Friday, December 16, 2016


There's still time to get tickets and see Park Square Theater's stellar production of Joe Vass's homage to the talents of an American Klezmer. Ably Directed by Peter Moore, and staged by the theater's outstanding production department, it's a fun and instructive tale of George and Ira Gershwin's development and rise to fame as composer and lyricist in the famous productive years of tin pan alley. The jokes are good, the music varied and wonderful, and the pace precipitous.

Michael Paul Levin is an excellent narrator as the man himself, George Gershwin. Maud Hixson flaunts her vocal expertise as the blond chanteuse, with Maggie Burton capably filling the role of cantor and Geoffrey Jones dominated the stage as Griot.

Joseph Vas also brought to our appreciative ears an outstanding group of musicians in Klezmerica:
Nathan Norman on drums, Doug Haining-woodwinds, Adam Meckler-trumpet, Gary Schulte on violin and Chris Bates at the big string bass. Naturally the pianist's role was capably handled by Joseph Vass.

It's a terrific warm evening of musical theater and not to be missed, especially in our chill December.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


CUBA STRAIT          
By Carsten Stroud
Pocket Books, June, 2003
ISBN: 0743463935

An ex-cop, cashiered for doing his duty takes his attitude to Hollywood, Florida and Cuba and is embroiled in a somewhat unbelievable super-hero black ops action.

This is a well-written, twice-told tale for our times.  Rick Broca, formerly a highly trained cop in a special Swat team is fired for doing his duty as he saw it, but in direct contravention of orders from his lieutenant.  He loses his job and his pension, so now he’s reduced to selling his story to Hollywood and being paid as a technical advisor and, in the Florida Keys, taking care of his boss’s hot cruiser.

The book opens with a major tropical storm which Broca, only three months asea, is able to interpret and figure out how best to survive like an old salt with years of experience.  This guy is a very quick learner.  He’s also a quick healer, but more on that later.  There’s lots of Tom-Clancy-like technical stuff larded throughout this novel, but for the most part that doesn’t get in the way of the story which is more than a little exciting.  Similarly, we learn Broca’s back story, the reasons for his no longer being a super-cop, in judiciously inserted dribs and drabs.  The construction of the novel is almost text-book perfect.  Readers learn about equipment from airplanes and boats to armament of various kinds when it either enhances the story or is needed to control the rampant pace of the book.

Having survived a near-hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Broca calls on his personal code of ethics and moral values and slams back into the stormy sea to try to save the pilot of a downed aircraft.  In a tense and thrilling and very well-conceived scene, Broca does just that, hauling the injured pilot to the surface from fifty-some feet below the choppy surface of the ocean.

When Broca tries to return the injured pilot to land, the guy persuades his rescuer to let him land privately and surreptitiously outside the scrutiny of Florida and Federal authorities.  In a way, author Stroud calls attention to one of the great security problems we have along our seacoasts.  Now Broca is once again at odds with suspicious law enforcement.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, other storm clouds are gathering.  Broca returns to Hollywood where he is confronted by a representative of the FBI, the State Department and some guy who may or not be a spook.  There are a lot of characters in this book.  Many, unfortunately, fit the bad-cop, good-cop mold.  There are few subtle nuances here.

Broca ultimately riding to the rescue of his lady friend, joins forces with the downed pilot, once he resurfaces, and, although grievously wounded in the gut, manages to save the day.  There are a few too many gratuitous rants in this one, but they are more intelligently presented than is the usual case.  Readers will have to hang their disbelief in a dark closet for the duration.  Nevertheless, as a light, rip-roaring adventure story with larger than life politics and characters, this one is a keeper.