Pygmalion Theatre Co.: Mary and Myra
It's among the better-known bits of presidential trivia that Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, had mental-health issues, and stayed in an institution several years after the president was assassinated. But a savvy playwright can take such a footnote and make it a story that digs deeper, as Catherine Filloux has done with Mary and Myra.
Pygmalion Theatre Co.'s production casts Tamara Johnson-Howell as Mary, who is early in her stay at Illinois' Bellevue Place sanitarium circa 1875 as the story begins, having been admitted by her only surviving son, Robert. She receives a visit from her friend and correspondent Myra Bradwell (Teresa Sanderson)—a women's rights activist and publisher who is determined to secure Mary's release, despite the fact that women have been prohibited by the state from practicing law.
Set entirely within the confines of Mary's Bellevue hospital room—artfully cluttered by designer Thomas George with her many trunks—Mary and Myra keeps a tight focus on the sometimes contentious relationship between the two women, sharply performed by Johnson-Howell and Sanderson. While the text clearly means to explore societal obstacles facing women of the era, Filloux smartly identifies the things that often divide these two theoretical allies, whose perspectives on a woman's proper role are not the same. The play maintains enough funny, spiky energy, even in its exploration of women not permitted to feel their grief, that it never feels like a lecture about the Bad Old Days. (Scott Renshaw)
Pygmalion Theatre Co.: Mary and Myra @ Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinee, 2 p.m., $20. PygmalionProductions.org
Salt Contemporary Dance: Salt in Concert
Brand new work from a choreographer can be an indicator of a dance company on the cutting edge, while also showing that the company is good enough for choreographers to justify spending weeks working with its dancers. But, of course, premieres are a first draft in many ways. It's hard to get it right the first time.
So when a company like Salt Contemporary Dance includes four world premieres in a single concert, there's a lot at stake. But if you look at the track record of the guest choreographers involved in Salt's fall production—Eric Handman (Omnivore), Alex Ketley (A Particulate History of Friendship, The Trial and Absence of Stillard Mave), Jason Parsons (Tracing the Steps You Left), Ihsan Rustem (Voice of Reason) and Brendan Duggan (Comes the Night)—audiences can expect a spectacular evening.
"This is a really exciting start to our fourth season," Artistic Director Michelle Nielsen says. "Our mission is to be at the forefront of emerging dance, so we're not looking for huge names as much as for head-turning work."
Two choreographers to watch in this concert are Rustem, the current resident choreographer for Northwest Dance Project, and Handman, associate professor at the University of Utah's Department of Modern Dance and winner of the 2014 Northwest Dance Project competition, which praised the company's "appetite for the creative process." From the looks of it, Salt is reaching the point where they can show off big names and head-turning work as well. (Katherine Pioli)
Salt Contemporary Dance: Salt In Concert @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, Nov. 10-12, 7:30 p.m., $25. ArtSaltLake.ArtTix.org
Despite his reputation as a genuinely nice guy, Jay Leno has had his share of problems. First, there was the public spat with David Letterman when Johnny Carson chose Leno as his heir apparent for The Tonight Show. Later, Leno had to deal with the indignity of being yanked off late night TV in favor of Conan O'Brien and given a primetime variety show that looked like a loser even at the outset. When the network knuckleheads realized they had erred, he was reinstated, only to be permanently replaced five years later.
And then there are all those jokes about his big chin.
Nevertheless, Leno's done very well for himself, with a personal fortune estimated at $350 million. Yet, he's also a workaholic. Little wonder then that in April 2009, when he was forced to cancel two Tonight Show episodes due to exhaustion, it was the first and only time he called in sick during his entire 17-year tenure.
Indeed, his show biz schedule would put any lesser man to shame. Every night after his taping The Tonight Show, he would huddle with his writers and plot the next day's program. When he wasn't working on the show, he was spending his weekends doing stand-up, amassing up to 150 concerts per year. He hasn't slowed down; he's still touring and performing, making guest spots on TV and fronting Jay Leno's Garage, a new series devoted to his love of vintage cars. Clearly, when it comes to multitasking, Leno still leads. (Lee Zimmerman)
Jay Leno @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, Nov. 11, 8 p.m., $30-$125. ArtSaltLake.org
Ogden Big Lebowski Festival
To quote The Stranger, "Sometimes, there's a man; well, he's the man for his time and place."
Saturday night is the time, Ogden is the place and the man is, of course, The Dude (Jeff Bridges), when Peery's Egyptian Theater hosts the third annual Big Lebowski Festival. The 1998 Coen Brothers classic has a cult following that you can build an entire evening around—and plenty of people have, in events both official and (like this one) unofficial.
The festival starts at 5:30 p.m. with bowling at Fat Cats (2261 Kiesel Ave., 801-627-4386, Ogden.FatCatsFun.com). Since we're no longer in daylight-saving time, you won't have to worry about rolling on shabbos.
The fun continues at Peery's at 7:30 p.m. with a costume contest. Prizes include a bowling ball and a rug that will really tie a room together. The screening of the movie follows at 8 p.m. The after-party then moves to Funk 'n' Dive Bar (2550 Washington Blvd., 801-621-3483, FunkAndDive.com), where your ticket to the movie gets you in with no cover to enjoy White Russians, on sale for $4.
According to festival director Ryan McDonald, the movie earned its cult following by being so unique. "There's no other Big Lebowski," he says. "The characters are very identifiable and have aspects that make them unique enough that it separates this movie from the thousands of other films released each year." (Geoff Griffin)
Ogden Big Lebowski Festival @ Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden, Nov. 12, bowling, 5:30 p.m.; costume contest, 7:30 p.m.; film, 8 p.m., $12. Facebook.com/OgdenLebowskiFest