SOME CULTURAL DIVERSIONS BEYOND PCH

A new format for my arts and entertainment reviews, no more listeners on a limited local radio station, and many more readers on the rising and relevant THE LOCAL (https://www.facebook.com/thelocalmalibu/)  and select websites.  

And just in time, for a promising 2019 cultural scene, even if  expected to be more challenging to attend venues, especially  downtown and across L.A. because of the inexorable traffic, which seems to be getting worse and worse, or is it me in my dotage getting more and more impatient.    

You just have to be more selective choosing attractions and more cautious timing to get to them, and I as a guide will have to consider in my recommendations what is more accessible to an increasingly isolated Malibu. I do hate the PCH, with the 10 and 101 not far behind.

 But I will not let that dampen my aesthetic instinct to search out the more off beat, for that is what I find most exciting about Los Angeles. It arts and entertainment scene is very much on the cutting edge. 

With that in mind, upcoming this weekend downtown at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel is Gala, a very different and open appreciation of dance starring a diversity of professional and amateurs, including some challenged.  Everything that I have heard and read about this imaginative production by Jerome Bel promises to be an uplifting evening. One night only, Saturday.

This is a co production of the Ford Theatres with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. Based in Royce Hall on campus, the Center almost always can be expected to offer something challenging and contemporary.

 That certainly can be described by the upcoming production of  MOUTHPIECE,  which advance notices contend melds music, dance and humor with just a bathtub for scenery to relate the experience of being a woman.“  Blurbs from feminist declare it “impossible to describe and truly unforgettable.”

A stronger recommendation for me is that the production took flight as one of hits of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I consider as a critic a mother lode of imaginative theatre. It was originally conceived in the also ever inventive Quote Unquote Collective, a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary performance company that actively engages with urgent social and political themes

It will be at Royce Hall Rehearsal Hall, for five nights, Wednesday Feb  6 through Sunday, the 10th, certain at 8PM.

Also promising something different, in this case very modern dance, is the Ate 9 Company’s world premiere, entitled Blind Lady.   It will be at the also innovative Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in its Bram Goldsmith Theatre, in Beverly Hills. February 15-16,.

With live music by percussionist Glenn Kotche and choreographed by Artistic Director Danielle Agami, if this is anything like the past productions of theirs I have been blessed to see, Blind Lady is sure to engage, and be memorable.

And it’s nice to get away from my ailing Malibu, if only for an evening.

2.1.19

LIFE AS A WOMAN ON STAGE AT UCLA

Here is something for the weekend at UCLA’s Royce Rehearsal Hall that a woman might find recognizable and riveting, and a man mystifying and perplexing.

But there is no question that both genders will find the theatrical offering of “Mouthpiece” a challenge, which if anything is the hallmark of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, a  fount of the imaginative avant-garde in the ever expanding Los Angeles cultural scene,.

The production by the Center in association with Toronto’s Quote Unquote Collective  indeed was a challenge, certainly for me, a male veteran combat correspondent in the war of the sexes that has been raging since the beginning of time, and it seems as of late to be more intense, more confessional and in your face.

Therefore this review for The Local and select websites is offered with a dash of salted caution, and peppered with prejudice, and should be taken knowing that the perspective is that of my gender, which frankly has had decidedly conflicted feelings about females,

At times this has made it particularly hard for men to fathom what women are saying or meaning.  Not surprisingly as displayed in the of the play,  it has been scientifically proven that they think differently than men.

But you have to love them, or die trying.  If the circumstances are right, honorable and honest, they really can become true, sharing companions and forever engaging, for life. So you better try to pay attention to them.

If so, the madcap yet compelling “Mouthpiece” can be revealing and instructive, even if you like me cannot identify with the principal character named Cassandra. She is played in brilliant and brash tandem by two actresses, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, who also are both credited as the plays authors. .

They are Cassandra’s conscious and sub-conscious in constant dialogue with each other, as life long female friends and family are apt to be, with one interrupting the other, talking in harmony, and disharmony., bodies writhing , limbs akimbo, hands fluttering, and faces contorted.

We find Cassandra entwined in a large Victorian bath tub, which also serves as the action progresses as a coffin,  at first inarticulate and suffering much angst on learning that her mother has just died, and she must make the funeral arrangements and also give the eulogy.

In rambling dialogue the mother is painfully revealed as both a compliant and a strong woman, representing womankind, and Cassandra the dutiful, yet a resentful and rebelling daughter who clearly loved and respected her mother. ,

Lots of conflict there, and lots of dialogue, about the mother, to be sure, but also quite personally confessional,  perhaps to a fault as wave after wave of words wash out over the audience . Divulged in bursts is the full range of a female’s life experiences, from birth to dressing up and dating, to contending with men in a man’s world, and death. ,

Being a male, and the occasional target of derision in the play, at best I only could presume the emotions uniquely borne of a woman’s body and mind, and the compelling relationship to a mother, female to female.  But bearing witness to the lives exposed in ”Mouthpiece” was  fascinating, and exhausting, an immersive theatrical evening.  

Friday, Saturday and Sunday,,8 PM, on the UCLA campus.

BEYOND PCH, A MUSICAL BECKONS

If you consider getting theatre tickets as a holiday gift for family and friends, think early, perhaps think now, for opening tonight at the Music Center’s Ahmanson , and running for a month through November 25th, is the smash hit musical “Dear Evans Hansen.”

Or as I suggest on my arts and entertainment commentary for public radio, 99.1 KBUU, and select websites, maybe you just want to treat yourself and a companion.

For there is no question that this Tony, Grammy, and just-about-every other stage-award winner, promises to be a mega hit, a simple heartbreaking, deeply personal story about a lonely teenager sent soaring.

If you go, be sure to bring some tissues, for this from all reports and reviews, is a tear jerker, very much in the present now, a contemporary tale to tug at the heart.

And yes, there is humor, too, making seeing “Dear Evans Hansen” a very welcomed experience these depressing days in which our democracy is under insidious attack. It is sucrose for the soul to on occasion be uplifted and feel good.

The production certainly wowed the critics. The New York Times called “Dear Evan Hansen” “a gut-punching, breathtaking knockout of a musical.” “An inspiring anthem resonating on Broadway.” said NBC News, and for an over-the-top rave, the Washington Post’s Peter Marks declared it “One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history.”

What makes it so involving and riveting is that the Evans Hansen character has been described as a believable somebody, to whom you at least in part can identify; a high school kid enduring the trials, tribulations of everyday life, and then an unforeseen triumph, and its challenges.

But enough said; one does not want to give away the plot,

Complementing the sensitive book by Steven Levenson is a haunting score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, home grown talents who not incidentally collaborated on the acclaimed movie “La La Land.” In keeping with the ambience of the story, most of the songs are reflective ballads, not the usual show-stopping numbers.

As such, it is a rare musical, one that is to be savored. You just might want to see it a second time.

But for the moment I suggest you might want to get a ticket before it sells out, or enter the rolling lottery to score a discounted ticket. Check out the details on the internet by logging into “dearevanhunter.” Whatever, don’t miss this.

 

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.

 

 

CHECK OUT THE REFURBISHED GETTY VILLA

It’s May in Malibu, and a little early for the seasonal early morning fog known as June gloom, and also on PCH, a little early for the summer weekend traffic.

Therefore if wanting to get out of the house, I suggest this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites perhaps going to a museum. But not wanting to spend hours driving, perhaps consider staying a little closer to Malibu, and visiting the Getty Villa.

Our beaches may be famous, surfing legendary, but among the culturally curious, so is the villa, which located just east of the city line overlooking the PCH, is in effect our neighborhood museum.

And making it particularly attractive these days is its recent refurbishment. It not only seems to glisten a little more in the midday sun after the fog lifts, but also in its evocative and accessible interior, thanks to a new arrangement of the collection.

The fascinating sculpture, the intricate mosaics, intriguing ceramics and transfixing jewelry have all been placed in their respective cultural and historical context. The physical facilities also have been improved. There is more gallery space, upgraded display cases, and better lighting. Though I must add the graphics leading one through the Villa can be improved.

Of course, you can still wander around the galleries, diverted by glimpses of Cycladic figurines and stunning Greek sculptures. But if you look closely and follow the floor maps, revealed is a chronological path through the various ages of classical antiquity: from the Neolithic Period through the late Roman Empire — that’s 6,000 years plus.

But first upon entering under the atrium, to the right is a display labeled “the Classical World in Context,” which should be glimpsed before venturing into the reoriented Villa.

And immodestly also on first floor, are several galleries paying homage to J. Paul Getty. It was his vision that brought the remnants of the country Roman estate buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., piece by piece, to sunny Southern California, and incorporated with other ancient villas into the museum, which opened in 1974.

What can be missed is the Villa’s inaugural exhibit, “Plato in L.A.” which indulges the visions of several contemporary artists of the philosopher ‘s theories. I’ll just label it a flimflam and irrelevant.

Though having visited the villa many times, I still find it absolutely fascinating, to think of the intricacies of the art and craft of past civilizations placed as they are in a sympathetic setting and cultural context. And when the weather is Mediterranean mild and the sun shinning, the Villa sparkles.

 

 

 

 

DANCE BECKONS

I am happy to report on my arts and entertainment commentary for public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, that dance is flourishing in Los Angeles. But this frankly has made it a real challenge to keep up with the increased venues.

This is especially a problem if you, as me, love modern dance, melding as it does music, and movement, celebrating the sensuality of sound and the human body, embodying and expressing a range of emotions.

For me, it’s alive as no other art. But sadly I just can’t attend every thing, being just a once a week cultural critic with an aging Prius living on Pt.Dume in the far reaches of western Malibu. Finding time is fine, but getting places is a bitch.

So this weekend it is the hard choice between the L.A. Dance Project at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, and a Kyle Abraham’s program of three premieres at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA’s Freud Theatre.

Both are promising. According to the advance publicity, Abraham, born into the hip hop culture, “entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary with a strong emphasis on sound, behavior and all things visual, “ It is personal and provocative, and what you’ve come to expect from the inspired UCLA’s Center.

Meanwhile, at the same time, at the Wallis, premiered are three distinct performance pieces by its heralded company-in-residence, directed by Benjamin Millepied.

Included in particular is the Martha Graham Duets drawn from her magnum Diversion of Angels and Canticle for Innocent Comedians that in part won for her the title of “dancer of century,” and sainthood from her many legions of followers.

The chance to see a Graham creation performed also won me over, if only for the nostalgia. I was smitten seeing her perform 60 years ago, being introduced to her at a performance by a dancer friend of mine at the time in New York City.

And so my choice was the Wallis. The performance is for tonight, and tomorrow, at 7,30, and if you are interested hopefully there a few tickets still available.

And then there is next week at the Wallis, where the celebration of dance continues with an inventive reinterpretation of the classical ballet Giselle. A classical story yes, but expressed in contemporary dance techniques infused with African dance steps,. Have to see that. .

Performances are scheduled evenings, Thursday the 12th through Saturday, the 14th. It happily is on my schedule.

So is the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem It will be performing for just two nights, April 20th and 21st, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on Santa Monica. That also should not be missed.

 

 

JASPER JOHNS AT THE BROAD

If post modern and conceptual art leaves you wondering just what was the artist thinking when he or she conceived a particular piece, the Jasper Johns exhibit at the Broad Museum downtown might just provide some answers.

Indeed, if you are at all interested, or think you should be, in the constantly shifting and ever-challenging modes and methodology of the art world, the exhibit, entitled “Something Resembling Truth.”

As I comment on public radcio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, it is a must, and runs for several more months through May 13th, and worth the $25 entry fee. The Broad is usually happily free.

This is an exception, but so is Johns, who at 88 is considered our greatest living artist, as someone once described him, an iconic iconoclast, the father of Pop and Conceptual art. Certainly he is revered among the multi-media avant garde in art, music and dance.

And specifically, if you have been entranced by Johns as I have been for six decades. the exhibit is a most welcomed well organized and explained comprehensive survey, for Johns in his constant experimentations has arguably influenced nearly every artistic movement from the 1950s to the present day.

Beginning with no less a rejection of the Modernist isims of Dada and Abstract Expressionism that isolated one’s aesthetic experience from any cultural context , Johns conversely explored what we actually see.

The curators state in a gallery introduction that “by approaching widely recognizable signs and symbols, Johns sought to make the familiar unfamiliar, inviting viewers to look more closely at what he calls, things the mind already knows.”

Thus displayed, and explained, are Johns widely recognized images of the American flag in a parade of subtle permutations. Also displayed are targets, numbers, maps, light bulbs, and several collages that feature broken school rulers. All of this may be commonplace, but it also cryptic. And Johns is not saying, and is quote suggesting “the meanings may just be that the painting exists.”

But the cultural critic Marc Haefele. says it is sometimes apparent, as in a painting called “In Memory of my feelings.” With a gloomy finish and pathetically dangling fork and spoon, Haefele suggest it evokes Johns’ sorrow over the loss of his longtime lover, the artist Robert Rauschenberg. You get it.

 

THE LOVERS OF VITEBSK AT THE WALLIS

This week it was to the U.S. premiere of the English production of “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk .” an arresting portrait of the relationship between the Russian born, shtetl haunted, artist Marc Chagal had with his wife of early years, Bella.

And as it seems almost always with the stage production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, you expect the unexpected. For me, it makes the Wallis along with the UCLA ‘s Art of the Performance the most exciting venues in theatre today

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, I was not disappointed. Though, to be sure, the marvelously acted two character play was challenging, with bursts of dialogue, dancing, and songs exploding on an open stage that shifts with lighting and props to hint of a synagogue, an artist’s studio, wherever.

Challenging, yes, but so was the relationship between Chagal and Bella, fanciful, frustrating, and mesmerizing, certainly to these Russian shtarker’s eyes

With a unique vision Chagal had depicted a magical portrait of his love for his wife Bella, colorfully entwined flying above a Russian fairyland where brush strokes were caresses.

He indeed is once quoted declaring “In our life there is a single color, as on an artist palette, which provides the meaning of life and art, it is the color of love.”  Poetic to be sure, but to the play’s credit also illustrated is the marriage’s turmoil.

Of course the Russia where the couple came of age also was in constant turmoil. There was in Czarist times the pogroms, followed by a world war, a revolution, civil war, and the machinations and madness of an emerging Soviet Union.

For the record, the Chagals left Russia in 1922, for a welcoming Paris, never to return. But Russia never left them, gnawing at their souls, and testing their marriage, to its last days in New York, There escaping the horrors of World War Two the flying lovers eventually landed, and Emma, alas, died.

As a production of the always inventive Kneehigh and the Bristol Old Vic , the play is loosely structured, more of a performance art piece, where knowledge of the Chagals is frankly helpful.

Helping definitely is the multi talented cast: the acting, dancjng and singing of Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood, the onstage presence of the musicians Ian Ross and James Gow, all under the inspired direction of Emma Rice. .

Of particular note is that Rice played Emma in the original production of The Lovers 25 years ago, with the writer Daniel Jamieson then her husband playing Chagal.

The production runs for another week at the Wallis, through March 11th, Catch it if you can.

 

ART WORTH THE TRIP

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, I’m a culture vulture, ever on alert, primarily, for what appeals to me, personally, and, secondarily, possible grist for my multi-media mill.

To be sure, many of my selections are arbitrary, and, yes, capricious. How else can explain my recent review of Doggie Hamlet in Will Rogers Park?

Then in deference to my presumed audience there is the consideration of location. I have to weigh whether access to a particular venue is worth, say, suffering traffic, especially to Downtown from my perch on Malibu..

Frankly, it really has to be promising before I decide to drive there. And while I embrace the concept of mass transit, the light rail to Santa Monica, and the bus beyond to Malibu, is not very convenient .

The car in L.A. is still clearly the preferred mode of transportation. You just got to time your trips.

But then there is the production or project you just have to see, and all rational considerations are out the window. That’s the way I feel about several events I’m penciling into my culture calendar, and suggest you might do too.

In Pasadena, on display at the Norton Simon Museum, is one of the rarest and certainly one of the more distinctive of Rembrandt’s many self portraits .

He painted it at the age of 34, and unlike the many that followed, shows the artist comfortable and confident, in his skill and in his self.

Worth a special visit to the museum for it alone, the mesmerizing painting is in the United States for the first time, on special loan from London’s National Gallery, on display until March 5th.

And for all the aggravation driving to an increasingly congested downtown, high on my list is a visit to the Broad Museum, for a blockbuster Jasper Johns exhibit.

On view are more than 120 of his varied paintings, sketches, sculptures, and prints, drawn from a wealth of public and private collections, including, of course, from the Broad collection.

Johns is considered of one of the most inventive and influential artists of the 20th century, making this exhibit a must for anyone interested in art. It runs until May 13th, with reservations strongly advised. I’ve made mine, and suggest you do too.

Now if you are really into art, and Rembrandt, as I am, and really don’t mind traveling, this month in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, you can view up close conservators restoring two masterpieces, (Portrait of a Woman Wearing a Gold Chain and Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat.) It should be fascinating, if you can manage the commute.

 

 

 

A FINAL BOW FOR LEGENDARY GUITARIST JOHN MC LAUGHLIN

It was alumni night at UCLA’s Royce Hall recently, not for graduates of the university, rather it appeared mostly for the alumni of the music scene of the past 40 or so years. They were there to pay tribute to legendary guitarist John McLaughlin, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere.

On stage clutching his beloved double neck guitar he is soon to auction, smiling and strutting, the 75 year old bandleader, composer and master musician, played with passion on what was the final stop of his final U.S. concert tour. Eschewing their age, his fans loved it, intermittently standing and cheering.

Proudly promoted by UCLA’S ever-creative Center for the Art of Performance, the program labeled The Meeting of the Spirits was, as expected, memorable.

Indeed it ran more than three hours, ending with McLaughlin repeating several ending refrains, and reluctantly taking a final bow to sustained applause, hoots and whistles. He was exhausted, and so was the audience.

Sharing the stage lit by blinking strobes, was fellow guitarist Jimmy Herring. He and his band the Invisible Whip opened the evening with a sustained sound straight out of the Seventies., and later joined McLaughlin and his band, the 4th Dimension , in a closing, roof raising, reverberating jam session.

Each performer had their moments, and then some. An extended drum set by Jeff Sipe and Ranjit Barot was in particular riveting, running on it seems into infinity, stopping clocks and sapping breaths .

But it was McLaughlin who was center stage, carrying the evening, playing his guitars and leading the ensemble in the pioneering music he created decades ago with the fabeled Mahavishnu Orchestra; “maha,” meaning great, and Vishnu the name of the Hindu deity .

Describe it as rock, fusion jazz, or whatever, the distinctive sound incorporating technical precision and harmonic sophistication, with a touch of Indian scales, propelled McLaughlin into the upper echelon of music. And judging from the audience at his last concert, into the hearts of music fans.