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Jorge Kuri’s
The Run is Over
La Mama E.T.C.

Reviewed by Dinika Amaral

A first grade teacher friend and I were “espresso-ing” at a hip West Village Israeli coffee shop. She was drafting a plural test and asked me to pluralize octopus. I oscillated between octopi and octopuses. Turns out both are correct.

If English-as-a-first-language users find this scenario confusing, I wonder how difficult mastering English must be for second or third language users. Mexican playwright Jorge Kuri wrote THE BITTERNESS OF THE MERINGUE in Spanish. I recently saw the English version of this love story (translated by Edith Luna) at La Mama E.T.C. Now a part of me wonders if we were robbed of some of the play’s nuances during translation.

Diverse themes in the plot converge on the age-old love triangle, making love the grit of this absurdist play. Fenix (Antonio Cerezo) falls in love with Serpentine (Sasha Painter), an innocent village girl whose sister Melusine (Siho Ellsmore) is a sexy prostitute. Playwright Kuri based Melusine’s character on the mythical Celtic creature of the same name; Melusine was the pre-Christian water faerie who spirited away Lancelot.

In the myth, Melusine has to find a husband to love her, as love will set her free. In THE BITTERNESS OF THE MERINGUE, the bitterness is love. Fenix gives his heart to Melusine, the whore, in exchange for sex; thus he has no heart left to give to his true love, Serpentine. The bitterness from this shameful trade-off kills Fenix.

Actor Cerezo is a slightly built Latin American man who reminds this reviewer of the Latino buddy a girl might lean on when faced with a boyfriend crisis. He has a round face and darting eyes that seem imprisoned in their sockets. Cerezo brings the right amount of bounce to Fenix. Unfortunately, I could not understand why Fenix bartered his heart for sex; perhaps a speech or soliloquy would have cleared up this character’s motivations. Here is where I think Jorge’s intended message was lost in translation.

Old Raffles (John Benoit) is another fascinating character. He first appears as a raving lunatic who lives in a garbage dump and believes he is the Knight of Entertainment at a court. Subsequently, through his humor, the Fester/Knight establishes himself as the comedian of the play. My favorite Fester line is: “I write it in the air,” the perfect way for a paranoid knight living in a garbage heap to maintain creative confidentiality from vagrants he imagines are out to steal his creative property – an improbable alternative to intellectual property patents?

La Mama is a small theater, and since I sat up front, I felt the full force of Benoit during his speeches. He was glorious, magnificent and utterly mad. He christened himself and Fenix “The Royal Family of the Moon,” with himself as “King of the Moon,” and Fenix its “Supreme Prince.” Fester was the most gripping character in the play.

The play progresses in short acts, a structure director Raine Bode uses to her advantage. The lights, stage entrances and scene endings all run like a well-rehearsed dance. The most exciting scenes are when Bode has all the characters on stage, in pairs, threes or singles, doing different things. At these junctures the entire stage looks like an octopus gone amuck, with the individual tentacles writhing and struggling to be free of the head, while being physically unable to break their connections. But despite Bode’s enthralling direction, her masterful choreographing of the myriad of dialogues and interchanges, character motivations still elude us.

La Mama is known for experimental theater and lives up to its forty-three-year-old reputation in THE BITTERNESS OF THE MERINGUE. The play is an empirical East Village off-the-wall experience that I recommend only to those comfortable with “The Royal Family of the Moon” and love lost.

Cast: Nicky Paraiso, Antonio Cerezo, John Benoit, Sasha Painter, Little Annie and Siho Ellsmore.

Tickets: The run is over. For more information about La Mama, log onto www.lamama.org.

La Mama E.T.C. |74A East 4th Street |NYC 10003


The Run Is Over
The Joyce Theater

Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico

Tony Award winner Savion Glover tap dances to the unusual beat of classical music in his new show, CLASSICAL SAVION. I must admit I was skeptical when I first heard he would be teaming up his original choreographed numbers with the likes of Bach, Bartok, and Mendelssohn. To me, “Tap Dancing to the Classics” sounds like an oxymoron. But, amazingly, Savion pulled it off.

The theater was abuzz with excitement and the crowd was a mixture of young and old. The stage setting and lighting were minimal, with a small stage featuring Savion as well as the musicians positioned behind him. Savion became the main focus of the show with his collared shirt of bright blue, which he changed to a different vibrant color after each set. The classical musicians were young, talented artists. Violins, violas, cellos, a piano, a double bass, a saxophone, flute, and a harpsichord made up this amazing orchestra/jazz band. In fact, my favorite part of the evening was when Savion introduced each musician and gave him/her an opportunity to do a solo improvisation. It was incredible. Classical improv? Whoever heard of such a thing?

As for Savion himself, he’s a tall, lean African American who much resembles his mentor, Gregory Hines, except for the fact that Savion has long dreadlocks hanging down his back. On top of the piano sat a single photo of Hines as Savion’s poignant tribute to his teacher and inspiration.

The show was relaxing as well as enthralling. Savion danced with the grace of a seasoned tap veteran and made each movement seem easy and flowing. I was fascinated just to sit back and listen to the wonderful music accompanied by the constant beats of Savion’s genius tap shoes. His feet seemed to move with a mind of their own, his swift, graceful tapping in perfect harmony with the beautiful classical repertoire. He became an instrument himself as he tapped his way through each song.

The mood was light, especially as Savion cracked jokes between sets. One needed only to look at the sweat dripping down his shirt after each number to know he was dancing his heart out.

The audience seemed enchanted by the show. Savion clearly scored a remarkable hit with his new type of entertainment.

To this reviewer, Savion brings a fresh twist to classical music and gives the tried-and-true an intriguing face-lift. He reinvents himself along with the little appreciated art of tap dancing. Some might argue classical music has somewhat lost its popularity in modern culture; however, I applaud Savion for making violins and violas more appealing to modern youth.
Savion ended the show with a slight change of pace by introducing a bassist and a jazz band, The Others. Their performance brightened the show, and then he launched into a dazzling finale called “The Stars & Stripes Forever,” a la John Philip Sousa. With Savion wearing a bright red shirt, blue stripes and stars glittered in the background as he picked up the pace on this number. His feet fluttered with new energy during the uplifting finale. It was a perfect ending to a perfect night.

CLASSICAL SAVION delivers an evening of entertainment the whole family will enjoy. The show definitely opened my eyes to a whole new style of tap dancing. For more information on programs at the Joyce Theater , log on to www.joyce.org

The Joyce Theater |175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.

Aidan Matthews’
The Run is Over
The Phil Bosakowski Theatre

Reviewed by Caroline Smith
January 21, 2005

All the way from Ireland, award-winning Irish playwright Aidan Matthews gives New York his blessing with the American premiere of Communion. Nominated for the Irish Times’ prestigious Best Play Award in 2002 at the Abbey Theater in Dublin, this alleged dark-comedy kindles the spirit.

The scene opens in the bedroom. The room has the feeling of eternal youth, furnished with books, color, and a large centered window for entering and exiting. We are introduced to Jordan who lies in bed during his last few days with a brain tumor. His animated younger brother Marcus, prances barefooted around the room, book in hand. He reads to his brother without restrain, trying to distract Jordan from his suffering and from his own. As we later learn, his brother has been in and out of psychiatric institutions, however he reads without a trace of this past or further humiliation. We also learn that outside the bedroom door, the color drains and differences of faith among the family interfere. The boys’mother, pious and stern in nature, is emotionally cold at the top of the play. Her cynicism and taut pearls mask her initial grieving for her dying son. She lashes out on Marcus while he relentlessly pines for her love. But differences aside, the family and friends must commune over a loved one’s death.

When Arthur, the Catholic priest puts down the Bible and asks for the family to pray, a curtain of anger rises and light floods the room for the first time. Ean Sheehy who plays Jordan, gives a very strong performance despite being bed-ridden for the entirety of the show. In contrast was the charismatic and jittery J. Kennedy, playing Marcus, who portrayed a fundamentally weak and troubled soul that was unable to stop loving his brother. His carefree girlfriend Felicity, shared one of the more tender bedside moments with Jordan. She kept the tearful material light and hopeful.

I enjoyed the character development and relationships in the play but I didn’t feel that the subject matter was all that original in content. I felt that there was nothing particularly new to this story. A family unites over the death of a loved one and yes, differences in background and personality are often set aside in order to grieve. This was not to say that the play wasn’t moving or resonated with me as an audience member. From the beginning we know in our hearts that the beloved Jordan is going to pass away and I also knew that his family would have a hard time overcoming his loss. I think was hoping to witness the life of these characters before such suffering clouded the bedroom. In short, Communion was a great new play for the New York stage. Moreover, strong acting only helped to enhance a beautiful set design. Communion was presented by the Origin Theater Company.

Little Women The Musical
Open Run
The Virginia Theater

Little Women

Reviewed by: Brett Saphire

Commenting on Little Women The Musical is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Taking a classic and wildly beloved piece of American Literature and adapting it as a musical for the Broadway stage must be daunting to say the least. Everyone will surely be a critic in a seemingly impossible bid to strike Broadway gold. Why not just stand in Port Authority at rush hour with a kick me sign taped to your back

Let me be clear, this is a great play for pre-teens and teens and their theatre loving parents, teachers, great aunts or “confirmed bachelor” uncles – the ones who always match their pocket squares to their socks. One could even argue that this is an astonishingly high-tech, super-polished piece of children’s theatre. If this were part of American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life series, it would make the cover of Time…or at least Highlights.

I would love to comment on the music and lyrics but even after 2 1/2 hours, I could not recall any truly memorable tune or lyric in great detail. They are all pleasant and appropriate and perfectly vanilla. If midtown Manhattan were a an upscale shopping mall, the Virginia Theatre could easily be it’s elevator – the music is just the kind of white noise that placates bored housewives and antsy children. In fact the marketing campaign for this zillion-dollar Broadway jamboree has morphed into a “Mothers bring your daughters for girls night out” mode in record time.

This is understandable. There are impressive voices, period wigs and finery not to mention a few Disney-esque sets. The intricate emotions and dynamics illustrated in Alcott’s classic are watered down and presented in a straightforward, simplistic manner requiring little intellectual effort. As a result of this ultra “user-friendly” approach there is something painfully lost in translation. For instance, Jo’s passion for the written word as well as her desire to break out of the traditional role 19th century society has allotted her is touched upon but never really explored or expressed in a way that would bond an audience to a character.

This is not the fault of the production’s gifted star, Sutton Foster. In fact, Foster is undoubtedly a major talent poised to become the kind of legendary star generations of aspiring actresses and wiry suburban gay boys will light candles to. One becomes even more anxious to see what Ms. Foster – a TONY winner for her turn as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie - will do when given something other than the role of the plucky, perky, can-do gal with an ability to belt.

Maureen McGovern as Marmee displays such a richness of character and vocal range that she at times seems to have wandered in from another production.

Janet Carroll – one of the entertainment industry’s most under-rated talents – adroitly brings the character of Aunt March to life with delicious haute bourgeois venom.

Amy McAlexander as Amy has perhaps one of the more demanding roles. She must teeter between surely adolescence and refined young womanhood. She does so admirably with her petty mischievousness adding some much needed – if brief - sparkle.

Jenny Powers’ Meg is charming and appropriately beautiful. A definite stand-out due to Ms. Powers’ stage presence and mega-watt smile.

Megan McGinnis as the ill-fated Beth has one of the few memorable moments with the genuinely touching “Some Things Are Meant To Be” in the second act.

With such an abundance of talent and financial backing, it seems a shame that this production does not send more audience members singing into the street after the curtain call. It does however please many and is definitely worth a trip to mid-town. If you have an adolescent friend or relative (or just wish you yourself were one), you will undoubtedly find the redeeming qualities this production has to offer.

The Virginia Theatre | 245 West 52nd Street

Michael Frayn’s
Open Run
Brook Atkinson Theatre

Reviewed by Evan Sung

These days, good theater on Broadway is about as scarce as Democracy in today’s turbulent political climate (its ‘on the march’ we’re told, and maybe that’s why its so hard to find). To the rescue comes Michael Frayn’s dense but involving drama, Democracy, set in a divided West Germany slowly loosening the shackles of its Nazi past and Communist rule.

Democracy, like Frayn’s last success Copenhagen, takes real figures and events and weaves fiction into the facts to arrive at a complicated portrait of human motives and psychology. Germany’s modern history has always been a ripe metaphor for the divided human soul. Frayn uses it to its full potential in depicting the story of office clerk Gunther Guillaume (Richard Thomas), an East Berliner placed in the cabinet of the freshly elected Chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt (a magisterial, yet fragile, James Naughton). Placed there by the East German Secret Service to report back to the East on Chancellor Brandt’s Social Democratic policies, Guillaume soon finds himself torn between loyalty to his Eastern homeland and his growing respect, even adoration, of Chancellor Brandt and the hard-scrabble, visionary rhetoric of the SPD. Though the politics are an integral part of the dramatic action, it’s the human drama that compels the viewer. And in a clever dramatic stroke, the relationship of the fawning Guillaume towards Chancellor Brandt is not far from romance. And why not? In a Germany just beginning to see light at the end of a long tunnel of shame and despair, democracy is a romantic ideal. Guillaume falls in love as much with Brandt’s rhetoric as he does with the power, the charm, and the faults, of the man chosen to bring this flame of Democracy to the people.

Director Michael Blakemore and his cast do a formidable job of giving energy to what might seem, on paper, inaccessible to a Broadway audience. After all, how many of us lay awake at nights fretting over how narrowly the German Social Democrats came close to losing their coalition in 1972? And yet, here, thanks to fine acting, and clear, efficient exposition, we too are swept up in the dramatic Parliamentary No Confidence vote against Willy Brandt and his SPD. When Guillaume enthusiastically comments “Never mind football! Try Parliamentary Democracy!” we are genuinely excited and moved along with him. The line also strikes a chord in us because it is filled with naïve optimism in the power of democracy that contrasts with the rather tortured state of our own present model of democracy. The play benefits from these parallels with our own contemporary political scene, but it is not dependent on them. Democracy exists on its own terms, an exciting play of ideas and emotions, which addresses not just the compromises and conflicts inherent to politics but present in every human interaction. Well-acted, beautifully staged on a sleekly minimalist set by Peter Davison, Democracy is a vital reminder of what theater, and for that matter democratic politics, should be about.

Tickets $55.00-$95.00 - Online at www.ticketmaster.com

Brook Atkinson Theatre |256 West 47th Street

An Evening With Greg Walloch
Ars Nova Theater
January 20, 2005
The Run is Over

Reviewed by Caroline Smith

On a January nightfall boasting a temperature of fifteen degrees, a frozen audience numbly took their seats at the Ars Nova Theater for an An Evening with Greg Walloch. That same audience left not only warmed from head to toe, but more importantly, courageous enough to brave New York’s coldest.

Who is he to most people? Comedian, performer, television actor… Greg Walloch recently appeared in Moscow, Russia at THE MOSFET Breaking Down Barriers II and to a sold-out crowd at Radiance Film Festival in London, England, to headline just a long list of credits. But to me, Greg Walloch is a storyteller. His walking sticks did not allow him to slip into another character per say, but on an unadorned stage, Greg Walloch was himself; a genuine, determined, gay, disabled man from Harlem. And what more could New York want? He glowed. You held onto his words the way your fingers have held a warm cup of tea these past few days. And tea, he certainly could have used. Greg’s vocals suffered at times due to a visibly bad cold, but unlike many stage divas that would have cancelled a show in order to plug a runny nose, Greg persevered like he’s done his entire life and gave a strong, poignant performance. This teaches you something. Here is a man born with cerebral palsy that has conquered the toils of the industry and not to mention, life. Men and women sat up in their wheelchairs proudly applauding Greg as he danced with an audience member on stage. Yes, the man does it all.

After doling out many bits on how it is being a gay man in this feisty city, he took the opportunity to ask how many of us theatergoers were single. Upon seeing my hand raised he asked me what the deal was. I could only shrug and tell him that, “Everybody’s gay.” This received a rich laugh from both Mr. Walloch and audience. The point of this quip reminds us that there is of course, adversity everywhere. This reflected the show’s theme and highlighted the fact that each one of us is disabled in our own way. It’s how we make the disability work that ultimately matters.

Although the majority of Greg’s performance was autobiographical, a feeding ground for hungry New York critics, I thought that it was infused with stand-up comedy and originality. In short, he made it difficult for us to pity him when his sharp wit and compassionate demeanor got in the way. Thanks for a winning performance, Greg.

The Ars Nova Theater is located in the urban landscape of Hell’s Kitchen, located at 511 W. 54th St. This venue serves as a showcase for rising Broadway talent, a space for weekly play-reading series, as well as alternative music and comedy series, and in-house writers workshops. Have I mentioned the word affordable yet? Tickets for this show were $15. Check it out. For more information www.gregwalloch.com.

The Run is Over
The Creative Place Theater

Reviewed by Jonathan Greene

You can always expect certain things when taking in a Sam Shepard play: the setting will be remote, maybe Arizona or Wyoming; no one is going to be rich, in fact most will be poor; family ties hold strong like a horse’s reigns, but tight, and easily breakable; and there is always going to be AT LEAST one drunk. In the case of The Late Henry Moss, presented by The White Horse Theater Company, under the direction of Cyndy A. Marion, there are several.

The story follows the two sons of Henry Moss, as they try and piece together the events of his sudden death out in the dusty sands of New Mexico. Moss was a drunk, a loner, and an angry old man, and the proof of that is left on his two sons. Both are single men, in their middle years with no family. They have a way of talking that suggests hardness. Earl, the older brother, has tried to adapt to society, he dresses a little better, he owns a packaging company, but the marks the old man has left lay buried shallow under his surface. Ray, the younger brother, is the more outward case, capable of flying off the handle. He’s a fast talker, bigger now then when he was young, But for all his ranting and ravings, his voice falters like that of a little boy scorned a little too much. But for all their arguing, for all the whiskey sipping they do -with the old man’s corpse lying there on the bed behind them - they can’t seem to agree on what’s happened. Ray is determined to get the whole story – a strong over-riding theme of the play – and has a sinking suspicion that Earl isn’t telling him the whole truth. So like the overgrown, overaggressive man-child that he is, he begins to piece it together himself. He probes like a rattlesnake until he finds the inconsistency. Lonely, neglected Ray, he’s searching for something he’s not going to find. Soon the pieces fall together, but not how you expect. Through memory and flashback – used artfully and with skill by Mr. Shepard - we see the events surrounding the old man’s death. We see the old man, no longer a corpse on the bed, instead a drunken shell of a man, walking around, breathing green breath and stumbling through his last days on earth. And in seeing Moss, alive and moving, we see the devastation that he has laid to the souls of his two sons.

Ms. Marion does a wonderful job staging this tragic play of memories and life. She often bathes the stage in red light, suggesting the unbearable heat of the sun on a drunken man’s skin. More impressive is her ability, as a director, to stay away from melodrama. She guides her actors to a place that is as tangible as the dilapidated apartment in which the play takes place. The play took a few moments to grow on me as an audience member, and I can only attribute this to the fact that Mrs. Marion forces the entire production to teeter on the edge of realism, without forcing it over into the world of interpretation. I soon realized that every character was in some ways or another, a loner, and if not, then lonely. Marion harnesses that “only looking out for number one mentality,” and lets it filter in, bearing its head in moments of monologue scattered throughout the play.

Bill Fairbairn plays an excellent Henry Moss. He avoids the trappings of playing just another drunk, and fills him, at first with a foolishness that soon translates over into the elderly rage of a lost man. In his final monologue - just before the answers come - as he stares out into the audience, his face seems magically to age another 30 years, his eyes becoming sad and darker as he drifts off. James Wetzel does marvelously with the challenging part of Earl, a man who has run away for years. When he rises from bed in the beginning of Act II his shirt un-tucked on one side, he moves, sounds, and acts just like his dead father, and the resemblance of it all is truly magnificent. The audience’s allegiances to the players constantly shift, and suddenly we watch Earl fall from our graces. David Runco does quite well as The Taxi Driver. Runco is the tallest man on the stage, and yet possesses the least amount of power out of all the characters. Watching Ray and Earl abuse him in their own styles is quite enjoyable.

So if you get a chance, go see this play of father’s and sons, drinkers and drunks. Only then can you get the whole story.

The Late Henry Moss, Presented by the White Horse Theater, at The Creative Place Theater. Directed by Cyndy A. Marion. Featuring: Bill Fairbairn, Sylvia Roldan Dohi, James Wetzel, Rod Sweitzer, Alfonso Ramirez, David Runco, John Adams, Sean O’hagan. Sets by Matt Downs McAdon, Lighitng and Costumes by Debra Leigh Siegel. Original Sound by Kevin Paul Giordano. Stage Manager Robert Singom 111, Assistant Director Brad L. Strickler. Fight Choreographer Michael G. Chin. Assistant to the Fight Choreographer Ray Anthony Rodriguez. Dance Choreographer Angel G. Clemente, Board Operator Winni Troha. Graphic Design Kristin Salek. Press Rep, David Gibbs of DARR Publicity Group.

Tickets $15. To purchase tickets call 212-868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com

Trains: A, C, E to 42nd Street, N, R, W to 49th Street or 1, 9 to 50th Street

The Creative Place Theater | 750 8th Avenue, Suite 602
(between 46th & 47th Streets)

The York's Theatre Company's
The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!
Open Run
The New Dodger Stages

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

The Musical of Musicals - The Musical! is a hysterically funny musical satire depicting a simple story, about an ingénue who cannot pay her rent, told in the style of five musical comedy greats: Rodgers and Hammerstein ("Corn"); Stephen Sondheim ("A Little Complex"); Jerry Herman ("Dear Abby"); Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Aspects of Junita"); and Kander and Ebb ("Speakeasy").  All of this fun was written by Eric Rockwell (Music and Co-Writer Book) and Joanne Bogart (Lyrics and Co-Writer Book), who also appear in the show.  The very talented Pamela Hunt is both the director and the choreographer of the show.

The show works on many levels.  First there is a marvelous cast: Lovette George (the ingénue who can't pay her rent); Craig Fols (the slightly foolish hero who will pay her rent); Joanne Bogart (the wise older woman); and Eric Rockwell (the villain/piano player).  They all have great voices and to-the-nanosecond comic timing.  They were also great fun to look at.  Their costumes were simple, variations on black cabaret-type attire, but their faces were amazing.  Lovette George, in particular, could give Jim Carrey a run for his money in a "Who's got the best rubber face?" competition. 

Then there are the jokes - total howlers for audience members familiar with the various composers, but still funny enough to elicit a laugh from a musical comedy novice.  After I saw the show I was talking about it with a relative who has performed in musical comedies since she was a child.  I told her she had to see it, because she would probably like it even more than I did because she would get some of the more obscure musical comedy references.  She then asked me if her six year old daughter would like it.  I thought for a moment and said, "Yes, she would.  She would not get the insider jokes, but the performers are so funny and the musical numbers are so wonderful that she would like it anyway."  But before you make reservations for a first grade class, let me add one caveat:  I know this kid and she adored Phantom and Little Shop.

All the different segments work.  The show starts with a dead-on send up of Rodgers and Hammerstein set amid the corn fields of August, then moves on to a cynically twisted scene set in an apartment house in the dark world of Sondheim.  Next it was time to idolize-a-diva in the Jerry Herman scene. I have seen many middle-aged-community-theater divas ham it up as Mame, so those jokes killed me. A total Phantom junkie, I loved the Andrew Lloyd Webber piece.  The night I attended, when it was time for the Webber piece, someone in the audience groaned and said, "He deserves to be skewered." But they sure did laugh during the scene and all the Weberesque songs were beautiful.  The show ends with a very witty Kander and Ebb segment, with the final bits sung in many different languages.  Life is so very Cabaret! 

The York Theater has an excellent road show on their hands.  "Musical" has a simple set and most of the music is supplied by an on-stage piano.  This show could easily be performed in a large cabaret space.  Throughout the country there are people who cut their theatrical teeth on musicals and they will be a perfect audience for this show.  I only hope that if it tours, it tours with this cast. Bravo!

Reviewers note: I saw this show last July at the York Theater and wrote the review at that time. I saw it again on opening night February 10th. and it was even more fun than the first time.

Tickets are $55 and $59.50 (Friday and Saturday evenings) and are available through Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or at the Dodger Stages Box Office. For information visit www.musicalofmusicals.com.

Dodger Stages, Stage Five |340 W. 50th Street



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