Mon, Aug

Entertainment for a Cause or Just Because

CULTURE WATCH - This Sunday evening, June 12, Public Citizen hosts a comedy program designed to help it raise some much needed funding.

As many of you may remember, Public Citizen was created to act as a lobby for the ordinary person's interests, and thereby to be the counterweight to lobbying by the powerful and wealthy. Think of it as a neighborhood council, but stretching over the whole country.

Sunday's show is at the Brentwood Theatre, located on the grounds of the Westwood VA. There is a long list of comedy talent, ranging from Paula Poundstone ("Wait, wait, don't tell me!") to Bill Burr (Chappelle's show). The tickets are a little pricey at $50, but it's a good cause.

Tickets and information link.
Musical theatre that dares

The history of the Long Beach Opera has been a modern version of those grand operas that it doesn't perform, the ones where the soprano coughs and sobs her way into the next world as a heartbroken audience applauds. The LBO went through its own version of La Boheme a few years ago, only to come back from the brink of death. It's now going strong dramatically and musically.

To look at the list of recent LBO productions, one might wonder whether it's an opera company or an off-Broadway playhouse, considering that its recent titles include The Good Soldier Schweik, Akhnaten, and Moscow Cherry Town. Behind the titles there is a sensibility. Moscow Cherry Town is the translated name of a musical comedy written by none other than Dmitri Shostakovich. Akhnaten is part of the Philip Glass trilogy about men who changed the world, in this case the first recorded ruler to endorse monotheism. None of these is performed all that often, but each has its pleasures if given a chance.

In other words, Long Beach Opera is the company that dares. Lately, its dares have been winners. I wouldn't put Good Soldier Schweik in the class or level of Verdi's Falstaff, but the Los Angeles Opera does Falstaff and you can buy it on DVD. The LBO takes a chance in presenting material that is new or little shown. In the hands of its recently acquired conductor and music director Andreas Mitisek, it is also generally material that presents well.
We are now going through the 150 year remembrance of the American Civil War. In a remarkable series of posts, the New York Times blog Disunion has been cutting through a century of bunkum to lay bare the ugly truth, namely that the Civil War was ultimately and almost exclusively about one thing only -- whether slavery would persist in the United States.

It's been an enlightening and sobering account. It is therefore appropriate that LBO is taking on the subject of prewar life in the slave-holding part of the country. Based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field involves a slave owner, his slaves, and his family. The original Bierce story is a page long and couched in his mysterious ghost-story style, so it's going to be interesting to see how the composer and LBO handle it.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, performed by the Long Beach Opera on June 15 and (two performances) on June 18. For information see: www.longbeachopera.org/

(Bob Gelfand is vice chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and writes on politics and culture.)

Tags: Culture, Public Citizen, Brentwood Theatre, Paula Poundstone, Bill Burr, Long Beach Opera, American Civil War, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Vol 9 Issue 46
Pub: June 10, 2011