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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Theater Review: Finding Neverland Turns a Tragedy into a Funny, Flouncy, Bouncy Crowd-Pleaser

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Finding Neverland★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham The story of Peter Pan has never wavered in the popular imagination. That’s partly because its case for the necessity of imagination rings true universally and eternally, and partly because its premise was built to prove itself with time. Playwright and author J.M. Barrie dreamed of a gamine boy who would never grow up, but we’ve actually watched him not growing up for 113 years and counting—first onstage, and then, at regular intervals, in notable books, movies, cartoons, and musicals. Given this relentless exposure, it’s surprising that it took...

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Theater Review: For Better and Worse, Hunchback Flees the Realm of the Well Made Play for Wilder Pastures

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Hunchback★★★ Through May 20 Walltown Children’s Theatre, Durham Kenneth Burke once compared Dadaism to a child mimicking a disabled man hobbling down a street—not out of sympathy or mockery, but sheer curiosity. There’s more than a whisper of Dada in Hunchback, the devised work replacing the adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch originally slated as Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s season closer. Among disjunctive sequences, Dana Marks’s character entertainingly deconstructs a TED Talk when she removes everything except the nouns from John Berger’s essay “Why Look at Animals?” Before that, Germain Choffart’s suave opening tribute to Julio Iglesias is...

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Theater Review: Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences Explores the Dramatic, Not Comical, Side of Improv

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences★★★ Through May 20 Research Triangle High School, Raleigh By now, it’s a set piece in action-adventure films: the sequence where two protagonists escape from a hundred-foot well by crouching, back to back, and walking their way up the walls. Director J. Chachula’s intriguing new theatrical experiment with Flying Machine Theatre Company is a lot like that. The long-time Meisner instructor and improvisational comedy maven has been teaching both Meisner methods and improv comedy to a sextet of actors in recent months. The goal is improvisational theater, where actors explore the dramatic instead of the comic potential...

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Movie Review: Alien: Covenant Gets Psychosexual In a Bloody, Baroque, Deeply Weird Story

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:20 PM

Alien: Covenant ★★★★ Now playing It's generally acknowledged that the creature in the Alien franchise is the scariest monster in all of science-fiction cinema. Based on original designs by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, it's a triumph of sinister design—a Freudian nightmare of biomechanical sex and death. Alien: Covenant, the latest installation by veteran sci-fi director Ridley Scott, burrows into the psychosexual roots of the monster to present a bloody, baroque, deeply weird story. A sequel to 2012's inscrutable misfire, Prometheus, the new film concerns yet another spaceship crew encountering yet another alien infestation. All the franchise elements are present: derelict...

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dance Review: Rabble & Twine's The Mesoplanets Shines in Multimedia Atmosphere but Needs Stronger Movement

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Rabble and Twine: The Mesoplanets★★ Saturday, May 6 Living Arts Collective, Durham When the music, projections, and visual design of a dance performance are as strong as those in Rabble & Twine’s The Mesoplanets, the most recent offering from Durham Independent Dance Artists, it’s disappointing when the choreography lags well behind. But the polish and flashes of imagination that we repeatedly experienced during a drolly narrated guided tour of our interplanetary B-team—ten moons, asteroids and dwarf planets selected from the host that meander throughout or at the edges of our solar system—came for the most part from the costume and...

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Movie Review: In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie Gets Medieval on Our Collective Asses

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 4:50 PM

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ★★★ Now playing In the would-be franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, director Guy Ritchie gets medieval on our collective asses by twisting Arthurian legend into a British caper film. Hunky Charlie Hunnam is our hero, Jude Law is the baddie, and the future Knights of the Round Table are portrayed as a gang of streetwise fixers from the mean streets of Londinium circa 573 AD. Critics are slamming the movie as a ridiculous attempt to transpose an august mythology onto a laddish action picture. They're not wrong, but they're mad for...

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Theater Review: In Marjorie Prime, Human Replicas Help the Living, But at What Cost?

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Marjorie Prime ★★★ ½ Through May 13 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham The theory of the “uncanny valley” has taken on increasing importance in recent years. It refers to the phenomenon that human replicas prompt feelings of distaste and distrust when they  look, talk, act or move like human beings, but not quite. The idea has become a subject of significant research and the subject of films like Ex Machina, television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, and plays including Francesca Talenti’s 2013 drama The Uncanny Valley at UNC and Marjorie Prime, now at Manbites Dog Theater. But the concept is actually...

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Movie Review: Land of Mine Is Both a Classic War Film and a Powerful Anti-War Statement

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:34 PM

Land of Mine ★★★★ Now playing In the final months of World War II, German forces buried more than 1.5 million landmines on the western beaches of Denmark. Germany believed that the Danish shore was one of the probable landing spots for an Allied invasion. After Germany's surrender, Danish officials commandeered four thousand German POWs to remove the landmines. By then, most of the original occupying forces were dead or gone. The final wave of German soldiers sent to Denmark were mostly teenagers—children, essentially—conscripted by Hitler in a cruel last gasp. This largely forgotten episode of World War II history...

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Justice Theater Project and Young Students Band Together Against Arts Funding Cuts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:13 AM

Justice Theater Project's Forum Theatre Workshop Saturday, April 22 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh A plastic, gold-painted crown isn’t part of the standard-issue uniform for public school principals. But it somehow fits the character who sits at a desk on the dais at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ. After reading a sticky note handed to her by a lackey, she picks up a phone and imperiously announces on the school’s public address system, “There will be no more art and chorus from now on.” Then her assistants walk across the stage and confiscate the drawings, art...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Theater Review: In On Golden Pond, Stage Veterans Contemplate What's Gone Before and What's to Come

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 11:46 AM

On Golden Pond ★★★½ Through April 23 Theatre in the Park, Raleigh The thought, though it’s more than a touch morbid, applies as much to summer idylls as it does to theatrical productions, regardless of their ambition or achievement: only a finite number is allotted to any of us. What comes after is, at best, unclear. Playwright Ernest Thompson’s family drama became a part of motion picture history when the Oscar-winning film version, a box-office behemoth with Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda, became the second-highest grossing movie of 1981. (The top? Raiders of the Lost Ark). A television adaptation...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Theater Review: Durham Newcomer Addled Muse Fire Theater Has Cirque Chops. Now It's Time to Build on the Theater Side.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Addled Muse Fire Theater: Purgatoire★★★ Saturday, April 15 Durham Central Park, Durham Theater begets theater, dance begets dance. After a group of artists honing their craft coalesce around a director, choreographer, or company, they branch out to start practices of their own. The same is true of cirque and flow arts; a brief online search now finds more than half a dozen regional groups and practitioners devoted to the style of eccentric aerial and land-based acrobatics and choreography originally championed locally by Raleigh’s Cirque de Vol. Last Saturday, on a perfect night under the stars in Durham’s Central Park, the...

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Theater Review: PlayMakers' My Fair Lady Fleshes Out Edwardian Culture and Cuts Against the Romanticism of the Songs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 1:47 PM

My Fair Lady ★★★★ Through April 29 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Education changes everything. That’s one of the reasons George Bernard Shaw’s twist on the Pygmalion tale, adapted as the musical My Fair Lady at PlayMakers Repertory Company, could be something of a tender subject in a region where the transformative powers of learning have long been championed. It is widely held here that, through scholarship, people can transcend the limitations of culture, economics, class, and gender. And that statement is true—at least, insofar as it goes. But for many, transcending the limits of their native culture involves the painful...

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Movie Review: Animated Fable The Red Turtle Uses No Words, and No Words Do It Justice

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:32 PM

The Red Turtle★★★★½ Now playing Dutch writer-director Michael Dudok de Wit’s first animated feature is quiet, mysterious, and breathtaking. It is almost entirely void of vocal language, other than the occasional emotive grunt. It complements silence with the audible twisting and turning of the tropics—leaves whistling in the wind, ocean waves washing onto the sand, unseen life bustling and breathing. The light bleeding off de Wit’s trademark watercolors render the island of The Red Turtle into some kind of spiritual being. When a nameless middle-aged man finds himself stranded on an island after his ship is swallowed by a storm,...

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Full Frame: Dina Is Earning Acclaim for Its Portrait of Love and Autism. But Is It Illuminating or Exploitative?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: Dina ★★ Friday, April 7 Carolina Theatre, Durham It speaks to the high quality of Full Frame that the films in its perennial programming range in quality from “above average” to “transcendent.” Any chagrin is typically reserved for experimental submissions that might not suit the taste of some viewers or docs that delve into controversial subject matter. You certainly don’t see many missteps among the invited films—the ones not in competition but chosen due to the pedigree of the director or the film’s previous accolades. Foremost among the invited fare at Full Frame this year...

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Movie Review: Do Not Go, in Style or Otherwise, to Zach Braff's Going in Style

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 10:56 AM

Going in Style ★ Now playing Going in Style, the new “comedy” from “filmmaker” Zach Braff, has a familiar setup: three old friends, played by veteran actors in their golden years, run into trouble and reunite for one last caper. In this case, the actors are Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. The caper is a bank heist. The jokes are tame (and lame) and the entire film hinges on the accumulated good will these performers have earned over their lifetimes. If it feels like you've already seen this movie, you have, figuratively and literally. This iteration tells the story...

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Theater Review: The Harrowing Stories of Global Female Activists Dramatized in Seven: A Documentary Play

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Seven: A Documentary Play ★★★ ½ Through April 6 Sonorous Road Theater, Raleigh Works like Seven: A Documentary Play sometimes experience difficulty attracting audiences, not despite their worthy subject matter but because of it. The 2007 project, commissioned by the Washington-based international organization Vital Voices Global Partnership, tasked a septet of playwrights, including MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant-winner Anna Deavere Smith, to interview and dramatize the harrowing stories of seven notable women who have labored in recent decades to improve the living conditions of women in Africa, Central America, Europe, and Southeast, Central, and Western Asia. That description, in itself,...

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Life Wants to Be Alien SO. BAD. But It's Just Another Creature Feature.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Life ★★ ½ Now playing As a B-minus movie with an A-plus cast, the sci-fi horror specimen Life is the latest in a looong line of films that recycle the same imperishable plot: a group of explorers in a hermetically sealed environment encounters a hostile creature, which sneaks through the facility and picks off the crew one-by-one. This monster-in-space template has been around since at least 1958 (It! The Terror From Beyond Space) and it was, of course, perfected by Ridley Scott in 1979 with Alien. So, with a movie like Life, it's not a matter of whether it's derivative; it's an...

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Theater Review: Echoes of Tennessee Williams in Bartlett Theater's Production of Lynn Nottage's Crumbs From the Table of Joy

Posted By on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 11:58 AM

Crumbs From the Table of Joy★★★ ½ Through March 12 Bartlett Theater at PSI Theatre, Durham An enigmatic narrator is telling a theater audience a poetic but fraught coming-of-age story, looking back at a distant adolescence in a dingy city tenement. In this memory play, the world has outflanked a family of rural Southern transplants and a parent hopelessly trapped in outdated folkways and superstitions. Though excursions to the movies provide them with temporary sensations of liberation, the walls have been closing in, and the elder’s constrictive rules and dead-end plans will never accommodate the narrator's need to learn, create, and...

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Review: Table 19 Goes for Grown-Up John Hughes But Spreads Out a Banquet of Winces and Cringes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Table 19 ★ ½ Now playing Science has yet to identify the precise biomechanical workings of the cringe. A function of the sympathetic nervous system, it's an involuntary muscular reaction that occurs when we see or hear something embarrassing or unpleasant. Watching Table 19, the new ensemble comedy starring Anna Kendrick, I'm pretty sure I strained several important cringe muscles. It's a surprisingly bad movie, the kind that usually get detoured into foreign markets or a DVD/digital release well before any U.S. theatrical distribution is negotiated. It's a genuine curiosity to see a specimen like this on the big screen....

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Movie Review: Jordan Peele Crosses Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with a Racially Charged The Stepford Wives to Brilliant Effect in Get Out

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 1:17 PM

Get Out ★★★★ ½ Now playing The go-to synopsis for Get Out, the brilliant new horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), is that it's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner crossed with a racially charged update of The Stepford Wives. That's about right, but Peele's game-changing film is more than that, and it's the best thing to happen to the horror genre in twenty years. Brooklyn photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is about to meet the parents of his new girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on a weekend getaway upstate. That's stressful enough as it is, but Chris...

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Theater Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Lights Up the Mathematics of the Mind

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 10:55 AM

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ★★★★ Through Feb. 26 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Artists know that embracing restrictions can spark creativity. A visual artist who limits herself to variations on a certain hue or a composer who drastically narrows his choices in instrumentation accepts those constraints in order to explore the possibilities within them. British author Mark Haddon accepted some profound constraints when he wrote his 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, before Simon Stephens's stage adaptation went to London's West End, Broadway, and the touring National Theatre production currently running at DPAC....

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Theater Review: A Colony of Broken People Explore Imagination, Sex, Anesthesia, Detox, and Reinvention in The Night Alive

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 4:06 PM

The Night Alive★★★★ Through Feb. 25 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh It can be a good thing when a set triggers flashbacks before a show begins. Prior to the first light cue in Honest Pint Theatre’s The Night Alive, designer Thomas Mauney’s squalid little flat took me back to the Hotel New Hampshire. No, not the edifice in the famous John Irving novel, but the crash pad of preference to which my friends gave the same name in my undergrad days. The random decor, rundown furniture, and slovenly housekeeping was similar, down to the black garbage bags holding...

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Theater Review: Raleigh Little Theatre's One Man, Two Guvnors Isn't Overacted. That's an Issue for a Farce.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 11:44 AM

One Man, Two Guvnors ★★★ Through Feb. 26 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh If you doubt that One Man, Two Guvnors, the theatrical time trip on offer at Raleigh Little Theatre, is up to the minute, take a moment to consider the number of jobs you have to work to make a living wage. If n > 1, then you, like me, are in the same boat as Francis, the play's central character. Richard Bean’s 2011 farce is an update of The Servant of Two Masters, Carlo Goldoni’s eighteenth-century commedia dell’arte classic. Thus Francis (an energetic Jesse R. Gephart) is roughly...

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2, a Solid Return for Keanu Reeves's Laconic Hit Man, Runs on Muscle Cars and Muscle Memory

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:24 AM

John Wick: Chapter 2 ★★★ ½ Now playing “You’re not very good at retiring,” observes a crime lord played by Laurence Fishburne in John Wick: Chapter 2. “I’m workin’ on it,” responds Wick, the laconic hit man reprised by Keanu Reeves. This reunion of Neo and Morpheus is apropos, as Reeves was very much workin’ on his de facto retirement following the end of the Matrix trilogy in 2003. Forgettable parts in forgettable films were suddenly and rather inexplicably interrupted in 2014, when the original John Wick, an unheralded neo-noir, become an instant cult classic and resuscitated Reeves’s career. Director...

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Movie Review: Everyone Says Lego Flicks Are Uniquely Fun for Kids and Adults. We Sent One of Each to The Lego Batman Movie to Find Out.

Posted By and on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 12:16 PM

The Lego Batman Movie Now playing One statement you are guaranteed to hear regarding any Lego-based movie, TV special, or video game is that it offers fun for young and old alike. Testing that, the INDY sent two reviewers—one thirteen, one demonstrably older—to The Lego Batman Movie. THE KID: Not the jokes you need, but the jokes you deserve ★★★★★ I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie immensely, mainly for the comedy. There are some absolutely hilarious jokes, like when the plane carrying a lot of bombs is called McGuffin Airlines. There are also enough butt jokes to please any kid,...

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Thanks for the nice article and acknowledgement, Byron. I would like to put a gentle dedication out to my father, …

by RKlem on Common Ground Theatre Is Gone, But Some of Its Resources and Its Role Live on in Walltown Children's Theatre (Arts)

I thought it was a great movie. The acting was believable, special effects were good, story was balanced and the …

by Cat Jackson on Movie Review: In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie Gets Medieval on Our Collective Asses (Arts)

Revitalization = Gentrification and a mentality that says the area needs to be made great again. I don't get how …

by John Curtis Smith on Op-Ed: Revitalization Without Gentrification: The Scrap Exchange in Durham’s Lakewood Neighborhood (Arts)

I haven't seen the movie, so I won't comment on the reading of the documentary. Just want to say that …

by Max Brzezinski on Full Frame: Dina Is Earning Acclaim for Its Portrait of Love and Autism. But Is It Illuminating or Exploitative? (Arts)

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Thanks for the nice article and acknowledgement, Byron. I would like to put a gentle dedication out to my father, …

by RKlem on Common Ground Theatre Is Gone, But Some of Its Resources and Its Role Live on in Walltown Children's Theatre (Arts)

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