SEX, LOVE, DEATH AND LEON RUSSOM

Deep Red Face by Alison van Pelt

BOY by Michael Lindsay-Hogg

SHANE GUFFOGG'S GROUP EXHIBITION: 

PORTRAITURE

Portraiture curated by Shane Guffogg, featuring artwork by Don Bachardy, Xander Berkeley, Jeff Britton, Laura Hipke, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Doro Hofmann, Deborah Martin, Ed Ruscha, Paul Ruscha, Vonn Sumner, Alison Van Pelt as well as Guffogg himself, opened on November 11, 2017, at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. ​ It closes on December 22.

Art. It can be seen, felt, and heard. It can tickle our senses. It can be jarring, challenging our ideas of beauty. Art can be exhilarating, giving us the key to the universe.  What was the purpose of art throughout the ages and what is it now? It is a reflection of who we are, like a 2-way mirror, and depending on what side your standing, defines what you see. My name is Shane Guffogg, and I am an artist. Join me as I look at and try to define this elusive thing called Art.   -  SHANE GUFFOGG

LOST ICON #2 by Doro Hoffman

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? by Laura Hipke

I highly recommend this exhibition, which features so much strong work, it will restore your faith in contemporary painting.  And it's free!  Definitely worth the drive. - Steve F

JOIN THEM FOR THEIR FIRST SATURDAY ART WALK AND ART RECEPTION 

Saturday, December 2, 2017,

from 6 PM - 10 PM

Orange County Center

for Contemporary Art 

117 North Sycamore Street, Santa Ana, California 92701

 

ROTTERDAM by John Brittain, Directed by Michael A. Shepperd

Ashley Romans and Miranda Wynne

The critics have weighed in on Rotterdam, and they are unanimous in their praise.  All I can say is that it is well-deserved, both for the play and for Michael A Shepperd's winning production.  The play is simply a breakthrough in dealing with issues of gender and sexual identity.  (It is not concerned with racial identity, even though one of the two major characters is a person of color.  It works here, though I wonder if it would if the play took place in Richmond VA rather than Rotterdam.)  While it will be described as a "transgender play," the truth is, it is simply a play about people struggling with difficult situations - flawed human beings trying their best to find happiness. The play does a wonderful job of giving us the feeling of real life, in which people have no idea how things are going to turn out and can't understand why it's so difficult.  I loved this absence of melodrama.  Michael Shepperd and the actors make it all flow.

THE SECRET IN THE WINGS by Mary Zimmerman, Directed by Joseph V. Calarco

Audrey Flegel, Leslie Murphy and Kate Pelensky (Photo: John Klopping)

In the last few years, I have seen Leon Russom play King Lear, the patriarch in Sam Shepard's Buried Child, and as French Stewart's bff in Padraic Duffy's Past Time - all deeply-felt performances that stayed with me long after the curtains came down. In Mary Zimmerman's enigmatic and haunting Secret in the Wings, Leon plays an ogre named Leon Russom who is asked by deeply self-absorbed parents to babysit their terrified teenage daughter, who is certain that Leon is going to eat her.  And when they've been left alone, that seems entirely possible. Instead he starts telling her stories - very grim fairy tales that go the heart of human darkness: brutality, incest, cannibalism, war,  In one story, a princess declares that no man can make her laugh. Her father the King offers her hand in marriage to anyone who can.  But if they fail, watch out.  A procession of stand-up comics try their best, but the princess's funnybone proves very difficult to locate.  But in another story, there is the possibility of redemption - something that the play offers us too.  In the end, Leon Russom (the ogre) shows us that we are all under a spell, and that if we can just break through, there is love and forgiveness on the other side.  This production is lovingly staged by Joseph Calarco, with a great "attic" set by JR Bruce, beautifully lit by Brandon Baruch, with evocative sound design by Calarco and costumes/masks by Kumie Asai.  The actors are fully-committed to the surreal world they find themselves in, and that they draw the audience into.  And then there is Leon Russom, very much one of a kind.


HIPSTER END-OF-SPRING TIPS AND LAMENT

Those of you who read my column regularly - and yes, I mean you, Sandra Zeitzew, and you, Mary Tierney, and you, guy I went to high school with, who has hated me ever since I didn't return your wave "hello" in 8th grade (I didn't see you!) - oh, and you, person of taste, whose face I can't quite make out - you know that I've been posting my "Hipster Tips" and "Hipster Laments" for the last few months.  Making or breaking shows, wielding a mighty influence with the light touch for which I am known.  And now here is an entire column of "Tips" and "Laments" - can it be a new spring/summer ritual? - some new, some shows I've mentioned before and am reminding you of before they close (you're welcome).  One whose demise I've chosen to analyze, because that's the kind of guy I am.

HIPSTER TIP: LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD'S HOME FOR UNWED MOTHERS at the Skylight Theatre - I wrote about this in my column of 5/9, and it's closing this weekend, folks. Just sayin'.

HIPSTER TIP: SHANE GUFFOGG's art exhibition "The Dance of Thought" at the Manhattan Beach Art Center closes on June 11th. I wrote about this show in my 4/18 column. It's a dazzler, and it's free. Go for the art, stay for the sunset. (1560 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach 90266; Wednesday-Saturday 10 AM - 9 PM; Sunday 10 AM - 5 PM; FREE)

HIPSTER TIP:  MARTHA, at the Whitefire Theatre, is a one-woman bio play by Ellen Melaver about Martha Graham, the American diva of divas and founder of Modern Dance. It has been performing once a week (Sunday evenings) for the last 3 months, but it's about to close this Sunday, and its future is uncertain. I urge you not to miss it if you have any interest at all in the expressive powers of the body and soul. While I freely admit to not liking one person "genius" shows in general, I have a soft spot for this particular show because I was at the Shenandoah Playwrights Retreat along with the author when she was writing it. But the play needs no apologist, no more than Martha herself does.  Martha was a genius of the grand style, a visionary with an imagination that spawned and embraced the mythical.  The author creates a cogent narrative that moves gracefully through the major events of Martha's life, while conjuring up a believable "goddess" who struggled with the smallness of most human aspirations. Christina Carlisi brings Martha to vivid life as a woman and artist tormented by betrayals (especially by her own body) and director Stewart Zully keeps everything moving briskly, providing wonderful images projected on the brick wall.

Jerry MacKinnon and Samantha Ressler; photo credit: Chris Whitaker

HIPSTER TIP: ACTUALLY at the Geffen Playhouse's Skirball Kenis Theatre is a new play about a date rape case at Princeton by Anna Ziegler that runs until June 11th - after which it will be performed at every college campus and many small theaters throughout the country, so you might as well see it now in this excellent production. It's literally the perfect play for our time - requiring two late-teen actors (Jewish young woman, African American young man) and two chairs and an audience. The play is maddeningly manipulative, setting up a cage match of legal arguments for and against the case for rape, but in the process the playwright does create the basis for two credible character, who these actors (Samantha Ressler and Jerry MacKinnon) do everything in their power to imbue with complex humanity, under the exacting direction of Tyne Rafaelli. While the audience is being appealed to as judge and jury, what emerges is a terribly sad, even tragic, story of teenagers who don't know themselves much less each other, and who are trapped inside a narrative that they can't really fathom, no matter how many layers of explanation they try to provide. And yet this haphazard event will determine their futures.

HIPSTER LAMENT: AMERICAN CRIME (ABC-TV) - In my column of March 30th, I lamented the degeneration of this show, which boasted one of the best writing staffs and acting ensembles on any platform, anywhere. Under the leadership of Oscar-winner John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), it had a brilliant first season, and a pretty good second season. But the third season was just awful - the waste of so much talent was a crime against art, not to mention how little commerce it did. And now it's been CANCELLED. What was awful about this season was the sense of victimhood that haunted every scene like a ghost, never allowing us to believe a positive outcome was even possible, much less likely. Yet if you go to John Ridley's IMDB page - which you really should, since his Comments page is longer than the Gettysburg Address - he makes it very clear that he hates the victim mentality that infuses so much of the American dialogue about social issues. So what happened? I'll tell you - this guy is simply too busy, the quality is not keeping up with the quantity. He has documentaries (Let It Fall about the Rodney King riots) and new series (Guerrilla on Showtime) and movie scripts and novels and direction and producing and... well, you get it. I watched the first episode of Guerrilla, which had all the trappings of being good without actually being good. It just didn't seem credible, this too-easy prison break in 1971 London. The style is great, but where is the substance? I can understand how hard it must be to say "no" to a project when everyone is telling you "yes." Sometimes, however, that may be the best thing you can do.  Or so it seems to me from my seat here on the sidelines.