Through July 26 - Detroit at Aurora Theatre. Nothing less than the American dream itself goes up in flames in Lisa D'Amour's darkly hilarious play, and what starts out as a seemingly innocent backyard BBQ among new neighbors quickly spirals into something more anarchic. Amy Resnick is particularly stellar as Mary, one half of an established suburbanite couple whose greatest dream is to escape her house and go live by a campfire, and I always enjoy watching Patrick Kelly Jones in a role too, here as he plays just-out-of-rehab Kenny. As secrets emerge and the characters learn more about each other any assumptions we might hold about class and ambition come under scrutiny. D'Amour is unafraid to question our current notions of community, and you might never look at the familiar ritual of the backyard cookout the same way again.
Introductions 2015 at Root Division Triangle at Theatreworks West Side Story at the Paramount Susan Briante / Norma Cole / Farid Matuk at Alley Cat Books Gaby Wolodarski at Fort Gallery Barbara Hepworth tattoo A's vs the Blue Jays
Through September 20 - Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Curators Renny Pritikin and Lily Siegel have assembled an impressive group of artworks for this show that will activate your curiosity and expand your horizons, and I highly recommend the exhibition for anyone who is craving a serious dose of wonder. As you walk down the hall toward the gallery you are greeted with Peter Alexander's oversize painting of the glory of Los Angeles at night, juxtaposed on a nearby wall with a massive photo of the hellmouth that is the Turkmenistan oil fire that has been burning out of control for several decades now. That narrow space between awe and fear is elucidated again in a grouping of images that leads from Vanessa Marsh's luminous photograms of the night sky to Fred Tomaselli's celebration of the discovery of the Higgs boson and on to Michael Light's images of nuclear tests in Nevada. Many of the artists use their practices to directly investigate the world around them, as in a series of Klea McKenna's gorgeous Kona rainstorm photograms where each unique droplet is captured for all time, and I was also delighted to see an article about the mysterious sliding stones of Death Valley and the scientists who figured out how they move. Just as the title of the exhibition encourages us to ponder the Judaic concept of a new day beginning at sunset and not at sunrise, the artworks in Night Begins the Day invite a shift away from conventional perspectives. Inspiration is inevitable.
Adam Elliot's 2009 animated film Mary and Max is sheer ingenious delight, and also one of the most twisted G-rated films I have ever seen. Like, do not show this to your children until you've had a chance to watch it first. But do see it. The two characters of the title are an 8-year-old Australian girl and a middle-aged New York man who become the unlikeliest of pen pals. Mary brings literal dabs of color to Max's black-and-white world even from half a world away, while he gives her advice on how to deal with bullies and inspires her eventual academic career. The animation work is incredible, bringing the world of the film to life with a host of quirky and macabre touches. And the story is a real heartbreaker, as these two very gentle souls try to navigate the disordered worlds that surround them, but I was smiling through my tears at the end. The film also features some very fine voiceover work from Barry Humphries, Toni Colette, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose real-life demise adds yet another layer of poignancy to the tale. I count Mary and Max among Mr. Hoffman's best films.
Time Travel at Paule Anglim Mark Flood at SFAQ Project Space Synergy at CCA Monster Drawing Rally at the Verdi Club Lana Williams at Interface Gallery Casa Latina Michael Arcega at Johansson Projects Jann Nunn at Mercury 20 Wonderment Consortium at di Rosa Heavy Breathing at Real Time & Space Emma Spertus at City Limits Brynda Glazier and Courtney Johnson at Royal NoneSuch Now for Now at Z Below Death Cab For Cutie and Built To Spill at the Greek Benjamin Ashlock at 100% Detroit at Aurora
Through August 9 - Spin Tactics at Peephole Cinema. I love me some art that is available to the public 24/7 (see also: SFAC's Grove Street space, Savernack Street). And right now artist and film curator extraordinaire Sarah Klein has crafted a program for Peephole Cinema that will delight any passerby. Anyone who knows to look through a certain peephole in an alley in the Mission, that is. The vinyl records and turntables that feature in all three of the artworks Klein has chosen echo the geometry of the peephole itself, with rotation being another strong theme that connects the pieces. Elise Baldwin's The Philosophy of Storms melds footage of spinning records, some of them warped beyond practical use, with imagery of natural phenomena and other more mystical references to explore our changing relationship with our planet's weather throughout human history. Hit Parade by Gilbert Hsiao is more abstract, documenting a performance in which the artist allowed audience members to play with a number of records he had augmented with fluorescent paint, to create unpredictable and mesmerizing rotating patterns. Meanwhile in Modern Vanitas Katie Turnbull uses a zoetrope to create animated, evolving images that grapple with the big issues: life, death, technology. With each piece about a minute or two in length the entire program is easily accessible to those with even the shortest of attention spans, and once you know where the peephole is you might find yourself stopping by every time you happen to be in the neighborhood just to look through it again.