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Charleen

Fans of Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March (1985) will undoubtedly recall the character Charleen Swansea, the filmmaker’s friend and former teacher, and will be pleased to discover that McElwee devoted an entire feature to this memorable woman back in 1977. An unorthodox fifth-grade teacher, small publisher, and poet who at one point was a protege of […]

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Dancing to the New Music

DANCING TO THE NEW MUSIC at MoMing Dance & Arts Center April 15-16, 1988 In its most potent form, a collaboration between composer and choreographer infuses a work with a double charge. Such joint ventures have produced some of the richest ballet and modern dance works of all time. The Marius Petipa-Pyotr Tchaikovsky union begat […]

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Losing Control

THE MAGIC OF KATHERINE DUNHAM Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Auditorium Theatre April 13-15, 1988 An evening spent with Katherine Dunham–whose works the Alvin Ailey troupe revived this season–is vibrant, boisterously theatrical, and subtly disturbing. We can’t see with the fresh eyes of 40 or 50 years ago (these dances were first choreographed […]

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Not For Real

NOT FOR REAL Organic Theater As I watched Leonard Pitt begin his one-man show, Not For Real, I thought, it’s true, anyone can be a performance artist. All you have to do is assemble some odd and arbitrary actions, put them in front of an audience, and presto! Performance art! I might defend that assertion […]

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Feiffer’s America

FEIFFER’S AMERICA Northlight Theatre Anyone setting out to adapt the work of cartoonist Jules Feiffer to a live theatrical format faces several problems right off the bat. First, there’s the obvious fact that no live actor could ever capture the unique visual vitality of Feiffer’s inimitable drawings; even cartoon animation would fall short. The strength […]

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The Ties That Hide

PASSING ON Blue Rider Theater For the past few weeks I’ve been on a death watch as a close relative fades away, and the experience has reminded me once again that death is seldom a private affair. Family members and friends gathered around the dying person react like an organism in distress. First there’s the […]

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On Stage: French farce in a paisley shirt

Madness, impotence, adultery, prostitution, alcoholism, and sadomasochism are all ingredients for a light comedy in the hands of Georges Feydeau. Writing for the bourgeoisie in turn-of-the-century Paris, Feydeau (1862-1921) served up dizzyingly funny bedroom farces that teased his audiences while ultimately reassuring them. In his 1907 La puce a l’oreille–known in English as A Flea […]

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Screaming Blue Messiahs

The production was all wrong on this English trio’s first album and the songwriting is off on their second, but tonight that’s almost irrelevant because onstage this group’s songs become secondary to their sound. Over the fast-paced primal throb of some heavy bass and drums, the big, bald, and blue-suited lead singer/guitarist, Bill Carter, throws […]

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Bill Frisell, Ikue Mori, Jim Staley

No matter what I tell you, and probably even if you’ve heard their recorded collaboration (which makes up one-fourth of the double-LP Mumbo Jumbo on the entirely obscure Rift label)–whatever your preparation–you’re bound to be surprised. Frisell plays guitar and electronics, Mori is a drummer and composer, and Staley, who conceived the project, stretches the […]