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Thursday Theater Roundup

"Other Desert Cities," through Dec. 16 in the Kavinoky Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "Baitz’s play, unlike far more simplistic living room dramas like Yasmina Reza’s 'God of Carnage,' is overloaded in the best possible way with emotional and political ammunition. It can be read from a strictly political angle, a strictly emotional one, or any combination of both. It says important things about mental illness, about apathy, about the need for a broader perspective than one was raised with, and about the use of dishonesty as the means to a laudable end – a deeply political notion if ever there was one." --Colin Dabkowski

"It WAS a Wonderful Life," through Jan. 5 in the chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery. ★★★½

From the review: "The one-hour-plus presentation is less revue and more monologue cycle. It is built on the premise that the long-term residents of the famous Buffalo cemetery have come to share their holiday memories. What sounds like a morose, potentially morbid display of friendly ghosts and black-and-white nostalgia, is actually a delightfully salient little piece." --Ben Siegel


"2012: End of the Road," through Dec. 2 in the Road Less Traveled Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "Elston and Behrend have succeeded in their goals for '2012: End of the Road.' They wanted audiences to think and talk about this new and topical play. Done." --Ted Hadley

"33 Variations," through Dec. 2 in MusicalFare Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "[Moises] Kaufman imbues the potentially nap-worthy premise with the kind of smart and economical writing typically reserved for TV cop shows and Hollywood thrillers. Between interludes of the variations played beautifully by Kramer, we skip back and forth through time, from 18th century Vienna to our own troubled century, each time learning something new about the nature of creativity, genius and, perhaps especially, mediocrity." --Colin Dabkowski

Replay Critics' Corner with Jeff Miers, Jeff Simon

News critics Jeff Simon and Jeff Miers take reader questions on music, movies, TV and more:

Art Spiegelman on Spain Rodriguez


Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Art Spiegelman, the author of "Maus" among many other significant pieces of comics literature and illustration, about the death of his friend, the Buffalo-born comics artist Spain Rodriguez. An obituary will run tomorrow, but in the meantime, here is my conversation with Speigelman about the late artist's life, his unique spirit, and his contributions to underground comics:

--Colin Dabkowski

Chips ahoy!

We hear that the Buffalo Chips, UB's a cappella guys' group, is once again readying for competition.

The News spotlighted the Chips in spring 2010 when they were heading off to Lincoln Center for the finals of the national collegiate a cappella competition. I got to go cover a rehearsal of theirs taking place around midnight on the Amherst Campus. I always remember how much fun it was.

Good luck this year, Chips!

May you make it to the top again!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Guitart and Kester to read at Daemen College on Wednesday

Jorge Guitart and Gunilla Kester are the featured poets in this month’s Readings at the RIC Series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 28) night in the Research and Information Commons of Daemen College, 4380 Main St. in Amherst. The contributor's note to Guitart's poem "Notes on the Nation" in Sunday's Spotlight Poem of the Week feature incorrectly reported the reading as taking place on Tuesday night.

Guitart is a longtime professor of Spanish Linguistics in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University at Buffalo.  His collections of poetry include “Foreigner’s Notebook” (Shuffaloff Press, 1993), “Film Blanc” (Meow Press, 1996), and “The Empress of Frozen Custard and Ninety-Nine Other Poems” (BlazeVOX Books, 2009).

Kester is the author of two poetry chapbooks: "Mysteries I-XXIII" (2011) and "Time of Sand and Teeth" (2009), and co-editor with Gary Earl Ross of "The Still Empty Chair: More Writings Inspired by Flight 3407" (2011) and "The Empty Chair: Love and Loss in the Wake of Flight 3407" (2010).  Her CD “Songs of Healing and Hope” with Cantor Susan Wehle was released in 2007.  She teaches classical guitar at The Amherst School of Music.

--R.D. Pohl

In-depth with outgoing Albright-Knox Director Louis Grachos

Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Louis Grachos in 2011. Photo by Sharon Cantillon

Earlier this year, Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Louis Grachos announced he would be leaving the gallery for a new job heading up the newly formed AMOA-Arthouse in Texas. In early November, I sat down for an extended exit interview with Grachos in preparation for my profile of him in today's Spotlight section.

Our conversation was wide-ranging and Grachos was characteristically articulate about a range of subjects, from his mandate at the museum to Buffalo's culture at large. He made many frank, insightful, instructive and perhaps surprising statements during our talk, so I am reposting it below:

Colin Dabkowski: When you first came, when you were hired, what was the feeling among the board of directors, the museum and the community about where the Albright-Knox was and needed to go?

Louis Grachos: I was lucky in that the board and staff had just gone through a strategic planning process. For me, that’s what excited me about coming to Buffalo. I knew the collection. I loved my experiences here as a high school kid and eventually a college student. But what really drove me was the idea that the museum was ready to sort of reassert itself as a modernist and contemporary institution that was really interested in community engagement and accessibility. I mean, these were like spelled out, which was great. It got me really thinking about what we could do.

The other [opportunity] was working with the collection in different ways and that was something that excited me. I also felt that I had all the right kind of energy to do all those things, because they’re the things that, as a professional, really excited me. There were a lot of good reasons to come back to this part of the world, but it really was about the museum and the potential. And that drove me.

I liked the challenge of, having spent seven years at SITE Santa Fe, to come back and actually manage a collection or steward a collection. And that was thrilling.

Continue reading "In-depth with outgoing Albright-Knox Director Louis Grachos" »

Brother Augustine Towey, 1937-2012


Brother Augustine Towey left his mark on Buffalo's theater scene. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Yesterday, Buffalo's theater community received the sad news that Brother Augustine Towey, the founder and longtime director of Niagara University's theater program and a major force on the Western New York theater scene, had died at 75.

In 2009 -- in an event I'll always remember -- members of the theater community gathered in Niagara University's soon-to-be-renovated Leary Theatre to read from Towey's book of poetry "The Poem You Aked For." That event, mercifully for those who have never had a chance to hear Towey's poetry aloud, was recorded for posterity. Below, I am excerpting two pieces of poetry from the event well worth the hearing.

The first is the marvelous and very funny series of poems "When Christ Comes," read by Towey himself. The second is "Lazarus Afterwards," read by Towey's friend and frequent collaborator Vincent O'Neill.


And a bonus, Towey reading "You Are a Word God Utters to Me":

--Colin Dabkowski




Video: Secrets, lies converge in "Other Desert Cities" at Kavinoky


It’s a cliché that can double as a curse: “Write what you know.”

But for anyone who’s ever tried his or her hand at a creative writing exercise, it also happens to be good advice – at least as far as it goes. And novelist Brooke Wyeth, the central character in Jon Robin Baitz’s riveting family drama “Other Desert Cities,” has followed it into some dangerous territory. When she gets a bad case of writer’s block, Wyeth delves into her family’s sordid history for new material. What she dredges up – some dark and uncomfortable stuff – threatens to destroy not only her crumbling sanity, but the relationship she shares with her parents and brother.

The Kavinoky Theatre (320 Porter Ave.) will open the Western New York premiere of this play, which closed on Broadway in February, at 8 tonight.

The production, directed by Peter Palmisano, stars Kristen Tripp Kelley, David Lamb, Barbara Link LaRou, Lisa Ludwig and Matt Witten. Tickets are $35 to $39, with info at 829-7668 or

Lamb discusses the production in this video, which also features footage of Kristen Tripp Kelley performing:

–Colin Dabkowski

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