For my money, the best part of the Feb. 25 TV premiere of A Raisin in the Sun (directed by Atlanta's Kenny Leon) was Audra McDonald. Portraying Ruth Younger, the harried housewife, McDonald brought a kind of warmth that I think shed a bit of the bitterness that informed Ruby Deeâs performance (at least in the movie version). McDonaldâs Ruth seemed more tired than hardened by life, and maybe a bit more willing to play the peacemaker in that cramped New York apartment.
Itâs no wonder the star of TV's "The Practice" delivered a stage performance that earned her her fourth Tony Award in 11 years, a rarity on Broadway particularly considering that two came from performances in musicals (Carousel, Ragtime!).
That speaks to the versatility of McDonald, who performs at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at the Ferst Center for the Arts (map here). McDonaldâs is a classically trained voice, and sometimes I wonder if that keeps her from tapping into some of the grittier aspects of the songs Iâve heard her sing. Itâs as if she doesnât let go of the formality and the structure of an otherwise perfect voice â she appears capable of doing whatever she pleases with her voice. (Her vibrato kicks into gear in a flash, and high notes certainly donât scare her). But I would love to see what she can do in a live setting, based on the myriad clips of her on YouTube. Hereâs a pretty good example of her at her most classic mode, singing one of my favorite Gershwin tunes, âSomeone to Watch Over Me.â
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Don't forget: The DVD version of Raisin will be released May 6.
(Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Last night I attended a promotional screening for the slick, shallow blackjack drama 21 (pictured). The first trivia question asked during the pre-show T-shirt giveaway was âName the motto for Las Vegas.â Pretty much everyone in the audience knew the answer, âWhat happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.â
Endless TV commercials for Las Vegas tourism have made the slogan practically inescapable. But the rule apparently doesnât apply to the countless movies filmed there. Why canât THEY stay in Vegas? Am I the only one whoâs noticed a virtually constant flow of movies and TV shows that portray Las Vegas in a flattering light? Itâs like Hollywood has gotten a serious Jones for the place, and can't stop selling Vegas to us.
Sure, I liked Steven Soderberghâs Oceanâs 11 movies (well, not the middle one) as much as the next guy. And I get the appeal of Vegas as a setting. Its status as Americaâs vice capital lends itself to sin-steeped morality plays and soft-core pornography. The big casinos make for natural cinematic subjects: with their flashing lights and ringing noises, theyâre like the grown-up equivalent to Chuck E. Cheese, with access to a robust sex industry.
There's a new film series in town, and it's decidedly artsy and intriguing. Cinemama begins its series tonight at New Street Gallery (2800 Washington St., Avondale Estates, GA 30002) with a screening of John Cassavetes' 1968 stunner Faces. Starring some of Cassavetes' regulars (wife Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Seymour Cassel), the film examines the life of a married couple and how our sexual mores dig into our frustrations.
In his review, film critic Roger Ebert hailed the three-time Oscar nominee for its unrelentingly honest take on the American middle class:
John Cassevetes' Faces is the sort of film that makes you want to grab people by the neck and drag them into the theater and shout: "Here!" It would be a triumphant shout. Year after year, we get a tide of bilge that passes for "the American way of life" in the movies.
We know it isn't like that. We don't live that way and neither does anyone we know. What Cassavetes has done is astonishing. He has made a film that tenderly, honestly and uncompromisingly examines the way we really live.
The screening, which is free, starts at 8 p.m. According to a release, three popcorn, drinks and "soft fluffy pillows." Donations will be accepted.
Here's the rest of the schedule:
April 3, 8 p.m.: 3 Women (directed by Robert Altman, 1977)
April 10, 8 p.m.: Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
April 17, 8 p.m.: Celine & Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
April 24, 8 p.m.: The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski,
Here's a clip from the movie, one of the key scenes, featuring newcomer Lynn Carlin. Impressive stuff.
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The Silver Scream Spook Show for Saturday, March 29, is for the seafood lover in you. The Plaza Theatre's monthly screening of cult/sci-fi flicks serves an all-you-can-eat platter of Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, also known as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. In this go-round, Godzilla's titular foe is a jumbo shrimp that would undoubtedly be delicious with drawn butter. (Fans of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" will recall this one getting mocked during the Joel Hodgson years.) This vintage, Japanese-language trailer is particularly strange, showing highlights of the film scored not only to the "Mothra" song and "A Night on Bald Mountain," but the out-of-place classical compositions "Hungarian Rhapsody" and "The Can-Can." What, no "Rock Lobster?"
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In playwright Chris Craddock's postmodern, literate comedy Indulgences (playing through April 12 at Dad's Garage Theatre), director Kate Warner focuses on an unconventional take on two young, obscure roles from Macbeth, Malcolm and Fleance. The artistic director of Dad's Garage, Warner has never directed a full, "real" production of Shakespeare before, but the Bard informs many of her creative experiences, as he does with most theater professionals.
Continue reading Culture Surfing.
"We all know that books are funny. First, they are made of paste and cloth, which is funny, as is the fact that people still buy and read them."
â From John Hodgman's (PC in the Apple commercials) introduction to The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes (Vintage) due out Tues., April 1. Editors at the San Francisco-based book and magazine publisher McSweeney's pulled together the book-related spoofs, sketches and letters from their snarky archives.
(Photo Â© 2006 Lionsgate Films)
Of all the back-and-forthing over Tyler Perry in anticipation â and subsequent reviews â of Meet the Browns, arguably the most compelling criticism I've read so far of the Atlanta filmmaker appears courtesy of Andre C. Willis, an assistant professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale Divinity School, on the website The Root. In his thoughtful essay, Willis accuses Perry of succumbing too conveniently to what Willis calls the filmmaker's black evangelical spirituality, offering too-simple solutions to secular problems â¦
To address entrenched social misery, lack of opportunity, economic inequality, poor schooling and housing discrimination, Perry's work trumpets prayer. For more personal and familial struggles such as drug abuse, infidelity and child abuse, his work similarly prescribes redemption through a stronger, deeper and more committed Christian faith. Even his core audience is acutely aware that his work is creatively limited, and yet they are drawn to it because it presents them with a world that is highly recognizableâin language, tone and theme.
I might quibble with some of Willis' conclusions about the importance of strong faith in someone's lives, but not having seen Perry's work, I wouldn't want to get into uncharted waters. But it's a great read, and is ripe for dialog.
(Photo courtesy Prodan Dimov)
In the late 1990s, Bulgarian director Prodan Dimov helmed a lively production of a one-man show based on the classic, comedic short story "Diary of a Madman" by Nikolai Gogol. For the inaugural season of his new theater company, Metropolis Port (co-founded with Mary Claire Dunn), Dimov offers a new page of his award-winning DIARY OF A MADMAN, continuing Thurs., MARCH 27. New York actor Jon Hayden plays a minor Russian civil servant who becomes increasingly unhinged and convinced that he is, in fact, Spanish royalty. Haven't we all been there? Through April 12. $15-$20. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. 14th Street Playhouse, Stage 3, 173 14th St. 404-733-4738 www.metropolisport.org.
Comedian Paula Poundstone's idiosyncratic style of observational humor has earned her two Cable Ace Awards and a 1989 American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-Up Comic. Comedy Central ranked her No. 88 among the 100 greatest stand-up comics of all time. She overcame a personal struggle with alcohol made public by a 2001 arrest on charges related to the care of her adopted children, but she is now clean and sober and riding on the success of her 2006 book, There Is Nothing In This Book That I Meant to Say. A frequent panelist on NPR's "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" news-quiz show, Poundstone performs Friday, March 28, at 8 p.m. at the Ferst Center for the Arts (tickets $21.60-$37).
Continue reading Speakeasy.
(Photo by Greg Mooney)
Susan V. Booth, artistic director of the Tony-winning Alliance Theatre, ventures well outside the perimeter to direct Tennessee Williamsâ The Glass Menagerie for Lawrencevilleâs Aurora Theatre from March 5-April 5, 2009. Itâs a coup for Aurora and the highlight of its newly announced 2008-09 theatrical season.
Auroraâs schedule also features vampires, corpses and the devil (which makes it sound more like a season of âBuffy the Vampire Slayerâ). The season begins with the musical Damn Yankees (âin celebration of the Gwinnett Braves bringing us professional baseballâ), in which a baseball fan sells his soul to the devil to play a winning season with his favorite team (Aug. 7-Sep. 7). Next, something wicked this way comes with Steven Dietzâs adaptation of Dracula in time for Halloween (Oct. 7-Nov. 2). After the perennial Christmas Canteen (Nov. 28-Dec. 21), Aurora presents the vintage English mystery Corpse!, featuring one actor playing identical twins (Jan. 15-Feb. 8).
Following The Glass Menagerie next spring, Auroraâs season finishes up with the Caribbean fairy-tale musical Once On This Island from the creators of Ragtime and Seussical. Overall it sounds like a commercially savvy line-up, but itâs a shame that it includes no show as new or intriguing as Auroraâs brainy, risky comedy Bach at Leipzig from last fall.
Incidentally, Booth directs the Alliance Theatre's next main stage show, the Pulitzter-winning drama Doubt, which begins previews April 2.
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