Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book review: Account of nun's death while fleeing Tibet proves riveting

Murder in the High Himalaya:‭ ‬Loyalty,‭ ‬Tragedy,‭ ‬and Escape From Tibet,‭by Jonathan Green‭; ‬272‭ ‬pp.‭; ‬PublicAffairs‭; ‬$26.95

By Bill Williams

Each year thousands of Tibetans attempt to flee their homeland by embarking on a perilous journey over snow-covered mountains.‭ ‬Some die along the way,‭ ‬and others are captured,‭ ‬jailed and tortured by Chinese soldiers.

Most often their plight receives little international attention.‭ ‬But the case of Kelsang Namtso,‭ ‬a‭ ‬17-year-old nun,‭ ‬was different because mountain climbers witnessed Chinese soldiers‭’ ‬fatally shooting her as she trudged through deep snow.‭ ‬Moreover,‭ ‬a cameraman captured the‭ ‬2006‭ ‬killing on tape.

Now Jonathan Green has meticulously reconstructed events surrounding Kelsang’s life and death.‭ ‬His well-written account will hook readers from the first page.

Murder in the High Himalaya successfully blends several story elements,‭ ‬including China’s brutal suppression of Tibet,‭ ‬the rising number of fame-seeking Western climbers determined to scale the world’s tallest mountain peaks,‭ ‬and the desperate flight of Tibetan men,‭ ‬women and children,‭ ‬first to Nepal and then to India,‭ ‬where they hope to meet the Dalai Lama,‭ ‬their beloved spiritual and temporal leader.

The Dalai Lama escaped to India nine years after the‭ ‬1950‭ ‬Chinese invasion of his homeland,‭ ‬and since then an estimated‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬Tibetans have followed him over the mountains.‭ ‬Green describes China’s campaign to wipe out Tibetan culture,‭ ‬including the destruction of‭ ‬6,000‭ ‬Buddhist monasteries and the torture and killing of dissidents,‭ ‬among them many monks and nuns.‭ ‬Possession of a picture of the Dalai Lama is a crime punishable by torture and imprisonment.

Chinese soldiers patrol the main escape routes in an effort to capture fleeing Tibetans,‭ ‬who pay huge sums to experienced guides who lead them through mountain passes.‭

Fleeing refugees suffer from frostbite,‭ ‬sunburn,‭ ‬snow blindness,‭ ‬blisters,‭ ‬hunger and thirst.‭ ‬Along the way they encounter corpses sticking out of the snow,‭ ‬a gruesome reminder that many do not reach their destination.

Green captures the incongruity of starving refugees dressed in rags fleeing past Western climbers in expensive gear getting ready to scale Mount Cho Oyu,‭ ‬a peak not far from Mount Everest.

The author criticizes what he calls an‭ “‬age of egoism and commercialism‭” ‬in mountain climbing,‭ ‬with its emphasis on‭ “‬the individual as superman‭” ‬seeking glory,‭ ‬book deals and speaking engagements.‭ ‬Green relates the heartbreaking story of a‭ ‬16-year-old refugee who fell into a crevasse,‭ ‬where she screamed in panic.‭ ‬Nearby climbers had the necessary equipment to rescue her,‭ ‬but they‭ “‬ignored her plight,‭ ‬and carried on up the mountain instead,‭ ‬leaving the girl to die.‭”

Seventeen-year-old Kelsang was part of a group of more than‭ ‬70‭ ‬Tibetans determined to escape through a‭ ‬19,000-foot-high mountain pass.‭ ‬Some were wrapped in plastic sheets to ward off the cold,‭ ‬which frequently dropped well below zero.‭ ‬Those who could not endure the brutal conditions turned back.‭

Kelsang’s group was slowly pushing through the snow when Chinese soldiers opened fire with assault rifles.‭ ‬Kelsang plunged forward when a bullet tore into her back.‭ ‬Although scores of climbers were nearby,‭ ‬none intervened or offered to help,‭ ‬Green says.‭ ‬Moreover,‭ ‬most climbers agreed not to report the killing out of fear that China would bar them from future climbing on the Chinese side of the mountain.

Gradually,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬word leaked out.‭ ‬U.S.‭ ‬officials condemned the killing,‭ ‬which was recorded on video tape by a Romanian climber and later posted on YouTube,‭ ‬where it can still be viewed.

Of the more than‭ ‬70‭ ‬Tibetans in Kelsang’s group,‭ ‬41‭ ‬made it to Dharamsala,‭ ‬India,‭ ‬where they had an audience with their beloved Dalai Lama.‭ ‬One of the ironies,‭ ‬which Green could have explored in greater depth,‭ ‬is that about half of all refugees eventually return to Tibet,‭ ‬in part because life in India proves to be tougher than expected.

The book also could have included better maps,‭ ‬as well as a glossary of names.‭ ‬With so many unfamiliar Tibetan names,‭ ‬readers are forced to jump back and forth in the text to follow the story line.

As part of his research,‭ ‬Green started at border of Tibet and walked the path taken by the refugees through Nepal to India.‭ ‬He encountered paranoia everywhere.‭ ‬Many people refused to talk to him‭; ‬others spoke only on condition that they not be named.‭ ‬Fear of offending the Chinese was rampant.

Despite the obstacles he encountered,‭ ‬Green has written an absorbing adventure story about a forbidding mountain range and a band of refugees who risked everything to reach the Dalai Lama,‭ ‬who continues to lead a campaign to publicize the plight of the Tibetan people.

Bill Williams is a freelance writer in West Hartford,‭ ‬Conn.,‭ ‬and a former editorial writer for‭ ‬The Hartford Courant.‭ ‬He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Film review: 'Social Network' talky, but a must-see morality tale

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in‭ ‬The‭ ‬Social Network.

By Hap Erstein

The central irony of The Social Network is that while the website Facebook was devised to bring friends together,‭ ‬it split longtime friends among its creators apart.

Populated with hyper-smart,‭ ‬glibly articulate characters based on real people,‭ ‬this is that rare studio release that allows itself to wallow in dialogue and gives moviegoers credit for being willing to listen.‭ ‬Although directed with assurance and restraint by David Fincher‭ (‬Fight Club,‭ ‬The Curious Case of Benjamin Button‭)‬,‭ ‬the film really belongs to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin,‭ ‬who gives it the same bullet-train verbal quality that became his signature on TV‭’‬s‭ ‬The West Wing.

The story of arrogant,‭ ‬snide Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg‭ (‬played pointedly by a nerdy,‭ ‬sullen Jesse Eisenberg‭)‬,‭ ‬his invention of Facebook and the lawsuits he incurred as a result,‭ ‬The Social Network begins in a Cambridge pub.‭ ‬There,‭ ‬after a round of verbal sparring,‭ ‬his had-it-up-to-here girlfriend‭ (‬Rooney Mara,‭ ‬son to be‭ ‬The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Fincher‭’‬s remake‭) ‬dumps him and Mark jogs back to his dorm to slam-blog her as well as exact revenge against all Harvard coeds by posting a which-one-is-hotter‭ ‬Website.

From there,‭ ‬it is a short hop to coming up with Facebook,‭ ‬initially a vehicle for hooking up with Crimson cuties.‭ ‬Enter Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss,‭ ‬two hulking,‭ ‬WASPy,‭ ‬privileged twins who row crew and enlist Zuckerberg in creating a social‭ ‬Website of their own,‭ ‬eventually suing him for allegedly stealing the idea for Facebook from them.‭ ‬When they take their grievance to Harvard president Larry Summers‭ (‬a drolly uninterested Doug Urbanski‭)‬,‭ ‬the result is a sequence of gem-like dry humor.

Interspersed throughout the film are scenes of deposition-taking as Zuckerberg is grilled by lawyers for the Winklevosses and for his former best friend,‭ ‬Eduardo Saverin‭ (‬Andrew Garfield‭)‬,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Facebook chief financial officer who gets left in the dust when the site takes off.‭ ‬Mark‭’‬s contempt for those he perceives as his intellectual inferiors‭ ‬--‭ ‬which us to say just about everyone‭ ‬--‭ ‬is nicely illustrated by his witheringly sarcastic comebacks to the attorney interrogations.

Ultimately,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬the movie is stolen from Eisenberg by Justin Timberlake,‭ ‬who gives a very crafty,‭ ‬unctuous performance as nouveau riche elder wunderkind Sean Parker.‭ ‬The founder of Napster,‭ ‬he takes it upon himself to advise and mentor Mark,‭ ‬luring him to Silicon Valley,‭ ‬worming his way into the Facebook hierarchy and ultimately engineering the marginalization of Eduardo.

By the film‭’‬s end,‭ ‬Fincher and Sorkin leave it up to us to decide who are the villains of these obsessive machinations,‭ ‬but no one really comes off well.‭ ‬The Social Network is indeed a morality tale for our times.

If the movie belongs to Sorkin‭ ‬--‭ ‬an Oscar screenplay nomination seems a sure thing‭ ‬--‭ ‬Fincher deserves a lot of credit for the film‭’‬s insistent forward motion.‭ ‬The Social Network is wordy,‭ ‬but it never feels static.‭ ‬And in a signature Fincher touch,‭ ‬employing the digital wizardry of‭ ‬Benjamin Button without calling attention to itself,‭ ‬ponder as you watch the Winklevoss twins that they are both played by a single actor‭ ‬--‭ ‬Armie Hammer‭ ‬--‭ ‬with the aid of a body double.

Still,‭ ‬The Social Network is a movie of ideas,‭ ‬not special effects,‭ ‬a harbinger that perhaps we really have turned the corner from the summer to awards-worthy autumn.‭ ‬This is a film that is going to generate water cooler conversation,‭ ‬a must-see movie that just might put Facebook‭ ‬--‭ ‬barreling on to its‭ ‬1‭ ‬billionth member before long‭ ‬--‭ ‬on the map.

The Social Network‭ ‬is rated‭ ‬PG-13.‭ ‬Opening Friday in area theaters.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Sept. 24-26

City Milk,‭ ‬by JoAnn Nava.

‭ ‬This weekend,‭ ‬the historic African-American neighborhood on Fort Lauderdale‭’‬s Sistrunk Boulevard is the site of the Midtown Urban Arts Show,‭ ‬part of a nonprofit effort to support revitalization of the Sistrunk corridor,‭ ‬named for the pioneering black physician who tended to its residents in the early‭ ‬20th century.‭ ‬Restoration projects have been ongoing for many years in the neighborhood,‭ ‬and have included such signal moments as the opening of a major Broward County library‭ ‬branch.‭ ‬Until Oct.‭ ‬15,‭ ‬the new Midtown Commerce Center building will host the art show,‭ ‬which features work by Purvis Young,‭ ‬the folk-art painter of Overtown who died earlier this year.‭ ‬Also in the show are pieces by artists such as George Gadson,‭ ‬Elayna‭ ‬Toby Singer,‭ ‬Gary Moore and JoAnn Nava.‭ ‬The gallery is open from‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Thursdays and Fridays,‭ ‬and‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturdays.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬

Patricia Clarkson in Cairo Time.

Film:‭ ‬Some films are character-driven and others are location-dependent.‭ ‬A prime example of the latter is the atmospheric‭ ‬Cairo Time,‭ ‬the tale of a magazine editor‭ (‬the incomparable Patricia Clarkson‭) ‬whose husband has been detained on assignment,‭ ‬leaving her on her own in the Egyptian capital,‭ ‬escorted by a local colleague of her husband’s Cairo,‭ ‬in all its exotic,‭ ‬chaotic,‭ ‬steamy extremes,‭ ‬is really the star of the film,‭ ‬much as Toyko was in‭ ‬Lost in Translation or Venice in‭ ‬Summertime.‭ ‬Director Ruba Nadda uses impressive control throughout,‭ ‬barely suggesting the possibility between Clarkson and Alexander Siddig as her tentative guide.‭ ‬Playing at Mos’Art Theatre in Lake Park and Emerging Cinemas in Lake Worth.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

A scene from Broward Stage Door’s Mack and Mabel.

Theater:‭ ‬This is the final weekend to catch Broward Stage Door’s impressive mounting of Jerry Herman’s‭ ‬Mack and Mabel,‭ ‬the somewhat fictionalized account of silent movie mogul‭ ‬Mack Sennett and his leading lady/muse Mabel Normand in the early days of Hollywood.‭ ‬The show has never been commercially successful‭ ‬because of its sketchy script,‭ ‬but it contains what is arguably Herman’s best score,‭ ‬with some first-rate,‭ ‬dark-toned ballads.‭ ‬Director Michael Leeds works at bolstering the story,‭ ‬while Chrissi Ardito supplies the dance steps and Shane Tanner as Sennett carries the show on his back.‭ ‬Through Sunday only in Coral Springs.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬954‭) ‬344-7765‭ ‬for tickets.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Robert DeMaine.

Music:‭ ‬The Detroit Symphony‭’‬s principal cellist,‭ ‬Robert DeMaine,‭ ‬who last season in Boca Raton gave a two-recital traversal of the complete Beethoven cello sonatas and associated works,‭ ‬returns tomorrow night with a wide-ranging program of music accompanied by‭ ‬the pianist in that Beethoven program,‭ ‬Heather Coltman.‭ ‬DeMaine,‭ ‬also an accomplished composer of music for his instrument,‭ ‬will play the Mendelssohn Sonata No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬in D,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬58‭)‬,‭ ‬an arrangement of the Violin Sonata of Cesar Franck,‭ ‬and the G major Viola da Gamba Sonata‭ (‬BWV‭ ‬1027‭) ‬of J.S.‭ ‬Bach.‭ ‬Also on the program is the‭ ‬Six Studies in English Folk Song,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1926‭ ‬by Ralph Vaughan Williams.‭ ‬DeMaine and Coltman will perform at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the University Theatre at Florida Atlantic University.‭ ‬Suggested donation is‭ ‬$10‭; ‬call‭ ‬561-297-3820‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Daniel Bernard Roumain.

Daniel Bernard Roumain grew up in Margate as the son of Haitian immigrants and early on demonstrated exceptional talent as a violinist.‭ ‬Today he‭’‬s a cutting-edge classical crossover artist whose music and musicianship are very much at home in a multiplicity of genres.‭ ‬His newest work,‭ ‬Dancers,‭ ‬Dreamers and Presidents,‭ ‬was inspired by an October‭ ‬2007‭ ‬moment on Ellen DeGeneres‭’‬ talk show in which then-Sen.‭ ‬Barack Obama and DeGeneres danced briefly together.‭ ‬Roumain‭’‬s three-movement tone poem gets its world premiere tomorrow night at the Lincoln Theatre in Miami Beach in a pre-season concert by the New World Symphony.‭ ‬Alasdair Neale,‭ ‬the orchestra‭’‬s principal guest conductor,‭ ‬also will conduct two works by Beethoven:‭ ‬the‭ ‬Leonore Overture No.‭ ‬3,‭ ‬and the Fifth Symphony‭ (‬in C minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬67‭)‬.‭ ‬ The concert will be repeated Sunday at‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tickets are free,‭ ‬but have been snatched‭ ‬up‭; ‬still,‭ ‬orchestra officials advise you can still get in if you line up and wait for no-shows.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬305-673-3331‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Theater review: 'Completely Hollywood' gives its actors plenty of room for laughs

Christian Rockwell,‭ ‬Erik Fabregat and Antonio Amadeo
in Completely Hollywood‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬.

By Hap Erstein

Twenty-three years ago,‭ ‬three‭ ‬irreverent wags devised a breakneck evening of comedy,‭ ‬The Compleat Wrks of Wlm Shkspr‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬,‭ ‬which mercilessly spoofed the timeless works of the Bard yet‭ ‬--‭ ‬here’s the inspired part‭ ‬--‭ ‬required almost no knowledge of his plays and characters.

No wonder it became an international hit,‭ ‬spawning subsequent giggle fests about the Bible,‭ ‬American history and sports,‭ ‬all from a madcap collective dubbed the Reduced Shakespeare Company.‭ ‬Current members Reed Martin,‭ ‬Austin Tichenor and Dominic Conti have gone to that well again,‭ ‬setting their sights on the lunacy of Tinseltown.‭ ‬The result is an evening of shameless silliness known as‭ ‬Completely Hollywood‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬.‭

Brought to the area by Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre,‭ ‬which has made its reputation on more serious material,‭ ‬the company demonstrates that it can deliver manic wackiness as well as the dour stuff.‭ ‬And broad comedy is probably just what audiences are hungering for about now.‭

Like the other RSC shows,‭ ‬Completely Hollywood packs more wincing one-liners and groan-worthy puns per minute than imaginable.‭ ‬There are some clever minds at work here,‭ ‬but one could easily see the jokes fizzling without a trio of verbally and physically nimble performers.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬Mosaic director Richard Jay Simon has them in Erik Fabregat,‭ ‬Antonio Amadeo and Christian Rockwell,‭ ‬frequently seen here,‭ ‬but never given quite as much free rein to cavort,‭ ‬mug and pander for laughs as they are here.

On the theory that any joke is funnier if delivered in women’s clothing and a high,‭ ‬squeaky voice,‭ ‬these three do not hesitate to don skirts and wigs.‭ ‬Some gags still lay there like a lox,‭ ‬but it does suggest the lengths they will go to for a giggle.‭ ‬Each has‭ ‬plenty of solo standout moments,‭ ‬notably Amadeo’s verbal diarrhea spurts,‭ ‬Fabregat’s Dorothy Gale and Rockwell’s sly impersonation of Oscar winner Al Gore.

As was the case with the‭ ‬Wlm Shkspr‭ ‬show,‭ ‬which sprinted through all‭ ‬37‭ ‬of Will’s plays,‭ ‬however briefly,‭ ‬the Mosaic cast boasts up front that it will deal with‭ ‬197‭ ‬of the greatest movies of all time.‭ ‬And perhaps they do,‭ ‬at least through name-dropping or invoking a stray iconic line of dialogue,‭ ‬but chances you will be too busy laughing to keep a running count.

For the audience’s education,‭ ‬the guys also slip in a dozen pithy rules of the movie industry.‭ ‬Like‭ “‬Show it,‭ ‬don’t say it,‭” ‬and‭ “‬There are only two movie plots:‭ ‬coming-of-age and fish-out-of-water.‭” ‬Best was the notion that every movie is a combination of two other movies,‭ ‬illustrated by the unlikely merger of Akira Kurosawa and Walt Disney to produce‭ ‬Snow White and the Seven Samurai.‭ ‬Or the intersection of Jane Austen and Drew Barrymore vehicles,‭ ‬producing‭ ‬Darcy’s Angels.

If anything,‭ ‬Completely Hollywood overstays its welcome a bit and is padded with some audience participation skits,‭ ‬in which a few game volunteers get immersed in the onstage shenanigans.‭ ‬No doubt some people find this amusing,‭ ‬but it smacks of filler.

Douglas Grinn contributes a simple,‭ ‬but attractive scenic design of film-strip silhouettes of recognizable Hollywood characters,‭ ‬from Rocky Balboa to E.T.‭ ‬And do not miss the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars celebrating Fabregat,‭ ‬Amadeo and Rockwell on the floor in front of the stage.‭ ‬Nice touch.

Completely Hollywood is not for those who want trenchant drama or even tidy comedy.‭ ‬But everyone else is likely to have a very entertaining time.

COMPLETELY HOLLYWOOD‭ (‬ABRIDGED‭)‬,‭ ‬Mosaic Theatre,‭ ‬12200‭ ‬W.‭ ‬Broward Blvd.,‭ ‬Plantation.‭ ‬Continuing through Oct.‭ ‬3.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$37.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬577-8243.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Sept. 18-20

Emma Stone in Easy A.

Film:‭ ‬When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote‭ ‬The Scarlet Letter,‭ ‬he never imagined it would become the inspiration for a high school comedy such as‭ ‬Easy A,‭ ‬but screenwriter Bert V.‭ ‬Royal plants his tongue firmly in cheek and comes up with a wise,‭ ‬wise-assed morality tale set at Ojai‭ (‬Calif.‭) ‬High,‭ ‬about a misfit named Olive who lies about losing her virginity and gets swept up in a new-found wave of popularity.‭ ‬As Olive,‭ ‬winsome Emma Stone will remind you of a younger Lindsay Lohan,‭ ‬but sober.‭ ‬Stealing every scene‭ ‬that they are in are Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive‭’‬s very hip parents.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬I know you are not in the habit of going to teen comedies,‭ ‬but this is one of the best-written and performed examples of the genre since‭ ‬Juno.‭ ‬– H.‭ ‬Erstein‭ 

Theater:‭ ‬Zoetic Stage,‭ ‬the fledgling Miami company,‭ ‬is fishing for funds to support its inaugural season and has scheduled a staged reading event for this Monday,‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬20,‭ ‬at Boca Raton‭’‬s Caldwell Theatre,‭ ‬beginning at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬On tap is the award-winning comedy‭ ‬37‭ ‬Postcards by the troupe‭’‬s resident playwright,‭ ‬Michael McKeever,‭ ‬a family reunion play tinged with absurdism about a young man‭’‬s return home from traveling abroad,‭ ‬only to find his home and clan in disarray.‭ ‬Performing the script will be such South Florida favorites as John Felix,‭ ‬Nick Duckart,‭ ‬Barbara Bradshaw,‭ ‬Beth Dimon,‭ ‬Katherine Amadeo and Ellen Davis.‭ ‬The suggested donation is‭ ‬$20.‭ ‬For reservations,‭ ‬call‭ (‬305‭) ‬741-3180,‭ ‬or go to‭‭ ‬– H.‭ ‬Erstein

Yoko Sata Kothari,‭ ‬from her Website.‭

Music:‭ ‬The classical music season in Palm Beach County gets under way this weekend with the first concert in the‭ ‬23rd season of performances at St.‭ ‬Paul‭’‬s Episcopal in Delray Beach on Sunday afternoon.‭ ‬Up first in the series‭ ‬– which will include appearances by the church‭’‬s own Camerata del Re in music from the French and German Baroque traditions,‭ ‬as well as Paris-based Fuoco e Cenere in early music from Italy‭ ‬– is‭ ‬the Trillium Piano Trio.‭ ‬Pianist Yoko‭ ‬Sata Kothari,‭ ‬violinist Ruby Berlund and cellist Benjamin Salsbury will perform the Trio in C of Gaspar Cassado,‭ ‬the Trio No.‭ ‬3‭ (‬in G minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬110‭) ‬of Robert Schumann,‭ ‬and a rarity,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Trio quasi una ballata‭ (‬in D minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬27‭) ‬by the Czech composer Vitezslav Novak‭ (‬1870-1949‭)‬.‭ ‬Novak‭’‬s trio,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1902,‭ ‬is considered one of the most important piano trios in Czech music,‭ ‬but it‭’‬s almost never heard in this country,‭ ‬and so this‭ ‬concert offers listeners a good way to get acquainted with an important‭ ‬but overlooked master.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬and tickets are‭ ‬$15-$18.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬278-6003‭ ‬for more information,‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭

Sofiya Uryvayeva.

That same afternoon,‭ ‬the young Ukrainian-born pianist Sofiya Uryvayeva makes a return visit to the Steinway Gallery in Boca Raton for an all-Tchaikovsky program.‭ ‬Uryvayeva will play the Russian composer‭’‬s‭ ‬Dumka‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬59‭)‬,‭ ‬selections from his popular suite‭ ‬The Seasons‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬37a‭)‬,‭ ‬and a Mikhail Pletnev arrangement of music from‭ ‬The Nutcracker.‭ ‬Uryvayeva moved to the United States in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬after studies in Odessa and Germany,‭ ‬and‭ ‬began concertizing here right away‭; ‬you can hear some of her performances on her Website,‭ ‬including one of the‭ ‬Grand Pas de Deux‭ ‬from the‭ ‬Nutcracker.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday‭; ‬tickets are‭ ‬$20‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬and‭ ‬$25‭ ‬at the door.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬561-929-6633‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The View From Home 13: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

(‬Cinema Guild‭)
Standard list price:‭ ‬$29.95
Release date:‭ ‬Aug.‭ ‬31

For a filmmaker of Agnes Varda’s renown,‭ ‬it’s important to note how few features she has made over her‭ ‬40-plus-year career.‭ ‬She boasts‭ ‬47‭ ‬directorial credits on the Internet Movie Database,‭ ‬yet most cineastes who haven’t spelunked into the deepest depths of the French New Wave know her mainly for four features:‭ ‬Cleo From‭ ‬5‭ ‬to‭ ‬7,‭ ‬Vagabond,‭ ‬The Gleaners and I and‭ ‬The Beaches of Agnes.‭ ‬She’s been a lot more productive than this slim CV entails,‭ ‬but because she’s worked so often in the commercially unviable world of short films‭ – ‬or on equally hard-to-distribute features of an hour in length‭ – ‬her work has been neglected.

Perhaps recognizing this,‭ ‬Varda in‭ ‬2004‭ ‬released‭ ‬Cinevardaphoto,‭ ‬a triptych of short films from throughout her career,‭ ‬repackaged as a three-part,‭ ‬feature-length meditation on photography.‭ ‬Newly released on DVD,‭ ‬it’s a fascinating experiment from one of the cinema’s most uncompromising alchemists,‭ ‬dancing effortlessly in the chasms between fiction and reality,‭ ‬narrative and documentary,‭ ‬stillness and motion.

The film starts with her‭ ‬2004‭ ‬movie‭ ‬Ydessa,‭ ‬The Bears and Etc.,‭ ‬a‭ ‬42-minute documentary about Ydessa Hendeles,‭ ‬a Canadian artist whose massive‭ “‬Teddy Bear Project‭” ‬debuted in Munich in‭ ‬2003.‭ ‬Over the span of a decade,‭ ‬Hendeles amassed hundreds of black-and-white images of people with teddy bears,‭ ‬culled from family photo albums,‭ ‬then organized thematically or pictorially,‭ ‬individually framed and hung in a gallery space on every wall,‭ ‬floor to ceiling.

Like Varda herself in this series of films,‭ ‬Hendeles constructs narratives out of still pictures,‭ ‬creating elegiac time capsules for a vanished age,‭ ‬and whose oppressive totality is both moving and unsettling.‭ ‬The child of Holocaust survivors,‭ ‬Hendeles doesn’t let spectators of her art forget this,‭ ‬coloring the ostensible innocence of her subject matter with a second room,‭ ‬bare except for a kneeling sculpture of Adolf Hitler.‭ ‬The fact that teddy bears can be so provocative and disturbing is a triumph of artistic reinterpretation,‭ ‬and Varda realizes this and much more in a probing,‭ ‬fascinating look at artistic process,‭ ‬judgment and temperament.‭ ‬Varda’s films are always forthrightly personal,‭ ‬and you get the feeling she recognizes in Hendeles a kindred spirit.

The second film in this triptych,‭ ‬the shorter‭ ‬Ulysses,‭ ‬again captures a nether world between fiction and reality,‭ ‬while adding an ephemerally powerful subtext:‭ ‬Who has a claim on memory‭? ‬If an image is taken but completely forgotten by its subject,‭ ‬who owns the emotions attached‭? ‬Again and again Varda returns,‭ ‬with relentless obsession,‭ ‬to a photo she took in the‭ ‬1950s of a nude boy and a man on a beach near a dying goat.‭ ‬The boy,‭ ‬now an adult with a family,‭ ‬has no recollection of the image,‭ ‬but Varda revitalizes it.‭ ‬More than that,‭ ‬she ruminates,‭ ‬deconstructs and reconstructs the photo from every angle imaginable until it becomes more than the sum of its parts.

The final film in this installment,‭ ‬Salut La Cubans,‭ ‬is a photographic essay,‭ ‬with narration,‭ ‬on the Cuban Revolution.‭ ‬While the other two movies in‭ ‬Cinevardaphoto suggest life from stillness,‭ ‬this time Varda‭ ‬creates life on the screen by animating her shots in a flipbook style.‭ ‬Stills becoming moving images,‭ ‬rhythmically repeated to a musical soundtrack.

Cinevardaphoto is a beguiling survey film that delineates exactly Varda’s place in the film-history canon:‭ ‬born of restless New Wave chutzpah only to transcend its affectations and go her own way.‭ ‬The Cinema Guild DVD release is more than just these three shorts,‭ ‬offering an additional six shorts and a critical video survey,‭ ‬totaling some three hours of combined viewing.‭ ‬Of the six bonus shorts,‭ ‬a couple of them are downright dull,‭ ‬but the most interesting is probably‭ ‬1975‭’‬s‭ ‬Response de Femmes,‭ ‬an‭ ‬8-minute compendium of feminist arguments spoken by a handful of diverse women against a vacant backdrop.‭ ‬Some of it is dated,‭ ‬but other concerns are as relevant as ever,‭ ‬from the misogynistically desirous mother-whore duality to body-image issues perpetuated by a penis-placating consumer culture.

It doesn’t get much weirder than‭ ‬1984‭’‬s‭ ‬Seven Rooms,‭ ‬Kitchen and Bath,‭ ‬a‭ ‬28-minute semi-narrative experiment in time,‭ ‬space and aging shot during an exhibition titled‭ “‬Alive and Artificial‭” ‬at a hospice in Avignon.‭ ‬Inserting actors into a capacious building occupied by animatronic models and spending as much time on the spatial architecture of the location than on anything resembling a coherent narrative,‭ ‬the short is compellingly watchable despite its inscrutability.‭ ‬And it links Varda to Chantal Akerman,‭ ‬another rebellious female director who would follow her trailblazing lead.

The Exploding Girl‭ (‬Oscilloscope Laboratories‭)
SLP:‭ ‬$27.49
Release date:‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬7

In the opening shot‭ ‬of‭ ‬The Exploding Girl,‭ ‬lead character Ivy is obscured by a window,‭ ‬asleep in a car while‭ ‬trees blur by in the window‭’‬s reflection.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a telling preamble,‭ ‬for Ivy remains an obscure character to the very end,‭ ‬her character defined almost solely by her epilepsy‭ (‬hence,‭ ‬perhaps,‭ ‬the film‭’‬s otherwise enigmatic title‭)‬.‭ ‬The American debut of writer-director Bradley Rust Gray‭ (‬whose only other feature is the‭ ‬2003‭ ‬Icelandic film‭ ‬Salt‭) ‬follows the‭ ‬20-year-old Ivy on her spring break sojourn from college,‭ ‬where she returns home and reacquaints herself with‭ ‬longtime platonic friend Al‭ (‬Mark Rendell‭)‬.‭ ‬Her boyfriend,‭ ‬meanwhile,‭ ‬is back at college and can barely be bothered to pick up her phone calls.‭ ‬Nothing much happens,‭ ‬and Ivy is an occasionally frustrating cipher whose emotional canvas remains unpainted.‭ ‬But I admire the film‭’‬s photographic naturalism,‭ ‬its dogged resistance toward the traditional grammar of film entertainment and its seemingly unscripted dialogue.‭ ‬Maybe‭ ‬The Exploding Girl is nothing more than a lo-fi,‭ ‬mumblecore variant on the classic teen-movie formula of the girl who should be‭ ‬courting‭ ‬the best friend who cares about her but is tethered to a jerk who doesn‭’‬t.‭ ‬But it meanders through this formula lithely and pleasantly.

Grey‭’‬s Anatomy:‭ ‬The Complete Sixth Season‭ (‬ABC Studios‭)
SLP:‭ ‬$38.99
Release date:‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬14

Is it uncool of me to love‭ ‬Grey‭’‬s Anatomy‭? ‬Isn‭’‬t it kind of,‭ ‬like,‭ ‬a chick show‭? ‬And didn‭’‬t it jump the shark a couple seasons ago‭? ‬Malarkey to all.‭ ‬I will concede that its sixth season was far from perfect.‭ ‬The Valentine‭’‬s Day episode was unforgivably maudlin,‭ ‬and I lost a modicum of respect for the writers when they went the route of the dreaded flashback episode,‭ ‬progressing nothing in the characters‭’‬ stories and instead hashing over irrelevant drama‭ ‬from their pasts.‭ ‬But the sixth season included two of the best episodes in the show‭’‬s history.‭ ‬One is the genuinely tear-inducing Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year‭’‬s episode in which Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) confronted her cruel father‭ over his lack‭ ‬of acceptance of her divorce.‭ ‬The other,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬is the staggering finale,‭ ‬in which a shooter invades the hospital,‭ ‬killing a few doctors and putting other‭’‬s lives in grave danger.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a more riveting‭ ‬80‭ ‬minutes than almost any movie I‭’‬ve ever seen.

Boogie Woogie‭ (‬IFC‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬14
SLP:‭ ‬$17.99‭
‬ ‭
‬On the heels of recent theatrical releases such as‭ ‬(untitled‭)‬ and‭ ‬Exit Through the Gift Shop,‭ ‬Duncan Ward‭’‬s‭ ‬Boogie Woogie is the latest savage indictment of the superficial modern art world,‭ ‬devouring‭ ‬its shallow,‭ ‬reprehensible subjects as hungrily and callously as those fish feasted on nubile spring break flesh in‭ ‬Piranha‭ ‬3D.‭ ‬But unlike those other modern art films,‭ ‬Boogie Woogie forgets to make us laugh,‭ ‬failing to realize that a proper satire lampoons its subject with subtle wit,‭ ‬not mere vitriol.‭ ‬Adapted from Danny Moynihan‭’‬s acrid novel,‭ ‬there isn‭’‬t a single likable,‭ ‬relatable character in Ward‭’‬s ensemble of archetypes,‭ ‬from unctuous gallerist Art Spindle‭ (‬Danny Huston‭) ‬to haughty collectors Bob and Jean‭ (‬Stellan Skarsgard and Gillian Anderson‭) ‬to pompous avant-garde artist Joe‭ (‬Jack Huston‭) ‬to cash-strapped collector Alfred‭ (‬Christopher Lee‭)‬,‭ ‬whose ultra-rare,‭ ‬titular painting attracts the film‭’‬s art-world carnivores like vultures to a carcass.‭ ‬Treating its audience with as much contempt as its characters,‭ ‬there‭’‬s nothing of value in this screeching screed aside from the juvenile observation that beyond all the pretentious posturing of modern art,‭ ‬everybody just wants to get laid with as many people,‭ ‬and in as many‭ ‬positions,‭ ‬as possible.‭ ‬But it‭’‬s hard to take even this message credibly‭ ‬when Ward‭’‬s direction is as lecherous‭ ‬as his characters‭’‬ philandering‭ ‬libidos.‭ ‬Amanda Seyfried‭’‬s sole purpose in the picture appears to be the exhibition of her ass,‭ ‬which is revealed in one crassly titillating angle after another.‭ ‬I thought modern-art porn went out with Warhol‭?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Film review: Affleck's 'The Town' not enough out of the ordinary

Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in The Town.

By John Thomason

If you’re not wary of the clichés of the heist movie by now‭ – ‬the well-laid plans gone violently awry,‭ ‬the criminal with a heart of gold who wants out of the racket after this‭ “‬one last job,‭” ‬the cop always on his tail with superhuman relentlessness‭ – ‬then you’ve managed to remain blissfully sheltered from one of Hollywood’s most exhausted formulas.

Every now and then,‭ ‬a movie such as‭ ‬Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead or the recently opened‭ ‬Animal Kingdom will inject some vitality and vigor into this corpse of a genre,‭ ‬which was already starting to feel a little orthodox when John Huston directed‭ ‬The Asphalt Jungle.

Ben Affleck,‭ ‬in his second feature as director and co-writer,‭ ‬tries his hand at the game with‭ ‬The Town,‭ ‬casting himself against type as the unofficial leader of a small but sophisticated crime syndicate in the brutal Boston neighborhood of Charlestown.‭ ‬Working from Chuck Hogan’s novel‭ ‬Prince of Thieves,‭ ‬Affleck distinguishes his film,‭ ‬somewhat,‭ ‬in the novelistic details of the heists‭’ ‬particulars.‭ ‬These aren’t the sloppy armed robbers of yesterday whose human anxieties and lack of preparation foretell their downfall.‭ ‬In the opening bank job,‭ ‬they don expensive horror-movie costumes,‭ ‬confiscate patrons‭’ ‬cellphones,‭ ‬microwave the surveillance tapes and torch any evidence that might contain a fingerprint.

But as Affleck’s film progresses,‭ ‬it settles,‭ ‬sentimentally,‭ ‬into the tired mechanics of its genre.‭ ‬His character,‭ ‬Doug MacRay,‭ ‬is a noble soul at heart,‭ ‬granted a tortured backstory to explain his life of crime.‭ ‬His drug-addicted mother abandoned the family when he was‭ ‬6,‭ ‬and his father‭ (‬Chris Cooper‭) ‬is a lifetime criminal and drunk still serving time.‭ ‬Doug was drafted to the NHL as a youngster,‭ ‬only to blow his chance at success when he physically assaulted his teammates.

So the thug life came naturally and inevitably.‭ ‬He hooked up with James Coughlin‭ (‬Jeremy Renner‭)‬,‭ ‬a loyal baddie with an intimidating neck tattoo to prove it.‭ ‬Doing nine years in prison for defending Doug’s honor,‭ ‬James is a brother-like figure who won’t permit Doug the law-abiding,‭ ‬upstanding life he desires.‭ ‬It isn’t until Doug begins to stalk‭ – ‬and subsequently romance‭ – ‬Claire‭ (‬Rebecca Hall‭)‬,‭ ‬an assistant manager at the bank his team pillages,‭ ‬that he begins to develop the courage to go straight,‭ ‬if only his friends weren’t such a problem.

Jon Hamm, foreground, in The Town.

Claire is an angel of extreme goodness,‭ ‬volunteering at the local Boys‭ & ‬Girls Club while unknowingly courting the man who could have ended her life the week before.‭ ‬She’s more archetype than character,‭ ‬but no protagonist is drawn thinner and with less distinction than FBI agent Adam Frawley‭ (‬Mad Men’s Jon Hamm‭)‬,‭ ‬a square-jawed Alan Ladd type,‭ ‬quick with a wisecrack but always one step behind his prey.‭ ‬We know nothing of the guy beyond his obsession with Doug‭; ‬there’s no depth or heart beneath the alpha male machismo.

As a writer,‭ ‬Affleck clearly has affections for the down-and-out proles of South Boston,‭ ‬a world that has grown considerably more sinister since his Good Will Hunting breakthrough.‭ ‬His‭ ‬2007‭ ‬directorial debut‭ ‬Gone Baby Gone was a riveting story of a kidnapping and police manhunt,‭ ‬a better film for its lack of over-the-top action-movie set pieces that damage‭ ‬The Town’s patina of realism.‭ ‬Though his films share a geographic and thematic consistency befitting a possible auteurist status,‭ ‬his observations about redemption,‭ ‬trust and loyalty aren’t the most original.

Moreover,‭ ‬as a director,‭ ‬he’s clearly absorbed his share of Eastwood and Scorsese movies in all their CinemaScope brutality,‭ ‬but without those masters‭’ ‬visual poetry or uncompromising cynicism.‭ ‬Instead,‭ ‬Affleck settles for a kind of secondhand distinction,‭ ‬wearing his influences competently for a surprise-free Hollywood product and nothing and more.

The Town is rated R.‭ ‬It opens Friday in area theaters.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Sept. 10-14

Untitled‭ ‬4,‭ ‬by Jessie Rebik.

Art:‭ ‬Five female artists explore the human figure in an upcoming exhibition called the‭ ‬Figuratively Speaking‭ ‬Invitational at The Art Gallery on the Eissey Campus of Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens,‭ ‬and there’s‭ ‬much more to it than is first apparent.‭ ‬The artwork consists of classical-styled paintings,‭ ‬modeled and molded ceramics,‭ ‬drawings and video,‭ ‬beautifully handled in technique and execution.‭ ‬But the underlying concepts delve into genetic engineering,‭ ‬gender and psychological states,‭ ‬philosophy and the human struggle.‭

The award-winning artists in the invitational have some impressive credentials.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬Angela DiCosola is a professor of ceramics at Florida Atlantic University and Jessie Rebik is an assistant professor of art at Clark University in Dubuque,‭ ‬Iowa.‭ ‬Moira Holohan,‭ ‬whose video art is displayed,‭ ‬has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami and earned her master of fine arts from Hunter College.‭ ‬Tere Pastoriza,‭ ‬a Cuban-born artist,‭ ‬lives and works in Miami.‭ ‬Brazilian native Rebeca Gilling,‭ ‬who creates human and animal hybrids from clay,‭ ‬set out originally to be a veterinarian,‭ ‬until she took an elective in ceramics,‭ ‬received a master of fine arts from Miami International University of Art and Design. ‭

Forget Me Not,‭ ‬by Rebeca Gilling.

The‭ ‬exhibit opens Tuesday,‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬14,‭ ‬from‭ ‬5‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬offers an opportunity to meet these fascinating artists and purchase and collect their work.‭ ‬The exhibition runs through October‭ ‬8‭ ‬at The Art Gallery at Palm Beach State College’s Eissey Campus located in the BB building,‭ ‬3160‭ ‬PGA Blvd.‭ ‬Gallery hours are Mon.,‭ ‬Wed.,‭ ‬Thurs.‭ ‬and Fri.,‭ ‬from‭ ‬9‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬and Tuesdays from‭ ‬9‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬For more information call Karla Walter,‭ ‬art gallery specialist,‭ ‬at‭ (‬561‭) ‬207-5015,‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬ -- K. Deits

Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain in Mademoiselle Chambon.

Film:‭ ‬In so many formulaic movies,‭ ‬a couple meets and by the second scene they are in bed together.‭ ‬Nothing wrong with that,‭ ‬mind you,‭ ‬but the French film‭ ‬Mademoiselle Chambon‭ ‬takes the opposite tack and the results are so refreshing.‭ ‬In it,‭ ‬a family man meets his young son’s teacher,‭ ‬is charmed by her and her violin playing,‭ ‬which opens up unexpected feelings in him.‭ ‬Although the two of them are clearly attracted to each other,‭ ‬they spend most of the rest of the movie trying not to have an affair.‭ ‬Exquisitely acted by Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Lindon,‭ ‬they convey such emotions,‭ ‬unexpressed and buried just below the surface.‭ ‬Not much happens,‭ ‬and yet everything happens.‭ ‬Do not wait until Hollywood remakes‭ ‬Mademoiselle Chambon and coarsens it.‭ ‬Opening today at area theaters. - H. Erstein

Erik Fabregat,‭ ‬Antonio Amadeo and Christian Rockwell
in Totally Hollywood‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬.

Theater:‭ ‬Not all the drama happens on the stage.‭ ‬Consider the case of area actor Erik Fabregat,‭ ‬who was driving home from Plantation’s Mosaic Theater after the single preview of‭ ‬Completely Hollywood‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬,‭ ‬a send-up of the movie industry by Reed Martin and Austin Tichener,‭ ‬the wiseacres who previously gave us‭ ‬The Complete Works of William Shakespeare‭ (‬Abridged‭)‬.‭ ‬Fabregat was involved in a car crash‭ ‬--‭ ‬not his fault‭ ‬--‭ ‬that landed him in the emergency room,‭ ‬getting off easy with cuts,‭ ‬scrapes,‭ ‬bruises and a lot of pain.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬without an understudy,‭ ‬he is determined to perform tonight and the rest of the weekend.‭ ‬Hope they can throw in a few ad libs to explain away his bandages.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬954‭) ‬57-STAGE for tickets. - H. Erstein

The Pacifica Quartet.

Music:‭ ‬ One of the special‭ ‬glories‭ ‬of the classical‭ ‬music‭ ‬season in South Florida is its wealth of chamber music.‭ ‬Big orchestras and‭ ‬soloists are plentiful in some years,‭ ‬scarce in others,‭ ‬but there‭’‬s always a plenitude of good chamber‭ ‬groups.

One of the best of the current crop of string quartets‭ ‬is the Pacifica Quartet,‭ ‬which sounds like a West Coast group but actually is based at the University of Illinois in the east-central part of the Prairie State.‭ ‬It‭’‬s particularly well-known these days for its advocacy of the complete string quartets‭ (‬five in all‭) ‬of‭ ‬Elliot Carter,‭ ‬the veteran American composer who turns‭ ‬102‭ ‬later this year.

The‭ ‬Sunday Afternoons of Music series in Miami closes its current season with a special Saturday night‭ ‬appearance‭ ‬by the Pacifica at the University of Miami‭’‬s Gusman Hall in Coral Gables.‭ ‬That‭’‬s a good venue for this group,‭ ‬and‭ ‬it will be performing music of Schumann‭ (‬Quartet No.‭ ‬1‭ ‬in A minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬41,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬1‭)‬,‭ ‬Beethoven‭ (‬Quartet No.‭ ‬9‭ ‬in C,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬59,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬3‭)‬,‭ ‬and the Third Quartet‭ (‬in F,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬73‭) ‬of Dmitri Shostakovich.‭ ‬It promises to be a fine program,‭ ‬especially ending as it does with the lickety-split finale of the Beethoven,‭ ‬which quartets like to play as fast as they can.‭ ‬The concert starts at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬and tickets range from‭ ‬$10-$35.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬305-271-7150‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬ - G. Stepanich

John Mayer.

His‭ ‬outsized romantic life‭ ‬has taken more of‭ ‬the‭ ‬attention over the past couple years,‭ ‬and‭ ‬that‭’‬s regrettable,‭ ‬because the guitarist/songwriter John‭ ‬Mayer at his best is a deft writer of catchy melodies and intelligent lyrics.‭ ‬He‭’‬s also been a restless experimenter,‭ ‬shifting direction‭ ‬and‭ ‬trying new things,‭ ‬and that helps make him a musician worth following.

He‭’‬s on tour this month,‭ ‬and he stops at the Cruzan tomorrow night for a concert that no doubt will feature some of his latest work.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬and tickets are‭ ‬$48.10-$84.50‭; ‬they‭’‬re available through Live Nation/Ticketmaster.‭

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Art review: Morikami's Kyoto show impresses through its quietness

A panel from‭ ‬Scenes in and Around the City of Kyoto,‭
‬Edo period,‭ ‬17th-18th centuries.‭

By Gretel Sarmiento

With its simple harmony and elegant lines,‭ ‬much classic Asian art has‭ ‬been easy to digest but not to remember.‭ ‬This is its‭ ‬--‭ ‬or rather,‭ ‬our‭ ‬--‭ ‬struggle.

And so it is with the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens‭’ ‬current exhibit,‭ ‬Kyoto:‭ ‬A Place in Art.‭ ‬As soon as we leave the exhibit,‭ ‬we’re in fear of forgetting what we’ve seen.‭

It doesn’t help that‭ ‬Kyoto:‭ ‬A Place in Art is not very exciting,‭ ‬at least not in the way that would require cool‭ ‬3-D glasses.‭ ‬What is required of you is to empty your mind so it doesn’t interfere,‭ ‬for there is no way a show this quiet has a chance of being absorbed unless we forget for a minute‭ ‬--‭ ‬more like an hour‭ ‬--‭ ‬our busy modern lives.

‬The exhibit,‭ ‬which runs through Oct.‭ ‬17,‭ ‬opens with a series of eight photographs by Haruzo Ohashi from the‭ ‬Morikami’s‭ ‬permanent collection.‭ ‬All of them feature sharp,‭ ‬beautiful images of temples,‭ ‬gardens and pavilions of relevant importance to a city that served as Japan's capital from‭ ‬794‭ ‬to‭ ‬1868.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬the images are far from unique.‭

Nature happens to be pretty extraordinary in these sites,‭ ‬so it is no surprise the photos take our breath away,‭ ‬particularly that of‭ ‬Kinkaku-Ji‭ (‬Temple of the Golden Pavilion‭)‬.‭ ‬This three-tiered Zen temple served as the retreat of retired shogun Yoshimitsu.‭ ‬Here it appears with its top floors completely covered in‭ ‬gold leaf and‭ ‬overlooking the famous pond,‭ ‬which functions more like a mirror.‭ ‬The building has had its share of tragedies having been burned down several times,‭ ‬the last‭ ‬time‭ ‬in‭ ‬1950.

When not fusing with the outside world,‭ ‬the structures appear to have completely disappeared,‭ ‬as in‭ ‬Ohashi’s ‭ ‬Shugaku-in‭ (‬Imperial Villa:‭ ‬Winter‭)‬,‭ ‬where a white and grayish veil of snow has taken over the print and left no chance for inner cheering.‭ ‬Thankfully,‭ ‬the autumn and the sunset photographs that accompany the winter piece lighten up our spirit with unbelievable intense colors.‭ ‬The sunset piece gets my attention with the curious line of trees that look as if strategically placed next to one another.

Notably missing from this trio is a spring season photograph,‭ ‬which one can only imagine would be impregnated with cherry blossoms.‭ ‬There are no humans‭ ‬depicted in any of the photos,‭ ‬leading us to wonder whether humanity and these glorious places can really coexist.

The presence of swords,‭ ‬spears and folding screens is not enough to get a mood going.‭ ‬I can’t help thinking that‭ ‬having Japanese melodies or Zen music playing in the background would have helped.‭ ‬Unlike tea ceremony and koi feeding,‭ ‬which set a particular mood,‭ ‬the show doesn’t seem to transmit much.‭ ‬This is perhaps intentional,‭ ‬as to leave room for inward reflection.

If that’s the case,‭ ‬the best place to cleanse the mind is by the woodblock paintings depicting‭ ‬rock gardens:‭ ‬Sekitei and Ryoan-ji.‭ ‬Each of the seven works,‭ ‬ranging in date from‭ ‬1960‭ ‬to‭ ‬2001‭ ‬and by seven different artists,‭ ‬gives us a personal interpretation of these famous dry landscapes,‭ ‬also known as Zen gardens.‭ ‬ ‭

Painters such as‭ ‬Toshi Yoshida,‭ ‬son of the great‭ ‬Hiroshi Yoshida,‭ ‬were considered‭ ‬sosaku hanga‭ ‬artists,‭ ‬meaning they engaged in every aspect of the woodblock painting creative process:‭ ‬designing,‭ ‬carving,‭ ‬printing and publishing.‭ ‬His‭ ‬Sekitei,‭ ‬dated‭ ‬1963,‭ ‬is the warmest depiction of the garden in the show.‭

Following it is an unexpected geometric composition titled‭ ‬Ryoan-ji,‭ ‬Kyoto by Kiyoshi Saito.‭ ‬It’s rather Pollockian compared to the rest in the sense that the work is more concerned with free expression and experimentation than with retention of form.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬although Saito’s figures are still clearly defined,‭ ‬he has placed circles instead of realistic-looking rocks and given each a different texture.‭ ‬Next to the other pieces here,‭ ‬which are more tri-dimensional and play with angles and shadows,‭ ‬Saito’s primitive take on the rock garden seems very flat but yet fresh and unique.‭

A scroll right before the woodblock pieces titled‭ ‬Fishing in Autumn is the piece I like the most.‭ ‬Hine Taizan gives us the scholar turning to seclusion and isolation to reconnect with his inner self.‭ ‬Here he appears inside a boat but is not in a rush.‭ ‬The piece isn’t about anxiety or urgency,‭ ‬but rather a man making a quiet exit out of the social and political life.

A panel from‭ ‬Scenes in and Around the City of Kyoto,
‭ ‬Edo period,‭ ‬17th-18th centuries.‭

When we reach the pair of six-panel folding screens we sort of sense the presence of something important,‭ ‬even when we cannot fully understand it.‭ ‬Think of them as visual narratives,‭ ‬starting from right to left.‭ ‬The screens,‭ ‬dating from the‭ ‬Edo period,‭ ‬17th or‭ ‬18th century,‭ ‬are meant to portray the life of the various social classes in Kyoto.‭ ‬Too bad that the glass wall protecting them prevents us from taking a closer look at the tiny figures.‭ ‬Don’t be shy about using the description to identify the important sites on the panels.‭

You will find the striking dance platform of the Kiyomizu-dara temple‭ (‬top of the fifth panel on right screen‭) ‬and,‭ ‬right below it,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Great Buddha Hall distinguished by a bright orange hue and a green roof.‭ ‬The overall view reveals black outlines dancing,‭ ‬meditating,‭ ‬fishing and carrying baskets.‭ ‬Bridges of different sizes connect the top section with the middle and the bottom sections of the panels while members of the imperial court make their way to Nijo Castle.

On your way out,‭ ‬before the countdown toward forgetfulness begins and while your mind is still fresh with images,‭ ‬find comfort in the fact that perhaps it isn’t meant for you to remember this show after all.‭ ‬You don’t need to retain all the details,‭ ‬nor are you expected to give your friends a lecture on what you learned during this visit.‭

After all,‭ ‬in Zen,‭ ‬learning and knowledge should be open and free from practical use as skills‭; ‬knowledge for its own sake is sufficient.‭ ‬In other words,‭ ‬enjoy,‭ ‬and don’t worry about giving your visit a later purpose.‭

Kyoto:‭ ‬A Place in Art‭ ‬is showing at the Morikami Museum through Oct.‭ ‬17‭ ‬along with‭ ‬Kaiju‭!‬ Monster Invasion‭!‬,‭ ‬an exhibit of toys based on Japanese monster movies.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬561-495-0233‭ ‬or visit

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ArtsBuzz: Palm Beach Dramaworks moving to Cuillo Centre‭

The Cuillo Centre for the Arts, at right.

WEST PALM BEACH‭ ‬--‭ ‬Like many a local resident in this downbeat economy,‭ ‬Palm Beach Dramaworks has decided to rent instead of buy.

Long in the market for a new theater to replace its current‭ ‬85-seat digs,‭ ‬the‭ ‬10-year-old professional theater company in West Palm Beach announced today it will be signing a‭ ‬20-year lease to move into the Cuillo Centre for the Arts at Clematis and Narcissus,‭ ‬with a grand opening expected in November‭ ‬2011.

Dramaworks had been looking at a variety of theater sites over the years,‭ ‬as far away as Palm Beach Gardens,‭ ‬but West Palm Mayor Lois Frankel has been working to keep the organization in the city.‭ ‬She succeeded by persuading the local Community Redevelopment Agency‭ (‬CRA‭) ‬to purchase the building from former car dealer and occasional Broadway producer Bob Cuillo and leasing it to move Dramaworks.

In recent years,‭ ‬Dramaworks had been in negotiations with Cuillo to buy the building themselves,‭ ‬but could never reach a satisfactory agreement.‭ ‬The lease offers a purchase option within the first six years.‭ ‬

The theater,‭ ‬a former movie house as well as home to Florida Repertory Theatre,‭ ‬was dark for many years before reopening in‭ ‬1999‭ ‬as the residence of the short-lived Burt Reynolds Institute of Theatre Training.‭ ‬At the time,‭ ‬it was renovated with a love-it-or-hate-it steeply raked auditorium that offered excellent sight lines but treacherous entry and exit,‭ ‬particularly for senior audience members.

Dramaworks intends to gut the theater and reconfigure the seating in a larger version of its current auditorium.‭ ‬At the moment,‭ ‬the Cuillo seats‭ ‬377.‭ ‬Expected seating capacity after the reconfiguration will be about‭ ‬250‭ ‬seats.‭

The CRA board voted to‭ “‬conditionally approve‭” ‬the purchase for‭ ‬$2.85‭ ‬million.‭ ‬Like Florida Stage,‭ ‬which moved to a larger facility within the Kravis Center this summer,‭ ‬Dramaworks will soon have the potential to produce a greater variety of plays,‭ ‬since the Cuillo space will eliminate its current limitations of set changes,‭ ‬wing and fly space,‭ ‬and stage entrances.‭

Violinist Chee-Yun.
South Florida Symphony expands concert series into West Palm Beach

The South Florida‭ ‬Symphony,‭ ‬in its role as concert presenter,‭ ‬has announced a‭ ‬lineup of classical‭ ‬music programs for the season that‭ ‬for the first time‭ ‬will reach Palm Beach County.

The orchestra,‭ ‬which‭ ‬until earlier this‭ ‬year was the Key West Symphony,‭ ‬has presented similar series in Monroe County for more than a decade,‭ ‬but last year began‭ ‬hosting‭ ‬them further north.‭ ‬For the second season,‭ ‬the orchestra is‭ ‬welcoming two high-profile violinists,‭ ‬one each to the first two of its five concerts.

Chee-Yun,‭ ‬the‭ ‬celebrated‭ ‬South Korean‭ ‬violinist,‭ ‬will perform the Violin Concerto of Beethoven‭ (‬in D,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬61‭) ‬with the orchestra on‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬6‭ ‬in Key West,‭ ‬on‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬7‭ ‬at the Broward Center‭ ‬and‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬9‭ ‬at the Lincoln Theatre on Miami Beach.‭ ‬Conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso will also lead the‭ ‬group in the‭ ‬Academic Festival‭ ‬Overture of Brahms and the‭ ‬Enigma Variations of Sir Edward‭ ‬Elgar.

The fine Canadian‭ ‬violinist‭ ‬Lara‭ ‬St.‭ ‬John‭ ‬appears Dec.‭ ‬1‭ ‬at Key West‭’‬s Tennessee Williams Theatre,‭ ‬on Dec.‭ ‬2‭ ‬at the Broward Center and Dec.‭ ‬5‭ ‬at the Lincoln Theatre.‭ ‬She‭’‬ll perform Mozart‭’‬s Concerto No.‭ ‬3‭ (‬in G,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬216‭) ‬and Sarasate‭’‬s‭ ‬Ziegunerweisen‭; ‬Alfonso will lead the orchestra in the Beethoven Fourth Symphony‭ (‬in B-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬60‭)‬.

Pianist Barry Douglas,‭ ‬a frequent South Florida concert guest during the season,‭ ‬handles the huge Brahms Second Concerto‭ (‬in B-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬83‭) ‬in a concert at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach on Jan.‭ ‬30.‭ ‬He‭’‬s in Key West on Jan.‭ ‬28‭ ‬and at the Broward Center Feb.‭ ‬1,‭ ‬and the orchestra also will perform‭ ‬the‭ ‬Masquerade Suite of Aram Khachaturian and the‭ ‬Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,‭ ‬by‭ ‬the‭ ‬English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.‭

Miami native and part-time Pompano Beach resident Ellen Taaffe Zwilich sees two of her pieces on the fourth and‭ ‬fifth‭ ‬concerts‭ ‬in the‭ ‬series.‭ ‬The Sima Trio performs the Zwilich Septet for piano trio and string quartet,‭ ‬which‭ ‬had its Florida premiere earlier this year at the Kravis.‭ ‬Also on the program are the‭ ‬Brandenburg‭ ‬Concerto No.‭ ‬3‭ ‬of Bach and the‭ ‬String‭ ‬Sextet No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬in G,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬36‭) ‬of Brahms.‭ ‬Concerts are set for March‭ ‬2‭ ‬in Key West,‭ ‬March‭ ‬3‭ ‬at‭ ‬the‭ ‬Broward Center,‭ ‬and‭ ‬March‭ ‬7‭ ‬on the new Frank Gehry-designed campus of the New World‭ ‬Symphony in Miami Beach.

Pianist Adam Golka joins the orchestra on April‭ ‬29‭ ‬in Key West,‭ ‬May‭ ‬1‭ ‬at the Broward Center,‭ ‬and‭ ‬May‭ ‬2‭ ‬at the Gehry campus for‭ ‬the‭ ‬perennially popular Tchaikovsky Concerto No.‭ ‬1‭ (‬in B-flat minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬23‭)‬.‭ ‬Zwilich‭’‬s Fifth Symphony also is on the program with the‭ ‬Festive Overture of Dmitri Shostakovich.

Alfonso said the concert series marks a move‭ ‬by the‭ ‬orchestra to raise its‭ ‬arts profile.

‭“We are committed to becoming leaders in the cultural landscape of South Florida by striving to present high-level classical programming,‭ ‬world-class guest artists,‭ ‬introducing new works and most importantly to become a leader‭ ‬in music education for the area,‭”‬ she wrote in an e-mail message.‭ ‬“We are seeking grants,‭ ‬sponsorships and partnerships that will allow us this privilege.‭”‬

For more information about the series and ticket sales,‭ ‬call‭ ‬800-775-4086‭ ‬or visit

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Film review: 'The Infidel' takes on religion with some solid laughs

Richard Schiff‭ (‬left‭) ‬and Omid Djalili‭ (‬right‭) ‬in The Infidel.

By Hap Erstein

A debate is raging in this country over what it means to be Muslim.‭ ‬The ethnic comedy‭ ‬The Infidel‭ ‬will hardly resolve things,‭ ‬but it least it tosses some leavening humor at the question.‭

Following its debut in the spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and its subsequent limited runs in New York and California,‭ ‬director Josh Appignanesi’s send-up of religious stereotypes opts for South Florida as the next market to attempt to gain a box office foothold.‭ ‬Not a bad strategy when you consider the left turn the film’s plot takes.

You see,‭ ‬the‭ ‬infidel‭ ‬of the title‭ ‬is British Muslim Mahmud Nasir‭ ‬(Omid Djalili‭)‬,‭ ‬as indifferent to his religious faith as his children are to him.‭ ‬The biggest challenge he expects to face is his son Rashid’s looming wedding,‭ ‬but‭ ‬--‭ ‬shades of‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles‭ ‬--‭ ‬his fiancee’s stepfather is a fanatical and intolerant Muslim cleric who doubts the Nasirs are‭ “‬proper Muslims‭” ‬or that Rashid is worthy of his stepdaughter.

But that crisis pales next to Mahmud’s discovery,‭ ‬upon the death of his mother,‭ ‬of his birth certificate.‭ ‬It seems that middle-aged,‭ ‬pudgy,‭ ‬bald-headed Mahmud‭ ‬--‭ ‬who looks like a Muslim Bob Hoskins‭ ‬--‭ ‬was adopted at birth.‭ ‬Not only that,‭ ‬but he is actually Jewish,‭ ‬and his birth name is Solly Shimshillewitz.


It is not that he hates Jews,‭ ‬just that he is hopelessly ignorant of them beyond their stereotypical characteristics.‭ ‬So he needs a crash course in what a Jew is and how they behave‭ ‬--‭ ‬how they walk,‭ ‬dance,‭ ‬shrug and sigh‭ ‬– again,‭ ‬shades of‭ ‬La Cage.‭ ‬The only Jew he knows is the antagonistic transplanted New York cabbie,‭ ‬Lenny‭ (‬Richard Schiff from TV’s‭ ‬The West Wing‭)‬,‭ ‬who inexplicably takes on the role of Jew coach.‭ ‬Then,‭ ‬like Eliza Doolittle at the ball,‭ ‬Mahmud gets tested by attending a bar mitzvah with Lenny.

Much of this could easily come off as offensive,‭ ‬but is saved by the performance of Djalili,‭ ‬a comedian-actor with an ingratiating manner and a sky spin on the dialogue.

Not even he can save the film from its sentimental conclusion,‭ ‬which grinds the tale to a decided halt,‭ ‬but there are a few solid laughs before then,‭ ‬enough to wish the film luck trying to get out beyond Florida.‭

The Infidel is currently showing at Movies of Delray,‭ ‬Movies of Lake Worth,‭ ‬Sunrise Cinemas-Deerfield Mall and Sunrise Cinemas-Sunrise‭ ‬11.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Sept. 4-7

Self-Portrait‭ (‬1889‭)‬,‭ ‬by Vincent van Gogh.

Art:‭ ‬One of the most revelatory,‭ ‬absorbing art shows I’ve ever seen was‭ ‬The Studio of the South,‭ ‬an exhibit exploring the relationship between Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin and the work they created while briefly living together in the French town of Arles in late‭ ‬1888.‭ ‬I caught it at the Art Institute of Chicago in‭ ‬2001,‭ ‬and it was remarkable to see how the influence the two artists had on each other,‭ ‬particularly when it came to color.‭ ‬Tomorrow at the Norton Museum of Art,‭ ‬one of the last self-portraits van Gogh painted before his suicide in July‭ ‬1890‭ ‬will be on display until Feb.‭ ‬8.‭ ‬The Norton is getting the painting in exchange for what is probably the finest painting it has,‭ ‬Gauguin’s‭ ‬Christ in the Garden of Olives‭ (‬1889‭)‬,‭ ‬in which the suffering Christ appears as Gauguin,‭ ‬but with the bright-red hair of van Gogh.‭

Christ in the Garden of Olives‭ (‬1889‭)‬,‭ ‬by Paul Gauguin.

Garden of Olives is going out on loan in a couple weeks to a traveling Gauguin retrospective that will appear at London’s Tate Modern and Washington’s National Gallery,‭ ‬which in return is lending the van Gogh to the Norton.‭ ‬Few artists hold the iconic status of the tragic Dutch painter,‭ ‬and this beautiful portrait will no doubt draw ample crowds to the West Palm museum.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬832-5196‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭ – ‬G.‭ ‬Stepanich

George Clooney in The American.

Film:‭ ‬Want proof that the summer is coming to a close‭? ‬Loud,‭ ‬violent action pictures such as‭ ‬The Expendables and‭ ‬Takers are giving way this weekend to‭ ‬The American,‭ ‬as close as we will ever come to an art house hit-man movie.‭ ‬True,‭ ‬it does star George Clooney as a loner professional assassin holed up in a small Italian village trying to avoid some Swedes who want to eradicate him,‭ ‬but any resemblance to a commercial entertainment is strictly coincidental.‭ ‬Directed by Anton Corbijn with a maddeningly methodical‭ ‬--‭ ‬as in‭ “‬slow‭” ‬--‭ ‬pace,‭ ‬the film will grow on you if you let it,‭ ‬as does Clooney’s internal performance,‭ ‬devoid of his usual easy charm.‭ ‬At area theaters.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Gregg Weiner and Erin Joy Schmidt in‭ ‬50‭ ‬Words.

Theater:‭Coral Gables‭’ ‬GableStage closes out its year-round theater season with one of its best productions in quite a while,‭ ‬an emotional roller-coaster look at the disintegration of a marriage:‭ ‬50‭ ‬Words,‭ ‬by Michael Weller,‭ ‬whose best-known plays‭ ‬--‭ ‬Moonchildren and‭ ‬Loose Ends‭ ‬--‭ ‬premiered decades ago.‭ ‬But he is at the top of his game putting a Brooklyn yuppie couple,‭ ‬Jan‭ (‬Erin Joy Schmidt‭) ‬and Adam‭ (‬Gregg Weiner‭)‬,‭ ‬under the microscope over a single night when they find themselves alone,‭ ‬having sent their overprotected son off to a friend’s sleepover.‭ ‬It should have been a night of romance,‭ ‬but long-festering wounds get picked at,‭ ‬secrets get revealed,‭ ‬claws get bared and even audience members in happy,‭ ‬stable relationships will find themselves identifying with the action on stage.‭ ‬Both Schmidt and Weiner are first-rate in these white-hot roles,‭ ‬under Joe Adler’s usual unflinching direction.‭ ‬Continuing through Sept.‭ ‬12.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬305‭) ‬445-1119‭ ‬for tickets.‭ ‬– H.‭ ‬Erstein

The Jonas Brothers,‭ ‬with Demi Lovato.

Music:‭ ‬More big-name acts are in town at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in the next couple days,‭ ‬beginning with Toby Keith‭ (‬Should’ve Been a Cowboy‭) ‬tomorrow night.‭ ‬Keith’s flag-waving during the runup to the second Iraq War gained the country singer many new fans and plenty of media attention during his dispute with the Dixie Chicks.‭ ‬The former Oklahoma oil hand appears with Trace Adkins on a tour called‭ ‬American Ride.‭

Three days later,‭ ‬it’s tween heaven as the Jonas Brothers bring their brand of squeaky-clean corporate pop to the Cruzan,‭ ‬with Demi Lovato of Disney’s‭ ‬Camp Rock as their opening act.‭ ‬The Jonases have not yet managed to cross over from entertaining the younger set to adult artistic respectability,‭ ‬but they’re serious about what they’re doing,‭ ‬and it may be that one day one or all of the siblings will make that breakthrough.‭ ‬Tickets for Keith and the Jonases are available through Live Nation/Ticketmaster.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Theater review: 'Mack and Mabel' at Broward Stage Door offers a lot to like

Ken Clement,‭ ‬Shane R.‭ ‬Tanner,‭ ‬Mara Gabrielle
and Joey Zangardi in Mack and Mabel.

By Hap Erstein

After first-rate productions of‭ ‬A Little Night Music and‭ ‬The Drowsy Chaperone,‭ ‬and now a very credible mounting of the problematic‭ ‬Mack and Mabel,‭ ‬we are going to have to stop being so surprised when the Broward Stage Door Theatre delivers satisfying entertainment.

The formerly erratic company has been coming through with the goods more and more,‭ ‬giving us hope for such demanding shows as‭ ‬On the Town and‭ ‬Light in the Piazza,‭ ‬which are on the schedule for later this season.‭

Mack and Mabel,‭ ‬the bittersweet tale of silent movie producer-director Mack Sennett and his‭ “‬Bathing Beauties‭” ‬muse and love interest Mabel Normand,‭ ‬is substantially darker in tone than composer-lyricist Jerry Herman’s megahits‭ (‬Hello,‭ ‬Dolly‭!‬,‭ ‬Mame,‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles‭)‬.‭ ‬Undoubtedly that is why‭ ‬--‭ ‬like Mabel herself‭ ‬--‭ ‬the show died before its time,‭ ‬running only‭ ‬66‭ ‬performances on Broadway in‭ ‬1974.

The script by Michael Stewart is sketchy at best,‭ ‬but it serves what is generally acknowledged to be Herman’s best score.‭ ‬Herman has long expressed a special affection for the show,‭ ‬which explains why he has been preoccupied with revising and reviving‭ ‬Mack and Mabel for the past‭ ‬35‭ ‬years.

Shane R. Tanner and Mara Gabrielle in Mack and Mabel.

The Stage Door production incorporates a lot of those revisions,‭ ‬but the show’s chief asset remains its songs.‭ ‬The score ranges from the highs of the anti-love ballad‭ ‬I Won’t Send Roses and the bluesy‭ ‬Time Heals Everything to a signature Hermanesque rousing anthem,‭ ‬When Mabel Comes in the Room,‭ ‬which brazenly rips off the title numbers of‭ ‬Dolly‭!‬ and‭ ‬Mame.‭

Although it is not the only reason‭ ‬Mack and Mabel failed to generate an audience originally,‭ ‬much of the blame is placed on the show’s downbeat ending.‭ ‬In all of its various revivals,‭ ‬efforts have been made to give the conclusion a more positive spin,‭ ‬even if only ironic.‭ ‬So it is at the Stage Door,‭ ‬which one could call less than honest,‭ ‬but then Stewart’s book takes plenty of liberties with the facts throughout the show.

Nevertheless,‭ ‬as long as you are not a film historian,‭ ‬there is a lot to like in this production.‭ ‬Shane R.‭ ‬Tanner,‭ ‬looking suspiciously like a young Orson Welles,‭ ‬carries the evening as crusty,‭ ‬staunchly unsentimental Mack Sennett,‭ ‬obsessed with making his two-reeler comedies and disdainful of anything resembling an art film.‭ ‬He sings with authority,‭ ‬delivers his dialogue persuasively enough and‭ ‬--‭ ‬to his credit‭ ‬--‭ ‬never bothers to try to soften Sennett’s character.

Less successful in an even less-dimensional assignment is Mara Gabrielle‭ (‬Mabel‭)‬,‭ ‬but she too knows her way around a song,‭ ‬belting out‭ ‬Wherever He Ain’t and‭ ‬Time Heals Everything with power to spare.

As part of the show’s revisions,‭ ‬the role of Fatty Arbuckle‭ ‬--‭ ‬another of Sennett’s stable of stars‭ ‬--‭ ‬was added,‭ ‬though he serves little dramatic purpose beyond comic relief.‭ ‬He is played here by the always welcome Ken Clement,‭ ‬who feels underemployed.‭ ‬The only other featured player is Kelly Cusimano as second banana Lottie Ames.‭ ‬She barrels through her second act number,‭ ‬Tap Your Troubles Away,‭ ‬well enough,‭ ‬but needs to pull back on her facial tics.

Director Michael Leeds builds scenes from the script outline,‭ ‬managing a more cohesive narrative than exists on the page.‭ ‬And whenever the story starts evaporating,‭ ‬he relies on choreographer Chrissi Ardito to cover up the plot holes with dance flash.‭ ‬Unfortunately,‭ ‬the show includes several extended sequences on the set of‭ ‬The Keystone Kops,‭ ‬Sennett’s most lasting legacy,‭ ‬but they are nowhere near as funny as the actual movie shorts that play before the show and at intermission.

Mack and Mabel is hardly a perfect show and probably never will be,‭ ‬but it has a great score and enough entertainment value to make it worth seeing.

MACK AND MABEL,‭ ‬Broward Stage Door Theatre,‭ ‬8036‭ ‬W.‭ ‬Sample Road,‭ ‬Coral Springs.‭ ‬Through Sept.‭ ‬26.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$34-$42.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬344-7765.‭