NIGHT CLUBBING AT THE WALLIS

Summer is in full bloom at the always engaging Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, as I comment on my arts and entertainment public radio segment this week, on 99.1 KBU and select websites.

And in keeping with the laid back ways of the season, the center om Beverly Hills has turned its smaller of two theatres, the Lovelace Studio, into an intimate nightclub.

There under the marquee of The Sorting Room, is a cabaret offering of mostly music in a succession of short, limited runs that frankly made it a challenge to attend all, as I comment on my arts and entertainment observed, public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

We did make it into The Sorting Room a few weeks ago for the one night stand of the theater songwriting team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, performing with a professional swagger and in studied voices an original program of very personal, sweet, and bitter sweet, songs.

Ah, men, the good, bad and indifferent, how have they come and gone, and where are they now, except in memory for the song writing team.

The ebullient Heisler and the winsome Goldrich were ably aided by a cast of musicians and guest performers out from the audience, seemingly populated by many friends and family.

Indeed, one got the feeling they had performed for many there in a distant past, industry intimate, Beverly Hills, in their parents’ crowded living rooms after dinner parties.

This weekend , tonight, Saturday, at 7 and 9 pm; and Sunday, at 5 and 7 ,the Sorting Room will be the scene of a rock n roll celebration by the troupe “For the Record” of the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s famed Pulp Fiction. Should be a kick.

Wednesday evening for a one night stand, multi-platinum producer Kosine will host a parade of emerging songwriters, performing their original songs.

Then the next night, Thursday, it will be another evening of new musical theatre, where previously unheard tunes will be performed by established and promising new composers .

The production scheduled for Friday evening has been described as a one-of-a-kind cabaret, with songs in both English and sign language. Performing show tunes, hip hop, poetry and comedy will be Broadway’s Josh Castille, and friends – from The Wallis and Deaf West’s Tony-nominated revival of Spring Awakening.

The final one nighter will be next Saturday, a production called “Celebrity Autobiography,” in which the memoirs of select celebrities will be acted out on stage by other celebrities. Laughs are promised. We certainly need some in these depressing neo-fascist days of Trump the terrible.

BTW, by mentioning Trump as I have intentionally keeps me off several websites that had picked me up in the past. I of course intend to keep reviling him into his hopefully sooner than later retirement.

TRUMP THE TERRIBLE CLOUDS THE FOURTH

In the spirit of this week’s July Fourth celebrations, and its abiding traditions, I feel compelled to inveigh against the neo fascist policies of our embarrassment of a President.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU across Malibu and select websites everywhere, I feel the abuses by Trump the Terrible’s misadministration go beyond politics, to the soul of our democratic tenets.

Indeed, we’re not talking politics, as several websites have asked me to shy away from in my commentaries. We’re talking about pride in America, about no less concern than survival of a way of life.

Independence Day used to be a joyous time to remember and celebrate the birth of democracy, a time for hometown parades, fireworks, family and friends’ picnics, reminding ourselves about the good in our nation.

Not this year, with a megalomaniacal, mendacious Trump in the White House, seemingly hell bent to destroy with a disturbing glee our democratic traditions, our national sense of decency, our international reputation of a land of the free, home of the brave, and a welcomed source of hope for all.

Now everyday there seems to be a new effrontery by Trump, his soulless entourage, the craven Republicans leadership, his greedy corporate base, and stupefying, supporters, including a few of my neighbors in Malibu, judging from comments received for some past commentaries taking Trump to task.

As I have stated before, it is beyond comprehension that anyone who says they love our ecologically sensitive seacoast village of Malibu, can support the science denying, imbecilic Trump appointees gutting our frail environment safeguards, and undermining our public education system.

Beyond them there are the supporters of his cruel immigration policies, his disparaging of our justice system, his twisted tax policies he strong armed through congress that unquestionably aggravate the nation’s already worrisome income disparities:The rich are getting obscenely richer, and the poor are getting sadly, depressingly poorer. And heaven help the Social Security System, Medicare and a Supreme Court.

But we’re better than this neo fascist agenda. We are better than him. In the jargon of his and my New York, Trump is truly a schmuck, and a loser, and god willing won’t last long. After all, he’s only been in office two years, though I know it feels like 20. And this Democracy has been around for 242 years.

Terrifying at times as it is, we must hold on, take heart any resistance, and look forward to the Congressional election this fall, and the national election in 2020, that is if Trump is not impeached, as he should be but probably wont.

We have to believe that this nightmare will end, hopefully with a whimper and not with a bang.  Meanwhile, I hope your July fourth was free of thoughts of Trump, and happy.

 

 

 

 

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT CHECKOUT THE REDCAT

For something definitely different on the ever engaging Southern California cultural scene, check out the Redcat, as I recommend this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere.

It is the NOW festival – that is N for new, O for original, and W for works, described by the sponsoring Cal Arts as a “vital laboratory for artists, redefining the boundaries of contemporary theatre, dance, music and multi media performance.”

The festival running through the Summer is being preceded this Sunday, the 8th, at 3 PM, with a survey of short films and performance documentations by Zackary Drucker, a widely respected, transgender multimedia artist.

She is also an LGBT activist, actress, and a producer of the award winning TV series, Transparent. On a personal note, Zach also is also a family friend, and charming. After the screening she will be in conversation with USC’s art and design professor Amelia Jones.

And where else is this happening? In the Redcat Theatre, of course, ever the wellspring of contemporary attractions tucked away beneath the Disney Concert Hall downtown.

The evening with Zachary Drucker is a centerpiece offering of the month-long film and performance festival, presenting art in thriving queer communities.

Taking the summer in stride, this truly experimental festival aims to generate a better and broader understanding of the complex relationships between sexuality, culture, gentrification, and forgotten or suppressed queer histories. For a schedule check the websites Redcat@calarts.edu or www.dirtylooksla.org.

One of the things I feel what makes Los Angeles so engaging is its diversity, the gazpacho of cultures and rainbow of lifestyles.

As a critic, this diversity I feel lends the arts and entertainment, fads and fashions, and food too, a distinct dynamism, distinguishing the local cultural scene. I love the classics; but I also want to know what is new and happening. For me, everyday it is the world reborn. It makes me feel alive.

And as a political aside I feel compelled to express in our current political nightmare, this cultural diversity makes me unabashedly proud to be an American, and rail against the xenophobia of our embarrassment of a president.

Actually, the festival at the Redcat. in its modest way, lends a hope that America as a tolerant, democratic society somewhere will persevere, and the nightmare of Trump the terrible will end.

 

WHITHER MALIBU’S WOEBEGONE VILLAGE

Upcoming is July 4th, Independence Day, and if you are looking for a flag to salute, and if you don’t mind it being pastiche, there are several variations on the iconic star and stripes design on display in the Red Ladder Gallery in Malibu’s woebegone Village.

You know where the so-called Village is. That fractured shopping center/ tourist trap, a PCH pit stop behind the obtrusive gas station in the uncivil civic center: Malibu ugly, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

The gallery– you can locate it by looking for a red ladder on the façade — is a praiseworthy venture of local resident Eamon Harrington. An Emmy award winning documentarian by trade, Harrington recently has been tirelessly pursuing painting.

In the interest of personal disclosure, he and his attractive family are genial long time neighbors on the Point. Even if you try to avoid the Civic Center, especially in the crush of cars in Summer , do check out Harrington’s artwork.

As an added attraction, the Red Ladder at 3832 Cross Creek Rd. will be hosting a schedule of readings and talks. Check its website and Just bring your own seating.

But sadly I expect the Red Ladder life expectancy might be short, for it is what commercial realtors call a “pop up”, a temporary tenant, a space holder of sorts.

The stratagem is for pop ups to lend some needed life to a shopping center as its landlords scratch like barnyard chickens for deep pocket tenants who will commit to long term leases.

What they hope going for them is the promise and profit of Malibu’s cachet. Not incidentally, this is what whetted the greedy appetites of many of the city’s past powerbrokers and politicians, and prompted Malibu’s misguided and compromised planning practices, tree huggers be damned.

But reality bites. Negating much of the city’s nefarious history of backroom politics is that the picked-over civic center is fast becoming a commercial tar pit of sorts. The Red Ladder might be around a long time.

Malibu these days may indeed attract wandering-window shopping, celebrity-seeking looky-loos, but whether the numbers can justify the escalating commercial rents is questionable as the real estate industry struggles in the wake of the boom in preferred on-line shopping.

They can write off the local population, which increasingly goes over the hill for its shopping, dining and entertainment, certainly now that Malibu’s lone commercial movie theatre has closed Noted is that its replacement will be another pricey “shamata” shop. Just what Malibu doesn’t need.

What the civic center needs, of course, is affordable housing, specifically for our teachers, first responders and seniors. And in deference to the Red Ladder, maybe some live work lofts for our emerging artist community,

Besides creating a more viable, and livable, sea coast village, it is the right thing to do, as I have stated in the past, and no doubt will again, and again, until the city finally acts. It’s time.

HAMMER BECKONS

Finally made it to the “Made in L.A, 2018” exhibit at the always engaging, and free, Hammer Museum in accessible Westwood.

 You should, too, for the two words that leapt to mind after my tour: mesmerizing and challenging, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, happily back on air, and on websites everywhere.

 I must add that the welcomed displays of the no less than 33 artists represented is also daunting, given the range of materials and techniques used, the resulting collages, constructions, paintings and videos, and their effects.

 Because of the space and time constraints of my commentaries, I decided in this instance not to single out select artists and their creations, compelling as some are.

 This being the fourth iteration of the now biennial exhibit of new works by emerging artists, in the words of director Ann Philbin, with the intention of providing insight into a larger moment with our culture. To this I say “yes!”

 Philbin further explained that while the curators –and I quote, “did not setout to define a central theme, the 33 artists in this exhibition –like the rest of us –live in a period of social tumult and political uncertainly.”

 Added was her firm belief that in moments like these, artists help to illuminate our world, whether through nuanced examinations or bold declaration. She concluded, “This year’s Made in in L.A. may not be overtly political, but it nonetheless speaks to our time.”

 So, if you are at all interested in the visual arts, be it casually, as a curiosity, or as a critic, be it for its beauty or emotional impact, or political statement, I strongly urge you make an effort to see the exhibit, which runs through the Summer to September 2d.

 I purposely added “political statement” for this is in part echoes director Philbin’s message. It also is a reply to several comments received from listeners and readers concerning my asides in select recent commentaries lamenting the cruel, greedy, environmentally disastrous policies of the Trump (mis)administration.

 I personally cannot divorce my deep appreciation of art from its inherent politics, and the daily outrages of the neo fascist Republicans. Yes fascism, which me and my family know too well from history witnessed.

 Yet I have hope. Of all endeavors I believe art has the power to free us all, if only for a few hours in a museum, as it was for me at the Hammer, as may it be for you, too.

 Maybe even an epiphany for a Trumpite.

 

 

 

WHY DID THE LA DA RELEASE THE DOGS?

The case still is sealed revealing what and who prompted the county District Attorney to turn loose 22 investigators on a recent morning to search two residences and a business in Malibu linked to long time local resident and present pro tem Mayor Jefferson Wagner.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, who might know is not saying, certainly not now having seen the support for Wagner, guilty of whatever or not, and the questioning of the actions by the DA’s office. We’re not talking here of potential crimes against persons and property, terrorists acts, drug deals and me too entertainment industry incidents, certainly not in our Malibu.

To be sure, DA Jackie Lacey has some explaining to do, and not in a vague press release slipped under the door on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. It is time for some transparency to counter the paranoia swirling on the local scene.

This is a case that should not disappear, whether the city comes to the defense of Wagner or not, as has been urged by an outpouring of city residents, some of whom have funded a lawyer for Jefferson.

One asks what else does the city council do anyhow, except bark like trained seals in approving the issues and items dutifully prepared for them like fish snacks by the inveterate city manager and city attorney in the bunker that has become City Hall.

Meanwhile, the fumbling governance of Malibu by a sadly neophyte City council continues to exasperate, witness its distressing yielding to a self serving, bloated bureaucracy and well compensated consultants. And for this the council actually congratulates itself. Lost in its hazy, lazy ways is oversight and accountability.

It is no wonder that specious conspiracy theories persist, as well as rumors of past favors and future sinecures. Yes, small town politics, be it middle America or Malibu, stumbles on.

Sustaining it is what can be described as a cult of amiability, cultivated by Malibu’s modest size where most people know who their neighbor are, if not their names, certainly the names of their pets, thanks to social media.

It is this cult that no doubt prompted Wagner to in effect apologize this week for the no vote of confidence by his council colleagues while testifying to their good intentions.

Amiable, yes, and that is what makes Wagner so liked. But it also makes him not as forthright as what is needed now to save Malibu further embarrassment as a slipshod city.

And I say that as a friend, and also as someone concerned about our failing democracy, locally as well as nationally.

 

 

 

 

 

A Haunting “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

As mentioned last week, I timed my return from Mexico so I could attend the West Coast premier on “Long Day ‘s Journey Into Night.” at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills.

To be sure, I did so with some apprehension, as comment on public radio KBU 99.1 and websites everywhere.

I had last seen – perhaps witnessed is a better word — Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece some 50 years ago on Broadway, and had not forgotten the experience It was so raw and riveting, and moving.

I wondered whether it still would have the same dramatic effect on me, being so much older now, and in this day and age where I believe we sadly have become so unfortunately hardened to shock, to mention among other things the school shootings, the pervasive homelessness and the cruelty to children, of the current Republican misadministration.

From a critic’s and personal perspective, the answer is yes. “Long Day’s Journey,” is indeed a drama that will absorb you for 3 plus hours and haunt you after.

There are no stage gimmicks, special effects at the Wallis, no Greek chorus breaking into song and dance, just actors on a striking open set performing with such skill and speaking poignant lines with such convincing feeling you feel transformed, ease dropping a century ago on a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family, the Tyrones, exposing themselves on one long day and night.

The cast of the English Bristol Old Vic production is, in a word, magnificent, particularly the alcoholic patriarch Tyrone, played by Oscar, Tony and Emmy award winner Jeremy Irons, and the Morphine addicted matriarch, Lesley Manville, a recent Oscar nominee. The twisted relationship between the two crackles.

Her venomous delivery of the line, “I love you dear, in spite of everything,” is echoed by her husband in every aside and gesture, witnessed with an ebb and flow of emotion by their sons drifting in and out of the living room.

The performances of the sons played by Matthew Beard and Rory Keenan are equally emotional and convincing, in their love and hate for each other, and their tortured parents. You ache for them.

Eugene O’Neill once described the play as having been written in tears and blood”, a play of old sorrow, and was so baldly autobiographical that he left instructions that it not be performed for 25 years after his death, which came in 1953. His widow disobeyed. I saw it in 1956, and last week.

If you love theatre, you should, too, before the limited engagement ends July 1.

 

 

 

MALIBU ROILING

Returned from abroad to find the weather in Malibu cloudy, local governance foggy, and politics menacing. Lots of “sturm und drang“ among the city’s concerned citizens. Good. A sign of life, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Paramount is a concern for long term resident, mayor pro tem, Jefferson Wagner, a personal friend of mine, and it seems scores of others in Malibu. At present, he is a councilperson and the persevering member of a “reform” slate, whose other members are figuratively out to lunch, probably on someone elses nickel, no doubt.

An ever smiling surf shop owner on the fringes of the film industry, to many Jefferson personifies an amiable Malibu local, so I was shocked as others to learn he had been questionably criminalized in an early AM raid orchestrated by the county District Attorney.

He and his companion Candace Brown, also a prized friend, were handcuffed for a short time while the house was searched by a full dress squad of a dozen DA office investigators. All that was taken was a cell phone, and no doubt many photos.

That the house lies just beyond the city limits may have been the reason for the raid — you have to be a legal resident to serve on the council. But this issue has been raised before involving Wagner, and he long since purchased another residence, within the city, from which he votes.

Whatever, the D.A.’s office is not disclosing who prompted the raid and why; the warrant is sealed. And nobody involved is saying anything because the questionable case is still open. There has been much local speculation, some of it specious, long on accusations and allegations of conspiracy, and short on evidence. Malicious persecution? A mistake? There are many questions to be eventually answered by the DA’s office, and other persons of interest.

In the meantime, a fund has been established for Wagner’s defense, if he needs one. And reflecting as it might on his council status, still to be heard from is the city.

For the record, and for what is worth, we were told the warrant was signed before Wagner cast the lone vote against awarding wily city manager Reva Feldman a generous new contract.

I for one am hopeful Wagner will be able to serve as mayor as scheduled next year, and raises the issue of the need for better transparency and accountability at City Hall.

And I would add also needed is an improved competency within its bloated bureaucracy, which I have commented previously appears to be preoccupied more with padding payrolls, pensions and perks, and less with public service.

Then there is the outsourcing of city work to select, well compensated, consultants, and the acquiescence of a neophyte council.

This is something I hope that candidates for the two open council seats will address, in the local elections this Fall, that, with the national elections, cannot come soon enough for me.

 

 

 

LONG DAYS IN MEXICO, LONG NIGHTS IN BEVERLY HILLS

For me these the last few weeks it has been arts and entertainment in Mexico, in particular its rich archeology, displayed in museums and historic sites.

Foremost was Teotihuacan, the largest city in the Americas nearly two thousand years ago, and today still very impressive, if not exhausting under a hot sun.

I had been turned on to this site just outside Mexico City by an enthralling exhibit now on display at the L.A. County Museum of Art, until July 15th. It is a must go.

I also spent a week in the Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, justly known for its culinary and craft traditions, its Spanish colonial architecture, and engaging street scenes.

Blessed by benign weather, witnessed in the plazas and pedestrian promenades was a colorful wedding reception, a graduation celebration and a salutation to a saint. And then there was the shopping. All combined to make time to slip by.

But I had to be back in L.A. in time for an opening night performance of a not-to-be missed “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The Pulitzer-Prize masterpiece by Eugene O’Neill , arguable America’s greatest playwright, will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for just three-weeks, beginning tomorrow through July 1.

It’s a limited engagement of the acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production, coming to the west coast after sold out runs in New York and London. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and websites everywhere, score a big one for the Wallis.

Directed by the honored Sir Richard Eyre, its has an all-star cast, headed by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and recent nominee Lesley Manville. She is known for playing the cold sister in “Phantom Thread;” Irons for many roles, and is one of a few actors to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy.

The play briefly portrays a family whose matriarch is addicted on morphine since the birth of child. Take it from there as the sons attack each other with brutal honesty, while the father wallows in whiskey – all exposed in a long night.

It is harrowing experience, and one I still remember with heartache 50 years ago when I saw it in its initial Broadway run, starring, among others, Florence Eldridge, Jason Robards, and Katherine Ross. The production won a host of awards, and turned me on to live theatre. It has been a joy since.

 

 

SELF SERVING MALIBU CITY HALL SCORED

It being spring, and Malibu is in full bloom, in particular my landscape. You’d therefore think my commentaries concerning civic matters would lighten up, as has been suggested by a few listeners and readers.

To be sure, as I remark on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the public school situation projecting the realignment of facilities and the district divorce look promising; and so is the city’s planned purchase of commercial parcels. Maybe it will save the Bluffs Park from some nasty, irrevocable over development.

Indeed, in my semi retirement, I’d love to kick back, limit my commentaries to the arts and entrainment segments that I now also do for public radio and various websites. I certainly can use the time for my travels, landscaping and book reviewing.

But as a long time resident with an abiding love for the unique environment and liberal lifestyles of Malibu, I cannot ignore the decline of the city, exacerbated by the lack of public oversight, a municipal ombudsman, local investigative reporters, and only scattered concerns.

Meanwhile, there is indeed much to be concerned about: Heading a list is the self aggrandizing City Council, naively yielding its prerogatives to a self serving, bloated city administration.

Talk about the hardening of bureaucratic arteries, and in a city of just 13,000, a municipality that seems to out source nearly everything, except payroll, pension and perks. And what some favored consultants are exactly being paid for remains a mystery, and that after sucking up millions of our tax dollars. There is no accountability at City Hall.

Then there are the challenge of pending issues: the air b n bs; the future of the commercial sinkhole of the civic center, Trancas field, a premium dog park, and the constant pain of PCH. Tough questions, especially for a lazy, neophyte City Hall.

As for the planning, the city appears to more often than not to yield to a cabal of dominant developers and their facilitators, commercial interests, rapacious realtors, or the whim of a wily city manager. Those dolphins awards to our politicians are beginning to smell like rotten fish.

The result I fear has been an insidious anomie in a dwindling democracy, aggravated by Malibu becoming more a tacky tourist town of trophy second homes and weekend party houses and less a unique coastal village of caring residents.

And so immodestly, as a seasoned journalist and a hardened planner, I feel compelled to express my concerns. As I used to be told by a tough NCO when I once was a platoon sergeant a long time ago,“it is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” The adage echoes.

I’ll add, good luck Malibu.