Closer than Ever – Musical Perfection at ICT Long Beach

 

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The International City Theatre in Long Beach is hosting a powerhouse of a musical through March 6th. And by musical, we mean all music, all the time.

There’s not a word of spoken dialog here, instead audiences find some twenty five story-songs composed by lyricist Richard Maltby Jr., with lush music by David Shire.  This off-Broadway classic is extremely well served by its vibrant and versatile cast members who combine strong voice with often heartbreaking emotion.

The stories these songs tell are of love – of life, of relationships -boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, love lost, found, illicit, sexual, platonic, desired, and abandoned.

With no spoken dialog how does it work? Think vignettes, musical vignettes, think clear voices, spirited delivery, and a mix of the comic and the tragic. Highlights include the absolutely riveting tale of the loss of a marriage and the life of a liberated woman sung by Valerie Perri, “Life Story,” and the rageful, hilarious “You Wanna Be My Friend” sung by Katheryne Penny when she discovers her boyfriend just wants to be friends.

On the distaff side, the men in the cast are no musical slouches either. Kevin Bailey’s loving father/son tribute “If I Sing,” is also a heart-melter. Adam von Almen’s “One Of The Good Guys,” a tribute to fidelity and lost chances both, is also deeply moving.

And let’s not forget the music supporting these stand-out, indefatigable singers. Theater music director Gerald Sternbach on grand piano and Brad Babinski on bass.

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When viewing this production, we had no idea that the play was not an original production for ICT. The fact that it’s a classic piece of theater makes it no less vital – this “Closer than Ever” is “Fresher than Ever” thanks to its incredible cast and simply great score.

The International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

  • Genie Davis; Photos by Tracey Roman

Spiraling Droplets by Aphidoidea

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February 24 through 28, Scottsdale, Ariz. will transform from an urbane Phoenix suburb in the desert to a place to explore the beauty and magic of water as an art form. The arid landscape is the perfect backdrop to an annual festival presented by the Scottsdale Public Art and Salt River Project, featuring 12 large scale interactive artworks by local and international artists, comprising the Canal Convergence Art + Water + Light Festival. One of the highlights of the festival will be the large scale water and light installation created by Los Angeles-based art collective, Aphidoidea.

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Aphidoidea’s 600-foot piece is titled Spiraling Droplets. It’s designed to reveal the graceful and elegant shape and beauty of a water droplet. To take that shape and create such a massive work yields a visual experience somewhat like projecting and magnifying a minute and delicate image from beneath a microscope, or like viewing a dazzling array of distant stars magnified through a telescope. In other words, taking a small and perfect idea – water droplets – and writing them large results in an astonishing work that features two water splashes, each containing 15 illuminated water droplets. These droplets grow progressively in size and shape, mimicking still-motion images of a water drop expanding. The pattern recreates the shapes and movements of water ripples and currents. Thirty droplets will float the length of the piece over the canal waters south of the Marshall Way Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront.

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A dream-like lighting sequence illuminates the droplets, creating the effect of natural light reflected on water. Running water, falling snow, a shower on a rainy day, and the reflections of light on a swimming pool are represented, as are larger scale water landscapes such as rainbows rising over clouds of mist and icy glaciers breaking.

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Spiraling Droplets literally and figuratively reveals the variety of shapes that water can create. Liquid, crystal, gas: these mutations that water makes have within them a wide variety of forms from snowflake crystals to softly spun clouds, wavering mist, and plummeting droplets. Many of these shapes are close to intangible to human sight, and yet we know of these shapes, and the feelings they evoke. While we may have never examined the intricacies of a snowflake with the naked eye, we know how they should look, and the wintery magic they invoke. The elegant beauty of a water droplet’s pulsating shape is again, emotionally imagined, but heretofore visually uncaptured. Spiraling Droplets allows viewers to see the process of a droplet forming and falling by a kind of stop motion technique which creates still views of that precious droplet within thousandths of a second.

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The Aphidoidea collective was entranced with the image and idea of a single droplet and its perfect transitions in shape and size – in a way, it’s wet universe contained in that single drop. It’s that vastness that is expanded and expressed at the astonishing exhibition in Scottsdale.

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Aphidoidea itself is an art, design and architecture collective that creates site-specific art installations that engage and inspire viewers while enhancing the environment. Collective members Jesus Eduardo Magaña, Paulina Bouyer-Magana, Jackie Muñoz, and Andrew Hernandez, craft art that explores and stimulates each site, through a combination of a conceptual approach, a variety of materials, interaction and perception.

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Initial site-specific installations have evolved for the collective, as their pieces have grown to include response and interaction from viewers.

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Based in Los Angeles, Aphidoidea has exhibited in the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the City of Long Beach, Inner City Arts, YMCA, in the City of Santa Monica, and at Burning Man. Recent exhibits have included installations for the Coachella Music and Art Festival, and public works at the Red Rocks College Metro Station for Denver’s Regional Transportation District and the city of Golden, Colorado. In 2010, the collective created the Icup II_Synthetic Landscape, which used 4,000 paper cups and 15,000 staples, to suspend the cups and create an entirely new spatial experience. The exhibition was held at Phantom Galleries, which places temporary installations in vacant storefronts throughout the Los Angeles area. Using the ordinary material of a paper cup, the installation took that unremarkable object and transformed it into a vibrant component of an other-worldly design, an abstract landscape that literally became alive with motion through a motion/heat sensor that activated a crankshaft to rotate the cups.

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Water is a more mutable form to begin with, and Aphidoidea’s blurring of the lines between art and technology should be a perfect match for such a shifting, enigmatic medium. The Aphidoidea team integrates skills in metal sculpture, intuitive architectural design, large scale art works, traditional art mediums from acrylics to water color, and found art forms. This multi-disciplinary collective utilizes materials and technologies such as CNC prototyping, 3D modeling, lighting, and interactive graphics.

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Whatever their methodology, the results Aphidoidea accomplishes are magical creations that fuse technology with wonder.

  • Genie Davis; Photos provided by Shoebox PR

Dreamcatcher at the Fountain Theater

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The diminutive Fountain Theater may be small in size, but the performances and theme of its current offering, Dreamcatcher, are huge.
Written by Stephen Sachs, the theater’s artistic director, the play, running through March 31st, on the surface tells the story of Roy (Brian Tichnell) a passionate solar engineer bent on helping the environment, and Opal (Elizabeth Frances) the vibrant young Mojave woman with whom he’s having an affair. They find themselves at odds over the fact that Roy’s company is planning to build a massive solar energy project on ground that Opal has just discovered holds an ancient burial ground.
Beneath the surface of this dilemma is another: Opal may be pregnant, Roy may be married to someone else.
Taking place on a stage in the round that’s been transformed to a circle of desert that’s basically sand and rock, the sometimes steamy, always morally provocative dialog rockets the audience through the single act play constantly on edge. Who is right and who is wrong here? Are moral concerns to be put aside for the “greater good,” whether that is the ecology of the planet or the wife Roy left behind in Massachusetts? Are traditions, lives, past lives, animals, humans merely particles caught in a corporate machine, no matter how well-intentioned?  What is of value? An idea, a science, love, the hapless birds whose fiery deaths Roy jokes about having witnessed as they plummet into the heat of the solar panels?
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All of these questions simmer while Roy and Opal’s relationship boils over in a fight both physical and emotional, cathartic and heart-breaking. While the play may at times skim over the hard choices both the audience and the characters must make, the political, social, environmental, and moral choices and ambiguities are entirely relatable and extremely timely.
Take this one in – it’s the kind of tough, makes-you-think theater we need more of in a city of thoughtless celluloid super heroes.
The Fountain Theater is located at 5060 Fountain Ave. in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Annie Clavel: Universes of Art

Clavell Connecting UniversesAnnie Clavel is an artist who inhabits Parallel Universes. The name of a new series of her paintings, the title is also an apt description of her philosophy of life and her art.

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Clavel is a mathematician as well as a painter, and her work reveals both a precise, mathematical balance and a preference for abstraction as she depicts a world driven by quantum mechanics and minute particles.

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Her mixed media on canvas paintings combine a variety of nuanced colors, refined brush strokes, and alternating textures. According to the artist, this approach represents “the variety of parallel universes with particles, photons, and waves.” Clavel sees one particle as being in two locations at the same time in the quantum universe, an idea which led her to create this series. In a number of paintings, creepers serve as links between each universe, and square, opaque windows reveal only blank faces between worlds.

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In Three Xs in a Red Soup, the clearly defined yellow x’s seem to emerge like living beings from a miasma of swirls and tiny, almost floral dots. Smaller, less defined red x’s appear to soar along a clear, pale yellow path, aiming for some place beyond the red world. Green shapes that look amphibian in nature cruise through what could be openings into a different space. The viewer feels almost pulled into this painting as if by the power of some centrifugal force.

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Cool whites and blues dominate Photons in the Blue, where a blue square to the center right of the piece pulls the eye. It’s the aesthetic heart of the painting, with small white and yellow shapes inside that could be figures looking out at another world rushing by. While vertical lines predominate throughout the rest of the painting, there is also what could be a Munch-like visage in white traveling through the upper left of the canvas.

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And in Connecting Universes, the gold and yellow dominant swirls are clearly delineated by curves and brush strokes of red. Two separate red sections appear about to intertwine, amoeba like – and while these rudimentary life forms are certainly brought to mind, their uncoiling touch points also evoke an entirely different image, that of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, that Sistine Chapel image of God and Adam touching gone abstract.

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In Matter & Antimatter, Clavel’s art takes on an almost purely floral quality. Like purple iris, colorful blooms erupt on either side of a vast, white rift. These shapes are fluid, in motion. Much of Clavel’s works in this series depict an unknowable movement.

 

So what do these universes, these particles, their shifting and flow, mean? The viewer is left to explore what these implosions of color and form shape within his or her own mind, but the overall effect when studying Clavel’s work is to enter exquisite, imaginative, and completely foreign territory. The artist was born in Toulouse, France and lived in France, Germany, and Tunisia before moving to Southern California in 2006. In one way, the works may re-imagine the artist’s immigration from France to the U.S.; in another they are creating a mix of multiple planets, multiple horizons. A hundred sunsets swirl on the head of a pin and flow outward onto Clavel’s canvasses.

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The joy in Clavel’s work is its careful interlacing of color and form, a collision of shapes, an almost three dimensional pull that requires the viewer to do what the artist describes herself as achieving – taking “a step into the unknown.”

Clavel began this journey when she was studying mathematics, visually imagining the concepts she studied in colorful forms. She began by painting representational works in water color and acrylic. Her current abstract work is based on exploring colors, shapes, light, and movement, and how each of these elements form relationships with each other. “I let my instinct and intuition guide my work to capture the magic of the moment,” she says.

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Seeking to express what she feels about the world around her, and her own existence, Clavel in some respects shapes not only parallel universes between worlds, particles, and space, but the parallels that exist inside every person, between dark and light, happy and sad, past and present. If we can exist in spacial terms on a variety of planes, then, perhaps we also exist on different planes of emotion and intent.

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“I tend to create works that express what I’m feeling about the world and my existence, about mathematics and life, abstraction and representation,” Clavel says.

Clavel has painted for over 25 years. Recent exhibition have included the group show Chaos Theory 2 at OCCCA in Santa Ana, Bugs, Fishes & Birds at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, and juried shows at the Palos Verdes Art Center, Tang Gallery in Bisbee, Ariz., and at the AES Power Plant in Redondo Beach.

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“Life is a series of steps that you decide or that you put up with,” Clavel says. Through her Parallel Universes series, those steps may lead both the artist and the viewer into vast and unknown realms, whose magnificence unfolds with an unerring grace on canvas.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Annie Clavel