Hello, fellow arts and entertainment seekers! I hope you took time from watching the football games this past weekend to take in some culture. I’m guilty of spending my Sunday glued to the TV, but I still made sure to reserve Saturday for a great new play I was hearing about. Read my review of “The Dead” below and hopefully you’ll go check it out yourself, as I really enjoyed it. Also, I’ll let you know about a world premiere show I’ll be attending in the next week, and some info on the Celtic dancers coming through SCV on Saturday. Remember, there’s no football this weekend, so you have no excuse not to get out there!
As I mentioned last week, we’re right in the middle of the awards season and, now that the Oscar nominations have been announced, many of the films nominated are returning to theaters. I saw “The Wolf of Wall Street” on MLK day and, excessive swearing and ridiculous indulgence aside, I really enjoyed it. Maybe this will be DiCaprio’s year? Fingers crossed! Remember to let me know if you make it to any of the nominated films – I’d love to hear from you. My column is up at www.santaclaritafree.com every week Gazette tab then Community – I look forward to your comments!
James Joyce’s “The Dead”
Greenway Court Theatre
544 North Fairfax Ave., in Hollywood
www.openfist.org / www.greenwayarts.org
Many people are unfamiliar with the author James Joyce, and the few who do know of him probably can’t tell you what he is known for. A pat on the back for those who have read snippets of his most famous work, “Dubliners,” but that is usually where the connection stops. I am one of the guilty ones, but I can say that I definitely remember reading his short story, “The Dead,” in college and finding it to be beautiful and haunting. When I learned that, not only was there a live production of the tale opening in town, and more so that it was a musical, my curiosity was piqued, to say the least. I haven’t read the story in almost a decade, but I do remember the way it made me feel – sad and hopeless, yet inspired at the same time. Did this rendition of Joyce’s tale invoke the same feelings? Not quite…but pretty close to it.
Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey, who have created a fantastic production, write the music and script. It does, however, lack the sorrow and pain that I remember from the original work. The setting is Ireland in 1904, just after Christmas, at the Morkan’s holiday party. Among the guests is Gabriel Conroy, our protagonist, and a handful of friends and family. It is an exceptionally cold winter with plenty of snow falling, but inside the Morkin household there is warmth and mirth. By the end of the evening, Gabriel finds out an unsettling secret about his wife, which leads to an even greater realization about himself.
I was surprised (and somewhat relieved) to see that the awkward dinner party has not changed much with the decades. Here on stage you will find the guy who drank too much, the girl who thinks she’s too good to be there, the guy who is trying to get everybody drunk, the uncomfortable and the overly confident. They are all on stage together and what ensues is a production that will make you laugh, and staying true to the original story, will also probably make you cry.
Our protagonist is Gabriel Conroy, a self-conscious and sad writer, who spends a large portion of the night worrying about his dinner toast. Devon Armstrong does an excellent job of expressing the hopelessness woven into every word of the story through his portrayal of Gabriel. When he speaks, you want to listen, when he sings you are captivated, and when he is hurt you want to comfort him. Bravo to Mr. Armstrong for breathing life into the character.
This emotionally complex production is a must see – even if you have never heard of James Joyce; and for those who have, it offers a fresh and lively twist to the original dismal tale. The music is great, the dancing is delightful and, overall, everything is both uplifting and daunting – just the way the author intended. “The Dead” runs through Feb. 22 and tickets are $25.
“Above the Fold”
39 South El Molino Ave. in Pasadena
The world premiere of this play begins Tuesday (1/28) and I’ll be on deck for it, so stay tuned for a longer review soon. In the meantime, the story is written by Bernard Weinraub and stars Oscar nominated actress Taraji P. Henson. From the press release: “ABOVE THE FOLD tells the story of Jane, an African-American newspaper reporter from New York, who flies to a Southern university where three white fraternity boys have been accused of raping a young African-American woman. Taking place amidst the shift from print to digital journalism, ABOVE THE FOLD asks tough questions about the exploitation of tragedy, the cost of success and the dangers that come when ambition collides with truth.”
This story appeals to me because I majored in journalism in college and have definitely felt the impact that the digital space has had on the print world – even working at the Gazette, I’m still feeling the impact. It seems like an original story and I’m curious to see how it plays out on stage. I’ve attended the last four shows at the Pasadena Playhouse, all have been excellent, and I’m sure this will be no different. Tickets are $23 to $72 and you can purchase them at the link above.
Celtic Nights: A Journey of Hope
Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center
26455 Rockwell Canyon Rd, in Valencia
Add a little Irish culture to your weekend when the SC Pac plays host to Celtic Night – A Journey of Hope. This Saturday (1/25) six of Ireland’s best singers and dancers will take the stage and through exceptional music and choreography will tell the story of the Celtic people who had dreams big enough, and hopes high enough to succeed in the new world. The show begins at 8 p.m., which leaves you just enough time afterwards to visit an Irish pub for a drink and toast to the Irish! Make sure and grab your tickets now as they are going fast.
That’s it for now, entertainment seekers. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m always so happy to hear from you!