Wasatch Theatre Co.: A Bright New Boise
If a play brands itself as a "dark comedy," there better be some truly humorous moments—not just gratuitous language for shock value. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter's A Bright New Boise is pitch black in tone, but relies too heavily on superfluous dialogue from its characters that's not always particularly funny. However, because it's set in a Boise Hobby Lobby, the irony of the foul-mouthed employees won't be lost on viewers.
Within the first couple of minutes, the manager Pauline (Sallie Cooper) proves not all employees at this particular store follow the religious views of its owners. While interviewing Will (Brian C. Pilling), who just moved to Boise from "up north near Coeur d'Alene," she uncovers some holes from his past. They're quickly revealed when Will drops a bomb announcing he's the estranged father of fellow coworker Alex (CJ Strong). Also working at there is Anna (Haley McCormick) and Alex's adopted brother Leroy (Gordon Dunn), who learns more about Will's past as part of a fundamentalist church, which leads Will to reconnect with Alex before a supposed impending rapture.
There's a lot of internal struggle in the story, but director Jim Martin allows the actors to flesh out their characters—even if Will never fully recovers from his past. And that's what this play is really about: self-identity and reconnection, with a side of religion and plenty of cursing. (Missy Bird)
Wasatch Theatre Co.: A Bright New Boise @ Rose Wagner Center Studio Theater, 138 W. 300 South, through Sept. 17, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sept. 10 & 17, 2 p.m., $20. WasatchTheatre.org
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.: Fall Season
The opening production for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.'s 2016/17 season tackles some difficult topics and emotions—but what good is art if it doesn't occasionally step into the darker parts of the human experience in order to help us make sense of it, or simply to help us mourn?
Elegy, a world premiere from the company's own artistic director, Daniel Charon (winner of City Weekly's 2016 Best Choreographer award; see p. 38), is created in the memory of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting victims, and reflects on the wider epidemic of violence in America. While Charon's piece expresses our collective empathy for others' suffering, The Opposite of Killing (2010), by Bulgarian-born choreographer/visual designer Tzveta Kassabova, is much more personal. The work developed as Kassabova faced her anger, sorrow and confusion after the sudden passing of her mentor and close friend. This August, Kassabova spent two weeks working exclusively with the Ririe-Woodbury dancers, setting the piece for the company and reworking it to fit their strengths and style. Such extensive and hands-on attention from the choreographer is rare and assures a pure translation of Kassabova's emotional intent and physical style that is sure to make this a stand-out piece in the performance.
Finally, Fragments (2014) by Jonah Bokaer lets us unwind a bit. Instead of another work fraught with emotion, this one allows us to enjoy dance for its elegance and its unique contemplation of space. Known for creating interesting and architecturally rich environments for his works, Bokaer makes Fragments a multi-media piece that plays, in his words, with "fragmentary reflections and refractions of light and space." (Katherine Pioli)
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.: Fall Season @ Jeanné Wagner Theater, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 15-17, 8 p.m., $15-$40. ArtTix.ArtSaltLake.org
Utah Symphony: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5
What should you do after playing all nine of Beethoven's symphonies in one season? For the Utah Symphony, the answer is to follow up with even more Beethoven the next one. They spent the 2015-16 season playing every symphony he ever penned, and are opening the new one with the first of all five piano concerti by the illustrious composer.
The orchestra's 77th season opened on Sept. 9-10, with pianist Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. This week, pianist and seven-time Grammy Award-winner Emanuel Ax (pictured) performs piano concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"). The nickname "Emperor," coined by Johann Baptist Cramer, probably would not have been particularly favored by Beethoven himself. The composer—who never performed the piece himself—withdrew the original dedication of his third symphony to Napoleon after Bonaparte declared himself emperor in 1804.
The orchestra is also performing his overture to Fidelio and Brahms' Symphony No. 1—marking the first of a Brahms cycle the symphony attempts this season, continuing their recent trend of providing full overviews of specific composers' greatest works within a fixed span.
Ax is making his first appearance with the symphony in 17 years. He first performed with the orchestra in 1978 under the direction of Maestro Maurice Abravanel, and also performed under the batons of Joseph Silverstein and Keith Lockhart over the years. The rest of the season features Jeffrey Kahane and Yefim Bronfman, to complete the cycle of every Beethoven piano masterpiece. (Geoff Griffin)
Utah Symphony: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Friday-Saturday, Sept. 16-17, 7:30 p.m., $15-$65. UtahSymphony.org
Urban Arts Festival
The Urban Arts Festival has experienced a lot of growth since its 2011 inception. Originally founded by the Utah Arts Alliance as an alternative arts event for those who weren't accepted into more established ones, it moved from Pierpont Avenue to the Gateway, and slowly became one of the city's most popular art gatherings.
It's now making the next big leap as it takes over Gallivan Plaza for a two-day celebration of local, independent art. More than 200 artists are featured, with work ranging from paintings, photography, graffiti, screen-printing, jewelry, clothing, sculpture and more. Throughout both days you'll be able to see more than 50 musical performances from local bands, as well as dance performances from indie groups including break-dancing battles and contemporary exhibitions.
To change things up and add more flavor to the mix this year, a basketball tournament and slam-dunk contest invites guests to get a little competitive. Other new attractions include a Custom Car Culture area filled with more than 40 custom motorcycles and cars chopped up and restored by local residents, and a virtual reality art section displaying digital graffiti. And if all that fun makes you hungry, you can grab a bite from one of the Food Truck League's finest vendors.
Finally, be sure to catch the debut of the Voice of the City Film Festival, featuring a variety of films by local directors and out-of-state submissions, which are judged and awarded near the end of Day 2. Best of all? Admission is free. (Gavin Sheehan)
Urban Arts Festival @ Gallivan Plaza, 239 S. Main., Saturday, Sept. 17, noon-8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 18, noon-6 p.m., free. UtahArts.org