LA Theatre Works brings award winning play ‘The Mountaintop’ to Pollak Theatre

WEST LONG BRANCH – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., even as the struggle to resolve racial tension remains a challenge for communities everywhere.

L.A. Theatre Works, Susan Albert Loewenberg, Producing Director, presents The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. Directed by Shirley Jo Finney. Starring Gilbert Glenn Brown as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Karen Malina White as Camae. Photo by Matt Petit

L.A. Theatre Works commemorates the anniversary with a touring production of the internationally acclaimed play, The Mountaintop, written by Katori Hall, directed by multiple award-winner Shirley Jo Finney and starring Gilbert Glenn Brown (CBS TV’s The Inspectors, upcoming feature film The Best of Enemies) and Karen Malina White (The Cosby Show, A Different World, Malcolm and Eddie). The production will travel Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts on February 8th as one of the 38 locations across the United States.

Going up at 7:30 p.m. inside the Pollak Theatre, the performance represents a one-night-only debut for the play that won the Olivier Award as Best New Play in 2010, and that arrived in New York the following year in a production that starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The event also marks the welcome return of L.A. Theatre Works, the celebrated “radio theater company” whose regular visits to the Monmouth campus have included their adaptation of the hard-hitting drama In the Heat of the Night. For their latest touring production, the troupe under the leadership of Producing Director Susan Albert Loewenberg returns to the angry streets of the 1960s American South — or more specifically, Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on whose balcony Dr. King was fatally shot on April 4, 1968.

It’s there that the civil rights leader — just hours after proclaiming “I’ve been to the mountaintop” in what will turn out to have been his last speech — passes the final night of his life in the company of a hotel maid by the name of Camae. Over the course of that night, the larger-than-life figure from history and the working-class witness engage in a dialogue that’s laced with humor, humanity, and some surprising takes on the high-profile people and issues of their day.

Extrapolating from the existing details of King’s last hours, playwright Hall conjures an encounter that has been hailed as “breathtaking, hilarious, and heart-stopping in its exchanges.” As the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination draws near — and contemporary headlines serve to remind us that there is much work to be done in fulfilling the slain leader’s vision — the fictionalized play paints a portrait of the real man behind the statues, memorials, and federal holiday.

Award winning stage-screen actress and director Shirley Jo Finney helms the touring production, which in the L.A. Theatre Works tradition is presented in the style of a classic radio drama, albeit one that carries an advisory of “mature language.” A cast of professional actors performs minus elaborate scenic design or costumes, with the addition of sound effects further serving to capture the energy of the LATW radio broadcasts, heard regularly on public radio stations as well as the BBC, CBC, and live streamed performances at

Tickets for the LA Theatre Works presentation of The Mountaintop are priced at $35 and $45, and can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at Tickets for other upcoming events at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre, including a new series of high definition broadcasts from the National Theatre of London, are on sale now.

600 wins for Montano as RBC coach

By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr, Jack Flaherty photo
It was back in 1990 that Joe Montano was given the opportunity to be head coach of the Red Bank Catholic girls basketball team.

Jack Flaherty photos RBC girls basketball Coach Montano celebrates with his coaches and team.

Over the past 28 years he has averaged 21 wins and on January 9, he earned his 600th career win.

The Caseys hosted the Spartans of Ocean Township in a Shore Conference B North divisional game.

Red Bank Catholic scored the first 32 points, and when the final buzzer sounded the RBC had a 70-10 lopsided victory. It also gave Montano a 600-157 record.
Before Montano took over as head coach he spent several years as an assistant coach. “I worked three years at Shore Regional and a few at Red Bank Catholic coaching the boys,” said Montano. When he was asked who his coaching mentors were. “I learned a lot from Ted Jarmusz as his assistant baseball coach. I loved talking about coaching with Nancy Williams during my first year at Shore. And of course Joe Nappo, who gave me an opportunity to be his assistant at Shore and here at Red Bank Catholic.”

Over his career the ladies of Red Bank Catholic have won two NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, eight NJSIAA state titles and six Shore Conference Tournament championships. Over the years Montano has changed and adopted his coaching style. “The game has changed, society has changed and it’s important to understand every kid is different and not all situations are the same. I love practice and preparation. I have a responsibility to my players. Hold myself accountable for giving them the best situation to achieve.”

Montano has proven his success with 100 wins over the past five years. “Looking back on my 28 teams, our first Tournament of Champions winner, 95-96, was special. Our undefeated, nationally ranked 31-0 team in 1999-2000 was incredible. The 2013 team won 29 games and over achieved, but I’m sure I could name many more,” Montano said reflecting on his achievements. And when asked about any individual player, he replied; “every kid was important. You know, the best player isn’t always the most important,” he added.

For nearly three decades 30 girls from Red Bank Catholic have earned NCAA Division 1 scholarships. And as the time flies by, some of those outstanding players have returned to the Shore Conference. “Kristina Danella is coaching in collge, Lisa Kukoda is killing it at Manasquan, Jenna Strich, Megan Spanarkle, Amy Nolan, Brooke Tomovich and many others are now coaching in schools.”

Many elite athletes and coaches are superstitious. Montano is no exception. “I will wear stuff that has some wins in them over and over again and disguard after a loss,” he said. He also carried some lucky pennies with him through the state tournaments.

The success of the Red Bank Catholic girls’ basketball team is not something Montano accepts solely. He gives thanks and credit to the many assistants he has had over his career. “All of my assistants who work countless hours doing their jobs are part of the 600 career wins. It’s not over at 600, I will continue to work hard, challenge the kids to succeed at a high level,” said Montano. One of the things he strives to teach his players is that being on a team is not about being an individual.

“It’s about the group and they need to be accountable and sacrifice for its success.”
Red Bank Catholic is currently in second position in the Shore Conference B North with a 5-1 divisional record and are 8-2 overall. Manasquan is on top at 5-0 and 8-1 overall. Following the Caseys is Middletown North at 3-2, Monmouth Regional 3-3, Wall Township 3-3, Middletown South 2-3, Long Branch 2-4 and Ocean Township at 0-5.

Meeting Long Branch Chamber members, new and old

The Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce held their annual gathering at the Ocean Place last week to introduce newly elected and current board members.


L-r, are Patty Booth O’Neill, The LINK News & Chamber Vice President, Nicole Gilford of Pier Village, Scott Poyner, Heritage House, Jevan James, New Frontier Valet, Kevin Guilford of Burke & Manna, Paul Dement of Monmouth University, Councilman Michael Sirianni, Darrell Wordelmann, Rooney’s, Mary O’Malley-Joyce of Heritage House,  Ed Johnson, Brookdale Community College, Debrah Bowler, Servpro, Jeff Nadell, New Jersey Transit, Gary Katz, Sip’s Paint & Ace Hardware, Barbara Hoffman Gaffey, Hoffman Funeral Home, Chamber President Aaron Levine, LG Insurance, Todd Katz, Remax Synergy, Sue West Family Pharmacy, Lisa Borghese, 1ST Constitution Bank, Sutah Ann Robins, O’Brien Realtors, Howard Steel, Stelair Design. Sue Collins, Ronald McDonald House, Jacob Jones, City of Long Branch, Nancy Kleiberg, Chamber Executive Director and Assistant Director:  Denise Duvelsdorf.

Five municipalities apply for FEMA grant together

By Neil Schulman
Sea Bright — Several local towns are joining together to apply for a FEMA grant for firefighter equipment.

At the Jan. 16 Borough Council meeting, Sea Bright voted to apply for the Fema 2017-2018 Assistance to Firefighters grant, which would provide radio equipment for its trucks  and handheld units for individual members.

Borough Administrator Joseph Verruni said that Sea Bright was applying together with Long Branch, West Long Branch, Oceanport and Monmouth Beach in the hopes FEMA will be more interested in funding a larger project.

There is a 10 percent match, he said, which means Sea Bright could be responsible for up to $20,000 if the borough receives $200,000. Sea Bright needs to make sure the funding is in place for this grant, and Verruni said he was meeting with fire officials later this week.

Sea Bright applied, unsuccessfully, for this grant last year.

SeaBreeze returning
The borough is once again planning to publish the borough newsletter The SeaBreeze.

Council authorized printing four issues a year, one each quarter, for 2018.

The purpose is to communicate with borough residents. It will be mailed to every home in Sea Bright, and additional copies will be kept at borough hall.

The SeaBreeze has been an on-again off-again publication in recent years. The goal is to reach residents who do not pay attention to social media.

Shovel or pay
Residents have been required to remove snow from sidewalk in a timely fashion for a while. A new ordinance introduced will allow the borough to do the work and charge homeowners who don’t comply.

According to the ordinance, if snow and ice aren’t removed in a specific time, the borough can perform the work itself, and add the cost onto the residents’ next tax bill. Furthermore, residents can be fined for failure to shovel. The first offense can carry a fine of up to $100, with it increasing to up to $1,250 and up to 90 days of community service by the fourth offense.

There will be other considerations. In the event of heavy snows, the mayor is allowed to extend the time required. And people may not be responsible for clearing large piles left by plows.

Bank robber suspect sought

Investigators are seeking assistance from the public to help identify the suspect in an armed bank robbery in Eatontown, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Investigators are releasing two photographs taken from surveillance video captured of the bank robbery.

The suspect entered the TD Bank, located at the intersection of Wyckoff Road and Route 36 in Eatontown, on Friday, Jan. 5,  about 2:38 p.m. and passed a note to a teller that indicated he was armed with a gun. The teller handed the suspect an undisclosed amount of cash before the suspect walked out of the bank and ran in the general direction of the Laurel Garden Apartments.

The suspect is described as a white male, wearing a blue/grey scarf wrapped around his face, a heavy grey jacket with a grey hooded sweatshirt underneath with the hood up.  He had on sunglasses and gloves.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Wayne Raynor, of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, at 732-547-3949 or Detective Brett Paulus, of the Eatontown Police Department, at 732-389-7645.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at  Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.

Freeholders announce ‘strong opposition’ to offshore drilling

The following is a statement from Thomas A. Arnone, Director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders:

On behalf of my fellow members of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders: Lillian Burry, John Curley, and Patrick Impreveduto, I am announcing our strong opposition to the proposal made by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, to expand off-shore drilling for oil along the eastern sea coast, and most importantly the Jersey Shore.

We support the bipartisan action taken over the weekend by Governor Chris Christie, Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Corey Booker to demand that Secretary Zinke give the same exemption consideration to New Jersey that the state of Florida received.

Our beautiful and popular shorelines are a large part of what makes Monmouth County “the place you want to be.” Tourism is a money-maker for New Jersey. Residents and visitors alike know full well that our beaches are our bread and butter in the summer months and in fact, the four Shore counties (Monmouth, Atlantic, Cape May, and Ocean) are responsible for approximately 50% of the total tourism revenue the state takes in each year. In addition, in 2016, more than 34,091 jobs in Monmouth County were directly tied to the tourism industry.

Crippling a revenue-generating industry is simply not sound public policy and is irresponsible on both an environmental and economic level. This proposed plan calls for drilling activity within just three miles of our beaches. One catastrophic accident like the Deep Water BP Horizon disaster could devastate the tourism and commercial fishing industries for decades to come.

Reports suggest that the amount of oil available off of the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida will last this country less than one year and the gasoline just shy of 24 months. Is it worth risking the critically important ecological system and financial health of the region for such a short term fix?

We should be encouraging investment right here in our cities, towns, and counties.

We need to build upon our successes in the tourism industry not destroy them with unnecessary and potentially dangerous industrial activity within reach of our shores. Hasn’t Monmouth County and the Jersey Shore overall suffered enough from the effects of Superstorm Sandy?

We have come a long way in the five plus years since those terrible days in Sandy’s wake. There has been much progress and once again people have returned with family and friends, they spend money in our shops and restaurants, and they bring vitality to our once decimated coastal towns.

This is not the time… and there will never be a time… when this kind of proposal will be a benefit to this County or to this state.

We demand that a Federal public hearing be held in this region before any further action is taken on this proposal. We will not sit idly by while decisions are made about the financial and environmental sustainability of this region in a vacuum.
We are calling upon Secretary Zinke to do the right thing.

Police say women fled when arrest attempted

Ocean Township — Police say that when they discovered a driver they had pulled over had active warrants, she fled the scene in her vehicle.

According to the Ocean Township Police Department, on January 15, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Police Officers Chris Clune and Arthur Barnek conducted a motor vehicle stop at Sunset Avenue and Highway 35.

During the stop, they learned that the driver, later identified as Marylyn Ortiz-Chicchetti, 27, of Middletown, had an active warrant for her arrest and provided false information during her initial contact with the officers. After obtaining this information, Officer Clune advised Ortiz-Chicchetti that she was under arrest but she refused to exit the vehicle and then fled the scene.

Within minutes, other officers located her traveling north on Highway 35. They attempted to stop her and a brief vehicle pursuit ensued. The officers ultimately terminated the pursuit.

Further investigation by members of the Criminal Investigation Bureau later that evening led them to a motel in Middletown Township. Ortiz-Chicchetti was taken into custody after a brief struggle with detectives.

The vehicle used, a 2017 Jaguar, was seized pending civil forfeiture proceedings and Ortiz-Chicchetti was transported to the county jail pending her initial court appearance.

She was charged with two counts of Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, two counts of Eluding, two counts of Resisting Arrest, two counts of Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose (vehicle), two counts of Obstruction, and two counts of Hindering her own Apprehension.

Saying one last goodbye

Long Branch — Lines formed outside St. Michael’s Church on Monday morning before the church opened, hundreds of mourners braving freezing temperatures and bitter wind. No one was detered.

They were attending services for Steven and Linda Kologi and their daughter Brittany, who were killed New

Year’s Eve during a shooting at their home in Long Branch.
Also killed was Mary Ann Schulz, who’s mass was held Saturday at St. Jerome’s in West Long Branch.
Escaping the house were Steven’s father Adrian, 20-year-old Steven Kologi Jr. and an unidentified woman in her 20s.

After mourners filed into a packed St. Michael’s, three caskets were lined up on the sidewalk in front of the church, Brittany was placed between her parents.

There were a noticeable amount of young mourners present to honor Brittany’s and her parent’s memory, most in tears. They had many friends and family.

A booklet was handed out relating the lives of Steve, Linda and Brittany.

Steve, born in Long Branch and a graduate of Long Branch High School was only 42 years old, and Linda was 44. Brittany, a graduate of LBHS and  a student at Stockton University, was only 18.Father John Butler spoke about how Jesus was symbolized by the light of a large burning Easter candle in the church.

“The light that conquers death,” he said. “The same candle that burned brightly when Brittany was baptized here at St. Michael’s as an infant only 18 years ago. The same candle that burns brightly again for Brittany,” Father John said. “And burns for her mother and father. So very, very sad.”

Father John spoke about how Steven was a good son, husband and father and a good provider and friend. “He was a big guy and an athletic, popular guy,” he said.

“You can tell by all the photos that Linda was a good mother and wife,” he said. “Linda’s whole life was for her children.”

In the booklet Shannon Nutley spoke about her lifelong friendship with Brittany.“She was someone who took pride in herself, especially her family who she always spoke so highly of…” said Shannon who was Brittany’s friend since preschool.

“She lit up a room and she lit up my life like any friend I could ever ask for.

“I have known Brittany for 16 years now and although that may seem like a long time, it will never be long enough,” Shannon said.

Theater Review: Powerful, suspenseful crisis of faith in The Calling at NJ Rep

By Madeline Schulman

Long Branch — “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

I could not resist opening with a quote from Eleanor Rigby after viewing Joel Stone’s powerful play, The Calling, having its world premiere at NJ Rep, 179 Broadway, because The Calling is a two character play about a priest and a troubled visitor.

Ames Adamson & Jared Michael Delaney in The Calling. (SuzAnne Barabas photo )

However, Father Dan (Ames Anderson) and Carl (Jared Michael Delaney) are not Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. The two are not explicitly lonely, but Carl is burnt out from his years as a nurse, most recently in the Intensive Care Unit.

Jessica’s Parks’ setting is a wonderfully realistic church, with eight real pews facing the audience so that its point of view is the altar (which is especially effective when Father Dan kneels in prayer).

Father Dan is picking up debris from Mrs. Callahan’s funeral. He finds tissues. He finds a Santa hat. Finally, he finds Carl, sleeping on a bench (hidden from the audience so we are as surprised as Father Dan). First Father Dan thinks Carl is homeless, and then he mistakes him for a would-be thief, but when he finds that Carl attended the funeral to pay last respects to his late patient, the priest invites the nurse to stay and talk for a while.

That is a bad idea, but without that decision, there would be no play.

Soon, the men are arguing about several basic philosophical questions. Why do good people suffer? Does God have a master plan? Do we treat our pets with more humanity than we treat our elderly?

Father Dan seems firm in absolute certainty of his faith. He worries that Carl is tempting eternal damnation by contemplating suicide, and assures Carl that his troubles will be lifted by trust in Christ.

Carl is a “sort of lapsed Catholic,” and argues to the point where Father Dan accuses him of playing mind games, and deliberately pushing the priest’s buttons.

There are moments of levity, especially a great argument about whether there are as many as five explicitly Christian top 40 hits (Carl is willing to concede White Christmas but not Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer), which leads to a lovely sing-along. But the mood darkens and there are disturbing revelations and actions.

Ames Anderson is wonderful as Father Dan, coping with asthma, bad knees, and an increasingly unsettling visitor. Jared Michael Delaney, as the ambiguous Angel of Mercy, will make you feel many strong emotions.

The Calling raises many questions and leaves us to ponder the answers.

The Calling runs through Feb. 4. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets call 732-229-3166 or visit


Locals lash out at idea of drilling off Jersey shore

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch —  Last Friday, Governor-Elect Phil Murphy joined officials in a press conference in Long Branch opposing President Donald Trump’s plan to allow drilling in nearly all of the Atlantic Ocean.
On Jan. 4, the Department of the Interior announced it was planning to open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf area available for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Many coastal states, including New Jersey, objected. For years, local politicians and environmental groups have opposed offshore drilling and liquified natural gas facilities off the coast of New Jersey, some of which could be only miles away from Sea Bright and other local beaches. They’ve objected to the possible dangers of an oil spill, the security risks of having a site so close to a major population area, the potential damage to tourism, and the environmental impact on sea life and the fishing industry.

On Friday, Murphy, along with Congressman Frank Pallone, Senator Bob Menendez, and other officials, held a press conference at McLoone’s Pier House denouncing the plan.

They said offshore drilling is a threat to New Jersey’s coastal communities, beaches, fishing industries and Shore economy that supports 500,000 jobs and generates $44 billion in annual economic activities for the state.
Newly elected state Senator Vin Gopal, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Joann Downey have joined in the criticism.

Houghtaling and Downey said they sent a letter opposing this plan to the Department of the Interior back in August.

“We’ve seen environmental disaster over and over again, and so many of these catastrophes are directly linked to decisions like,” said Houghtaling. “We have a multitude of energy options available. The federal government needs to invest in our infrastructure, not put our environment and our economy at risk with dangerous moves like this.”

A statement from Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute said it predicted “significant hurdles” to making the Department of the Interior’s plan a reality in New Jersey.

“Offshore oil and gas drilling has little public support in our region. There has also been long-standing bipartisan opposition among governors and local communities in the region. The Urban Coast Institute recently polled the issue among Mid-Atlantic residents and found that only 26 percent favored it. The numbers were even lower among those living in coastal communities, with just 22 percent in favor – down from 46 percent the last time we surveyed them about it in 2009,” said Urban Coast Director Tony MacDonald.

Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced he was taking Florida off the list of territory, after talking to its governor, Rick Scott, and hearing “its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”
Congressman Pallone says the same logic needs to be applied elsewhere.

“The Trump administration is correct in concluding that offshore drilling could have a devastating impact on Florida’s tourism industry and coastal economy. Yet, it  inexplicably fails to see the same risks for numerous other states with thriving coastal economies, including New Jersey. In its politically motivated effort to protect only Florida, the Trump Administration forgets one of the key lessons from the Deepwater Horizon spill: oil spills do not respect state borders.  A spill anywhere in the Atlantic would cause environmental damage all along the coast. This action once again highlights the reckless, arbitrary and harmful decision-making process for which this Administration has become famous,” Pallone said.

“ Like Florida, New Jersey can simply not afford a spill off its coast or anywhere in the Atlantic.”