Archive for September, 2012


Interviewing Lewis Black

September 30, 2012

If you follow me on Twitter (@JohnBathkeLive) you know that I interviewed the comedian Lewis Black the other day.

It’s an in-depth discussion of his life and career. We met at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey where a play Black wrote, “One Slight Hitch” is about to open.

Many people don’t know it, but Black started out a playwright. A true theatre rat with a degree from Yale Drama School. In fact, his dream was to have his plays make it to Broadway, not to become a stand up comedian.

We talked at length about the disappointment he stills feels in not having the success as a playwright that he  wanted. And we touched on his personal life, since “One Slight Hitch” is about his own breakup with a girlfriend whom he wanted to marry…30 years ago. I asked him, “are you over it, yet.” “Oh, yeah I’m over it,” he laughed.

He was generous with his time and thoughts. A clip of the interview will air Friday, October 5th on News 12 New Jersey (the day “One Slight Hitch” opens”) and the following weekend, October  13th and 14th, a longer segment will be presented specially in my show “ON THE SCENE.” (8:30am, 11:30am, 4:30pm).  It’s fascinating and revealing.




Topdog/Underdog At Two River Theatre Company: A Review

September 17, 2012

Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey has launched its 19th season with a revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning “Topdog/Underdog” directed for the first time by the play’s writer,  Suzan-Lori Parks.

The play is about two adult brothers, Lincoln and Booth, who live together in a tenement, a dreary one room apartment in which they attempt to create separate worlds for themselves on each side of the room, but are too emotionally entangled to part for longer than a night’s sleep.

They were given their names as a joke by their father, who along with their mother abandoned the children leaving Lincoln and Booth to fend for themselves in poverty.

“Topdog/Underdog” is replete with themes that may be  more relevant today than when the play debuted off-Broadway a decade ago: gun violence, unemployment, economic stagnation and the desperation to escape it. Lincoln, who puts on white face to work as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator at an arcade where customers pay to assassinate him,  is laid off. He’s replaced by a wax dummy…the ultimate insult in an outsourced world.

The brothers are played admirably by real life brothers, Brandon Dirden (“Lincoln”) and Jason Dirden (“Booth.”).  Lincoln, reserved and methodical, and Booth, impulsive and flashy, are a study in contrasts. The action pivots around a slight of hand street hustle called three card monte that Lincoln has given up, and younger brother Booth wants to master. Booth sees it as his only hope out of the ghetto.

The approximately two and a half hour long,  two character “Topdog/Underdog” is burdened by a drawn-out first act.  The better paced second act builds to a conclusion that may be inevitable but is nonetheless explosive,  chilling and  unforgettable.