Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Dog Sees God 

By Bert V. Royal
Directed by Michael Bradshaw Flynn
Playing at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre
357 West 36th Street #202
New York, NY
Performances: Feb 2, 3, 4 & 9, 10, 11 - 2018
All shows at 8:00 p.m.

Every once in a while, I come across a theatrical production that is so powerful, it lingers in my mind for days afterward. It’s usually while doing a simple chore, that aspects of the show will creep back into my thought process and force me to reexamine my life, goals, actions and their consequences. Such was my reaction to Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V. Royal, directed by Michael Bradshaw Flynn, and presented at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre. This award winning play was originally produced for the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival and then again in 2005 Off-Broadway. 

During a 90 minute performance which zooms along with lightening speed, we are introduced to the Peanuts characters created by Charles M. Schulz, but they are grown up...almost. Now in high school, all of them have become more of what they were and are each struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives. They wrestle with self-discovery, bullying, abuse, addiction, self-identity, love, rejection, and ultimately, death. 

Cast of Dog Sees God   Photo credit: David Gazzo
Cast - Starting with front row: Kevin Martinez and Autumn Guzzardi. Second row: Danielle Sue Jordan, Levin Valayil, Genvieve Johnson and Haulston Mann. Third row: Andrew O'Shanick and Sam Morales. Kevin Martinez plays CB (Charlie Brown). Although the character and Kevin portraying him, has a full range of emotions to explore and he does so beautifully, he’s ironically the straight man to the zany, insanity, whirling around him. 
Kevin Martinez
CB is probably the trickiest role. He tethers us to the show, he’s the audience’s connection to the play. He is our eyes, ears and hearts. And Kevin does an excellent job. Another stand out performance is given by Levin Valayil, who plays Beethoven. 

Levin Valayil
Not only does Levin play Chopin and Debussy himself on stage on the piano, but his portrayal of Beethoven, who is tortured emotionally and physically, is so exquisitely acted. I hesitate to say he underacted the role, which I’m sure many others less professional would choose to overdo. Not here. In fact, all of the performances are spot on. Without any warning, they can break your heart and then in an instant force you into gut busting laughter. That’s hard to do, people. Bravo to the actors, writer and director.

The director, Michael Bradshaw Flynn, has done a masterful job of creating a magical dance for 8 characters, set upon a tiny stage and it works. And the simplistic set magically transforms from school cafeteria to the outdoors to a raunchy party scene in one of the kid’s homes. And again, simple but so effective lighting by Shelby Lorea and costumes by Madison McGhee.
Cast, crew and producers.   Photo credit: David Gazzo
Bert V. Royal has written an extraordinary play that seems to suspend time and yet the piece is timeless and ahead of its time. I caught a line in the show, “I promise that things get better.” It gets better. Sound familiar? Again, this was written back in 2004 if not earlier. 

For those who don’t know the Peanuts characters you’ll still relate to the production. For those who do, you get the inside laughter and jokes pertaining to the Peanuts kids and their unique idiosyncrasies. Dog Sees God is clever, funny, irreverent, shocking, thought provoking and heartbreaking. But its clearest message is: Live and Love in the moment and never stop being your true self.
The only negative is that it doesn’t have a longer run.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cuculia Restaurant, Florence, Italy

Via dei Serragli, 3/R
50124 Firenze
Cuculia's website
email -
+39 055 277 6205

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy to do research for an upcoming feature article in Passport Magazine, I stumbled upon several exciting restaurants. One extraordinary establishment was Cuculia.


Cuculia is located in the Oltrarno neighborhood, which basically means the other side of the Arno River. The historic centre of Florence is on one side and when you crossover the Ponte Vecchio...

Ponte Vecchio

... (or several other bridges), you're in the Oltrarno. This also happens to be the part of town I prefer to stay in. It's quieter, less touristy and full of great artisan shops, museums, and restaurants. One evening, while strolling through the neighbor trying to decide where to have dinner, we came across Cuculia. There was something very homey and charming about the look of the restaurant and once glancing at the menu, the decision was made to see if we could get a table without reservations.

Yes! Probably because it was a Tuesday night. For the weekend, I would definitely recommend reservations. Cuculia refers to the twitter sound the cuckoo bird makes and this restaurant is the love child of Chef Oliver Bentancourt and his wife, Roberta. Also a library, the dining experience was exceptional from the innovative culinary creations to Rosa, our smart and entertaining server. Our gastronomical adventure started off with an unexpected "on the house" soup.

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

Pumpkin and carrot with cauliflower, beet foam, spinach and croutons. Simply delicious and gorgeous to look at. In fact all of the dishes were stunning artistic creations. Here we have a chard roll stuffed with buckwheat and beetroot with apple chutney served on a bed of celery and walnut pesto.

Chard Roll

The Winter Salad below was composed of fennel, avocado, winter melon, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate served on a bed of chickpea humus.

Winter Salad

As an entreé, the sunflower pasta made with hulled wheat stuffed with goat cheese and honey on a bed of chestnut purée that was scented with fresh thyme was surprisingly delectable.

Sunflower Pasta with Goat Cheese and Honey

We also ordered the delicate ginger cod fish perfumed with a saffron rose infusion.

Cod with Rose Infusion

Note: all flowers were eatable and gobbled up! For dessert, a refreshing fruit sorbet was enjoyed as well as a...

Fruit Sorbet

...chocolate fondue with bananas, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries!

Chocolate Fondue

 The Dizzy Traveler is cuckoo for Cuculia!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Revisiting Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
Nov. 18 through Jan. 31, 2018
218 West 57th Street (in the old Lee Art space)
The Downton Abbey Exhibition

For Downton Abby fans, you're in luck! There are three floors of painstakingly re-creations of sets, costumes and life in the Grantham's home, on exhibit in New York City. It previously had a global tour and after New York, it travels around the US in 2018.
The dining room.
Whether it's the elaborate table setting in the dinning room...

...or the bell ringing board notifying servants of some drastically needed help with a button that has popped off a dress...

The bell ringing board.

...or the chaotic preparation of a meal down in the kitchen...

Mrs Patmore's kitchen.
...the exhibit immerses you into Lord Grantham's household and daily life. With the use of CGI: clip-loop footage and holograms of several of the main characters guiding us along the way, as well as scenes from the show, it's a stunning exhibition of detail and depiction of life during post-Edwardian England. Whether downstairs...

Mr Carson's pantry.

...or upstairs...

Lady Mary's bedroom.
...the sets are quite amazing. But it's Anna Robbins costumes that are stunning.

The hard work put into these creations is quite remarkable and authentic looking. The biggest challenge to the exhibit, and I must say they handle it pretty well, are the crowds of people. So you have to make reservations, which are available every half hour from 10:00am to 7:00pm. And as usual with anything popular, especially in New York, be prepared for a lot of people. If you're patient enough, you'll enjoy it all. And there is no rush to get you out. You can spend as short or long a period of time in the exhibit as you like.

PS...there is supposedly a feature film version of Downton Abbey in the works with the original cast.

Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess    photo credit: Downton Abbey
         “You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house.”
                             -The Dowager Countess, Violet