Monday, February 16, 2015

Mid Feb arts update

It's really hard for me to organize my thoughts into coherent posts and then not cannibalize the surrounding posts.  I guess I'll just discuss some things I've been to lately (trying to keep up the tradition of keeping cultured even when the weather outside is brutally cold) and then move on tomorrow to some posts about what I have been reading lately.

I already discussed how I wasn't crazy about All Our Happy Days are Stupid.  I may even write a bit of a follow-up post, not taking back what I wrote, but clarifying a few points around the main review.  I came reasonably close to going to The Cardinals this weekend, which has an interesting set-up: these 3 Cardinals are going to put on a puppet show but the puppets are lost (but none of the rest of the sets!) and they make it live action -- with the help of a female Muslim stage manager.  It sounds like it would have been quite incredible (if a bit muddled) at 90 minutes or better yet 75 minutes, but at 2 hours it really overstays its welcome.  While I think this reviewer from the New York Times overthinks his (negative) response, I often do the same thing and have a very cerebral reaction to theatre (as has probably become quite evident).  Some of these same points would also have bothered me, particularly that they would be celebrating the Crusades (in the second half of the piece).  But I think what would bother me more is that they shoehorned this piece into an almost entirely non-verbal framework to get it into puppet festivals and mime festivals, when it probably would have been somewhat funnier and made slightly more sense if it hadn't been forced into such a narrow niche.  Anyway, it was brutally cold out, and I am sure even worse near the waterfront, so I decided to pass (and both plays have closed now).  I'll be trekking out to Harbourfront for The Object Lesson next week. This seems like a much more polished piece, and I am sort of feeling down on amateurism right now (but I'll discuss that in more detail in another post).

On Thurs. I went to the TSO and saw a quite good performance of Brahms' Haydn Variations (where I thought the two piano version just slightly edged out the orchestral version) and then Ravel's Le Valse, where really both versions were incredible.  This was a last minute substitution, but I'm glad I went.

Saturday (Valentine's Day) I saw Congreve's Love for Love.  This was in the Young Centre in the Distillery District.  It's also where Soulpepper puts on its shows, though they also rent space to George Brown Theatre School.  I'll be going out there again this Saturday to see The Dining Room.  Unlike all these other theatre events I have discussed, there are still a few performances to go, though I imagine tickets are hard to come by.  George Brown kind of represents the things the Fringe author (who really riled me up so) doesn't like -- emphasis on professional training and adherence to classical texts.  They put on Middleton's Women Beware Women a few years ago (which I saw in Vancouver, so I don't have to feel too left out).  I think in general they try to put on a Restoration comedy each season, as the casts are huge (and they do them without doubling).  I'll definitely keep an eye out for what they are up to next season.  Maybe I'll luck out and they'll do another Middleton or Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem or Congreve's The Way of the World  (though both of those played Toronto relatively recently).  I'm also keeping my eyes open for a student production of Jonson's The Alchemist, though I would guess that is more likely to be at UT or Ryerson.

Despite the bitter cold, I dragged myself to Ryerson's Image Centre to see a couple of shows on glamour and anti-glamour.  A couple of the better photos I had seen already, though I am having trouble remembering where.  I'm thinking perhaps it was the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Mickalene Thomas, Portrait of Qusuquzah, 2008

Well, I definitely saw Mickalene Thomas's photo Le déjeuner sur l'herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires in Baltimore, and I think the one above was on view as well, but maybe I saw it elsewhere. 

Mickalene Thomas, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires, 2010

Her recreation of a certain 70s style is so distinctive that it becomes easy to identify her work (at least as long as she mines this vein).

After this, I got on the streetcar and headed over to AGO.  I was stunned at how crowded the Basquiat exhibit was, but I got a ticket and went through it extremely quickly.  I'll start going again in late February and perhaps will manage to bring my wife along in early March.  If one is a big Basquiat fan, then one must see this show.  I'm not a deeply committed fan, though I am always interested in the dealings of the New York artworld, so I am more of a second-hand fan of Basquiat.  I would say there are 3 or 4 really excellent pieces, and even the lesser pieces gain something by seeing how large they are in real life.  They come across much better in real life than in reproductions.  Speaking of reproductions, I was pleasantly surprised that they produced a slimmed down catalog of the exhibit with (apparently) all the paintings but none of the scholarly apparatus.  This sold for $10 (members $9), and I picked one up.  It isn't quite as good a deal as the Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn, but still very reasonable.

I debated strongly whether to just come home, due to the extreme cold, or to do some work and then go to Red One's Les Liaisons Dangereuses.  Finally, I opted for the latter course.  I'm glad I did.  The show was still on, and roughly half the seats were sold (I do wonder if Chicagoans are just a bit tougher than Torontonians when it comes to going out in terrible weather).  But I expect that next weekend (when it closes) word of mouth will make it tough to get tickets.  It was well done.  It's certainly a cynical yet sexy play (or cynically sexy?) and I didn't understand one scene towards the very end, as it just seemed so out of character for Valmont to get himself so embroiled.  Given that it was late and cold, I didn't stick around to talk to the actors afterwards, but I'll probably see some of them in a couple of weeks at the Sing-for-Your-Supper (which reminds me I have to actually get my material down on paper before it is too late).

So with just a few disappointments, there has already been quite a lot of amazing art and theatre.  I'm always worrying about how to fit everything in.  Actually March looks even tougher than February!  I have tickets for Blithe Spirit (oh, please don't get sick before our show Ms. Lansbury!) and Spoon River, but then there is Inge's Picnic and a world premiere of a John Patrick Shanley play and Blood Wedding at Buddies in Bad Times.  And I will be making a quick trip to Brooklyn and perhaps a driving trip to Detroit and perhaps one to Saskatoon (though I am trying to get out of that).  I think I'll have to pass on going to the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies (though I'll remember to check it out next year).  I am very tempted by the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae, but I don't think I can do that and everything else (and still see my family from time to time).  I guess we'll see how it all pans out in a few more weeks.  And will that, I am quite late in taking care of some other business, so adieu...

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