Weekly Magazine

Winter sunrise over Crater Lake National Park. See Symphony for Nature story below.

THIS WEEK

ESPRESSIVO CHAMBER ORCHESTRA opens its fifth season. THEO CROKER, trumpeter/composer plays Kuumbwa. JAZZ VOCALIST TIERNEY SUTTON appears at Kuumbwa next Monday. For links to these and dozens of other live performance events click on our CALENDAR

MAJOR NEW SUPPORT FOR YOUTH MUSIC PROGRAMS

THE LEWIS PRIZE FOR MUSIC is excited to announce the opening of its inaugural awards process. At the core of The Lewis Prize is the belief that music can inspire and catalyze positive social and systemic change. With the mission and vision of creating fair and vibrant communities through music, it will give three multi-year awards of $500,000 each to leaders of U.S. youth music organizations and initiatives in January 2020. Visit The Lewis Prize for Music website HERE for eligibility criteria, process and a link to the Letter of Interest application portal. All Letters of Interest are due no later than 11:59 EST on Monday, September 16, 2019.

SPECTORDANCE WINS STATEWIDE GRANTS

WITH A GENEROUS AWARD of $45,000 from the California Arts Council JUMP StArts Grant for State Facilities, SpectorDance and the Department of Juvenile Justice will build upon SpectorDance’s successful dance program at Rancho Cielo and offer a similar program at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Stockton. SpectorDance will offer dance classes and choreography workshops, culminating in a public performance of East West. East West will include Department of Juvenile Justice students rehearsing and performing with SpectorDance Company dancers. East West will be performed at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Stockton on September 17. The grants also will help fund Ocean Trilogy to be presented at the New York Botanical Gardens on September 28, as part of New York Climate Week, and a work-in-progress showing of When You Were Gone at the CSUMB Center for Arts and Culture on October 24.

DANCES THAT SCANDALIZED THE WORLD

LA VOLTA, the Charleston, Tango and Jitterbug. Shocking! Click HERE 

SYMPHONY FOR NATURE AT CRATER LAKE

THE BRITT FESTIVAL orchestra and chorus with conductor Teddy Abrams and composer Michael Gordon join members of the Klamath Nation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Crater Lake National Park.

 

SAMUEL L JACKSON AND PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN

WHERE AND WHEN? Answer next week.

MEET ARVO PÄRT, MASTER OF SILENCE

ESTONIAN COMPOSER who redefined minimalism honored by his countrymen and the generations he influenced. Click HERE 

 

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

GEORGE GERSHWIN famously declared,My people are American, my time is today…music must repeat the thought and aspirations of the times.” Subtitled Inspiration from the Gershwins, Haerim Elizabeth Lee’s new CD combines 14 Gershwin classics, including arrangements, with four original works by living American composers, Patrick Harlin, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Michael Daugherty and William Bolcom. Alex Brown plays the 1933 Steinway A owned by George Gershwin in New York, now at the University of Michigan (and recorded here for the first time.) One of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, Jascha Heifetz, arranged many of Gershwin’s most beloved songs in versions for violin and piano, eight of which (including themes from An American in Paris) are included. (Gershwin’s Short Story appears in an arrangement by Samuel Dushkin.) I cannot verify it, but some of the Heifetz arrangements, like Summertime, include a lengthy introduction to the main melody that might have been fashioned by Brown; for certain he made the arrangements for Embraceable You, Sleepless Night and Violin Piece. No one can do justice to this music without swagger and swing, and both artists have plenty of it. Harlin’s #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and Daugherty’s Viva for solo violin get their first recordings here. Likewise Zwilich’s Fantasy for solo violin. Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost rag has long been a favorite violin recital encore. After three hearings, this Haerim Elizabeth Lee debut continues to enchant me; it’s a keeper. SM 

HOW ELLA FITZGERALD IS INFLUENCING A NEW GENERATION

ONE OF HER EARLY FANS was Doris Day. Click HERE 

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN

CARLOS SANTA in 1998. It’s still the blues, with nearly 15 million views.

 

FRESH REVIEWS

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN and PERICLES. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

ILYA KALER AND ALON GOLDSTEIN play music for violin and piano in Santa Cruz. SAXOPHONIST STEVE LEHMAN & TRIO at Kuumbwa. BASSIST MICHAEL FEINBERG plays Kuumbwa. BOBBY McFERRIN at the Rio. MAMMA MIA at Mountain Community Theater. VERDI’S FALSTAFF at Vets Memorial.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

A Moon for the Misbegotten

Photo by Steve DiBartolomeo

By Philip Pearce

JEWEL THEATRE COMPANY has just launched its fifteenth season in Santa Cruz with a brisk and moving production of Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten. The play has comedy, it has powerful characters, it takes a meaningful look at family relationships, it touches acidly on shady farm deals, agricultural and domestic. And, with strong emotion devoid of sentimentality it affirms the power of love to transform and to heal.  

As with Shakespeare, potential playgoers have tended to approach revivals of O’Neill’s work with caution. In Strange Interlude twentieth century characters spend a daunting amount of time saying what they have to say and then more time soliloquizing about why they have just said it. Marco Millions is a lavishly mounted satire that parallels Marco Polo’s travels with the wheelings and dealings of Wall Street. But the O’Neill plays that have survived and can still draw audiences are realistic works about real people. Think of Ah Wilderness!The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten. While these scripts are made of ingredients as familiar as the plots, characters and situations of a soap opera, only O’Neill probes, organizes and illuminates with masterful power and passion.

 Moon is about a rural lass with a sharp tongue, warm heart and shady reputation. Her name is Josie Hogan and she shores up her blustering heavy drinking father Phil’s struggles to tenant a farm in Connecticut.  Its landlord is a failed alcoholic actor named James Tyrone, Jr., whom we’ve met earlier in O’Neill’s tragic masterpiece A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Half smitten, half contemptuous of this dreamy, citified visitor, cynical Josie consents to join her father in a badger game scam on the boozy, confused Tyrone. Using moonlight, flattery and bourbon, Josie will lure him off the back stoop and into her bed.  Come the dawn, Papa Phil will storm in with witnesses to snatch the covers off the guilty pair and blackmail Tyrone into reneging on a plan to sell the farm out from under the Hogans.

The moon comes up on cue, but the phony seduction unravels as James and Josie gradually face who they really are. If there’s a weak spot in the story line I found it in the fact that the success of Phil’s trick depends on Tyrone’s unshakable conviction that the local tittle-tattle about Josie is a pack of lies and that any sexual encounter with her would be the ruin of a determined virgin. It’s a plot point that strikes me as a pretty long stretch for the likes of a Broadway actor, even one as second-rate as Jamie Tyrone.

But what matters is that he and Josie both bring heavy emotional baggage to their moonlit date. He feels a punishing guilt that his drunkenness dishonored the final days of the beloved mother who has left him the farm in her will. Josie for her part harbors a pathetic dream of shaking off her reputation as the town tart by meeting a man she can love deeply. The set and props for a confidence-trick turn into the backdrop for a night where two tormented outcasts face truths about themselves and discover they are in love. 

It’s ultimately about escape and freedom. Where the cast of Long Day’s Journey seem like prisoners trapped in a house full of deceit and failure, Joy Carlin’s direction of this sequel, with its telling use of the whole performance area, and Kent Dorsey’s brilliant set both emphasize space and change and hope. In the hands of a lesser dramatist, all this concluding uplift would seem corny and banal. But O’Neill knows and exploits the complicated depths and shoals of his characters with such precision that he creates something that rings triumphantly true.

It requires expert performances and Jewel has assembled a fine cast. The versatile Diana Torres Koss is a wonderful Josie. The woman’s contempt for pretense and sentiment are always evident, but we never lose a hint of underlying femininity and desire, even before those qualities break powerfully through in the final moments of the action. Rolf Saxon’s Jamie Tyrone keeps soothing his bruised ego with little explosions of pretentious poetry and matinee idol stage business. (You want to kick him, but his tragic face and bursts of heartbreaking truth won’t let you.) Lanky, lolling and grouchy, Howard Swain is a funny, pathetic, loudly incompetent Phil Hogan. He and Jerry Lloyd as T. Stedman Harder, a pretentious, wealthy, horse-and-hounds neighbor Phil douses with pump water, provide most of the laughs in Act 1.

The sagging fortunes of the Tyrone/Hogan place are established right off the bat with the early departure of yet another disgruntled family member/unpaid employee in the person of brother Mike Hogan. Shaun Carroll plays him with a nice, lumbering irritated conviction. 

This new Moon for the Misbegotten drew a sizable opening night audience peppered with patrons like myself venerable enough to have been alive and active when O’Neill was still writing plays in Danville.   We had an evening of memorable theater and, I hope, shared a regret that there are still people around who think an O’Neill script is a minefield of high-fallutin’ classical stagecraft, significant but best honored from a safe distance.

Exorcise that demon if you hold to it by taking a trip to the Colligan on River Street between now and September 29.