THURSDAY, February 9

The Click Five, Big City Rock at the Roxy

Six or seven years ago, the Click Five would’ve been a boy band
à la ’N Sync or the Backstreet Boys: They’re handsome in a
non-threatening way, they sing about finding just the girl they’re
looking for, and they’ve toured with Ashlee Simpson and, well, the
Backstreet Boys. Today, though, in a world of Death Cab cuties and My
Chemical romantics, the Boston-based group of Berklee College of Music
grads are a rock band with matching suits and designer-guitar fuzz.
Don’t tell let the secret out: Greetings From Imrie House, the Click
Five’s wham-bam debut, still makes for a blast of high-octane teen pop,
from the freshly scrubbed vocal harmonies down to the highly processed
synthesizer cheese. Six or seven years ago, local openers Big City Rock
would’ve been the Wallflowers. (Mikael Wood)

Sing with me! “And you and me are free to be . . . you and me.” Have truer words ever been written? Take that, Jeff Mangum. If you remember the we-are-the-world sentiments of Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be You and Me, then you are probably living a granola lifestyle in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, or somewhere where the air has nothing but air in it. In Free to Be Friends, Sue Galloway and Julie Klausner are “friendly feminists” (we all know about the other kind) Betty and Joan in this “rip-roaring hootenanny featuring social themes, lesbian propaganda and a goofy owl with a chip on his shoulder.” Guess they won’t be attending the Lingerie Bowl. UCB Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood; Thurs., Feb. 2 & 9, 9:30 p.m.; $8. (323) 908-8702. (Libby Molyneaux)

Theater Pick:  Jay Johnson, The Two and Only

Jay Johnson got his big break when he saw a casting notice for a ventriloquist on the TV sitcom Soap. He auditioned with his wooden sidekick Squeaky. Jay got the part but Squeaky didn’t. In a funny and curiously touching scene, Jay breaks the news to Squeaky in a way that we share Johnson’s belief in the reality of his characters. In addition to Squeaky, there’s belligerent Bob from Soap, a severed head or two, a talking snake who’s afraid of snakes, a jive-talking monkey who goes ape and a vulture who calls himself The Bird of Death. The show is a genre-bender, which combines a history of ventriloquism, a bit of autobiography, hilarious comedy and the moving tale of a 71-year-old ex-vaudevillian who came out of retirement to carve Squeaky for young Jay, and shared with him his rich craft. Johnson considers ventriloquism an art, and he is truly an artist — as remarkable for his near-magical skill as for his anarchic wit, charm and humanity. And he’s certainly the only ventriloquist who ever moved me to tears. Richmark Entertainment at the Brentwood Theater, Veterans Administration Grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., W.L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (added perfs some Wed., 2 p.m., call for schedule); thru Feb. 19. (213) 365-3500. (Neal Weaver)

ART PICK: “Abo Ovo,” “Pardners”

The awkward renderings comprising “Ab Ovo” turn out to be illustrations to children’s stories — stories woven by peers of the 19 artists (some as well known as Thomas Lawson and Marnie Weber but most just now emerging) around the responses given by 19 other artists (e.g., Mike Kelley, Martha Rosler, Jim Shaw) to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, an extensive preference quiz used to determine the shape of people’s psyches (usually for legal purposes). The whole megillah was organized by Steven Hull; for the full impact, the book he compiled anthologizing the writings and images trumps the stuff on the walls, so be prepared to sit down for a while and read. But cruising through the exhibition alone yields its own strange pleasures.

Another group show with an engagingly eccentric premise, “Pardners” displays collaborative work by life partners of various inclinations; stylistic, mediumistic, social and sexual. The exhibition gently careens between video projection, drawing, ceramic, photography and what-all else, and features the work of such teams as Linda Besemer and Erika Suderburg, Brian Moss and Jody Zellen, Tetsuji Aono and Ron Faranovich, Hilja Keading and Julie Shafer, James Elaine and William Basinski, Erin Cosgrove and Hirsch Perlman, Kaucyila Brooke and Dorit Margreiter, and Clate Grunden, Joe Schmelzer and Noah Webb (whose Our Family documents, in silhouette, the three men and their two dogs).

“Ab Ovo” at Arena I, 3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Feb. 11. (310) 397-7456. “Pardners” at domestic setting, 3774 Stewart Ave., Thurs.-Sat., noon-5 p.m.; thru Feb. 11. (310) 391-8023. (Peter Frank)

Museum Pick: Peter Voulkos, Marvin Harden

This Peter Voulkos retrospective concentrates on one enduring aspect of his oeuvre: its source in Japanese ceramics. Voulkos was deeply influenced by Japanese claywork, especially the postwar revival of folk pottery traditions dating back as far as the 16th century. Throughout his career he sought to make the aesthetic of rough, worn beauty — the sabe no wabe — his own, and to do it beyond the affectations of abstract expressionism and other modernist idioms. Voulkos valued certain of those affectations (several of his ab-ex canvases and drawings augment the ceramic items), but wanted ultimately to put them at the service of an Asian sensibility rather than the other way around. He largely succeeded, producing cups and vessels even early on that were every bit as endearingly coarse and straightforward as their models.

Marvin Harden’s microspective touches briefly on several facets of his work, including its basis in nature, the honesty of its materials, and its often jewellike sensuosity. Whether making tender and exquisite renderings of birds or practically caulking slabs of earthy pigment to a support, Harden has always valued the tactility of the art object — that is, both the evidence it yields of the artist’s hand and the seductive invitation it extends to our own. As ethereal an abstractionist as he can be, Harden celebrates the material world with his own intimate sabe no wabe.

Peter Voulkos at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, 340 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m.; thru Feb. 4. (909) 865-3146. Marvin Harden at the Armory Center, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, Tue.-Sun., noon-5 p.m., thru Feb. 5. (626) 792-5101. (Peter Frank)

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