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A&E Feature
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008

A promising career cut short

The greatest irony in Heath Ledger's tragically short career is not only that he may receive a posthumous Oscar for his disturbing, revelatory performance in an ambitious if overproduced action film, but that his widely anticipated portrayal of the Joker may well have been crucial in beefing up the box-office momentum of The Dark Knight. This serious-minded, comic-book action flick impressed the art crowd with its noirish overtones, while still serving as a major draw for younger action fans. Pre-release publicity spurred interest...
Theater
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008

Theater Review

The core appeal of the now-classic show The Producers is the perennial fascination with its signature showpiece, the outrageous, improbable, addictively appealing key number "Springtime for Hitler"-outrageous because Mel Brooks has so slyly transformed a historic nightmare into a classic guilty pleasure, improbable in that this paean to alleged bad taste is so "tastefully" worked into a sure-fire fun-filled book that audiences eat it up with uncritical delight. The outstanding 1967 movie has never been so well served: Skylight's unyieldingly exuberant musical production, letter perfect to a fault, containing dance numbers executed with a precision to honor any Broadway musical, rivals the highly touted...
Theater
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Theater Review

An extraordinary event can affect ordinary people in ordinary ways, even when unexpected circumstances result in a crushing blow. This is the underling theme of David Lindsay-Abair's compelling, subtly written play, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, presented with remarkable insight by an outstanding cast at the Chamber Theatre through Nov. 2. Lindsay-Abair's quiet little comedy-drama seeks to demonstrate that reaching for "ordinariness" and family support are the most palliative healing remedies...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

Remembering the Little Fox

Few stars hearkening back to Hollywood's Golden Age elicit the unequivocal reverence and regard afforded Bette Davis. She remains a unique figurehead of a bygone era in which the creation of larger-than-life screen personas defined cinematic art under the fabled studio system. Her steely ferocity remains a source of inspiration for younger actresses, along with a classic demeanor-or hauteur, if you will-reminiscent of the great stage performers of the past, as so elegantly demonstrated in roles like The Little Foxes and The Letter. Davis' work feels modern, timeless, urgent, unfettered by self-consciousness but flavored...
Theater
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

Theater Reviews

The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's opens its 34th season with Well, a satisfyingly hilarious new play by performance artist and playwright Lisa Kron. Using a play within a play format with an original twist, the incomparably accomplished Angela Iannone plays the author herself in a series of supposedly non-autobiographical vignettes based on true experiences and designed to serve as a "theatrical exploration of socially significant issues of universal significance"-or so Lisa tells us. She brings her mother on board to watch the performance and make sure that these "non-autobiographical"
Books
Monday, June 9, 2008

Classic Hollywood’s star system

Jeanine Basinger brings a fresh new level of dedication to classic film in her fascinating survey of the much-maligned studio system, The Star Machine (Knopf), a 550-page book that is difficult to set aside. Her provocative approach balances an encompassing analysis of the “dream factories” that catapulted so many stars into that celluloid stratosphere of the 1930s-’50s with biographical surveys of individual stars “under the influence” of a system unparalleled in the ingenuity of marketing. Basinger doesn’t delve into such famous names as Davis, Gable, Crawford and Cagney, concentrating instead on the less . . .
A&E Feature
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Violinist Hilary Hahn at the MSO

Violinist Hilary Hahn is an artist who seems to have emerged on the classical scene like a rare plant fully grown—an entity so perfectly and unobtrusively developed that the effortless maturity of her craft belies her youthful years. Born in Lexington, Va., 28 years ago, she began playing the violin shortly before her fourth birthday, studied for years under Russian teacher Klara Berkovich and made her first major orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony in 1991, when she was 12. Soon after, she appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, then the Cleveland, followed by the Pittsburgh and the New York Philharmonic, all by the tender age of 15. Next she would debut in Germany, playing Beethoven with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Lorin Maazel.
Theater
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Theater Review

The Chamber Theatre brings its usual finesse and careful adherence to the spirit of the text in their thoughtful new production of Talley’s Folly, Lanford Wilson’s 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning play and recipient of the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award .The play is the second in Wilson’s “Talley Trilogy,” all successfully produced. With such distinguished credentials, audiences may feel an uneasy sense of disappointment at the dialogue’s initial lack of focus, a requirement so important in a two-character play.
Theater
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Theater Reviews

The Rep’s new production of Enchanted April is not the gossamer offering the title implies. Banking its ample charm in a production rich in slight-of-hand comedy, Matthew Barber’s 2003 play is an adaptation of a 1922 novel that echoes the disruption and monotony constituting women’s lives after World War I. He takes an even-keeled, lighthearted view of the boredom that two English housewives claim to experience as a result of the ongoing tediousness of the “surety of the routine.” The women place an ad in The Times of London for two more ladies to share the month of April in a secluded villa among the “wisteria and sunshine” of the Italian Riviera. The mismatched foursome discover that some miscommunication and uneven objectives have tagged along on their sojourn . . .
Books
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Raving about Otto Preminger

Otto Preminger’s stage and screen Nazis (think Stalag 17) may well have provided a perverse, self-styled role model for the famous director, one he developed with tyrannical relish off-screen as well. According to Foster Hirsch in his stunning, eminently readable biography, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would be King (Alfred Knopf), the filmmaker’s Prussians registered with conviction, yielding none of the serpentine sophistication that made Conrad Veidt’s characterization in Casablanca an intellectual delight.

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