Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ogunquit Playhouse Presents "Victor/Victoria" - Through July 18

The Ogunquit Playhouse kicked off its 2015 season on a very high note with a stunning and sizzling production of "Sister Act."  I gave it a very enthusiastic review in The White Rhino Report:

White Rhino Report Review of "Sister Act"

The guest who had accompanied me to that show had such a good time that she eagerly accepted my invitation to join me in seeing the second show of the Ogunquit season, "Victor/Victoria."  Her comment to me just before the curtain was to open for "Victor/Victoria" was: "It will be hard to live up to the high standards and energy that was set by "Sister Act"  That observation proved to be prescient, for despite many laudable aspects to the current production, it lacked the exuberance and punch of the season opener.

One of the problems I have with "Victor/Victoria" is with the writing.  The book by Blake Edwards, who adapted the Broadway show from the motion picture, is not particularly strong.  Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse are mostly pedestrian and uninspired.  Music by Henry Mancini with additional music by Frank Wildhorn left me waiting for a number that I could recognize or want to hum on my drive back south.  I kept hoping for something that would rise to the level of Mancini's iconic "Moon River," but the river never flowed for me in this show.  The writing of the characters is also a bit uneven.  The role of Count Victor/Victoria is pretty well fleshed out and interesting, as is that of her promoter, Toddy.  Other characters tended to be two-dimensional or cartoonish.

Despite my quibbling over the writing of the show, this production has plenty to praise.  Set designer Robin Wagner has created a visually pleasing set that morphs from a night club to a small Paris flat to a sumptuous set of adjoining suites in a 3-star hotel.  Lighting by Richard Latta and Sound by Kevin Heard are excellent, and the costumes by Willa Kim include some stunning numbers worthy of the Follies Bergere. Choreography is by Darren Lee.  Music Director Jeffrey Campos leads an 9-piece orchestra that fills the theater with jazz riffs that keep the pace of the show moving briskly.

Director Matt Lenz leads a cast of enthusiastic and energetic actors, singers and dancers.

George Dvorsky as Carroll Todd (Toddy)
Lisa Brescia as Victor/Victoria
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through July 18

  • Broadway veteran Lisa Brescia tops the bill as Victor/Victoria. In the plot of the show, Chicago mogul King Marchan has a hard time buying the ruse that drag queen Victoria is actually a man. His point is well taken.  Ms. Brescia has such delicate and beautiful feminine features that she is never quite believable during her scenes as Count Victor, but she makes up for this deficiency with her lovely singing voice that is best displayed in the rousing song that comes closest to being a legitimate "eleven o'clock number," Living In The Shadows."
  • Another Broadway veteran, George Dvorsky plays the affable and scheming Toddy.  He is perfectly cast in this juicy role.  There is a wonderful and subtle moment in the show when he has succeeded in turning Victoria into a big star as the top Drag Queen in Paris.  As they are leaving the theater, he thinks he is alone on stage as he sets the ghost light to guard the empty stage.  He strikes a pose to mime how he would perform if he were a star on that stage.  It is a wonderful foreshadowing of a scene that occurs during the final production number, and it sheds light on some of his character's unfulfilled longings.  It is a wonderful moment that could easily be missed.
  • Darren Ritchie is excellent as the conflicted King Marchan. He is conflicted over his attraction for Victor.  He can't be gay!  His wrestling with Victor/Victoria's enigmatic sexuality causes him to examine his own attitudes and his own sexuality, and serves as a microcosm of one of the over-arching themes of this show.
  •  Robyn Hurder play King's brassy moll, Norma Cassidy.  This is one of the two-dimensional characters I alluded to above.  She is so stereotypical as the "dumb blonde" that her character is hardly believable.  Ms. Hurder, who hails originally from the State of Maine, is a talented Broadway actor who is not given much to work with in this role.  She does her best with the unfortunate song "Paris Makes Me Horny," and has a good time in the production number "Chicago, Illinois."
  • Jacob Smith plays Squash, King's burly bodyguard.  He is a former center on the Notre Dame football team.  His surprising relationship that develops with Toddy highlights another thene of the show: "You can't always tell a book by its cover."  This actor, who recently appeared on Broadway in "Doctor Zhivago," is one of the highlights of the show.  Near the end of the story he shows off a powerful baritone singing voice.
  • Other principals include Patch David as Richard DiNardo, Joe Joyce as Henri Labisse, Bob Marcus as Andre Cassell.
  • Standing out among the ensemble was Boston Conservatory graduate Bradley Gibson as Jazz Singer.  His lovely voice was given a few moments to shine in the number "Le Hot Jazz..
  • Other ensemble memebrs are: Brittany Bigelow, Taylor Colins, Kaleigh Cronin, Vincent D'Elia, Sarah Ellis, Darrin French, Chris Kane, Christina Laschuk, Vanessa Mitchell, Jamie Patterson, Addie Tomlinson.
The performance that I attended capped off the historic week that saw the SOCUS proclaim gay marriage legal in all 50 states.  Members of the cast made a brief speeches following the curtain call, mentioning how timely are many of the themes of this show that first opened on Broadway 20 years ago.

"Victor/Victoria" will run through July 18, and will be followed by "Nice Work If You Can Get It" beginning on July 22.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"The City of Florence - Historical Vistas & Personal Sightings" by R.W.B. Lewis - A Magnificent Look At The Tuscan Gem

I have only visited Florence one time, but that was enough to ensure a special permanent place in my heart for this magnificent Tuscan city.  Author R.W.B. Lewis had a more than fifty year love affair with Florence, and in his "The City of Florence - Historical Vistas & Personal Sightings" he eloquently makes a case for why this was his favorite place to live outside of the U.S.  Professor Lewis won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography "Edith Wharton," which was penned during one of his many long sojourns in Tuscany.  His writing is exemplary - lyrical and precise.

The book is a wonderful weaving together of historical insights into the political, artistic, architectural and intellectual history of the city with very personal reflections on what life in the modern city has been for Lewis and his family.  He first encountered the City of Florence during WWII when his U.S. Army unit entered the city shortly after the Germans had bombed many of the historic bridges.  After the war, he joined the faculty of Yale University and lived in the wooded hills of  Bethany, Connecticut - when he was not residing in Florence.  Numerous academic assignments and sabbaticals gave him ample opportunities to return to Tuscany.

The author's vibrant and poetic style of writing helped to raise to the surface my own vivid memories of sites in and around Florence.  The book also took me down streets and into neighborhoods I had not had the chance to explore in my brief encounter with the city.  Because Lewis and his family always lived in a different neighborhood each time they returned to Florence, he was able to share intimate details of life in the city from several different geographical and experiential perspectives.  His stories of those who had lived in the city before him made each spot, each church, each bridge, each piazze, each trattoria take on almost a human personality.

This is a book that will be appreciated by anyone whose life has been touched by the insieme of Florence, or who dreams about visiting there some day.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Career Transition - Finding A New "Home" - How Coaching May Be Able To Expedite The Process

Many of you are aware that in addition to doing executive recruiting, White Rhino Partners also offers executive coaching and career and transition coaching services.  I am often asked the question: "How does a coaching relationship work?"  My good friend, Richard Banfield, Founder of Fresh Tilled Soil, has done executive coaching as part of the arc of his career.  In a recent e-mail conversation, Richard shared these thoughts on coaching:

"You'll meet with me for XXmins each week by phone or Skype [or face to face]. We'll work to get you focused on those activities that produce the highest yield and unblock any current obstacles. If superstars like Tiger Woods and Lebron James need a coach, then we all can probably benefit from a little help."

In addition to helping executives thrive in their current role, I have a growing number of coaching clients who are in transition or who anticipate a career transition.  Some of them are moving from military leadership to a new phase of their career.  Others are switching companies, operational roles or industries.The coaching agenda is different with each client, but I have found that there are some predictable steps to follow that are optimal in considering a job change or career change.  I was thinking about this progression last evening at Fenway Park as I watched my woeful Boston Red Sox lose yet another game.  The four discernible steps are akin to making one's way around the base path to arrive at a new "Home plate."  In a typical transition coaching relationship, I work with my client to ensure that each of the steps are followed in a way that allows him/her to make the best career decisions.

    • First Base - Updating and refining a resume
      • I see a properly crafted resume as a skeleton that gives the reader a bare bones understanding of the linear and chronological progression of a person's educational and career accomplishments.  These accomplishments should be quantifiable as much as is possible.
    • Second Base - Crafting narrative stories that demonstrate specific accomplishments in the context in which they were achieved.
      • Narrative and story are the operational concepts here.  Telling your story in a compelling way adds flesh and blood to the skeleton that is the resume.
      • In my coaching relationships, we spend considerable time identifying the right stories to tell, and refining how best to present them in networking settings as well as in formal interviews.
    • Third Base - Strategic Networking
      • In this stage, we examine the natural networks to which you have access.
      • We explore the best strategies for engaging members of these networks to serve as your eyes and ears and champions of your job search to ensure that you are aware of appropriate job opportunities and can be considered for those roles in the most favorable light using the most expeditious path. - rather than simply applying on-line.
    • Home Plate - Scoring a new job and finding a new professional home
      • Presenting yourself to the right people at the right companies
      • Telling your story using the language and culture of that company.
      • Identifying potential mentors and career champions within a target company.
      • Choosing the best option among competing offers.
      • Negotiating the best offer.
      • Onboarding successfully at your new home.

No two journeys around the base paths are identical.  That is one reason why in baseball there are coaches stationed at first base and third base to ensure that the progress towards home is as smooth and unencumbered as possible.  And that is why having a coach to help guide you through the process is a prudent investment.

To give you a sense of how some of my coaching clients have perceived the benefit of our coaching relationship, here are a couple of testimonials.

Deep understanding”
Fortune 100 Financial services CEO

"Two hours with Dr. Chase gave me a deeper understanding of myself as a person and as a professional than I had gained through many years of filling out formal evaluation tools. I found his insights so helpful that I asked if I could refer my 25 year-old son for career coaching. And they have worked successfully together as well."
“Golden moment in my life”
Fortune 100 media executive:

"After 45 minutes with Dr. Chase, he asked my permission to offer some preliminary observations based on my answers to Socratic questions he had asked. He proceeded to list all of my strengths - and about half of the weaknesses I had tried hard to hide from him. It was a golden moment in my life!"

If you would like to explore the possibility of a coaching relationship with Dr. Chase, use this e-mail:

The coaching could be for transition or to optimize your performance in a current leadership role.

Be aware that there are special discounted rates available for military veterans.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ArtsEmerson Continues To Delight by Offering The World On Stage - "Smile At Us, Oh Lord" by the Vakhtangov Theater of Russia

One of the continuing delights of any Boston theater season is the assurance that ArtsEmerson will bring to town talent and shows from around the world that are of superior quality.  That trend continued recently when ArtsEmerson collaborated with The Cherry Orchard Festival in New York City to bring the Vakhtangov Theater of Russia production of "Smile At Us, Oh Lord."  The play is an adaptation of the novel "A Kid for Two Farthings" by Lithuanian author Grigory Kanovich.

This current production, directed by Rimas Tuminas, is a dreamlike and deeply moving account of a quartet of four men who set out from their shtetl in Lithuania to try to get to Vilnius before the son of Ephraim Dudak, the stone cutter, is executed or exiled for having attempted to assassinate the tsar's Governor General.  Their journey is seen as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and symbolic episodes speak of the history of the Jewish people in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The set by Adomas Jacovskis is wonderfully designed to speak of both strength and poverty.There are numerous visual images that stand out, chief among them is the specter of a she-goat, played with grace by Yulia Rutberg, hovering over the first few moments of the play, appearing almost as a guardian angel hanging from the door post.  She descends and has a presence that reminded me of Pan.  An attack by wolves during the journey can be interpreted as a reference to the frequent pogroms suffered by European Jews at this point in history.

Sergei Makovetskiy and Vladimir Simonov alternated the role of Ephaim Dudak.  Aleksei Guskov and Evgeny Knyazev alternated the role of Shmule-Sender Lazarek.  Viktor Sukhorukov played Avner Rosenthal and Pavel Popov played "The Palestinian"  They were supported by a brilliant ensemble.

At the end of the story, Ephraim fails to connect with his son.  The final moments are meant to foreshadow the ominous events the European Jews would experience as they entered the 20th century and encountered the Holocaust to come.

If you missed seeing this play, which was enthusiastically received by an audience that was composed of many Boston Russian ex-patriots, plan now for future events of this caliber.  See the link below for highlights of the ArtsEmerson 2015-206 season, which promises to be a strong one.

ArtsEmerson Website


Monday, June 22, 2015

"A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" by Anthony Marra - A stunning literary achievement that will blow your mind and rend your heart

"A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" by Anthony Marra is one of the most beautifully wrought novels I have read in the past months.  It is heart-breaking, for as a reader, I came to care about each of the troubled characters whose stories are told.  The author has explained the origin of both the title and the structure of the book, gleaned from a definition of life in a medical dictionary: “'A constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.' As biological life is structured as a constellation of six phenomena, the narrative life of this novel is structured as a constellation of six point-of-view characters."

The action takes place primarily in Chechnya as characters are caught in the complex web of hatred and retaliation between Russians and Chechnyans, and also within the Chechnyan community in terms of who can be trusted and who is willing to sell out his neighbor or even a family member for the promise of personal safety.  A little girl hiding in the woods watches her father being snatched away by Russian soldiers,  Their neighbor, Akhmed, takes her to a place of relative safety, a struggling hospital where the sole remaining physician is a no-nonsense woman by the name of Sonja Rabina.  Sonja and her sister have a complex relationship that plays a significant role in the narrative arc of this richly conceived set of stories.

The action unspools around the attempts by Sonja and Akhmed to protect the little girl, Havaa, from those who would want to kill her merely because of her family affiliation and the perceived treachery on the part of her family.  Layered into the telling of these stories is a troubled relationship between a father and son who see the complexities of the war through different eyes.

This is at its core an exploration of the power of love to survive as an inextinguishable spark in the midst of the horrors and betrayals of war.  Marra's language is rich in imagery and depth of meaning, as this passage demonstrates.  The context of this quotation is that Sonja's sister, Natasha, has decided to leave Sonja and the hospital and to strike out on her own to an uncertain future:

"She marched down the service road away from the city, toward to border, on the trodden path of some fifty thousand previous refugees.  Where would she go from the camps?  Turkey, Armenia, or Azerbaijan most likely, but she would rather go to China or Hawaii, a country where no one could speak Chechen or Russian.  She wanted to hold foreign syllables like mints on her tongue until they dissolved into fluency." (Page 332)

This novel is a stunning achievement.  Prepare to have your mind blown and your heart assaulted.



"The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin - The Triple Story of Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism

I always learn a great deal when I read one of Doris Kearns Goodwin's books.  I had been looking forward for quite some time to reading "The Bully Pulpit," in part because I felt a small personal stake in monitoring the book's development.  Several years ago, I found myself at Harvard's Kennedy School attending a lecture by General David Petraeus.  He referred on several occasions to insights he had gleaned from Ms. Goodwin's Abe Lincoln book, "Team of Rivals."  The author happened to be sitting just in front of me, so when there was a break in the proceedings, I asked her what she was currently working on.  When she replied that she had just finished the research portion of a study of Teddy Roosevelt, I was intrigued.

The book she eventually completed has a broader scope than merely the story of Theodore Roosevelt. As she compiled her research and examined the implications, it became clear to her that this book needed to tell a triple story of three entities that were so closely intertwined with each other that they could not easily be teased apart.  So, "The Bully Pulpit" examines the friendship and rivalry of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the journalists who covered them and who ushered in the Golden Age of journalism.

The book reads like a suspense novel, with intrigue, complex stratagems, shady deals, political double crosses, statesmanship, personal ambition, resentments and investigative journalism all having their day in the sun.  Roosevelt and Taft shared a deep friendship that deteriorated when Taft assumed his place in the White House and Roosevelt felt that his protege was not carrying the flag for issues that he had believed he and Taft had agreed upon, including the question of how the federal government should control monopolies.  They became bitter rivals, running against one another for the presidency in 1912 - a three-way election won by Woodrow Wilson.  Taft and Roosevelt eventually reconciled, but it was a stormy path.

Along the way, their stories and those of their presidencies were told by a cadre of gifted investigative reporters, principally comprised of publisher S.S. McClure's team of Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens and William Allen White.  The individual and collective stories of these writers would be enough to fill its own volume, but with clear insight, the author has chosen to tell of these careers in the light of how their work impacted the careers of Roosevelt and Taft, and how their popular journalism helped to shape public opinion.

This is a brilliantly conceived and realized work that gave me a whole new layer of understanding about the political landscape at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  The book has been optioned by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios for a potential cinematic treatment.  I can't wait.



Review of "Why Homer Matters" by Adam Nicolson - A poetic examination of the roots and relevance of Homer's epic poetry

In writing "Why Homer Matters," Adam Nicolson has made a significant contribution to the dialogue about the significance of Homer in the modern era.  When I was first introduced to "The Odyssey" in 9th grade, I wondered how this ancient tale related to my life.  In the intervening decades, it has become increasingly clear to me how deeply ingrained in Western thought are Homer's observations about war and wandering as essential elements of the human condition.

Using beautiful language of his own, Nicolson takes the reader on a voyage of discovery.  Who was Homer - or the elements that make up what we perceive to be Homer?  At what period in history may the events described in "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" begin to take poetic and epic form?  How much of the geography described can be found in the real world and how much is imagined?  In delving into these and other pertinent questions, the author employs insights from archaeology, history, cultural anthropology, linguistics and other disciplines to examine multiple facets of the diamond that is the Homeric tradition.

The author's love for the sea and his knowledge of sailing - even using dead reckoning with the stars as Odysseus must have employed - adds a wonderful sense of emotional engagement with the issues being discussed.  His passion for the wisdom and timeliness of Homer for the 21st century rubs off on the reader.



"Ithaca Diaries" by Anita H. Harris - A Compelling Coming of Age Memoir

In "Ithaca Diaries," Anita H. Harris has written a compelling coming of age tale from the turbulent '60s.  I found her saga personally fascinating for several reasons.  Her years at Cornell University were coterminous with my university years, so we both experienced many of the same societal upheavals - racial unrest, Vietnam War protests, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the unpopular LBJ presidency.  Yet we experienced these events from polar opposite vantage points.  Ms. Harris came to a liberal Ivy League university from a privileged Jewish family.  I came to a small and conservative Christian liberal arts school from a working class Protestant family.

One of the remarkable aspects of my reading this memoir is that despite many obvious external differences, the author and I struggled with many of the same issues - embracing or testing traditional family values, finding a place in the social order on the campus, looking for direction academically, pointing toward an appropriate career, coming to grips with the chaos that was endemic to the late '60s.

Using journals she had kept during those years, and refreshing her own memory with conversations with classmates, the author has reconstructed a personal journey that reflects in many ways the journey that society was taking at the same time.  It was an age of introspection, of self-indulgence, of questioning and of rebelling.   It was an era when blacks and whites did not quite know what to make of one another on a college campus.  I was an epoch in which both violent and non-violent attempts to change the status quo were being explored.

Ms. Harris writes clearly and incisively.  This is a book that would be enlightening for any child of the '60s, for anyone currently going through any sort of identity exploration, for anyone who wants to know what it felt like to live in the center of the whirlwind that was the rapidly changing world of the late 1960s, or anyone who appreciates good introspective writing.



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Company One Presents The New England Premiere of "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" by A. Rey Pamatmat - An Absolute MUST SEE!!!

Company One!  Bold, innovative, risk taking, edgy, challenging, provocative, iconoclastic, original, intriguing, thought-provoking, boundary-pushing.  All of these words and phrases apply to this theatre company's mission and their execution on that mission.  They apply with equal force to the current production playing at the Boston Center for the Arts: The New England Premiere of "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" by the extraordinarily talented playwright A. Rey Pamatmat. Another of his plays, "After All The Terrible Things I Do," is being produced concurrently by the Huntington Theatre Company downstairs from the venue for "Edith."

Here is the way that Company One explains the premise of this play:

"With no parents, little food, and nothing in the bank account, 12-year-old Edith, her brother Kenny, and a giant stuffed frog are doing just fine, thank you very much. Making the rules up as they go, Kenny gets more than mix-tapes from his new friend, Benji, and Edith ends up shooting something for real. Funny and full of heart, this coming of age story explores the gap between childhood and whatever comes next."

Drawing from his own experience of growing up in a remote part of Michigan, the playwright sets the action of this play in a generic isolated section of the Midwest - a 45 minute ambulance ride to the nearest hospital.  Edith is a 12 year-old who lives with her 16 year-old brother Kenny,  Their mother has died, and their father, a physician, has effectively abandoned them to plunge himself into his work at the hospital and his relationship with his girlfriend.  He is seldom at home, and sporadically sends money for them to subsist on.  The third member of the troika of characters who draw this play along is Benji, a nerdy classmate of Kenny whose mother is as over-controlling as Edith and Kenny's father is under-controlling.  These three form a constantly shifting set of geometric patterns in their relationships with one another.  Separately, they each undergo dramatic changes in this coming of age tale that explores issues of identity, maturity and sexuality in tender ways.

I hesitate to share many specific plot points, for fear of spoiling some wonderful twists that occur. I am happy, however, to reflect on the themes that underlie the action of this play.  These three young people show remarkable maturity in dealing with the fears and challenges and obstacles that are placed in their paths.  They accept one another for who they are while at the same time pushing each other to grow beyond their limitations.  Edith's acceptance of the growing love between Kenny and Benji creates an emotional safe haven for all three of them while parental and peer influences condemn them for their actions.

Like the characters who come alive on this stage, the set designed by Cristina Todesco is both simple and complex.  It is a rough wooden structure that offers multiple playing levels.  At various points in the narrative, the space becomes a barn roof, a hay loft, a living room, a car, an ice cream parlor, and a reform school.  The effect is multiplied by the well-conceived sound design of  Ed Young, lighting by Jen Rock and costumes by Rafael Jaen.

Edith feels the need to protect Kenny and herself from forces - both real and imagined - that might seek to disrupt the world they have created for themsleves to fill the vacuum left with the death of their mother and their father's abdication of his parental responsibilities.  So she has taught herself to shoot - with a pellet gun and a bow and arrow. Kenny, as a math whiz, thinks in algorithms - "If this, then that."  A Rubik's Cube is used twice in the play as a visual metaphor for the complexities that the three characters face.  Early in the play, when the three young people seem to have things under control, Kenny is able to solve the three-dimensional puzzle in a dazzling display of mental and digital dexterity.  Later, as things begin to unravel for him and Edith and Benji, he tries once again to align all of the facets of the Cube   This time he gives up in frustration and his inability to put this right - with the Cube and with life..

What makes this such a profoundly moving and satisfying piece of theater are the confluence of many elements that all flow together seamlessly.  The creative elements described above provide the platform upon which the playwright's words came be brought to life by three superbly talented actors, directed with exquisite care by Shawn LaCount.

Maria Jan Carreon (Edith)
 in Company One Theatre's
(Photo by Paul Fox)

Maria Jan Carreon is eerily believable as a 12 year-old girl who is wise beyond her years. Everything about her performance draws us in and compels us to identify with her struggles.  She is the younger of the two siblings, yet she has figured out that she needs to be the one to "protect the perimeter" - both physically and figuratively.  In two of her most riveting scenes, she is perched high atop the part of the set that represents the top of the barn, giving her a perspective on the homestead and on the surrounding world that provides her with a broad aperture and deep understanding for someone of such tender years.  Mr. Pamatmat has chosen a brilliant device that allows us to know Edith's inner thoughts: she shares them with her stuffed frog, her own personal amphibian analyst and comrade in arms.  When Kenny tells her, near the end of the play, that he needs her - and needs her to be a little girl for a little while - we see her melt into a new understanding of herself and of their new relationship.  And our hearts melt at this poignant interchange.  This is a performance of enormous impact by an actor who is also wise beyond her chronological years.

Eddie Shields (Benji) and Gideon Bautista (Kenny)
in Company One Theatre's
(Photo by Paul Fox)

Gideon Bautista portrays Kenny as a young man who appears to have things under control, yet who in moments of candor with himself and with Benji, admits to being a scared little boy.  This is a performance rich in nuanced expression.  His combination of tenderness and pseudo-macho bravura in his dealings with Benji perfectly depict the insecurity and ambivalence of a young gay man beginning to come to grips with his sexuality and his growing awareness of his affection for his best friend.  Mr. Bautista's moment to shine most brightly in this play occurs when he finally finds the courage to confront his father and demand that he be given the latitude he has earned to make decisions for himself and for Edith..  The conversation takes place on the phone, so we hear only Kenny's side of things.  In those brief moments, Kenny grows up before our eyes.  The Cowardly Lion has discovered that he has courage buried deep within, and he begins to roar.  And it is wondrous to behold.  Since both Ms. Carreon and Mr. Bautista are proud graduates of Emerson College, young actors who are looking forward to studying acting in school should be rushing to submit their applications to the program that consistently prepares some of Boston and New York's finest performers and artists./

As Benji, the third member of this DIY family, Eddie Shields is brilliant.  His character grows in several directions.  Beginning as a Mama's boy whose every decision is dictated by her and whose every need attended to by her, he develops into a confident young man who is able to proclaim his own Declaration of Independence in word and in deed.  In the early stages of exploring the mutual attraction he shares with Kenny, he tries hard to place a patina of normalcy on their feelings and clumsy groping by citing a medical dictionary and reading the scientific definitions of the acts they are performing with one another. If it has a scientific name, they they are doing  research and it must be OK and must be normal.   Mr. Shields has a powerful scene in which he enters the home of Edith and Kenny as a broken shell of himself.  His mother, in her perpetual snooping, has discovered a mix tape that Benji has made for Kenny, and a note in which he tentatively and sheepishly declares his love for Kenny.  The mother erupts in fury and kicks Benji out of the house.  In desperation, he asks his speechless and spineless father to drive him to Kenny's place, since he has no place else to go.  It is a powerful moment in a memorable performance by another gifted actor.

Although the playwright and Edith and Kenny are of Filipono heritage, I have not chosen to highlight that fact in my review.  The reasons for this choice is that Mr. Pamatmat has written a play of such universal significance and application that it transcends the particular experience of ethnicity or background.  He has painted a vivid picture of American kids struggling to make sense of the world and of themselves.  Simply put, the playwright shot at a lot of targets in this plays, and he hit several bulls eyes!

If you miss seeing this play, you will be missing an extraordinary day or evening at the theater.  It simply does not get an better than this.  The play runs through June 27.  Check the Company One website for information about tickets and follow-up events and discussions.

Company One Website



Friday, June 12, 2015

Wellesley Summer Theatre Company Presents "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov - A Fine Ensemble Production

Ah, Chekhov.  Chekhov!  Past Master of unrequited love and of mundane family life revealing cosmic truths.  The folks at Wellesley Summer Theatre Company have brought this masterpiece of the Russian stage to the beautiful and bucolic Wellesley College campus for a run that will go through June 21st.  In the words of Director, Marta Rainer, the troupe invites the audience members to join them in the "collective pursuit of life's laughter through tears."

"The Thrree Sisters" is considered by many critics to be Chekhov's finest work.  It was commissioned by the acclaimed Moscow Art Theatre and first presented in 1901.  Many themes familiar to Chekhov readers are explored in this complex play: the disappearing aristocracy as they struggle with relationships among themselves, with their servants, with a rapidly changing world.  Gambling, suicidal thoughts, depression, unrequited love, petty feuds, and unrealized dreams all play a role in the plot lines of this play.  The action opens on the one year anniversary of the death of the fathe of the three sisters and a brother who are celebrating Irina's birthday.  They struggle with living in a dull provincial town to which their father, a brigadier general, had been assigned eleven years earlier. They long to return to Moscow, where they dream of an idealized existence that has no basis in reality.  Their lodger, Cherbutykin, is a manque physician and alcoholic who functions as a dipsomaniac one man Greek Chorus, often intoning the existential sentiment "Oh, if we could only know what it all means."

And that, ultimately, is the kernel of the genius of Chekhov.  Using everyday events and petty interchanges among individuals who often fail to truly connect with one another, he sheds light on the deep questions of the meaning of life and the purpose for our time spent on earth.  In this current production, the performance begins with the actors in a long line, holding hands, dancing in stylized Russian fashion, with the lines of characters weaving in and out of each other's space.  It is a perfect visual metaphor what what will occur during the action of the play.

Director Marta Rainer, Sound Designer George Cooke, Lighting Designer Becky Marsh and Costume Designer Emily Woods Hogue have created a world in which a fine ensemble cast are able to flesh out Chekhov's characters and ideas.  Since this is truly an ensemble piece, I will share with you the names of the actors and their roles without highlighting individual performances.

  • Samuel L. Warton as Andrei
  • Caitlin Graham as Olga
  • Angela Bilkic as Masha
  • Zena Chatila as Irina
  • Charles Linshaw as Baron Tuzenbach
  • Marge Dunn as Natasha
  • Shelley Bolman as Kulygin
  • Woody Gaul as Vershinin
  • Daniel Boudreau as Solyony
  • John Kinsherf as Chebutykin
  • Zach Georgian as Fedotik
  • Dan Prior as Rohde
  • John Davin as Ferapont
  • Charlotte Peed as Anfisa
Charles Linshaw as Baron Tuzenbach
Zena Chatila  as Irina
"The  Three Sisters"
by Anton Chkhov
Wellesley Summer Theatre Company
Through June 21str
This is a play that any lover of Chekhov or of Russian literature and drama will enjoy.  There is some fine ensemble acting to be seen and celebrated.



Wellesley Summer Theatre Website

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gloucester Stage Opens Its 2015 Season With The New England Premiere of The Powerful "Sweet and Sad" by Richard Nelson - Part Two of The Apple Family Plays

Playwright Richard Nelson has written a quartet of inter-related pieces that he calls "The Apple Family Plays."  Gloucester Stage and Stoneham Theatre  have collaborated in planning to produce all four plays in the cycle in 2015 and 2016, alternating between the two locations, but using the same director and the same sextet of actors for all four plays.  The first installment, "That Hopey Changey Thing," was presented this past winter at Stoneham.  Although the second play, "Sweet and Sad" stands on its own, you may wish to fill in the back story of the Apple family by reading my review of Part One below:.

Blog Review of "That Hopey Changey Thing"

As much as I enjoyed the first of Nelson's plays, with "Sweet and Sad" he has raised the bar and he is writing at the top of his game.  This is a deeply moving and thought-provoking reflection on the many facets of loss and grieving loss.  The Apple family is reconvening at the homestead in Rhinebeck, NY on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th tragedy. Director Weylin Symes leads this stellar cast with superb dexterity, placing them in relationship to one another and to the audience so that we see the many sides of each character - physically and figuratively.  The playwright injects a discussion, about the role of the audience in the making of art. The discussion occurs as the family is making preparations for Uncle Benjamin to do a reading at a memorial celebration.  That meta-discussion serves as a subtle invitation from Nelson to audience members to fully engage in processing the emotions and thoughts that are being projected onto them by the actors.

The set is by Crystal Tiala, and it creates just the right feel with warm earth tones making the home one we would all be drawn toward.  Sounds design by David Wilson and Lighting Design by Russ Swift are brilliant, using elements of sounds - the Requiem, church bells  - and dramatic changes in lighting to signal a shift in mood or action.   Costumes are by Gail Astrid Buckley.

L to R: Joel Colodner as Benjamin Apple; Bill Mootos as Richard Apple; 
Karen MacDonald as Barbara Apple; Sarah Newhouse as Marian Apple Platt; 
Laura Latreille as Jane Apple Halls and Paul Melendy as Tim Andrews
"Sweet and Sad" by Richard Nelson
Gloucester Stage Through June 20
Photo by Gary Ng

Each of the six characters retains the core of their being as first revealed in the initial play.  Yet, each of the individuals has undergone some sort of change in the months that have intervened since the action of the initial installment. The new layers of complexity that are revealed within each character made me care even more than before about them and their future prospects.
  • As Uncle Ben, Joel Colodner portrays a man who continues to struggle with amnesia/dementia. Barbara and Marian have worked with him to prepare him for a public reading.  It is during the dress rehearsal of this reading of a Walt Whitman poem that the old Benjamin emerges from the fog. His rendering of the poem serves as the emotional Ground Zero for this play about loss.  Mr. Colodner is understated and brilliantly avuncular at this moment.  We see a man who had been a ghost begin to reconnect with his former substantial self.
  • Laura Latreille as Jane,has had an on-again-off-again relationship with Tim, whom she brings with her once again to Rhinebeck.  Her book project seems to have hit a snag, and her resentful and  troubled relationship with Richard continues to be prickly.  She also alludes to troubles with her teenage son.  Finances seem to be a problem, since there is a brief mention of her asking Uncle Benjamin for a loan.
  • Karen MacDonald as Barbara tries to keep everything on the surface just so - cooking too much food, fussing about whether or not they are eating too early, worrying about having the right table cloth.  She wants to drown out any negative talk or atmosphere by the sheer force of her perpetual busyness and domesticity.  Near the end of this play, she reveals another side of this complex woman by asking why the government decided to give financial compensation to 9/11 victims.
  • Paul Melendy as Tim has settled into his role within the family constellation..He takes initiative in helping with clearing the table, and in telling stories that are intriguing.  His account of encountering a ghost at the Bellasco Theater raises the specter of the many ghosts that haunt this anniversary of 9/11.  Tim shares that his acting career is not paying the bills, and he is considering taking a more permanent job as a waiter.  Will this mean the death of a dream?
  • Bill Mootos as Richard has undergone a major change - giving up a long carer in the office of the Attorney General in Albany to work at a large Wall Street firm for much more money.  He has moved away from the family's traditional liberal political stance and has begun watching Fox News!  His sisters are appalled and resentful - of his politics and of  his new status as one of the 1%.  His wife remains absent from this gathering and seems to be slowly disappearing from his life.
  • Sarah Newhouse as Marian, has experienced dramatic and traumatic changes.  Her adult daughter has died and her husband has left her, so she now lives with Barbara and Benjamin.  Her lips are permanently pursed.in tension, giving one the impression that if she let loose, all of the pain and anguish and anger pent up inside of her would burst forth like helium from a birthday balloon.
The playwright has crafted a complex drama, using disparate elements to maximum effect.  The play opens and closes with Marian listening to a recording of a Requiem, sung by a chorus that included the voices of both her daughter, Evan, and her sister, Barbara.  These two scenes serve as bookends that send the message that we are dealing with issues of loss and mourning and saying good-bye.

The choice of the Whitman poem as the piece that Uncle Benjamin will read is brilliant.  From "Leaves of Grass," the poem is "The Wound-Dresser" recounting Whitman's service in ministering to wounded Civil War soldiers.  Part of the excerpt that Benjamin reads includes these lines:

"From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand.
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and the blood.
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side-falling head.
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump.
And has not yet look'd on it"

When I heard those lines, it hit me immediately that this is what this play is all about.  Each character has some sort of bloody stump that they have not examined.  For some, they are just beginning to open their eyes and to admit they they have undergone a painful and involuntary amputation, or see one coming in the near future.

As the play winds down, Barbara and Marian are finishing clearing the table.  Marian notices that despite all of their efforts to keep things pristine, there are stains upon the table cloth.  Life can never be antiseptic, it will always have its slough and matter and blood.

Marian is left alone on the stage, listening intently for her daughter's voice in the Requiem.  She hears the alto strains, and whispers "Good-bye" as she exits.  Fade to black.  Powerful.  Heartbreaking

Go see this play.  Through June 20 at Gloucester Stage..



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"The Progress of the Seasons - Forty Years of Baseball In Our Town" by George V. Higgins - A Rich Memoir of Red Sox Memories

I recently shared a game at Fenway Park with a friend who is as passionate about baseball and the Red Sox as I am.  As we met at Gate A, with a big smile on his face, he said, "I have a gift for you." That gift was George V. Higgins' classic memoir "The Progress of the Seasons - Forty Years of Baseball in Our Town."  In 1989, Higgins wrote this love letter celebrating 40 tumultuous years of following his beloved Red Sox, and chronicling his relationship with his father and grandfather, whose Red Sox-loving DNA has determined the author's own devotion to a team that went 86 years without winning a World Series title.

The years covered in this memoir include the decades from 1946 to 1986; those two bookend years were ones in which the Red Sox made it to the World Series, but fell short of grabbing the brass ring.  Higgins is a master wordsmith, and he evokes many wondrous memories of Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Dom Dimaggio, Dick Radatz, Jim Rice, Bill Lee, Dewey Evans, Oil Can Boyd and lesser lights in the Red Sox galaxy.  Mr. Higgins  recounts many events that I had a chance to witness with my own eyes as a boy and later as a man.  It felt like I was sitting in the Higgins living room listening to the three generations of Red Sox fans swap remembrances of games that were etched n their memories.

His baseball vignettes are stitched together with many recollections of what it was like to grow up in a family in which three generations rode the waves of euphoria and despair that are as much a part of the Red Sox experience as are Fenway Franks and drunk BU students in the bleachers.  This is a book that will be a delight to all kinds of baseball fans.  For those of us who suffered through the lean years, it is a poignant reminder of what we endured while awaiting the magic that was 2004.  For those who have only followed the Red Sox since the Duck Boats and World Series Victory Parades became a regular part of the journey, this book will give you a foundational understanding of those of us who have a hard time accepting "pink hats" as first class citizens of Red Sox Nation.  The book covers a discrete period of time, yet the sentiments that Higgins shares are truly timeless.



"Give and Take - Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" by Adam Grant - A Brilliant and Wise Book

"Give And Take" by Adam Grant is one of the most impactful books I have read in the past year.  My copy of the book arrived in the mail as a gift from a friend who lives and works in Asia.  Along with the book came a note that included these words: "Chapter 2 tells the story of Adam Rifkin who emotionally gives his time to others with no expectation of return.  This is you."  Needless to say, I could not wait to read about Mr. Rifkin and the others whose stories are told so beautifully in this carefully researched and well written work by Wharton's top professor.

The main thesis of Mr. Grant's book can be discerned from the subtitle: "Why Helping Others Drives Our Success."  He offers numerous vignettes and statistical analyses to demonstrate a truth that may seem counter-intuitive to many.  The most successful individual in the business world are not takers, but givers who give of themselves while maintaining proper boundaries to ensure that they are not treated as doormats.

The epigraph that heads Chapter 2 states the author's premise clearly as he quotes these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  "Every man must decide if he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." (page 27) The rest of the book fleshes out how these polar opposite principles work in the business world, using men like Silicon Valley uber-connector Adam Rifkin as positive role models and stories of those like Ken Lay of Enron as cautionary tales.

In a powerful chapter entitled "The Ripple Effect," Professor Grant differentiates between those who are geniuses and those who are genius makers:

"Reciprocity styles offer a powerful lens for explaining why some people flourish in teams while others fail.  In 'Multipliers,' former Oracle executive Liz Wiseman distinguishes between geniuses and genius makers.  Geniuses tend to be takers: to promote their own interests they 'drain intelligence, energy, and capability' from others.  Genius makers tend to be givers: they use their 'intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities' of other people, Wiseman writes, such that 'lightbulbs go off over people's heads, ideas flow, and problems get solved.'" (Page 63)

In a chapter entitled "Finding The Diamond In The Rough," Grant discusses the efficacy of identifying those with potential and investing time and energy and encouragement into these individuals, even while their skills and abilities may still be in an inchoate state.  The author uses another poignant epigraph to make his point.  This quotation is drawn from German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is: when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be." (Page  94)

This book should be required reading for every business leader and manager who wishes to succeed by enhancing the success of others while at the same time enjoying personal success. Whether you are by nature wired as a taker or as a giver, there are techniques and attitudes revealed in this gem of a book that can lead to revolutionary change in your personal life as well as your professional life.



Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"If You Build It . . . " by Dwier Brown - The Actor Who Portrayed John Kinsella Has Written A Moving Memoir About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams

"Field Of Dreams" remains one of my favorite movies.  When I saw that Dwier Brown, the actor who played John Kinsella in the film, had written a memoir, I was eager to read it.  This book chronicles Brown's experience in making the film, the progression of his career leading up to the brief but iconic role, and the ways in which playing this role have had a lasting impact on him and countless movie goers who have gone out of their ways to share their stories with him.

"If You Build It . . ." is a book about "Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams."  Like the film that inspired this memoir, the narrative that the author offers is compelling and moving.  The pages are spiced with vignettes about fathers and sons whose lives and relationships with each other were impacted in a wide variety of ways by the film.  Mr. Brown is a gifted storyteller, and he has written a book that any fan of baseball, any fan of the film and anyone who thinks deeply about their relationship with their father will enjoy.

The few minutes that John Kinsella appears on the screen near the end of the film have ballooned into images and a phrase that are indelibly etched into many of our hearts. "Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?"  In the epigraph that heads the chapter entitled "Is This Heaven?" the author shares a poignant quotation by William Faulkner: "No matter what it is a writer is writing about, if the writer is a man, he is writing about the search for his father."  This wonderful book serves as a beacon in that ongoing search.



"Notes From A Dead House" by Fyodor Dostoevsky - A Stunning New Translation

My love for the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky has been passed down to the next two generations.  It is no accident that one of my grandsons bears the middle name of Fyodor!  The author's memoir about prison life - thinly disguised as a novel, has undergone a stunning and beautiful new translation at the hands of the gifted husband and wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Dostoevsky was initially sentenced to die by firing squad for his involvement in a Utopian socialist discussion group.  The Tsar commuted his sentence to four years in Siberia.  This book, "Notes From A Dead House" represents Dosoevsky's memories of those years, smuggled out of the prison in bits and pieces.

Most striking in this narrative is the transformation that the aristocratic protagonist undergoes as he begins to recognize the common humanity that he shares with many of the prisoners - even with the least likable among them. The language in this marvelous translation is rich and evocative. The characters we meet are memorable and idiosyncratic, in many cases giving hints at future fictional characters like Raskolnikov and members of the Karamazov family.

For any fan of Dostoevsky's remarkable oeuvre, this book is a welcome addition to your library.



Ogunquit Playhouse Opens Its Season With "Sister Act" - Hallelujah!

The 2015 season for Ogunquit Playhouse got off to a rollicking start with the very entertaining "Sister Act," which will run through June 20.  You may know the set up of the story from the film version starring Whoopi Goldberg.  Deloris Van Cartier, a lounge singer, inadvertently witnesses her underworld boyfriend carrying out a gangland execution, so she must go into hiding until he goes to trial.  She takes refuge in a convent, assuming the alias of "Sister Mary Clarence," but she shakes things up so much that she might as well have been called "Sister Mary Vesuvius."  She and the Mother Superior clash from the very beginning.as Deloris adds some soul and some pop to the nun's singing, and the Mother Superior is appalled.

Director Stephen Beckler has assembled a terrific creative team and cast, and the audience roared its approval at every opportunity.Set Designer Adam Koch has created an elegant set with multiple moving parts that allow the stage to serve as a church, a disco lounge, a cloister and a cold water flat. Erin Henry's choreography is dazzling and entertaining, enabling the once staid nuns to "get down"! Music Director Brent-Alan Huffman leads  a 7-piece ensemble that fills the performance space with waves of sounds upon which the performers surf with delight and abandon.  Lighting by Richard Latta, Sound by Jeremy Oleksa and glittery costumes by Dustin Cross complete the creation of an environment in which the actors thrive in telling this tale of two women who begin poles apart and meet in the middle, with everyone in between feeling the heat and light of their passion.

The cast is first rate from the lowest postulant to the lordly Monsignor.

  • Deloris Van Cartier is played by the superbly talented Rashidra Scott.  She brings her Broadway and national tour experience to this production, and she is at the top of her game in terms of her singing and acting.  Her transformation from an ambitious show business denizen to one who feels a loyalty and solidarity with the nuns in the convent is a convincing arc that is both entertaining and moving.  Her vocal skills shine through in her rendition of "Take Me To Heaven" and the title number, "Sister Act."\
Jennifer Allen as Mother Superior
"Sister Act"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through June 20

  • As Mother Superior, Broadway veteran Jennifer Allen is simply heavenly.  Her vocal talent is prodigious, but her facial expressions are the icing on the cake as she is caught between her rigid and traditional faith and the Monsignor's insistence that she harbor Deloris to bring in some money to keep the doors of the struggling parish open.  She owns the stage when she sings the hilarious "Haven't Got A Prayer."
  • As Deloris' shady boyfriend, Curtis Jackson, Apollo Levine is appropriately intimidating as he instructs his gang of hoods to find and silence Deloris.  His moment to stand out vocally occurs when he and his henchmen sing "When I Find My Baby."
  • The trio of thugs is played in wonderfully over-the-top style by three fine actors - Chris Cooke as Joey, Tyler Simahk as Pablo and Avionce as TJ.  Regular readers of The White Rhino Report may recognize the name of Mr. Simahk, for I recently reviewed his star turn in the Emerson Stage production of "Merrily We Roll Along.  "Sister Act" represents his first professional engagement since graduating a few weeks ago from Emerson College.
Avionce as TJ
Apollo Levnie as Curtis
Tyler Simahk as Pablo
Chris Cooke as Joey
"Sister Act"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through June 20

  • The role of "Sweaty Eddie" is played with great swagger and attitude by Dashaun Young.  As a police officer, he is trying to save Deloris while secretly in love with her.  He expresses his feelings for her in the song "I Could Be That Guy."
  • Blake Hammond is a cherubic and playful Monsignor O'Hara.  His character is called upon to often pour oil upon troubled waters and to mediate between Deloris and Mother Superior.
  • The chorus of nuns and acolytes is played by a gifted ensemble, composed of Meryn Beckett, Lexi Lyric, Madge Dietrich, Rashad Guy, Joe Meallo, Julia Mosby, Michelle Rombola, Amy Persons, Heather Jane Rolff, Natalie Storrs, Zuri Washington and Bridget Elise Yingling.
  • Three nuns in particular stand out from the crowd for their memorable characters and bravura performances.  As timid postulant, Sister Mary Robert, Celeste Rose goes through a wonderful transformation from wallflower to a rose in full bloom as she stands up to Mother Superior in support of Deloris.  Her solo, "The Life I Never Led," is a highlight of this production. Dierdra Friel is Sister Mary Patrick, a role made iconic in the film by Kathy Najimy.  Ms. Friel channels that same sense of  helpless and silly enthusiasm and wins over not only Deloris but the entire audience with her performance.  As the almost fossilized Sister Mary Lazarus, Tina Johnson takes her character on an unlikely journey.  She begins the show as the inept choir director, mired in tradition and mediocrity.  She comes bursting out of that tomb into a new life as a hip and glitter-wearing devotee of Deloris's new way of worshiping.  Hers is performance for the ages..
Rashidra Scott as Deloris Van Cartier
Ensemble of Sisters
"Sister Act"
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through June 20

This thoroughly delightful show will run only through June 20, so put your money in the collection plate and make your way to the temporary parish on Route 1 in Ogunquit. You will find it "mass-ively" inspiring..



Friday, June 05, 2015

"Pandora's Grave" by Stephen England - A fast-paced and exhilarating novel about the War on Terror and a plan to use biological warfare to start WW III

In "Pandora's Grave,"author Stephen England has written a very compelling tale of complex geo-political intrigue involving Iran's plan to shock the world with an attack using a weaponized plague bacterium.  The story is told in a fast-moving episodic fashion - the action quickly veering from Iran to Kurdistan to Jerusalem to Washington, D.C. to CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia.

Clandestine Services field operator Harry Nichols is at the center of a vortex of crises that involve double agents, triple crosses and governments working at cross purposes with themselves.  The current U.S. President is not a fan of the CIA, so he has to swallow hard to approve a risky mission that could save the world from WW III or kill his chances of re-election.

Clearly Mr. England knows his stuff, including in his writing just enough detail about weaponry and military and a paramilitary procedures and communications protocol to add a touch of verisimilitude to the narrative without compromising ongoing initiatives.

I cannot wait to read the next in the series of Harry Nichols novels, "Day of Reckoning."