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Friday, November 17, 2017

Theater Review: It's an Awkward Time for a Gypsy Revival, but NC Theatre's Production Doesn't Let Us or Its Characters Off the Hook

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Gypsy★★★★ Through Sunday, Nov. 19 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh It’s an awkward time for a revival of Gypsy, biggest of the big-time classic Broadway musicals. After the recent death of Hugh Hefner, our culture has been re-reexamining the social politics of the skin trade, including sex work, pornography, and erotic dancing, the famous occupation of the musical’s subject: Louise Hovick, better known to the world as Gypsy Rose Lee. A seemingly endless tide of sexual harassment allegations against public figures have complicated those deliberations even further. Arthur Laurents’s backstage script skirts these issues during the first act as it relates...

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Theater Review: One Work Clearly Stands Out in Cary Playwrights Forum's Annual Romp Through Short Plays Set and Performed in Bars

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

Bar Plays 3.0★★ Closing Thursday, Nov. 16 Fortnight Brewing, Cary If you think ten-minute plays are the kiddie pool or the junior division of theater, think again. It’s hard enough for a playwright, a director, and actors to introduce and develop vivid characters, place them in a novel situation, support them with a robust backstory, and authentically convey the truth of changing lives or cultures in two full acts. Condensing all that activity to fit in a tenth of that time requires ruthless editing, extreme economy of expression, and unwavering focus from directors and actors in each of their six...

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Movie Review: Justice League's Concoction of Snyder's Bombast and Whedon's Wit Actually Kind of Works

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 2:18 PM

Justice League ★★★½ Opening Friday, Nov. 17 Earlier this year, after the death of his daughter, Zack Snyder—the de facto patriarch of the DC Extended Universe—stepped away from post-production on Justice League, which brings together Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman with other classic DC Comics characters. Enter Joss Whedon, who directed both Avengers films. The result is a Justice League that seems born of two fathers, combining Snyder’s bombastic iconography with Whedon’s crowd-pleasing wit. Superman/Kal El (Henry Cavill) died at the end of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and his legacy is now the stuff of black bunting and...

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Movie Review: Lady Bird, a Winning First Film from Greta Gerwig, Is Alert to Class but Falters on Race

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Lady Bird★★★ Opening Friday, Nov. 17 In many ways, Lady Bird is a winning directorial debut by Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the film. It captures the fuzzy nostalgia as well as the pains of coming of age at the start of the twenty-first century, as the Iraq War blares through the television in the background of a bustling Catholic family’s life. Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, a slightly rebellious Sacramento teen battling for autonomy with her financially struggling, overwhelmed nurse mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). But for all of Lady Bird’s blurred lucidity, its anxieties about race and the...

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 3:56 PM

Though the Chelsea Theater is a Chapel Hill institution, it has never made a big deal about itself. Tucked away in the Timberlyne strip mall, almost literally in the shadow of the Regal multiplex, the little-art-house-that-could has discreetly held its ground in a volatile cinema market for almost thirty years. So it’s no surprise that the Chelsea recently slipped a major announcement onto the “News and Notes” page of its ancient website, where no one would ever think to look. Unless a buyer comes through, the theater’s long legacy looks likely to end when the calendar rolls over to 2018....

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Dance Review: Proto-Oversharer Samuel Pepys Goes to Pieces in Big Dance Theater's 17c

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 1:47 PM

Big Dance Theater: 17c ★★★½ Thursday, Nov. 9 & Friday, Nov. 10 UNC's Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill 17c, Big Dance Theater’s newest production, begins before the house lights go down. A woman in a curly seventeenth-century wig stands before the audience and gives a little background on what’s coming up. She explains that the protagonist and main subject of the show is Samuel Pepys, that meticulous English diarist who, between 1660 and 1669, recorded just about everything that happened to him for his own private use. “I enjoyed my wife; my yard was stiff,” the performer reads from one of...

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin Is Too Squishy to Bear

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 1:42 PM

Goodbye Christopher Robin ★★ Now playing There's a certain kind of overproduced classic rock sound that makes me lunge for the car radio dial whenever it rolls around. The 1970s band Boston is an infamous example of this production style, which polishes every sonic texture to a smooth and unnatural sheen. When I hear a Boston song, I think, No actual live group of musicians has ever sounded like this. The same holds true for certain overproduced films, usually somberly reverent British period dramas, and I have the same reaction: no actual group of living people ever sounded like this—or...

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Theater Review: Don't Let the Period Fool You. Chekhov Update Life Sucks. Is Relentlessly Interrogative.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 8:45 AM

Life Sucks. ★★★★½ Through Nov. 11 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham The period in the name of Manbites Dog Theater’s current show, Life Sucks., is a typographical oddity (and an annoyance for writers and editors) that turns the play’s title a declarative statement. But that’s misleading, because Aaron Posner’s self-aware, contemporary update of Anton Chekhov, who is coyly listed in the “Special Thanks” section of the playbill, is relentlessly interrogative. Five of the seven characters in this lively, freewheeling adaptation of Uncle Vanya seem to be constantly, anxiously questioning one another and themselves, usually over whether their own lives suck as...

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Movie Review: In Thor: Ragnarok, a Stodgy Franchise Springs to Life with Demigods Delightfully Out of Their Element

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★ Opening Friday, Nov. 3 There’s a short sequence early in Thor: Ragnarok in which an Asgardian acting troupe plays out the events of 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. The scene is framed as a lark, from its dialogue to the cameos from famous actors playing Thor, Loki, and Odin, which I won’t spoil. It’s also a sidelong admission that the Thor, nay, the entire Avengers franchise, had become too stodgy—self-parodies in which dour characters yammer away, with faux gravity, about Infinity Stones and interstellar realms. Thor: Ragnarok is the fun(ny) Guardians of the Galaxy sequel we didn’t...

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Theater Review: The "Lavender Scare" Is Brought to Life with Suspense and Nuance in Perfect Arrangement

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 10:23 AM

Perfect Arrangement ★★★★ Through Nov. 12 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh As Perfect Arrangement begins, designer Jeannine Borzello’s smart, sophisticated 1950s living-room set doesn’t look like a bunker. But, under Patrick Torres’s nuanced direction, the walls start closing in on gay couple Bob and Jim and lesbian couple Millie and Norma well before the end of Topher Payne’s enigmatic script. It's the spring of 1950. In adjoining townhouses where two supposedly heterosexual married couples can actually live with their partners in secret, Bob has created a shelter to protect his ambitions for advancement at the State Department. But as the government, goaded...

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Theater Review: PlayMakers' Sense and Sensibility Breathes Vibrant New Life into a Jane Austen Classic

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 2:38 PM

Sense and Sensibility★★★★ Through Nov. 5 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill I’ve always found celebrations linked to an artist’s death—productions last year, for instance, of Shakespeare and Cervantes—to be in questionable taste. I’ll concede, though, there’s more reason for it with Jane Austen, since her identity as the author of classic British novels including Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park was revealed only upon her death in 1817. Austen’s been having a moment this fall with three regional productions of her works adapted for stage. The current one, Sense and Sensibility at PlayMakers Rep, is particularly a cause for celebration....

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Movie Review: Less a Whodunit Than a “Who Cares,” The Snowman Is Truly Abominable

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 5:15 PM

The Snowman★ Now playing In theory, there's a good movie swirling around The Snowman. The drab, snowy Norwegian setting is an effective canvas for a Nordic noir. The film has an award-winning director in Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), two Oscar-winning editors, a pair of Oscar-nominated screenwriters, and Martin freakin’ Scorsese as executive producer. The glittering cast includes J.K. Simmons, Rebecca Ferguson, Toby Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Michael Fassbender as detective Harry Hole. But there’s an early, seemingly innocuous clue that things are awry when a character refers to a city being “a...

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Movie Review: The Paintings of van Gogh Come to Dazzling Life in Loving Vincent

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 12:05 PM

Loving Vincent ★★★½ Now playing The historical drama Loving Vincent, concerning the life and death of Vincent van Gogh, is being billed as the world's first fully painted feature film. Indeed, each of the 65,000 frames in this movie was hand-painted by a small army of artists over the course of seven years, with the intention of bringing the paintings of van Gogh to life. The outcome of all this effort is exceptionally vivid and beautiful. The film's animation technique essentially combines rotoscoping—painting on top of each film frame—with elements of form and style from van Gogh's most famous paintings....

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North Carolina's Strengthened Indie-Professional Dance Community Puts Its Mark on the NC Dance Festival and Emergence

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 9:57 AM

The NC Dance Festival The Rickhouse, Durham October 12, 2017 Emergence PSI Theatre, Durham Arts Council October 14, 2017 In its first ever self-produced showcase in Durham, the NC Dance Festival took several legitimate steps toward embracing a growing community of independent, professional dance artists from across the state, a population it hasn’t always known what to do with. But with only sixty people in attendance—a fraction of the audiences Durham Independent Dance Artists and others have summoned in recent years—few witnesses observed these needed innovations on a drizzly Thursday night. Terpsichorean in-jokes rippled through Welcome, Rachel Barker’s sharp-toothed tribute...

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Theater Review: Looking for a Laser Show? Tom Stoppard's Pink Floyd-Derived Darkside Is Not That Kind of Trip.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 6:35 AM

Darkside ★★★ Through Sunday, Oct. 29 Burning Coal Theatre Company, Raleigh Let’s get the consumer advisory out of the way. If you’re looking for a rock-and-blues bliss-out after some pre-show doobage, Brit Floyd, the Pink Floyd tribute band, will be in Charlotte next month. (Enjoy the light show.) For all its achievements and difficulties, Burning Coal’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Darkside, a work that, unlike The Wizard of Oz, was intentionally crafted to sync up with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, is not that kind of trip. At first, there is an air of playfulness in central character...

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Theater Review: For an Early-Nineties Kid, The Little Mermaid Musical Is Virtually Review-Proof

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 5:42 PM

The Little Mermaid ★★★ (if you aren’t nostalgic for the movie) | ALL THE STARS!!! (if you are) Through Sunday, Oct. 22 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham “The Mermaid Affair.” That’s what my companion and I, just a pair of thirty-eighters, codenamed (with mock-mock embarrassment) our excursion to DPAC to bask in the stage musical of a Disney movie so deeply etched on our early-nineties formative years as to be virtually unreviewable. You know the story, right? Mermaid seeks love on land, trades voice to witch for legs, calamity and redemption ensue? Let's swim on. I can sort of rate the...

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Dance Review: In Pam Tanowitz and Simone Dinnerstein's New Work for Goldberg Variations, a Daunting Idea Works Just Right

Posted By on Sat, Oct 7, 2017 at 5:24 PM

Pam Tanowitz Dance & Simone Dinnerstein: New Work for Goldberg Variations ★★★★½ Friday, Oct. 6 & Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m. Duke's Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham In complete darkness, Simone Dinnerstein draws out the first few notes of the aria that begins Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Then, slowly, a stage light fills in the outline of the pianist and a group of figures scattered upstage, softly illuminated in periwinkle. When the aria returns after thirty variations, they gather in a similar formation, and the light closes in on Dinnerstein’s final gesture, levitating just above the keys. “What a pleasure it has...

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 Reminds Us It Works Best to Mess with the Classics When There's Actually Something Wrong with Them

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 9:16 AM

Blade Runner 2049 ★★★★ Now playing Blade Runner was influential and groundbreaking cinema, a science-fiction film noir that applied classic philosophical and religious themes, particularly on creation and mortality, to humankind’s technological and moral trajectory. It is also insistently inscrutable and bears the scar tissue of excessive, repeated editing, first in a futile effort to make the theatrical release more accessible and then to restore director Ridley Scott’s original narrative vision. Like its retrofitted future, the film is heady bricolage. Set thirty years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 achieves the best of both worlds. The same basic premise remains:...

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain

Posted By on Sun, Oct 1, 2017 at 10:41 AM

Cold Mountain★★½ Thursday, Sep. 28, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m. UNC’s Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill It’s a first principle of adaptation: the main reason to translate an artwork into another medium is to explore it more fully, to draw out facets its first form could not. Ultimately, an adaptation stands or falls on two points: how it enhances our experience of the work that inspired it, and how faithful it is to that work. These criteria leave us with mixed thoughts on Cold Mountain, composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer’s operatic adaptation of Charles Frazier’s best-selling novel,...

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Movie Review: In Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King Overhand Smashes a Paper-Thin Glass Ceiling

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 2:43 PM

Battle of the Sexes ★★★½ Now playing The most pitched battle in Battle of the Sexes is not strictly on the tennis court. Odds makers and popular opinion alike were very much against Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) in her famous 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The question the match posed was not whether a professional female player could beat a male peer. It was whether the best female tennis player in the world could beat any competent man, in this case, a cartoonish, fifty-five-year-old former pro. The film’s true foil is a male-dominated culture ripe for...

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Movie Review: In American Made, Tom Cruise Is Back in the Cockpit—But For Coke, Not Country

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 8:09 AM

American Made ★★★½ Now playing In Top Gun, a young Tom Cruise played an eighties-era pilot in the service of the U.S.A. More than thirty years later, Cruise—still flashing a cocksure facade of pearly whites and aviator shades—goes back to the eighties to portray the real-life pilot Barry Seal, a cynical analog to that previous role. In American Made, the enemy is no longer faceless bad guys in black fighter planes. The hindsight of history reveals a tangled web of black ops and duplicity, with splintered American law enforcement agencies as much at odds with one another as with their...

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Theater Review: At Sonorous Road, Sandi Toksvig's Silver Lining Is a Needed but Shaky Showcase for Older Female Actors

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Silver Lining★★½ Through Sunday, Oct. 1 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh True confession: it’s still a thrill when a new theater company hangs out its shingle, and the fewer names I recognize on a press release or playbill, the greater my curiosity is. That was particularly true of Peony Productions and its first project, the dark comedy Silver Lining at Sonorous Road. Decades before the Women’s Theatre Festival came to the Triangle, women here were having difficulty finding meaningful roles outside of the constricting bandwidth of ingénue, femme fatale, or loving wife; past a certain age, they basically went missing on our stages....

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Theater Review: After His Audacious Hamlet, Director Jeremy Fiebig Makes Another Theatrical Gamble in King Lear

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 2:08 PM

King Lear★★ Through Sep. 24 William Peace University’s Leggett Theatre, Raleigh There’s a moment near the end of King Lear when the blind Earl of Gloucester wonders if he’s been misled. Though he has asked a companion to lead him to the edge of a dramatic precipice, the ground underfoot seems less than mountainous. Regrettably, this joint production by Raleigh’s Honest Pint Theatre and Fayetteville’s Sweet Tea Shakespeare left us feeling much the same way. By conspicuously lowering the play's stakes, director Jeremy Fiebig reduces Shakespeare’s theatrical Everest to something nearly unbelievable: an ultimately cheerful jaunt around a rustic barn. Last...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship?

Posted By on Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 3:42 PM

The Durham Bulls begin the International League championship series at home tonight. It’s the Bulls’ seventh appearance in the finals in ten years, a remarkable accomplishment in the volatile realm of Triple-A baseball. But what exactly is the value of a minor-league championship, even to the players vying for it? They wear Durham Bulls uniforms but are employees of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bulls’ parent club, which controls farmhands’ assignments to working affiliates that function as training grounds. These guys are trying to get out of Durham. Those who are still here just missed their best chance. Triple-A is...

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Movie Review: It Is Plenty Scary, But It Also Has Heart

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 3:52 PM

It ★★★★ Now playing Theodicy is a theological term that refers to the problem of evil as an active force in the world.  More specifically, it's an attempt to resolve the dilemma in many Western religions of how evil can exist in a universe supposedly created and governed by an all-powerful and benevolent God. It's a puzzler, all right. In the very excellent, very scary horror film It—based on Stephen King's famous novel—there's no ambiguity about the existence of evil. In the hard-luck town of Derry, Maine, the power of darkness manifests as a terrifying clown named Pennywise, a shapeshifting demonic...

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The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

The Chelsea Theatre has to be saved! Chapel Hill and the Triangle would be greatly diminished without it. Other theatres, …

by Jonathan H on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

...as did I, Ms. Margolis -- in a very small handful of moments over a two and a half hour …

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

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The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

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