Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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


March 13, 2007

Howard Swain, Erik Lochtefeld, and Nancy Carlin
Photo: Katy Raddatz/SF Chrnoicle 2007

I was originally going to write a brilliant post about the Berkeley Rep’s recent production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman and how it demonstrates some of the basic tenets of Baudrillard’s philosophy. It occurred to me about halfway through however that it would be more of a term paper than a blog post and I’m a firm believer in not having to scroll down to read much of anything. So instead I've just decided to skip to the point on a number of recent thoughts. The Pillowman is fantastic and one of the most intellectually challenging new plays since I’ve seen since Albee’s The Goat. Let’s just leave it at that.

Plus not writing that post has left me time to think about some other bits and pieces. For instance, does America really need yet another pussycat doll? And is all this fuss an expansion on the gross number of dolls or was one of the old ones injured in some unspeakable mascara and or breast implant tragedy? You'd think all the potential viewers were too busy reading Seventeen or Maxim to care. That is what I get for turning on the television this month.

In real life, I saw Yundi Li play the Liszt first piano concerto and was duly impressed with his talent in something I consider a rather ho-hum piece of music. I’m not going to say anything about comparing him to other young famous Chinese pianists because frankly I think doing so at this point is simply racist. Slatkin conducted the program, which included Holst’s The Planets, and it was quite enjoyable. I’ve always considered him a rather meat and potatoes kind of conductor, which I guess is really unfair, but he got the job done here without any questions.

On Saturday, at the second performance of LA Opera’s Recovered Voices concert, James Conlon again addressed the audience before the show and spelled things out for the project a little more clearly – he wants LAO to produce one opera a year from one of the 25 or so composers he places in the group. Who knows if that will happen, but if it includes Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten I’ll be a happy clam. I got invited to another LAO focus group tomorrow and if it comes off, maybe I'll post about it.

Oh yeah, and while I’m spewing opinions, Center Theater Group announced the season for the Ahmanson this week and it appears Michael Ritchie has officially given up doing anything the least bit challenging. On offer – six musicals, virtually all touring productions: Avenue Q, The Drowsy Chaperone (again), A Chorus Line, The Color Purple, and just in case we haven’t suffered enough, My Fair Lady. Suddenly LA is the MUNY in Forest Park without the unbearable heat. I think Hollywood High School is putting on a more interesting season. Of course it’s not all bad news, we will get to see the John Doyle Sweeney Todd with god-only-knows-who in it. Maybe I’m being unfair since the Mark Taper Forum will be closed all of next year and this season is probably a response to try putting on a larger number of shows in CTG’s two remaining spaces than they're used to handling. These Ahmanson productions all have relatively short runs and will come pre-assembled so as to allow some “Taper” productions in the Ahmanson space. Still, I’m not regretting dropping that subscription awhile back.

Guess I’ll stop now that I’ve finished purging.

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