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Catching up with John Ferry, a real original

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Never let it be said that I’m not a sucker for nostalgia — especially when it comes to my very own theater company, The Outrageous Fortune Company, now in its 16th season, getting play No. 45, “Yellow Face,” up and running.

Not much, since for the last few years he has sold his soul and lots of hours to a company that produces events at the Javits Center. John’s title is “Senior Operations Supervisor⁄Marshaling Yard” — he went into great detail about what exactly he does, but I missed most of it, distracted as I was by the George Martin bartender, a charmer named Sheryl, and she wasn’t even wearing lipstick.

John Ferry, I must tell you, is an acquired taste, but once you get him you can’t forget him. He’s got an expansive and colorful vocabulary, one that my late father, a merchant seaman in his youth, would have greatly appreciated. Endowed with wit and insight, John has a lot of opinions, most often delivered in an outrageously blunt manner, but like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” he is an equal−opportunity offender. Of course, to those of us who know and love him, he’s really a softy at heart.

So there we were talking about The Outrageous Fortune Company and reminiscing about some of the past glories. John is a superior actor and one of the best directors I have worked with. For OFC he has directed “Nuts” (his favorite), “Agnes of God,” “Betrayal” and “Lost in Yonkers” (he played Louie in that one). His other acting role for the company was in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” co−starring with the sublime Carol Carota.

“It’s all about commitment and dedication,” John says, and he has little patience with those who don’t meet that standard. If you measure up, however, and have the talent to back it up, he has high praise. Included in that rare group, along with Ms. Carota, are Carolyn Popadin and Stephen Ryan.

My editor has suggested getting some thoughts about the political season into this column as long as it has something to do with theater. Can there be any better theater than this presidential race? Even my first (and only) wife, Lois Hellman, finds it gripping. So here’s what Michael Feingold, a critic for the Village Voice, had to say many months ago in his review of “November,” a comedy by David Mamet, about a fictitious president:

“Its existence onstage is predicated on our desperate need to laugh, and to share our laughter at the real−life disaster the current administration has made of our existence as a nation. Here we are … mired in an endless unwinnable war, our economy sinking rapidly into a depression, our environment in tatters, our civil rights shredded, most of the government agencies we rely on for protection corrupted beyond belief … and the rich, with presidential sanction, robbing us blind. No administration in our history has ever been this crooked, this selfish or this oblivious to any concerns beyond its own greed and that of its corporate cronies.”

Have a nice day.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu

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