Thursday, August 17, 2017

CHAGALL:  FANTASIES FOR THE STAGE by Carol Kaufman Segal    
            Marc Chagall was a prolific artist who created works in nearly every artistic category.  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is presenting an exhibition that focuses on four of his works in the field of music and dance.  While the presentation stresses its artistic value, it is almost like being behind the scenes of a theater with its sounds and picturesque beauty. 
            LACMA’s CEO Michael Goven said, “In bringing together Chagall‘s well-known paintings and his innovative theatrical designs, Chagall:  Fantasies for the Stage will enhance our understanding of the artist’s expansive body of work.  By engaging both the visual and the performing arts, it also fosters a dialogue that reaches across the discipline of art, music, theater, dance, and even fashion design.”  And this is truly what the exhibition accomplishes.
             Forty-one costumes and nearly one hundred sketches and studies from three ballets and one opera are shown in four separate sections in chronological order.  The first is the ballet Aleko, 1942,         followed by The Firebird, 1945, then Daphnis and Chloe, 1959, and finally Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, 1967. 
            There is serenity in walking through this unique exhibition as selected music associated with each entity is played at various intervals each hour, music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Aleko), Igor Stravinsky (The Firebird),  Maurice Ravel (Daphnis and Chloe), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (The Magic Flute)
            In addition to Chagall’s stage designs, the exhibition includes a small selection of iconic paintings, many of which are on loan from museums around the world including The Violinist (1920) from LACMA’s permanent collection.

            Chagall:  Fantasies for the Stage will be on view at the Los Angeles Museum of Art through January 7, 2018. The museum is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  Hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, 11 AM to 5 PM, Fridays, 11 AM to 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 AM to 7 PM, closed Wednesdays.  For further information, call (323) 857-6010.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE FENCER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Fencer begins with some background information in order to offer an understanding of the situation that faces Endel Nelis as he arrives in Estonia in the early 1950’s.  During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Estonia and recruited most of the men into the German army.  Later, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, the government considered all German soldiers war criminals and proceeded to seek out any, including those in Estonia, and to imprison them.
            A young Endel Nelis (Mart Avandi) is one of those men and he flees Leningrad for Estonia to escape the secret police. He finds a position as a teacher and forms a sports club for the students offering them instructions in fencing, a sport for which he has a passion.
            The School Principal (Hendrik Toompere) is jealous of Endel and objects to what he is accomplishing with the children and tries to have the club removed from the school agenda.  However, the townspeople vote in favor of allowing it to continue, and the irritated Principal begins an investigation of Endel.
            Most of the children have lost their male relatives due to the actions of the          Russian government, but they have formed a loving relationship with Endel and he with them.  When his student, Marta (Liisa Koppel), hears about a national fencing tournament being held in Leningrad, she asks him about the club participating.   When Endel tells her it is not possible for them to attend, she and the students, in their disappointment, think that he does not think them qualified.  
            Meanwhile, his friend Aleksei (Kirill Karo) cautions him against ever returning to Leningrad.  Torn between seeing the children disappointed and hurt, or risking his life by going to Leningrad, Endel is left to make a choice.
            The Fencer is a stirring drama directed by Klause Haro  The screenplplay, written by Anna  Heinamaa, was inspired by the true story of Endel Nelis, Estonia’s legendary fencing master  A marvelous cast also includes Ursula Ratasepp  (Kadri, Endel’s love interest), Joonas Koff (Jaan, a student), and Lembit Ulfsak (Janaan’s grandfather).
Running time, 99 minutes          Estonian and Russian with English subtitles          Not rated



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

RHINOCEROS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Rhinoceros was written in 1959 by Romanian-French playwright, Eugene Ionesco.  He wrote most of his plays in French, and they were branded among “The Theatre of the Absurd.”  However, there is more to this play than absurdity, and it is being presented in Los Angeles at an auspicious time by the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice.
            Ionesco wrote this play as a backlash to the sudden events going on in the world when Communism, Fascism, and Nazism were flourishing.  As you watch this excellent production, you will understand the lying message that Ionesco was sending out as a warning against what was occurring in the world. 
            The play takes place in a small town in France.  It opens in a square where there is a lot of normal daily activity occurring among the townsfolk.  Eventually the scene focuses on Berenger (Keith Stevenson) seated at a table.  He is unkempt, and obviously feeling the consequences of too much alcohol.  Seated at the table with him is Jean (Alexander Fernandez, the acting name of Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, who also directs the production), Beringer’s dapper friend who is chastising him to no end over his slovenly appearance.
            All at once, without warning, the crowd hears a deafening sound of hooves as a herd of rhinoceroses plow through the area, knocking over chairs, tables, and people.  Everyone is stunned, and cannot figure out where the animals could possibly have come from.  Did they have one horn, or did they have two horns?  Were they from Africa or were they from Asia?
            As the play progresses, more and more rhinoceroses appear throughout the village, and over time,  more and more citizens are surrendering to the change of becoming rhinos, everyone including Beringer’s friend Jean,  When Beringer and his girlfriend Daisy (Carole Weyers) are the only two people left in the town, Beringer swears he will never accept the change while Daisy, who has submitted the same to him, eventually falls in line with the crowd leaving Beringer the only human remaining in a crowd of rhinoceroses. 
            Though there is a serious message in this play, it is not without a lot of humor.   Cienfuegos directs a perfect cast.   David Mauer deserves kudos for a wonderful set, as does Christopher Moscatiello for the sound design.
            Rhinoceros plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, through September 10, at Pacific Resident Theatre located at 703 Venice Blvd, in Venice.  Tickets are available online at www.pacificresidenttheatre, or by calling (310) 822-8392.


Monday, August 7, 2017

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Shout Sister Shout is a musical that relates the story of Gospel singer Rosetta Tharpe.  Rosetta was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915.  She achieved notoriety in the 30’s and 40’s with her recordings of gospel music.  Accompanying herself on the guitar, her rhythmic style was the antecedent to rock’n’roll which had an influence on future rock’n’roll and soul singers to come along such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, and others.
            Rosetta Tharpe suffered a stroke in 1970 which had an impact on her career.  Subsequently, she had one of her legs amputated due to complications from diabetes.  In 1973, she suffered another stroke and died.  Cheryl L West, who wrote the book, begins the story at the time  Rosetta Tharpe (Tracy Nicole Chapman) dies and discovers that before she is allowed to enter heaven, she is required to return to Earth to tell her life story to Isaiah (Logan Charles).  Isaiah is a young man considering suicide because he feels his dreams of becoming a songwriter will never come to fruition.     
            This gimmick, as a way of telling the story, was fraught with good intentions, but left a young man often idling away on stage at times.  The story, itself, has its merits, but the draw of this production is due to the performances, the dancers, singers, the musicians, and the music which keeps the play moving while keeping the audience upbeat as well. 
            Shout Sister Shout was created by Randy Johnson and Cheryl L. West and directed by Randy Johnson.  Choreography is by Keith Young and music direction and arrangements are by Rahn Coleman.  Other cast members include Yvette Cason, Michael A. Shepperd, Angela Teek Hitchman, Thomas Hobson, Boise Holmes, and Armando Yearwood, Jr.   
            Shout Sister Shout is playing at the Pasadena Playhouse Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through August 20.  Tickets are available online at, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office located at 39 S. Molino Ave, in Pasadena.