Essentials: Entertainment Picks May 8-14 

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THURSDAY MAY 8

Wasatch Theatre Company: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

It’s not easy for a play to balance profane dark humor, serious meditations on the limits of forgiveness and a little potential blasphemy. But Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot manages to pull it off. Set in a Purgatory appeals court, it finds attorney Fabiana Cunningham (Ana Lemke) taking up the challenge of defending Judas Iscariot (Nick Dias), the apostle who betrayed Jesus (Brandon Pearson). And with a parade of high-profile witnesses taking the stand—from Sigmund Freud to Pontius Pilate—the audience becomes a de facto jury invited to contemplate what, exactly, Judas is guilty of. As directed by Lucas Bybee, Wasatch Theatre Company’s production scores plenty of pure entertainment points from terrific performances, including Paris Hawkins as Saint Monica, Chris Harvey as a gangster-esque Pilate and William Cooper Howell as Satan. It’s a sprawling work, and while Guirgis’ text leaves some of his many ideas only half-developed, the production effectively negotiates the tricky path between scriptural background and unorthodox speculation. But Judas is most compelling in the way it complicates and humanizes its titular subject, and indeed the entire subject of the Passion. This is less an attempt at rehabilitating the image of the reviled traitor than an exploration of guilt, responsibility and the way we justify to ourselves decisions that seem obviously horrible to others. It’s a brilliant, fairly literal manifestation of the old saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” (Scott Renshaw)
Wasatch Theatre Company: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through May 17, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., 2 p.m. matinees May 10 & May 17, $15. ArtTix.org

Pygmalion Theatre Company: Motherhood Out Loud
It may not be the only measure of a production’s success, but when it became apparent during the final moments of Pygmalion Theatre Company’s production of Motherhood Out Loud that fully half the female audience members in the room were in tears, it’s fair to say that it was probably doing something right. Composed of 21 short vignettes and monologues by 14 writers, Motherhood covers the breadth of the maternal experience, in more or less chronological order. A brand-new mother laments sleep deprivation; moms talk about dealing with rites of passage like a daughter’s first period or The Talk; and less traditional perspectives—like a gay couple using a surrogate, or a white woman who has adopted a Chinese girl—also get a moment to share. The segments come and go in a matter of just a few minutes, and if there’s any problem with Motherhood, it’s that a few of the concepts would have benefited from more time to flesh out the relationships. And as is the case in any omnibus collection, there are a couple of less-effective stories. But given those limitations, Motherhood delivers an impressive number of big laughs and genuinely heartbreaking performances by the five-actor ensemble, with Elizabeth Golden hitting some of the most powerful notes. From the pain of watching an autistic son alienate his first date, to the joyous sorrows of first days of school and empty nests, the production provides a beautifully expansive perspective on what it means to be a mom. Bring tissues. (Scott Renshaw)
Pygmalion Theatre Company: Motherhood Out Loud @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through May 17, Thursdays 7:30 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 2 & 8 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m., $20. ArtTix.org

Don Athay
The title of Don Athay’s “Desert Ramblings” feels like a humble understatement when it comes to his ability to capture his natural subjects. Athay’s works are an exploration of color that excites the senses with vibrant, illuminated fields and stimulating hues that amplify the sky and intensify the earth below. But this glorious color is far from “rambling.” How many times has one driven through a canyon and seen the sun illuminate the earth with every color of the rainbow, or climbed a hill in the rain to see the other side, with clouds parted and resplendent color magnifying everything you see? Athay’s use of color is a wondrous vision of the extent to which color may be found in fields, a storm or a vast array of flowers with no limit as to what may be yielded in terms of natural hues. Color is the essence of Athay’s work, and license to go the distance is his vehicle. (Ehren Clark)
Don Athay @ Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 200 South, 801-364-8284, through May 9, free. Phillips-Gallery.com


FRIDAY MAY 9

Dancing With the Salt Lake Stars

Dancing on film has saved many things—love interests, careers and even small towns from their self-righteous morality. Now, you can witness how dancing saves lives in real life at the upcoming Dancing With the Salt Lake Stars charity gala. Inspired by the Dancing With the Stars TV show, what started three years ago as an all-volunteer grass-roots initiative between the American Cancer Society and DF Dance Studio to benefit Relay for Life has grown in both size and ambition. The evening will include a fancy three-course meal, during which DF’s professional instructors will pair with local news anchors and reporters to perform choreography they’ve painstakingly rehearsed for several months. People will vote with their wallets both before and during the event for their favorite couple; the pair that raises the most money wins. The three “judges” of the performances are little girls currently battling cancer. Kim Johnson, a former ABC 4 weekend anchor who participated in 2013’s event, calls it “inspirational,” adding, “Everybody knows someone affected by cancer. My mother is a survivor. There is no scarier feeling than watching someone you love live with the awful disease. Anything I can do—whether it’s reporting on efforts to find a cure, or putting on a beaded costume and shakin’ it to raise money for ACS—I am thrilled to do my part.” KUTV 2 news anchor Mary Nickles, herself a cancer survivor, will be this year’s emcee. (Kecianne Shick)
Dancing With the Salt Lake Stars @ Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 S. West Temple, 801-328-2000, May 9, 7 p.m., $50 for individuals, $90 per couple.

Pioneer Theatre Company: Sweet Charity
The Broadway musical is an institution—and like any institution, sometimes it tones things down a bit for a broader audience. When playwright Neil Simon, lyricist Dorothy Fields and composer Cy Coleman looked to adapt Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria for the stage, it seemed like it might be a good idea to take Fellini’s optimistic protagonist—a prostitute—and make her a Times Square taxi dancer instead. Sweet Charity follows the adventures of that gung-ho girl—Charity Hope Valentine—as the luckless dancer is ditched by her boyfriend, only to end up running into a celebrated film star and getting trapped in an elevator with a timid accountant. Is there a chance for the girl with a heart tattooed literally on her sleeve to find love? Find out to the accompaniment of classic show-stoppers like “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “Big Spender.” (Scott Renshaw)
Pioneer Theatre Company: Sweet Charity @ Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, May 9-24, Mondays-Thursdays 7:30 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 2 & 8 p.m., $59. PioneerTheatre.org

Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan & Steve Lemme
Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme—founding members of the well-known comedy group Broken Lizard—are making their way to Salt Lake City as part of their Comedy Central stand-up tour, Broken Lizard Stands Up. This comedic duo has been together since the good ol’ college days at Colgate University, where they would perform sketch comedy around town. Upon graduation, the five-member group went on to perform in clubs in New York City, and eventually went on to star in cult films, like Super Troopers, Beerfest and Club Dread. The talented group took another leap in 2005 when they directed, co-wrote and acted in the feature film version of the 1970s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. Their comic shtick includes insightful information about dying in a vat of beer, and what a drag it is for a fat man to hang around with a “little bitty fella.” (Aimee Cook O’Brien)
Broken Lizard’s  Kevin Heffernan & Steve Lemme @ Wiseguys West Valley, 2194 W. 3500 South, May 9 & 10, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m., $20. WiseguysComedy.com


SATURDAY MAY 10

Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out

Lions, tigers and bears—oh my! The new Body Worlds exhibit at The Leonardo, Animal Inside Out, reveals animals in ways most of us have never seen them before. Preserved through a process of Plastination developed by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, visitors can explore the hidden layers of bodies, from insects to full-grown mammals. Explore skeletal foundations, tendons and ligaments. Compare muscles in a reindeer’s leg to those in a bull’s heart. Follow the nervous system from the brain through the spinal cord and out to the body’s extremities. The exhibit is designed to teach an appreciation for the diversity of wildlife, and allow a space in which to wonder at both the striking differences and equally remarkable similarities between humans and animals. After all, when you learn that a giant squid can snatch prey from 33 feet away with sharp-toothed suckers, and that a reindeer’s hollow hair follicles insulate it from the cold, how could you not advocate for the conservation of these wonderful creatures? (Katherine Pioli)
Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out @ The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South, 801-531-9800, May 10-fall, $15-$19. TheLeonardo.org

Spring Art Adoption
Time flies, and darn if it isn’t spring already, when it seems like we were just breaking in another calendar in January. Not only that, but the annual Spring Art Adoption—in which works by local artists find a loving home—celebrates its fifth anniversary. This one takes place at Publik. Coffee Roasters as the Spring Art Adoption prepares to jump into a new location in the Granary District, set to become the new hip hangout in town. More than 30 artists will be displaying their work, with almost every imaginable technique, genre and style represented. And the event will take place in a space that’s not just a gathering place for a cup of joe and conversation, but also a venue with capacity for 3,000 people. So it should provide the artworks—like a good cup of coffee—room to breathe. (Brian Staker)
Spring Art Adoption @ Publik. Coffee Roasters, 975 S. West Temple, 801-355-3161, May 10, 7 p.m., free. PublikCoffee.com

Utah Opera: The Abduction From the Seraglio
Many laypeople tend to associate opera with tragedy. Even the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart felt that most composers were on creative cruise control when it came to comic operas, often saving their best work for tales of epic sorrow. So he set out to write an opera that was as brilliant in its execution as it was light in its subject and happy in its finale: The Abduction From the Seraglio. According to one anecdote made famous in the film Amadeus, Emperor Joseph II—who commissioned the opera—remarked that Abduction From the Seraglio contained “too many notes,” especially for such a simple story. The damsel Konstanze; her servant Blonde; and her servant’s fiance, Pedrillo, are kidnapped by pirates, and our noble hero Belmonte must rescue his beloved Konstanze. She in turn is sold to a Turkish Pasha, who falls madly in love with her, and Belmonte must figure out a way to bring her home. Set in grand palaces and gardens of the exotic Ottoman Empire, the songspiel was written in German as a calculated move by the emperor to challenge opera’s dominant language, Italian. But the fact that Abduction From the Seraglio has a rather enlightened, happy ending shouldn’t betray its complicated musicality—including several challenging arias, one of which includes the lowest note ever written into an opera. Sure, the story line doesn’t culminate in death, and the Pasha wields his mighty power to do right with kindness, but many still consider it to be some of Mozart’s finest work. (Jacob Stringer)
Utah Opera: The Abduction From the Seraglio @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, May 10, 12, 14 & 16, 7:30 p.m.; May 18, 2 p.m., $18-$95. UtahOpera.org, ArtTix.org

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