Essentials: Entertainment Picks Nov. 13-19 

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THURSDAY NOV. 13

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Wasatch Theatre Company: Happy
One moment comes close to defining Happy in totality, for better and/or worse: Near the play's conclusion, one character embarks on a lengthy and brutal monologue, under the impression that another character has been lying. It becomes clear fairly quickly that the indignant character is mistaken, and that the other has been telling the truth; the former is due to the script telegraphing it, but the latter is due to the actor in question giving a performance of such complete commitment that it gives away the ultimate resolution just as much as the obviousness of the writing. Robert Caisley's script isn't entirely bad, but it is a bit stiff structurally, and provides its actors with rudimentary starting points for performances rather than fully realized characters. Fortunately, Brian Pilling, Alyssa Franks, George Plautz and Michelle Linn Hall take what they're given in the script and run with it. Indeed, Happy is a showcase at once for the limitations of naturalistic dramatic writing, and the possibilities for acting within the same form. The story—about how a college professor's best friend's new girlfriend manipulates the professor into the admission that he's not as guilelessly content with his life (and wife and sick daughter) as he would have everyone believe—is less interesting than the way the actors twist the material's contrivance into fascinatingly real moments. The result is a compelling piece of theater—so ultimately, how we arrive at that point may be less important than getting there at all. (Danny Bowes) Wasatch Theatre Company: Happy @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through Nov. 22, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., 2 p.m. Saturday matinees, $15, ArtTix.org

THURSDAY NOV. 13

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Year of the Horse
The horse is one of the animals represented in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, and 2014 is the year of the horse. For Modern West Fine Art, this is cause for celebration. "You cannot separate the building of the American West from the horse, and the figure itself is so beautiful and powerful that of course it would be painted," says gallery director Diane P. Stewart. The horse is currently featured in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Utah, which, Stewart says, "made me want to look at the horse through art." This inspiration became Year of the Horse, the current Modern West Fine Art exhibition. The gallery focuses on providing contemporary Southwestern flavor, with artists including Michael Swearngin, John Vehar and Ben Steele painting the subject of the horse very differently, conveying ranges of styles and approaches. Swearngin offers icons and silhouettes. His horses' forms are painted in stark, simple shapes, only alluding to the figure of the animal that's so fundamental to the Southwest and its art. Vehar paints the horse in full motion, jumping seemingly off the canvas. His style emphasizes the body of the animal, giving full dimension to its power and strength. Steele is a local artist who paints vibrant, Pop Art representations. In "Warrior on Horse" (pictured), the massive canvas is painted entirely with colorful numbers, emphasizing the passage of time and duration—not only this year of the horse, but its past, present and future. (Ehren Clark) Year of the Horse @ Modern West Fine Art, 177 E. 200 South, 801-355-3883, through Nov. 17, free. ModernWestFineArt.com

SATURDAY NOV. 15

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The Life In a Day
City Weekly's online series The Life In a Day provides local skateboarders with the opportunity to produce videos documenting their work, with 24 hours to complete each segment. Skating style and video styles have converged to create unique portraits of these local riders. The monthly series has showcased seven skaters, and the eighth and final episode will be celebrated with a reception at CUAC Gallery. The exhibit will display photo stills from the series, in addition to art created by the skaters, who are talented artists in their own right; Mike Murdock, for example, is more known for his folk-art-influenced paintings. Episode 8 will be screened at the opening, rounding out the first season of video portraits. It's not just about visually stunning tricks, but insights into the way these athletes think, and the way they utilize public space and architecture. Skateboarding has become an art form as well as an athletic demonstration, as skaters have refined their skills and techniques in highly personal and idiosyncratic ways. The entire series will be repeated at the back of the gallery, in case you've missed out on any of these innovative glimpses of the Salt Lake City skater elite. As they do with any challenge they come across, these skaters have taken up the art of video with verve and an abundance of energy. (Brian Staker) The Life In a Day @ CUAC, 175 E. 200 South, Nov. 15-18, opening reception Saturday, Nov. 15, 6-9 p.m., free, RSVP required. CityWeekly.net/thelifeintheday

SATURDAY NOV. 15

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Selected Shorts On Tour
The weekly Public Radio International program and podcast Selected Shorts offers a unique entry point into some of the most interesting short fiction available: staged readings by talented actors and other notable personalities, helping bring both classics and new work to life in programs organized around a specific theme. And it can be even more thrilling when you're part of the audience for the live performances. Selected Shorts On Tour makes a stop in Salt Lake City this week, with KUER's Doug Fabrizio hosting the lineup of compelling readings. There's quite a lineup of performers in store: Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (pictured), Parker Posey (Best in Show), Christina Pickles (St. Elsewhere, Friends) and Kirsten Vangsness (Criminal Minds) are confirmed to share their interpretations of stories by T.C. Boyle, Etgar Keret, Steven Millhauser and more. Join the audience for this special one-night-only performance, or tune in Nov. 23 for the KUER broadcast. (Scott Renshaw) Selected Shorts On Tour @ The Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State, 801-957-3322, Nov. 15, 7 p.m., $25; KUER 90.1 broadcast Nov. 23, 7 p.m. The-Grand.org

TUESDAY NOV. 18

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Broadway Across America: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Christmastime is upon us once again! (Reports of some other holiday involving turkey and football, allegedly observed on the last Thursday of November, could not be confirmed at press time.) And with it comes the eternal choice: Embrace the season and its jolliness, or be a dissolute green meanie who wants to spoil everyone's good time. Dr. Seuss first detailed the latter's misadventures, three-time Tony award winner Jack O'Brien brought him to the stage, and the touring version of the show now comes to Salt Lake City's Capitol Theatre. Featuring the popular songs "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas," Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas!—in which the Grinch plots to pilfer Christmas from Whoville, only to be foiled by the residents' indomitable holiday spirit—has, in a relatively short time, become an end-of-year institution, pleasing audiences of all ages. With a relatively scant running time of 90 minutes with no intermission, it's a show to bring the kids to without having to worry about them climbing the walls in boredom. Theater-goers sensitive about things should be warned that the production does use theatrical fog and a kind of artificial snow that will get on those sitting in the first 15-20 rows. It does not, thankfully, linger, nor does it melt in the highly inconvenient, and Grinch-ifying, manner of real snow. (Danny Bowes) Broadway Across America: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Nov. 18-23, Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m., 2, 5, & 8 p.m., Sunday 1 & 6:30 p.m., $32.50-$85. BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com, ArtTix.org

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