Sweeter Than Justice Regional Premiere At Sarasota’s Asolo Rep’s Cook Theatre May 12-22, 2016


The Regional Premiere of Robert Lipkin’s compelling psychological drama “Sweeter Than Justice” on stage at Asolo Rep’s Cook Theatre from May 12-May 22, 2016. More info about the play, cast/director/playwright bios, and advance ticket purchase at PageToStageProductions.com

“Sweeter Than Justice” unfolds in a world where choices are never simple, the line between right and wrong is blurred, and it’s hard to tell heroes from villains. It’s South Philly in 1963, and young law student Geanina Palmieri (Amanda Schlachter) matches wits against the muscle of Philly’s mob boss Marco Donnatucci (Joseph Parra). Only Geanina, the perfect hostile witness, can save the mob boss’s son (Rafael Petlock) from the electric chair … but will she? Her life is turned upside-down until she discovers a path to prevail against her adversaries, but, as often happens, the results come with unintended consequences.

Playwright Lipkin says, “This play examines how the healing powers of friendship, love and justice are too often tainted by the more irresistible power of vengeance. It leaves audiences wondering what they would do were they in Geanina’s place.”

This Equity production also includes actors Don Walker, Dan Higgs, Tom Foley, and Brianna Larson; it is being directed by Carole Kleinberg and features original music composed by Sarasota icon Joe Micals, who has written scores for HBO, PBS, motion pictures and musical theater.

Performances are May 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 7:30 pm; and Sundays, May 15 and 22 at 2:00 pm.

For more information about the play, the cast/director/playwright and to purchase tickets, visit PageToStageProductions.com or call the Sarasota Ballet box office at 941-359-0099.

Robert Lipkin’s Sweeter Than Justice Has Final Staged Reading Before Regional Premiere


Robert Lipkin’s Sweeter Than Justice has its Final Staged Reading at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, in Sarasota, Friday, Feb 5th & Saturday Feb 6th, before its fully staged Regional Premiere at the Asolo Rep’s Cook Theatre May 12-22, 2016.

After each February reading there will be an Audience Talk-back & Meet The Cast/Director/Playwright.


More Info about the play and advance ticket purchase at: PageTostageProductions.com

A compelling psychological drama, Sweeter Than Justice unfolds in a world where choices are never simple, the lines between right and wrong are blurred, and it’s hard to tell heroes from villains.

“Though set in 1963, in Philly’s then cloistered Italian community, the play offers a view of ourselves today,” says the playwright, Robert Lipkin. “It examines how the healing powers of friendship, love, and justice are too often tainted by the more irresistible power of vengeance.” This drama leaves audiences wondering what they would do were they in Geanina’s place?”

The play is directed by Carole Kleinberg,  who is thrilled to have,  “A wonderful cast starring Amanda Schachter, Joseph Parra (both included in the above picture), and Rafael Petlock.”

More Info about the play, Cast/Direct/Composer/Playwright Bios and advance ticket purchase at: PageToStageProductions.com


(Note: Dedicated to a friend, stuck at a fork in the road).

Came early for us.
Soon after we met.
Just appeared one day.
Caught it like a cold; still, it felt warm, coming at us, on tiptoe, like a storm.
We welcomed it.
I recognized it, having had it when I was a kid.
We both did.

Neither of us spoke about it at first.
Neither wants to play the fool,
to dare
to see, and say, what really might not be there,
might not be shared.
Not willing to risk hearing,
“Oh, I care, but not like that.”
Fear’s the killer – murmuring it might not be, it might not last.

Early on, it was far too early to tell friends or family. What if it were just an aberration or an anomaly?
Oh, we talked around it, the way Beginners do, via banal metaphor or
You are sunshine, or this feels like a warm summer’s moonlit night.
Silly stuff.
Couldn’t get enough.

See, the thing about Beginnings is you don’t want to be first to say that Word.
Better, safer, to let it be, like a song well written but unheard.

We weren’t sure what to do with this Interloper, this thing between us, this
Colorless, odorless, tasteless thing that we couldn’t see, nor touch, but sensed was encompassing us;
Oh, it was there all right –
We awoke with it and bedded with it every night.

Then, at that “this is too good to be true” moment, that suspicious, inner-voice slowly awakened, questioning and dissecting this Mystery,
this thing without
Next, Doubts pull into the Station,
with what sounds a lot like Cross-examination:
“Has this happened before to you?”
“Too often”?
“With whom and when?”, and
“How did it end?”
“Do you want this, now?”
“And, if you do, what do we do next, and how?”

And, if, somehow, it survives that full-frontal attack, the Doubts, the Inquisition, then the Beginning is no longer;
its roots take hold, gets stronger,
taking on a life of its own, writing its own
as it moves forward, giving birth to stories and memories of “us” and “we”.

For years we said surviving the bumps, and forks, in the road defined us, strengthened us.
Two halves had become one,
We were a couple,
a united and inseparable nation.
Then, over time, came a settling, a small crack in the foundation.
Something said, with regret,
something not really meant,
and there it was – it’s first Dent.
Now, that which was perfect was no more.
Cut and Bleedin’,
we were cast out of Eden.
How would we garnish,
this thing, now so indelibly tarnished?

Where did it go?
Why is it different?
Are we at a new Beginning, or the end of the Middle, or the Beginning of The End?
That fragile thing which survives on Faith alone cannot tolerate questions as to its validity, its permanence.
Do we have an appointment
with Disappointment?
And as the questions, the doubts, hammer on,
more Dents appear.
Is it a thing now weathered or a thing worn-out?
This is a time to choose words wisely,
We dare not let the words be spoken:
“Is it broken?”

And then comes the inevitable Parade of Platitudes:
“This too shall pass.”
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”
“We will be better for this.”

Have we come full circle?
The “I” and “Me” return, replacing the “Us” and “We”:
“I don’t know who I am anymore”.
“If I don’t think of myself, who will?”
“I’ve lost me in us.”

That Fickle thing. That Fickle thing.
Is it forever lost or just misplaced?
Did we ever really have it, or was it just some illusion we both wanted?
At the fork in the road, lies that Fickle Thing.
That damned damaged Thing.
Do we hold on to it, or do we each start anew, somewhere else, with someone new?
Do we really want to travel again, and again, upon a new Beginning, a new Middle, a new End?
Only a Sisyphus
would want This.

Or, perhaps, is this our Intermezzo?
A pause to compose a new Libretto
for Our Second-Act Concerto.
Perhaps, from our cloistered cocoon, there’s a butterfly awaiting us, still fragile, but more beautiful, more wise, more mature, than ever we thought or hoped possible.
Isn’t that dented Fickle Thing our priceless antique, built with our own hands, most worthy of polishing, protecting, and possessing together?
Answer this: aren’t we worth the risk?

Robert Lipkin

Obama & Putin Agree to Couples Counseling

Obama Putin Agree To Couples  Counseling

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – At the G20 Summit, today, Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin announced they have agreed to submit immediately to Couples Counseling.

While both leaders point to “irreconcilable differences”, Putin said, “Counseling is our last chance to avoid an ugly, tear-filled scene quarreling over whether to “bomb the shit out of Syria” or simply to kick the chemical weapons “red line” down the road a bit.”

According to a story by Peter Baker, appearing in today’s NYTimes, “… Mr. Obama acknowledged that ‘we’ve kind of hit a wall’ in relations and “… we should …not sugarcoat them.'”

Couples Counselors R USCommenting on the announcement, close friends of the Super-Couple are thrilled but expressed shock and awe that Obama and Putin have selected Bill Clinton and disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner to mediate their relationship issues.

When asked to comment, Mr. Obama shouted to the crowd of assembled reporters, as he and Putin took off, hand-in-hand, down a secluded garden path, “Clinton and Weiner have both demonstrated magical, manipulative powers at saving their own marriages that seemed, to most, beyond hope. Puttie and I are confident they can save us from each other.”

As the world’s most powerful couple exited, this reporter overheard Putin whispering sofly in Obama’s hear,”Poisen shmoisen. Poisen shmoisen. Your baseball World Series starts soon in October, honey-bunch, and, believe me, nobody will remember where your red line used to be.”

Breaking News: My Muse Is A Pain In The Ass











From a deep peaceful sleep, I awoke surprised to find,

I had my muse on my mind.

I’m speaking of She who calls herself Shirley…. Alas.

Let’s be quite clear about this from the start: My Muse is a pain in the Ass.


Speaking candidly – with no punches pulled, without embellishment,

as any artist Might.

I want to understand her, to get her Right.

Why would my muse declare herself to be average? Not only average but Average-ish.

No one aspires to average; why waste a Wish?


If you don’t know it – then know it now – every artist, in accordance

with Greek Mythology, is entitled to one muse – and only one – per

lifetime to inspire the artist. Ergo, no artist would accept a muse who

is – or perceives herself as – run-of-the-mill-ish;

you know, Average-ish.

I hope I’m being clear about This.

My Muse is a pain in the Ass.

DSC_0657A - Copy












One ought not underestimate the influence of a good muse. Someone

once said, “Only Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.” Not

True. Not True.

Muses always Do.

When a critic opines negatively upon an artist’s work, concluding it to

be, at best, a Work-in-Progress-Disaster,

it’s the Muse to the rescue, filling air and artist’s ear with, “No, no, no.

You are a Master.”


My muse – Shirley – too often asks rhetorically about

herself, “What do I do Well;

I mean, at what, if anything, do I Excel?”

I don’t get it. Never will. My insisting, “It ain’t so,”

changes not the status quo.

Reluctantly, I give up. I Surrender,

But first, I dare you to deny that this is all about Gender.


Every man, any man, would never depreciate or diminish himself so.

This we Know.

Were my muse a Man,

He’d be all about himself, boasting, “I can do anything. Yes I can, yes I Can.”

But Women, some, not all, self-deprecate, seeing less, making less of

the sum of their Parts.

Is this not the product of centuries-old practiced or feigned

subservience, of hiding larger hearts, and greater Smarts?


The Oxford English Dictionary defines (or so it should) “Shirley-ish“, a noun, as, “1. that which never gives up on anyone;  that which is integral to the creative process; is a lover of art and artists and whatever they might Create.”

But  Wait.

The Dictionary includes a second meaning – a bit shocking, I admit,

and a bit Crass –

It says – I swear it does – 2. Shirley-ish denotes a muse who is a pain in the Ass.


QED. It must be so. Who’d challenge the Oxford English Dictionary?

Not Me. Its reputation too Legendary.

But still I’d add a third meaning; Shirley-ish as a verb: “3. to be Shirley-ished is be blessed with the kind of a friend, that most mere mortals only dream about.”


Lucky Me,

Lucky her friends and family,

Lucky Jim Lee, whoever he may be.


One closing uncontrovertible truth about my Muse:

If her vision and confidence that this world stripped from her were

restored, she’d be the artist, not the muse.

Until that day arrives, a better me will remember to Be

to her – what she is to Me.

Will Supreme Court Awaken from Self-induced Coma to Decide DOMA & Prop 8

2013 SC JusticesDear Honorable Justices,

Born in Louisiana, May 18, 1896, I will celebrate – unless God remembers where he left me – my one-hundred and seventeenth birthday come next May;
And I hope, you all, have the inclination to listen to what I now Say –
regarding my accumulated knowledge, suffice it to say, I Knows,
not from any wisdom gathered in my sails – but from my long view, the way the Wind Blows.

I query, please Note:
Are we sailing forward, backward, or about to scuttle this great Freedom Boat?

How do I awake thee from thy judicial Coma –
in time to muster the judicial testosterone necessary, to decide – yes or no – the legitimacy of Prop 8 and DOMA?
Interpreting our Constitution – I know – takes a long, long tedious Time.
Well, frankly, as none of you are in a hurry, I’ll tell you how I see the Defense Of Marriage Act, and I’ll do it in Rhyme.

I took my first breath the day Plessy v. Ferguson decided Louisiana could mandate  blacks and whites be accommodated by separate railway Car,
because the color of my newborn skin offended a majority of my white neighbors, both living near and Far.
That “experiment”, as Justice Alito might call it today, in segregation and “separate but equal“, ended, thanks to the courage of the Warren Court, in 1954,
when Brown v. the Board of Ed. held the States could hold me back no More.

See, while the black male part of me could vote since 1870, via the 15th Amendment,
my female part couldn’t vote until 1920 – via the 19th Amendment…
But I digress… for by ’54, though controversial, thanks to the 14th Amendment, I was finally, a full-fledged member of the human Community,
And no one could – any longer – deny me equal access or Opportunity.

Well, not quite. See, even with the female impediment and the black impediment clearly behind me, I was still destined, human being-wise, to Fail,
Cause my partner of fifty-two years, my mate, my wife – well, you guessed it, she is, like me, a Female.

So you can understand, your Honors, given my advanced age, how I hang on your every word trying to guess, whether my wife and Me,
Can finally marry wherever we choose, you know, Legally.
As I get it, Justice Alito, regarding same-sex marriage doesn’t want to be rushed in to extending this Equal Protection Thing,”
For, as he said, “It may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good Thing.”
Judiciously Logical?
No, no, just Alito’s keen grasp of the obvious, of the Tautological.

Oh, Let Freedom ring, let wedding bells ring; well, but not until, as Justice Scalia insists, we stop and tabulate whether most folks Concur,
as if it would take a decent man, a learned man, time to know, that denying equal opportunity could ever be right and fair for us, for me, for Her.

Scalia & Roberts






I’m Worried;
cause I’m afraid I’ll be long gone and Buried,
before someone slaps Chief Justice Roberts upside his chalky, white, uptight, heterosexual
for saying, [Other than the right to marry], “you same-sex couples have every other Right.” Don’t be coming to us for more; go to your lobbyists Instead.

No disrespect intended here, your Honors, but either go with the winds of Today,
Or get out of the Way.
You all may be destined to share a footnote in History, with all admiration and respect Denied,
and Remembered as the Roberts’ Court – the one that stood on the beach and Tried,
with a broom, to stop the incoming rushing Tide.

I refuse to accept the best you can do is defer, delay and honor Procrastination,
by finding, or implying, that one-hundred and seventeen years since my birth, since Plessy v. Ferguson,
I might, once again, be deemed to have less human rights than a Corporation.

Stay asleep, your Honors, with a safe “dismissal on jurisdictional grounds”, or awaken from your self-induced Coma,
But either way – know that I know, as will those who replace you, our equal protection clause unequivocally requires you to decide Now the legitimacy of Prop 8 and DOMA.

A Day in The Life of A Hero

Military Packed & Ready










(Ed. Note: This is based on a true story seen on The Evening News.  No Animals or Humans were injured or harmed in the telling of this story.)

Boredom was the only casualty that afternoon. It died at 14:53 when bullets suddenly came pouring down on us from four sides. Rockets and shrapnel that weren’t coming directly at us ricocheted off the rocky terrain like millions of billiard balls deflecting randomly off taut table rails. This was what being ambushed looked like from the inside.

Embedded with an Army patrol unit, I was three weeks into a four week assignment. There was no big story to write about, and I was okay with that. Just young men and women, far away from home and family, following orders, day after day, week after week, year after year, trying to make some dot on the map the tiniest bit better, or win hearts and minds, without becoming a casualty statistic.

Boredom died while moving through an open field – farmland probably – on our way from one village to another. The attack upon us was synchronized and it came from all sides. Without shelter in any direction, there was no place to run to.

MilitaryI fell to the ground and buried my head under my hands the best I could. As I hit the ground – maybe even before I hit the ground – I felt someone jumping on top of me.  My attacker forced my head deeper into the soft soil beneath me and covered my body with his – actually hers. Her arms and legs straddled and blanketed mine, as the incoming  pings and crackles whisked past us.

“Don’t move. Keep your head down,” she whispered calmly in my ear.

“We’re gonna die here, aren’t we?” I asked, trying not to sound too whiney about it.

“Nobody’s dying here today, sir,” the sergeant reassured me, as if Life and Death themselves were under her command.

“Can you guarantee that, soldier?”

“No sir. But I promise you this: You won’t die alone today.”

We returned fire, got some blessed and swift air support, and it was over as quickly as it began. The sergeant was off me and gone before I got my head out of the dirt. Later, I tried to find out who my guardian angel was. At first, the commanding officer refused to speak with me about it.  Eventually, he told me this:

“We are soldiers living 24/7 in a combat zone. “We’re here to keep you and our country out of harm’s way. Yesterday, you got a small taste of how that feels close up and personal. Write about it if you want, but your Sergeant wants you to know that everyone here is a hero.”

Military on DutyThis is what I learned the day Boredom died: The sergeant who risked her life to save mine remains unknown to me. But her voice now lives inside me. It will  be the voice I hear, that reassures me everything is all right, should I ever end up lost and wandering in some dark, dangerous alley, or when jumping from a burning building, or sinking ship.  And I see action heroes and super-heroes differently now. They are bored to death in their jobs, just like the rest of us, biding their time, day after day, week after week, year after year except when Death itself appears unannounced and threatens them, their buddies, or those they’ve sworn an oath to protect.

Falling In Love With Negative Space

A Sean Elias Audio Interpretation:

Ever have someone compliment you for not being a certain way?  Ever been attracted to someone mostly because they were so different from someone else from your past?  If so, you know all about obsessing on negative space.

Falling In Love With Negative Space 

What is it about the way we choose lovers that too often makes us wonder, “Of all my many choices made, was not that one my Worst?”

I’m listening for clues today, my love; playing our first Words slowly forward, then again Reversed.

Scratching beneath the surface to see how we process what we first discover about the other — what we hold, discard or Replace.

And in that process, do we not – too often – focus on Negative Space?

Judging each other based on what each of us is Not,

as if I were the sum of all I Ain’t; as if you were the sum of all you’re Not.


If my Soul, you were inclined to Paint,

would you upon your canvas reveal me as the total of all I Ain’t?

Before making yourself a double martini or stealing from your son’s desk draw another Joint,

let me cut to the chase and make my Point.


In the beginning of our Beginning, you said, “I am so very attracted to you because you are not: a big drinker, a gambler,  a right-winger, an obsessed religious fanatic, a womanizer” and lots of other stuff  I’ve never Been.

When focusing so on what I ain’t – that so perfectly describes your lovers left behind – how will you decide whether I’m worth selling or buying, whether I’m out or In?


I’m describing your behavior, but not pointing fingers or casting Blame;

in fact, I’m afraid I behave the same.

As we Glance through our Rear-View-Mirrors, we’re shocked to See:

we’ve been attracted – Subconsciously –

to traits exactly opposite of those we Hate,

Possessed by the Mate,

Last left Behind,

whose larger than life negative parts we can’t, evidently, shake from our Mind.


I’m suggesting nothing but a small change in how we process, how we use Intuition,

a slight alteration – as sailors say – in tacking Position.

I recommend we focus on what each of us Possesses, on what we each have to Offer,

And let’s deposit those assets,  those  jewels in our Coffer.


In short, my thesis on obsessing over Negative Space is easy to Summarize:

When alone, when we privately gaze to the heavens and make a wish upon a


We should wish not for someone who Ain’t but for someone who


Tea Party Tea-Bagged As Romney Reverses Position On Gay Marriage

A Sean Elias Audio Interpretation: 

Mitt Romney’s announced his support for “a really neat idea”, namely that gays and lesbians would be permitted to marry but not divorce.  “You can’t fight to get out of a club your demanding admission to,” Romney reasoned.

Revealed at a secret Republican Think-Tank, held this week in Oxymoronica, Kansas, Senator Closet’s plan would allow same-sex marriages but would not permit such marriages to be terminated by annulment or divorce.

A spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance said that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples, which includes, “… the right to marry and divorce.”  But in a startling development, a spokesperson at the Vatican speaking for the Pope said, “The Holy Father favors any law that prevents divorce and upholds the sanctity of marriage.”  Asked later whether this represented a tacit approval of same-sex marriage, the Pope explained, “Some of my best friends are gays and lesbians, but I wouldn’t want to marry one – joke joke.  Come on – lighten up.”  Immediately thereafter an emergency meeting at the Vatican was held behind closed doors.  Though later denied by the Vatican, a reliable source within the Vatican, who requested not to be named, said the Pope was sent to bed early without his beads or dessert.