New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

New WPB Venue Voltaire to Open With Three Concerts

New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

When Voltaire, West Palm Beach’s newest nightclub and music venue, hosts its grand opening Thursday night, it will be the first time in weeks that its owner and manager can just relax. Nightlife maven Rodney Mayo and promoter extraordinaire Steve Rullman have been toiling around the clock for weeks to ensure the venue will be ready for this weekend’s three-night unveiling, work that is steadily continuing at the time of this writing.

I swung by Voltaire on Tuesday night, and the club still had the air of a construction site. Circular saws and piles of plywood littered the open space in front of the stage, which was covered with electrical wires and tubs and boxes containing countless tech components. The bar, in a state of mid-paint, was heavily newspapered, and instead of bottles, tool kits and electric screwdrivers lined the shelves.

At the time of my visit, a local artist was meeting with Rullman to discuss his tweaks to a commissioned painting of Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer and the venue’s namesake. The original commission disappointed management, so this pinch-hitter had less than 48 hours to make it work before the giant, framed portrait would be hung at the club’s entrance, welcoming visitors.

The clock was ticking, but Rullman, ever cool under pressure, was used to the feeling. He had built up venues like Delray Beach’s City Limits and West Palm Beach’s Propaganda more or less from the ground up. For too-brief spells, these clubs served as flagship locations for Rullman’s imaginative concert bookings, which drew heavily from psych-pop, shoegaze, dream-pop, alt-folk and other under-represented indie genres. For the past few years he’s been a freelance promoter, scheduling shows at places like Respectable Street, and he’s enthused to once again have a place, in Voltaire, that he can fully manage and shape.

“Instead of trying to find rooms for different shows that are coming through, I have a home base now,” he says. With a capacity of 216, Voltaire can draw sizable indie bands with national footprints, while serving as a laid-back lounge on nights without bookings. As a nod to Voltaire’s era, the bar will serve absinthe and mead. There will be cabaret-style tables and chairs up front, and a sushi bar in the back, along with a cluster of comfy, mismatched chairs and sofas.

“It’s not a room where we can do punk rock and heavy stuff,” Rullman says. “That stuff will stay at Respectable Street [also owned by Rodney Mayo, a couple doors down]. There’s no room to slam-dance in here. That’s not to say there won’t be room for people to dance and move around, but it’s not set up for something too extreme. So ideally I will be booking stuff that’s a little out of the ordinary. The idea is to book special events, parties, experiences, happenings. If your band wants to play here, come up with a reason to do the show. Let’s turn it into a party—maybe it’s someone in the band’s birthday, maybe it’s a reunion show, maybe it’s an album release, maybe it’s a charity benefit show.”

South Florida singer-songwriter Brady Newbill played a “sneak preview” show at Voltaire on Aug. 18. On Facebook, he praised the venue’s “great sound, great aesthetic, great atmosphere. A cozy vibe for performer and audience alike. It finally feels like the South Florida music scene has a home court again.”

A performance from last Friday's sneak preview show. Photo courtesy of Joseph R. Steiner.

A performance from last Friday’s sneak preview show. Photo courtesy of Joseph R. Steiner.

“The space is set up to do all kinds of things, and it doesn’t need to be music-related,” Rullman says. “We might be doing some comedy nights. We’ll be renting the room out for parties. I can see wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners happening up here from time to time. We can bring in food from Kapow and Hullabaloo.”

These restaurants, across the street from Voltaire, speak to Rodney Mayo’s growing dominance of the 500 block of Clematis Street, established over three decades. Mayo also runs Subculture Coffee and Lost Weekend. As a second-floor speakeasy, Voltaire is situated just above the latter, a lively lounge with pool and foosball tables, arcade games and a hip soundtrack. Before Mayo opened Lost Weekend, its address, at 526 Clematis St., had been vacant for some 35 years.

“It’s one of those buildings that’s always been here, and people just walked past it, and didn’t really notice it,” Rullman says. “Rodney purchased it six or seven years ago. It was an apartment building, and from what people say, it was an old hippie crash pad. The wallpaper was newspaper, and they’d drawn over it, and there was a lot of really trippy artwork. That’s the rumor, anyway. I don’t know if it’s haunted; I like to think it is.”

You can draw your own conclusions this weekend, with three nights of eclectic 9 p.m. concerts presented free of charge. Thursday night will feature the funk/jazz/soul group Public Sounds Collective; South Florida psych-punk amalgam Dead and Loving It will headline Friday night; and Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge, an instrumental hybrid of self-described “post-surf, noir, spy-fi rock-n-roll,” will play Saturday night.

Rullman has also scheduled major touring bands through the fall, including post-rock favorites Unwed Sailor (Oct. 6); Marbin, a Chicago by way of Israel jazz-rock band (Oct. 8); and New York shoegazers Shana Falana (Nov. 9). Expanding its sonic palette, Voltaire has also dedicated future Saturday nights to a drag cabaret in the spirit of the late Clematis Street venue The Lounge, and Sunday nights to blues.

To start, the venue will be open Wednesdays to Sundays, with possible special events slated on select Mondays and Tuesdays. For the full schedule, visit sub-culture.org/voltaire.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 22 to 28

Animal artists show off their paintings, a Miami mentalist plays Russian roulette, and an all-female tribute act brings a Whole Lotta Love. Plus, Demetri Martin, Gilbert Gottfried, “The Sunshine Boys” and more in your week ahead.


WEDNESDAY

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What: “The Sunshine Boys”

Where: Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate

When: 2 p.m. Cost: $48

Contact: 954/344-7765, stagedoorfl.org

This 1972 Neil Simon comedy is the playwright’s nostalgic ode to vaudeville, that early-20th-century clearinghouse for live entertainers of various stripes—think “America’s Got Talent” for the Depression era. The Sunshine Boys of the title, Al Lewis and Willie Clark, were a once-successful vaudeville comedy duo for more than four decades, but whose relationship withered. When Willie’s nephew, a talent agent, inspires his uncle to reunite with his former partners, old wounds reopen with humor and Simon’s trademark humanism. Simon is said to have been inspired by several mostly forgotten, real-life vaudeville duos, such as Smith & Dale and Gallagher & Shean. We’d like to think that, given this week’s celebrity passing, that Martin & Lewis were firmly on Simon’s mind. “The Sunshine Boys” runs through Sept. 24.

THURSDAY

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What: ONYX Art Stroll

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 866/811-4111, artsgarage.org

Arts Garage’s monthly celebration of South Florida artists and musicians features a pair of live bands and handful of artists and crafters hawking their original wares in the venue’s Grassroots Gallery. August’s lineup features soulful, funky rock bands Chemradery (pictured) and the Nostalgic Minds. The latter, a six-piece outfit, recently released an EP of acoustic songs and a faithful cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.” Between acts, and before the show, shop the local vendors, whose work is usually concentrated in outsider art, painting, sculpture, mixed media and jewelry.

THURSDAY TO SATURDAY

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What: Gilbert Gottfried

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: Various show times

Cost: $22

Contact: 561/833-1812, palmbeachimprov.com

Back when “The Celebrity Apprentice” was merely one of television’s guiltiest pleasures and not a road map to a polarizing presidency, Gilbert Gottfried had the hilarious, unmitigated audacity to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler … to Donald Trump’s face. It should come as a surprise to no one that Gottfried didn’t last much longer on the NBC series; getting fired for un-P.C. barbs is kind of his thing. Just ask Aflac, which ended Gottfried’s lucrative tenure as its spokes-duck after he tweeted off-color jokes about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But for fans of the screechy-voiced comic, his ruthlessness at pillorying such sacred cows continues to ensure packed comedy clubs wherever he performs, in an act that is old-fashioned in its approach and cutting-edge in its content. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

THURSDAY TO SUNDAY

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What: Alan Chamo: “Mind Hacker”

Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $39-$49

Contact: 800/211-1414, colonymb.org

Chamo, a longtime Miami magician and comedian, concludes his three-week residency at the Colony with six shows in both English and Spanish this weekend. A favorite on cruise ships and corporate mixers, Chamo’s “mind-blowing” show is focused on mentalism, the sophisticated art of simulating psychic powers. Interactive in nature, his act includes mind reading, blindfolded object detections, and a show-stopping, Russian Roulette style game involving paper bags and a large spike—making for a pointed illusion, indeed.

FRIDAY

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What: “Wet Hot American Summer”

Where: Crest Theatre at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $5, or $15 for VIP ticket

Contact: 561/243-7922, oldschoolsquare.org

This 2001 comedy set at a debauched summer camp in 1981 has enjoyed a surprisingly robust afterlife. Despite failing at the box office and among critics, “Wet Hot American Summer” has struck a chord with Gen-Xers and beyond, who appreciate its satirical skewering of 1980s sex comedies and its bonkers sense of humor, courtesy of “The State” alums Michael Showalter and David Wain. Bawdy, iconic and endlessly quotable, the movie’s enshrinement as a cult classic makes it a perfect fit for the Crest’s summer movie series. It also provides for plenty of star-gazing, with a parade of familiar faces including Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, and a then-unknown Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper. For a $15 VIP ticket, you get one drink and food item along with admission.

SATURDAY

Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

What: Lez Zeppelin

Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/462-0222, browardcenter.org

“Lez Zeppelin” is an irresistible name for an all-female tribute act to Led Zeppelin, but if the four ladies didn’t bring the fire along with the irony, it would be easy to write them off as a novelty act. But these women rock just as hard as Robert Plant and company, resurrecting Zeppelin’s greatest hits with unimpeachable passion and urgency. The group established its authentic bona fides in 2007, when it enlisted Led Zeppelin sound engineer Eddie Kramer to produce its debut album. The band subsequently employed ‘60s-era period instrumentation, includes ‘50s guitars, a 1960s compressor and a Fuzzbender stomp box, to recreate the vinyl version of Zeppelin I. As a live band, the extra x chromosome goes a long way; for evidence, look no further than Lez Zeppelin’s orgasmic take on “Whole Lotta Love.”

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What: “Savage: Art Made by Animals”

Where: Macaya Gallery, 145 N.W. 36th St., Miami

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: zoomiami.org

Yes, you read that correctly: This fundraiser features artwork created by the animals of Zoo Miami, with some assistance by their stewards. Themes include the relationship between the animals and their keepers, a collaboration that resonates across dozens of abstract paintings from a wide range of creatures, from snakes to elephants. The best of the bunch, like “Chimp Splatter” and “Croc Chaos,” even conjure Jackson Pollock! This special event includes music, free snacks and a cash bar, along with animal encounters for the first hour. All proceeds will support species conservation and research.

MONDAY (Aug. 28)

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What: Demetri Martin

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 561/833-1812, palmbeachimprov.com

This Greek-American comedian from New York has built up a hip cultural pedigree: For years, he was the “Senior Youth Correspondent” on “The Daily Show;” he appeared on musical jokesters The Flight of the Conchords’ TV series; he starred in an Ang Lee movie and appeared in others by Steven Soderbergh and Lake Bell. He has achieved all of this bankable success through his consistently unique standup act, a sophisticated mélange of observations, self-deprecation, non-sequiturs and malapropisms inspired by the no-frills deadpanning of Steven Wright. As reviews of his current tours have indicated, Martin is also evolving: He eschews props such as the white drawing board of his earlier gigs, letting the jokes alone—eventually accompanied by acoustic guitar and other instruments—bring the funny.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Patricia Nix’s Boca Museum Show is the Right Kind of Crazy

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At first awestruck blush, Patricia Nix’s work seems absolutely insane. And I mean that as a compliment, of course. She doesn’t create sculptures or paintings so much as phantasmagorical monuments to imaginary realms, often on a monolithic scale.

Nix is a collagist who constructs totems from secondhand ephemera, from doll parts to broken musical instruments to religious iconography and animal horns. Some suggest humanoid forms, while others adopt more abstract shapes. Most feel like offerings to pagan gods. The best reside on the border of the nightmarish and comic, a twilight zone that both attracts and repels. I’d want to buy these pieces in an instant, if I wasn’t afraid of the kind of energy they’d attract in my home.

These are the weird emotions that percolated during my visit this week to “American Baroque,” the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s audacious survey of Nix’s ongoing oeuvre. The native Texan has been making art for more than half a century, and she now works in her studio on Palm Beach, making surrealist outsider art that couldn’t be more incongruous from the other galleries on the island, with their accessible Pop art and gilded antiques. There’s little accessibility in Nix’s macabre mixed-media goulashes. And those stately figurines in the Worth Avenue galleries? She’s more likely to use them as readymade elements in her collages than display them.

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While there’s no linear chronology to the exhibition, “American Baroque” starts quite rightly, for visitors traveling clockwise, with one of her early pieces, “Bulldog on a Tightrope,” from 1978. Begin with this embryonic work, with its muted circusy atmosphere, because it only gets weirder from here. “Beauty and the Beast,” a sculpture begun in 1985 and completed in 2017, features the body of a string instrument encased in a cabinet, topped with the head of a monster which is sprouting wild antlers. The beast part is clear, so does the broken instrument represent music, which represents beauty?

Overthinking is de rigueur for most of these masterpieces, but it’s unnecessary for their appreciation. “Cowboy and Indian,” another wall-mounted assemblage, resembles neither of its titular archetypes, though it does suggest a humanoid animal chimera with a disemboweled keyboard for a spine. “As Time Goes By” conjures an instrument from some madman Terry Gilliam set—part chair, part piano, part clock, part midway amusement whose constituent parts have been stripped of their functionality.

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This transformation—from valued appliances, instruments and icons with individual purposes, to reinvented parts of an esoteric whole—is a recurring element across her oeuvre, often resulting in a mordant wit. In “Mother and Child,” a porcelain doll head rests atop what appears to be a miniature stove where inside, instead of a “bun in the oven,” there resides only wood shavings and cracked glass. The title character in “Fat Girl,” from 1984, is comprised of two chubby “legs” (actually ornate table legs), a jigsaw-puzzle heart with missing pieces, and an inverted tortoise shell to approximate an oversized midsection.

As Nix continued her practice into the Aughts, her art has seemingly become more vertical, more deliberately totemic, and even less figural. “Allegro 1” and “Allegro 2” are, in typical totem fashion, divided sectionally—abstract paint swatches here, dominos there, piano keys over there. “Flexible Totems” is a series of 24 narrow objects, each a work of extravagant collation, each suggesting a belt for an eccentric giant.

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The exhibition concludes with her large-scale interpretations of tarot cards, paintings composed of fever-dream visions of devils and hanged men, before coming full circle with “The Magic Mountain.” Completed in 2017, this newest sculpture is also the most massive in the exhibit, a golden shrine that feels like a Patricia Nix greatest hits collection, with its mounted steer head, its tiny piano, its billiard balls and bicycle wheel and dominoes and stopwatches. It’s festooned with too many religious icons to count, from Buddhas to crucifixes, popes to saints.

It comes across, like so many of her manic sculptures, like an object of worship, but of what? Certainly, Nix’s catchall ingredients and ambiguous aims transcend any one belief system. For all I know, she’s creating her own.

“Patricia Nix: American Baroque” runs through Oct. 22 at Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and free for students with ID. Call 561/392-2500 or visit bocamuseum.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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New Dance Documentary a ‘Step’ in the Right Direction

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A veritable shoo-in for an Oscar nomination five months from now, “Step” borrows a familiar structure—the competition documentary—and lends it an urgent, headline-ripped specificity. Taking its formal cue from docs like “Spellbound” and “First Position,” it follows a high school girls’ step team in the months leading up to both a regional dance contest and their graduation as the inaugural class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.

This would be a tumultuous period for any 17-year-old trying to balance college admissions, academics, extracurriculars and personal relationships, but these universal issues are magnified by the young women’s socioeconomic status: They’re all African-Americans, from poor and working-class families, maturing in an age of police brutality and Black Lives Matter, of empty refrigerators and emptier college savings.

Producer-director Amanda Lipitz homes in on three exceptional girls. Blessin, who is raised by a single mother, is arguably the step team’s most talented competitor, but her woeful grades threaten her academic future. Cori, who lives in a crowded, blended-family household with five siblings, is a scholarly student and self-described introvert who relishes the liberating abandon of step. Tayla is an only child whose mother acts like a teenager herself when spectating at step class, but who patrols the streets of Baltimore as a corrections officer after hours.

“Step” balances the percussive liberty of dance lessons with the trying uncertainty of the college lottery, and these twin plotlines each generate emotional swells. If there’s a hero figure in “Step,” it’s Paula Dofat, the school’s college counselor, a person of deep compassion who believes in each of her students but who isn’t afraid to temper their expectations about college admissions. In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, she tears up when making her case for Blessin to a panel of college administrators. Many in the movie’s audience will follow her cue.

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For me, there was no moment more stirring than the step team’s mid-film performance at another area high school, in which their inspirational choreographer, Gari McIntyre, designed a routine around Black Lives Matter (“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is integrated into the steps). As the crowd’s rumble builds into a cathartic standing ovation, the scene speaks to the visceral healing power of dance to communicate where words sometimes fail.

It’s arguably the apex of this site-specific movie, which opens not on the dancers but with news footage of the apprehension and subsequent death of Freddie Gray. Baltimore, as one of the nation’s racial flashpoints of recent years, becomes its own character as the movie progresses. Lipitz divides many of her scenes with images of the city’s murals dedicated to Gray and Baltimore’s black heritage, and we eavesdrop on conversations pertinent to racial justice and the dispiriting news cycles of the summer of 2015. Art can hardly be divorced from the surroundings of its making.

By nature of its brevity (its running time is 83 minutes) and its generally positive sheen, “Step” is not as profound, immersive or unflinching as a film like “Hoop Dreams,” yet it competes on the same hardwood. They’re both honest portraits of Americans overlooked or misrepresented by 90 percent of our media.

There are bound to be negative reviews for “Step” from a handful of Rotten Tomatoes contrarians, though it’s hard to fathom a coherent case for a C grade or lower. As a story about young women rising above the circumstances life has dealt them, this is a movie that can genuinely, and easily, change a lot of lives. How many products of Hollywood can say that?

“Step” is playing now at Cinemark Palace 20 and Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton, the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, AMC Aventura 24, and Regal South Beach Stadium 18. It expands to additional area theaters on Friday, Aug. 18.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 15 to 21

Nineties hip-hop headliners tour a nostalgic mini-fest, an all-male revue brings a bit of “Magic” to Lake Park, and the solar eclipse is viewable right here in Boca. Plus, Andrew Dice Clay, author Robert Watson, “Shorts Gone Wild” and more in your week ahead.


WEDNESDAY

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What: Screenings of “The Trip” and “The Trip to Italy”

Where: Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 954/525-3456, fliff.com

“The Trip to Spain,” the third installment in director Michael Winterbottom’s cultiest of recent franchises, will premiere in South Florida theaters August 25. Prepare yourself for the new film by feasting in its pair of hilarious forbears on the big screen: “The Trip,” in which fictionalized versions of comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embarked on a culinary tour of northern England; and “The Trip to Italy,” which repeated the formula in the scrumptious Italian footsteps of the great Romantic poets. Gut-bustingly funny, the “Trip” series thrives off the brotherly chemistry of its stars, whose improvised zingers, uncanny celebrity impersonations and love-hate relationship form both the comic backbone and emotional nexus of the series. These modern classics are worth seeing more than once.

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY

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What: “The Ben Hecht Show”

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $30

Contact: 561/450-6357, artsgarage.org

For audiences under 30, Ben Hecht was kind of like the Aaron Sorkin of Hollywood’s Golden Age: a multitalented screenwriter who captured the pulse of fast-talking urban life in scripts like “The Front Page,” “His Girl Friday” and the original “Scarface,” working for everyone from Hitchcock to Ford to Howard Hawks and Otto Preminger. He was also an accomplished journalist, one of the first American newspapermen to write about the atrocities of World War II. Clad in the classic reporter’s fedora and three-piece suit, actor-writer James Sherman constructed this solo theatre piece exploring the writer’s legacy. “The Ben Hecht Show” combines history, humor and biography into a format that Hecht himself would no doubt appreciate.

THURSDAY

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What: Opening night of “Shorts Gone Wild 5”

Where: Island City Stage, 2308 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/519-2533, islandcitystage.org

With settings changing from space stations to roller rinks, and themes ranging from superheroes to religion, Island City Stage’s fifth-annual short-play festival will once again highlight accomplished 10-minute works from local and national playwrights, usually integrating LGBTQ themes. As with previous years, the audience will select the order of the plays, a conceit that will challenge and surprise the actors nightly. This year, the company is throwing another high concept into the mix: The evening will be structured like an episode of the classic game show “Concentration,” complete with vintage commercials and “words from our sponsors.” The production runs through Sept. 10.

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What: Robert Watson

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 305/442-4408, booksandbooks.com

Prolific writer and Lynn University history professor Robert Watson, whose nonfiction books total more than three dozen, will read from his latest tome, the paranormally titled Ghost Ship of Brooklyn. But the horrors contained in its spine are all too real: The title ship, the HMS Jersey, held thousands of American POWs captured by the British during World War II, from its mooring off the coast of Brooklyn. The conditions were inhumane to say the least. Scarcely provided food or water, and crammed like sardines in the bowels in the ship, more Americans died onboard than on all of the war’s battlefields. This alarming statistic is one of many in Watson’s engrossing narrative, which is culled from newspapers, diaries and military reports.

THURSDAY TO SATURDAY

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What: Andrew Dice Clay

Where: Boca Black Box, 8221 Glades Road, Suite 10

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $75-$105

Contact: 561/483-9036, bocablackbox.com

In a quainter time for American politics and policy, a comedian’s standup persona could still top headlines across the country. Back in the ‘80s, Andrew Dice Clay was a controversy magnet, generating a torrent of press for his misogynistic material, which struck a chord with audiences nationwide. He even became the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden. The Boca Black Box isn’t MSG, but the fact that the Diceman is still selling out venues decades after his peak is a testament to the durability of his act. Offstage, Clay is reportedly a sweet guy, and his acting range transcends his macho mien: He received acclaim for performances in “Blue Jasmine” and HBO’s “Vinyl,” and, believe it or not, he’s set to star as Lady Gaga’s father in Hollywood’s latest remake of “A Star is Born.” That said, expect this three-night stint in Boca to be bluer than a cobalt sky.

SATURDAY

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What: “I Love the ‘90s” Tour

Where: Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1801 N.E. Sixth St., Pompano Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $48-$128

Contact: 954/519-5500, ticketmaster.com

This gathering of hip-hop, rap and R&B chart-toppers from two decades past arrives at an opportune time, cresting an indelible wave of ‘90s nostalgia that has permeated movies, television and, of course, music festivals. A national tour making its inaugural South Florida stop, “I Love the ‘90s” features an enviable lineup for listeners tuned into Y-100 circa 1995: Wellington’s own Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa, Coolio and Young MC. This will never win our vote for the most sophisticated mini music fest, but it’s the one most likely to cause you to dance yourself stupid, which in times like these is a necessary escape.

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What: Rock Hard Revue: “The Magic Mike Experience”

Where: The Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Ave., Lake Park

When: 9 p.m.

Cost: $18 (or $50 for front two rows and meet-and-greet)

Contact: 561/328-7481, thekelseytheater.com

“Magic Mike,” the movie franchise that, more than any other, has catered to the female sexual gaze, has inspired a new wave of all-male dance revues capitalizing on its risqué market. The Rock Hard Revue is one such troupe; based in Orlando and Tampa, the company claims to be the only all-male strip act on the east coast, and it has some impressive, um, attributes: performances on the ninth season of “America’s Got Talent,” and choreography from a former director of Chippendale’s. Men are invited to attend this touring production of the group’s “Magic Mike Experience,” but the Rock Hard Revue’s website states the obvious when it says “[The show] is designed for the woman audience member in mind.”

MONDAY (AUG. 21)

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What: Solar Eclipse Event and Expedition

Where: FAU Observatory, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton

When: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: cescos.fau.edu

As you know, next Monday marks the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, and it’s viewable—at least in part—coast to coast. There’s no better venue locally to experience this once-in-a-lifetime phenomena than FAU’s Observatory, which will host an Open Dome Event and Sidewalk Solar Eclipse Expedition. If you haven’t bought official solar eclipse glasses, don’t sweat it: FAU will provide them free of charge, and visitors will have the opportunity to view the event through the university’s telescope. You’ll even get to see live feeds of the eclipse from across the country. I can’t think of a better reason to blow off work, but do arrive early: Next Monday also marks the first day of classes for the fall semester, so parking will be at a premium.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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With 2017-2018 Season, Kravis Hits Its Eclectic PEAK

This week, the Kravis Center announced its long-awaited 2017-2018 season. It’s more jam-packed than ever, with a full slate of top-shelf comedians (Dennis Miller, Howie Mandel, Jackie Mason); rock, jazz and classical headliners (The Beach Boys, Audra McDonald, Itzhak Perlman); and an especially eclectic theatre season (“The Book of Mormon,” “Hamlet,” “The Illusionists”).

But the highlight, as far as my radar is concerned, is the remarkable growth of the venue’s “PEAK”—Provocative Entertainment at Kravis—programs, which showcases, in the Kravis’ own words, “ethnic diversity and impactful themes.”

Staged in the Kravis’ intimate Rinker Playhouse, PEAK began five seasons ago as an experiment to attract more cutting-edge artists and hipper, younger audiences. It’s improved ever since, and this year’s lineup doubles the number of PEAK acts from its first year to a record 16, encompassing avant-garde dance, timely monologues, a multimedia music showcase and even an LGBTQ variety show. Here’s the sweet 16:

Lemon Andersen: “When Aliens Fall From the Sky” (Nov. 9-10, 2017)

This performance art presentation from a veteran of Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” has nothing to do with extraterrestrials; rather, it’s a meditation on immigration and identity in America, with Andersen transforming the poems and journeys of 13 travelers into an original theatre piece.

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DakhaBrakha (Nov. 12, 2017)

If you haven’t been brushing up on your old Ukrainian dialect lately, DakhaBrakha translates to “give/take.” There will be many such cultural exchanges at this revisionist expression of Ukrainian folklore, where a panoply of Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instruments—including the accordion and didgeridoo—create borderless harmony that its creators call “ethnic chaos.”

“Ethel’s Documerica” (Nov. 17, 2017)

This singular production takes a multimedia approach to environmental awareness. Images from “Project Documerica,” a photo essay commissioned by the EPA in 1970, will play on a video screen, while ETHEL, a band that hybridizes indie and classical music, will perform audio interpretations of the photos, in a show that reflects on our relationship with the world around us.

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10 Hairy Legs (Jan. 19-20, 2018)

Beyond the subversive humor of its name, this New Jersey-based dance company is a markedly serious purveyor of male-centered dance. The 100-percent male repertory has earned effusive praise for its mission of advancing the role of the male in dance, and this tour, subtitled “Celebrating the Artistry of the Male Dancer,” showcases some of its finest commissions by esteemed choreographers.

Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theater (Feb. 9-10, 2018)

The provocative, self-proclaimed troupe known as Contra-Tiempo formed in 2005—and while its name translates in English to “against time,” the group is so cutting-edge that it’s perennially ahead of it. Cesar Alvarez, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based company, composes its soundtracks by mashing together deconstructed salsa, Americana, hip-hop, industrial and found sounds, which in turn inspire choreography that spans the spectrum from salsa, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop to modern and jazz dance.

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Urban Bush Women: “Hair and Other Stories” (Feb. 16-17, 2018)

This Brooklyn dance company communicates themes resonant with the African diaspora in the most exciting, energizing way possible: through movement and sound. Continuing the company’s exploration of the female form in dance, “Hair and Other Stories” explores self-image, race and gender inequality with choreography that stimulates the mind and touches the soul.

Yamato: The Drummers of Japan (Feb. 19-20, 2018)

Visitors to the Morikami know fall about taiko drumming, but this touring band of thunderous drummers may kick it up a notch. Yamato, which performs on taiko drums made from ancient trees, will bow its latest show “The Challengers,” a spirited celebration complete with specially designed costumes.

Mike Daisey: “The End of Journalism” (Feb. 23-24, 2018)

This imaginative storyteller has completed more than 25 monologues in 20 years, including one that lasted 24 hours. His latest, “The End of Journalism,” is a timely, pungent lament on the decline of the Fourth Estate, from the shrinking influence of newspapers to the Facebook propaganda that proliferated during the 2016 election.

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Kaki King (March 1, 2018)

Any gig by this “new guitar God” (per Rolling Stone) is something to celebrate. A guitarist and composer with prodigious talent and a chameleonic approach to genre, Kaki King has collaborated with artists ranging Eddie Vedder to Timbaland to my favorite band, the Mountain Goats. This concert experience, “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body,” may be her most ambitious yet: It’s a multimedia extravaganza in which her guitar melds into the psychedelic imagery projecting behind her. See it to believe it.

Mountainfilm on Tour (March 9-10, 2018)

The only purely cinematic program on the PEAK 16, this mini film festival screens documentaries and short features from the nearly 40-year-old history of Colorado’s annual Telluride Mountainfilm festival. The event’s objective has always been to showcase films intended to make the world a better place, so prepare to be inspired.

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Zakir Hussain, Tabla (March 15, 2018)

This concert presents a rare stateside appearance from Hussain, a living legend of the tabla—a deceptively simple-looking instrument, consisting of two hand drums, that dates back centuries. Hussain’s father, Alla Rakha, mastered the tabla, and Hussain has followed suit, winning Grammy awards, performing on the “Apocalypse Now” soundtrack, and collaborating with the Grateful Dead. At his Kravis set, he’ll perform alongside flautist Rakesh Chaurasia.

Lil Buck and Jon Boogz: “Love Heals All Wounds” (March 21-22, 2018)

These exciting progenitors of jookin, a form of street dancing originating in Memphis, have goals no less lofty than changing the world through dance. “Love Heals All Wounds,” which features Buck and Boogz’s dance company Control Freakz, displays the dancer-choreographers’ deft footwork and spoken-word eloquence while promoting messages of inclusivity and diversity.

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Ranky Tanky (April 11-12, 2018)

This four-piece band, along with singer Quiana Parler, perform music in the authentic Gullah tradition—which originated with enslaved West Africans and proliferated in the Lowcountry regions of Georgia and South Carolina. One of the most celebrated contemporary Gullah bands, Ranky Tanky keeps the genre alive and thriving, with raucous barnburners and soul-stirring spirituals alike.

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Che Malambo (April 13-14, 2018)

With roots in 17th-century South America, this all-male Argentinean dance company combines precise movement with explosive percussion instrumentation. Straddling drums, the dancers showcase fleet feet and remarkable strength and agility, thanks to choreography inspired by the rhythm of galloping horses.

“The Mountaintop” (April 20-21, 2018)

L.A. Theatre Works tours its production of this two-character play set in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on the night before Martin Luther King’s assassination. Paranoid and brilliant, King engages in conversation with a hotel maid that yields vivid, metaphysical results.

“It Gets Better” (June 16, 2018)

PEAK concludes with a stage presentation of columnist Dan Savage’s influential “It Gets Better” initiative, founded in 2010 to combat bullying of LGBTQ youth. The multimedia presentation features poems, skits, songs and more, performed by students from the local “It Gets Better” program in Lake Worth.


Whew! Enough awesomeness this season? PEAK, of course, is just a fraction of Kravis’ full season lineup. Check out the entire mammoth sked at kravis.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Concert Review: Garbage, Blondie at Hard Rock Live

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Even Garbage, a Platinum-selling rock band with millions of fans, must suffer the indignities of the touring life. “Our tour bus is now officially dead to us,” Shirley Manson tweeted, at 5:09 a.m. Aug. 7. “We are currently hitch hiking to Orlando. Pray for us. Stay strong.”

Garbage’s Central Florida fans may still be on tinterhooks, with the group’s scheduled performance hours away at the time of this writing. Luckily for us South Floridians, Manson and her band made it halfway, lighting up the Hard Rock Live stage by 7:40 (yes, that early, to the chagrin of some!) Tuesday night. So when she exclaimed, after two songs, “We made it to Hollywood!,” the relief was palpable.

This double bill, alongside Blondie, certainly wouldn’t have been the same without them. “This has been a meeting that is long overdue,” Manson said, noting that Garbage hasn’t played this region since 1999. She made it up to us with an electrifying set of molten songs full of angst and spitfire, plucked judiciously from a more than 20-year career.

Clad in a floor-length scarlet dress coat, her bob an equally blazing shade of red, Manson looked like the belle of any ball, especially one thrown by Lewis Carroll. Whether standing downstage to let a fan billow her dress to pantomiming windmill guitars with her bandmates, she was a captivating presence, impossible to look away from. During “Empty,” she collapsed to her knees, feeling every painful lyric down to each syllable. She left the stage in the middle of “Cherry Lips” to commune with lucky superfans in the front section, slinked around the stage like a sinuous Bond girl during “The World is Not Enough,” and knocked the mic stand off the stage during the raucous send-off, “Vow.”

As one of the great post-grunge poets of the disenfranchised, Manson has lost none of her edge, nor has her band’s terrific music. Its latest single, the politically conscious “No Horses,” throbbed with apocalyptic urgency, while “I Think I’m Paranoid” remains a primo example of the loud-quiet-loud Pixies/Nirvana formula that made the ‘90s such an exciting time for alternative rock. “Why Do You Love Me?”—the only song in Garbage’s set that the rest of the cities didn’t get—was a blistering rocker that could wake the dead. “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When it Rains” both deviated agreeably from their album versions, the former with a deceptive intro, and the latter opening with Manson crouched on the drummer’s platform, crooning the opening stanzas like a jazz singer.

The adrenalized head-banger “Push It” was another of many highlights, yielding a modicum of pogoing from an otherwise docile crowd of Gen-Xers and older who have matured alongside the band—outgrowing mosh pits and crowd-surfing but certainly not the great music that once inspired them.

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Blondie followed, and though any respectable bill would have Deborah Harry’s legendary New Wave act headlining, Garbage was unquestionably the main draw. Still a rebellious voice—she sported strange headgear resembling bees as part of her colony collapse disorder activism, along with a cape emblazoned with the phrase “stop fucking the planet”—Harry seemed to be having a good time onstage. But she also seemed to be on something that affected her performance, and not in a positive way. Her energy sagged even during the opening number “One Way or Another,” and “Call Me” was an abject mess, with Harry appearing to forget lyrics and mumble words that may or may not have been part of the song (though we got to see keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen rock that Key-tar like it was 1985!). “That was fun, actually,” she said afterwards, and I can’t say I agree.

As for “Rapture,” that song was a travesty even when it was released in 1980, and I diligently skip it every time I spin Autoamerican. Onstage last night, it seemed to stretch on for twice its length. The same tediousness marred “Fragments,” a slow-building number from Pollinator that led to a mini-exodus of fans to the bathrooms, or the bar, or their cars. Perhaps it’s saying something that the best number from the first half of the set was also the most incongruous one: the band’s short, bluesy take on “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” a hippie sing-along that felt like Bob Dylan by way of Chuck Berry by way of Blondie.

Patient concertgoers were finally treated to a solid finish. “Atomic” featured a rousing guitar-solo climax, “Heart of Glass” proved Harry still had the golden range to hit the song’s ethereal notes, and “The Tide is High” transported us briefly and pleasingly to a Caribbean island.

But the fact remains that very little in Blondie’s set was exciting. The necessary caveat, of course, is that Harry is 72, and the fact that she’s still playing 90-minute rock shows is an accomplishment in itself. It’s just not enough.

GARBAGE SET LIST

No Horses

Sex is Not the Enemy

#1 Crush

Empty

I Think I’m Paranoid

Cherry Lips

Blackout

Special

Why Do You Love Me?

Even Though Our Love is Doomed

The World is Not Enough

Stupid Girl

Happy When it Rains

Push It

Vow

BLONDIE SET LIST

One Way or Another

Hanging on the Telephone

Fun

Call Me

My Monster

Rapture

Fragments

Too Much

Atomic

Long Time

Heart of Glass

ENCORE

The Tide is High

Dreaming

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 8 to 14

A Cuban-American plumbs the distant past in Boca Raton, ’80s and ’90s rock icons channel “Rapture and Rage” in Hollywood,  and “Y&R” stars bring the small screen to the big stage. Plus, The Psychedelic Furs, Norm MacDonald, a horror movie fest and more in your week ahead.


TUESDAY

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What: Opening day of “Deep Line Drawings by Carlos Luna”

Where: Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $10-$12, free for students

Contact: 561/392-2500, bocamuseum.org

Artist Carlos Luna is the embodiment of South Florida’s melting pot. A Cuban exile, he emigrated to Mexico in 1991 and then to Miami nearly a decade later, absorbing the customs, rituals and rich artistic heritage of each country. Cuban jargon, Mexican Day of the Dead-style imagery and even European cubism inform his dynamic oeuvre, which stretches from paintings and drawings to sculpture, tapestry and installations. Rootless, restless and forever innovating, Luna continues to integrate new styles and formats by, in the case of “Deep Line Drawings,” gazing into the distant past: The exhibition will feature new works on amate, a type of paper formed from natural tree bark whose practice dates to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It runs through Feb. 11, 2018.

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What: Blondie and Garbage

Where: Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $50-$90

Contact: 954/797-5531, myhrl.com

Pioneering female-fronted rock from two generations headlines this nostalgic jaunt, aka the “Rapture and Rage” tour. Former punk sensations Blondie, indefatigably touring with original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, continues to innovate on its star-studded latest album “Pollinator,” a dancey, sparkly collection of tunes that picks up where the group’s ‘80s pinnacle left off. Just as impressive, ‘90s hitmakers Garbage (“Stupid Girl,” “I Think I’m Paranoid”), led by the infectious and self-flagellating vocalist Shirley Manson, is likewise on the heels of its strongest album in years: the expansive, brooding and serpentine “Strange Little Birds.” Hear a tailored mix of the old and the new at this co-headlining tour, along with opening act Deep Valley. Look for a review of this concert Wednesday here on bocamag.com.

WEDNESDAY

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What: The Psychedelic Furs

Where: Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $32

Contact: 954/564-1074, cultureroom.net

The night after Blondie, keep the ‘80s party raging with The Psychedelic Furs, the British New Wave standard-bearers founded by brothers Richard and Tim Butler. This group’s quartet of albums from their 1981 to 1987 peak period became permanent fixtures of pop music enthusiasts, underground goths and club kids alike, on the strength of Richard Butler’s singular vocal style, the band’s limitless capacity for shiny earworms—“Pretty in Pink,” “Heaven” and “Love My Way” are among its biggest—and its ability to channel the angst of its era and beyond. “President Gas,” for instance, written during the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions, contains lyrics that just as easily apply today. The Furs haven’t released an album in 26 years, but their ‘80s output continues to offer a trove of stellar material for the group’s fans, and their current set list stretches all the way back to their lesser-known, self-titled debut from 1980.

THURSDAY

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What: Opening of Fusion Art & Fashion Gallery

Where: 501 Fern St., West Palm Beach

When: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/305-6004

West Palm Beach’s latest gallery, Fusion Art & Fashion, is a brainchild of the producers of the annual Fashion Week Palm Beach, an area staple since 2010. The gallery will keep things local for its inaugural exhibition, “Sublime Chaos: A Journey From Realism to Abstraction,” a showcase of 25 paintings from West Palm Beach-based artist Deborah Bigeleisen. Her swirling, tempestuous art pops off the canvas with bold colors inspired by fellow-abstract expressionist Paul Jenkins. Check it out through Oct. 10, and if you buy a painting, proceeds of the sale will benefit Soroptimist International of the Palm Beaches.

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What: Opening night of “True West”

Where: The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost $20-$35

Contact: 954/591-0818, newcityplayers.org

In the kind of tragic scheduling irony that could never be planned, New City Players were likely in the early stages of rehearsing their production of Sam Shepard’s 1980 masterpiece “True West” when the heartbreaking news came across the wire: Shepard had died, at age 73, from complications of ALS. Also an Academy Award-actor specializing in rugged, earthen characters, Shepard was most prominently a playwright, where he penned emotionally excoriating and shocking sagas of fractured families. “True West” is a stellar example of his invigorating craftsmanship, focusing on the split between estranged brothers—a screenwriter and a petty thief—who find themselves cohabitating in their mother’s otherwise empty house. Tensions flare in this astute and surprising play, which seems to be as much about the entertainment business as filial strife. See this poignantly timed tribute to the late, great playwright, through Aug. 27.

FRIDAY

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What: Opening night of Popcorn Frights Film Festival

Where: O Cinema Wynwood, 90 N.W. 29th St., Miami

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $12 per screening, $120 for all-access festival badges

Contact: popcornfrights.com

Most mainstream horror cinema, with its cheap and predictable scares and routine plotting, has nothing on the innovative and gonzo approaches of underground auteurs. That’s the raison d’être behind Popcorn Frights, which screens a flurry of cultish horror films too weird or subversive for commercial theaters. It all begins at 7 p.m. Friday with the Florida premiere of “Tragedy Girls,” a satirical horror-comedy that takes bloody aim at fame-seeking internet exhibitionism. The film stars Brianna Hildebrand, of “Deadpool,” and Craig Robinson, and has been described as “Scream meets Clueless.” Tickets are still available for most of the other films, which screen through Aug. 17. Check out the full schedule at the festival’s website.

SATURDAY

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What: “The Young and the Restless” Soap Opera Festival

Where: Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, 5550 N.W. 40th St., Coconut Creek

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $30-$50

Contact: 800/653-8000, casinococo.com

Broadcast television may have entered its glacial death spiral, but “The Young and the Restless” shows no signs of diminishing. If anything, it’s keeping CBS alive. The highest-rated daytime drama on American television, “Y&R” proves that well-written, well-acted, well-directed soaps can still attract eyeballs and advertising dollars even in the Netflix world. Having never seen an episode, I won’t pretend to write about it with authority, but for the show’s fans, the actors appearing at this live Soap Opera Festival need no introduction. Amelia Heinle, Kristoff St. John, Tracey E. Bregman (pictured) and Chrisian Le Blanc will field questions from the audience and share behind-the-scenes insights about the Emmy-winning show’s production in this 75-minute program.

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What: Norm MacDonald

Where: The Casino @ Dania Beach, 301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach

When: 7 and 10 p.m.

Cost: $30-$45

Contact: 954/920-1511, casinodaniabeach.com

I reckon it’s been years since my favorite comedian, Norm MacDonald, has taken a stage in South Florida, so expect a slate of new (or at least new-ish) material that may or may not also be found on his recent Netflix special “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery.” MacDonald is most famous for his polarizing three-year run as the “Weekend Update” anchor in the booming ‘90s of “Saturday Night Live,” in which he shredded pop-culture magnets like O.J. Simpson, Jack Kevorkian and Lyle Lovett with relentless potshots. But Norm’s oddball humor, which included deadpan parodies of Larry King and David Letterman, quickly bypassed mainstream acceptance in favor of cult worship, which only intensified during his brief film career and sitcom wilderness. Always better solo than in groups, MacDonald is most gifted on the standup stage, where his brand of alternative, ironic and occasionally anti-humor yields its richest rewards.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Norton’s New Season Includes Blockbuster Exhibits

This week, the Norton Museum of Art announced a pair of blockbuster exhibitions for its 2017-2018 season, while the construction of the New Norton continues apace.

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Opening Sept. 5, “Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene” combines science, art and environmentalism. In 2015 and 2016, Justin Brice Guariglia, a transdisciplinary artist from New York, saw firsthand the effects of Greenland’s melting glaciers when he joined NASA as part of its Operation IceBridge survey mission. His stirringly manipulated photographs from the mission comprise this striking collection of abstract photo-paintings, which doubles as a clarion call about sea level rise. Printed with an acrylic process Guariglia himself invented, the impossible-to-replicate aerial close-ups of “Earth Works” are both placid and tempestuous, astral and arctic, forcing us to look anew at the geography we’re slowly losing.

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“Earth Works” runs through Jan. 7, 2018. A few weeks later, on Jan. 25, the Norton will open “Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Sculpture,” another powerhouse show by the prominent arts patron who founded New York’s Whitney Museum. But as an heiress and socialite who was born into the Vanderbilt family, Whitney’s wealthy reputation has done her few favors as a working artist. As this exhibition illuminates, her sculptural work belied her cosseted life. Her portraits of World War I soldiers and working-class minorities revealed a boundless empathy for the less privileged, which came across in small-scale sculptures and massive public works alike. She is well past due for a reappraisal, and this career-spanning survey—remarkably, the first since her 1942 death—will provide one.

The Norton also announced this week four “Spotlight” shows: room-sized, limited-run mini-exhibitions that focus tightly on a particular subject, artist or genre. “Julie Mehretu: Epigraph, Damascus” (Sept. 5-Oct. 22) is a recently completed six-panel print consisting of deconstructed architectural renderings from the besieged Syrian capital. “BRILLIANT: Recent Acquisitions” (Oct. 26-Dec. 7) features works in paper, glass and photography that deploy vibrant, bold color. “Miss Lucy’s 3-Day Dollhouse Party” (Dec. 14, 2017-Feb. 4, 2018) features three dollhouse projects from Jupiter-based art collector Douglas Andrews, whose friends in the art world—including Julian Schnabel and Cy Twombly—contributed miniature artworks to adorn the houses. Finally, “Black History Black Futures” (Feb. 8-March 18, 2018) will be dedicated solely to black artists, and will be supplemented by special programming and lectures.

As always during reconstruction, the Norton remains free to all visitors throughout the 2017-2018 season. For more information, call 561/832-5196 or visit Norton.org. The museum is at 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Art & Culture Center’s Latest Exhibits are Whimsical and Confrontational

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The works comprising “Charley Friedman: Moist Things,” occupying the main gallery at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, exude an emotion too often overlooked in contemporary art: They’re fun.

Small in number but monumental in scope, “Moist Things” surveys more than two decades of work from this Lincoln, Neb., artist, whose dominant sculptures are massive and playful and kinetic. The exhibition moves and drips and hums with life, inspiring immediate awe and dumfounded attention. Bright and surreal, it mesmerizes schoolchildren and art scholars alike.

At the center of this exhibit are four installations created out of mad genius and dogged persistence. “Carpet World,” the first such piece visitors will encounter, is a scaled-to-size globe made from fabric, a painstaking latch hook project that took the artist two years to complete. It’s vividly blue—oceans cover most of the planet—with countries and islands color-coded in shades of pale orange, mauve, taupe and lime green, like randomly cut snacks in a bag of veggie chips. You’re probably not supposed to touch it, but it’s so tactile I couldn’t resist. It’s a giant cat’s toy, and it turns us all into inquisitive felines. Its ambition staggers.

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The same can be said for the piece that gives the show its title, “I Like Moist Things.” Call it aquatic text art: Friedman refashioned 16 sponges into letters spelling out the titular phrase, a silly and suggestive declarative sentence. The sponge art hangs in the air, suspended by wires and absorbing and releasing streams of water, which collect in a kiddie pool below. The water circulates back to the streams above the sponges, generating an endless loop—a fountain that might fit in the lobby of an eccentric hotel, a la the Grand Budapest.

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The liveliest of all is “Science Project,” completed with assistance from local engineering students. This summery kinetic sculpture consists of 80 motor-propelled beach balls spinning like atoms around a steel rod. A beach party distilled into a carousel of symbols, it’s as endlessly watchable as anything I’ve ever seen in a museum. Just as painstaking, and arguably lovelier, is “Garden,” a site-specific arrangement of hollowed-out eggs covered in resin and glued to a gallery wall in formations that resemble verdant plants, with the occasional yolk signifying a budding flower.

Stunning from afar, Friedman’s work tends to grow in esteem the closer you analyze it. “Garden,” in particular, demands a deep dive. Viewed up close, those sinuous plant tendrils reveal themselves indeed to be eggs, with individual puncture marks serving as reminders of their previous functional life. Part of Friedman’s genius may be the way he hides nothing about his transformed materials yet manages to transport us nonetheless. Beyond that, it’s hard to discern an overarching “point” to these large-scale whimsies. Rather, as in the work of the Dada artists, they expose the futility of searching for one. Their blazing originality is pointed enough.

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By contrast, Miami artist David Rohn’s “In Service/Out of Service,” in the next gallery, confronts issues of classism and inequality head-on. It largely consists of oval-shaped portraits of the artist himself dressed as stylized versions of homeless and working-class Americans, men and women alike. For the homeless portraits, he dons secondhand garb including Army fatigues, worn coats, shower caps and makeshift wigs, a convincing hodgepodge of apparel these poorest of people may have cobbled together.

On the gallery floor, Rohn created a tent city filled with the meager detritus of a life on society’s fringes—ugly blankets, a bucket used for god knows what, a Slim Jim label, an empty Pringles canister. In a careful ironic touch, Rohn incorporated promotional giveaways from the Design District, such as tarps and umbrellas, which comment on the contrast between this ostensibly upscale tourist attraction and the urban poor that surround it.

One room over, Rohn inhabits working-class archetypes in the same portrait style, clearly identifying himself as a nurse, a mechanic, a housekeeper, a cable guy and a server. They hang over a more domestic, if still budget-conscious, setting: Instead of tents and tarps, there’s a hearth decorated with thrift-store tchotchkes, and a used three-piece used sofa set which the artist painted over with dinosaurs, a poignant reflection of our industrious method of turning others’ trash into new treasures.

The two rooms are more similar than different. Rohn’s expression never changes regardless of his subject’s socioeconomic status, and this one-gaze-fits-all approach draws connections between these tenuous strata. In an increasingly automated economy, more and more skilled workers are becoming expendable, and the gap between the lower classes is shrinking. The people in Rohn’s portraits might represent the so-called “forgotten man” (and woman) whose votes decided the last presidential election. They’re invisible to most of us reading this, but Rohn takes time to look at them. Any candidate would be wise to be follow his lead.

These exhibitions, along with “Lisa Rockford: Dear 33020,” run through Aug. 20 at Art and Culture Center, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission costs $4-$7. Call 954/921-3274 or visit artandculturecenter.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.