Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hannibal Buress cancels Gaillard show

He's probably hanging with Ilana

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 9:29 AM

  • Constance Kostrevski
The Hannibal Buress performance, scheduled for Thurs. Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gaillard has been canceled. Buress' reps say the show has been canceled due to a scheduling conflict with HBO.

Gaillard Center marketing and PR manager Stephanie Shipe says, "The Gaillard is issuing automatic refunds. They will be issued in the same manner as the ticket purchase. If the ticket was purchased with cash they will receive a check. Refunds will take 3-5 business days to appear."

But Hannibal took a couple minutes to talk to Dustin last week, and you can still read that interview through the tears if you so desire.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Footlight Players' Bakersfield Mist is a delightful romp through a trailer park

Pondering Pollock

Posted by Maura Hogan on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 3:56 PM

  • Provided
When is a paint splatter a reason to break out the turpentine — and when is it a gloppy line to $100 million? Bakersfield Mist, the artfully comedic play by Stephen Sachs, raises a discerning monocle on the contemporary art world, attempting to separate the con from connoisseurship. Presented by the Footlight Players, this deceptively canny play mashes high culture with the lowbrow, resulting in plenty of choice notions over which to muse, mull, and make merry.

In a slim 80 minutes with an equally trim cast of two, Bakersfield Mist brandishes its wry indictment of the ways in which we both confer and deny meaning in works of art. At the same time, it points to how we apply the same elitist evaluation of the individuals deemed fitting to trade in art. The play is inspired by the real-life account of a 73-year-old truck driver by the name of Teri Horton, who purchased a painting for a few dollars in a thrift store. Horton claimed she had in fact scooped up an unknown work by Jackson Pollock, the abstract impressionist who forever changed the art form through his masterful application of deft drips and splatters. Horton has spent countless hours since trying to prove the painting’s authenticity.

Rather than the soigne trappings of New York, however, this art-centric story takes place in a galaxy far, far away from white-walled gallery spaces and wine-sipping openings. We find ourselves instead in a trailer park in Bakersfield, California, home to the ticky-tacky, knick-knack-packed trailer of Maude Gutman (Lorilyn Harper), a chain-smoking, Jack-swilling former bartender whose vocabulary is a frenetic splatter of prattle and profanity. In an outburst of howling dogs outside, enters Lionel Percy (Jimmy Flannery), a perceptibly peevish suit that visits Maude’s home in a cloud of unchecked disdain. He has come to officially assess the authenticity of the painting that Maude claims is a Pollock, a judgment that will determine whether she owns a masterpiece or, by her own estimation, the ugliest painting she has ever seen.

However sneering Lionel may be, Maude remains unfazed by her guest’s unsubtle attempts to denigrate her way of life. She garrulously passes out booze and wieners, turning a deaf ear to his terse barbs. Maude is equally undaunted when he begins to deride her assertion that she has plucked a Pollock from a pile of thrift store rubble. When she finally displays the painting, Lionel’s appraisal of the work exposes far more about the machinations of arts scholarship than meets the expert eye. It is clear that pedigree and provenance, to borrow an appraiser’s term, are as much of the criteria involved in deeming greatness as the work itself is. For Lionel, the prospect of a Pollock that comes to him by way of trailer park trade represents sufficient grounds to send it right back to the thrift store.

As Lionel and Maude go round and round, both begin to reveal more and more about themselves, with perceptions ever shifting on just who is authentic and who is the fraud. The exchange then takes on more meaning still, relating art to a religious experience reliant primarily on belief. Maude’s investment in the painting is far more than a monetary one. For her, its authenticity provides crucial meaning to her hardscrabble, insignificant life. Paradoxically, this only further compels Lionel to denial. As they spar and snipe, connect and disconnect, we see successive splashes of humanity and heartlessness, snobbery and sympathy, with the truth an elusive target. For this odd couple, arriving at truth becomes as frenetic and charged as a Pollock canvas.

To bring all this to light, Bakersfield Mist lays solely in the hands of its two actors. As Maude and Lionel, both Lorilyn Harper and Jimmy Flannery more than hold their own. Harper’s Maude is at turns roughhewn and yearning, equally authentic when playing the fool or revealing Maude’s savvier side. Flannery’s brittle Lionel parcels out fleeting glimpses of the wide-eyed art lover that the fancy pants once was — that is, before his focus fixed on his own fragile standing in the field. In a show-stopping monologue, Flannery performs a near-interpretive dance of personal ecstasy to capture Pollock’s creative process, building up to writhing cathartic creative release, and is just as humorously hot and bothered as my characterization suggests.

Shout outs are in order for Robin Burke’s well-paced, engaging direction, which makes full, dynamic use of every déclassé corner of Maude’s digs. Speaking of which, it is a splendidly executed eyesore of a set, riddled with clown paintings and other spot-on claptrap that Maude has dragged home. All in all, there is impressive method to the blessed mess in Bakersfield Mist, which works to unveil today’s misguided approach to visual arts. For art lovers and egalitarians alike, it is worth taking in — and taking to heart.

'Unelectable You' explores the unbelievably true presidential election

Truth is stranger

Posted by Matt Dobie on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:43 AM

  • Provided
It’s a wild world of politics out there, especially this election season. Navigating the barrage of scandals and slip-ups and flip-flops can be a challenge. And searching for a guide may prove futile. Fear not Charleston, an unbiased political revue from Second City and Slate is coming to town. The show won’t serve as a guide, but rather as a sort of batsman whacking the piñata that is this year’s political landscape.

Unelectable You, coming to the Gaillard Center on Tues. Sept. 27, is a quick-witted combination of sketch comedy, improv, music, and multi-media — a no-holds-barred shellacking of the 2016 presidential campaigns.

On the surface, it might seem like an odd partnership. Slate, an award-winning web magazine, known for its trademark wit and analysis of everything from politics to pop culture, pairing up with Second City, a Chicago-based comedy empire that has produced the likes of local favorites Stephen Colbert and Bill Murray. But Dan Kois, culture editor for Slate and creative consultant for Unelectable You, seems to see it as a natural development.

“Second City approached Slate,” Kois says in an interview on Unelectable You's website. “And said, ‘we like to partner with publications that have a real voice, that have a real point of view. And we wanna do a campaign show and we know that your coverage of the campaign is gonna be lively and funny and occasionally dumb as befits a lively and funny and dumb campaign like this one.’”

The creative process has been a complete collaboration. Though the main cast is made up of Second City players, the writing team behind the show is an amalgam of members from both companies. And for this particular performance, Slate’s bringing along one of its most prominent contributors, John Dickerson, to join the lampoonery on the Gaillard stage.

Dickerson’s credentials go far beyond columnist for Slate. He’s written for the New York Times and served as TIME Magazine’s White House correspondent, and he’s the current Political Director for CBS News and host of Face the Nation. In the line of duty, he has interviewed every major presidential candidate multiple times this year, gaining unique insights into their campaigns.

Dickerson may be known for his charm and charisma but he is revered for his interviewing prowess. A 2004 Washington Post article describes his interview style as “cleverly worded, seemingly harmless, but incisive,” a.k.a. “Dickersonian.”

What started in a small cabaret theater in 1959, Second City has blossomed into a major player in the comedy universe. In addition to performing thousands of shows each year, it is the premier school for improvisational comedy worldwide, with training facilities in Toronto and Los Angeles as well as Chicago. Beyond those famous local fellas mentioned earlier, Second City has also nurtured the creativity of Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Chris Farley, and many, many more.

Their current endeavor with Slate has them on a 30-date nationwide tour leading directly up to the election. Having played for packed houses and received rave reviews, it’s interesting to note that this show would not even exist if not for the calamitous and buffoonery-laden 2016 campaign trail. A trail that senselessly keeps changing course.
As every headline breaks, every tweet gets posted, every video goes viral, the story transforms. The beauty of Unelectable You is that its format allows it to change and adapt with what’s going on in the real world. The cast can take a breaking news story and insert it into that night’s performance.

You can expect to see impersonations of Hillary, of Trump, of Bernie, and Obama. You’ll hear about twitter debacles, email scandals, and plagiarized speeches. But within the absurdity, amongst the finely crafted comedic timing, will be scraps of knowledge, bits of wisdom.

In that same interview on Unelectable You’s site, Kois says, “We like the idea of exploring the way this traditional view of campaigning, this traditional view of politics, has completely collapsed. That collapse is scary for America, but it’s fun for comedy.” 

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Review: PURE Theater's 'The Christians' mines the depths of modern belief systems

Between Heaven and Hell

Posted by Maura Hogan on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:36 AM

  • Provided
The sacred and the profane duke it out astride a megachurch altar in The Christians, Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed play dramatizing present-day doctrinal dispute that casts an earth-shattering fault line through the church congregation. A deeply considered, clear-eyed examination of faith and politics, The Christians opens PURE Theatre’s 14th season with a song and a prayer — not to mention an absorbing front-pew view of the complexities of modern religion.

A seismic schism in a Christian church is a topic curiously close to home for many of Sunday’s best in South Carolina. In a much-covered flap a few short years ago, the Episcopal Diocese voted to part ways with the national church, mainly over its stance on same-sex unions. During the split, leadership, parish property, and heated factions came into play, like the fall-out of a messy divorce in a town still small enough to make it awkward for all involved. The Christians will likely dredge it all up for those on one side or other of that so-called “Anglican realignment,” as well as for anyone who remains conflicted about the outcome.

At the sticky center of the play’s controversy is a Sunday sermon, which is unexpectedly dropped on the congregation by their pastor. The church’s founder, Pastor Paul has grown the church in a couple of decades from a modest storefront to a thousands-strong religious enterprise, complete with bookstore, coffee shop, and an outsize baptismal font that could rival Colonial Lake. In a lulling, incantatory cadence, their esteemed spiritual leader gently, amiably guides his devoted flock through a significant new twist in his belief system: There actually is no hell.

Of course, this is no small assertion to lob over the pulpit. Many folks in the room have been beating it each week to Sunday service and more, as well as handing over their hard-earned pay, as insurance against future fire and brimstone. What’s more, heaven is not quite the discriminating country club for which we’ve all been waitlisted.

Heathens with a heart of gold will also gain entrance. When questioned later, the pastor even concedes that infamous evildoers like Hitler are off the hook from eternal damnation. It goes to follow that in this new, all-embracing heaven, pretty much anyone could be next to us in line at the brunch buffet beyond.

With his denial of eternal damnation, all hell breaks loose for Pastor Paul. First, an associate pastor wages a mutiny, strategically picking off members to his newly formed church. More than one congregant reels and runs, and even more raise questions. A trustee lands on the pastor to stem the compromised attendance and finances. His wife gives him the stink eye. As each character reacts to the pastor’s proclamation, we see how our deeply personal religious beliefs are both shaped and challenged by the world around us. More troubling still is the suggestion that those beliefs that are not in lockstep with our own may be even more problematic when it comes to our individual salvation.

The production lays this down by situating its five players at the altar of a contemporary house of worship (the inspired, cleverly executed work of set designer Richard Heffner). Under a stylized stained glass cross that looms over the stage and into the audience, we are constantly reminded of the capaciousness of the church, while we sit in PURE’s compact black box. A microphone accompanies each altar seat, again telegraphing the size of the space, while also rendering our theater seats the best in church. With this staging, we are thus given a close up of a public fallout.

The delivery of the actors similarly straddles the public-private line, with the characters speaking mainly in the measured, reverent tones befitting church testimony, as they openly grapple with intimate beliefs. As Pastor Paul, Rodney Lee Rogers is a soulful and soul-searching spiritual compass, with sufficient ambiguity to allow for scrutiny of his own potentially less-than-lofty motivations. Brannen Daugherty creates a compelling counterpart in his associate pastor, a man of the cloth who may be less polished, but with a religious fervor seemingly free of guile. As the pastor’s wife, Joy Vandervort-Cobb convincingly questions, while Randy Neale’s elder character applies pressure. In a tender, affecting portrayal of a single mother congregant who is torn by the controversy, Mary Fishburne gives poignant voice to the many individuals for whom such fissures of faith can be cataclysmic.

In an essay written by the playwright on the website Playwrights Horizons, which produced the play in its NYC debut last year, Hnath reflects, “A church is a place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is — at least for a moment — made visible. The theater can be that too.” Today’s discourse on religious tolerance is more often than not focused on disparities between entire belief systems. The Christians, however, encourages us to look more closely at something fundamental and all-important, even as many among us cast stones at other religious practices. And that something may well be hiding in plain sight, within the very walls of our own stained-glass house.
  • David Mandel

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Sign up now for this Friday's Creative Mornings talk on 'Magic'

Magical thinking

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:35 AM

Creative Mornings Charleston (CMCHS) gets magical this Friday morning at 8 a.m., with a free morning lecture on the topic of magic, held at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. The speaker is Rob Bertschy, founder of Swurfer, a swing that creates the sensation of surfing. Sign up at 10 a.m. here. 

Bertschy's Swurfer has had such success in the Lowcountry that he's even spoken at Pecha Kucha, another lecture series. Learn all about swurfing here.

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