Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Weekend Update

September 25, 2006

In this last weekend before the fall music season is completely underway here in Los Angeles, I'm making the rounds of many of the recent theater openings.

Over at the Geffen Playhouse, Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole opened up the new season. While generally well written, I don’t see what all the bother is. The play moves along at a decent pace, but it still suffers from TV-movie-of-the-week plotting and sentimentality. In short, the whole thing seems to suffer from an overabundance of moderness. It is so "current" and "relevant" and "fair-minded" that it sinks under the weight of its own conventionality. I could hear people crying in the audience at the end, but I just kept feeling like "Why bother?"

Harmony Jiroudek, left, Marja-Liisa Kay, Marc Lowenstein and Sarah Chalfy.
Photo: Lawrence K. Ho / LA Times 2006

On the other hand, downtown, REDCAT opened one of its major fall productions, a new "post-rock" opera entitled What to Wear? with music from Michael Gordon and libretto and direction by Richard Foreman. The incredibly inventive production has a great deal to recommend it: a wild set that impinges on the space around the audience, a great score, lots of humor, and a lot to think about. In many ways, it was the exact opposite of Rabbit Hole - incesently pressing the boundaries of music theater in all directions at once. Despite Foreman's professed intentions to avoid doing so, there were a number of stunning images and moments in this work that placed issues related to the construction of identity front and center. [Here is a brief interview with Foreman about his preperation of this work from KCET.] Still, the whole thing seemed to work more as an academic exercise than anything else. Not that that's a bad thing, I just wouldn't rush to see it again. The CalArts students and faculty in the cast were very good, though many of the props often looked overly amateurish compared to the sophistication of the costumes and sets. All that being said, I'll take the thoughtful evening over the more conventional one any day.

Speaking of return visits, Sunday, it was back to Los Angles Opera for another viewing of their new Don Carlo. It is always a good sign when a production is even more enjoyable the second time around, which this certainly was. Zajick is an inspiration.

Of course I went out and signed up for Sirius satellite radio service this weekend to take advantage of the Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts. After a couple of trips and some alterations to my car's stereo set-up, everything seems to be working well. Now if I can just find some way to get the streaming internet radio feed to work on my Mac, I'll be set.

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