The Cheat Sheet
Spring Arts Preview 2014
Spring is bringing a spectrum of cultural activities to Southern California.
A quick look at the season’s offerings reveals a twist to a classic Shakespeare fix in the form of Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company’s collaboration on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Broad Stage; a night of dance music, old and new, at the Hollywood Bowl with Chic, Giorgio Moroder, Destructo and Tensnake; and choreographers Greco and Pieter Scholten’s dance on brotherly relationships staged in a boxing ring at REDCAT.
Below, Los Angeles Times critics and writers guide you through the season in art, books, dance, theater, jazz, classical and pop music. For more in-depth coverage, explore our complete spring arts preview.
Art | Christopher Knight, Art Critic
MARCH 31-JULY 28
More than 200 works by the wildly inventive artist arrive from the Museum of Modern Art in an eagerly anticipated traveling exhibition organized by Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum. Kelley's often scruffy, always acutely insightful sculptures, paintings, installations and performances epitomized much of the complexity, pathos and downright strangeness of post-1960s American life, making him one of the most influential artists of his generation.
MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo; $7-$12; (213) 626-6226
Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections
APRIL 9-AUG. 25
"An aged man is but a paltry thing," William Butler Yeats wrote in 1926, after passing the age of 60 — especially when compared to "the artifice of eternity" celebrated in the opulent, spiritually giddy art of the holy city of Byzantium. This show will assemble almost 200 icons, mosaics, textiles, sculptures, manuscripts and decorative objects from the ancient Greek city. It would be rechristened Constantinople by the Romans and, just before Yeats picked up his pen, Istanbul. No country for old men, indeed.
Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades; parking $15; (310) 440-7300
JUNE 8-SEPT. 14
Los Angeles artist John Altoon had a reputation as something of a hard-partying wild man in the late 1950s and 1960s. Artistically, he also had a reputation as perhaps the most naturally gifted painter among his peers. Since his tragic death at 43 in 1969, the chromatically luscious, often satirically charged eroticism of Altoon's abstract paintings has largely fallen below the radar. This survey of 70 works on canvas and paper might prove to be a revelation.
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; $10-$15; (323) 857-6000.
Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky
JUNE 8-SEPT. 14
The two marquee names in the title are joined by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Henri Matisse, Emile Nolde and more, in what is billed as a highly focused look at exactly what German painters saw during their travels to Paris, artistic capital of 19th century Europe, and in landmark exhibitions and important collections at home. A show about artistic influence and impact, the exhibition design is being handled by Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects.
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; $10-$15; (323) 857-6000.
Theater | Charles McNulty, Theater Critic
MARCH 28-APRIL 27
Samuel D. Hunter may just be the hardest working playwright in the American theater today. In the last two years, "A Bright New Boise," "The Whale" and "The Few" have appeared in Southern California, sensitively probing the culture of the modern-day American West. His latest effort, set in a nursing home in northern Idaho that's about to shut down, revolves around the crisis that ensues when a 91-year-old Alzheimer's patient wanders off into a blizzard. The search for meaning in a culture of neglect — a perennial theme in Hunter's work — takes on a new guise in this world premiere.
South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, $22-$72, (714) 708-5555
'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
This British import, a collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company, brings playful visual splendor to Shakespeare's puckishly surreal romantic comedy. The production casts animate and inanimate actors side by side, making it appropriately difficult to distinguish fact from fantasy in the enchanted Athenian woods in which the characters fight and frolic. Handspring's contribution to "War Horse" was integral to that production's global success, and it wouldn't surprise me if Shakespeare's imagination takes the company's innovative puppetry to new heights.
The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St. Santa Monica, $53-$110, (310) 434-3200
'Ruth Draper's Monologues'
APRIL 8-MAY 18
'Ruth Draper's Monologues'
Actor, storyteller, character psychologist and social satirist, Ruth Draper was a monologuist who helped refine the dramatic solo form. Considered one of the greatest performers of the first half of the 20th century, she wrote her own material, maintaining a free hand with her extraordinary powers of improvisation. In this bill of character sketches by Draper, Annette Bening, a protean actress herself, pays homage to a talent who helped inspire artists as diverse as Lily Tomlin, John Lithgow and Tom Waits.
Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., L.A., $37-$77, (310) 208-5454
Peter Brook. The name of this justly renowned director alone should provide sufficient incentive to see this Théâtre Des Bouffes Du Nord offering, created by Brook, his long-standing collaborator Marie-Héléne Estienne and composer Franck Krawczyk. A music-filled adaptation of a story of marital infidelity and revenge by South African writer Can Themba, the production is sure to showcase the rich and resonant minimalism of Brook's stagecraft
Freud Playhouse, UCLA campus, L.A., $30-$65, (310) 825-2101
Classical | Mark Swed, Music Critic
Every recital by this introverted Russian pianist with a godlike touch and the ability to breathe fire onto the keyboard is anticipated. But his first appearance in Walt Disney Concert Hall was more so than most. On Oct. 28, 2003, Kissin, then 32, had the honor of giving the first solo recital in the new hall. Kissin was back five years later, and it will have been another five for his third Disney recital. Much has changed. He has matured into a sublimely great artist. But young new artists have come along to hog some of the limelight. Kissin will play Scriabin’s Second Sonata.
Walt Disney Concert Hall; $48.60-$116; (323) 850-2000
The Los Angeles Philharmonic festival will not be minimal — except the music, and even there the works can get ambitious with big operas by Philip Glass and Louis Andriessen included. Then again, Minimalism has grown exceedingly large since Terry Riley’s “In C” launched the movement in 1964. So it makes sense that the L.A. Phil has commissioned Riley to compose an organ concerto for the orchestra’s subscription concerts during the festival, which will be conducted by John Adams. Titled, “At the Royal Majestic,” the concerto was written for soloist Cameron Carpenter to be played on the Disney organ.
Walt Disney Concert Hall; $23.75-$195; (323) 850-2000
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
You could look at the chamber orchestra’s final program of the season as a preview of the Ojai Festival, since it features this year’s Ojai music director as soloist. Then again, pianist Jeremy Denk hardly needs an introduction. He received a MacArthur “genius” award last year. He has distinguished himself as a hilarious blogger and as a writer for the New Yorker. His CDs are bestsellers. In a wild program, Denk not only takes on György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, but he will also be joined by pianist and LACO music director Jeffrey Kahane in concertos for two pianos by Bach and Mozart.
New York Philharmonic Biennial
MAY 28-JUNE 7
Not since the philharmonic’s Horizon’s festivals in the 1980s has the orchestra made a sustained effect on the New York new music scene. In recent years, in fact, Brooklyn hipsters and New York Minimalists have found a happy home across the country at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But taking his cue from the Whitney Museum’s Biennial, New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert will launch a highly ambitious 11-day festival that appears to be using every nook and cranny of Lincoln Center (and some beyond). Among the events: Toshio Hosokawa’s opera “The Raven,” HK Gruber’s “Gloria: A Pig’s Tale” and much else.
Lincoln Center and others; Free-$122; www.nyphil.org
Pop | Randall Roberts, Pop Music Critic
Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples, Isaiah Rashad
The victory run for Schoolboy Q’s winning 2014 carries through the Southland with the Compton rapper’s homecoming gig at Club Nokia. The artist’s major-label debut, “Oxymoron,” opened at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a young rapper virtually unknown this time last year. Q is part of the budding Top Dawg Entertainment empire whose best known member, Kendrick Lamar, recently earned a Grammy album of the year nomination. Expect a celebration.
Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Boulevard, $28.50-$46. (213) 765-7000.
"Who is William Onyeabor?"
Nigerian synthesizer funk musician William Onyeabor was virtually unknown until recently, a curiously funky experimenter who over eight years starting in 1977 released a string of wildly rhythmic, joyous albums. The best were compiled by Luaka Bop records in the 2013 collection, “Who Is William Onyeabor?” So positive was the response that the label has taken to the road. Though Onyeabor is still alive, he’s since disavowed his music in favor of a private life. In his stead will be the likes of David Byrne, members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and Bloc Party, and Nigerian sibling vocal duo the Lijadu Sisters.
Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Avenue, $30-$55, (323) 665-5857.
Chic, Giorgio Moroder, Destructo, Tensnake
Fans of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” might understand the subtext here: disco innovator Chic features Nile Rodgers, who, along with Giorgio Moroder played roles in the production and performance of the Grammy-winning album of the year. Chic and Moroder will join a few of their inheritors for an evening of old- and new-school dance music. Destructo is the pseudonym of Gary Richards, longtime producer and founder of LiveNation-owned Hard Events dance promoter, and German house music producer Tensnake.
Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Avenue, $38.95-$168.05, (323) 850-2000.
Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li's reputation has been growing stateside the last few years. Her previous album, “Wounded Rhymes” (2011), landed on many year-end lists, and in the interim she’s had television and movie cues galore. Li’s new record is “I Never Learn,” out May 5. The first single bodes well. Called “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone,” it’s a sparse song that places her dynamic, slightly grainy voice front and center while a quietly strummed guitar echoes behind. Li has two early-cycle shows in the U.S., the first in New York, and second at the new Theatre at the Ace Hotel.
Theatre at the
Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway, sold out, (213) 623-3233.
Jazz | Chris Barton, Jazz Critic
Joshua Redman Quartet, Brad Mehldau Trio
A pair of like-minded artists who completed each other's musical sentences on Mehldau's orchestral "Highway Rider" project and Redman's like-minded "Walking Shadow," the two heavyweights of contemporary jazz come together. Mehldau recently ventured into new realms with his electric "Mehliana" project, but here his trio focuses on its invigorating approach on the pop songbook, while Redman performs with the band featuring pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Reuben Rogers.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave., L.A., $50.50-$130. (323) 850-2000
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
Chick Corea and Béla Fleck: A reconvening of the Grammy-winning 2007 project "The Enchantment," this concert marks the meeting of two veteran explorers of American musical forms. On one side is Corea, who remains a distinctive voice in jazz piano, and on the other Fleck, whose banjo has stretched the boundaries of bluegrass on recent ventures with jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and with tabla master Zakir Hussain as well as Edgar Meyer. Further expansions of both are inevitable here.
Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, $25-$85. (310) 825-4401.
The Bad Plus
One of the most nimble and inventive piano trios working today, the group that includes pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King returns armed with its soon-to-be-released recording of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which will arrive March 25. The group performed the piece at the Ojai Music Festival last year, and while there's no guarantee it will make an appearance here, the trio's invigorating way with eclectic covers and originals surely will.
The Mint, 6010 West Pico Blvd., L.A., $25-$30, (323) 954-9400.
The Nels Cline Singers
Long a favorite on the local creative music scene, guitarist Nels Cline recently switched coasts to New York City, honing his uniquely restless vision in collaborations up and down the city's fertile scene, including with Fred Frith, Julian Lage and avant-funk explorers Medeski Martin & Wood (a much-anticipated live album is due April 15). Here he performs with his genre-skipping, all-instrumental trio in support of the new album "Macroscope," which is due April 29.
Largo, 366 N La Cienega Blvd., L.A., $30. (310) 855-0350.
Dance | Laura Bleiberg
In "Lluvia" (Rain), the Granada, Spain-raised flamenco sensation explores solitude, a theme she has toyed with in previous works. In this piece's first act, set on a somber street, she has told interviewers the "starting point is pure melancholy," while the second act reverts to the form's most passionate and vigorous dance, a soleá. Yerbabuena is joined by four other dancers, singers and musicians.
Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, $39-$49, (949) 854-4646
Los Angeles Ballet
The neo-classical company's early spring program "Quartet" includes company premieres of Jirí Kylían's haunting "Return to a Strange Land" and George Balanchine's charmingly chipper ode to his adopted home, "Stars and Stripes." Co-directors Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen have commissioned a fourth piece from pop choreographer Sonya Tayeh, "Beneath One's Dignity," and turned to Stowell, a former artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, for a first piece from him, "Cipher," with an original score by Los Angeles composer Noah Arguss.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Yes, Ailey's masterwork, "Revelations," will be on the company's two different programs in Orange County, but artistic director Robert Battle is extending this treasured troupe's repertory. So the group is bringing three special pieces for the first time to the West Coast: Bill T. Jones' take on the devastating losses of the AIDS crisis, "D-Man in the Waters (Part I)"; British choreographer Wayne McGregor's stark and futuristic "Chroma"; and Canadian Aszure Barton's rhythmically challenging "Lift."
Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, $25-$119, (714) 556-2787
Brotherly love and its flip side, intense competition, even deadly hate, take center stage in "Rocco." Choreographers Greco and Pieter Scholten stage this "bout" in a boxing ring. "Rocco" is described as intense and poignant but leavened with humor. Inspired by Luchino Visconti's film "Rocco e i suoi fratelli" (Rocco and His Brothers), it won Holland's top dance award in 2012.
REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., $20-$25, (213) 237-2800
Books | David L. Ulin, Book Critic
'The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap' by Matt Taibbi
(Spiegel & Grau: 412 pp., $27)
In his fifth book, Matt Taibbi uncovers what he calls "a bizarre statistical mystery" — the disparity between the rise of poverty in this country and the drop in rates of violent crime. The reason? A new way of thinking about society, in which poverty has effectively been criminalized. Taibbi is a superior reporter who covered politics and finance for Rolling Stone before leaving earlier this year for First Look Media. "This is a story," he notes, "that doesn't need to be argued. You just need to see it, and it speaks for itself."
'Can't and Won't' by Lydia Davis
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 90 pp., $26)
Drop everything and pick up Lydia Davis' fifth collection of short stories — although to call these pieces stories is an approximation because her writing can't be categorized. Ranging from a single sentence ("Bloomington") to nearly 30 pages ("The Letter to the Foundation"), the work here is elliptical, epigrammatic and yet always rooted in the world. "Into how small a space the word judgment can be compressed," she writes: "it must fit inside the brain of a ladybug as she, before my eyes, makes a decision." Observation, drama, and (yes) compression — it's all there, giving the most minor moments a kind of epic weight.
Michael Lewis in conversation with Malcolm Gladwell
This is a powerhouse pairing: Michael Lewis, the author of "Moneyball" and "Liar's Poker," among others, sits down with the New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell to discuss his new book "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt." Lewis is one of our most insightful financial journalists, and Gladwell is a master at the art of making connections. Get your tickets now, before this one sells out.
Live Talks Los Angeles, Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd, Glendale, $22.
'Casebook' by Mona Simpson
(Alfred A. Knopf: 320 pp., $25.95)
Mona Simpson has always written movingly about young characters, from the protagonists of her early stories "Lawns" and "Approximations" to Ann in her debut novel "Anywhere But Here." That makes "Casebook" a return of sorts: narrated by a boy who begins spying on his parents, only to discover more about them, and the family, than he ever thought he would. And yet, "Casebook" is a departure also — looser, edgier, with a vivid conditionality. "I was a snoop," her narrator, Miles Adler-Rich, tells us, "but a peculiar kind. I only discovered what I most didn't want to know."