Monday, November 29, 2010

Theater review: Fine performances mark nuanced, subtle 'Collected Stories'

Barbara Bradshaw and Kim Morgan Dean
in Collected Stories.
(Photo by George Schiavone)



By Hap Erstein

Most productions of Donald Margulies‭’ ‬wily,‭ ‬articulate drama‭ ‬Collected Stories portray the relationship between renowned short story writer Ruth Steiner and her persistent protégé Lisa Morrison as the literary equivalent of‭ ‬All About Eve. ‭

For despite her seeming innocence and adoration of the older writer,‭ ‬the ambitious Lisa ultimately betrays her trust,‭ ‬making public a very personal reminiscence,‭ ‬using it as the basis for her first novel.

But in the hands of director Margaret Ledford,‭ ‬deftly drawing a pair of remarkable performances from Barbara Bradshaw‭ (‬Ruth‭) ‬and Kim Morgan Dean‭ (‬Lisa‭)‬,‭ ‬the play becomes something more balanced and nuanced,‭ ‬asking us to consider the artistic and personal ethics involved,‭ ‬leaving it up to the audience to decide how they feel about the ownership of the story.

You could call‭ ‬Collected Stories an issue play,‭ ‬if it were not brimming with such fascinating,‭ ‬fully dimensional characters.‭ ‬Ruth Steiner is a meticulous writer who spouts wisdom about the craft with curmudgeonly affection.‭ ‬Undoubtedly at a sacrifice of her own literary output,‭ ‬she has devoted years to mentoring young writers of promise through classes and tutorials at NYU.

As the play begins,‭ ‬an apparently intimidated Lisa enters Ruth’s Greenwich Village apartment for a coaching session with the legendary woman.‭ ‬All nervous flutter,‭ ‬Lisa speaks with the cadences of a Valley Girl,‭ ‬which make her all the more difficult to take seriously.‭

Yet she manages to worm her way into Ruth’s life,‭ ‬becoming her clerical aide,‭ ‬a job which comes with the perk of intimate attention and editing suggestions on her own writing.‭ ‬Gradually,‭ ‬Lisa begins speaking better and dressing with a new sophistication,‭ ‬as Ruth rubs off on her.‭ ‬Soon,‭ ‬she has a book of her short stories published and critically well received.

One day,‭ ‬Ruth confides in Lisa the details of a life-changing love affair she had years earlier with the tortured,‭ ‬alcoholic poet‭ ‬Delmore Schwartz.‭ ‬When Lisa uses the story,‭ ‬barely fictionalized,‭ ‬in her debut novel,‭ ‬Ruth feels understandably betrayed.‭ ‬But as Lisa explains,‭ ‬she was only being true to her artistic impulses,‭ ‬just as Ruth long taught her.‭

Dean,‭ ‬returning to South Florida for this production,‭ ‬reminds us why she quickly became one of the most accomplished young actresses in the region in the few short years she lived down here.‭ ‬In addition to the impressive transition she makes from naïve student to cunning professional writer,‭ ‬she retains a bit of the former in a tasty scene in which she reads and relishes her first‭ ‬New York Times review.

Bradshaw is such a wryly comic performer that she rarely gets a juicy dramatic role like Ruth,‭ ‬but she holds her own tutorial in how to mesmerize an audience when she does.‭ ‬Here she gives a very layered characterization,‭ ‬alternately steely and maternal,‭ ‬tough and gentle.‭ ‬The years are erased as she recalls her youth with her idol-lover,‭ ‬and she rises to the demands of the final payoff scene with consummate skill.

If the performance rings a bit false,‭ ‬it is because Ruth is frequently described as being Jewish and Bradshaw never convinces us of that ethnic background,‭ ‬no matter how many Yiddish phrases she drops into her conversation.‭ ‬A minor quibble.

Douglas Grinn contributes a wonderfully textured writer’s apartment,‭ ‬full of antiquated equipment‭ ‬--‭ ‬a dial phone,‭ ‬an electric typewriter‭ ‬--‭ ‬that silently tell us about Ruth.‭ ‬There are plenty of reasons to see this Mosaic production,‭ ‬and the play itself is high on the list.‭ ‬But at the top are‭ ‬surely the two memorable performances that breathe such vitality into Margulies‭’ ‬words.

COLLECTED STORIES,‭ ‬Mosaic Theatre,‭ ‬American Heritage School,‭ ‬12200‭ ‬West Broward Blvd.,‭ ‬through Sunday,‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬5.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$37.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬577-8243.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Art feature: Art world converges on Art Basel 'party'

Shade Compositions‭ (‬2009‭) ‬by Rashaad Newsome.‭
(Courtesy‭ ‬Frederic Snitzer Gallery,‭ ‬Miami‭)‬


By Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt

Beginning Thursday,‭ ‬the contemporary art world will be in Miami Beach and its environs for the second largest art fair in the world:‭ ‬Art Basel Miami Beach.

This includes artists,‭ ‬art critics,‭ ‬private dealers,‭ ‬advisers,‭ ‬galleries,‭ ‬curators,‭ ‬collectors,‭ ‬celebrities‭ – ‬and yes,‭ ‬mere lovers of art.‭ ‬The known,‭ ‬the not-so-known,‭ ‬the conservative and the bizarre‭ — ‬all will preen,‭ ‬posture and push their way through the heavy crowds to view artworks from both emerging and well-established artists for the first time.‭ ‬Millions of dollars will change hands as people vie for work by the next big star or biggest art-world phenomenon.

Frederic Snitzer,‭ ‬owner of the Frederic Snitzer Gallery in Miami and also a member of the Art Basel Selection Committee,‭ ‬puts it this way:

‭“‬There is an enormous amount of competition for a limited amount of material,‭” ‬he said.

This competition takes place on multiple levels.‭ ‬Galleries compete to woo the top collectors.‭ ‬Avid collectors compete to acquire the best work.‭ “‬People practically kill to get into the early previews,‭” ‬Snitzer said.

‭“‬Art Basel‭” ‬itself is one fair,‭ ‬but it has also become an umbrella phrase for the‭ ‬20‭ ‬or so satellite,‭ ‬smaller fairs that take place simultaneously each December.‭ ‬They run the gamut from innovative to kitschy and appeal to a diverse audience.‭ ‬But most repeat attendees agree that there are three significant satellite fairs not to miss if you’re a trend watcher.‭

These are the New Art Dealer’s Alliance‭ (‬NADA‭) ‬Art Fair,‭ ‬Scope Miami and Pulse‭ ‬Miami‭ (‬This is not to say that the others aren’t good.‭ ‬The Miami Beach Visitor’s Bureau has a list of all the fairs:‭ ‬http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/visitors/art_basel_satellite‭_‬09.asp‭)‬.‭

Art Basel Miami Beach is housed at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Here’s a look at the main fair and these three satellites:

Art Basel Miami Beach

The first stop is the Miami Beach Convention Center for Art Basel Miami Beach,‭ ‬which is the sister show of world’s largest art fair,‭ ‬Art Basel Switzerland,‭ ‬now in its‭ ‬42nd year.‭ ‬Art Basel Miami‭ ‬Beach‭ ‬features more than‭ ‬250‭ ‬leading galleries from North America,‭ ‬Europe,‭ ‬Latin America,‭ ‬Asia and Africa,‭ ‬showing works by more than‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬artists of the‭ ‬20th and‭ ‬21st centuries.‭ ‬The show‭ ‬comprises‭ ‬the world’s most prestigious galleries and will set the stage for the art world for the following year.‭

Wendy Blazier,‭ ‬chief‭ ‬curator of The Boca Raton Museum of Art,‭ ‬attends each year to remain aware of trends and emerging artists.

‭“‬Art Basel is the most important art fair in North America,‭” ‬Blazier said.‭ “‬It allows the average person,‭ ‬as well as the most erudite scholar,‭ ‬access to galleries from around the world without having to travel.‭ ‬In five hours or so,‭ ‬you can see every major gallery in the world.‭”

In order to navigate Art Basel,‭ ‬one should be aware that there are different components.‭ ‬Art Galleries is the main sector and features‭ ‬180‭ ‬galleries that were selected during the highly competitive selection process.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Art Kabinett program is where these galleries present small,‭ ‬curated exhibitions.‭ ‬In the‭ ‬Art Nova sector,‭ ‬50‭ ‬emerging and established galleries from‭ ‬17‭ ‬countries are presenting new works by either two or three artists.‭

Art Positions creates a platform for a single major project from one artist,‭ ‬allowing curators,‭ ‬critics and collectors to discover ambitious new talents.‭ ‬Art Public features projects by internationally renowned artists installed in the outdoor public spaces.‭

Apart from the exhibits there are numerous public art lectures and salon-type events.‭ ‬There’s even a nightlife component beautifully situated at an oceanfront pavilion built just for this occasion.‭ ‬But don’t worry if it’s all starting to seem a bit overwhelming.‭ ‬There are plenty visual aids throughout the show,‭ ‬and they even have a helpful‭ ‬iPhone/Blackberry app:‭ ‬http://www.artbaselmiamibeach.com/go/id/jph/

Having curators‭ ‬such as Blazier in attendance contributes to the life cycle of the art,‭ ‬which,‭ ‬hopefully,‭ ‬will end up in museum exhibits,‭ ‬creating‭ ‬prestige and‭ ‬enhancing value.‭ ‬Galleries spend an enormous amount of money to participate in these fairs to reach diverse art world constituents in one location.‭ ‬It’s worth it,‭ ‬Snitzer said.

‭“‬The art market now doesn’t reflect the rest of the economy.‭ ‬As the recent auctions indicated,‭ ‬it is very strong,‭”‬ he said.

One might assume that a fair as prestigious as‭ ‬Art‭ ‬Basel Miami Beach would be far beyond the price range for novice or newer collectors,‭ ‬but‭ ‬think again.

‭“‬The number one mistake that people make is to believe that the fair is not somehow accessible to them.‭ ‬They may go to the satellite shows to collect,‭ ‬but they’d be surprised that there is a great range of prices.‭” ‬Snitzer said.‭

Snitzer’s gallery will‭ ‬exhibit new work by Rashaad Newsome,‭ ‬a video artist who was recently featured in the Whitney Biennial with a piece in which Newsome orchestrates a group of women using a Nintendo‭ ‬Wii.‭

The‭ ‬New Art Dealers Alliance‭ (‬NADA‭) ‬Art Fair
gathers at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach.
‭ (‬Photo by Dakota Fine‭)‬


New Art Dealers Alliance‭ (‬NADA‭) ‬Art Fair

Now in its eighth year,‭ ‬the New Art Dealers Alliance‭ (‬NADA‭) ‬Art Fair is recognized as a significant showcase for emerging galleries.‭ ‬The fair is free and open to the public,‭ ‬reflecting this not-for-profit‭’‬s mission to make contemporary art more accessible to the general public.‭ ‬The fair will feature‭ ‬89‭ ‬galleries from around the world,‭ ‬as well as performances,‭ ‬lectures,‭ ‬and events,‭ ‬and draws attention to innovative contemporary art from rising stars.‭

This year NADA will unveil a new initiative‭ — ‬NADA Projects‭ ‬— developed to augment the fair’s gallery presentations with innovative and idiosyncratic projects.‭ ‬These more economically sized booths will allow young galleries and non-profits to participate.‭

The prices for NADA artists can range from a few hundred dollars to‭ ‬$100,000.‭ ‬This fair is often noted as a launching pad for future participation in‭ ‬Art Basel.‭

Pandora‭ ‬(2010‭)‬,‭ ‬by Enrique Gomez de Molina‭.
(‬Courtesy Spinello Gallery,‭ ‬Miami‭)

Scope‭ ‬Art Show

Scope Art Show,‭ ‬now in its‭ ‬10th year,‭ ‬has made its mark by showcasing the most bizarre and innovative emergent art from around the world and returns this year to its‭ ‬2008‭ ‬midtown Miami location‭ — ‬an‭ ‬80,000-square-foot pavilion centrally located in the heart of the Wynwood Gallery Arts District.

Scope will present‭ ‬85‭ ‬international galleries,‭ ‬upholding its tradition of solo
and thematic group shows presented alongside museum-quality programming,‭ ‬collector tours,‭ ‬screenings,‭ ‬and special events.‭ ‬Scope‭ ‬is often viewed as the leading creative R+D arena‭ ‬for a wider audience of tastemakers who make art their business.‭

“Scope is a very good fit for the artists I’m showing,‭” ‬said Anthony Spinello,‭ ‬owner of the Spinello Gallery in Miami.‭ “‬It’s known for being cutting-edge and experimental.‭ ‬Scope features both emerging and mid-career artists while Basel is more blue-chip.‭ ‬Scope introduces new artists with potential‭ – ‬diamonds in the rough.‭”

Spinello is optimistic about both the sales and the quality of the work.‭ “‬I think this will be the best year.‭ ‬Sales have been very positive and expected to continue to be so.‭ ‬The work I’m exhibiting is the best I’ve exhibited,‭” ‬he said.

Spinello‭’‬s gallery will exhibit new work by‭ ‬Cuban artist Enrique Gomez de Molina,‭ ‬who creates hybrid creatures‭ ‬that are‭ ‬meant to be both fascinating and humorous.‭

Dripping Fireworks‭ (‬2009‭)‬,‭ ‬by Sarah Anne Johnson,‭
‬featured at Pulse Contemporary Art Fair.‭
(‬Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery,‭ ‬New York‭)‬.‭


Pulse‭ ‬Contemporary‭ ‬Art Fair

‬While Art Basel is perceived as‭ ‬blue chip and NADA and Scope as directly on the cutting edge,‭ ‬Cornell DeWitt,‭ ‬the new executive director of the Pulse Contemporary‭ ‬Art Fair,‭ ‬sees that fair’s niche as resting somewhere in‭ ‬between.‭

“Pulse does the best job,‭ ‬hands down,‭ ‬with bridging the gap in between Basel and the satellite fairs,‭” ‬DeWitt said.‭ ‬“While Basel has the most established artists and the satellite fairs have younger,‭ ‬newer artists,‭ ‬Pulse has the younger galleries and new artists,‭ ‬as well as very established galleries and artists.‭”

DeWitt (pictured at right in a photo by Adam Golfer) also anticipates positive sales and predicts this to be a breakout year.

‭“‬One trend I’ve noticed is that,‭ ‬after a couple of years where people were concerned about the art market,‭ ‬this year people are excited,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬Galleries are not being as cautious.‭ ‬They’re ready to give it all they’ve got.‭”

DeWitt has renewed Pulse’s commitment to Miami.‭ “‬We don’t want‭ ‬to be seen as carpetbaggers.‭ ‬I’ve made it a priority to involve Miami.‭ ‬We have the largest number of Miami galleries and artists.‭ ‬We’ve involved the Miami community,‭ ‬such as a partnership with the New World Symphony.‭”

Basel’s presence,‭ ‬as well as the presence of the satellite fairs,‭ ‬solidifies Miami’s reputation as a key global location for making,‭ ‬buying,‭ ‬selling and viewing art.‭ ‬But Miami is unique because,‭ ‬while other fairs have an air of snobbery and elitism,‭ ‬Miami is known as the place where people can view incredible art‭ ‬and let their hair down.

DeWitt,‭ ‬who relocated from New York,‭ ‬enjoys the different vibe in Miami and Miami Beach.

‭“‬No other fair scene‭ – ‬not London,‭ ‬New York,‭ ‬Basel‭ – ‬has the same energy and excitement.‭ ‬Miami is a blast and I love it.‭”

Blazier agrees:‭ ‬“The world is coming to our doorstep for an art party.‭”

Jenifer Mangione Vogt is a marketing communications professional and resident of Boca Raton.‭ ‬She’s been enamored with painting for most of her life.‭ ‬She studied art history and received her B.A.‭ ‬from Purchase College.

Art Basel Miami Beach takes place from Dec.‭ ‬2-5‭ ‬at the Miami Beach Convention Center.‭ ‬Hours are‭ ‬Thursday through Saturday,‭ ‬noon to‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬noon until‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$36‭ ‬for a one-day ticket,‭ ‬$60‭ ‬for a two-day ticket,‭ ‬$75‭ ‬for a permanent pass,‭ ‬and‭ ‬$20‭ ‬for an evening ticket‭ (‬valid from‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭)‬.‭ ‬A reduced one-day ticket‭ (‬students with ID,‭ ‬senior citizens aged‭ ‬62‭ ‬and above,‭ ‬groups of‭ ‬10‭ ‬or more‭) ‬is‭ ‬$22.‭ ‬Free admission for children under‭ ‬16‭ ‬accompanied by an adult.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit www.artbaselmiamibeach.com.

New Art Dealers Alliance‭ (‬NADA‭) ‬Art Fair takes place Dec.‭ ‬2-5‭ ‬at the Deauville Beach Resort,‭ ‬Miami Beach.‭ ‬Hours are Thursday,‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Friday and Saturday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭;‬ Sunday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is free and open to‭ ‬the public.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬212-594-0883,‭ ‬or visit www.newartdealers.org.

Scope Miami takes place‭ ‬from Dec.‭ ‬1-5‭ ‬in an‭ ‬80,000-square-foot pavilion at‭ ‬3055‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Miami Ave.‭ (‬at the corner of NW‭ ‬36th St.‭) ‬in the heart of the Wynwood Gallery Arts District,‭ ‬Miami.‭ ‬Hours are Wednesday through Saturday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$20.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬www.scope-art.com/Index.php/miami/.

Pulse‭ ‬Contemporary‭ ‬Art Fair takes place‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬2-5‭ ‬at The Ice Palace,‭ ‬1400‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Miami Ave.‭ (‬at NW‭ ‬14th St.‭)‬,‭ ‬Miami.‭ ‬Hours:‭ ‬Thursday,‭ ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Friday and Saturday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬ Admission is‭ ‬$15‭ ‬or‭ ‬$10‭ ‬for students,‭ ‬seniors and groups.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬www.pulse-art.com/miami.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Nov. 26-30

A scene from a past Florida Classical Ballet Theatre
production of The Nutcracker.

Dance:‭ ‬Let the‭ ‬Nutcrackers begin:‭ ‬Today marks‭ ‬the‭ ‬beginning of the annual productions of‭ ‬the‭ ‬ballet Peter Tchaikovsky scored in‭ ‬1892,‭ ‬a year‭ ‬before his death,‭ ‬and while the composer thought his work was inferior to his other ballets,‭ ‬generations of dancers,‭ ‬choreographers and audiences beg to differ.‭ ‬Florida Classical Ballet Theatre‭ ‬gets its four performances under way this afternoon and evening at the Eissey Campus Theatre on the Palm Beach State College campus in Palm Beach Gardens‭; ‬shows today and Saturday are at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬and‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$22-$32‭; ‬call‭ ‬207-5900.‭ ‬

Meanwhile,‭ ‬the Boca Ballet Theatre mounts Dan Guin‭’‬s interpretation of The Nutcracker in three performances‭ ‬Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic Heights High School Performing Arts Theater in Boca Raton.‭ ‬The production stars Irina Dvorovenko‭ ‬of American Ballet Theatre and Alexei Tyukov of the Colorado Ballet.‭ ‬Shows are at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬and‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday‭ ‬and‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$25-$35.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬995-0709‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.bocaballet.org.

Next week,‭ ‬the Miami City Ballet offers the George Balanchine choreography of the ballet in seven performances‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬4-5,‭ ‬10-12‭) ‬at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬and Boca Raton‭’‬s Harid Conservatory plans two performances of the ballet‭’‬s Act II at Spanish River High School Dec.‭ ‬11‭ ‬and‭ ‬12.‭ (‬Did we mention‭ ‬the‭ ‬Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida version‭? ‬That‭’‬s set for Dec.‭ ‬10-12,‭ ‬18-19‭ ‬at three different venues in Miami,‭ ‬Aventura and Fort Lauderdale.‭)‬

In other words,‭ ‬there‭’‬s no shortage of performances of this classic work of dance,‭ ‬and the same will probably be true for‭ ‬many‭ ‬seasons to come.‭

James Franco in 127 Hours.

Film:‭ ‬One of the year’s best movies and likely to be one of the hardest to sell is Danny Boyle’s‭ (‬Slumdog Millionaire‭) ‬suspenseful,‭ ‬true tale of Aron Ralston’s trek into the caverns of Utah and his ordeal of being pinned by a rock in a crevice for‭ ‬127‭ ‬Hours.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬as you probably already know,‭ ‬he extricates himself by cutting off his arm with a dull pocket knife,‭ ‬yet the film is a celebration of life and Ralston’s survival instincts.‭ ‬By the nature of the story,‭ ‬you would think the movie would be hopelessly static,‭ ‬but Boyle is too wily and resourceful a director for that.‭ ‬And even if you are more couch potato than outdoorsman,‭ ‬James Franco will have you identifying with Ralston’s plight each desperate moment of those hours.‭ ‬Opening today at area theaters.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

The cast of Dreamgirls.


Theater:‭ ‬In‭ ‬1981,‭ ‬director-choreographer Michael Bennett conceived a musical called‭ ‬Dreamgirls,‭ ‬a look at the seamy underside of the music industry as seen through the rise,‭ ‬squabbles and ultimate dissolution of a girl group that will bring The Supremes to mind.‭ ‬Every major revival of the show since then has stuck closely to Bennett’s staging,‭ ‬until now.‭ ‬A new touring edition at the Kravis Center this week gives Dream girls a new spin,‭ ‬thanks to Robert Longbottom‭ (‬Side Show‭) ‬at the helm and a new scenic design by Robin Wagner dominated by five mobile,‭ ‬floor-to-ceiling LED lighting panels.‭ ‬Henry Krieger has done some tinkering with his score,‭ ‬including a new context for the song‭ ‬Listen from the‭ ‬2006‭ ‬film,‭ ‬and a hefty dynamo named Moya Angela will win your heart with her primal scream on‭ ‬And I Am Telling You‭ ‬I Am Not Going.‭ ‬Go,‭ ‬but hurry:‭ ‬It is only here through Sunday.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Stefan Hempel,‭ ‬Catherine‭ ‬Klipfel and Emanuel Wehse
of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Morgenstern Trio.‭

Music:‭ ‬On Tuesday,‭ ‬the Kravis Center‭’‬s Young Artists series gets going with the first of its four programs,‭ ‬this one featuring the Morgenstern Trio of Germany.‭ ‬Violinist Stefan Hempel,‭ ‬cellist Emanuel Wehse and pianist Catherine Klipfel are‭ ‬making‭ ‬ a good name for themselves in chamber music circles,‭ ‬and a look at a YouTube promotional video shows a group that can tackle the rigors of the Beethoven Archduke Trio,‭ ‬among other pieces,‭ ‬compellingly.‭

The‭ ‬Morgensterns‭ (‬who named‭ ‬themselves‭ ‬after German poet Christian Morgenstern‭) ‬will perform youthful works by Shostakovich‭ (‬Piano Trio No.‭ ‬1‭ ‬in C minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬8‭) ‬and Bernstein‭ (‬his lone Piano Trio‭)‬,‭ ‬and the beautiful G minor trio‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬15‭) ‬of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana,‭ ‬who wrote the piece in‭ ‬1855‭ ‬after the death of his daughter Bedriska,‭ ‬who was only‭ ‬4.

The‭ ‬trio makes its Florida debut with this appearance at the Rinker Playhouse at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesday.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$30‭; ‬call‭ ‬832-7469‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.kravis.org.

The View From Home 16: New releases on DVD


By John Thomason

Everyone Else‭ (‬Cinema Guild‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬26
SLP:‭ ‬$20.49

If‭ “‬mainstream cinema‭”‬ is shorthand for grounded,‭ ‬explicable,‭ ‬coherent story arcs told with logic and closure,‭ ‬then art cinema‭ ‬– the yin to Hollywood‭’‬s yang‭ ‬– is the terrain of the unknown,‭ ‬the inexplicable,‭ ‬the frustratingly open-ended.‭ ‬Its filmmakers are fully aware that,‭ ‬as in life,‭ ‬they don‭’‬t have all the answers,‭ ‬and their stories do not conclude in tidy,‭ ‬message-filled packages.‭ ‬More likely,‭ ‬the package has been destroyed,‭ ‬the wrapping paper strewn about‭ ‬the floor,‭ ‬the message missing.

Most movies canonized as classics‭ ‬– most of the films that wind up on critics‭’‬ top‭ ‬10‭ ‬lists each year‭ ‬– fall squarely in the middle of these polarizing‭ ‬modi operandi.‭ ‬But I usually have the most respect for‭ ‬movies that compromise nothing to mainstream conventions,‭ ‬that question rather than explain,‭ ‬that observe rather than preach.‭ ‬Everyone Else,‭ ‬the second feature from German director Maren Ade,‭ ‬is one such film.

Movies about relationships have rarely contained this much raw intimacy and uncomfortable insight into human conditions,‭ ‬because most of them seek to manipulate us one way or the other,‭ ‬fitting their characters into prescribed roles:‭ ‬We sympathize with the battered wife or the henpecked husband,‭ ‬and‭ ‬morality usually wins out in the end.‭ ‬Everyone Else,‭ ‬which has its roots in both the authentic,‭ ‬ragged psychodramas of Cassavetes and Bergman,‭ ‬and the lost-in-a-strange-land meanderings of Antonioni,‭ ‬is far more complex in its evocation of a seemingly blissful coupling that may or may not dissipate over a vacation in the Mediterranean.

The central players are Chris‭ (‬Lars Eidinger‭)‬,‭ ‬a struggling architect,‭ ‬and Gitti‭ (‬Birgit Minichmayr‭)‬,‭ ‬a music publicist.‭ ‬For Chris,‭ ‬the couple‭’‬s vacation in Sardinia serves a‭ ‬dual purpose,‭ ‬one that involves the potential reconstruction of a villa.‭ ‬Small battle lines are drawn early in the film:‭ ‬Gitti resents that Chris won‭’‬t compromise any of his architectural ideals even if it means never bringing any of his projects to fruition,‭ ‬while it‭’‬s quite obvious that Chris sometimes finds Gitti‭’‬s behavior offensive and embarrassing.‭ ‬When he and Gitti meet one of Chris‭’‬ colleagues,‭ ‬Hans,‭ ‬and his pregnant wife Sana,‭ ‬for dinner,‭ ‬their relationship begins to fully unravel,‭ ‬one painful tether at a time.‭ ‬A directionless mountain climbing adventure at the film‭’‬s midpoint only serves to reinforce the idea that Chris and Gitti are strangers in a foreign land,‭ ‬stranded in physical and emotional oblivion.

But the more you stick with this patient,‭ ‬perceptive movie,‭ ‬the more Chris‭’‬s casual coldness and hurtful solo excursions begin to look like justifiably erected walls against Gitti‭’‬s increasingly fractious,‭ ‬mentally unstable behavior.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a subtle transformation that happens almost without the viewer realizing it.‭ ‬We don‭’‬t know what to make of an ambiguous scene early on the film,‭ ‬when Gitti teaches hateful admonitions to Chris‭’‬s niece before pantomiming her demise in a pool.‭ ‬By the end,‭ ‬this behavior looks like a warning sign shot from the bow of‭ ‬a disturbed mind.

It‭’‬s important to understand that Ade‭’‬s film is,‭ ‬by its uncertain end,‭ ‬a potent dissection of mental illness‭ ‬--‭ ‬not,‭ ‬per se,‭ ‬a fundamental depiction of male-female gender roles in contemporary courtship.‭ ‬First of all,‭ ‬gender roles are an‭ ‬antiquated notion to Ade,‭ ‬who confuses them early on by having Chris agree to be made up like a woman.‭ ‬Which is why it‭’‬s an offensive notion to read one particular web critic‭’‬s diagnosis of the film as‭ ‬a‭ ‬Men Are‭ ‬from Mars,‭ ‬Women Are from Venus study in gender differentiation.

‭ ‬If that were true,‭ ‬Ade would be saying that all women are irrational,‭ ‬combustible nutcases and that all men are mean,‭ ‬calculating jerks.‭ ‬Gitti and Chris are neither of these‭; ‬in fact,‭ ‬they‭’‬re both so relatable in their peculiarities that you‭’‬ll hope for their happiness as you would a friend in a similar situation‭ ‬– even if said happiness can only be achieved by splitting up.



The Elia Kazan Collection
‭ ‬(20th Century Fox‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬9
SLP:‭ ‬$137.99

The holiday gift set to end them all,‭ ‬The Elia Kazan Collection compiles‭ ‬18‭ ‬movies from the classic Hollywood mainstay,‭ ‬many of which make their American DVD debuts.‭ ‬These include‭ ‬1953‭’‬s‭ ‬Man on a Tightrope,‭ ‬with Frederic March as a member of a Czech circus troupe‭; ‬1960‭’‬s‭ ‬Wild River,‭ ‬a Jim Crow racial potboiler with Montgomery Clift‭; ‬and‭ ‬1963‭’‬s Academy Award-nominated‭ ‬America,‭ ‬America,‭ ‬a drama about a persecuted man in Constantinople that‭ ‬was inspired by‭ ‬the story of‭ ‬Kazan‭’‬s uncle.

Some other long out-of-print titles,‭ ‬such as the‭ ‬1945‭ ‬melodrama‭ ‬A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and‭ ‬1952‭’‬s‭ ‬Viva Zapata,‭ ‬with Marlon Brando as a Mexican revolutionary,‭ ‬are included here as well,‭ ‬along with a couple of punchy noirs‭ (‬Boomerang‭!‬ and‭ ‬Panic in the Streets‭) ‬as well as the director‭’‬s most prestigious titles‭ (‬East of Eden,‭ ‬On the Waterfront,‭ ‬Splendor in the Grass‭)‬.‭ ‬My favorite Kazan title,‭ ‬the Glenn Beck-anticipating media satire‭ ‬Face in the Crowd,‭ ‬is here too.‭ ‬Martin Scorsese‭’‬s name is almost as big as Kazan‭’‬s on the packaging‭; ‬Marty selected the films and produced the first disc in this collection,‭ ‬the new documentary‭ ‬A Letter to Elia.‭ ‬This is mouth-wateringly good.


The Hungry Ghosts‭ (‬Virgil Films‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬2
SLP:‭ ‬$20.49

The idea of lost,‭ ‬troubled souls converging amid the bustle of urban America is to independent film what ostentatious explosions and buff men walking in slow motion are to Jerry Bruckheimer productions.‭ ‬We need more of both like we need more cancer,‭ ‬laugh-tracked sitcoms and vampire novels.‭ ‬The Hungry Ghosts,‭ ‬the writing and directing debut of actor Michael Imperioli,‭ ‬falls wholeheartedly and unceremoniously in the former genre,‭ ‬an inexplicable favorite of film festivals if nowhere else.‭ ‬The specific characters may be different‭ ‬– a hard-living late-night talk show host‭ (‬Steve Schirripa‭) ‬and an alcoholic charmer‭ (‬Nick Sandow‭) ‬attempting to rekindle a relationship with a pretty but aggressive and newly homeless meditation companion‭ (‬Aujanue Ellis‭) ‬– but their loneliness,‭ ‬connected through vice,‭ ‬pain and Eastern religion,‭ ‬is all too familiar.‭ ‬This pointless pity parade collects perverts,‭ ‬drunks,‭ ‬drug addicts,‭ ‬degenerates,‭ ‬deadbeats and other timeless miscreants of the big,‭ ‬nasty city,‭ ‬while claiming on its official box-art description to channel‭ “‬the zeitgeist of our times.‭”‬ Hardly.‭ ‬The film‭’‬s summation,‭ ‬as voiced by Schirripa‭’‬s blowhard,‭ ‬is that‭ “‬the world is a cesspool.‭”‬ A perennial diagnosis,‭ ‬perhaps,‭ ‬but by no means original or zeitgeisty.


Tropic of Cancer‭ (‬Olive Films‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬26
SLP:‭ ‬$18.99

Joseph Strick‭’‬s adaptation of Henry Miller‭’‬s‭ ‬Tropic of Cancer is another reminder that,‭ ‬as with‭ ‬Ulysses and‭ ‬The Bell Jar,‭ ‬great literature does not always make great cinema.‭ ‬Rip Torn plays Miller in a story that transplants the drifting writer/horndog from the book‭’‬s‭ ‬‘30s milieu to modern-day Paris,‭ ‬hoodwinking everyone he meets to satisfy his desires for food,‭ ‬sex and lodging.‭ ‬Technically faithful to the book,‭ ‬the barely coherent nonstory shambles along,‭ ‬jump cut by jump cut,‭ ‬audiovisual mismatch by audiovisual mismatch,‭ ‬until it settles into a languorous groove anchored by frank discussions of sexual organs that earned this once-shocking art-house drivel an NC-17.‭ ‬It‭’‬s boring both despite and because of its artsy quirks,‭ ‬and the acting is wooden and at times laughable.‭ ‬Curious Miller aficionados will likely encompass the movie‭’‬s microscopic demographic,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s no surprise that the most engaging part of Betty Botley‭’‬s screenplay are the passages lifted directly from the source material.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Music reviews: Confident 'Creation,' strong 'Turandot,' elegant Mozart

Soprano Maria Jette.

Here are capsule reviews of three recent classical music events:

Master Chorale of South Florida‭
(Nov.‭ ‬20,‭ ‬Wold Center for the Performing Arts,‭ ‬Boca Raton‭)

The Creation is one of Franz Joseph Haydn‭’‬s finest works,‭ ‬and even in the‭ ‬abridged version the Master Chorale of South Florida presented Saturday night,‭ ‬the beauty and vigor‭ ‬of this oratorio‭ ‬were well in evidence.

Joined by the Miami Symphony Orchestra in a‭ ‬special‭ ‬resource-sharing arrangement,‭ ‬the‭ ‬105-member chorale sounded well-rehearsed and strong,‭ ‬in particular during the concluding‭ ‬Sing to God and the much-beloved‭ ‬The Heavens Are Telling.

But the bulk of the work goes to its soloists,‭ ‬and chorale director Joshua Habermann had three very able ones at his disposal.‭ ‬Soprano Maria Jette sang with power and clarity,‭ ‬and with a vibrato-less,‭ ‬pure sound that was ideal for Haydn‭’‬s aesthetic.‭ ‬Tenor Glenn Siebert‭ ‬was just as good,‭ ‬with his clean,‭ ‬light-limbed voice also suiting the music well.‭ ‬Bass Graham Fandrei delivered‭ ‬Rolling in Foaming Billows with verve,‭ ‬style and excellent diction,‭ ‬and the three voices blended sweetly at trio time.

Habermann‭’‬s tempos were relatively brisk,‭ ‬and the Miami Symphony was generally a fine accompanist,‭ ‬though there were some minor ragged edges here‭ ‬and there throughout‭ (‬imprecise entrances,‭ ‬slightly sour string intonation‭) ‬that surely could have been cleaned up with more rehearsal time.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬this was a confident performance,‭ ‬which gave the proceedings a high degree of engagement.‭

Also,‭ ‬it was an interpretation that was modest,‭ ‬careful and highly respectful of Haydn,‭ ‬and one that showed off the fertility of the composer‭’‬s imagination to fine effect.

Although it has become usual to omit the third section of this oratorio in many performances,‭ ‬it was a shame to lose it here,‭ ‬particularly because it would have been nice to hear more from Jette,‭ ‬Siebert and Fandrei‭ ‬and the chorus,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬which didn‭’‬t have too much to do Saturday night.

Given the omission of the third section and the dominance of the‭ ‬solo singing,‭ ‬it might have been a good idea to offer‭ ‬a couple choruses from‭ ‬The Seasons,‭ ‬Haydn‭’‬s other late oratorio,‭ ‬so that audiences could get a fuller idea of just what this large and durable singing group is all about.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich

‭***

Lise Lindstrom as Turandot and Frank Porretta as Calaf,‭
‬in Florida Grand Opera‭’‬s‭ ‬Turandot.
(Photo by Gaston de Cardenas)


Turandot/Florida Grand Opera
(Nov.‭ ‬13,‭ ‬Ziff Ballet Opera House,‭ ‬Miami‭)

Turandot‭ ‬last took the stage at Florida Grand Opera in‭ ‬2004,‭ ‬and this season Puccini‭’‬s last opera has‭ ‬come around again as a farewell to the production Bliss Hebert first designed for the company in‭ ‬1982‭ (‬it closes Dec.‭ ‬4‭ ‬at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale‭)‬.

It‭’‬s a good-looking show,‭ ‬and on opening night,‭ ‬its giant dragons,‭ ‬fanciful trees and elaborate,‭ ‬vivid costumes came off as an appropriate way to present the fairy-tale world of Gozzi‭’‬s tale,‭ ‬which after all has its roots in the legends of old Araby.‭ ‬But while the large house warmly applauded the set on its first appearance,‭ ‬it was the singing they came for,‭ ‬and in the two leading female roles,‭ ‬they were not disappointed.

American soprano Lise Lindstrom,‭ ‬who is currently making something of a specialty of the title role,‭ ‬having sung it at the Met and prepping it for La Scala,‭ ‬has‭ ‬a‭ ‬big,‭ ‬strong voice with a cutting quality that enabled her to slice‭ ‬through Puccini‭’‬s big orchestra‭ ‬and easily be heard.‭ ‬She embodied the force and malevolence of the ice princess well,‭ ‬and was able to communicate her softer potential,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬with a sensitive reading of‭ ‬In questa reggia.

Hometown favorite Elizabeth Caballero was a fine Liu,‭ ‬matching Lindstrom in sheer vocal power and seizing the stage during her‭ ‬Signore,‭ ‬ascolta.‭ ‬Her first entrances had a wide vibrato,‭ ‬but this tightened up as her voice warmed,‭ ‬and she received the warmest ovations at the final curtain.

Tenor Frank Porretta was a decent Calaf in one sense,‭ ‬with a good stage presence and careful management of his voice so that all of his high notes,‭ ‬especially the B in‭ ‬Nessun,‭ ‬dorma,‭ ‬were reliably there when he called on them.‭ ‬But his soft-edged voice was too underpowered overall,‭ ‬and in the love duet he was almost drowned out by Lindstrom and the orchestra.

Jonathan G.‭ ‬Michie was an excellent,‭ ‬sharp-voiced Ping,‭ ‬and Kevin Langan an empathetic Timur,‭ ‬with a‭ ‬dark quality to his bass voice that was persuasively sorrowful.‭ ‬Conductor Ramon Tebar led with drive and fire,‭ ‬and he had a first-rate orchestra to help him,‭ ‬a fine band that beautifully handled the wide variety and breadth of this fascinating score.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich

‭***

Pianist Tao Lin.

Lynn Philharmonia/Tao Lin‭
(Nov.‭ ‬5,‭ ‬Wold Center for the Performing Arts‭)‬

It‭’‬s often been noted that despite his early death at just‭ ‬35,‭ ‬and despite the astonishing pieces he wrote while still in his teens,‭ ‬Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually was a late bloomer.

But things started to come together for him as a great innovator in‭ ‬1786,‭ ‬the year of‭ ‬Le Nozze de Figaro and the Piano Concerto No.‭ ‬25‭ (‬in C,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬503‭)‬,‭ ‬which received a tender,‭ ‬lovely performance at the hands of pianist Tao Lin on Nov.‭ ‬5‭ ‬at a concert by the Lynn Philharmonia.

Lin,‭ ‬who teaches at the Boca Raton college,‭ ‬offered a reading of the Mozart that was technically polished and musically wise,‭ ‬offering up the almost childlike theme of the third movement,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬with a kind of personality and wit that made it more memorable.‭ ‬Throughout,‭ ‬he and the Lynn,‭ ‬led by conductor Albert-George Schram,‭ ‬played the concerto with restraint and taste that allowed its bolder moments to shine simply by being performed so faithfully.

In the first movement,‭ ‬Lin played his own cadenza,‭ ‬an arrangement of two existing cadenzas by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Josef Hofmann.‭ ‬The sheets of runs‭ ‬at the end of the cadenza came off as eminently logical rather than extravagant,‭ ‬and well in keeping with Lin‭’‬s elegant reading of this beautiful piece.‭

The other two works on the program,‭ ‬Glinka‭’‬s‭ ‬Ruslan and Ludmila overture and the Symphony No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬in D,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬43‭) ‬of Jean Sibelius,‭ ‬offered good demonstrations of the strengths and weaknesses of this commendable conservatory band.‭ ‬The group‭’‬s expanded string section‭ (‬which allows it to do the Sibelius and to open the season with the Mahler Fifth‭) ‬is impressive,‭ ‬with its two violin sections fully up to the challenge of playing the zippy main theme with admirable unity,‭ ‬and at a headlong tempo.‭ ‬

Things were just as good in the Sibelius,‭ ‬allowing for some early uncertainty about the pulse‭; ‬the violins in particular were able to bring off the naked emotionalism of the primary section of the first movement with exactly the right kind of big-orchestra Romantic bravado this music demands.

But the brass playing remains something of a problem for the Philharmonia,‭ ‬even if on balance there were more things right than there were wrong,‭ ‬and granting some slack for the difficulty of the music.‭ ‬The Sibelius has many exposed moments for the brass in which there is nothing underneath,‭ ‬and when things are in good alignment,‭ ‬this kind of scoring offers something akin to an aural painting in which swatches of color are more important than the composition.‭

In the Saturday night performance,‭ ‬there were simply too many flubbed notes and‭ ‬too much‭ ‬inexact intonation,‭ ‬which marred the overall effect of the music and almost made it appear as though there were two orchestras on stage:‭ ‬One featuring a high-flying string section,‭ ‬and one with a brass department still finding its wings.‭

It‭’‬s exciting that Schram has programmed these major orchestral works for the Lynn,‭ ‬in keeping with his notable readings of the Shostakovich‭ ‬Tenth,‭ ‬Prokofiev Fifth and‭ ‬the Schoenberg‭ ‬Five Pieces for Orchestra in recent years.‭ ‬It‭’‬s to be hoped that a big improvement in brass consistency will be evident when the orchestra tackles the Verdi‭ ‬Requiem this spring‭; ‬that would be another reason among many to‭ ‬eagerly anticipate that concert.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dance review: MCB marks 25th anniversary with sparkling opener

A scene from Miami City Ballet's staging of Bugaku.



By Jan Engoren

The Miami City Ballet is‭ ‬nothing if not‭ ‬synonymous with the name Edward Villella,‭ ‬the‭ ‬founder and‭ ‬artistic director.‭

Villella‭’‬s second act,‭ ‬after a long and distinguished‭ ‬career dancing with‭ ‬George Balanchine‭’‬s New York City Ballet,‭ ‬was the creation of‭ ‬Miami‭’‬s world-class ballet troupe,‭ ‬which he has grown and nourished over the past‭ ‬25‭ ‬years.‭

His philosophy,‭ ‬like Balanchine‭’‬s,‭ ‬of making the dance preeminent over the storyline and bringing with it real-life elements and an‭ ‬economy of movement,‭ ‬is evident in his staging of‭ ‬classic Balanchine works of particular significance to his own dance career.‭

For the‭ ‬25th anniversary,‭ ‬Villella has selected‭ ‬these‭ ‬meaningful works,‭ ‬and more important,‭ ‬two‭ ‬works that Balanchine created with him in mind.‭

The first is‭ ‬the‭ ‬exotic‭ ‬Bugaku,‭ ‬a tribute to the refined elegance of Japanese music and dance,‭ ‬evoking imagery of the Japanese imperial court,‭ ‬in which,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1963,‭ ‬Villella danced the male lead.‭ ‬The second‭ ‬selection‭ ‬is‭ ‬the‭ ‬expansive‭ ‬Theme and Variations‭ ‬– where,‭ ‬again,‭ ‬Villella left his signature in the demanding lead role in the‭ ‬1960‭ ‬New York City Ballet revival.‭

These pieces,‭ ‬along‭ ‬with‭ ‬Jerome Robbins‭’‬ Fanfare,‭ ‬were part of MCB‭’‬s first program of the season,‭ ‬which played Miami and Fort Lauderdale and concludes its run this afternoon at the Kravis Center.

The first piece of the program is‭ ‬Fanfare‭ ‬– a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II that premiered on the night‭ ‬of her coronation in‭ ‬1953.‭

Fanfare,‭ ‬choreographed to Benjamin Britten‭’‬s‭ ‬A Young Person‭’‬s Guide to the Orchestra,‭ ‬opens with a breathtaking tableau of ballerinas against a sky-blue backdrop,‭ ‬dressed in sherbet-colored tutus poised in a moment of stillness‭ (‬a Balanchine signature‭) ‬before they pirouette into action.

Villella appears onstage as the narrator,‭ ‬Major Domo.

Dressed as instruments in the orchestra‭ ‬--‭ ‬the woodwinds in blue,‭ ‬the brass in yellow,‭ ‬the strings in muted two-toned orange,‭ ‬and the percussion in whimsical stripes and sombreros‭ ‬--‭ ‬the show is lively and‭ ‬lighthearted,‭ ‬with dancers responding to the orchestral cues.

In particular,‭ ‬there is a comic‭ ‬exchange between the brass instruments and the‭ ‬percussion cymbals and drums as‭ ‬danced by principal‭ ‬dancers,‭ ‬Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez,‭ ‬Renato Penteado and‭ ‬Carlos Miguel Guerra,‭ ‬husband of‭ ‬statuesque principal dancer,‭ ‬Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg,‭ ‬whose graceful and expressive harp lends‭ ‬an‭ ‬elegant and refined‭ ‬sensibility to‭ ‬offset the more jovial antics of the men.

The live orchestra‭ (‬reinstated‭ ‬through‭ ‬2013‭ ‬thanks to a‭ ‬$900,000‭ ‬Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant‭)‬ under conductor Gary Sheldon,‭ ‬plays an integral role in the piece and it‭ ‬could not be staged to this‭ ‬kind of‭ ‬effect without the live music.‭ ‬The music seamlessly integrates into the dancers‭’‬ performance and becomes a counterbalance to the story of the dance.

Bugaku,‭ ‬considered shocking when it first premiered,‭ ‬opens to the minimal sounds of string instruments‭ ‬(the score is by Toshiro Mayuzumi‭) ‬setting the stage for the five‭ ‬female‭ ‬dancers,‭ ‬dressed in white parasol-inspired tutus,‭ ‬with geisha-white makeup waiting the arrival of the men,‭ ‬dressed in white‭ ‬samurai-inspired‭ ‬tunics.

Principal dancer Haiyan Wu,‭ ‬who danced with the National Ballet of China before coming to Miami in‭ ‬2003,‭ ‬is both austere and sensual‭ ‬as she‭ ‬aloofly woos her bethrothed and the audience.‭ ‬Mimicking traditional‭ ‬Japanese modesty,‭ ‬with subtle movements of her head and countenance,‭ ‬she entices and beguiles her suitor,‭ ‬danced with aplomb by principal dancer Garcia-Rodriguez.

Representing a marriage ritual,‭ ‬the two dancers engage in a highly stylized mating‭ ‬imagery that begins as delicate and sensual and ends with‭ ‬the‭ ‬lovers‭ ‬entwined in an erotic and acrobatic‭ ‬pas de‭ ‬deux.‭

The choreography leads the extremely flexible Wu to contort her body in angular and unfamiliar shapes and to position‭ ‬her arms,‭ ‬hands,‭ ‬and feet‭ ‬in often awkward-looking‭ ‬geometric configurations.‭

The third act,‭ ‬George Balanchine‭’‬s‭ ‬Theme and Variations,‭ ‬created‭ ‬in‭ ‬1947‭ ‬to Tchaikovsky‭’‬s‭ ‬Orchestral‭ ‬Suite No.‭ ‬3‭ ‬for American Ballet Theater,‭ ‬opens‭ ‬with a‭ ‬lavishly ornate blue-and-gold Russian-inspired backdrop.

The dancers,‭ ‬spotlighting‭ ‬Kronenberg,‭ ‬Guerra and the corps de ballet,‭ ‬are‭ ‬likewise dressed in blue and gold,‭ ‬like Russian porcelain.

The‭ ‬piece consists of a set of‭ ‬12‭ ‬variations,‭ ‬through which the complexity and beauty of‭ ‬classical dance is celebrated.‭ ‬Unconnected by a storyline,‭ ‬the focus is purely on the dance and‭ ‬gives Kronenberg and Guerra an opportunity to shine‭;‬ his strength and agility highlighted‭ ‬by‭ ‬her grace and poise.‭ (‬The minimal costumes are by‭ ‬Haydée Morales.‭)

Although staged‭ ‬with‭ ‬considerably less fanfare than one might expect for a‭ ‬25th anniversary celebration,‭ ‬all three of Villella‭’‬s programs received standing ovations‭ ‬at the Broward Center on Nov.‭ ‬12.‭ ‬

Miami City Ballet‭presents Program I‭ ‬at‭ ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$19-$169.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬832-7469‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.kravis.org‭; ‬or,‭ ‬call the MCB at‭ ‬(305‭) ‬929-7010‭ ‬or toll-free‭ ‬at‭ (‬877‭) ‬929-7010,‭ ‬or visit www.miamicityballet.org.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Nov. 19-22

Bjorn Lomborg in Cool It‭!

Film:‭ ‬Somehow the matter of global warning has become a political football,‭ ‬perhaps in part because it veracity was expressed so eloquently by former Vice President Al Gore in his Oscar-winning film,‭ ‬An Inconvenient Truth.‭ ‬Now comes what is essentially a rebuttal film,‭ ‬Cool It‭!‬,‭ ‬in which Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg argues that a little more rational thought and pragmatic counter-efforts are a more appropriate response to the overstated problem.‭ ‬Documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner gives her subject plenty of screen time to make his case and answer back the vast majority of scientists who side with Gore.‭ ‬Cool It‭!‬ is not entirely persuasive,‭ ‬but it does do that rare thing at the movies these days,‭ ‬get the audience thinking.‭ ‬At area theaters. -- H. Erstein

Barbara Bradshaw and Kim Morgan Dean in Collected Stories.
(Photo by George Schiavone)

Theater:‭ ‬Playwright Donald Margulies posits a literary‭ ‬All About Eve story in his smart,‭ ‬involving‭ ‬Collected Stories,‭ ‬now getting a well-acted,‭ ‬nicely balanced production at Mosaic Theatre in Plantation.‭ ‬In it,‭ ‬a renowned,‭ ‬well-established writer of short stories gives one of her students the complex assignment of becoming her assistant.‭ ‬Soon,‭ ‬the writer shares some intimate details,‭ ‬which the young woman turns into source material for a novel.‭ ‬Issues of the nature and limits of art,‭ ‬as well as loyalty and propriety,‭ ‬surface.‭ ‬Barbara Bradshaw and Kim Morgan Dean face off in a rendering if the play that will have you arguing among yourselves on the ride home.‭ ‬Continuing through Dec.‭ ‬5.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬57-STAGE.‭ -- H. Erstein

Alexander Sitkovetsky.

Music:‭ ‬The Kronberg Academy of Germany has been‭ ‬working‭ ‬with rising violinists,‭ ‬violists‭ ‬and‭ ‬cellists‭ ‬since‭ ‬1993‭ ‬at its home in‭ ‬the‭ ‬small town of Kronberg,‭ ‬just outside Frankfurt.‭ ‬Four or five years ago,‭ ‬the academy decided to expand its reach to the United States,‭ ‬and in‭ ‬2008‭ ‬formed the American Friends of Kronberg Academy.

Its Palm‭ ‬Beach chapter is based in Boca Raton,‭ ‬where its CEO is Axel Langhorst,‭ ‬a native of Kronberg whose international‭ ‬business‭ ‬career has included executive positions‭ ‬with Nabisco.

‭ ‬“It is about nurturing the top talent,‭ ‬giving them the experience with the senior great artists,‭ ‬and passing on this knowledge to the next generation,‭”‬ Langhorst said.‭

On Monday evening,‭ ‬the young‭ ‬Russo-British violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky‭ (‬nephew of Dmitri‭) ‬appears in concert‭ ‬at the Boca Steinway Gallery,‭ ‬accompanied by the Spanish‭ ‬pianist‭ ‬Jose Menor.‭ ‬Sitkovetsky will play the Franck sonata and the Third Sonata of Grieg‭ (‬in C minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬45‭)‬,‭ ‬along‭ ‬with‭ ‬two showpieces:‭ ‬The‭ ‬Devil‭’‬s Trill sonata of Tartini and the‭ ‬Zigeunerweisen of Sarasate.

‭ ‬It‭’‬s the first of six concerts the Palm Beach County chapter will present this season.‭ ‬Sitkovetsky appears again Jan.‭ ‬27‭ ‬and‭ ‬29,‭ ‬followed by two recitals Feb.‭ ‬9‭ ‬and‭ ‬10‭ ‬by the Chinese violist‭ ‬Peijun Xu.‭ ‬The Japanese cellist Dai Miyata closes out the series on March‭ ‬8.‭

The recital begins at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Monday and is a fundraiser for the American Friends‭ ‬of Kronberg Academy.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$40-$60.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬283-1815‭ ‬or send an e-mail to‭ ‬info@usfriendskronbergacademy.org. -- G. Stepanich

A scene from Theme and Variations.
(Photo by Joe Gato)


Dance:‭ ‬The Miami City Ballet comes to the Kravis Center starting tonight for four performances of its Program I,‭ ‬which features Jerome Robbins‭’‬ Fanfare‭ (‬Britten‭)‬ and two‭ ‬works by George Balanchine:‭ ‬Bugaku‭ (‬Mayuzumi‭) ‬and‭ ‬Theme and Variations‭ (‬Tchaikovsky‭)‬.‭ ‬Edward Villella‭’‬s‭ ‬Miami Beach-based‭ ‬company is celebrating its‭ ‬25th anniversary this season,‭ ‬and will mark the milestone with a mounting of John Cranko‭’‬s version of Prokofiev‭’‬s‭ ‬Romeo and Juliet in Program IV.

The MCB‭ (‬whose first Palm Beach County performance was at the Duncan Theatre in‭ ‬1987‭) ‬is the only company hereabouts to perform with a live orchestra,‭ ‬the Opus One,‭ ‬which will be playing through‭ ‬2013‭ ‬with the‭ ‬company courtesy of a‭ ‬$900,000‭ ‬Knight Foundation grant.‭

Program I opens with‭ ‬Fanfare,‭ ‬which was choreographed in‭ ‬1953‭ ‬for‭ ‬Britain‭’‬s new monarch,‭ ‬Queen Elizabeth II.‭ ‬It‭’‬s set to Britten‭’‬s‭ ‬Young Person‭’‬s Guide to the Orchestra‭ (‬itself a treatment‭ ‬of music by Henry Purcell‭)‬,‭ ‬and starts‭ ‬with a‭ ‬tableau of‭ ‬ballerinas dressed in sherbet-colored tutus in a moment of stillness before they pirouette into action. Dressed as instruments in the orchestra‭ ‬--‭ ‬the woodwinds in blue,‭ ‬the string instruments in yellow,‭ ‬and the percussion in whimsical stripes and sombreros‭ ‬– Fanfare‭ ‬is lively and lighthearted and interacts in a call-and-response‭ ‬with the live orchestra.

Shows‭ ‬are set for‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today,‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬and‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬and‭ ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$19-$169.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬877-929-7010‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.miamicityballet.org.‭ ‬Tickets also are‭ ‬available‭ ‬through‭ ‬the Kravis Center at‭ ‬832-7469‭ ‬or www.kravis.org.‭

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Film feature: New independent cinema house at FAU boosts area's film offerings

An outside view of the Living Room Theaters.

By Hap Erstein

With the exception of the occasional adventuresome booking at West Palm Beach’s long-since defunct Carefree Theatre,‭ ‬this county used to be a wasteland when it came to international,‭ ‬independent or alternative films.

But six years ago,‭ ‬a digitally projected national network,‭ ‬Emerging Cinema,‭ ‬moved into Lake Worth.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬beginning this weekend,‭ ‬comes Living Room Theaters,‭ ‬a more upscale series of intimate screening rooms on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton.

This marks only the second location for Living Room Theaters,‭ ‬following its initial start-up in Portland,‭ ‬Ore.‭ ‬So why Boca next?

‭“‬Well,‭ ‬to be perfectly honest,‭ ‬it was the university,‭ ‬FAU,‭ ‬that came to us,‭” ‬says Diego Rimoch,‭ ‬the younger half of a father-son team that owns Living Room Theaters,‭ ‬Inc.‭ “‬That was over four years ago.‭ ‬They made this proposal to us,‭ ‬saying,‭ ‘‬Would you be interested in doing this on campus‭?’ ‬It was such a great opportunity,‭ ‬we just couldn’t let it go by.‭”

No,‭ ‬he explains,‭ ‬it was not the soft economy that caused the project to take four years.‭ “‬There were a number of factors.‭ ‬This is the first time we or the university had heard of such a partnership between the public and the private sector,‭ ‬so there were a lot of things that had to be worked out,‭” ‬Rimoch says.‭ “‬We had to lay the groundwork for how the agreement would work out,‭ ‬a lot of minutiae.‭”

Having the screening rooms on campus has benefits for‭ ‬both sides.‭ ‬By day,‭ ‬these four‭ ‬50-seat theaters will be used as classrooms for FAU’s film study program.‭ ‬At night and on weekends,‭ ‬they become commercial movie houses with an adjoining European-style café serving gourmet food items,‭ ‬specialty coffees,‭ ‬beer and wine.

Traditionally in bad economic times,‭ ‬the film industry has done well,‭ ‬because going to the movies is considered one of the least expensive entertainment options.‭ ‬Rimoch also notes that this year‘s box office totals have been inflated by the proliferation of‭ ‬3D movies and their surcharges.‭

But,‭ ‬he quickly adds,‭ “‬As far as we’re considered,‭ ‬that’s not the type of market we are after.‭ ‬We’re more of the art market.‭ ‬But I still think that if you offer a great product at a good price,‭ ‬people will still come.‭ ‬In hard times,‭ ‬people need something to entertain them and take their minds away.

Typical of the fare you can expect at LRT are these opening weekend features‭ ‬--‭ ‬The Last Train Home,‭ ‬Only When I Dance,‭ ‬Soul Kitchen and the original‭ ‬1960‭ ‬Psycho.

We can expect to see more foreign films that might not otherwise make it down to South Florida.‭ “‬Yes,‭ ‬although we try to have at least half of the films playing at any one time in English,‭”‬ adds Rimoch.‭ “‬We understand that a large segment of the population feels funny about subtitles and having to read a movie.‭ ‬But yes,‭ ‬there’s obviously a large foreign component to the movies we play.

‭“‬We won’t go after commercial films.‭ ‬We’ll stick to independent films,‭ ‬and I think people appreciate that.‭”

An interior view of the Living Room Theaters on the FAU campus.

Living Room Theaters sounds like a natural competitor of Emerging Cinemas,‭ ‬which has outlets in Lake Worth and Lake Park,‭ ‬but Rimoch feels strongly that this market can support two alternative film chains.

‭“‬It’s similar,‭ ‬but we have a lot if features that they don’t have,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬But the main differentiation is that they try to be content providers,‭ ‬so their business model is based on getting distribution of the movies,‭ ‬whereas we are an IT technology vendor.‭”

Rather than focusing on expanding his network of Living Room locations,‭ ‬Rimoch expects to place his in-house digital proprietary projection software in existing theaters around the country.‭ “‬It’s a good product and it’s priced well,‭ ‬so over time we think a lot of independent theaters will find it attractive.‭”

The regular ticket price will be‭ ‬$9.50,‭ ‬but there are a variety of discounts beyond that.‭ ‬Matinees before‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬will be‭ ‬$7.50,‭ ‬students,‭ ‬educators,‭ ‬the military and seniors‭ ‬65‭ ‬and older will get in for‭ ‬$6.50.‭ ‬And all tickets on the traditionally slow business days of Monday and Tuesday will be a mere‭ ‬$5.50.

Adding to the income will be upscale food concessions,‭ ‬as different from the multiplex menu as the films are.‭ “‬We have a full-fledged kitchen,‭ ‬so we’ll be doing gourmet pizzas and salads and paninis,‭” ‬notes Rimoch.

‭“‬One of the things we say is since these are theaters by filmmakers and for filmmakers,‭ ‬we went about changing everything we didn’t like about movie theaters.‭ ‬From the environment,‭ ‬the look and feel of the theaters to the concessions,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬But the main thing I would say that is different is the movie collection.‭ ‬We care about what we show.‭ ‬I won’t say that occasionally something won’t get through that’s mot up to par.‭ ‬It happens.‭ ‬And not everybody will like everything.‭ ‬But we care a lot about what we show and we’re very careful about what we show.

‭“‬One of the things we try to do is bill the theater as a destination.‭ ‬More than people saying,‭ ‘‬Oh,‭ ‬I want to watch this movie,‭’ ‬I want people to think,‭ ‘‬I’m going to go to Living Room Theaters and see what’s playing there,‭ ‬because I know I will find something I will want to see.‭’ ”‬

LIVING ROOM THEATERS,‭ ‬Florida Atlantic University,‭ ‬777‭ ‬Glades Road,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Opening Friday.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$5.50-$9.50.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬948-2560.‭

Music feature: Master Chorale chief sees growth as group embarks on 'Creation'

The Master Chorale of South Florida.


By Greg Stepanich


When Joshua‭ ‬Habermann looks into the upturned‭ ‬100‭ ‬or so faces of the Master Chorale of South Florida,‭ ‬he sees a neighborhood.

‭“‬Choirs are the ultimate community.‭ ‬There‭’‬s no question that singing brings people together,‭”‬ Habermann said.‭ “‬I look out at that choir on Monday nights and‭ ‬I see lawyers and nurses,‭ ‬and professional musicians,‭ ‬people who are unemployed,‭ ‬retired people,‭ ‬and high school students,‭ ‬all in a room together.

‭“‬There‭’‬s not much that brings people‭ ‬of different generations and‭ ‬different backgrounds like that together,‭ ‬like singing does,‭”‬ he said.‭ ‬“I think that‭’‬s one of the great joys of it.‭”

Beginning Friday night,‭ ‬Habermann‭’‬s Master Chorale will give three performances of‭ ‬The Creation,‭ ‬the late-career oratorio of Franz Joseph Haydn that some authorities consider the composer‭’‬s masterpiece.‭ ‬The chorale will be joined by soloists Maria Jette in the soprano role,‭ ‬tenor Glenn Siebert and baritone Graham Fandrei.‭

Accompanying the‭ ‬105-member chorale and the soloists will be the Miami Symphony Orchestra,‭ ‬which is taking part in the concert as part of a resource-sharing arrangement among the MISO,‭ ‬the chorus and Lynn University in Boca Raton.‭ ‬Friday night‭’‬s performance is at Miami‭’‬s Trinity Cathedral‭; ‬Saturday night the action moves to the Wold Center for the Performing Arts on the Lynn campus‭; ‬and on Sunday afternoon,‭ ‬the choir performs at the First Presbyterian Church‭ (‬the so-called Pink Church‭) ‬in Pompano Beach.

Joshua Habermann.

Habermann,‭ ‬42,‭ ‬a San Francisco native who heads the choral music program at the University of Miami,‭ ‬is beginning his third season as the chorale‭’‬s artistic director.‭ ‬The chorus was formally established eight years ago as the chorus of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.‭ ‬The orchestra folded in the spring of‭ ‬2003,‭ ‬but the choir continued.

In March,‭ ‬the chorus will sing the Verdi Requiem with the Lynn Philharmonia under Albert-George Schram for two performances at the Wold,‭ ‬followed by one each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties,‭ ‬fulfilling the group‭’‬s three-county mission,‭ ‬Habermann said.‭ ‬The group also will appear for the second time with the‭ ‬blind Italian popera singer Andrea Bocelli when he returns to South Florida‭ ‬on Valentine‭’‬s Day‭ ‬next year‭ ‬for a concert at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

In April and May,‭ ‬the singers will join Eduardo Marturet and the MISO for two works by Gabriel Fauré:‭ ‬the Requiem,‭ ‬and the‭ ‬Pavane,‭ ‬a well-known‭ ‬orchestral piece to which‭ ‬the composer‭ ‬later‭ ‬added choral lyrics.

Habermann said he‭’‬s happy about the chorale‭’‬s progress over the past three years.

‭“‬Artistically,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve been growing a lot,‭ ‬and I‭’‬ve been really pleased with that,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬We‭’‬ve been growing in number,‭ ‬but‭ ‬also,‭ ‬honestly,‭ ‬in quality,‭ ‬which is the biggest goal of all.‭”

Habermann takes pains to stress the chorale‭’‬s non-professional status.

‭ ‬“We are an amateur chorus,‭ ‬and people come from all walks of life.‭ ‬There are many‭ ‬music‭ ‬professionals involved in it,‭ ‬but primarily we‭’‬re an amateur organization,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬[But‭]‬ having‭ ‬those professional standards,‭ ‬[that‭] ‬professional quality,‭ ‬and‭ ‬being the leading symphonic‭ ‬group in South Florida,‭ ‬and we believe we are for choruses‭ ‬--‭ ‬that has been a really rewarding experience the past three years.

‭“‬I feel that just in terms of the sound that we‭’‬re making,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve grown a great deal,‭”‬ he said.

Musical success aside,‭ ‬the chorus does face challenges,‭ ‬chiefly of a financial nature,‭ ‬Habermann said.

‭“‬We run a very lean operation,‭ ‬we have very little staff,‭ ‬and so we are well-positioned relative to other arts organizations to survive the economic downturn,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬But all the same,‭ ‬donations are down,‭ ‬and that‭’‬s always a challenge,‭ ‬there‭’‬s no question.‭”

The resource collaboration,‭ ‬which allows the chorale,‭ ‬the MISO and Lynn to cut the costs of presenting choral-orchestral presentations by sharing venues and ensembles,‭ ‬has been helpful so far.‭

“To us,‭ ‬it seemed like a great idea,‭”‬ Habermann said.‭ “‬We worked out an agreement by which we could essentially work with each other at greatly reduced fees on both sides,‭ ‬such that it would benefit both organizations and we could do two series of concerts together.‭”

This weekend‭’‬s concerts focus on the Haydn‭ ‬Creation,‭ ‬which the composer completed in‭ ‬1798,‭ ‬and which apes the Handelian oratorio that already had come to dominate the English choral tradition.‭ ‬Haydn wrote it for London,‭ ‬where it was first performed,‭ ‬and the score was published in English and German‭ (‬as‭ ‬Die Schöpfung‭)‬.‭

The text is based on the Book of Genesis,‭ ‬but also has portions from the Psalms and from‭ ‬John‭ ‬Milton‭’‬s‭ ‬Paradise Lost.‭ ‬It is a large and powerful work,‭ ‬and contains some of Haydn‭’‬s greatest music.‭

Cast in three big sections,‭ ‬the oratorio has many striking moments,‭ ‬perhaps the most famous among the being the opening,‭ ‬which starts mysteriously as the orchestra describes the void before the creation of the world.‭ ‬The chorus enters with the first words of Genesis,‭ ‬and then at the words‭ “‬And there was light,‭”‬ Haydn explodes with a huge C major chord on the word‭ “‬light.‭”

It‭’‬s a moment‭ ‬that can be overdone,‭ ‬and Habermann said precision‭ ‬is important.

‭“‬The strings play a little pizzicato blip right before that that‭’‬s always hard to get together.‭ ‬And then that outburst has to be really well-timed to be effective,‭”‬ he said.

The Creation also is the work of a deeply religious man whose Catholic faith never wavered.‭

“It just has an optimistic feeling to it.‭ ‬It‭’‬s an upbeat,‭ ‬cheerful,‭ ‬celebratory piece of music,‭”‬ Habermann said.‭ “‬Everything that I‭’‬ve read describes‭ [‬Haydn‭] ‬as a man who was comfortable with his faith,‭ ‬who was happy,‭ ‬who in his religious life saw the positive aspect of things.

‭“‬And that‭’‬s certainly what we‭’‬ve tried to instill in the singers and the orchestra as well:‭ ‬the bright,‭ ‬cheerful,‭ ‬optimistic tone of this music,‭”‬ he said.

The Master Chorale of South Florida‬sings Haydn‭’‬s oratorio The Creation‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday at Trinity Cathedral,‭ ‬Miami‭; ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University in Boca Raton‭; ‬and at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Pompano Beach.‭ ‬Joshua Habermann conducts the chorale and the Miami Symphony Orchestra,‭ ‬with soloists Maria Jette,‭ ‬Glenn Siebert and Graham Fandrei.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$30.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬954-418-6232‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.masterchoraleofsouthflorida.org.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book review: 'Journal Keeper' a compelling meditation on life, love and death


The Journal Keeper:‭ ‬A Memoir, by Phyllis Theroux
(Atlantic Monthly Press,‭ ‬279‭ ‬pp.,‭ ‬$24)

By Bill Williams

Phyllis Theroux offers readers a gift by letting us peek into the journals she kept during six years of her life beginning at age‭ ‬61.

The Journal Keeper excels on several levels‭ – ‬for the pure enjoyment of Theroux’s evocative writing,‭ ‬as a tribute to the art of journal writing,‭ ‬and as a meditation on life,‭ ‬love and death.

Aspiring writers would do well to study Theroux.‭ ‬Her gorgeous prose seduces the reader,‭ ‬who may feel compelled to grab a friend and read passages aloud.‭ ‬She describes writing as‭ “‬laboring long hours to buckle words around an idea and make a sentence slide across the page like Fred Astaire across a dance floor.‭”

The book consists of six chapters covering the years‭ ‬2000‭ ‬to‭ ‬2005,‭ ‬and includes background notes to give context to the entries.

Like most polished writers,‭ ‬Theroux is a voracious reader.‭ ‬She savors books by Thomas Merton,‭ ‬Harper Lee,‭ ‬Karen Armstrong and especially the poet Mary Oliver.‭ ‬Reading Mary Oliver‭ “‬enables me to write a few good lines from a place I hadn’t found before.‭ ‬Poetry excavates,‭ ‬blasts,‭ ‬cuts through the flab.‭”

Theroux has a poet’s eye for detail.‭ ‬Sitting in a friend’s kitchen,‭ “‬I was aware of how the air in her house has the thick flavor of dust,‭ ‬sunlight,‭ ‬old books,‭ ‬fried chicken,‭ ‬and furniture polish.‭”

We learn at the start that Theroux is divorced and lives in Virginia with her aging mother,‭ ‬a‭ “‬high school dropout Buddhist transcendentalist‭” ‬who listens to spiritual tapes,‭ ‬meditates and does yoga exercises.‭ ‬When her mother dies suddenly,‭ ‬Theroux experiences mixed feelings‭ “‬but primarily gratitude that she had been with me for so long.‭”

The author worries about aging,‭ ‬meditates on impermanence and wonders if she is a good enough writer:‭ “‬I feel at the age of‭ ‬61‭ ‬that I should be a sage,‭ ‬not a novice.‭ ‬It is embarrassing to be so shallow.‭”

But there is nothing shallow about Theroux’s writing and wisdom.‭ ‬Consider this nugget about humility.‭ “‬It suddenly struck me that true enlightenment consists in being empty,‭ ‬not full,‭ ‬of answers,‭ ‬that people who are full of answers must drag them around all day like an over-packed suitcase,‭ ‬with no room for anything new.‭”

Theroux wonders if she is captive to writing and imagines‭ “‬how it would be to let go of writing,‭ ‬to lose my grip on the chain of words that leads me through the darkness.‭ ‬Am I not a prisoner of words,‭ ‬dependent on them in a way that tethers me to my own intellect‭?”

When friends die,‭ ‬Theroux reflects deeply on life and death,‭ ‬finding that‭ “‬a funeral is like a train station waiting room.‭ ‬We’re all going to board the train someday.‭” Occasionally,‭ ‬Theroux longs‭ “‬to be‭ ‬30‭ ‬again,‭ ‬surrounded by other‭ ‬30-year-olds who are so bright,‭ ‬clever and beautiful.‭”

After the death of her mother,‭ ‬the author cherishes her life alone,‭ ‬while conceding that she misses the affections of a male lover.‭ ‬Dealing with ambiguity,‭ ‬she reminds herself that‭ “‬one’s happiness and worth must come from within.‭”

And yet out of curiosity she decides to sign up with Match.com.‭ ‬After her initial matches do not go well,‭ ‬she is‭ “‬faced with the truth that I am not a sex object.‭” ‬But then she meets Ragan Phillips,‭ ‬who is‭ “‬tall,‭ ‬bubbly and smart,‭” ‬and three years older.‭ ‬They fall in love,‭ ‬then break it off,‭ ‬and finally get back together and marry.

“‬The unfamiliar,‭ ‬unexpected security of having a partner washes over me,‭ ‬changes the landscape the way flowers do,‭” ‬she writes.‭ “‬After being alone for most of my life,‭ ‬I cannot quite believe that I’m being given a companion with whom to end my days.‭”

Those who keep a journal may be inspired anew by this book,‭ ‬and those unfamiliar with the practice may want to begin.‭ ‬Theroux has filled at least three dozen journals over the years.‭ ‬She includes a couple of pages of advice at the end of‭ ‬The Journal Keeper.‭ ‬I wish she had said more.

‭“‬Your journal,‭” ‬she writes,‭ “‬should be a wise friend who helps you create your own enlightenment.‭ ‬Chose what you think has some merit or lasting value,‭ ‬so that when you reread your journal in years to come,‭ ‬it continues to nourish you.‭”

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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Nov. 13-14

Jane‭’‬s Book of Fighting‭ (‬1985‭)‬,‭ ‬by Raymond Pettibon.

Art:‭ ‬The art of Raymond Pettibon is intimately tied to the punk culture of California,‭ ‬which perhaps isn‭’‬t surprising considering that his brother,‭ ‬Greg Ginn,‭ ‬founded Black Flag.‭ ‬This weekend at Florida Atlantic University,‭ ‬the college hosts‭ ‬Raymond Pettibon:‭ ‬The Punk Years‭ ‬1978-86,‭ ‬featuring drawings and designs done for Black Flag and other bands including Sonic Youth and the Dead Kennedys.‭ ‬There‭’‬s something about the pre-computer cartoon style of Pettibon‭’‬s work that conjures up the old days of‭ ‬cutting-edge rock,‭ ‬when art like this could be found on every college kiosk.‭

Black Flag:‭ ‬Slip It In‭ (‬1984‭)‬,‭ ‬by Raymond Pettibon.

The exhibit,‭ ‬which opens today,‭ ‬contains more than‭ ‬200‭ ‬pieces of art and will last through Jan.‭ ‬22‭ ‬in the Schmidt Gallery on FAU‭’‬s Boca Raton campus.‭ ‬Admission is free,‭ ‬and the gallery is open from‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesday through Friday,‭ ‬and‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬297-2595‭ ‬or visit www.fau.edu/galleries.

Le‭ ‬Violon D‭’‬Ingres‭ (‬1924‭)‬,‭ ‬by Man Ray.

When Man Ray moved‭ ‬from Los Angeles‭ ‬back to France in‭ ‬1951,‭ ‬where he‭ ‬had worked for years and‭ ‬spent the last‭ ‬25‭ ‬years of his life,‭ ‬he was reportedly disappointed that‭ ‬his fellow‭ ‬Americans were interested only in his photography,‭ ‬not‭ ‬his painting.‭ ‬His work on canvas remains little-known‭ ‬today,‭ ‬but the Philadelphia-born artist‭’‬s photos have become iconic,‭ ‬and today,‭ ‬the Palm Beach Photographic Centre‭ ‬opens an exhibit of some of his best-known images in a show that will run through the end of this year.‭

The‭ ‬Man Ray Legacy opens with a reception from‭ ‬5:30‭ ‬to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today at the Photographic Centre,‭ ‬which is at‭ ‬415‭ ‬Clematis St.‭ ‬Regular hours in the city center complex are from‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Monday through Thursday,‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday and Saturday,‭ ‬and‭ ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬call‭ ‬253-28000‭ ‬or visit www.workshop.org.

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in Fair Game.

Film:‭ ‬ It has been hard to miss former President George W.‭ ‬Bush around the dial hawking his new memoirs.‭ ‬But even if he weren’t so busy,‭ ‬it seems unlikely he would be in line waiting to see‭ ‬Fair Game.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬it is worth everyone else seeing for its clear-eyed look at recent history,‭ ‬specifically the case of ex-ambassador Joe Wilson,‭ ‬who very publicly refuted the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction‭ ‬--‭ ‬the rationale for our going to war‭ ‬--‭ ‬and for his candor,‭ ‬the White‭ ‬House‭ ‬endangered his wife,‭ ‬CIA agent Valerie Plame,‭ ‬by outing her.‭ ‬Sean Penn and Naomi Watts play the couple convincingly,‭ ‬under the direction of Doug Limon,‭ ‬who gives this story the‭ ‬Bourne Identity jittery camera look.‭ ‬In area theaters this weekend.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Albert Blaise Cattafi and Holly Shunkey in Vices:‭ ‬A Love Story.

Theater:‭ ‬It is a relief to report that my enthusiasm for the quirky dance musical‭ ‬Vices:‭ ‬A Love Story,‭ ‬which premiered at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton in July of‭ ‬2009,‭ ‬was not a hallucination.‭ ‬Back for an encore run,‭ ‬with several new cast members and some tightening by director Clive Cholerton and choreographer AC Cuilla,‭ ‬it again shows itself to be an innovative,‭ ‬sensuous show about a couple who meet,‭ ‬go to bed,‭ ‬then introduce themselves by mentioning their many bad habits.‭ ‬Carbonell winner Holly Shunkey and newcomer Albert Blaise Cattafi are stunning,‭ ‬contorting themselves in ways you would not think their bodies could bend.‭ ‬Continuing through Dec.‭ ‬12.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬241-7432.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

Lise Lindstrom as Turandot.‭
(‬Photo by Gaston de Cardenas‭)


Music:‭ ‬The area‭’‬s opera season opens‭ ‬tonight with the first production from Florida Grand Opera,‭ ‬Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Turandot.

Puccini died in‭ ‬1924‭ ‬with the last pages of this opera,‭ ‬a story of cruelty and love set in a mythical ancient China,‭ ‬incomplete‭; ‬they had to be finished by composer Franco Alfano for the premiere in‭ ‬1926.‭ ‬It is nonetheless a great opera,‭ ‬and best-known to the world for the tenor aria that begins the third act:‭ ‬Nessun dorma‭ (‬None shall sleep‭)‬,‭ ‬indelibly associated these days with the late Luciano Pavarotti.

The California-born soprano Lise Lindstrom stars as Princess Turandot,‭ ‬and tenor Frank Porretta is Calaf,‭ ‬the exiled Tartar prince who tries to win the heart of the princess.‭ ‬Turandot tests each suitor with three riddles,‭ ‬and unsuccessful aspirants get their heads chopped off,‭ ‬but Calaf wants to try anyway.

Also in the cast is the Cuban-American soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Liu,‭ ‬the slave girl who loves Calaf from afar.‭ ‬The staging is by Bliss Hebert,‭ ‬who‭’‬s refurbishing his original‭ ‬1981‭ ‬production for its final appearance here‭ (‬it‭’‬s been sold to the Dallas Opera‭)‬,‭ ‬and the conductor is Ramón Tebar,‭ ‬who this season formally takes over the reins of the Palm Beach Symphony.

‭FGO presents‭ ‬Turandot at the Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami beginning at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today‭; ‬subsequent performances are set for‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬16,‭ ‬19,‭ ‬24,‭ ‬and‭ ‬27,‭ ‬and for‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬21.‭ ‬The show moves to the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale for two performances at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬2‭ ‬and‭ ‬4.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$19‭ ‬to‭ ‬$175.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬800-741-1010‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬www.fgo.org.