Here Is the Place, Our City,” a jazz-flavored tribute, commissioned by New Jersey Performing Arts Center, to honor Newark’s 350th anniversary on Friday, April 7, at 8 p.m., at NJPAC, 1 Center St., Newark. The concert is dedicated to Clement Price and Amiri Baraka. Visit NJPAC.org for details.

Montclair theater review: can this marriage be saved?

in Arts/Review/Theater
Older Molly (Alicia Hayes), left, and Younger Molly (Caroline Ritacco) share an insight with Jake (Sean Lough), center, in “Jake’s Women” at Studio Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Claudia Budris.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news
As Julie, Brittany Haydock shines with internal light whenever she comes onstage in Neil Simon’s “Jake’s Women,” which runs at Studio Playhouse through Saturday, April 8. Her winsome incandescence may be partially because she’s a memory of Jake’s (Sean Lough), a writer who has trouble with intimacy.

Yes. This is a play about a man learning to forgive himself, so he can love others.

If that description moves you, you’ll love this. If not, you won’t, despite Studio’s handsome production.

The play is set, the program says, in Jake’s apartment, and in his mind. It’s a mind full of therapy-speak, circling around itself.

The plot centers on Jake, a writer very similar to the one in Simon’s 1979 film “Chapter Two,” who is struggling to come to terms finally with the death of a perfect first wife, and save his second marriage. In this case, that’s a marriage to Maggie (an earnest Laura Byrne-Cristiano). (Neil Simon’s first wife Joan Baim died in 1973; he married Marsha Mason that same year).
Jake “summons” women in his life when he thinks of them. We meet his daughter Molly, for example at two different ages (a wonderfully bratty Caroline Ritacco plays Molly at 12, while Alicia Hayes, who plays her at 21, and, in her figment form, ferociously rebels). We also meet Jake’s quirky sister Karen (Debra Carozza-Lynch, who mugs, but maybe that’s just Jake again) and others.

Simon’s conventions are unclear: Wikipedia even describes Jake as a writer suffering from psychosis. I doubt that’s what Simon intends. Rather, Jake tells the audience that everyone’s a writer and everyone imagines conversations.

At times the women behave like straight-up ghosts.

None of this works, and is probably one reason the play ran on Broadway in 1992 for less than a year.

Clearly some people are moved by the play: At Studio, you could hear sniffles when dead mom Julie meets grown-up daughter Molly. But both are in Jake’s head, so… what, again?

Since the big question is about whether Maggie and Jake will reunite, it’s problematic to discover that in six months apart she’s nearly going to accept a proposal and he’s had a succession of girlfriends. Despite their therapy speak, neither apparently sees other people as real.

It doesn’t help that Lough, who handles the morass of dialogue with grace, lacks a spark with any wife, dead, alive or imaginary.

C0-director E. Dale Smith-Gallo (with Claudia Budris) also designed the set, which is the most successful thing in the production: it’s elegant, two-leveled and moody and eloquent. If only that were true of the play.

‘Jake’s Women’
By Neil Simon
Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m.
Through April 8
Directed by E. Dale Smith-Gallo and Claudia Budris
Studio Playhouse
14 Alvin Place
studioplayhouse.org
973-744-9752

 

An earlier version of this article misspelled Brittany Haydock’s name.

Montclair Local Voices: Healing the Break in Promises

in Local Voices
CORINNA SAGER

By CORINNA SAGER
Recently I did a favor for a friend. I hosted a fundraising event because she’s going into politics. I’m proud of her and of course support her. I sent photos of us after the event. No thank you. I sent another email. No word. Sadly — it’s not the first time. And it reminded me of other disappointments, and broken promises.

Today we live in a world where people say they’ll do things and then don’t follow through. Potential clients say they’ll call, but never do. My Media, Communications and Visual Arts graduate students at Pace University tell me how desperate they are for someone, just one professional with whom they connected in person, to get back to them when they email or call. But no one does. And my mother says she is tired of the many contractors and vendors who promise their work is guaranteed, but when something fails and she calls them to fix it — they never call her back. What society do we live in today? Is a person’s word dead? Is it all just lip service?

I’m tired of lip service. I’m tired of broken promises. I’m tired of people saying they’ll do something they won’t. What happened to responsibility, guts and honesty?

Today we spend more time online than in person with our loved ones. We post selfies, opinions and photos. But where is the caring about others? The true humanity? The human interaction that requires give and take? Poof. Gone!

We are, however, still human and not machines. We each want to be valued, cared for and respected. So we have to remember to give it back as well. Of course, there are times when things just fall by the wayside, when we have to set priorities, when we are overwhelmed. But if you can’t return a call that day, text or email to say when you will call back. And are you really that busy that you can’t even write or say thank you for a wonderful dinner or great party?

I’m sick of all this. I want honesty and guts back. I don’t want: “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” I want a solution. Just tell me the truth, or don’t make the promise. Because guess what — I can handle the truth. It saves me time and effort.
There’s an old German proverb: “The way you call into the forest is how it echoes back to you.” If you say you’ll call but won’t, don’t expect others to call you back either. If you’re always late, don’t expect others to value your time. If you don’t keep your promise, don’t expect others to keep theirs — and don’t be disappointed when you find out they don’t. You started the cycle.

The other day a potential client who promised she’d call — actually did. What a pleasant surprise. She kept her word. Three weeks ago a customer service rep from my health insurance promised she’d call me back after she was going to figure out what had gone wrong. I never expected to hear from her (by that time I had called them repeatedly for two months). But she did call me back three days later. And she had actually solved the issue.

I was so delighted I told her that this was the first time in years I could remember a customer rep actually doing this. I thanked her profoundly. She said how nice that was to hear. Yes, it can be done!

So let’s cycle back. Let’s cycle back to responsibility. Let’s value each other’s time, each other’s expectations, each other’s knowledge. Let’s appreciate what friends give, what clients offer, what colleagues contribute. And let’s keep our promises. Every time. To every person. In every situation.
We’ll make the world a better place.

Corinna Sager is an international communications expert and public speaking strategist. She has directed, produced and coached for companies around the world, bringing stories to Life – with Style. www.LifeStyleIntl.com

LOCAL VOICES: Local Voices is a forum for residents’ essays about issues and subjects that affect them, and will combine individual essays with rotating columns on such subjects as relationships, health, gardening and more. To submit an idea for a series or individual essay, write to arts@montclairlocal.news.

Montclair’s musical champs

in Arts/Community/Music/Teens

Four Montclair High School students have won national awards in music. Jeremy Stepansky, left, a pianist and composer, was named a 2017 National Young Arts Foundation Merit Winner in jazz composition. Three students were among 32 selected by the Grammy Foundation to participate in the 2017 Grammy Camp Jazz Session in February.

From left, next to Jeremy: Maya Stepansky, Jeremy’s twin, the first female drummer to be selected for the Grammy jazz program in 19 years; alto sax player Nathan Farrell, who has been invited to the Grammy jazz program for the second year in a row; and Claudia Nketia, the first vocalist to win a spot in the Grammy choir. All are seniors but Nketia, who is a junior.

1 2 3 10
Go to Top