Essentials: Entertainment Picks April 10-16 

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THURSDAY APRIL 10

Repertory Dance Theatre: Land

Repertory Dance Theatre’s spring performance Land pulls from a vast repertoire for an evening of works designed to celebrate the land we live on. The pieces use the diversity of Utah—from vast high deserts and dense forested mountains, to lush wetlands surrounding various bodies of water, to the erosion that shapes it all—as inspiration for creatively exploring Utah’s landscape. Land consists of four works, beginning with Ze’eva Cohen’s Rainwood. Set to the natural sounds of birds, frogs and insects, Cohen’s choreography is almost ritualistic, with its repetition and the way it integrates the dancers into the environment they move through. Molissa Fenley’s Desert Sea, inspired by the people who called the Colorado Plateau home centuries ago, was commissioned by RDT in 2005 as part of its Sense of Place choreography competition. The other two pieces—Turf, choreographed by Joanie Shapiro and Danial Smith, and Erosion, by longtime RDT collaborator Zvi Gotheiner—are both scored with original compositions by Scott Killian. The overt theme uniting all the pieces is how the landscape that surrounds us inspires creation, but there are other important underlying themes. They explore how the geological marking of time gives us perspective on the briefness of human life, and how living in a specific landscape influences our connection with, and perspective on, the complexity of humans trying to fit within the larger natural world. (Jacob Stringer)
Repertory Dance Theatre: Land @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, April 10-12, 7:30 p.m., $30 in advance, $35 day of show.  RDTUtah.org

Robert Coover
Robert Coover has been at the forefront of American experimental fiction for six decades. From the beginning, with his first novel, The Origin of the Brunists—about the founder of a religious cult—Coover’s work has been marked by provocative content and an intellectually challenging approach to the material, taking into account changes in technology, and the implications of those changes on the art of writing. His forays into cutting-edge writing methods have included classes he teaches on electronic writing, mixed media and “CaveWriting”—a workshop that immerses the writers in “hypertext,” a kind of virtual reality in which selections of the text are online links that can be followed to different sites—and he has advanced the genres of metafiction and magical realism. His most recent novel, The Brunist Day of Wrath (Dzanc Books, 2014), picks up the story of his first novel and its protagonist, cult leader Giovanni Bruno, and his group’s preparation for the end-times. Coover is timely, as apocalypse has become a key theme of contemporary American fiction. The Guest Writer Series at the Art Barn, sponsored by the University of Utah’s English department and creative-writing program and the Salt Lake City Arts Council, is in its 19th season of bringing some of the most exemplary practitioners of the literary arts to read from their works. The season is rounded out April 24 with a reading by University of Utah faculty. (Brian Staker)
Robert Coover @ The Art Barn, 1340 E. 100 South, 801-596-5000, April 10, 7 p.m., free. SLCGov.com/arts/literary

Kamelia Pezeshki
It’s difficult for a photographer to stand out, and a common response is to turn toward bigger and more imposing subjects. Not so for photographer Kamelia Pezeshki, whose work focuses on individual details of what might have been a larger subject. These microcosms reflect an invisible macrocosm, creating charm, mystery and intrigue in each piece. A tempting cup of Turkish coffee rests on a saucer; why has it been left there and who might have left it? A cocoa truffle is carelessly left on a crisp white background; who could possibly delay indulging in such a delight? A glass goblet is filled with shells; what oceanic creature made these their home? As works of pure formalism, these photographs are rich with sensually nuanced black & white tones. But they also inspire compelling thoughts about the context of which these small, detailed elements are a part. (Ehren Clark)
Kamelia Pezeshki @ Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 200 South, 801-364-8282, through April 11, free. Phillips-Gallery.com

Justin Wheatley: The Color of Truth
The past decade of professional artistic productivity for Justin Wheatley has been anything but dull and predictable. And Wheatley’s current showing of break-through new works demonstrates a great leap forward in the artist’s development. Wheatley’s distinctive multimedia techniques showcase the skills of a craftsman combined with the sensibilities of an artist. His earliest works bore great visual appeal; his strong focus on subject and a flourishing of compelling iconography made for powerful compositions. His current cityscapes are muted, with a hazy layering creating a detachment.
Wheatley’s oeuvre has been an inquiry into reality beyond artificial exteriors; what possible investigation can a hazy, heavy “Main Street” scene facilitate? Beams of lucid layered color traverse both broad and narrower horizontal expanses, with a glorious effect and contrast. Structure alone is monotonous and lifeless, while humanity has the color of dreams, creation and inspiration. (Ehren Clark)
Justin Wheatley: The Color of Truth @ 15th Street Gallery, 1519 S. 1500 East, 855-988-0487, through April 15, free. 15thStreetGallery.com


FRIDAY APRIL 11

Ballet West: The Rite of Spring
The premiere of The Rite of Spring, one of the most notorious performances of the 20th century, seemed so modern and so strange that the audience at Paris’s Theatre des Champs-Elysees, shaken by the experience, rioted. Since then, both Rite’s music (composed by Igor Stravinsky) and ballet (choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballet Russes) have become part of the ballet canon. Now, in celebration of 2013’s centennial of that famous riotous performance, Ballet West presents a world-premiere rendition of The Rite of Spring choreographed by the company’s resident choreographer, Nicolo Fonte. While Nijinsky’s original ballet set a sinister mood with movement completely unfamiliar to ballet—full of stomping, jumping, shaking and contorting bodies—Fonte’s Rite of Spring will offer a newly poetic interpretation of the ballet. Stretching the limits of the dancers’ physical vocabulary, it is at times even more angular than the original, yet also embraces a seamless fluidity that moves with the current of Stravinsky’s music without being beholden to its exact rhythm. And while Nijinsky’s two-act ballet culminated with The Chosen One, a young pagan maiden, sacrificing herself by dancing to death, in Nicolo’s ballet, many dancers become The Chosen One, leaving the audience to contemplate moments of isolation and fear in their own lives. In addition to Rite of Spring, Ballet West will perform George Balanchine’s elegant, unassuming Divertimento No. 15 in B flat—set to Mozart’s score of the same name—and Forgotten Land by Jirí Kylián, one of the world’s greatest living choreographers, set to Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem.” (Katherine Pioli)
Ballet West: The Rite of Spring @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, April 11, 12, 16-18, 7:30 p.m., April 19, 2 & 7 p.m., $24-$74. BalletWest.org

Salt Lake Acting Company: 4000 Miles
Complicated familial relationships have formed the basis of many classic dramatic works over the years. But Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles—an Obie Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist—takes a unique approach by sidestepping grand confrontations and focusing instead on the connection between two characters who seem like they should have plenty in common, but still struggle to connect. Leo is a young, environmentally conscious progressive who arrives unexpectedly on the doorstep of his grandmother Vera in Manhattan at the end of a long cross-country bike trip. But Vera’s no ideological opposite; she’s an old-school leftist herself, though there may be differences in how they approach that concept. As Leo settles into living with Vera, 4000 Miles explores the way Leo has responded to the damaging events of his life, and how we sometimes need that connection to family, even when we don’t think that we do. (Scott Renshaw)
4000 Miles @ Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, 801-363-7522, through May 4, $15-$42. SaltLakeActingCompany.org

The Sting & Honey Company: Hedda Gabler
Manipulative. Idealistic. Villainous. Heroic. These are just a few of the adjectives commonly applied to the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Hedda is a beautiful young bride fresh off her honeymoon when unexpected visitors awaken both Hedda and the audience to her lack of enthusiasm for domesticity. In the midst of precipitating events and characters’ muddled motivations, things quickly get real, so to speak. Ibsen has been called the father of realism, and Hedda Gabler is his most popular play. Its characters are among his most complex, most intricately developed and, of course, most real. Ibsen’s characters are walking contradictions that some of us like, some of us hate, and few of us understand. The Sting & Honey Company is known for its aesthetic creativity and talented casts, and its production of Hedda Gabler promises a memorable combination of artistic innovation and classic realism. (Julia Shumway)
The Sting & Honey Company: Hedda Gabler @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, April 11, 12, 16-18, 7:30 p.m., April 19, 2 & 7:30 p.m. $18. ArtTix.org


SATURDAY APRIL 12

Anthony Jeselnik

In 2009, comedian Anthony Jeselnik was hired as a writer for Jimmy Fallon’s debut season as the host of Late Night. Besides helping to craft many of the off-beat skits that Fallon became known for, the stand-up comedian was responsible for churning out dozens of jokes each night as part of the opening monologue—a job basically involving consuming the day’s news and regurgitating it into as many creative punch lines as possible. The fast-paced, high-volume joke training suited Jeselnik’s sardonic wit perfectly; the quick way in which he runs through his own jokes when he’s onstage doing stand-up is very similar to a monologue, without the practiced smoothness of late-night TV. But he’s got the personality for TV—good looks and a sickly charming smile that help set up the crowd to take his nice-guy bait before he turns on them with dark jokes about molestation. He used this devilish balancing act on his 2013 Comedy Central series The Jeselnik Offensive, almost daring you not to laugh at the way he points out the sickness in humanity. It’s a unique gift. He’s the first to admit that the stint as talk-show joke-spinner paid off by helping him hone his writing, but ultimately, that world is probably a bit too straight-laced for his liking. It’s really onstage in the clubs that the true Jeselnik emerges, where he feels free to poke fun at sensitive topics in a manner that shows the idea of “too soon” has never even crossed his mind. (Jacob Stringer)
Anthony Jeselnik @ The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, 801-467-8499, April 12, 8 p.m., $30.50 in advance, $35.50 day of show. DepotSLC.com

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