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Archive for March, 2010

Renaissance intrigue in Lynn Cullen’s ‘The Creation of Eve’

Book Review: Fiction
“The Creation of Eve”

By Lynn Cullen
Penguin, 400 pages, $25.95

By Gina Webb
eve
It’s 1559, and 27-year-old Sofonisba Anguissola, a celebrated Italian artist studying with the great Michelangelo, has just blown the chance of a lifetime. “In the time it takes to pluck a hen,” she writes in her journal, “I have ruined myself.”

No longer can she sign her paintings “Virgo.”

Born in 1532, the real Sofonisba was renowned in her native Cremona and throughout Italy as a leading painter of the Italian Renaissance. Yet beginning in 1560, she would spend the next 10 years as a lady-in-waiting and art teacher to the queen of Spain, abandoning her career at the height of her popularity.

In “The Creation of Eve,” Atlanta author Lynn Cullen’s lavishly detailed, sparkling re-creation of that period, an ill-fated love affair with a fellow student in Rome cuts short Sofonisba’s studies. When no marriage offer materializes, she accepts a different proposal: an appointment from …

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Alliance Theatre’s ‘Last Cargo Cult’ takes jab at money worship

Theater review
“The Last Cargo Cult”

Grade: B+
8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (no show April 4). Through April 11. $25-$30. Alliance Theatre, Hertz Stage, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-733-5000, alliancetheatre.org.

By Wendell Brock

Mike Daisey. Photo: Jeff Gaines

Mike Daisey. Photo: Jeff Gaines

He sits down behind a desk, neatly arranges a stack of papers with hand-scribbled notes and lays his palms flat down on the table. Even his right pinkie seems to exude a Buddhist calm.

But even before monologist Mike Daisey can begin his two-hour rant at the Alliance Theatre, he seems to break into a sweat. Apparently, there’s a lot of anger coiled up in that fat little finger, and during the course of “The Last Cargo Cult,” the Maine native with the satirical snarl will vent his rage over the worldwide worship of money and power.

As Daisey sees it, this cult of capitalism spews forth from the bottomless volcanic greed of Wall Street and, thanks to the vagaries …

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‘100 Saints You Should Know’ at Actor’s Express

Theater review
“100 Saints You Should Know”

Grade: B-
Through April 17. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sunday (April 11). $25-$30. Actor’s Express, King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. 404-607-7469.

By Bert Osborne

Doyle Reynolds and Carolyn Cook. Photo: Chris Ozment

Doyle Reynolds and Carolyn Cook. Photo: Chris Ozment

Call it unfortunate timing, or an accidental overdose of faith-based drama.

In a week that just so happened to also include the opening of Theatrical Outfit’s theological “The Sunset Limited,” and a special engagement of biblical one-man shows by Brad Sherrill at Georgia Shakespeare (“The Gospel of John,” “Prophets”), Actor’s Express’ “100 Saints You Should Know” essentially amounts to the most modest and least inspiring of the lot.

Competently directed by Susan Reid, Kate Fodor’s play intertwines the spiritual crises of two unlikely soul mates. Father Matthew (Doyle Reynolds) is on a forced leave of absence from his parish, grappling with issues of intimacy, loneliness and, indeed, the very foundation …

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‘The Sunset Limited’ at Theatrical Outfit

Theater review
“The Sunset Limited”

Grade: B
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Through April 11. $35. Theatrical Outfit, 84 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatricaloutfit.org.
Bottom line: Two great performances rise above the mire.

By Bert Osborne

E. Roger Mitchell (left) and Peter Thomasson. Photo: Chris Bartelski

E. Roger Mitchell (left) and Peter Thomasson. Photo: Chris Bartelski

At what point does an utterly lugubrious drama become a richly satisfying experience?
In the case of Theatrical Outfit’s “The Sunset Limited,” look to actors Peter Thomasson and E. Roger Mitchell. Giving two of the season’s mightiest performances, they transcend their finally off-putting material with a pair of beautifully crafted portrayals that are a privilege to behold.
Rather ostentatiously described as “a novel in dramatic form” — in other words, a play — by best-selling author Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men”), “Sunset” is a test of faith as much for the audience as for its grandiosely named characters: White …

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Puppets, potty jokes in ‘Clash Titans Clash!’ at Dad’s Garage

Theater review
“Clash Titans Clash!”

Grade: B+
Tickets $5-18. 8 p.m. April 1-3. Dad’s Garage, 280 Elizabeth Street, Suite C-101. 404-523-3141. www.dadsgarage.com

By David Lee Simmons

Amber Nash, Scott Warren and Lucky Yates. Photo: Linnea Frye

Amber Nash, Scott Warren and Lucky Yates. Photo: Linnea Frye

You could rightly call the title of Dad’s Garage’s current production, “Clash Titans Clash!” an inside joke of sorts. And not just for its rampant satire of the 1981 adventure, “Clash of the Titans,” itself a retelling of Greek mythology.

This send-up features a clash of local theater titans in the form of writer/co-star Lucky Yates, castmates and fellow Dad’s Garage stalwarts Scott Warren and Amber Nash, and director Jason von Hinezmeyer.
It was Hinezmeyer, a veteran of the Center for Puppetry Arts, whom Yates turned to for a bizarre puppet version of this show.

In the playbill, Yates (himself a longtime puppet fetishist) writes of a longtime obsession of mounting a send-up of the movie. A puppet version, he adds, was icing on the …

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‘The Girl Who Chased the Moon’ by Sarah Addison Allen

Book Review: Fiction
“The Girl Who Chased the Moon”
By Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam Books, $25, 288 pages

By Gina Webb
girlwhochased

“Welcome to Mullaby, North Carolina. Home of ghost lights, giants, and jewelry thieves,” newcomer Emily Benedict tells herself on her first night in the sleepy, Southern town.
Other than that, life in Mullaby looks like it’s going to be pretty predictable.
Every morning, Emily’s grandfather Vance Shelby — who happens to be 8 feet tall — eats breakfast at J’s Barbecue, where Julia Winterson, the new owner, bakes a daily cake for her customers. Every night, the Coffey family shuts itself up in the house — the members have never been seen out at night that anyone can remember. During the past year and a half, Sawyer Alexander, Julia’s old high school flame, has eaten dinner with Julia’s landlady every Thursday, mainly to catch sight of Julia.
When teenager Emily arrives in town, she hopes to learn more about her mother, Dulcie, who grew up there. Shy, and plagued …

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Stories of hope and despair in Ron Rash’s ‘Burning Bright’

Book Review: Fiction
“Burning Bright” By Ron Rash
Ecco/Harper Collins
224 pages, $22.99

By Gina Webb
burning
Ron Rash brings his poet’s eye to an unforgiving world in “Burning Bright,” a finely crafted, understated collection of 12 stories set in bleak Appalachian outposts where human kindness has grown as scarce as the food on the tables.
The lives of Rash’s characters unfold against the kind of somber backgrounds often found in dreams — twilight, darkness, snow and drought-stricken fields. In most of the stories, farming is dying away and factories and sawmills have closed. The old ways of thriving have all but disappeared, their relics on the way to the pawnshop. Some people have managed to hang on to more than others, but there are other losses they’ll never get over.
What’s left is a red gas can. A “fine blue thread” to repair a homemade quilt. Snowy woods. A scarlet oak in the backyard. Rash doesn’t need much to tell a story — in fact, emptiness brings out the best in him. Rash …

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Mountain life under siege in Caldwell’s ‘Requiem by Fire’

Book Review: Fiction
“Requiem by Fire”
By Wayne Caldwell
Random House, 352 pages, $25

By Gina Webb

requiem0221In the 1920s, the U.S. government heeded warnings that the forests of the Smoky Mountains faced imminent destruction if timber companies continued to clear-cut there. Roughly 300,000 acres had already disappeared, and wildlife habitat vanished along with it. To save what remained, the area was declared a national park. It belonged, the government said, to the American people.
The American people who lived there, however, had to go.
In his outstanding debut novel, “Cataloochee,” Asheville native Wayne Caldwell traced the hundred-year history of the tenacious settlers who farmed the high mountain valleys of North Carolina. Inspired by stories of Caldwell’s own family, the book ended just as the Cataloochans learned that their homesteads were destined to become part of the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Now Caldwell returns to Cataloochee with “Requiem by Fire,” a …

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Shuler Hensley nominees honoring high school musicals announced

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Thirty-nine high schools from 11 counties are represented among the 90 nominees for the 2nd annual Shuler Hensley Awards For Excellence in High School Musical Theatre, announced Tuesday night at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The Hensley Awards honor musical theater excellence at metro Atlanta high schools. The undertaking is an initiative of the ARTSBRIDGE education program of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Foundation.

A team of 25 Atlanta-based arts professionals evaluated the high school productions. Winners will be announced at a Tony Awards-style ceremony at 7 p.m. April 13 at the Cobb Energy Centre. The show will feature an opening number starring Tony Award-winning, Marietta native Hensley (”Oklahoma!” “Tarzan,” “Young Frankenstein”), numbers from the six nominated shows for overall excellence, as well as award presentations by local and national luminaries. (Tickets: $10 at Ticketmaster, ticketmaster.com or …

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New musical ‘Twist’ to open Alliance Theatre’s 2010-11 season

This just in from the Alliance Theatre:

ATLANTA — Travel to New Orleans 1928 for a triumphant story of love conquering adversity and of finding family in the most unexpected places. The Alliance Theatre is proud to bring “Twist ‘to the stage for its Atlanta debut. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,’ and in the rich musical tradition of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” this heart-warming musical brings award-winning director/choreographer Debbie Allen (’Fame’) back to the Alliance.

Set in “the Paris of the South,” when the Roaring 20s were at their peak, “Twist” takes us on an orphan’s journey to find a place to belong and a family to love. Tony Award-nominee William F. Brown (writer of The “Wiz’) wrote the book for this new spin on the Charles Dickens’ tale, with music by Tena Clark (Grammy Award-winning songwriter) and Gary Prim; lyrics by Tena Clark. Twist will open the Alliance’s 2010-11 Season with its first performance Sept. 1, 2010 on the Alliance …

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