NEW THEATER REVIEW (see below)
FEATUREon Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited
NEW REVIEW GO ROCK WITH YOU: THE KING OF POP, LATIN STYLE For those of us brought up to giggle at Michael Jackson's foibles, from his holding his son over a balcony by his arms to his chasing Macaulay Culkin around his Neverland estate, it has been a hard job to take him seriously in the pantheon of rock musical saints. However, Seaon Stylist Bristol's engaging dance-oriented musical revue reminds us why Jackson was such a charismatic and influential figure — and it wasn't just because of his sequined glove. Bristol's presentation is less a “tribute” show than it is a revisitation of Jackson's music — many of his greatest hits are presented here, sung by Bristol but adroitly rearranged with a Latin flavor by Rebecca Maulson and Andrew Dorsett. This “salsafication” turns out quite snazzily, actually, as numbers like the old Jackson 5 chestnut “ABC” lend themselves naturally to the feverish rhythms of the merengue, while songs such as “Liberian Girl” easily transform into taut, passionate flamenco. Bristol's silky renditions add layers of sensuality to the numbers, creating a sexy mood. He's assisted by a cast of 13 mostly Latin dancers — Bristol also is the choreographer — and the ensemble's ballroom moves consistently enthrall, with jazzy acrobatics that add a crisply defined ferocity to songs such as “Man in the Mirror.” Admittedly, even though the show is replete with backup dancers and a full band (led by musical director Dorsett), the piece is ultimately little more than a straightforward dance recital with some songs attached. Even so, Bristol artfully conveys through performance the sense that Jackson's music now belongs to the entire world. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 6 & 9 p.m., Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (no perf Dec. 31), through Jan. 2. (818) 508-4200. (Paul Birchall)
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS (from L.A. theater, 2010)
Another clown reflects on the year. (From City Garage's Paradise Park: Photo by Paul Rubenstein)
Ann Randolph's Loveland at Santa Monica Playhouse; Psittacus Production's A Tale Told by an Idiot at Son of Semele; Everything I saw at REDCAT; Lynn Nottage's Ruined, at the Geffen; Palomino at the Kirk Douglas; Stage Door and A Wolf Inside the Fence, at Open Fist; Independent Shakespeare Company's Much Ado About Nothing in Griffith Park; all of the War Plays trilogy presented by Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble at the Powerhouse; The Calabasas International Theatre Festival; The Hollywood Fringe Festival; Gertrude Stein's Brewsie and Willie, directed by Travis Preston for Poor Dog Group; Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs at the Steve Allen Theater; Opus and The Train Driver, at the Fountain; Anton's Uncles, Theatre Movement Bazaar at the 24th Street Theater; Tom Jacobson's The Twentieth Century Way at Theater @ Boston Court; Shaheed, at the Peggy Feury Studio; Jon Tuttle's Holy Ghost, at Theatre of NOTE; Shem Bitterman's Influence at the Skylight; Nan McNamara's lead performance in Wit, at Actors' Co-op; The Spyants production of Charles L. Mee's bobrauschenbergamerica at [Inside] the Ford; City Garage's production of Mee's Paradise Park; Baal at Sacred Fools; An Oak Tree at the Odyssey; Four Places and The Sunset Limited, presented by Rogue Machine at Theatre/Theater; and Zombie Joe's Underground, just for being ZJU.
Finally, this year's Talent and Tenacity Award goes to Antaeus Theatre Company for being so talented and tenacious. This is the first year in their decades of being and working that they've presented a full season which corresponds, by sheer coincidence, to the first year that the T&T prize has been bestowed. It comes with this humble recognition and whatever rewards derive from being talented and tenacious, but no money. After all, this is theater in Los Angeles.
ENDANGERED THEATERS THAT DESERVE HELP:
City Garage got booted from its Santa Monica digs in November after its lease expired. At last report, they'd stripped out the theater that they'd occupied for 15 years and were homeless, but working on a deal with Bergamot Station. The theater has been and remains a local treasure for its presentation of audacious texts, with Frenchwoman Frederique Michel's arch and deliberately automatonic stagings of works including those by Heiner Muller, Caryl Churchill, Charles L. Mee, Ionesco and Moliere – all packed onto a tiny stage and helped along with with Paul Rubenstein's lush soundscapes and Charles M. Duncombe's production designs.
A Noise Within Glendale's classical rep company is trying what most small theaters gave up on decades ago, and for good reason – moving “up” to mid-size, where the economic challenges in our subsidy-free zone are tempestuous. Just ask the Colony Theatre or East West Players. ANW tried this a few years ago with a brief, frustrating and frustrated sojourn to Cal State L.A.'s Luckman's Fine Arts Complex. But they are determined, and are in the midst of a successful (so far) capital campaign that includes construction of a new Equity-scale theater in Pasadena. We haven't seen construction from the ground-up of any theaters that remain regularly-used since Burbank's Falcon Theatre (1997), Pasadena's Boston Court (2003) and downtown's REDCAT (2003). The challenges of sustaining a mid-size theater in Pasadena will be daunting. And as frustrated as I sometimes am with the company's aversion to inventiveness, the baseline of competence and skill, in conjunction with a long tradition of presenting classical works from all genres to new audiences, makes it imperative that the company's experiment in upsizing succeeds, for all our sakes.
Gunfighter Nation is a new company marked by the return of longstanding L.A. personality – playwright John Steppling, who serves as the company's co-artistic director along with his son, Lex Steppling. And, like the working together of father and son, the company itself has drawn their respective acolytes from two generations – one, that of Steppling, includes the playwright-descendants of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop and Festival (founded in 1978 by Murray Mednick and Sam Shepard); and the next generation that brings to the art the consciousness of social and community service. In the company aesthetic, one generation informs the work of the other, and that's a rare gift and melding of purposes that's happening in the rehearsal halls, and accompanying taverns. They've also put on some pretty good plays in their first year, including Steppling's newest work, Phantom Luck. Like many new endeavors, they exist on tenacity and prayer to the gods of a desperately fragile economy. They are perhaps the only new company with such a long history. I hope they make it.
SHORT-ANSWER QUIZ TO PISS PEOPLE OFF, 10 POINTS EACH:
• What's the difference between “art”, “artsy,” and “artsy fartsy”?
• Is multidisciplinary work, and the promotion of it, really such a threat to traditional presentations — or can we all just get along?
• Does the blending of music, video and online technologies on our stages really draw a new generation of theatergoers, or is that just the fantasy of faculty and students from CalArts and the programmers over at REDCAT, that's disconnected from the real world?
• Does L.A. theater really suffer from a lack of inventive (concept) directors?
• If you answered “yes” to the above, please answer the following: (a) If so, why? (b) If so, is that such a bad thing? If you answered “no” to the above, please move on to the next question.
• Why is it that the United States' most famous concept directors find most of their employment in Europe, Canada and South America, rather than in their homeland? (a) People outside the United States are stupid and pretentious; (b) People inside the United States are stupid and crass; (c) Concept directors have no respect and therefore don't deserve any. (Only one answer, please!)
• Does L.A. theater suffer from a lack of autobiographical one-person shows? If so, why?
• Does L.A. theater suffer from a lack of shows named [Fill in the Title]: The Musical! If so, why?
• Why is the Fountain Theatre always sold out when it just does plays about bitter musicians and graveyards?
• Should actors be paid for their work? If so, should they be paid even if their production loses money? Why?
• Should investment bankers be paid for their work? If so, should they be paid even if their company loses money? Why?
• Did you enjoy this quiz? If so, why? If not, please move on to the next question.
Please submit your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Correct answers will be posted on this blog early in 2011. There will be prizes for the best correct answers, though nothing you'd probably want. If you answered incorrectly, you will be condemned to anonymity. Happy New Year