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Movie Review: “The Exception”

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Pictorially handsome and awash in wartime intrigue, “The Exception” milks romance, sex and pathos from one of the more uncharted territories of World War II fiction: the Netherlands.

That’s where the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer), the last monarch of Germany, spent his final years, as the Nazi machine metastasized throughout Europe. Based on Alan Judd’s respected 2003 novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss, “The Exception” dramatizes the Kaiser’s decline against a charged, clandestine romance between his newly commissioned guard, Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney), and the Kaiser’s most mysterious chambermaid, Mieke (Lily James).

Light on thrills, the film coasts elegantly without them, thanks to assured, uninhibited direction from longtime British stage director David Leveaux. Stefan and Mieke meet each other sexually before they know each other’s names, in a pair of smoldering sequences that bring welcome parity to onscreen nudity, effectively demolishing the master-servant hierarchy. Keeping what becomes a string of compounding secrets grows ever more tenuous, especially considering the rules of the Kaiser’s estate: “Copulation with the servants is strictly forbidden.”

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Screenwriter Simon Burke, by way of Judd’s novel, ratchets up the drama by integrating a surprise visit from Heinrich Himmler (the great character actor Eddie Marsan), the head of the S.S., with an offer the naïve Kaiser cannot refuse, culminating in a swirl of colliding motivations.

Marsan plays Himmler as a chilling personification of pure evil, casually discussing the extermination of children over a plate of dinner. “The Exception” is more ambivalent toward the Kaiser, a character who provides a rich, complicated canvas for the superb Plummer. Famous for tactless pronouncements, he sounds Fascist-lite when bemoaning the “freemasons, Bolsheviks and Jews” taking over Germany, but he saves some of his most potent potshots for the Third Reich, Hitler and Gohring. Many of his opinions, spoken with faded stentorian authority, seem self-serving, designed to polish his shattered reputation and cling to whatever wisps of power he still commands. Mostly, he lives like an active retiree, chopping wood and feeding ducks on his still-capacious grounds.

That he lands somewhere in the middle on the continuum of good and evil is to the movie’s evenhanded credit. Burke’s script is prone to occasional on-the-nose archness (“You are the Kaiser!” his wife, played by Janet McTeer, feels compelled to remind him, and us, early on), but it’s mostly for clarity, helping to elucidate a time and place with which most audiences won’t be familiar. With acting, directing and atmosphere this unimpeachable, all minor quibbles are forgiven.

“The Exception” opens Friday, June 23 at Movies of Delray, Movies of Lake Worth, and the Tower Theater in Miami.

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: Dierks Bentley “What the Hell” Tour at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I love country music. It didn’t used to be that way, but during my college years, I grew into it. I found a couple country radio stations. I listened proudly while walking to class. Before I knew it, I had songs memorized. I saw Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett. Then I started following the lesser-known guys, waiting for them to make it big (cough, Jon Pardi, cough).

Thankfully, country music is alive and well in South Florida. This summer’s country lineup tour is one for the books, starting with Dierks Bentley’s “What the Hell Tour” this past Saturday. He performed along with Jon Pardi and Cole Swindell at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach.

Up-and-comer Jon Pardi started the evening with songs from his newest album, “California Sunrise,” released in June 2016 and his first album, “Write You a Song,” released in 2014. Standing tall in dark jeans, a blue plaid short sleeve shirt and a light cream cowboy hat, Pardi received many cheers despite the limited crowd. He opened with “Paycheck,” followed by “Out of Style” and “Heartache on the Dance Floor.” I happily recognized these tunes from KISS 99.9. Like many country artists, Pardi’s song lyrics tell stories about experience: love, loss, working on the farm. Pardi alternated playing electric and acoustic guitar, accompanied by bass, drums and a steel guitar. It’s upbeat, fun and easy listening music. I saw plenty of couples in the VIP seating area get up and dance, laughing and singing along to the music.

About halfway through, Pardi remarked, “I feel like I just ran a marathon—sweaty. Sexy!” The (mostly female) audience applauded, and he launched into “What I Can’t Put Down,” “Night Shift,” and “Cowboy Hat.” His deep voice hit every note perfectly, even the higher octaves. After “Up All Night,” and the hit single “Head Over Boots,” Pardi paused. Finally, the opening notes for his top-charting “Dirt on My Boots” began. It definitely didn’t disappoint, and I was happy to hear the live version. This song marked the end of his show, and the stage crew began moving sets.

As they set up for Cole Swindell, I looked around. One of the best parts of country concerts is the people watching. I saw plenty of cowboy boots, plaid shirts and hole-filled jeans. Beer was flowing, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. About 20 minutes later, the lights flashed onstage and Swindell popped up from underneath a hidden floorboard. His set started with the hit single “Hope You Get Lonely” from his self-titled 2014 album. When he started “Brought to You by Beer,” he encouraged everyone to raise his or her cans (or cups) and toasted to a good night in West Palm Beach.

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Cole Swindell performs at Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. Photo by Allison Lewis

Unlike other artists I’ve seen, Swindell took the time to share a bit of his music career story with fans. He’s a songwriter at heart and wrote popular singles for Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean before ever writing his own music. To exemplify, he launched into a rendition of “Get Me Some of That,” “Roller Coaster” and “This is How We Roll.” The rest of the set was his original songs. Swindell slowed the mood with his 2016 hit single “Middle of a Memory” and “Remember Boys.” After “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey,” he dedicated “You Should Be Here,” to his father, Keith, who died suddenly in 2013. Swindell rounded out the show with “Let Me See Ya Girl” and “Closer” by The Chainsmokers. Who knew that country could meet EDM/pop effectively? I loved the mash-up, and I hope to hear more in the future.

At last, Dierks Bentley played. DIERKS. BENTLEY. (Sorry, I’m still excited and all caps are necessary.) His performance was by far my favorite, and as the headliner, it should be. I think the crowd of 18,000—the largest he’s played for in West Palm—agreed.

Bentley started with “What The Hell Did I Say,” the song that gave name to the entire tour. He had plenty of energy, jumping and walking back and forth on stage with a mic. The lights moved and changed colors, and some even flashed every now and then. Then the band segued into “5-1-5-0,” “Am I the Only One,” and a popular favorite, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” from the “Long Trip Alone” album. He brought Jon Pardi back on stage for a cover duet of George Strait’s “Cowboys Like Us,” which the crowd loved. Bentley even “sang” with a video version of Elle King for their 2016 radio hit “Different For Girls.”

Dierks Bentley performs on a mini stage at Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. Photo by Allison Lewis

Dierks Bentley performs on a mini stage at Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. Photo by Allison Lewis

Toward the end of the show, Bentley made his way to a smaller stage about 20 feet away from me, shaking hands with police and medical first responders on his way. He played “Home” and “Riser” from the little platform stage, then returned to the big stage for “Flatliner” with Cole Swindell. After “Somewhere on a Beach,” he played a few more tunes before closing with “Sideways.” It occurred to me that he hadn’t played one of his most famous songs, “Drunk on a Plane.” But I was certain he’d play that for the encore, and I was right.

It was even better than I imagined. The video boards on either side of the stage tuned in to Bentley in a captain’s uniform in a plane cockpit, sunglasses dangling haphazardly on his face. The next thing I knew, the stage lit up and the front end of a plane came into view. Bentley climbed out, stumbled around, and the melody played. It was the best way to end an incredible show, which up to that point, totaled 4 hours. If “What the Hell” is any indication of what South Florida’s summer country series will be like, it’s sure to go above and beyond expectations. Hold on to those cowboy hats.

Allison Lewis is the associate editor at Boca Raton Magazine and a native St. Louisan. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. In her spare time, Allison enjoys cooking, playing Ultimate frisbee, reading, traveling and watching sports.
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Movie Reviews: “Megan Leavey,” “My Cousin Rachel”

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A tender weepie, a nervy war film, a potent self-actualization story: “Megan Leavey” is all three of these genres, but it never buckles under such ambition. This fact-based crowd-pleaser hits familiar notes and certainly plays by all the rules, but it moves with a fluid confidence that belies its director’s lack of experience in feature filmmaking. And it certainly dispels the romantic fallacy that everyone who joins the military does so out of patriotic fervor: Soon-to-be Private First Class Megan Leavey just wanted to get the heck out of Dodge.

We meet Megan (Kate Mara) in 2001, at a crossroads. Perpetually mourning the sudden death of her best friend Jesse, she feels guilty over his passing—for reasons that only reveal themselves later in the picture. Antisocial and substance-inclined, she can’t hold down a job, and her homefront, as represented by her careless and insensitive mother and stepfather (Edie Falco and Will Patton, doing yeoman’s duties in unlikeable roles), is its own everyday battlefield.

So she joins the Marine Corps, and after she’s spotted a little drunk in the wrong place at the wrong time, her punishment yields salvation: She’s demoted to cleaning the waste of the Corps’ bomb-sniffing dogs, and the rest is well-publicized history, especially in Leavey’s native New York.

Initially, her interspecies skills are as weak as her interpersonal ones, but she forms an unlikely bond with the Marines’ most aggressive service dog, Rex. She tames him, and he saves her (in more ways than one), but surviving in combat zones is half the battle. “Megan Leavey” divides its narrative between her near-fatalistic tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with her subsequent efforts, as a civilian, to gain adoption rights for the beloved German shepherd.

Megan and Rex completed more than 100 missions together. The few that make it into the film are exciting and harrowing in equal measure, generating almost unbearable tension. This effect would likely have been achieved without Rex’s presence—agony and adrenaline are in the DNA of well-made war film. But the communion between man (loosely defined) and beast is the beating heart of the film.

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First-time narrative film director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, whose necessary documentary “Blackfish” helped change the captivity policies of SeaWorld, handles these interactions with comfort and compassion. With a quartet of perceptive screenwriters, she realizes insights just as applicable to nonmilitary animal care—“Everything you feel goes down-leash,” Megan is told, during her initial struggles to train, and listen to, Rex—while refusing to demonize Megan’s adoption-skeptic commanding officer (played by Common), who argues that Marine dogs are not pets but warriors, and that “they come back with all the same issues we do.”

Mara’s engagement with the canine actor(s?) playing Rex is both palpable and contagious. There’s no emotional response more authentic than her first breakthroughs with the untamed war dog, captured with a wide-eyed glimmer of hope that this difficult, four-legged Marine has just obeyed a command. It’s more than validation, finally, that she has value; it’s also the start of a beautiful friendship.

You don’t have to be dog owner to be moved by “Megan Leavey.” But it certainly doesn’t hurt.


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Directed by South African journeyman Roger Michell (“Persuasion,” “Notting Hill”), and adapted from a 1951 novel by Daphne du Maurier, “My Cousin Rachel” is awash in the same European gothic dread the writer popularized in her most famous work, “Rebecca.”

Set largely in a lavish Cornwall estate, it centers on Philip (Sam Claflin), an orphan adopted by an aristocratic cousin, Ambrose Ashley. By the age of 24, Philip and Ambrose have split up, the latter wintering in Florence, where he meets an enchanting cousin named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). They hit it off, with Ambrose detailing the affair to Philip in gushing letters—until Ambrose suddenly dies, of a purported brain tumor.

Soon enough, the widowed Rachel gallops into Cornwall to see her late partner’s estate for the first time—and to meet its impressionable young heir, Philip, who harbors suspicions about Rachel’s role in his cousin’s demise.

To reveal anything more would be deleterious to the viewing experience; “My Cousin Rachel” is nothing if not a minefield of spoilers. The film feels like the visual equivalent of fine calligraphy—handsome, sumptuous, varnished. We get views of the Cornish countryside that justify a big-screen experience, plus close-ups of Weisz’s distinctive visage that showcase the actress’ impeccable intelligence, a mix of charm, wiles and calculated brusqueness.

But as a mystery, it betrays a lack of confidence in its audience to follow the plot’s machinations on their own accord: Dollops of leading soundtrack cues and overly suggestive direction from Michell telegraph his every movement, undercutting any hint of surprise (the director also labors over some particularly heavy-handed symbolism in the form of a fallen pearl necklace). Observant audiences will always be one step ahead of the characters, which isn’t the place you want to be in an atmospheric suspenser.

“Megan Leavey” and “My Cousin Rachel” open Friday in most area theaters.

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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What is Art? “Some Aesthetic Decisions” Prompts This Eternal Question

One hundred years ago this spring, Marcel Duchamp submitted an actual, unadulterated urinal as a piece of art in a major exhibition. The shockwaves of this provocation have rippled across the decades.

The famed conceptual artist and Dadaist entered the porcelain urinal in the Society of Independent Artists’ first group show at New York’s Grand Central Palace. He was told that all works would be accepted by artists who paid the fee, as Duchamp did, but his toilet, which he called “Fountain,” was rejected by the committee and was apocryphally destroyed shortly thereafter. All that remains of this audacious act is an iconic black-and-white photograph by Alfred Stieglitz in a Dada art journal.

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This is the necessary backstory for the NSU Art Museum’s newest exhibition, “Some Aesthetic Decisions,” a bold and loosely coherent collection of works by artists who, like Duchamp, redefine the parameters of “art.” The idea is that when it’s placed in a functional lavatory, a urinal is a urinal; when it’s reappropriated by an artist, it’s art.

This argument remains a tough sell for many audience members, not all of them philistines. How many times have you strolled a modern art gallery and witnessed a patron scoffing at a blank canvas, or a windowpane, or a stack of newspapers that’s been positioned as art? How many times have you been the scoffer?

As a potent defense of the non-art as art, “Some Aesthetic Decisions” prompts us to linger a little longer with these boundary-crossing works—to examine the differences between taste and aesthetics, to question the value judgments we place on one work vis a vis another, and to follow a shift, in a segment of avant-garde artists, away from a visual experience of art and toward a cerebral one.

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Some of the selections illustrating these trends are inevitable; others are slyer, more mysterious. From the former, we get Andy Warhol, Pop Art’s ultimate trumpeter of the colorfully banal, in the form of a deadpan Campbell’s Soup serigraph and packing boxes for Brillo, Campbell’s and Heinz. On the supermarket shelves, they’re a product; in a gallery they’re art. But isn’t art a product, too? The continued brilliance of Warhol’s commentary is that it immortalizes commercialism, making no pretentions about the purity and loftiness of the artist’s calling.

Along the same lines, we get Jeff Koons’ childhood-evoking recreations of vinyl carnival prizes and iconic balloon dogs, the latter sculpted in shiny porcelain and mounted under glass, suggesting a precious antiquity. I’ve tended to roll my eyes at Koons’ work in the past, dismissing it as tacky pseudo-art for the masses, but this is the first exhibition that contextualizes it in a way that makes sense—or at least that asserts that tacky pseudo-art for the masses isn’t a bad thing.

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Because Duchamp’s “Fountain” was a pioneering example of the “readymade”—a found object, manufactured for another purpose, that an artist parlays into his own vision—“Some Aesthetic Decisions” also showcases works in that tradition. These include the raw functionality of Jorge Pardo’s “Palette”—a stone-faced replica of a handyman tool from the artist’s groundbreaking 1990 “Garage” show, which simulated the environment of a cluttered garage workstation. Julian Schabel’s fine work with readymades is represented here with “Girl With No Eyes,” in which the artist redacted the eyes in a thrift-store portrait of a young girl, adding elements of danger and scandal to the initially benign painting.

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My favorite retooled readymade is Richard Phillips’ “Jacko,” which recreates a portrait of Michael Jackson in chintzy gold paint, rendering the King of Pop as the creepy porcelain doll that he basically was. The show even includes an audiovisual readymade: Jimi Hendrix’s epic performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock 1969. Playful video artist Cory Arcangel ran the performance through Auto-Tune, which “corrected” Hendrix’s “errors.” The resulting performance is a soulless, sludgy drone devoid of personality. Hendrix becomes a robotic slave to the monotony, in an experiment that’s both hilarious and sad.

The most poignant manifestation of the exhibition’s theme is Sophie Calle’s enormous “Blind” series, which consumes an entire gallery wall. The artist asked blind people to share their concepts of beauty, and the exhibition chronicles their varied responses in the forms of excerpted quotations and collected images. These signifiers of beauty include everything from Rodin’s nudes to the color green to Alain Delon to nothing at all. Spanning the personal to the universal, the works prompt the sighted majority to appreciate shapes, textures, smells and nature, establishing that beauty remains a value judgment in the eye of each beholder, even eyes that can’t process visual images.

In the end, “Some Aesthetic Decisions” returns full-circle to Duchamp’s “Fountain.” In its intervening century, this controversial sculpture has lived on through the contributions of other artists, revealing the lasting influence of such an ephemeral moment in art history.

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The work is referenced in Richard Pettibone’s “The Blind Man,” a series of six painted recreations of Stieglitz’s photograph of the “Fountain,” obsessively composed with minute differences; in Sherrie Levine’s “Fountain (Buddha),” which brazenly elevates the urinal to the realm of the sacred; in Rachel Lachowitz’s “Lipstick Urinals,” a series of feminism-infused urinals smothered in cherry red lipstick; and in Mike Bidlo’s “Fractured Fountain,” which imagines a backstory for the destroyed fountain, which Bidlo “recovered” and reassembled in bronze.

“Fountain” may have been rejected in 1917, but in 2017 it’s another platform for postmodern reappropriation, embraced in reverence and irony alike. What does it say that a statement once considered confrontational has become another art-world meme? Surely, Duchamp would love it.

“Some Aesthetic Decisions” is art NSU Art Museum, 1 Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, through Sept. 3. Museum admission costs $5-$12. Call 954/525-5500 or visit nsuartmuseum.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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Movie Review: “The Lovers”

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“The Lovers,” an achingly real comedy from writer-director Azazel Jacobs, opens in medias res: Debra Winger’s Mary is sobbing on the corner of her bed, and her husband Michael (Tracy Letts) beseeches her to “please stop crying,” with all the conviction of a wet noodle. Soon he collapses next to her, centimeters apart but worlds away.

We don’t know what prompted the crying jag, but it doesn’t matter. We just know, by eavesdropping a bit on this exhausted marriage, that it isn’t the first time. There are oceans of pain in their backstory—the kind that, for these unhealthy people, only illicit lovers can help alleviate.

Michael’s cure is Lucy (Melora Walters), a tempestuous ballet teacher; Mary’s escape is Robert (Aidan Gillen), a sensitive writer. These are long-term affairs, and they threaten to kill off their dead horse of a marriage, which has calcified into lazy fictions about “client meetings” and “working late.” Neither party acknowledges the obvious, preferring instead a charade of fidelity: If they don’t speak directly about what’s happening, they needn’t have to deal with it.

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Except that a strange thing begins to happen. The more time they spend away from each other, the more they become attracted to each other: their bodies, their smells, their conversation. Funny how that works. It isn’t until a visit from their collegiate son, Joel (Tyler Ross), that Michael and Mary are finally forced to confront their unsustainable double lives.

Jacobs is a slow and patient builder of character—at times, the action is so deliberate it seems to be moving in slow-motion—and “The Lovers” is nothing if not a character piece. Its plot can be summarized in a sentence, but it wouldn’t do it justice, which is one reason why its chugging trailer is so reaching, so misleading. It’s less a twilight screwball survey of wandering libidos than it is a psychologically perceptive spin on the classic comedy of remarriage—with a sumptuous and quivering Old Hollywood score, to boot.

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For Jacobs, who is 45 but writes with the insights of a much older man, it surely helped to have Letts around for the process. The formidable writer of “Killer Joe” and “August: Osage County” is an incomparably astute observer of ugly human behavior, and the sad, paunchy, desperate-eyed Michael seems the product of one of his pages as much as Jacobs’. Winger is every bit his equal, inflecting Mary with the same hurt mixture of deviance, guilt and uncertainty, their chemistry together flawless.

The fact that Michael’s paramour teaches plies and jetes for a living is no accident. In its movements and textures, the film borrows more from dance than theater. Jacobs, Winger and Letts have crafted a pair of characters who attract, repel and repeat, like people stuck in one of Pina Bausch’s endless choreographed loops. And the movie’s wise coda reminds us that, for codependent philanderers like Michael and Mary, it always takes two to tango.

“The Lovers” opens today at Cinemark Palace 20, Living Room Theaters and Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton; Movies of Delray; Cinemark Boynton Beach; Movies of Lake Worth; and AMC CityPlace in 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.
Laura Turnbull and Elizabeth Dimon in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan' 2017

Theatre Review: Dramaworks’ “Cripple of Inishmaan”

Laura Turnbull and Elizabeth Dimon in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan' 2017

Laura Turnbull and Elizabeth Dimon in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ 2017

In Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” a morally corrosive period comedy set in the titular Irish community, gossip spreads like a disease, and everyone exploits everyone else’s weaknesses. Mockery is the order the day, and political correctness is nonexistent: A spade is as spade, a slut is a slut, a cripple is a cripple. McDonagh is a savage, ruthless writer, and his 1997 play is as cold and hard as the slabs in a morgue.

Yet we laugh at it—moreover, we laugh with it—even when we shouldn’t. That the show’s current revival at Palm Beach Dramaworks is so awfully funny is a testament to director J. Barry Lewis and his expertly curated cast’s superlative straddling of tactless comedy, deadpan tragedy and unexpected violence.

The “cripple” of the title is Billy Claven (Dramaworks newcomer Adam Petherbridge), a young man partially paralyzed from birth, who wiles away his days in Inishmaan staring at livestock or—in what the locals see as a stranger pastime—reading books. Petherbridge, simulating a palsied hand and dragging a dead-weight foot, exhibits tremendous control over his body, but he’s even better emotionally and psychically, refusing to sentimentalize his disadvantaged character.

Adelind Horan and Adam Petherbridge in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan' 2017

Adelind Horan and Adam Petherbridge in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ 2017

Billy’s parents died in a mysterious marine incident when Billy was still a child, so he’s raised by a pair of aunts, the sturdy Eilieen and the quavering Kate, played with chemical interconnectedness by Elizabeth Dimon and Laura Turnbull as two sides of the same maternal coin. The aunts love Billy, but like the rest of their cruel community, they mince few words when acknowledging his limitations.

Discussing Billy’s decided absence of romantic prospects, Kate ventures, “Billy does have a sweet face, if you ignore the rest of him.” After a beat, Eileen counters, “He doesn’t, really. … You’d see nicer eyes on a goat.” Salt, meet wound.

Nothing much happens in Inishmaan, population 375 at the time of the play’s 1934 setting. The discovery of an earless sheep, and reports of a neighborly spat between a goose and a cat, pass for breaking news, which is always delivered by the town’s resident busybody, Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal (Colin McPhillamy, the outsized picture of Barnumesque bombast). Except this time, Johnnypateen has news of consequence: The neighboring island of Inishmore is soon to be visited by American documentarian Robert Flaherty, who is shooting an ethnographic film about the Aran Islands’ fishermen. (This part of the play is based on fact; Flaherty’s film, “Man of Aran,” was released that very year.)

For Billy, this Hollywood emissary might just serve as his opportunity to escape the vacant land of needlers and hecklers for a starry-eyed future in Los Angeles. Movies occasionally need cripples, right?

So Billy finds his way on a boat to Inishmore to audition for Mr. Flaherty, with results that change depending on who conveys them. Unreliable narrators keep the audience guessing as to Billy’s success rate, his whereabouts and his health, McDonagh regularly misdirecting us.

Harriet Oser and Colin McPhillamy in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan' 2017

Harriet Oser and Colin McPhillamy in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ 2017

But the pleasures of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” are not in the shifting tides of its plot but in the everyday interactions of its caustic characters. There are scenes in this expertly paced 130 minutes that propel nothing in the storyline but serve as gifts for the actors and audience alike. The best of them involves a handful of broken eggs and a sibling rivalry between the self-absorbed and sexually uninhibited Helen McCormick (Adelind Horan, full of spunk and venom) and her slow and gullible brother Bartley (an exceptional Wesley Slade). Jim Ballard, as a vengeful boatman; Harriet Oser, as Johnnypateen’s eternal, sharp-tongued mother; and Dennis Creaghan, as Inishmaan’s exasperated physician, complete the uniformly excellent supporting cast.

Scenic designer Victor Becker, who won a Carbonell Award for the smooth multifunctionality of his 2015 “History Boys” set, achieves a similar fluidity in his “Inishmaan” designs, skillfully evoking a general store, boathouse, cinema, bedroom and more through variations on straightforward wood walls and doors. Steve Shapiro’s sound design includes lapping waves and atmospheric selections from the Chieftans, whose Celtic strings gambol blithely between scenes. Paul Black’s peerless lighting expertly conjures the subtle gradations of sunset into night. In two of my favorite effects, a pale moon seems to illuminate an interaction from behind a black curtain; and, as the characters gather for a screening of “Man of Aran,” the actors’ shadows play against a hazy reflection of film footage.

This all contributes to a sterling production of a pretty good play. Dramaworks hits every note with accuracy and gusto, lacking only the lasting emotional resonance better captured by less acerbic, more heartfelt writers. McDonagh is not a playwright who touches the soul—except, perhaps, to slap it around a wee bit.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” runs through June 4 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $66. Call 561/514-4042 or visit palmbeachdramaworks.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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Arts Garage’s Monthly ONYX Series Delivers the Goods to a Small Audience

John Thomason 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. https://bocamag.com

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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Movie Review: “Everything, Everything”

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A little charm goes a long way, as evidenced by “Everything, Everything,” a sweet if unsubtle young-adult drama based on a 2015 novel of the same name, which opens everywhere Friday. Aspiring to be this year’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” it’s another terminal-illness romance, this time set on the picturesque shores of the West Coast.

Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), 18, lives with her widowed mother in an enviable Los Angeles estate. She’s granted every convenience of modern youth, the Pacific Ocean a mere three miles from her front steps—except she can’t experience it. Homebound since infancy, Maddy suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), meaning her body doesn’t produce enough lymphocytes to withstand even a whiff of the outside world. Her home is a lovely airtight cocoon, her all-white wardrobe irradiated for maximum protection, her contact limited to her physician mother (Anika Noni Rose) and longtime nurse (Ana de la Reguera).

A voracious, inquiring reader and thinker—she writes a blog called “Short Spoiler Reviews,” a conceit that feels too precious by half—it’s only a matter of time before Maddy’s desire to explore threatens her health. It takes a boy to prompt it: a black-clad, quick-witted, similarly searching loner named Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), who has just moved in next door.

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The two teenagers quickly form an attraction, despite Maddy’s immobility. For a while, “Everything, Everything” is less a fantasy for young people than for their parents: In the 21st century, where sexual mores grow looser by the month, here’s a romance in which touch is forbidden and chastity is mandatory. Elaborate text conversations and window-to-window communiqués take the place of first dates and bases rounded. Director Stella Meghie cleverly visualizes the young couple engaging each other more fully in the dreamworld of the miniature models Maddy designs in her rec room—hyperreal libraries and diners whose only other residents are misplaced astronauts resigned to their bubbles.

The bubble does, eventually, break, because love finds a way—and the film has a surprising surfeit of surprises to offer when it does. Film critics such as myself can find plenty of nits to pick with Everything, Everything—the unbearably drenching score, voice-over narration that leans too heavily on passages from the book, a comic device borrowed liberally from “Annie Hall,” a detour in a Hawaii that feels bizarrely depopulated and economically impossible—but why bother? It’s clearly not a film for us.

“Everything, Everything” is for precocious Gen-Zers seeking a star-crossed, finely acted love story that makes sense to their tech-driven generation, and it’s a smart enough adaptation to pull it off. For its target audience, it will hit a resounding bulls-eye.

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.
Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

Review: Weezer at SunFest 2017 in West Palm Beach

Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

See more images of SunFest Day 1 here


SunFest 2017 is officially here! Downtown West Palm Beach is closed off to traffic so that ticket holders can leisurely peruse the vendor stations, lounges, and of course, listen to live music.

On Wednesday night, Weezer headlined SunFest on the Ford Stage off Clematis Street. Paying homage to Los Angeles roots, the show started with a tape recording of Weezer’s “California Kids” playing through the speakers on a dark stage.

When the colored lights came on and the huge “W” emblem glittered onstage, lead vocalist and guitarist Rivers Cuomo was front and center in a bright orange bomber jacket, his signature black hipster glasses and his trademark green electric guitar covered in stickers.

The show’s unofficial theme comprised their greatest hits from “The Green Album,” and “The Blue Album,” with favorites from “Pinkerton,” “The Red Album” and “The White Album” thrown in for good measure. The set was a dichotomy: upbeat alternative rock melodies, lengthy guitar solos and speakers so loud they reverberated in your chest followed by mellow, indie beats and comical lyrics.

Weezer opened their 13-song set list with “Hash Pipe,” then launched swiftly into “My Name is Jonas.” After “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” fans rejoiced at the opening notes of “Pork and Beans.”

The crowd was enthusiastic throughout the show, with a notable trend of parents and their kids spanning the landscape. Fans whooped and clapped excitedly to the opening strains of “Beverly Hills,” and Cuomo appeared on stage wearing a sombrero. The tempo felt a bit quicker than the recorded version, but fans managed to sing along without any trouble.

Next, there was a smooth transition into “Dope Nose/Back to the Shack/Keep Fishin’/The Good Life/Surf Wax America.” Cuomo and his band mates Patrick Wilson (drums, backup vocals), Brian Bell (rhythm guitar, keyboard, backup vocals) and Scott Shriner (bass, backup vocals) took turns showcasing their musical talents, with drum solos, bass and electric solos and unexpected melody and tempo changes.

The mood slowed with “Island in the Sun,” only to pick up again with “King of the World.” Cuomo made another costume appearance with a gold plastic crown and red cape decorated in white fur bearing the “W” from the Weezer logo. The show closed with the slightly angsty, ever popular, “Say It Ain’t So,” and the stage went dark.

But no Weezer concert is complete without “El Scorcho” and “Buddy Holly.” After playing these two songs for the encore, Weezer thanked the crowd, made “W” signs with their hands, and  left the stage. Find the complete set list here.

Allison Lewis is the associate editor at Boca Raton Magazine and a native St. Louisan. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. In her spare time, Allison enjoys cooking, playing Ultimate frisbee, reading, traveling and watching sports.
beehive the wick

Beehive is Buzzworthy Girl Power

 

Beehive PRESS - 28I seem to recall the Wick getting some early criticism for recycling tried and true Broadway and off-Broadway faves rather than staging bold, new more avant-garde productions, but whomever said that may be rethinking it now.

The theater’s success over the past four seasons is indisputable; performances are often sold out and they get progressively more sophisticated. This past year I was blown away by how brilliantly “West Side Story” was staged in this small theater, and last Saturday night I was charmed in a different way by the current production of “Beehive, the 60s Musical.”

This musical revue was created in the late 1980s by the late Larry Gallagher, but it’s just as much fun almost 30 years later with its seven-woman cast of singers who trace the contributions and roles of women in 1960s music, from Lesley Gore to Janis Joplin. There are 30-some songs here (all were sung first by a woman) starting with “The Name Game” and “It’s My Party” and progressing through the tumultuous decade. Girl groups like the Shirelles (“Sweet Talkin’ Guy”) and the Supremes (“You Can’t Hurry Love”) are honored, as well as solo stars like Lesley Gore, Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield.

A special moment in the first act was when cast member Sarah Amengual crooned “Where The Boys Are,” and the audience erupted in applause—because the real Connie Francis was there in the audience.

The decade—and its gradual loss of innocence—is tracked by an occasional narrative in addition to music through the dark days of the assassination of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King as well as the British invasion, and ultimately, the summer of love and Woodstock.

The cast members’ voices are outstanding—to a woman—and exceptional performances are delivered by Trisha Jeffrey (“Never Loved A Man”) and Mallory Newbrough summoning up her inner Janis Joplin (“Try—Just A Little Harder”). The live band in Act II was a great addition, and the pace was lively.

This is almost a singalong revue but it avoids being sucked into the black hole of nostalgia through a great list of curated songs—and the wonder that it all happened in one single decade in history. They were the best of times and the worst of times—but they make an excellent evening of entertainment at The Wick.

The show runs through May 14; visit thewick.org to snag a seat.