Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Red Wine of Note From Spain

An Intense Red Wine from Spain

This affordable red wine from Ribera del Duero, Spain, is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha and 5% Mazuelo that is aged for 24 months in American white oak and  further aged for 2 years in bottles before it's released. The Regulatory Board of Denomination of Origin Rioja cites the 2011 harvest as "excellent" with one of the best results in the last 30 years.

The color of this Rioja is bright, ruby red with tints of red brick iridescence. The nose is intense with leather, tobacco, herbaceous and berry notes.On the palate, it's rich, full-bodied and spicy with flavors of red fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla with a hint of charcoal. The robust flavor of this Rioja makes it a good match from everything from grilled red meats and game stews to Tex-Mex and pasta dishes, cheeses and chocolate desserts.

With an alcoholic content of 13.5%, a 750 ml bottle retails for around $15.

Throughout history Bordon Reserva Rioja wine has been one of the most awarded wines of Franco-Spanish Bodeas.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Acclaimed Brazilian Chef V\isits Pittsburgh for One-Night Culinary/Cultural Experience

Grilled coalho cheese with sugar cane brown syrup, & a variety of other small bites by chef Ana Luiza Trajano Credit: Alexandre Schneider

On November 4 at 6 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Chef Ana Luiza Trajano,  renowned for research into Brazilian foodways, will visit Pittsburgh  for a one-night-only cultural experience pairing a multi-course meal with one of Brazil’s greatest artists.

Chef Trajano, of São Paulo’s acclaimed restaurant Brasil a Gosto, will respond to Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, CMOA’s premiere of the hotly-anticipated traveling exhibition. According to The New York Times, Brasil a Gosto “unloads an avalanche of flavors and textures and experiences without intimidating.”

Chef Ana Luiza Trajano Credit: Alexandre Schneider

Trajano’s menu draws upon her love of Oiticica’s art, and her recipes are gathered from her extensive research travels throughout rural Brazil. After returning from training and work in Italy in 2003, Trajano embarked on an expedition to gather the recipes, ingredients, folklore, and hand-crafts of traditional Brazilian cooking. Her restaurant and cookbooks reflect a commitment to this cuisine, refined through her European training while remaining authentic to its roots.

The FEAST: Oiticica menu includes:

Grilled coalho cheese with sugar cane brown syrup, & a variety of other small bites (See photo above)

Beetroot cream with flocked tapioca porridge and salty granola

Credit: Alexandre Schneider

Roasted fish in banana tree leafs, farofa made with dendê (orange palm tree oil), coconut rice and pirão

Fish Course Credit:Alexandre Schneifer

Oiticica’s revolutionary art moves from rhythmic geometric painting to massive, multisensory environments suffused with color and texture, inviting visitors to walk through water, relax in a hammock, or wind through maze-like structures. When they aren’t busy sampling Chef Trajano’s delectable food, FEAST visitors will explore the exhibition.

For more information, and to register, visit

To learn more about the series, visit

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Toxic Avenger" - Super-Animated Cast a Match for Its Superhero Humor

Evan Ruggiero as Toxie and Katie Sexton as Sarah Credit: Matt Polk 

Back in May, when I caught a Pittsburgh CLO production of "39 Steps" at the Cabaret Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh, I described the show as "dazzlingly entertaining" and thought "it could hardly get better than this."

Well, surprise, surprise. After seeing "The Toxic Avenger," the latest CLO production at the Cabaret Theater, I raised my benchmark for high quality entertainment another notch. Not bad for a musical comedy that got its birth as a B-grade, non musical film with the same title made in 1984 by Lloyd Kaufman.

For those unfamiliar with the film, as am I, the plot centers around a mild-mannered geek named Melvin Ferd the Third who is transformed into a muscular killer after he'’ dumped into a vat of toxic radioactive waste by a pair of thugs. Melvin, a crusader of sorts advocating for a clean and green environment, himself turns green as well as hideously deformed after his mishap.

It seems his inquisitive nature got him into trouble when he discovered in the deep recesses of the Tromatown (read Traumatown) library that the town’s mayor was also the covert owner of the enterprise responsible for dumping toxic waste on the nearby New Jersey landscape  To shut him up, the mayor orders his quick dispatch by her ruffian henchmen.

Even before his transformation, Melvin develops a romantic attraction to Sarah, a town librarian who also happens to be blind. White cane in hand, Sarah is ambivalent about her feelings for Melvin - until his plunge into the toxic bath. Though Melvin may be hideous to behold with his bumpy green skin and left eyeball dangling along side his nose, Sarah is blind to his defects and is actually aroused by his more aggressive attitude.

More monster than super hero, Melvin as the Toxic Avenger might be great fodder for Halloween themed theatrics if it wasn’t for the comedy skills of its authors - Joe DiPietro and David Bryan of Bon Jovi fame. They’re the same duo responsible for "Memphis," which garnered Bryan Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestration back in 2010.
In their capable hands, the horror and terror so sought after during the ghoul season at the end of October are supplanted by laughter, chortles and sniggering for a more light-hearted holiday experience.

The pieces for the Pittsburgh CLO production fit together with award-winning qualities of their own starting with the rambunctious cast of five headed by Evan Ruggiero as the title character. Transformed into a appallingly unattractive superhero, his Avenger has somehow retained his interests in environmental advocacy. But that’s putting it mildly because this once meek gent now savagely manhandles his opponents and antagonists with superhuman strength that literally tears them limb from limb, head from torso..

His murderous deeds are done in such as way by inspired stagecraft that, instead of inducing a sense of terrifying horror, the dismemberments come off . . . well, as ultra comic moments that both titillate and disgust.

Ruggiero is convincing both in his initial mild-mannered persona and as the reconstructed, toxified, machismo-driven hulk. However, despite his new-found physical empowerment, he still cowers in the presence of Sarah (Katie Sexton), a self-assured, soft-hearted, attractive though ditzy headed looker, scripted by the authors as a stereotypic blonde.

As one of the cast members says "she’d be Mother Theresa if she wasn’t blind and HOT."
Keep an eye out on Quinn Patrick Shannon as the White Dude and Billy Mason as the Black Dude. First seen as the burley thugs with deep voices and meaty physiques, they later take on a several multi-gender personalities that are nothing short of hilarious. Isn’t it amazing what a wig and a pair of pumps can do to turn the audience into a gaggle of giggling gawkers?

The two men often steal the scene with their high-energy camp, acting as though they were thrilled every moment they’re on stage, exuding so much charm and charisma in the process, you’d almost expect them to ignite spontaneously into flame.

And speaking of igniting, wait till you experience the entrance of Caroline Nicolian as mayor Babs Belgoody. She comes on like gangbusters belting out with Jennifer Holiday-like panache "Jersey Girl," a tune that makes you sit up and take notice.

Nicolian gives her Machiavellian mischief making a palpable credibility, but when she later portrays a second character, that of Melvin’s frail mother that reminded me of Granny in the old Silvester and Tweety Bird cartoons, she shows an unbelievable range of Thespian skills.

The musical score is a mix of mostly pleasant pop rock style tunes with a ballad or two mixed in for variety’s sake. One song naughtily titled "Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore" gives you the impression that you might not want to take impressionable preteens to this particular production.

One musical highlight of note is a Shannon solo done on guitar to a Bruce Springsteen melody retitled "The Legend of the Toxic Avenger." It brought down the house the evening of my visit despite the fact that it was done without backup from the three piece combo that accompanies the singers from a lofty dais in the middle of the stage.

Tony Ferrieri designed the industrial looking set, a rather bleak looking melange of wire fencing, metal barrels and corrugated sheets of metal that envelop the audience on two sides. Costuming appropriate to the story line is by David Woolard.

Wes Grantom’s direction was so right-on I wondered if he wasn’t also a veteran stand up comedian.
He got the pacing, timing and blocking down pat and, if he had anything to do with selecting the cast, he got that right too. Watch for some of his hilarious nuances you might miss if you’re not alert like the pair of copulating rats at stage right and what the blind Sarah offers Melvin as an additive to his tea.

At intermission I was exhausted by sheer exuberance, inventive creativity and boisterous mirth of it all and wondered how Act Two could possibly continue the comedic artistry after a fifteen minute cool down. But minutes into the second half the fun rekindles and the show plunges head long into a memorable moment of theatrical magic when Sexton, with the aid of Shannon and Mason, plays two roles simultaneously in a scene that gets progressively outrageous.

In Toxic, gruesome was never so toothsome.

The Toxic Avenger is at the Cabaret Theater, 655 Penn Avenue, in downtown Pittsburgh through December 18. For tickets, phone 412-456-6666 or

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finding Neverland - You'll Find It at the Benedum in Pittsburgh Starting Tuesday

Laura Michelle Kelly of the Original Broadway Cast Credit: Carol Rosegg

Based on the Academy Award-winning Miramax motion picture by David Magee, and the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, FINDING NEVERLAND follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up – one of the most beloved stories of all time.

Directed by Tony®-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Hair) with book by Olivier Award® -nominee James Graham, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow (Take That) and Grammy Award®- winner Eliot Kennedy, and choreography by Emmy Award®-winner Mia Michaels (“So You Think You Can Dance,” Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium), this new musical, packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs, is a timeless story about the power of imagination… and spectacular proof that you never really have to grow up.

The production features scenic design by Tony Award®-winner Scott Pask (Pippin, Book of Mormon), lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Kenneth Posner (The Coast of Utopia, Pippin), costume design by Suttirat Larlarb (Of Mice and Men), sound design by Tony Award®-nominee Jonathan Deans (Pippin, La Cage aux Folles), hair and make-up design by Richard Mawbey, projection design by Jon Driscoll and casting by Stewart/Whitley. \

In Pittsburgh, FINDING NEVERLAND premieres at the Benedum Center, 237 7th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, October 18-23, 2016, as part of the 2016-2017 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Broadway Across America. 

Performances are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday evening at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday, October 19, at 6:30 p.m. PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh patrons are invited to join us for a free pre-show talk, Know The Show Before You Go, held at the Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.  For more information visit:

Tickets ($26-$80) to FINDING NEVERLAND at the Benedum Center are available at these Pittsburgh Cultural Trust official ticket sources:, by calling 412-456-4800 or in person at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue. For information about the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh subscription series, visit or call 412-456-1390.  Tickets for Groups of 10+ are available online at or call 412-471-6930.

For more tour and casting information:

Twitter: @NeverlandBway Instagram: @FNLmusical

Friday, October 14, 2016

Renowned Polish Pianist in Concert at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Oakland

Polish Pianist Ewa Poblocka in Concert at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium Credit: Courtesy Photo

The piano keys are black and white,
but they sound like a million colors
in your mind.
—Mexican writer, Maria Cristina Mena

That’s what the organizers of the forthcoming piano recital of the famous Polish pianist Ewa Pobłocka hope to evoke .

Ms. Pobłocka will perform works of Mozart,Schubert, Paderewski, and Chopin on Friday, October 21, 7:30 PM at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, the University of Pittsburgh, Oakland.

EWA POBŁOCKA is a world-renowned pianist, and one of Poland’s most distinguished
 teachers. She is the laureate of many international piano competitions, including the International Fryderyk
Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw, Poland; and the International Viotti Competition in Vercelli, Italy. She was the gold medalist of the International Festival of Young Laureates in Bordeaux, France.

Pobłocka has performed throughout most of Europe, as well as in both Americas, in Japan, Singapore, Korea, and Australia. She has appeared in concert with many prominent orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Polish National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, just to name a few.

She has been broadcast widely and has recorded over 40 discs. One can go on and on describing her many achievements, but her talent didn’t just appear in a vacuum. Before she graduated from the Music Academy
in Gdańsk and won the laurels of the international competitions, Ewa Pobłocka appeared in many concerts with her mother, soprano Zofia Janukowicz-Pobłocka, accompanying the masterpieces of the European vocal art.

Today, Ewa Pobłocka can often be heard in a family Trio, with her multitalented daughters, Ewa and Maria Leszczynski: mother is at the piano, the elder daughter sings soprano and plays the piano, and the younger daughter plays the piano, cello and saxophone.

Piano Recital—Not to be Missed!

 Performing in various instrumental configurations, the Multi Trio always promotes Polish music, captivating enthusiastic audiences with their musicality and unique style.

The piano recital on October 21 is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. It is also supported in part by The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts It is not to be missed!

Regular tickets: $35, PCC members: $30, Students & Children: $10 To order tickets please send your check to: PCC, Box 81054, Pittsburgh, PA 15217,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

off the Wall Opens 10th Season with Confrontational Drama for Mature Audiences Only

off the WALL productions opens their 2016-17 - 10th anniversary season with “An Accident”  written by Lydia Stryk.
Often seething with cynical humor, An Accident is a visceral and emotional story about recovery, guilt, and forgiveness.
Libby is run over and critically injured in an accident. The driver, Anton, appears at her bedside.
Libby’s recovery is defined by coming to terms with the man who hit her, and mirrored by Anton’s wrestle with his guilt and responsibility.

The sharply defined stages of her progress occur within the context of their wary, forthright, prickly, warm, confrontational, and erotically charged interactions.

For Mature Audiences Only

Directed by Linda Haston
With: Amy Landis, Ken Bolden, Hilary Caldwell

Ten performances: Oct. 14-15, 20-22, 27-29 at 8pm / Oct. 16 & 23 at 3pm
Tickets: $ 5.00 - $ 40.00
Phone (724) 873-3576

City Theatre Extends Run of "Hand To God"

A Scene from "Hand To God"  Maggie Carr as Jessica and Nick LaMedic a as- Jason/Tyrone Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover
With sold-out performances through the planned closing date of October 16, City Theatre is thrilled to announce an extension of the wildly popular Broadway comedy, Hand to God by Robert Askins. Directed by Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, Hand to God features a cast of five local and national performers and nine wayward puppets.

The added performances are Wednesday, October 19 at 7:00 p.m., and Thursday, October 20, Friday, October 21, and Saturday October 22, all at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

In a church basement in a little town in Texas, something evil is afoot. Or, well — at hand. The youth group has a monster in its ranks: a rogue puppet named Tyrone. He’s hijacked the hand of timid teen Jason and there’s nothing his classmates, his mother, or the pastor can do to exorcise this foul-mouthed demon. Hand to God is a thrill ride of a comedy about good and evil, sex and sin, faith, and the filthy mind of one twisted sock puppet. It is the Pittsburgh premiere of the uproarious Tony Award® Nominated Broadway hit The New York Times called “Flat out hilarious.”

Hand to God is directed by Tracy Brigden. Performing the role of Jason/Tyrone is Nick LaMedica in his City Theatre debut. The cast includes Pittsburgh favorites Maggie Carr as Jessica/Jolene, Michael Greer as Timmy, Tim McGeever as Pastor Greg, and Lisa Velten Smith as Margery. The production team includes Tony Ferrieri (scenic designer), Tracy Christiansen (costume designer), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting designer), Elizabeth Atkinson (sound designer), Stephanie Shaw (puppet designer), Nancy McNulty McGeever (dialect coach), and  Diego Villada (fight choreography). Casting is by Caparelliotis Casting/Lauren Port.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: September 24 – October 22, 2016
For a complete listing of show times, please visit or call 412-431-2489.

Felt Up!
A Puppet-making Workshop and Brunch
Saturday, October 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Join City Theatre and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse at City Theatre’s home in the South Side to make your very own Tyrone!
Enjoy a complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa, grab some snacks, and make a one-of-a-kind hand puppet using recycled and repurposed materials from the PCCR. There are only 20 spaces available for the puppet-making workshop and it includes a ticket to the 1:00 p.m. performance of Hand to God. Tickets are $50.

Open Captioning and Audio Description Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2:00 p.m.

City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)
Patron parking is available in the lot across from the City Theatre entrance for $8.

412.431.CITY (2489) or

Single tickets start at $37.50.
Subscription packages are still available and start at $99.

Audiences under 30 may reserve $15 tickets in advance for all performances except Fridays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.; on Fridays and Saturdays, rush tickets are available two hours prior to show time and based on availability. Seniors age 62 and older may purchase $22 rush tickets at the Box Office beginning two hours before show time, based on availability. Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounts – contact Joel Ambrose at 412.431.4400 x286.