I try to make it to the Topsfield Fair once every 20 years. So, I checked my internal calendar and it turns out this was the year!

Despite my infrequent visits, I like the idea of country fairs. They are authentic relics of traditional America. You can go there and get a taste of what the United States used to be like back when respect for God, hard work and the flag were considered normal.

The Topsfield Fair lays claim to the title of the oldest agricultural fair in the United States, dating back to 1818, making this the 200th anniversary.

So, this seemed like a perfect time to make my vicennial pilgrimage and, because I’m a giver, I am prepared to share what I’ve learned with those who may be planning to attend before the fair closes on Columbus Day.
Continue reading ‘Lost at the Fair’

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A funny thing happened the other day.

And that’s the problem.

The state that our world, our country, our commonwealth and even our town are in is no laughing matter. We have serious problems, and yet some people continue to go on their merry way without a care in the world.

That’s all well and good in less precarious times. But we can ill afford those luxuries now. It’s time to get serious.

To that end, a (very) small but growing nonpartisan group of enlightened local residents has decided to band together and fight this untoward epidemic of mirth.
Continue reading ‘Let’s get serious’


By MARK SARDELLA

GLOUCESTER – “Bringing history to life” is about as cliched as it gets, but it happens to be an apt description for what Gloucester Stage’s current production, The Agitators, succeeds in doing.

Mat Smart’s play takes us into the 19th century world of icons of equal rights Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, beginning with their first meeting as young abolitionists in Rochester, New York.
Continue reading ‘‘The Agitators’ inspire at Gloucester Stage’


QUESTION: During the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, how many times were we assured that legalization would never lead to increased use by teens?

ANSWER: About the same number of times we were told that legalizing weed would not result in more highway deaths in Massachusetts.

Go explain how that works to the families of the four teenage passengers killed in a crash in East Bridgewater last May after the 17-year-old driver of the car slammed into a tree on Route 106. Last week, Plymouth county District Attorney Timothy Cruz indicted now 18-year-old Naiquan D. Hamilton of Stoughton for “driving recklessly and under the influence of marijuana.”
Continue reading ‘Foreseen Circumstances’


Lake Quannapowitt is Wakefield’s jewel – an emerald, judging by the color.

It’s August, and like the swallows returning to Capistrano, blue-green algae, aka cyanobacteria, has returned Lake Quannapowitt to the color of pea soup.

Last week, the town issued a public health warning.
Continue reading ‘Give Bees a chance’


Street view

24Aug18

Monday was like Christmas in August for me.

Did the town rescind the plastic bag ban? Did the Town Council go back to being the Board of Selectmen?

Sadly, the answer to both of those questions is “no.” But something almost as good happened. The 2018 edition of my favorite book was released. I’m not talking about the Guinness Book of World Records or the World Almanac. I refer of course to the Wakefield Street List.

It’s not just because my photo of the World War II Memorial graces the cover of the new edition, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. I’ve actually been a fan of this annual page-turner for some time.
Continue reading ‘Street view’


By MARK SARDELLA

What does it take to create art? Is it education, discipline and skill? Or is it raw talent and real-life experience?

It often takes some of both, as we witness in Sam Shepard’s True West, currently in production at Gloucester Stage.

Set in their mother’s home 40 miles east of Los Angeles, True West explores the explosive conflict between two brothers: Austin, the successful family man; and Lee, the nomadic drifter and petty thief. Austin is house sitting for his mother, who is vacationing in Alaska. A successful screenwriter, he’s at work on his latest script when his brother Lee, a beer-swilling drifter and petty thief, drops in unannounced.

Austin (played by Alexander Platt) worries that Lee has showed up to rob the homes in their mother’s affluent suburban neighborhood. That may be true, but the Lee (a menacingly brilliant Nael Nacer) has also come to steal something less tangible and far more valuable to Austin.

Lee and Austin bicker when the touchy subject of their destitute, alcoholic father comes up, and Lee tells Austin that like “the old man” he’s been living out in the desert of late.

Lee resents his brother’s success. He has nothing but contempt for his art, saying that Austin “gets paid for dreaming stuff up,” and mocks his Ivy League education and upper-class lifestyle. Austin can’t get much work done with Lee’s constant needling interruptions.

Austin eventually tells Lee that he has a producer coming over to discuss a script, and it would be better if Lee weren’t around. Lee angrily accuses Austin of being ashamed of him. Eventually, to get rid of Lee for the afternoon, Austin reluctantly gives in to Lee’s demand to borrow his car, even though he knows his brother is planning to go out and steal from homes.

As Austin is discussing his script with producer Saul Kimmer, Lee returns, toting a stolen TV. Awkward introductions are made and Lee announces that he has a few ideas of his own for movie scripts – movies about real life. Lee charms the producer and fast-talks him into agreeing to go golfing the next morning. When Lee returns from the golf game, he informs Austin that Saul now wants to produce his script and has decided to drop Austin’s.

Austin can’t believe it until Saul returns and confirms that he wants Austin to junk his bleak, modern love story and write Lee’s trashy Western tale. Austin refuses – until Saul says that he will produce Austin’s story only if he agrees to help Lee write his.

“He thinks we’re the same person!” Austin exclaims, a line that hints at Shepard’s view of the dichotomy and conflict that exits within the artist.

The situation escalates and their roles as successful screenwriter and hard-drinking, drifter are somehow reversed. Ultimately, each man finds himself admitting that he has always envied the other’s lifestyle.

Suddenly, Mom (Marya Lowry) returns home early. She finds that her house has been trashed in the course of her sons’ drunken battles and her beloved plants are all dead, but the only resistance this matriarch of dysfunction can muster is to admonish her boys about yelling in the house.

Joe Short’s tight direction manages to balance the violent chaos and the wryly comic elements of this play, and there is an abundance of both.

Lee’s story idea may be shallow and contrived and Austin’s script may be dull and passe. But GSC’s production of Shepard’s play is gritty and authentic, the real True West.

Sam Shepard’s True West runs through Sept. 8 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main St., Gloucester, MA. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets online, or call the Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit.

[This review originally appeared in the Aug. 22, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

Photos by Gary Ng




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