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Electricity in Pasadena:

A Noise Within’s “Desire Under The Elms”

 By

Leticia Marie Sanchez

For those in Los Angeles without power, head straight to A Noise Within’s “Desire Under The Elms,” the riveting production has all the electricity you need, and then some.

Pasadena is no stranger to the works of Nobel Prize-winning American playwright Eugene O’ Neil. In 1928, the Pasadena Community Playhouse staged the world premiere of O’ Neil’s Lazarus Laughed. Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, A Noise Within’s current, explosive production of Eugene O’ Neil’s Desire Under The Elms brings rawness to a narrative rooted in the myth of Euripides’ Hippolytus. It is a story steeped in ego, revenge, desire and the nature of human beings themselves.

The strength of this production lies in the talent of its cast.

William Dennis Hunt powerfully interprets the role of “tough as hickory” septuagenarian patriarch Ephraim Cabot. His physically and emotionally intimidating presence can be seen in his interaction with his children, particularly his youngest son, Eben. Jason Dechert successfully captures the complex spirit of Eben Cabot, a boyish youth simultaneously filled with hopeful integrity and intense edginess. When Eben steps away from the menacing figure of his decades older father, we feel him flinch at his shadow.

At the end of Act II, Scene II, when Ephraim pulls his young bride Abbie to the ground to pray for offspring, he intones, “An’God hearkend unto Rachel! An’ God Harkened unto Abbie.” Hunt’s forceful and moving interpretation of these lines render them chilling, to the point where we believe that he has the power to defy earth itself.

Eben’s older half-brothers, portrayed by Stephen Rockwell and Christopher Fairbanks, infuse comedy into the play’s serious overtones. “We’re aimin’t start bein’ lilies of the field,” the rustic Simeon quips about their desire to quit back-braking labor on their father’s farm.

Monette Magrath adroitly navigates the gray area with her nuanced portrayal of Eprhaim’s new bride Abbie Putnam. Not an overt seductress, she carries herself with the icy blond dignity of a 1940’s femme fatale, managing to elicit empathy for her character, a hardened orphan with the chance to gain a home for herself through marriage to an elderly man. Magrath successfully portrays the vulnerable cracks under Abbie’s cold, calculating surface; we get the sense that her passionate love for Eben is the only love she has ever known. Like Eben, who does not know what to believe from her conflicting behavior, neither do we. After a heinous murderous act, we somehow feel sympathy for the star-crossed lovers, like an 1850’s New England Romeo and Juliet, a testament to skill of Dechert and Magrath.

The original music composed for this production by violinist Endre Balogh (who also performed the pieces) adds a haunting element of foreshadowing to the tragedy, like that of a Greek chorus. The  mid-nineteenth century New England dialect adds an immediacy and vibrant realism to the play, making the ancient myth come alive on the Eastern frontier.

Philosopher Frederich Nietzche deeply impacted the work of Eugene O’Neil, particularly his notion of Amor Fati: the acceptance of one’s fate in the world.  A Noise Within’s electrifying production depicts three protagonists struggling against their natures on John Ioacovilli’s sparse set: Eben’s desire to revenge his deceased mother, Abbie’s desire for security, and Ephraim’s desire for immortality by creating an heir. The electrifying clash of these desires makes A Noise Within’s production one not to be missed.

 Performances: Dec 17th 2pm, 8pm; Dec 18th, 2pm

 A Noise Within. 3352 East Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107

(626) 356-3100

http://www.anoisewithin.org/

Family Art Night: A Head of Fashion- Fri, December 9Norton Simon Museum Of Art

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Visit Nicolas de Largillière’s Portrait of Lambert de Vermont, c. 1697, and craft a fancy paper wig. Program free (with Museum admission) Designed for families with children ages 4 to 10 .411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840 http://www.nortonsimon.org/

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Sat Dec 10 Alex Theatre. 216 North Brand Boulevard. Glendale, CA 91203 8 pm Sun, Dec 11 Royce Hall 7 pm UCLA.340 Royce Drive LA, CA 90095 Jeffrey Kahane, conductor; Ralph Kirshbaum, cello; RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin; TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra; THOMAS ADÈS Three Studies from Couperin; RESPIGHI Gli uccelli (The Birds) For information about tickets, please call: 213 622 7001 or visit: http://www.laco.org/

Free Concert at LACMASanta Barbara Chamber Orchestra

Sun. Dec. 11 6 pm

Performing Bruckner: String Quintet in F Minor and other works to be announced. Bing Theater.No reservations. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 857-6000 http://www.lacma.org

As you rake the leaves, turn on the lights, and look at the beauty untouched that is all around us-

Enjoy!

                                             By Leticia Marie Sanchez

On Wednesday evening, vengeful howls whipped through the night air.  The city of angels was collectively roused by devilish wails. Tall oaks tumbled into swimming pools. One tree split a shiny silver Mercedes on Huntington Drive in twain. A Pasadena Shell Station crumpled like an accordion. Like cats in heat, the winds shrieked all night, hell-bent until they had achieved satisfaction. They were not gratified until trees blocked roads, the elderly shivered without warmth, and residents time traveled to a a medieval darkness, subsisting on candlelight.

Photo Left: Crushed Gas Station, KTLA

Photo Right: LA Times, Mark Boster

The name of these destructive winds, the Santa Anas, may, in fact, derive from Spanish settlers who called the winds Los Vientos de Satánas,  the winds of Satan himself. Allegedly, an Associated Press dispatcher in 1901 mistakenly entered the two-word name of an Orange County city to refer to the Devil’s Breath.

Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion have memorialized the Santa Ana’s proclivity to unsettle. Arborists now explain that Southern California trees are less rooted than their East Coast counterparts, hence their toppling. Apparently, many Los Angeles trees do not receive enough water to endure a battering like the one they received on Wednesday night. Perhaps the rootless trees symbolize the impermanence of some residents who come to Los Angeles chasing dreams, getting off of a bus for a flash of fame and a moment in the sun.

Despite the path of destruction, we should remember the Oaks who stood proudly the morning after the Devil’s Wind. Nor should we forget the children who rake mangled branches from their neighbor’s driveway or the worker toiling unto the wee hours of the night to restore power, limping after he alights from a precarious scaffold.

Let us not forget the trees that are still standing.

The Joffrey Ballet-Nutcracker

Dorothy Chandler Pavillion Friday, Dec. 2-2:00 pm & 7:30 p.m; Sat Dec 3- 2:00&7:30 p.m; Sun. Dec 4th- 2:00 p.m. 135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012. (213) 972-7211 http://musiccenter.org/

Los Angeles Free Music Society

Sat, Dec 3,7:30 p.m.

Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium Free; reservations required.

Call (310) 440-7300 or visit: http://www.getty.edu/museum/programs/performances/saturday_nights.html

Los Angeles Master Chorale- Sat. Dec. 3 & 10, 2 pm

Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols

The program features holiday carols such as Joy to the World, The First Noel and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, as well as John Rutter’s three-movement Gloria sung by 62 members of the Chorale under Music Director Grant Gershon’s baton. Walt Disney Concert Hall. 111 South Grand Ave. LA, CA 90012. 213-972-7282

http://lamc.org/

 “Give me a spark o’ Nature’s fire,That’s a’ the learning I desire.”– Robert Burns

California Gold photographed Thanksgiving weekend in LA

Photography © 2011 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour caught up with Harper’s Bazaar’s Editor-in-Chief Glenda Bailey this weekend.This image from her latest book evokes touches of Caillebotte. It depicts Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz floating on Central Park Lake. Elbaz dashed from the lake to attend the 2005 CFDA awards. Bailey revealed that at the ceremony, she “heard a squalching sound” behind her: Elbaz’s sopping footwear. He had just won best international designer. As he walked on stage, no doubt the audience realized that they could not walk a hundred miles in his shoes.

When asked about her favorite artistic haunts in LA, Bailey replied without missing a beat that she enjoys visiting artist Hutton Wilkinson because of the Tony Duquette estate (Dawnridge). “It is a jewel of LA,” declared Bailey.

Photograph© 2011 Harper’s Bazaar’s Greatest Hits by Glenda Bailey. Photographed by Ben Watts. Styled by Jacqui Getty.