Arts & Events

New: Timbuktu: Islamic Fundamentalism Comes to Town

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Wednesday January 28, 2015 - 09:58:00 PM

Opens January 30 at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco

Abderrahmane Sissako's Oscar-nominated film Timbuktu is a treat for the eyes and a banquet for the senses but it's an occasional pain for the brain. While the film does a masterful job of embedding the viewer in a richly rendered story of a simple family's experience with religious oppression, the experience is undercut by some confusing edits, too many storylines and characters that capture the attention but serve no story-telling purpose.

Still, the film is worth seeing if you want to understand something of the culture-clash that's wreaking havoc in Mali and other African nations as people are suddenly forced to live under rules imposed by invading Islamic purists.

Timbuktu glows with glorious cinematography (We haven't seen desert landscapes like this since George Lukas set up his cameras in Tunisia to provide the background for Tatooine) and resonates with the sound of local melodies strummed on strings or sung aloud. But quietly! Because Timbutu and its surrounding dune-dwelling communities are now under the sway of religious fundamentalists dead-set on asserting control. -more-

New: American Bach Soloists Perform Handel’s ACIS AND GALATEA

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday January 26, 2015 - 05:44:00 PM

George Friederic Handel’s chamber opera Acis and Galatea was first presented in 1717 as a masque, i.e., an aristocratic entertainment involving pantomime, dance, and song, at the English country estate, Cannons, of the man later known as Duke of Chandos. Based on a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Acis and Galatea is in the pastoral tradition, evoking the Arcadian world of shepherds, nymphs and mythological characters (such as Polyphemus, the famed one-eyed Cyclops). During Handel’s lifetime, Acis and Galatea was performed more often than any other of this composer’s dramatic works. -more-

A Most Unlikely Butterfly—“Retard” plays in living rooms

John McMullen
Friday January 23, 2015 - 02:29:00 PM

Last Saturday, I went to a living room performance in Oakland near the Berkeley border.

Honesty is not something that happens much on stage, perhaps by the nature of the art and artifice. We use the playwright’s words, we pretend to be someone we are not, and, like Aristotle said, honesty on the stage is an imitation of real life.

This performance was honest. There are only two people who can perform it. It is about their story. The honesty is no only their banter, in her narrative of her journey, and in her voice and choice of songs. There is an impromptu feel and candor that shows not only their connection but also shows the sometimes rocky nature of their relationship.

Miss Jeffrie Givens voice will transport you. I use that archaic honorific “Miss” to underscore that she is a woman despite her masculine -sounding surname. But the crux of the play is her ability to tell her story of breaking out of her tightly woven chrysalis with the help of Marty Nemko, her career counselor, who played a sort of Henry Higgins role in her life. -more-

THEATER REVIEW: 'Panhandle'--The Depression & Dust Bowl In Situ--Actors' Ensemble stages Walter Halsey Davis' play with music

Ken Bullock
Friday January 23, 2015 - 02:22:00 PM

"A Communist? What's that?"

"Someone who wants to take away private property."

"You mean like bankers?"

Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath' and the books and movies that followed it chronicled and made legend the impoverished families and the lonely men who crossed the country to the West Coast in the 1930s, trying to escape the ravages of the Depression and the Dust Bowl that them drove away from their farms, their homes ...

They're usually seen scrabbling for jobs, places to live, some respect--or fighting or running from oppression--Out West. But what were they like at home, before and during the ordeal that changed their lives and the history of the nation?

Actors Ensemble is staging Walter Halsey Davis' play with music, 'Panhandle,' through January 31 at Live Oak Theatre, which tells that tale, shows something of the lives of that community who saw their hopes blow away literally as dust on the wind. It's a perfect piece for AE, the Berkeley community theater company--the oldest theater company in Berkeley--to be doing, rich in background as well as foregrounded characters who rise from the ensemble, representing the community. And the music by Marc Ream and Jeremy Cohen mixes songs for chorus and individuals, both anthems and more reflective numbers that contrast the moods of those changing times. -more-

AROUND & ABOUT OPERA: Premiere of ''The Lariat,' from the Novella by Berkeley Author Jaime De Angulo

Ken Bullock
Friday January 23, 2015 - 01:15:00 PM

Lisa Scola Prosek's new opera, ''The Lariat,' winner of the New York Center for Contemporary Opera's Atelier Award, based on Berkeley author Jaime De Angulo's novella--billed as "darkly comic"--about a Spanish priest and Essalen tribesmen in Big Sur and Carmel during the age of the California Missions, premieres at 8 tonight, Friday, January 23, with performances continuing this week and next Friday and Saturday. -more-