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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Theater Review: The Promise of Justice Theater Project's Porgy and Bess Shines Through the Struggles of Late Personnel Changes

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:11 PM

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess ★★★ Through Sunday, June 25 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh When a lead singer is forced to bow out of a performance due to a family medical emergency, we try to catch the show at a different time. But in regional theater’s busiest June in years, there was no other option for Justice Theater Project’s version of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. The good news is that understudy Juan Isler blossomed in the role of Porgy, the good man of Catfish Row, during last Sunday’s matinee. His mellow baritone evoked tender sentiments in...

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ADF Review: The Oldest Piece Made the Biggest Splash in the American Dance Festival's Opening Night Performance

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 2:34 PM

Opening Night Performance ★★★ ½ June 15, 2017 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Though it was the evening's oldest piece by far, Minus 16 (1999), Ohad Naharin’s Gaga dance manifesto, was among the freshest works in the American Dance Festival’s 2017 opening night performance. That's not entirely surprising; Naharin intended Gaga to shatter modern dance conventions and pose continuing new challenges to his dancers and audiences. Clearly, it was still working Thursday night, when the sharp young troupe from the Charlotte Ballet (the rebranded North Carolina Dance Theatre, which performed during ADF’s first season in Durham) eagerly embraced the dance’s by-now iconic section...

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Theater Review: The Stonewater Rapture Grapples with Teen Sexuality in a Small, Conservative Town with a Big High School Football Program

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 12:08 PM

The Stonewater Rapture ★★★ Through Friday, June 23 Imurj, Raleigh When playwright Doug Wright focuses on two teenagers grappling with their sexuality and their consciences in a repressive religious culture, The Stonewater Rapture seems like a modern-day (but non-musical) Texas update of Spring Awakening. That’s particularly the case when, in Aggregate Theatre Company's production at Imurj, the heart-rendingly earnest Carlyle (Lexie Braverman), a young girl raised in a house so strict The Scarlet Letter is contraband, assures Whitney (Matthew Hager), a torn preacher’s kid, that they will surely be forgiven if they sample each other’s forbidden fruits. But as both are exposed...

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Study: Durham’s Arts and Culture Industry Generates $154 Million in Economic Activity a Year

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 9:52 AM

Durham County's nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $154 million in annual economic activity, according to a new study administered by the Durham Arts Council. The Americans for the Arts economic impact study was conducted in 341 communities nationwide and looked at spending by nonprofit arts organizations and art consumers. Nationally, nonprofit arts and culture is a $166 billion industry. Statewide, the total is $2.12 billion, meaning Durham accounts for about 7 percent of North Carolina's nonprofit arts industry. Sixty-nine local organizations and 824 audience members were surveyed to figure the local numbers. According to the study, Durham organizations spent...

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Friday, June 16, 2017

ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 4:48 PM

Hillel Kogan: We Love Arabs ★★★ ½ Through Saturday, June 17 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham Perhaps it’s a matter of timing, but it’s hard not to consider Hillel Kogan’s dance-theater farce, We Love Arabs, as something of a step backward in the region’s performing-arts conversation about the presence of Arab people, their cultures, and their concerns. The American Dance Festival presented the work earlier this week at the Cary Theater before tonight and Saturday’s performances in Reynolds Industries Theater. It appears here at the conclusion of Carolina Performing Arts’ probing "Sacred/Secular," a yearlong exploration of Arab cultures around the world, which...

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Movie Review: Letters from Baghdad's Experimental Approach Doesn't Entirely Work, but Its Subject, Gertrude Bell, Still Fascinates

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 1:32 PM

Letters from Baghdad★★★ ½ Chelsea Theatre, Chapel Hill Describable only as an experimental documentary, Letters from Baghdad tells the story of Gertrude Bell, the British government official, explorer, and occasional spy who helped draw the borders of modern-day Iraq in the years after the first world war. Bell is sometimes called the female Lawrence of Arabia, although this film argues she was much better at her job than T.E. Lawrence ever was. Bell was born into a wealthy British family, and her devotion to exotic travel made her useful to the officers of imperial Britain in the Middle East....

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Movie Review: Cars 3 Is a Smooth Ride Because It Runs on Cruise Control

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM

Cars 3 ★★★ Now playing The most perplexing part of Pixar’s Cars universe is that while anthropomorphized automobiles are the sole living creatures, they clearly inhabit a world that’s either parallel or subsequent to our own. It’s full of landmarks we know, from Route 66 to the Eiffel Tower. Cities exist and crops are grown, all for no discernible reason. The American flag even appears at one point. Recently, Cars creative director Jay Ward offered a wholly unofficial explanation: the franchise takes place in a near-future in which the autonomous cars we're developing now turned into something like the machines in...

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Dispatch from African Dance Master Baba Chuck Davis's Moving Memorial Services in Durham

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 1:25 PM

One memorial service wasn’t enough to honor Baba Chuck Davis. Ultimately, three separate commemorative events, hundreds of miles apart, were necessary to properly celebrate the life and achievements of the founder of the African American Dance Ensemble, a world-famous producer, choreographer, and dancer widely regarded, according to The New York Times, as “America’s foremost master of African dance.” The first service occurred in New York during DanceAfrica, the annual festival of African diaspora dance and music that Davis founded forty years ago at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On the festival’s penultimate night, companies including Illstyle and Peace Productions celebrated...

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Theater Review: The Amusing Tea with Edie & Fitz Strains to Make Hay From a Gin-Soaked Dust-Up Between Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Tea with Edie & Fitz★★★ Through June 18 N.C. State's TheatreFEST, Raleigh When youth conspicuously throws itself at age, a stratagem or two is usually involved. Whether or not brash Jazz Age chronicler F. Scott Fitzgerald actually admired the literary achievements of patrician The Age of Innocence novelist Edith Wharton, he certainly envied her financial success and old-money social connections among Manhattan’s upper crust. So, the stories say, he literally flung himself at her feet, declaring at least a belletristic ardor during a chance encounter at Scribner’s. That—plus a signed copy of The Great Gatsby, hand-delivered—got Fitzgerald an invitation to...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dance Review: Renay Aumiller Dances' boneGlow Was Full of Compelling Ideas That Were Hard to See

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 3:26 PM

Renay Aumiller Dances: boneGlow ★★★ Friday, June 2 Living Arts Collective, Durham Renay Aumiller’s dances are tethered to the celestial. As a choreographer, she works to make visible the line that connects us to what’s beyond. I mean this literally: in 2015’s Blood Moon, performers took turns in a harness system, levitating in a sprawling posture one second, with a grounded dancer supporting the flyer’s body weight, and spinning in release the next. In boneGlow, which had its premiere recently as the penultimate performance of Durham Independent Dance Artists’ third season, the four dancers matched up with four metal, gemlike...

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Movie Review: Megan Leavey Lavishes Love on the Bond of a Marine and Her Bomb-Sniffing Dog but Gives Short Shrift to Everything Else

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 1:19 PM

Megan Leavey★★★ Now playing Yeah, Megan Leavey feels like a fugitive from the Lifetime channel. But, with a singleminded focus on the bond between a Marine and her bomb-sniffing dog, its earnestness eventually tames its pat predictability. Leavey (Kate Mara) is a wayward twenty-something whose broken upbringing leads her to enlist in the Marine Corps. She’s an early screw-up there, too, until she finds the discipline she needs to convince a gunnery sergeant (Common) that she has the touch to become a K9 handler. Teamed with a pugnacious German Shepherd named Rex, Leavey is deployed for two tours in Iraq,...

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Sarah Dessen Shares Her Thoughts on Weddings and Writing Her New Once and for All

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 9:40 AM

Sarah Dessen is “missing North Carolina, desperately” while on the phone from New York, where she’s promoting the launch of her fourteenth published novel, Once and for All, at BookCon, BookExpo, and a series of signings. “I live out in the country, so this many days in Midtown Manhattan, I’m getting nostalgic for the grass and the trees,” Dessen says. The UNC graduate and former professor will be back in the area soon enough, with signings at Quail Ridge Books on June 10 and Flyleaf Books on June 17 for Once, the tale of a wedding planner’s daughter who gets a...

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy Gets Resurrected in a Middling Reboot

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 4:55 PM

The Mummy ★★ ½ stars Now playing At some point in the past twenty years, Tom Cruise transcended personhood as we know it to become a kind of media-age hybrid of human being and Hollywood brand. Surely the most extreme show business construct ever assembled, Cruise is like a piece of brilliantly optimized cinematic firmware. Put him in front of a camera, and he performs with maximum efficiency, deploying customized hard-coded subroutines like the Roguish Grin, the Steely Squint, and the inevitable Shirtless Scene. As a movie star, he's entirely effective and reliable without actually seeming particularly human. Maybe that's what...

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Movie Review: Family Apocalypse Survival Saga It Comes at Night Could Use a Dash of M. Night

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 4:20 PM

It Comes at Night★★★ Opening Friday, June 9 Leading with a cold open of patricide, followed by a suffocating bleakness that never relents, It Comes at Night doesn’t suffer from a lack of atmosphere. The latest thriller/horror picture distributed by A24 is a grim fairy tale set in a black forest, a milieu that drives the narrative more than plot or dialogue. It feels as if writer-director Trey Edward Shults (the critically acclaimed Krisha) has a high concept in his head that never fully makes it onto the screen. It’s a psychological parable that’s minimalist to the point of inertia. The...

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review: The Parallels of Ancient Mythology and Modern Superheroes Become Literal in Wonder Woman

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 4:18 PM

Wonder Woman★★★ ½ Now playing The long-overdue Wonder Woman film is an origin story that doesn’t shrink from the beauty or brawn of a hero in whom the parallels of ancient mythology and modern superhero fiction become literal. Diana (Gal Gadot), the precocious daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), is a princess of the superhuman Amazons. The all-female tribe, originally created by Zeus to protect mortals, eventually withdrew to the mystical "Paradise Island" of Themyscira to escape man’s wickedness. But mankind interrupts paradise when American soldier and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands on Diana’s doorstep, during the First World War,...

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

For a Woman of Color, Seeing Renée Ahdieh, Roshani Chokshi, and S. Jae-Jones at One Signing Was Extra Inspiring

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Renée Ahdieh: Flame in the Mist In conversation with Roshani Chokshi and S. Jae-Jones Wednesday, May 24 Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill By six-thirty last Wednesday evening, the rain had picked up its pace. People shook their coats and closed their umbrellas as they sought shelter in Flyleaf Books. Renée Ahdieh, a UNC-Chapel Hill grad and New York Times best-selling author, was hosting a book signing for her new YA book, Flame in the Mist, along with two other successful, female, Asian authors, Roshani Chokshi and S. Jae-Jones. The three fantasy fiction writers drew an audience of tween girls, women of...

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Director's Cut (For Geeks Only): Comics Writer Chris Sims Takes It Back to ’92

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 8:45 AM

So you've read our condensed interview with comics writer Chris Sims and you still want more? Then enjoy this extended cut with extra answers, context, and details on X-Men '92, Deadpool: Bad Blood, and Swordquest. Superhero comics hit puberty in 1992, violently sprouting massive muscles, bosoms, and guns, with 'tude to match. The characters and the industry alike seemed volatile and overstated. DC Comics' "Death of Superman" stunt sparked a mainstream media frenzy. Even as the X-Men were everywhere, Marvel Comics grappled with the defection of its money-printing young stars—including X-Force creator Rob Liefeld—to Image Comics, which permanently shook up...

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Theater Review: Matilda the Musical Is Sweetly Subversive and Secretly Heady

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 5:09 PM

Matilda the Musical★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh We not only have the power to tell our stories and those the wide world hands us; we can edit and rewrite them as well. Count those among the heady takeaways from Matilda the Musical, the sweetly subversive musical whose kinetic, touring Royal Shakespeare Company production closes Sunday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, courtesy of North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South. Adaptor Dennis Kelly’s 2010 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel is a broadside against a number of present-day discontents, and satirical songwriter Tim Minchin’s lyrics are the works of...

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Swashbuckles Under Its Own Weight

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales★★ ½ Now playing In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Captain Jack Sparrow, the role that once earned Johnny Depp his first Oscar nomination, literally jumps a shark. It’s a ghost shark, but the metaphor couldn’t be more conspicuous. A little of the rakish Sparrow has always gone a long way, but in the latest films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, he's shifted to the center of the swashbuckling. In this fifth voyage, the inebriated pirate’s preening and trademark non sequiturs seem more hoary—he twice pleads for mercy...

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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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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hannibal Buress Announces Surprise Show at Motorco Tonight

Posted By on Sun, May 21, 2017 at 7:39 PM

"@Moogfest Is it possible to come through this year and build a synthesizer and film it? DM please," Hannibal Buress tweeted a few weeks ago. Well, seems like it was possible to come through: as you've seen or heard by now, the comedian has been knocking around the Durham music festival doing band intros and shenanigans all weekend. Now he's announced a show at Motorco at 9:30 tonight. At the time of this writing, the link for tickets has been live for thirteen minutes, get them while they last. Note that the $10 cover is cash only....

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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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Wow. I guess you can't recognize brilliant satire when you see it. This was an amazing performance that if you …

by Sam Bayer on ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene (Arts)

The photo in this article is of Jackson Cooper and Katie Barrett, as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, not of …

by David Akiva Klionsky on Theater Review: The Amusing Tea with Edie & Fitz Strains to Make Hay From a Gin-Soaked Dust-Up Between Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Arts)

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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Wow. I guess you can't recognize brilliant satire when you see it. This was an amazing performance that if you …

by Sam Bayer on ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene (Arts)

The photo in this article is of Jackson Cooper and Katie Barrett, as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, not of …

by David Akiva Klionsky on Theater Review: The Amusing Tea with Edie & Fitz Strains to Make Hay From a Gin-Soaked Dust-Up Between Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Arts)

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