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THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR SEP 15 - 21 

Pioneer Theatre Company: Scapin, Champions of Magic, Versa-Style, and more.

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JOSHUA BLACK
  • Joshua Black

Pioneer Theatre Company: Scapin
Centuries-old theatrical works—like Shakespeare, or the classics of Greek theater—aren't still performed in the present day just to be fancy and impressive. It's because those works continue to speak to us, either as pure entertainments, or as still-relevant commentaries on the human condition. French farceur Jean-Baptiste Poquelin—better known to the world as Moliere—may have done his creating in the 17th century, but they appeal enough to modern sensibilities that they offer opportunities for brand new translations and adaptations.

That's what Pioneer Theatre Company is presenting in Moliere's Scapin, kicking off the 2022-2023 season. British theatrical writer/director Stephen Wrentmore has shifted some of the key roles in his new version, including making the titular character—the scheming valet of a lovelorn young nobleman, using manipulative skill to achieve the ends of the lovers rather than those of their parents—a woman rather than a man. "Working on this script has been an absolute delight; Moliere's playfulness, masterful structure and commitment to the actor put the relationship between the performer and the audience as my primary focus," says Wrentmore. "And it's funny; the satire is sharp, intends to entertain, and translates wonderfully to the contemporary."

PTC's Scapin runs Sept. 16 – Oct. 1 at the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre (300 S. 1400 East), with performances 7 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday – Saturday, with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees. Tickets are $35 - $46 advance purchase, $5 more day of show. Visit pioneertheatre.org for tickets and additional event information. (Scott Renshaw)

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Champions of Magic
We humans are hard-wired to believe in logic, order and the things we're able to see, understand and explain. So it's little wonder that when we encounter phenomena that defy our temporal existence, we react with awe, disbelief and frenzied fascination. That's the obvious attraction shared by Champions of Magic, a supergroup of sorts featuring five internationally renowned master magicians, extraordinary illusionists and daring escape artists, all of whom are bound together for the sole purpose of dazzling crowds that are eager to be entertained.

Together they boast impressive credentials, including sold-out shows worldwide, major television network appearances and over 50 million online views. Yet it's their breath-taking, reality-defying, gasp-inducing live performances bolster their reputation and repute. Their shows allow for an interactive experience, one that finds them recreating Harry Houdini's famous escape from an underwater locked box while wrapped in chains, the sharing of psychic predictions which prove to be prophetic, levitation demonstrations that defy both gravity and the laws of reason, and a singularly spectacular finale that—as the old saying goes—literally has to be seen to be believed. They intimately involve the audience, spreading the show to all corners of the theater while effectively psyching out their skeptics. After all, who doesn't need a relief from reality every now and then.

The Champions of Magic perform at the George S. And Dolores Dore Eccles Theater (131 Main Street) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16. Tickets cost $25 - $75. Visit arttix.org for tickets, or phone 801-355-2787. (Lee Zimmerman)

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Versa-Style
There's a reason why shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance attract such a rabid following. Those of us who have trouble putting one foot in front of another are understandably amazed—and, admittedly, a bit jealous—of those who have the ability to control their bodies in such a way as to inspire rhythm and romance.

Consequently, an evening of dynamic dancing by Versa-Style Dance Company becomes a full-on sensory experience, one that's based on the dynamics of hip-hop in all it modern forms, from circa-'90s styles of house, popping, locking, whacking and boogaloo, to Afro-Latin moves incorporating salsa, merengue, cumbia and Afro-Cuban. Born from the cultural diversity of their native Los Angeles, the company earned the praises of the L.A. Weekly, which lauded them as the city's "best dance troupe for hip-hop entertainment." It's also well in keeping with the multi-disciplinary philosophy and major mission of Utah Presents, the University of Utah's arts presentation organization, which is about bringing "diverse artistic and cultural experiences to campus and the region, exploring and enriching the human experience through the lens of creativity and the arts." In this case, simply prepare to be dazzled by the dance.

Versa-Style performs at Kingsbury Hall (1395 E. Presidents Circle) on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 pm. Tickets cost $10 - $38. University of Utah students pay $5. Tickets for non-U students and youth 18 and under are $10. Go to utahpresents.org or phone 801-581-7100 for tickets and additional event information (LZ)

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Elizabeth Strout: Lucy by the Sea
Artists of all kinds will have many opportunities to wrestle with the COVID era in their work, including introducing that reality into previously-existing creative universes, as many TV series chose to do. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge) has spent much of the past decade on the chronicles of her heroine Lucy Barton, exploring the character's attempts to make peace with her estranged mother (My Name is Lucy Barton), her siblings (Anything Is Possible) and her ex-husband (Oh, William!). But Strout's latest Lucy Barton installment places her squarely in the present, dealing with the pandemic.

Lucy by the Sea once again focuses on Lucy's relationship with ex-husband William, but the circumstances are quite different. As Manhattan resident Lucy begins considering the realities of life in lockdown, William suggests departing for a small town in coastal Maine where they can wait out the pandemic storm. And of course, only positive things can happen when people are stuck together unmediated for several months—especially people with a tumultuous personal history—and are dealing with the struggles faced by distant loved ones without much of an ability to do anything about it.

Elizabeth Strout discusses Lucy by the Sea in a live, ticketed Zoom event on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $39 and include access to the Zoom broadcast and a hardcover copy of Lucy by the Sea; for a limited time, book orders through The King's English Bookshop include an autographed bookplate. Visit kingsenglish.com for the Eventbrite link, and for additional event information. (SR)

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