Saturday, May 29, 2010

Film appreciation: Remembering Dennis Hopper, counterculture icon

Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider.

By Hap Erstein

I was in college when I first came under the influence of Dennis Hopper,‭ ‬going with my roommate and fellow counterculture rebel wannabe to see a movie called‭ ‬Easy Rider,‭ ‬which Hopper wrote,‭ ‬directed and‭ ‬appeared in.

It was a call to all of us closet revolutionaries to leave our humdrum lives behind and hit the open road,‭ ‬preferably on a souped-up motorcycle.‭ ‬It was an infectious fantasy and a stirring film that I would be afraid to see again today,‭ ‬for it could never be as good as my memory has made it.

Hopper died today of prostate cancer at age‭ ‬74,‭ ‬leaving behind a handful of first-rate films‭ (‬Blue Velvet,‭ ‬Hoosiers,‭ ‬Apocalypse Now,‭ ‬Elegy‭)‬,‭ ‬a few that would be unwatchable without his performances‭ (‬Waterworld,‭ ‬Super Mario Brothers‭) ‬and‭ ‬more than‭ ‬100‭ ‬others that were variously undistinguished.

By his own admission,‭ ‬Hopper never fully lived up to the promise of‭ ‬Easy Rider.‭ ‬As he said to me when he came to the Palm Beach International‭ ‬Film Festival in‭ ‬2006‭ ‬with another of those mediocre releases,‭ ‬10‭ & ‬Wolf,‭ “‬I’m not sure that there’s a meaningful body of work there,‭ ‬but certainly not the kind of body of work that I wanted to leave.‭” ‬The irony,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬is that the festival had lured Hopper to South Florida to accept a career achievement award.‭

Much of his career output was thwarted by‭ ‬years of drug and alcohol abuse that led to Hopper being committed to a psychiatric hospital,‭ ‬sense memories of which crept into some of his recent performances.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬he told me with unusual honesty,‭ “‬I feel that after‭ ‬‘Easy Rider‭’‬ I never directed the great movie that I wanted to direct.‭ ‬I never really played the great role that I wanted to play.‭ ‬They didn’t happen,‭ ‬in my opinion.‭”

Ben Kingsley and Dennis Hopper in‭ ‬Elegy.

Not by‭ ‬2006,‭ ‬perhaps,‭ ‬but two years later,‭ ‬he gave a performance in‭ ‬Elegy,‭ ‬the screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s short novel‭ ‬The Dying Animal that shows the virtuoso actor he could be.‭ ‬He played the best friend and fellow academic of Ben Kingsley,‭ ‬two lecherous old men who meet for morning coffee,‭ ‬a brilliantly underplayed role that certainly deserved an Oscar nomination at the very least.‭ ‬Chances are you have not seen‭ ‬Elegy,‭ ‬which was underappreciated and under-distributed,‭ ‬but is worth seeking out.

‭(‬Yes,‭ ‬I know the Academy Awards get it wrong too often to use that as a measure of an actor’s skill.‭ ‬It is worth noting that Hopper played the snarling villian in‭ ‬Speed,‭ ‬the movie that brought Sandra Bullock to prominence.‭ ‬Now she has an Oscar,‭ ‬and a real actor like Hopper does not.‭ ‬I’m just saying‭ …)

From our‭ ‬2006‭ ‬interview,‭ ‬Hopper commented on some of his cinematic career high points:

* ‬Easy Rider:‭ “‬I wanted to leave a time capsule of what was happening at the time.‭ ‬I never thought about directing when I was in the theater,‭ ‬but I got into the movies and there was somebody telling me every line,‭ ‬to do it differently.‭ ‬I realized the director was really an important guy.‭”

* Blue Velvet:‭ ‬“That was one of my first roles coming back out of rehab and detox.‭ ‬I finally got sober and it was a terrific experience.‭”

* Apocalypse Now:‭ ‬ “It was unbelievably arduous,‭ ‬but a great creative experience.‭”

* Waterworld:‭ “‬One of the best vacations I’ve ever had.‭ ‬It didn’t do well in the United States because everyone shot themselves in the foot talking about‭ ‘‬the most expensive movie ever made.‭’ ”

When we spoke,‭ ‬Hopper was a month away from turning‭ ‬70,‭ ‬a milestone that he could not quite fathom.‭ “‬It seems ridiculous,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬I was the one who said I didn’t think I’d live to see‭ ‬30.‭” ‬He scoffed at the notion of retirement.‭ “‬I don’t think acting or painting or taking photographs‭ ‬--‭ ‬the kind of stuff I do‭ ‬--‭ ‬that one day you just stop because you’re too old.‭ ‬You continue doing them as long as you can physically do them,‭ ‬and I’m feeling pretty good physically.‭”

Dennis Hopper (1936-2010).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekend arts picks: May 28-June 2

Lee Byung-Hun in The Good,‭ ‬the Bad,‭ ‬the Weird.

Film:‭ ‬Even art houses have to compete with the action movies that major studios churn out in the summertime,‭ ‬so that probably explains the arrival of‭ ‬The Good,‭ ‬the Bad,‭ ‬the Weird,‭ ‬a rock-‭’‬em,‭ ‬sock-‭’‬em Korean western from director Ji-woon Kim,‭ ‬a master of camerawork and production excess.‭ ‬Set in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in the‭ ‬1930s,‭ ‬the movie concerns a treasure that is stolen and re-stolen and the subsequent chase for the booty.‭ ‬Ji-woon displays an affection for the old‭ “‬spaghetti westerns‭” ‬of Clint Eastwood’s early career,‭ ‬but ups the violence quotient as if he were also emulating Quentin Tarantino.‭ ‬On now at Mos’Art Theatre in Lake Park and Emerging Cinemas in Lake Worth.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

John Herrera and Dan Domingues in When the Sun Shone Brighter.

Theater:‭ ‬It’s not easy staying ahead of reality when you are writing a fictional tale of Florida politics.‭ ‬Christopher Demos-Brown’s‭ ‬When the Sun Shone Brighter,‭ ‬a‭ ‬yarn about an ambitious Miami-Dade mayor preparing to run for an open U.S.‭ ‬Senate seat,‭ ‬despite being a closeted gay man and a Cuban-American with a politically toxic past,‭ ‬seems ripped from the headlines,‭ ‬though it actually precedes its non-fiction parallels.‭ ‬In Florida Stage’s final production in Manalapan prior to its move to the Kravis Center,‭ ‬director Lou Tyrrell demonstrates with this world premiere why the company is moving as well towards national recognition.‭ ‬Continuing through June‭ ‬20.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬585-3433‭ ‬for reservations.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Cellist Anna Litvinenko.

Music:‭ ‬Tonight in Coral Gables,‭ ‬fans of the cello have a chance to hear a recital by a very young area musician who has been getting national and international exposure for the past three or four years,‭ ‬including an appearance on the From the Top radio program.‭ ‬Anna Litvinenko is only‭ ‬16,‭ ‬but she‭’‬s played such milestones of the repertoire as the Dvořák Cello Concerto with the Miami Symphony.‭ ‬Tonight,‭ ‬Litvinenko plays the Shostakovich Cello Sonata,‭ ‬a contemporary masterpiece,‭ ‬along with a suite by the Catalan cellist Gaspar Cassadó,‭ ‬the prelude from the Cello Concerto of Eduard Lalo,‭ ‬and the deathless‭ ‬Elegie of Gabriel Fauré.‭ ‬The Uruguayan-born pianist Ciro Fodere,‭ ‬piano professor at the New World School of the Arts,‭ ‬accompanies.‭ ‬Free admission‭; ‬call‭ ‬305-444-6176‭ ‬for more information.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich‭

Imogen Heap.

The English songwriter and one-woman band Imogen Heap broke through to wider fame a few years ago when the chorus of her song‭ ‬Hide and Seek was used as the backdrop to a key scene in an episode of‭ ‬The O.C.‭ ‬Her most recent disc,‭ ‬Ellipse,‭ ‬released in‭ ‬2009,‭ ‬was nominated for two Grammy Awards,‭ ‬and next week Heap will be in Miami Beach for a stop on the tour in support of that record.‭ ‬She‭’‬s one of the more able users of technology as part of her art,‭ ‬and doubtless she will have a long,‭ ‬multifaceted career ahead of her.‭ ‬Heap‭’‬s concert‭ ‬at the Fillmore‭’‬s Jackie Gleason Theater is set for‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Wednesday.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$27.75‭ ‬and are available through‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The View From Home 7: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

Stagecoach‭ (‬Criterion‭)
Release date:‭ ‬May‭ ‬25
Standard list price:‭ ‬$30.99

As the legend goes,‭ ‬John Ford’s‭ ‬Stagecoach established the Western as an A picture,‭ ‬reviving it from its creatively moribund inception as disposable,‭ ‬one-dimensional nickelodeon fare and elevating it to the lofty standards of Whitmanesque poetry and pre-Wellesian compositional virtuosity that all of our great Westerns,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Red River to‭ ‬Unforgiven,‭ ‬now possess.

With the hindsight of an endless canon of these great Westerns,‭ ‬each of them one Netflix click away,‭ ‬it’s difficult for most viewers today to imagine what Westerns were like before‭ ‬Stagecoach.‭ ‬Because we remember the classic Westerns through the films of the masters‭ – ‬Howard Hawks,‭ ‬Anthony Mann,‭ ‬William Wellman and Ford,‭ ‬with his Monument Valley landscapes‭ – ‬we tend to forget how forgettable most of their genre antecedents were,‭ ‬and how important‭ ‬Stagecoach was.‭ ‬It was Ford who first visualized the Western as the iconic bedrock of uncharted American civilization and first gave its characters psychological complexity.‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬yeah:‭ ‬and he kinda discovered John Wayne as a leading man,‭ ‬too.

With Stagecoach hitting stores in an outstanding‭ ‬2-disc Criterion release,‭ ‬it’s a great time to reacquaint yourself with this epochal picture.‭ ‬These days,‭ ‬we can see that its deceptively simple story about a handful of familiar-seeming characters aboard a potentially hazardous stagecoach ride through the American West was well ahead of its time.‭ ‬Stagecoach was one of the earliest examples of the road movie,‭ ‬and the premise of clashing archetypes confined to an enclosed space established the template for every reality show long before televisions were even in common use.

Furthermore,‭ ‬Stagecoach was subversive in that it was an action-centric genre with little action.‭ ‬The first gunplay sequence,‭ ‬the famous shootout scene that pitted the weary travelers against Geronimo’s Apaches,‭ ‬doesn’t come until‭ ‬70‭ ‬minutes into the‭ ‬98-minute film.‭ ‬Almost the whole film is building character,‭ ‬not plot,‭ ‬and during that time Ford balances crudeness with beauty and surprisingly bawdy humor with enormously affecting empathy.‭ ‬And every shot is framed like a painting,‭ ‬with Ford’s marvelous deep-focus photography going on to inspire Orson Welles,‭ ‬who recruited Ford cinematographer Gregg Toland to film perhaps the most exquisitely filmed black-and-white movie ever made in‭ ‬Citizen Kane.

As always,‭ ‬Criterion’s supplements are a comprehensive feast,‭ ‬spanning the technical,‭ ‬historical and theoretical aspects of the film and its director.‭ ‬The most prized extra included here,‭ ‬for the first time on DVD,‭ ‬is Ford’s‭ ‬1917‭ ‬silent feature‭ ‬Bucking Broadway,‭ ‬an early culture-clash Western comedy.‭ ‬From the technical side,‭ ‬we get a nice tribute to‭ ‬Stagecoach’s legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt,‭ ‬and from the revealing historical side,‭ ‬Ford’s grandson Dan discusses his grandfather’s intertwining personal and professional relationships aboard his fabulous boat,‭ ‬which we see in priceless home-movie footage.

One of the most interesting,‭ ‬if occasionally eye-rolling,‭ ‬supplements,‭ ‬is Ford author and theorist Tag Gallagher’s video essay‭ ‬Dreaming of Jeanie,‭ ‬a creative remixing of‭ ‬Stagecoach clips with his own insertions,‭ ‬repetitions,‭ ‬superimpositions and semiotics-laced interpretations,‭ ‬which can be as pompous as they are illuminating.‭ ‬Some of his more pretentious,‭ ‬obsequious nuggets:‭ “‬Has there ever been a bigger shot in movies before this one‭? ‬Vast,‭ ‬like our aspirations in life.‭” “‬Every shot is a movie all by itself.‭” ‬I love theory as much as the next cinephile,‭ ‬but the compositions,‭ ‬editing and spatial depth of Ford’s seemingly invisible directorial hand are so self-evidently brilliant that such deconstructionism is unnecessary and risks reading too much into things.

An essay like Gallagher’s is something Ford would no doubt scoff at.‭ ‬In my favorite of all the bonus features,‭ ‬we get to hear an hourlong‭ ‬1968‭ ‬interview with the man himself,‭ ‬conducted by British journalist Philip Jenkinson.‭ ‬Many of his questions,‭ ‬most of them commendable,‭ ‬are mocked by the prickly Ford,‭ ‬notorious for being a tough interview.‭ ‬Early on,‭ ‬Ford tells Jenkinson‭ “‬I’m not interested in movies.‭ ‬It’s a way of making a living.‭” ‬Like Howard Hawks,‭ ‬who,‭ ‬in a late-period interview for Turner Classic Movies,‭ ‬shrugged at the thought of‭ ‬Cahiers du Cinema critics like Andre Bazin and Francois Truffaut analyzing his movies as great art,‭ ‬it seems Ford never saw himself as anything but a craftsman.‭ ‬We’ve been arguing otherwise for decades,‭ ‬and we show no signs of slowing down.

Yesterday Girl‭ (‬FACETS‭)
Release date:‭ ‬May‭ ‬25
SLP:‭ ‬$26.99

FACETS‭’ ‬long-awaited series of Alexander Kluge films begins this month with Kluge’s first feature,‭ ‬1966‭’‬s‭ ‬Yesterday Girl.‭ ‬Kluge was one of the pioneering figures of the New German Cinema‭ – ‬Yesterday Girl predated the first features of arthouse heavyweights Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders‭ – ‬yet he is largely unknown in the West.‭ ‬FACETS is hoping to change that.‭ ‬The distributor is releasing‭ ‬16‭ ‬Kluge films,‭ ‬one a month beginning this week.‭ ‬Yesterday Girl reveals Kluge to be a visionary right from the start,‭ ‬his provocative style borrowing as much from the radical playfulness of Godard and early Truffaut as it does the associative montages of Eisenstein and the surrealistic shocks of Buñuel.‭ ‬Naturalistic in its presentation and fragmented in its storytelling,‭ ‬Yesterday Girl employs unexpected intertitles,‭ ‬silent-film collages,‭ ‬stop-motion animation and more,‭ ‬proudly treading on conformity as it follows Anita‭ (‬played by the director’s sister,‭ ‬Alexandra‭)‬,‭ ‬a petty thief and lost soul adrift in Germany’s postwar economic miracle.‭ ‬Anita is a cipher of a protagonist,‭ ‬but the film exudes life through her various encounters,‭ ‬which involve a dalliance with a politician,‭ ‬forays into philosophical thought and several inquiries into the morality of Germany’s judicial system.‭ ‬This is thinking-person’s cinema all the way,‭ ‬and I can’t wait for the future releases from this unsung titan.

Owl and the Sparrow‭ (‬Image Entertainment‭)
Release date:‭ ‬May‭ ‬25
SLP:‭ ‬$24.99

Tremulous handheld camerawork and naturalistic,‭ ‬on-location settings give an authentic air to this touching Vietnamese fairy tale about a wide-eyed,‭ ‬inquisitive girl laboring in her tyrannical uncle’s bamboo-blind factory after the death of her parents.‭ ‬That is,‭ ‬until she flees to the big city of Ho Chi Minh,‭ ‬selling roses to make a living until she decides to play cupid to two lonely city dwellers:‭ ‬A zookeeper whose fiancée abandoned him,‭ ‬and a sweet but promiscuous flight attendant having a passionless affair with a married man.‭ ‬The film’s heart is as big as its budget is small.‭ ‬It’s a lovely little romance about second changes,‭ ‬told in a minor key‭ – ‬it’s so charming that even the film’s overly sentimental,‭ ‬third-act Hollywood trappings can’t quell the honesty that runs through it.

Waiting for Armageddon‭ (‬First Run Features‭)
Release date:‭ ‬May‭ ‬18
SLP:‭ ‬$20.99

Tackling a subject of enormous breadth in a scant‭ ‬74‭ ‬minutes,‭ ‬this documentary directed by Kate Davis,‭ ‬Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner examines the theories of rapture,‭ ‬tribulations and Armageddon that America’s‭ ‬50‭ ‬million evangelical conservatives ascribe to.‭ ‬The filmmakers interview religious leaders and extremist congregants who believe literally in metaphysical phenomena that much of the remaining population would consider nuts,‭ ‬and they do so without a shred of editorializing or condescension‭ ‬--‭ ‬making‭ ‬Waiting for Armaggedon a more mature and compassionate work than Bill Maher’s unbearably smug‭ ‬Religulous.‭ ‬In addition,‭ ‬the film travels to the past‭ – ‬and,‭ ‬evangelicals would argue,‭ ‬future‭ – ‬Biblical battleground of Jerusalem,‭ ‬exploring the complex relationship between fundamentalists Christians and the holiest of Jewish holy lands.‭ ‬It’s all fascinating and revealing stuff,‭ ‬but it’s insufficiently comprehensive.‭ ‬For a movie with three credited directors,‭ ‬there simply aren’t enough sources to paint a complete picture of a movement.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Books feature: Renowned translator of Japanese literature moves to China's 'source of sources'

William Scott Wilson.

By Chauncey Mabe
‬ ‭
‬After the Bible,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Tao Te Ching is the second most translated text in the world,‭ ‬and certainly it is the most famous and influential book of ancient Chinese wisdom in the West.‭ ‬Why,‭ ‬then,‭ ‬with dozens of versions already available,‭ ‬would we need a new one‭ – ‬especially by a translator who made his name in classical Japanese samurai literature‭?‬

‭“‬My friends all ask that same question,‭” ‬says William Scott Wilson,‭ ‬the renowned translator of‭ ‬Hagakure:‭ ‬The Book of the Samurai,‭ ‬The Unfettered Mind:‭ ‬Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master,‭ ‬and‭ ‬The Book of the Five Rings,‭ ‬among other medieval samurai classics.

One reason,‭ ‬says Wilson,‭ ‬who grew up in Fort Lauderdale and now lives in Miami,‭ ‬is the deep connection between the Tao and Zen Buddhism,‭ ‬which,‭ ‬in turn exerts a strong influence on the Japanese martial arts tradition.‭ ‬In a way,‭ ‬he says,‭ ‬all his samurai translations have led him back in time toward the‭ ‬Tao Te Ching.

‭“‬Going on to the‭ ‬'Tao' is like going to the source of sources,‭” ‬Wilson says.‭ “‬I always wanted to do this,‭ ‬but didn’t think anyone would pay me to do it.‭ ‬It’s one of the three great Chinese books:‭ ‬The‭ ‬'Tao,‭' ‬the‭ ‬'I Ching,' and the‭ ‬'Analects‭' ‬of Confucius.‭”‬

The Tao Te Ching, translated by William Scott Wilson.

Born in‭ ‬1944,‭ ‬Wilson was a political science major at Dartmouth in‭ ‬1966‭ ‬when a friend invited him on a three-month kayak trip along the coast of Japan.‭ "‬That trip was an eye-opener,‭" ‬says Wilson.‭ "‬I didn't know what was there for me,‭ ‬but I knew it was something.‭"‬

Wilson earned‭ ‬a‭ ‬bachelor‭’‬s in Japanese literature and language at the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey,‭ ‬Calif.‭ ‬He studied Edo period philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University in Nagoya,‭ ‬Japan.‭ ‬He translated his first book,‭ ‬Hagakure,‭ ‬an‭ ‬18th-century martial arts classic,‭ ‬to fulfill an academic requirement‭ –‬ with no thought it might be published.

But since being published by Kodansha in‭ ‬1979,‭ ‬Hagakure‭ ‬has never been out of print.‭ ‬While he’s had to supplement his income with other jobs,‭ ‬Wilson has steadily built up a body of classical samurai translations.‭ “‬I've made sacrifices to do what I love,‭" ‬Wilson says.‭ "‬You do what you can to keep doing this.‭ ‬I've been fortunate in recent years,‭ ‬when Kodansha issued new editions of all my books.‭ ‬They look really nice.‭"‬

Wilson’s big break came in‭ ‬1999,‭ ‬when indie film director Jim Jarmusch made the Zen thriller‭ ‬Ghost Dog,‭ ‬starring Forest Whitaker as a mob hit man who reads‭ ‬Hagakure and lives by its warrior code.‭ ‬After the movie came out,‭ ‬sales for‭ ‬Hagakure went‭ "‬way up and remained up for years,‭" ‬Wilson says.

Gradually Wilson’s interest expanded beyond samurai literature to related fields‭ – ‬first to Nō drama‭ (‬The Flowering Spirit:‭ ‬Classic Teachings on the Art of Nō‭; ‬2006‭)‬,‭ ‬then to ancient Chinese maxims‭ (‬The‭ ‬36‭ ‬Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts,‭ ‬ancient sayings collected by Hiroshi Moriya‭; ‬2008‭) ‬and ancient Chinese philosophy‭ (‬The Unencumbered Spirit,‭ ‬by Hung Ying-ming,‭ ‬published earlier this year.‭)‬

Because classical Japanese writing is derived from Chinese,‭ ‬Wilson had to study both languages,‭ ‬and therefore is qualified to translate each.‭ “‬I picked Chinese as my second language for my master‭’‬s,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬I wanted to learn to read Chinese.‭ ‬It’s just a beautiful,‭ ‬wonderful language.‭”‬

Hagakure, translated by William Scott Wilson.

Wilson is one of those rare people who seem born with a gift for languages.‭ ‬In high school he taught himself Spanish in six weeks‭ “‬for fun.‭” ‬To illustrate a point about the Chinese concept of‭ “‬te‭” ‬and how it’s related to the English word‭ “‬virtue,‭” ‬he recites a few lines from Chaucer’s‭ ‬Canterbury Tales‭ – ‬in what sounds like flawless Middle English.

What really distinguishes Wilson’s translation of the‭ ‬Tao is his attempt to push it‭ ‬300‭ ‬years deeper into antiquity.‭ ‬Written about‭ ‬500‭ ‬B.C.,‭ ‬supposedly by the legendary sage Lao Tzu,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Tao exists only in the‭ “‬new‭” ‬text of‭ ‬200‭ ‬B.C.‭ ‬Wilson wondered what he might get if he recast the text into the archaic characters in use at the time the original was written.

‭“‬I said,‭ ‬‘Let’s go back to the source,‭’ ‬” Wilson says.‭ “‬I had books with ancient characters and etymology.‭ ‬Maybe I could find new meaning,‭ ‬or at least nuance,‭ ‬if I can translate it as it might appear to its first readers.‭”‬

Much of Wilson’s version is similar to existing translations,‭ ‬but he does find nuance,‭ ‬if not altogether new meaning,‭ ‬in the archaic characters.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬one of the key principles of the‭ ‬Tao is to‭ “‬act without acting,‭ ‬to go on intuition rather than rationality,‭” ‬Wilson says.‭ “‬If we think we have it,‭ ‬we don’t.‭”‬

One version of that thought,‭ ‬which repeats throughout the‭ ‬Tao,‭ ‬is to act without relying on anything.‭ ‬Through the use of archaic characters,‭ ‬Wilson realized the word usually translated as‭ “‬act‭” ‬is closely related to the word for‭ “‬fabricate,‭” ‬which allows for a fine adjustment in connotation.

‭“‬I used the word‭ ‘‬fabricate‭’ ‬instead of‭ ‘‬act‭’ ‬in the theatrical sense,‭” ‬Wilson says.‭ “‬That was the revelation:‭ ‬It doesn’t just mean mindless acting.‭ ‬It means act without making something up.‭ ‬Whoever put this book together felt strongly about this idea.‭ ‬It’s one of the lodestones of the‭ ‬‘Tao.‭’ ‬”

Wilson’s translations of classical Japanese‭ – ‬and now Chinese‭ – ‬literature have proven so distinguished they have been translated themselves into‭ ‬18‭ ‬languages,‭ ‬including Magyar,‭ ‬Lithuanian,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬in some cases,‭ ‬modern Chinese‭ ‬— which,‭ ‬ironically,‭ ‬Wilson cannot read.

‭“‬Modern Chinese has been simplified down so much I won’t even look at it,‭” ‬Wilson says.‭ “‬It’s lost all its charm.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Communists ordered it made so simplified they wiped out‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬years of Chinese literature.‭ ‬All it’s good for is‭ ‬Communist propaganda.‭”‬

Still,‭ ‬Wilson is grateful for every translation.‭ ‬Take the Magyar edition of‭ ‬Hagakure,‭ ‬which earned him,‭ ‬in total,‭ ‬a check for‭ ‬$66:‭ “‬If I hadn’t been so broke,‭ ‬I would have framed the check and hung it on my wall.‭”‬

Chauncey Mabe is the former books editor of the Sun-Sentinel.‭ ‬He can be reached at‭ ‬cmabe55‭@‬‭ ‬Visit him on Facebook.‭

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Theater review: Caldwell's 'Into the Woods' concert comes off splendidly

By Hap Erstein

‭“‬I wish‭ …”

They are the first two and last two words of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s‭ ‬Into the Woods,‭ ‬an audacious and whimsical shuffle of lesson-laden Grimm’s fairy tales.‭

It has long been my wish that a South Florida theater company would take up the challenge of presenting some of Sondheim’s innovative musicals,‭ ‬even though they require large casts of vocally nimble performers and are rarely very popular because of the demands they make on audiences to lean in,‭ ‬listen carefully and think.

Earlier this month,‭ ‬the fledgling Slow Burn Theatre Company produced Sondheim’s‭ ‬Assassins,‭ ‬and‭ ‬for this weekend only,‭ ‬Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre performs a concert version of‭ ‬Into the Woods,‭ ‬the brilliant composer-lyricist’s multi-layered fable for our times.‭ ‬It’s the Caldwell’s second concert version in seven months of one of Sondheim’s challenging and rewarding shows‭ – ‬last fall,‭ ‬it was the Pulitzer Prize-winning‭ ‬Sunday in the Park with George.

Like‭ ‬Sunday in the Park,‭ ‬this scores-in-hands,‭ ‬performed-at-music-stands concert opened after an insanely short rehearsal period and the results are nothing less than miraculous.‭ ‬Into the Woods may not be the show to convince those who cannot fathom what all the fuss is about Sondheim,‭ ‬but those who appreciate his complex,‭ ‬emotionally dense work will surely enjoy what director Clive Cholerton and his cast of‭ ‬15‭ ‬intrepid actors are serving up.

It was Lapine’s notion to interweave several familiar fairy tales‭ ‬– Cinderella,‭ ‬Little Red Riding Hood,‭ ‬Jack the Giant Killer and‭ ‬Rapunzel,‭ ‬among others‭ ‬– with a new story about a baker and his wife who yearn to have a child.‭ ‬His aim was to show that between‭ “‬once upon a time‭” ‬and‭ “‬happily ever after‭” ‬is not good and evil or right versus wrong,‭ ‬but a forest of moral ambiguities.

Everyone,‭ ‬it seems,‭ ‬has a wish.‭ ‬Cinderella wants to dress up and attend the festival at the palace.‭ ‬Jack wants to keep his beloved pet cow,‭ ‬who is destined to be sold at the market.‭ ‬Rapunzel wants out of that darned tower.‭ ‬And the baker and his wife want relief from their‭ ‬infertility problem.

It is not too much of a spoiler to note that their wishes all come true,‭ ‬at least temporarily,‭ ‬by intermission.‭ ‬But Sondheim being Sondheim,‭ ‬the characters‭’ ‬happiness proves fleeting,‭ ‬and the second act turns distinctly darker as the old saw about being careful what you wish for is played out.

If the first act ends happily and neatly,‭ ‬it is mere preface for the second act,‭ ‬which takes us beyond the fairy tales into more dense thematic territory as the characters learn about death and the importance of community when they take a perilous return trip into the woods.

Sondheim is in a playful mood in the first act,‭ ‬tossing off a Disneyfied ditty for his title tune,‭ ‬his only ever rap song for a conniving witch,‭ ‬a seductive solo for Little Red’s wolf,‭ ‬a duet for two preening princes and a tongue-twister description of the palace ball by Cinderella.‭ ‬As much fun as they are,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬the score really hits its stride late in the second act with four message-filled,‭ ‬melodic numbers‭ ‬– Last Midnight,‭ ‬No More,‭ ‬No One Is Alone and‭ ‬Children‭ ‬Will Listen.‭

Heading the cast as the Witch is Laura Hodos,‭ ‬who puts a genuinely funny,‭ ‬attitude-rich spin on her dialogue and has plenty of vocal power.‭ ‬Many of the performers are veterans of the‭ ‬Sunday in the Park concert,‭ ‬most notably Wayne LeGette and Melissa Minyard,‭ ‬who were Georges Seurat and his mistress Dot,‭ ‬transformed now into the childless Baker and his wife,‭ ‬the emotional center of the show.‭ (‬If‭ ‬Company‭ ‬was Sondheim’s show about marriage,‭ ‬a subject for which he has no firsthand knowledge,‭ ‬Into the Woods is his parenting musical,‭ ‬another topic for which he has no practical experience.‭)

LeGette and Minyard inhabit the most fully dimensional characters,‭ ‬a nebbish and his pushy spouse,‭ ‬the most likely targets for audience identification.‭ ‬Jim Ballard and Shane R.‭ ‬Tanner are slyly self-centered,‭ ‬creamy-voiced princes and Beth Dimon is back with another maternal role as Jack’s exasperated mom.

Among the new members of this informal musical theater rep company is Margery Lowe,‭ ‬who trills her way through the vocal demands of Cinderella.‭ ‬New to me,‭ ‬but I am eager to see more of them,‭ ‬are John Debkowski as mellow-voiced,‭ ‬but fuzzy-headed Jack and Joseph Reed as the show’s narrator and a role that is necessarily designated‭ ‬only as‭ ‬Mysterious Man.

Surely the hardest working person onstage is musical director and keyboardist Michael O’Dell,‭ ‬whose one-man accompaniment is superb.‭ ‬When the Caldwell wins the lottery,‭ ‬it would be great if they could spend a bit more on a couple of additional musicians and body microphones for the cast.‭ ‬With Sondheim,‭ ‬the lyrics are so crucial,‭ ‬and many of the overlapping nuances got lost with the stationery mikes.

Into the Woods can be a production-heavy show,‭ ‬but illustrator Michael McKeever showed how locations could be established with a few well-conceived slide projections.

Cholerton and company have hit upon a format that is very appealing and relatively affordable.‭ ‬Future concerts will surely investigate other composers,‭ ‬but when the Caldwell is ready for more Sondheim,‭ ‬it should look into presenting his latest musical,‭ ‬Road Show,‭ ‬which happens to take place in part in Boca Raton.

INTO THE WOODS,‭ ‬Caldwell Theatre,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Through Sunday.‭ ‬$25-$35.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ (‬877‭) ‬245-7432.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekend arts picks: May 21-23

Starlight Blossom,‭ ‬by Elle Schorr,‭ ‬at‭ ‬the‭ ‬Ross Gallery of Art.

Art:‭ ‬West Palm Beach‭’‬s newest art gallery debuts tonight‭ ‬as Guy Chaifetz‭ ‬transforms part of the building that houses The Edit Centre,‭ ‬his video editing and‭ ‬duplication service,‭ ‬into Ross Gallery of Art.‭ ‬Painting,‭ ‬sculptures and photographs will be featured by recognized artists such as Dennis Aufiery,‭ ‬Devlynne Dawn,‭ ‬Elodia Fanjul,‭ ‬TD Gillispie,‭ ‬Gail Gold,‭ ‬Jackie Gorissen,‭ ‬Richard Hager,‭ ‬Melodie Janis,‭ ‬Karen‭ ‬Knight,‭ ‬Regina Latella,‭ ‬Ann Lawtey,‭ ‬Natalie Levine,‭ ‬Pamela Melvin,‭ ‬Nini Motta,‭ ‬Sandy Meyer,‭ ‬Deborah Neuhaus,‭ ‬Leena Pilcher,‭ ‬Joseph Pilcher,‭ ‬Bill Sabino,‭ ‬Elle Schorr,‭ ‬Robert Vail and George Wells. The‭ ‬opening is from‭ ‬5:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬9:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today‭ ‬at‭ ‬2900‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Dixie Highway,‭ ‬three blocks south of Belvedere Road.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ (‬561‭) ‬659-8361.‭

A print by Isabel Gouveia,‭ ‬at the Armory Art Center.

Also opening tonight are two shows at the Armory Arts Center:‭ ‬the annual‭ ‬Palm Beach County Schools‭ ‬K-12‭ ‬Exhibition and the‭ ‬Fibers and Printmaking Studio Exhibition. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see how imaginative and talented the students are from the area schools,‭ ‬as well as interesting to see how children’s motor skills,‭ ‬thought processes and creativity evolves through the grades.‭ ‬Armory‭ ‬instructors Marsha Christo,‭ ‬Isabel Gouveia and Leora Klaymer Stewart display their fiber and print works,‭ ‬along with visiting‭ ‬master Artists Anna Tomczak and their students.‭ ‬The opening reception admission is free to Armory members and‭ ‬$5‭ ‬for nonmembers.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ (‬561‭) ‬832-1776,‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭

A raku-fired ceramic teapot‭ ‬with a‭ ‬found-wood handle
by Marcia DiSylvester,‭ ‬at the Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery.

Also‭ ‬opening‭ ‬tonight is a peace-themed exhibition recalling the‭ ‬1960s at the Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery,‭ ‬a‭ ‬28-artist co-op at‭ ‬605‭ ‬Lake Ave.‭ ‬For‭ ‬more‭ ‬information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬561-588-8344‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭ ‬– K.‭ ‬Deits

Pouya Hosseini,‭ ‬Arash Farazmand,‭ ‬Ashkan Koshanejad‭
and‭ ‬Negar Shaghaghi‭ ‬in‭ ‬No One Knows About Persian Cats.

Film:‭ ‬Chances are most moviegoers will head to‭ ‬Shrek Forever After this weekend to see a newly plumped Puss-in-Boots,‭ ‬but the feline that deserves your attention is a powerful Iranian film,‭ ‬No One Knows About Persian Cats.‭ ‬Written and directed by Bahman Ghobadi‭ (‬A Time for Drunken Horses‭)‬,‭ ‬it is the saga of two Iranian rock musicians,‭ ‬newly released from prison,‭ ‬who prowl the underground music scene at their peril,‭ ‬since making music is outlawed in the repressive fundamentalist state.‭ ‬Their eye-opening journey throughout the city eventually gains a new goal when they learn of a possible gig for them in London,‭ ‬if they can secure black market passports.‭ ‬Playing this week at Emerging Cinemas in Lake Worth and Mos’art Theatre in Lake Park.

Theater:‭ ‬Give Caldwell Theatre artistic director Clive Cholerton credit for initiating a musical theater concert series geared to the shows he wants his audience to hear and enjoy,‭ ‬even if he cannot afford to produce them fully.‭ ‬And then give him credit for focusing on the works of the brilliant composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim‭ ‬--‭ ‬Sunday in the Park with George last fall and‭ ‬Into the Woods this weekend,‭ ‬Friday through Sunday.‭ ‬With playwright James Lapine,‭ ‬he interwove several familiar Grimm’s fairy tales and one of their own devising,‭ ‬into a complex narrative about being careful what you wish for and the importance of community in times of crisis.

All of South Florida’s finest singing performers clamor to do Sondheim,‭ ‬so Cholerton had little trouble assembling a cast that includes Wayne LeGette,‭ ‬Melissa Minyard,‭ ‬Jim Ballard,‭ ‬Beth Dimon and many others.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ (‬877‭) ‬245-7432‭ ‬for reservations.

Quiz extended:‭ ‬We’ve had few takers for our Sondheim quiz,‭ ‬so we’re trying again.‭ ‬We're new at this and we didn't realize that offering a prize of South Florida tickets would so tick off our readers in Sweden‭ (‬land of‭ ‬A Little Night Music‭)‬.‭ ‬So we are extending the deadline through Sunday morning,‭ ‬offering an Amazon gift card‭ ‬of‭ ‬$25‭ ‬if you cannot make the Caldwell show and‭ – ‬hint‭ ‬--‭ ‬at this point,‭ ‬it‭ ‬would not take a lot of correct answers to win.‭ ‬– H.‭ ‬Erstein

Franz Schubert‭ (‬1797-1828‭)‬.

Music:‭ ‬Franz Schubert contributed masterworks to virtually every genre of music during his brief‭ ‬31‭ ‬years on earth,‭ ‬and that includes sacred pieces.‭ ‬He wrote seven masses,‭ ‬several of them in the‭ ‬missa brevis short format.‭ ‬That includes his shortest mass,‭ ‬the Mass in G,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬167,‭ ‬which dates from‭ ‬1815.‭ ‬It’s a lovely work,‭ ‬ideally suited for devotional purposes in the parish church in the Viennese suburbs for which Schubert wrote it.

This Sunday,‭ ‬the St.‭ ‬Peter’s Catholic Church parish choir in Jupiter presents this mass in a concert beginning at‭ ‬2:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬at the church.‭ ‬It may not be a professional choir,‭ ‬but it’s exactly the kind of ensemble for which Schubert originally wrote this beautiful little piece.‭ ‬Admission is free‭; ‬call‭ ‬575-0837‭ ‬for more information.‭ – ‬G.‭ ‬Stepanich

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Dance:‭ ‬Aficionados of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will want to make the trip to Miami this weekend to see the Ailey troupe pay tribute to Judith Jamison,‭ ‬who has led the pioneering company for‭ ‬20‭ ‬years and is stepping down next year.‭ ‬Her successor,‭ ‬Robert Battle,‭ ‬grew up in Liberty City,‭ ‬so this is a homecoming for him as the company revisits some of the most memorable pieces from the‭ ‬20‭ ‬years of Jamison’s stewardship‭ (‬she took over after Ailey died of AIDS in‭ ‬1989‭)‬.

On the programs this weekend are emblematic dances such as‭ ‬Revelations,‭ ‬Uptown,‭ ‬Suite Otis,‭ ‬and‭ ‬Hymn.‭ ‬Performances are set for‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬and‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬and‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Ziff Ballet Opera House on the campus of the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$25-$120.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬305-949-6722‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art review: Boxer exhibit shows painter's love affair with abstraction

Roilypeersamongbloomednights‭ (‬1991‭)‬,‭ ‬by Stanley Boxer.‭

By Jenifer A.‭ ‬Vogt

Retrospective exhibits excite because they allow enthusiasts to witness an artist’s evolution.‭ ‬Rememberingstanleyboxer:‭ ‬A Retrospective‭ ‬1946-2000,‭ ‬currently on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art,‭ ‬is no exception.‭
The‭ ‬50‭ ‬works,‭ ‬mostly paintings,‭ ‬but with a few sculptures speckling the landscape,‭ ‬tell the story of Stanley Boxer’s progressive love affair with abstraction. It’s a love affair that crescendos with brilliance and whimsy,‭ ‬thought the journey upwards is tempered and deliberate.

Wall text and catalog essays notwithstanding,‭ ‬this exhibit speaks for itself. Stand in the center of the gallery and read it as you would a novel.‭ ‬Beginning with his early works from the late‭ ‬1940s and through to the late‭ ‬1970s,‭ ‬Boxer’s styles reflect the trends of the day.‭ ‬Perhaps this is why he referred to himself not as a painter,‭ ‬but as a‭ “‬practitioner.‭”

He latches on to the dominant style and perfects it through‭ ‬practice,‭ ‬creating paintings of skill and observation,‭ ‬though they leave one wondering about Boxer’s predilection to risk-taking. In his early career,‭ ‬he seems inclined to dip his toe rather than dive into the deep end.

Boxer’s art training began after he left the Navy at the end of World War II. He studied on the G.I.‭ ‬Bill at the Art Student’s League in New York,‭ ‬alongside Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Rauschenberg,‭ ‬who became a lifelong friend.‭ ‬Though he worked in other media,‭ ‬including sculpture and printmaking,‭ ‬painting proved to be his foremost passion. By‭ ‬1953,‭ ‬Boxer had his first one-man exhibit and was represented by the prestigious Tibor de Nagy Gallery. ‭ ‬

Highhunkpapafealty‭ ‬(1989‭)‬,‭ ‬by Stanley Boxer.

Early on,‭ ‬Boxer‭ (‬1926-2000‭) ‬moves quickly from the figurative to the abstract,‭ ‬as in‭ ‬Bathers‭ (‬1947‭)‬,‭ ‬where the colors and shapes allude to the human form and to the sea,‭ ‬with references to Cézanne and Picasso.‭ ‬In his two‭ ‬Figures in an Interior‭ (‬1957‭ ‬and‭ ‬1958‭)‬,‭ ‬Boxer further pushes away from order and composition by incorporating bold,‭ ‬expressionistic brushwork.‭ ‬While not entirely original in gestural style,‭ ‬it is original in its bold use of discordant blocks of color that seem more like cutouts than painted images.

By‭ ‬1966,‭ ‬and seemingly‭ ‬to coincide with the advent of minimalism,‭ ‬he pulls back from the use of emotional brushwork and strong color in favor of a more subdued palette.‭ ‬The result is a focus on surface that is evident by transparency of the linen on which he paints as well as areas where the surface moves to the forefront because it is intentionally left blank.

This surface and flatness is evident in‭ ‬Two Bathers‭ ‬(1966‭) ‬and here the cutout images alluded to earlier are real.‭ ‬Elements of minimalism and color field present themselves‭ (‬though Boxer rejected being referred to as a color field painter by Clement Greenberg‭)‬.‭

In the‭ ‬1972‭ ‬painting‭ ‬Willowsnowpond,‭ ‬Boxer’s minimalistic approach is most pronounced.‭ ‬It almost seems that he is stifling the passion that once drove his brush in order to succumb to the fashion of the day. ‭ ‬However,‭ ‬at this time,‭ ‬his titles become enigmatic collages of words.

Gleedtwistofflayeddanknessassunder‭ ‬(1978‭)‬,‭ ‬by Stanley Boxer.

‭“‬Boxer spoke several languages and he was a voracious reader,‭” ‬said Wendy Blazier,‭ ‬the Boca museum’s chief curator. ‭“‬His canvases often had mile-long titles,‭ ‬inventive formations of compound words which would indicate a mood or feeling for the work.‭ ‬Boxer liked to play with these run-on words,‭ ‬sometimes translating his titles into German,‭ ‬because he liked the way the German language linked words together.‭”‬ ‭ ‬

Towards the end of the‭ ‬70s gesture and brushstroke re-emerge,‭ ‬though at first shyly,‭ ‬as evident in‭ ‬Gleedtwistofflayeddanknessassunder‭ ‬(1978‭)‬.‭ ‬On the circumference of this work one can witness the moment when Boxer begins to approach painting from a different angle altogether.‭ ‬The paint rises from the surface and bleeds out onto the edges. It wants to break free from the canvas,‭ ‬yet it still restrains itself in a sort of half-in,‭ ‬half-out manner. At this point,‭ ‬it seems so like Boxer to test the waters before plunging in,‭ ‬which he would eventually do with great vigor,‭ ‬and which would become his signature.

‭“‬Boxer‭ ‬was often called a‭ ‘‬sculptor of paint‭’ ‬for his thickly brushed abstract paintings,‭” ‬Blazier said.‭ “‬In the later work from the late‭ ‬1970s and on,‭ ‬he became known for troweling on pigment,‭ ‬using his fingers,‭ ‬brushes and a palette knife to create textures and patterns that sometimes intimated landscape,‭ ‬but more and more stepped out into the realm of pure abstraction‭ ‬— fields of texture,‭ ‬shapes and riotous color.‭”‬

Dourspreadofweavingnightglances‭ ‬(1980‭)‬,‭ ‬by Stanley Boxer.

This sculptural quality of Boxer’s work emerges with full intensity by‭ ‬1980‭ ‬in works such as‭ ‬Dourspreadofweavingnightglances,‭ (‬1980‭)‬.‭ ‬Here paint leaps from the surface and the absence of bold color makes the shape of each brushstroke,‭ ‬each dollop of oil paint,‭ ‬all the more intriguing in its formation.‭ ‬Art critic Grace Glueck once wrote that Boxer’s paintings‭ “…‬seem to exist purely in the realm of paint:‭ ‬the artist sensuously exploring its physical possibilities without script or program.‭”‬ ‭ ‬

Like a skydiving senior,‭ ‬Boxer’s work surprises most towards the end of his career where it seems that having practiced to perfection,‭ ‬and built a sound reputation,‭ ‬he’s fully confident to take risks.‭ ‬As such,‭ ‬his later paintings morph into a whimsical hybrid of painting and sculpture.‭ ‬He incorporates various materials‭ – ‬wood chips,‭ ‬wood shavings,‭ ‬pebbles,‭ ‬glitter‭ – ‬to compose works of striking contrasts.‭ ‬They are dark,‭ ‬yet colorful. Simple,‭ ‬yet bold. ‭ ‬

Boxer switches from painting on linen to building on canvas‭ – ‬a sturdier backdrop for what become complex assemblages.‭ ‬Though seemingly sparse from a distance,‭ ‬such as‭ ‬Roilypeersamongbloomednights‭ (‬1991‭)‬,‭ ‬these later works have layers of paint and materials.‭ ‬Here,‭ ‬rectangular squares of marble jut out from the bottom of the canvas alluding to Boxer’s sculptures,‭ ‬which are always composed of natural materials such as wood and marble.‭ ‬Yet it still retains its identity as a painted work,‭ ‬featuring a dark black background with yellow and sweeping strokes of white and green.

Lacedplumeinabam‭ ‬(circa‭ ‬1985‭)‬,‭ ‬by Stanley Boxer.

It’s in the works from the late‭ ’‬80s and‭ ‬’90s where elements of all Boxer’s previous styles join together and culminate.‭ “‬I have deliberately made a practice of being‭ ‘‬visionless‭’‬...‭ ‬that is,‭ ‬I go where my preceding art takes me,‭” ‬Boxer once said.

This exhibit is an apt chronicle of his journey.

Jenifer A.‭ ‬Vogt is a marketing communications professional and resident of Boca Raton. ‭ ‬She’s been enamored with American painting for the past‭ ‬20‭ ‬years.‭ ‬She received her B.A.‭ ‬in‭ ‬art history from Purchase College.

Rememberingstanleyboxer:‭ ‬A Retrospective‭ ‬1946-2000‭ ‬is on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art until June‭ ‬13. ‭ ‬Hours for this exhibition are Tuesday through Sunday from‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬until‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$8‭ ‬for adults,‭ ‬$6‭ ‬for seniors,‭ ‬and‭ ‬$4‭ ‬for students.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬561-392-2500‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ArtsBuzz: State funding for arts 'an embarrassment,' cultural leaders say

Sherron Long,‭ ‬left,‭ ‬and Rena Blades.

By Gretel Sarmiento

This is about money,‭ ‬or rather,‭ ‬about the absence of it.

That‭’‬s what‭ ‬80‭ ‬executives representing cultural organizations from Palm Beach County heard at‭ ‬the State of the Arts meeting Monday at the Armory Art Center.‭

Turns out they are part of the problem‭ ‬and the solution.

Last fiscal year,‭ ‬Palm Beach County received‭ ‬$150,000‭ ‬in arts money from the state‭ ‬in the form of six grants.‭ ‬If that seems bad,‭ ‬now it will take a miracle to get that from a state that only has‭ ‬$950,000‭ ‬to give.

The proposed state budget for‭ ‬2010-2011‭ ‬exceeds‭ ‬$70‭ ‬billion. When it comes to arts budgets per capita,‭ ‬Florida ranks‭ ‬49th in the country,‭ ‬with‭ ‬14‭ ‬cents spent per Floridian.‭ ‬Next year,‭ ‬that will drop to‭ ‬5‭ ‬cents.

‭“‬To say this is a crisis is an understatement.‭ ‬It‭’‬s an embarrassment,‭”‬ said Rena Blades,‭ ‬president and chief executive officer of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council,‭ ‬which has seen its revenue drop dramatically since‭ ‬2008.‭

And yet,‭ “‬there‭’‬s reason for some hope,‭”‬ Blades said,‭ ‬referring to the fact that five consecutive months have registered high hotel occupancy.‭ ‬And a recent tourism stimulus program resulted in‭ ‬341,‭ ‬000‭ ‬serious requests for information,‭ ‬which means outsiders‭ ‬are interested in visiting.

But it may take a while for the revenues to catch up with‭ ‬hotel occupancy.‭ ‬

In the meantime,‭ ‬Palm Beach County has‭ ‬21‭ ‬applications to the state for arts money,‭ ‬out of‭ ‬250‭ ‬statewide.‭ ‬Ideally,‭ ‬those arts groups would get everything they‭’‬re asking for‭ ‬--‭ ‬$19.1‭ ‬million‭ ‬– but right now are praying to get just a piece of the less than‭ ‬$1‭ ‬million available.‭

The state‭ ‬actually has dedicated‭ ‬$2‭ ‬million for cultural grants,‭ ‬but of that amount‭ ‬$1‭ ‬million is‭ ‬earmarked for the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center‭ ‬in Broward County‭ ‬−‭ ‬not yet built‭ ‬− and‭ ‬$50,000‭ ‬for programs at Ocala's Appleton Museum.

Just a few years ago,‭ ‬during‭ ‬the‭ ‬2006-07‭ ‬fiscal year,‭ ‬Florida had‭ ‬$34.4‭ ‬million to distribute among cultural institutions all over the state.‭ ‬Then,‭ ‬it was spending‭ ‬62‭ ‬cents per capita on culture.‭ ‬Also that year,‭ ‬Palm Beach County received‭ ‬$4‭ ‬million of that money for‭ ‬44‭ ‬arts institutions.‭ ‬

A lot has changed.‭

What‭’‬s even worse is what this does to people psychologically,‭ ‬said Sherron Long,‭ ‬president of the Florida Cultural Alliance.‭ ‬With such a small amount of money available,‭ ‬many‭ ‬groups just stop trying and don‭’‬t even‭ ‬bother to apply.‭ ‬They are understaffed,‭ ‬pressed for time,‭ ‬and‭ ‬focus on the present instead.‭ ‬It‭’‬s understandable,‭ ‬but problematic in the long run.‭ ‬

“When you don‭’‬t apply,‭ ‬the sense of demand goes down,‭”‬ Long said.‭

Realistically,‭ ‬many organizations won‭’‬t see a cent from the state,‭ ‬but that doesn‭’‬t mean they shouldn‭’‬t try to be heard.‭

“You can‭’‬t give up just because it‭’‬s hard.‭ ‬We can‭’‬t be like,‭ ‬‘OK,‭ ‬this is what we want,‭’‬ and expect it to be a smooth,‭ ‬straight line,‭”‬ Long said.

One‭ ‬person who‭ ‬believes in being personally involved,‭ ‬if his organization can‭’‬t,‭ ‬is Joe Gillie,‭ ‬executive director of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Old School Square Cultural Arts Center in Delray Beach.‭ ‬On Monday,‭ ‬he gave Long a check for‭ ‬$200.‭

“I believe in what she is doing,‭”‬ Gillie said.‭ “‬She is one of the few voices we have left.‭”‬

Tricia Trimble,‭ ‬managing director of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre,‭ ‬feels like she hasn‭’‬t been as engaged as she would like to and it‭’‬s because of the heavy workload,‭ ‬particularly during season.‭

“I‭’‬m working‭ ‬16‭ ‬hours a day.‭ ‬I‭’‬m lucky if I can open an e-mail,‭”‬ she said.

Right now,‭ ‬lawmakers don‭’‬t hear enough from board members,‭ ‬administrators and regular people,‭ ‬Long said.‭ ‬Politicians are in need of overwhelming and concrete evidence that the‭ ‬arts and culture are fundamental and that people still care,‭ ‬she said.‭ ‬That could be as simple as showing them a child‭’‬s smile.

‭“‬I don‭’‬t have excitement.‭ ‬I don‭’‬t have the students and the programs.‭ ‬You do that,‭”‬ Long told the crowd Monday.‭ “‬Policymakers have to experience that.‭”

The audience at Monday‭’‬s State of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Arts gathering.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Opera review: Sometimes brilliant, sometimes silly, FGO's 'Carmen' still bold, colorful

Kendall Gladen and Adam Diegel in Act IV of‭ ‬Carmen.‭
(‬Photo by Gaston de Cardenas‭)

By Greg Stepanich

The Florida Grand Opera closed its‭ ‬69th season Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale with a production of Georges Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen that was sometimes brilliant,‭ ‬sometimes risible,‭ ‬but that also offered reliably good singing and enough dramatic punch to give it real entertainment value.

In their bid to reinterpret this greatest of French operas,‭ ‬the Franco-Canadian team of André Barbe and Renaud Doucet‭ ‬spent time in Andalucia soaking up authentic Spanish culture,‭ ‬and it was those moments of the‭ ‬production that were most successful as departures from the norm.‭ ‬The two men brought in‭ ‬15‭ ‬flamenco dancers for this‭ ‬production,‭ ‬and they were used to excellent effect,‭ ‬particularly at the opening of the second act,‭ ‬in which the troupe danced on tabletops as the music started its slow build,‭ ‬and in the entr‭’‬acte to Act IV,‭ ‬which was accompanied by a couple‭’‬s dance lit in bright yellow.

The other major element of this Spanish Civil War-era‭ ‬starkly modern production,‭ ‬which was bereft of town square,‭ ‬factory,‭ ‬mountains and bullring in favor of a huge‭ ‬metallic wall with a door that served for all four acts,‭ ‬was chairs.‭ ‬The wall itself had silver-painted chairs mounted like windows,‭ ‬and throughout the production,‭ ‬cast members carried chairs wherever they went,‭ ‬dropping them into place for audience purposes or using them as props in dance moves.

José Junco,‭ ‬Julia Ebner,‭ ‬Kendall Gladen,‭
‬Amanda Crider and Jorge Robledo in Act II of‭ ‬Carmen.‭
(‬Photo by Gaston de Cardenas‭)

At times,‭ ‬especially at the opening of Act III for the smugglers‭’‬ chorus,‭ ‬which had the singers moving slowly across the stage,‭ ‬some in near-Monty Python walking style,‭ ‬with chairs in hand,‭ ‬drew chortles and grumbles from the audience near me,‭ ‬and in all truth it looked‭ ‬pretty silly.‭ ‬But then there were moments when‭ ‬Doucet‭’‬s‭ ‬conception‭ ‬became quite clear,‭ ‬such as in the second act,‭ ‬with men and women lining up on opposite sides in rows with their chairs,‭ ‬slamming them down in time:‭ ‬Here was the essential man-woman dynamic,‭ ‬as filtered through the haughty color of flamenco,‭ ‬writ large over the whole cast,‭ ‬augmenting and commenting on the Carmen-Don José relationship.

Another‭ ‬nice piece of stagecraft came at the final confrontation between Carmen and Don José,‭ ‬when José poured a red-paint bullring on the ground,‭ ‬and Carmen,‭ ‬in red dress,‭ ‬held the sides out,‭ ‬bullfighter style,‭ ‬then dodged the charging José in quick feints.‭ ‬Perhaps that,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬overreached a bit,‭ ‬but it was‭ ‬interesting,‭ ‬and certainly the most unusual,‭ ‬inventive‭ ‬Carmen‭ ‬I‭’‬ve seen in some time.‭ ‬That it tried too hard to incorporate the chairs into everything,‭ ‬and that it was only partly successful dramatically,‭ ‬does not detract from the boldness of this production,‭ ‬or make it any less worth doing.

As Carmen,‭ ‬the St.‭ ‬Louis native Kendall Gladen offered a smoky,‭ ‬silky mezzo,‭ ‬very attractive in its lowest reaches and quite well-suited to this role.‭ ‬Her voice is not very large,‭ ‬but it‭’‬s a pleasure to listen to.‭ ‬As an actress Gladen was at her best in the‭ ‬more petulant aspects of her character,‭ ‬such as her funny mockery of the bugle call that sounds the call to duty for a reluctant José.

Elaine Alvarez as Micaëla and Adam Diegel
‭ ‬as Don José‭ ‬in Act I of‭ ‬Carmen.‭
(‬Photo by Gaston de Cardenas‭)

Tenor Adam Diegel was a very fine Don‭ ‬José,‭ ‬with a strong,‭ ‬cutting voice that rang out from the first notes and never let him down after that.‭ ‬His‭ ‬Flower Song was passionate and vivid,‭ ‬and he made the most of his climactic exclamation in that great aria‭ ‬– Te revoir,‭ ‬ô‭ ‬Carmen‭ ‬– showing us the vulnerable,‭ ‬ardent side of this tortured character.‭ ‬He acted well,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬doing nice work in a stylized knife fight with Escamillo and acting properly desperate in his final meeting with Carmen.

Soprano Elaine Alvarez,‭ ‬a Miami native who was making her debut‭ ‬with her hometown company,‭ ‬showed off a lovely,‭ ‬mature sound as Micaëla,‭ ‬and an instrument with enough power to carry her aloft on the Gounod-style upper reaches of much of her character‭’‬s music.‭ ‬This is a voice whose bigness is evident even though it sounded somewhat tired at times Saturday night.
‭ ‬As Escamillo,‭ ‬the baritone Mark Walters sang capably and well,‭ ‬in a very French,‭ ‬tightly controlled style.‭ ‬He played the character with the dignity of a prominent,‭ ‬successful man,‭ ‬no doubt aided by the Fernando‭ ‬Lamas-like smoking jacket in which he first appears at Lillias Pastia‭’‬s tavern in Act II.

Soprano Julia Ebner,‭ ‬as Frasquita,‭ ‬and mezzo Amanda Crider,‭ ‬as Mercédès,‭ ‬were effective as Carmen‭’‬s comrades in arms‭; ‬Ebner has the bigger sound,‭ ‬but she and Crider blended well vocally,‭ ‬and they were effective on stage.‭ ‬Bass Benjamin Clements was a capable Zuniga,‭ ‬as was baritone Graham Fandrei as Morales and Jonathan G.‭ ‬Michie as Dancairo.

Mark Walters as Escamillo in‭ ‬Carmen.‭
(‬Photo by Gaston de Cardenas‭)

FGO‭’‬s orchestra was quite fine,‭ ‬with strong playing from the ensemble and solo instruments,‭ ‬particularly flute and horn.‭ ‬Willie Anthony Waters led them masterfully,‭ ‬and showed his long experience as a theater conductor in getting things back on track during at least one tricky moment at the end of‭ ‬Les tringles des sistres tintaient‭ ‬when the extra percussion of dancers‭’‬ feet and hand clapping threatened to throw everyone off.‭

The authentic Spanish costumes in Act IV of the‭ ‬bandilleros‭ ‬and‭ ‬picadors added an extra dose of strong regional flavor,‭ ‬and Gordon W.‭ ‬Olson‭’‬s‭ ‬lighting was smart and apt,‭ ‬particularly in how he was able to make a bonfire appear to flicker in a pile of chairs by using ribbons of orange light.

This production played Acts II and III without a break,‭ ‬which was hard for some of the audience to handle,‭ ‬and tougher than‭ ‬the more usually encountered staging of an unbroken Acts III and IV.‭ ‬One wonders why it is so rarely staged as it originally was,‭ ‬with four separate acts and three intermissions‭; ‬each act is different enough for the opera to work just fine without having‭ ‬to keep everyone in their seats through two of them.‭

Barbe and Doucet will return to FGO next January for a production of Offenbach‭’‬s‭ ‬Tales of Hoffmann,‭ ‬a story that offers all kinds of room for this team‭’‬s imaginative arsenal to make an impact.‭ ‬Both FGO and the Palm Beach Opera have staged radically different productions of popular operas this year,‭ ‬which says promising things about the willingness of local audiences to accept a more European approach of directorial conceptions for well-known works quite at odds with decades,‭ ‬even centuries of tradition.

Florida Grand Opera will open its‭ ‬70th season‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬13-Dec.‭ ‬4‭ ‬with Giacomo Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Turandot,‭ ‬his last and most spectacular opera.‭ ‬Jacques Offenbach‭’‬s final work,‭ ‬Tales of Hoffmann‭ (‬like‭Turandot,‭ ‬unfinished‭ ‬at its composer‭’‬s death‭) ‬follows‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬22-Feb.‭ ‬12‭ ‬and from April‭ ‬16-May‭ ‬14,‭ ‬Mozart‭’‬s‭ ‬Don Giovanni,‭ ‬in a production originally mounted for the Washington Opera.‭ ‬The fourth opera in the season is new,‭ ‬American composer David DiChiera‭’‬s‭ ‬Cyrano,‭ ‬a retelling of‭ ‬the Edmond Rostand play starring Leah Partridge and Marian Pop,‭ ‬who originated the roles for this opera at its‭ ‬Detroit‭ ‬premiere in‭ ‬2007.‭ ‬Cyrano‭ ‬will be mounted only at the Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami from April‭ ‬23-May‭ ‬7.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬800-741-1010‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Take our Sondheim trivia quiz -- if you dare -- and win 'Into the Woods' tickets

Stephen Sondheim.

By Hap Erstein‭

In honor of Broadway composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s‭ ‬80th birthday and the opening of the Caldwell Theatre’s staged reading of his‭ ‬Into the Woods this Friday through Sunday,‭ ‬May‭ ‬21-23,‭ ‬we‭ ‬fiendishly‭ ‬present our Ultimate Sondheim Trivia Test,‭ ‬geared to separate the obsessive fanatics from the casual fans.

And the Caldwell has generously donated a pair of tickets to any performance of‭ ‬Into the Woods‭ ‬--‭ ‬based on space availability‭ ‬--‭ ‬to the winning entrant.‭ ‬Send your answers to‭ ‬ by Thursday,‭ ‬May‭ ‬20,‭ ‬at‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬In the case of a tie,‭ ‬the amount of detail and accuracy in your answers will be the deciding factors.‭ ‬The decision of the judges is final.‭ (‬Gosh,‭ ‬we’ve always wanted to write that.‭)


1.‭ ‬Many of Sondheim’s musicals are wholly original,‭ ‬but identify these adaptations from this list of source material authors.

A.‭ ‬Aristophanes

B.‭ ‬George S.‭ ‬Kaufman and‭ ‬Moss Hart

C.‭ ‬Ingmar Bergman

D.‭ ‬Ettore Scola

E.‭ ‬William Shakespeare

F.‭ ‬John Collier

G.‭ ‬Arthur Laurents

H.‭ ‬Christopher Bond

2.‭ ‬If a song does not work in the show,‭ ‬Sondheim writes another one,‭ ‬no matter how good the song being scrubbed is.‭ ‬Name the three songs he wrote for the opening number of‭ ‬A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.‭ ‬And name the three songs he wrote for the finale of‭ ‬Company.

3.‭ ‬What is Stephen Sondheim’s middle name‭?‬

4.‭ ‬Sondheim at the movies:‭ ‬Name two movies for which he wrote least one original song,‭ ‬two movies for which he wrote the background score and one movie musical he wrote that was never produced.

Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd.

5.‭ ‬Name an existing Sondheim song that was used in each of these movies.

A.‭ ‬Jersey Girl

B.‭ ‬Camp

C.‭ ‬Death to Smoochy

D.‭ ‬In‭ & ‬Out

E.‭ ‬Postcards from the Edge

6.‭ ‬What is the only Sondheim musical that Meryl Streep has appeared in‭? ‬Where was it produced‭?

7.‭ ‬Name two non-musical Arthur Laurents plays for which Sondheim wrote the incidental music.

8.‭ ‬Where is the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts located‭?

9.‭ ‬What do the following three actresses have in common:

A‭) ‬Ellen Foley

B‭) ‬Garn Stephens

C‭) ‬Karen Black‭

The Jets do their thing in‭ ‬Cool,‭ ‬from‭ ‬West Side Story.

10.‭ ‬Whodunit in‭ ‬The Last of Sheila,‭ ‬the‭ ‬1973‭ ‬murder mystery movie that Sondheim co-wrote with Anthony Perkins‭?

11.‭ ‬In the current Broadway revue,‭ ‬Sondheim on Sondheim,‭ ‬he states that he regrets spending a year and a half of his life writing one specific musical.‭ ‬Which one is it‭?

12.‭ ‬What is the intentional grammatical error that Sondheim wrote in the title of a song in‭ ‬Gypsy‭?

13.‭ ‬Organize these Sondheim musicals in order of the number of performances of their original Broadway run,‭ ‬from most to least.

A‭) ‬Anyone Can Whistle

B‭) ‬Merrily We Roll Along

C‭) ‬Passion

D‭) ‬Road Show

The cast of the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George.

14‭) ‬Name two television shows that Sondheim was on,‭ ‬playing a character,‭ ‬and one movie in which he played himself.

15‭) ‬Occasionally,‭ ‬but only occasionally,‭ ‬Sondheim loses the Tony Award for best musical.‭ ‬What show won out over these also-rans‭?

A‭) ‬Gypsy

B‭) ‬Follies

C‭) ‬Pacific Overtures

D‭) ‬Sunday in the Park with George‭

Into the Woods is being staged in concert form this week at the Caldwell.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Theater briefs: 'The Quarrel' and 'Raised in Captivity'

Chaz Mena and Avi Hoffman‭ ‬in The Quarrel.

By Hap Erstein

Some theater reaches for spectacle,‭ ‬but what the theater does best is traffic in dialogue and ideas.‭

Words and the emotions behind them are in the spotlight in a brief,‭ ‬intermissionless play at GableStage,‭ ‬The Quarrel,‭ ‬by David Brandes and Joseph Telushkin,‭ ‬which chronicles a chance reunion of two men who were childhood friends.‭

In‭ ‬1948,‭ ‬in Montreal’s Mount Royal Park,‭ ‬published poet Chaim Kovler‭ (‬Chaz Mena‭)‬,‭ ‬in town for a public reading,‭ ‬sees Rabbi Hersh Rasseyner‭ (‬Avi Hoffman‭) ‬preparing to pray,‭ ‬and they warily embrace one another.‭ ‬As they catch each other up on events,‭ ‬they consider how their lives have spun in different directions,‭ ‬separated by the brutality of the Holocaust,‭ ‬which had a profound,‭ ‬opposite effect on their commitment to Judaism.

Both lost their families in the death camps,‭ ‬which led Kovler to a secular life and lack of faith,‭ ‬while Rasseyner grew even more devout.‭ ‬As they circle each other,‭ ‬both literally and verbally,‭ ‬they peel away layers,‭ ‬unraveling their pasts and the central perceived betrayal that left a gulf between them.

Fortunately,‭ ‬The Quarrel is more about the limits and resilience of friendship than the value of religion,‭ ‬and neither man is seen as wrong or right.‭ ‬The densely bearded Hoffman gives a performance of delicacy and authenticity,‭ ‬but the revelation is Mena,‭ ‬whose inflections and manner are on target,‭ ‬though more of a personal stretch.‭ ‬Artistic director Joseph Adler may have had a distinct effect on his performers,‭ ‬but the results are a simple,‭ ‬deft staging that is powerful,‭ ‬but seemingly effortless.

THE QUARREL,‭ ‬GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel,‭ ‬1200‭ ‬Anastasia Ave.,‭ ‬Coral Gables.‭ ‬Continuing through May‭ ‬23.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$37.50-$42.50.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬305‭) ‬445-1119.

‭* * *

It is called New Theatre,‭ ‬and its main focus is on developing and presenting new scripts,‭ ‬but lately,‭ ‬some of this Coral Gables company’s most effective efforts have been with such established,‭ ‬even classic,‭ ‬plays as Tennessee Williams‭’ ‬The Glass Menagerie and Peter Shaffer’s‭ ‬Equus.

Nicky Silver’s‭ ‬Raised in Captivity first met audiences in‭ ‬1995,‭ ‬and is probably too quirky to withstand comparison with those other two works,‭ ‬but it captures a handful of neurotic lives with a knowing comic touch and is never less than entertaining,‭ ‬even when its tone shifts confound some of the New Theatre cast.

At the center of Silver’s theatrical maelstrom is a pair of distant twins,‭ ‬unsuccessful writer Sebastian‭ (‬an increasingly unhinged John Mazzelli,‭ ‬who bears a resemblance to Silver‭) ‬and his similarly unstable sister Bernadette‭ (‬comically high-strung Katherine Amadeo‭)‬,‭ ‬married to a dentist who would rather be painting.‭ ‬Grief,‭ ‬Silver-style,‭ ‬strikes before the play begins when the twins‭’ ‬mother is killed by a errant shower head.‭ ‬Add to the mix a convicted murderer‭ (‬Lorenzo D.‭ ‬Gutierrez III‭) ‬on whom Sebastian is fixated and Sebastian’s patient-but-only-to-a-point psychologist‭ (‬Barbara Sloan,‭ ‬who flips from silent to motor-mouthed‭)‬,‭ ‬and you have the ingredients for an odd comic stew.

Audiences are advised to take momentary pleasures from‭ ‬Raised in Captivity when they can,‭ ‬for those waiting for the play to add up to much will wait in vain.‭ ‬Nor is it clear from the direction by Ricky J.‭ ‬Martinez how we are to take the darker,‭ ‬more naturalistic second act,‭ ‬but face value does not seem a viable option.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬those willing to strap themselves in for the ride will be rewarded with numerous comic jolts and some head-scratching twists.

RAISED IN CAPTIVITY,‭ ‬New Theatre,‭ ‬4120‭ ‬Laguna St.,‭ ‬Coral Gables.‭ ‬Continuing through Sunday.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$35-$40.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬305‭) ‬443-5909.‭

Weekend arts picks: May 14-16

Jamey Sheridan and Steve Buscemi in‭ ‬Handsome Harry.

Film:‭ ‬The big noise this weekend comes from Ridley Scott’s‭ ‬Robin Hood,‭ ‬a far better movie than we expected,‭ ‬but if you are in the mood for something smaller and more low-key,‭ ‬head to Emerging Cinemas in Lake Worth or Mos’Art Theatre in Lake Park to see‭ ‬Handsome Harry,‭ ‬a drama about looking back over one’s life,‭ ‬about regrets,‭ ‬guilt,‭ ‬making amends and redemption.‭ ‬Directed in an understated fashion by Bette Gordon,‭ ‬it stars the reliable Jamey Sheridan‭ (‬Law‭ & ‬Order:‭ ‬Criminal Intent‭) ‬as an electrician on the verge of retiring,‭ ‬who gets a call from an old Navy buddy‭ (‬Steve Buscemi‭)‬.‭ ‬He extracts a deathbed promise from Harry to hit the road and visit their long-out-of-touch Navy cronies,‭ ‬to reconstruct a dark,‭ ‬brutal event from their past.‭ ‬Giving first-rate support are John Savage,‭ ‬Aidan Quinn and Titus Welliver,‭ ‬in an affecting film that will stick in your memory for a long time to come.‭

John Hererra and Dan Domingues in‭ ‬When the Sun Shone Brighter.

Theater:‭ ‬Miami attorney and budding playwright Christopher Demos-Brown reaches back to his city’s recent violent past of warring Cuban-Americans and their views of Fidel Castro in his world premiere political drama,‭ ‬When the Sun Shone Brighter,‭ ‬about an ambitious Miami-Dade County mayor who is running for an open U.S.‭ ‬Senate seat,‭ ‬despite the skeletons in his closet.‭ ‬Lou Tyrrell directs a cast that includes former Tony Award nominee John Herrerra.‭ ‬If there are misty eyes at Florida Stage these days,‭ ‬that is because Demos-Brown’s play represents the company’s final production in Manalapan before it moves to the Kravis Center this summer.‭ ‬Opening Friday,‭ ‬running through June‭ ‬20.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬585-3433‭ ‬or‭ (‬800‭) ‬514-3837.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$45-$48.‭ -- H. Erstein

Pianist Sofiya Uryvayeva.

Music:‭ ‬Although Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and a couple selections from his cycle The Seasons are well-known,‭ ‬much rarer is the Russian composer’s only mature piano sonata‭ (‬in G,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬78‭)‬.‭ ‬Critics have been generally unkind to it,‭ ‬but it’s full of color and strong melody,‭ ‬and well worth hearing.‭ ‬Tchaikovsky’s countrywoman,‭ ‬pianist Sofiya Uryvayeva,‭ ‬champions the piece Sunday afternoon at the Steinway Gallery in Boca Raton on a program that also includes another chance to hear a rare piano event:‭ ‬all four of the Ballades of Frederic Chopin.‭ ‬Uryvayeva takes the stage at‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the gallery on Federal Highway,‭ ‬across the street from the Caldwell Theatre.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$20‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬$25‭ ‬at the door.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬929-6633‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

If you missed local clarinetist Paul Green’s performance a season or so ago of Bartók’s‭ ‬Contrasts,‭ ‬you can hear it again Sunday at St.‭ ‬Paul’s in Delray when Green,‭ ‬joined by violist Michael Klotz and the fine pianist Jennifer Snyder team up for this work,‭ ‬written for Benny Goodman in‭ ‬1938.‭ ‬Also on the program are the‭ ‬Fairy Tales of Schumann‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬132‭)‬,‭ ‬Three Pieces‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬83‭) ‬by Max Bruch,‭ ‬and the so-called‭ ‬Kegelstatt Trio of Mozart‭ (‬in E-flat,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬498‭)‬.‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday,‭ ‬St.‭ ‬Paul’s Episcopal Church,‭ ‬Delray Beach.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$15-$18.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬278-6003‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Kendall Gladen as Carmen.

Your last chance to see Florida Grand Opera’s rethought,‭ ‬flamenco-filled version of Bizet’s‭ ‬Carmen comes Saturday night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.‭ ‬Renaud Doucet and André Barbe spent time in Andalucia soaking up local color before coming up with their version of‭ ‬Carmen,‭ ‬which has done very well for the company in Miami.‭ ‬Kendall Gladen stars as Carmen,‭ ‬Adam Diegel is Don José,‭ ‬Miami native Elaine Alvarez is Micaëla,‭ ‬and Mark Walters is Escamillo,‭ ‬all singing under the baton of veteran FGO conductor Willie Anthony Waters.‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Broward Center,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale.‭ ‬The show’s sold out,‭ ‬but you might get lucky if there are returns.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬305-741-1010‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬