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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/

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                                             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.

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The Music Center has announced the formation of LA Dance Project, led by “Black Swan” choreographer and actor, Benjamin Millepied. Millepied, formerly a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, will premiere the new troupe on Sept 22 and 23, 2012 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The ballet company’s vision veers away from traditional methods and will instead be an “art collective,” drawing on the vast resources of artists and institutions in Los Angeles. LA Dance Project hopes to perform at MOCA and other non-traditional spaces.

The juxtaposition of ballet and museums sounds like a cultural cocktail worth imbibing! 

For the full-story, please read:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/11/dance-benjamin-millepied-and-music-center-give-birth-to-la-dance-project.html

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Ars longa, vita brevis”

(Art is long, life is short)

or as Chaucer said it best,

“The lyf so short,

the crafte so long to lerne” (1370’s) 

Photo: Getty Villa Gardens 11-2011

© 2011 by Leticia M. Sanchez

 

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Modern Antiquity: Picasso, de Chirico, Léger, and Picabia in the Presence of the Antique. through January 16, 2012

Getty Villa.  17985 Pacific Coast Highway. Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. 310. 440-7300.

http://www.getty.edu/

Capitol Ensemble– LACMA- free

Performing  works by Mendelssohn and Schubert.Bing Theater | No reservations  LACMA. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 857-6000

http://www.lacma.org

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Charles Gounoud’s ROMEO ET JULIETTE

Sat. Nov. 12th 7:30 p.m.

LA OPERA

135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 972-8001

http://www.laopera.com/      

LA OPERA has created a fantastic behind-the-scenes video on their homepage. Be sure to watch.

                                                                                                                                                                                  

Lecture: A Meditation on the History of Los Angeles Art

Thinking Through Dennis Hopper’s “Double Standard”

Sat. Nov. 12. 4:00 p.m. Norton Simon.411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840 http://www.nortonsimon.org/

FREE concert LACMA Nov 13th- 6pm

Movses Pogossian (violin), Michele Zukovsky (clarinet), Antoinette Perry (piano)Beethoven: Sonata in C Minor, op. 30, No. 2 for violin and piano; Messiaen: “Première communion de la Vierge,” Bartok: Contrasts. Bing Theater . No reservations needed. LACMA. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 857-6000 http://www.lacma.org      

Salastina Music Society- Nov 13th- 3 p.m  

An afternoon of instrumental chamber music

Hannon Theater. Mount Saint Mary’s College. 12001 Chalon Road, Brentwood, CA 90049

Kevin Kumar and Maia Jasper, violinists & artistic directors; Meredith Crawford, viola; Xiaodan Zheng, cello; Steven Vanhauwaert, piano

Joaquin Turina: La Oracion del Torero; Orlando Gibbons: Fantasies; Alexander Borodin: Trio in G minor; Matos Rodriguez: La Cumparsita (Tango) Benjamin Godard: Forsaken;
World Premiere of Jeremy Cavaterra’s Andante; Johaness Brahms: Scherzo from Piano Quintet in F minor

For more information on tickets, visit http://www.salastinasociety.org 

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