Jennifer Menter knocks ‘em out as fiery redheaded bombshell “Sally,” in Not Another Theater Company’s staging of “Reefer Madness,” showing Thursday through Sunday at The Locker Room.
In his gripping debut novel, “Transgressions,” Jim Jacobs has imagined Syracuse as the principal setting in an era when Frankie Carbo of Murder, Inc. and “Blinky” Palermo controlled pro boxing through the International Boxing Club. Narrated by a boxer’s 12-year-old son, the story is set in 1952 Syracuse — fictionalized as Brant, N.Y.
A well-woven tale of loss, redemption and coming-of-age, “Transgressions” is a testament to the strength of America’s multi-cultural foundation and a celebration of both sports and spiritualism.
Its central character, Daniel Mendoza — named after the family patriarch, the 16th boxing champion of England — half-heartedly supports his father’s quest to win his first title fight. With trepidation and guilt, Daniel describes his family’s ambition to defy criminal interference and later he tries to make sense of a family tragedy for which he blames himself aided by two nurturing uncles, a Jewish Kabbalist and an Iroquois Faithkeeper, who challenge him to delve into the crimes that have devastated him.
Jacobs brilliantly explicates the Jewish/Iroquois identity of his novel’s protagonist, motivated in part by the author’s own mixed heritage. His Irish-Catholic mother hailed from the West End and his Jewish father lived in the 15th Ward.
Author at Arts Fest
Though he now lives in California where he teaches English at a community college near Berkeley, Jacobs is in Syracuse this weekend to autograph copies of “Transgressions” Thursday through Sunday, July 29-31, at the Syracuse Downtown Arts and Crafts Festival, beginning at 11 a.m. each day.
He’ll also discuss the novel, part of which is set on an imagined Iroquois reservation, with SU students in the Native Studies Program. In addition, he’ll appear at Temple Concord, 910 Madison St., where Jacobs will give a public lecture on the novel’s Iroquois and Jewish themes and the people to which he pays homage including Oren Lyons and Audrey Shenandoah, and places like Poodle’s & Jim’s, Meltzer’s Deli, Andre’s Tic Toc Club and Club 800 which once featured the music of Si Simpson and the All-Stars.
Written in an easy-to-read narrative style, “Transgressions” features a cast of characters that will be instantly familiar to Syracusans. There’s Dick Tobin, the longtime boxing announcer; coach Pat Testa; and lacrosse icon Roy Simmons Sr. (renamed Sammons in the book). The story vividly reflects Syracuse’s ethnic mix, with Italians, blacks, Irish, Jews and Onondagas all playing important roles.
Jacobs’ novel was inspired by a newspaper article, “Joined Tribes: Jewish Indians Are Ultimate Outsiders,” written in 1994 by Jonathon Tilove for the Newhouse News Service. The article contained a quote by Suzan Harjo, a Cheyenne poet, who compared Indians and Jews as “survivors who have lived life on the run… and who have been the victims of the most hideous kinds of politics and personal attacks.” Jacobs repeats these words in “Transgressions.”
Jacobs grew up in Buffalo before moving at age 13 to his parents’ hometown of Syracuse. The son of a Jewish boxer from the East Side and a Tipperary Hill mother found himself steeped in the lore of the Iroquois.
In high school, Jacobs played on three Syracuse championship football squads at Nottingham High School and was named All-City right end in his senior year, 1960. He also played football at St. Lawrence University and lacrosse at Syracuse University.
For “Transgressions” info, visit jamesajocobs.com
The show is schlocky as an oregano joint, but if you need one reason to see “Reefer Madness, The Musical,” here it is: Actress Jennifer Menter.
She’s the Mighty Mezz!
I doubt that colossal crimson coiff is really hers, but this gal’s so gorgeous it wouldn’t matter if she shaved her head.
In “Madness,” Menter turns heads as the salacious dope fiend, Sally, singing hophead harmonies and dancing jitterbug jive in licentious lingerie. Bring binoculars for a close-up view.
She also acts her head off, creating a sarcastic, world-wise character willing to indulge in orgies in order to feed her habit.
“Reefer Madness” closes this weekend with shows at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 28-30, at the Fire and Ice Banquet Facilities at The Locker Room, 528 Hiawatha Blvd. E., on the North Side. Dinner is served at 6:45 p.m. Prices run from $25 to $34; 446-1461.
To reach Syracuse Chiefs vendor Jim Durkin about the Aug. 20-21 bus trips to Fenway Park and McCoy Stadium, call him at 668-8418.
Russ Tarby’s column appears weekly in The Eagle and online at theeaglecny.com. He also covers the arts and sports. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.