Friday, February 19, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Feb. 19-21

Anne-Marie Duff, Helen Mirren
and Paul Giamatti in The Last Station.

Film: Fans of great acting have a new must-see movie opening this weekend in The Last Station, a diary-based fictional account of the final days of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. He is played with crafty charm by Christopher Plummer, but the film really revolves around his wife Sofya (Helen Mirren, giving the single best female performance of 2009). Tolstoy is a communist, in the pure sense of the word, and he believes that the copyright to his writings should go to the Russian people upon his death. Understandably, Sofya disagrees, feeling they should remain in the family. Their verbal battles and her attempt to seduce him into changing his mind forms the crux of the film. Impeccably directed by Michael Hoffman (who previously made Soapdish, a curious antecedent), the real mystery is how this movie did not make its way onto the list of ten Best Picture Oscar nominees. In area theaters. -- H. Erstein

John Leonard Thompson, Matt Mueller and Dennis Creaghan in American Buffalo.

Theater: Life is a con game to David Mamet, whether in real estate (Glengarry Glen Ross), Hollywood deal-making (Speed-the-Plow) or the petty heist of a coin collection in his 1977 American Buffalo, now being revived at Palm Beach Dramaworks. As the three denizens of a rundown Chicago junk shop, Dennis Creaghan, John Leonard Thompson and Matt Mueller live by their wits and their words and it doesn’t take long to realize that they are impoverished in both. Still, Mamet’s fragmented, profane street poetry is mesmerizing and this three-way tug-of-war is the stuff of compelling drama. Directed by William Hayes on another stunning, albeit junk-strewn, Michael Amico set. Call (561) 514-4042 for tickets. -- H. Erstein

Violinist Soojin Han.

Music: Back in August, the Kronberg Academy began raising funds in Palm Beach County for its work training the great violinists, violists and cellists of tomorrow, a path it has pursued since 1993 at its home in west-central Germany. Tonight and Saturday night, the Palm Beach-based American Friends of Kronberg Academy presents Soojin Han, a 23-year-old Korean-born English violinist, who will perform two recitals with pianist Jonathan Feldman in West Palm Beach and Delray Beach. Tonight’s concert is set for the Lassiter Rotunda at the Warren Library at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, and Han’s Saturday night concert is scheduled for the Ora Sorensen Gallery in downtown Delray Beach. On the program are the Sonata in F, K. 376, of Mozart, Fritz Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois, the Meditation from Massenet’s Thaïs, and the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso of Camille Saint-Saëns. Tonight’s concert begins at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday’s event is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets for both recitals are $20, $10 for seniors, and free admission for students. Call 866-342-5777 for tickets.

Pianist Claire Huangci, one of the competitors in the Chopin contest.

If your thirst for Olympics-style competition hasn’t been slaked by this week’s events on the ice and slopes of Northwest Canada, the 8th Annual Frederic Chopin National Competition gets under way Saturday night at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami. Over the course of eight days, 21 pianists will play a great deal of Chopin as they vie for the grand prize: $20,000, a recital at Carnegie Hall, and automatic entry into the International Chopin Competition, scheduled for Warsaw in April. The pianists will face off in preliminary, quarter-final and semi-final rounds, concluding Feb. 27 and 28 with two concerts and six soloists playing one of the two Chopin piano concerti with Thomas Sleeper and the Frost Symphony Orchestra of the University of Miami. Tickets are required for the orchestral events, but all the others are free, and it can be a fascinating way to check out the state of the nation’s concert pianist talent. Competitors can be heard from Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, at the auditorium. Tickets for the final concerts, which range from $18 to $38, are available from www.ticketmaster.com. Call 305-868-0624 for more information.

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman.

Speaking of pianists, one of the foremost Russian pianists of our time, Vladimir Feltsman, comes to the Kravis on Sunday night for a crowd-pleasing program of music by Beethoven (Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, Pathétique), Haydn (Sonata No. 49 in E-flat, Hob. XVI: 49), and Musorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition). Tickets for Feltsman’s 8 p.m. appearance are $25-$75. Call 800-572-8471 or visit www.kravis.org.

Jazz phenom Esperanza Spalding.

One of the most impressive newcomers in the world of jazz is the Oregon-born bassist, singer and songwriter Esperanza Spalding, who comes to the Duncan Theatre on Saturday. You might have seen her on the talk show circuit, where she wowed David Letterman, or playing and singing a killer version of Overjoyed for its composer, Stevie Wonder, during the recent White House concert in Wonder’s honor. After her Palm Beach State College appearance, you can catch her next at The Village Vanguard. Saturday’s concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets: $27. Call 868-3309 or visit www.duncantheatre.org. – G. Stepanich

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