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Charismatic Commitment: Company at Ithaca College

Company (written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth; director, Catherine Weidner; musical director, Christopher Zemliauskas) as a play itself doesn’t have a particularly dramatic plot the way a Greek tragedy or a Shakespearian comedy might — set up as a series of vignettes, the play focuses on exploring the topic of marriage through the eyes of Robert (Liam Snead), or “Bob/Bobby” as his friends affectionately call him, a 35-year-old man who just can’t seem to get married. Despite that Robert is well-liked, attractive and well-established, Robert’s friends are disheartened that is he still isn’t married by the time of his 35th birthday; on the other hand, he mostly works hard to deny that he is completely terrified of committing. In looking at the very different personalities and marriages of Robert’s friends, Company seeks to explore how marriage changes and affects people. In the eyes of ever-unmarried Robert, the premise leads to a fun look at the dynamics of a group which Robert is always third-wheeling his married friends. While the vignette set-up of the play itself might make some find the story stale or less dynamic, Ithaca College Theatre Arts’ Company does an excellent job in creating a colorful and engaging story through an incredibly distinctive cast.

Eric Brooks as RDC Carter and Lydia Gaston as Angelina Carter.

Perfectly Sensible: Precious Nonsense at the Kitchen Theatre

The aptly-named musical Precious Nonsense is advertised as a simple diversion from the stress of everyday life, and it delivers. Playwright and artistic director Rachel Lampert’s production is fun and lighthearted, serving as pure entertainment. The show is not new to the Kitchen Theatre; Lampert’s sister, Sara Lampert Hoover, directs as she did in the original production in 2004 and Eric Brooks reprises his role as RDC Carter. Lampert spoke to the audience before the show began on opening night and explained that the production was chosen to run at this time to distract theatre-goers from the stress of world events like the upcoming election, and it certainly does its job. The musical is set in the 1930s and follows the lives of members of a touring theatre company, the Carter Family Savoyards, dedicated to sharing songs from the comedic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

A 19th Century Japanese flat tray from the Korin school. Gift of Mrs. Howard S. Liddell.

Timeless Conquerers: American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art

History continuously shows that Western influences have played a dominant role in the shaping of many regions of the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere, nation to nation, Western forces have consistently proved their acquisitive nature in conquests of land, people, and resources. Japanese art and culture are no exception to this rule. Walking down the steps leading to American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art, I was met with a silence only broken by the occasional footsteps of security guards lightly pacing the interconnected rooms of the museum halls. The exhibit’s pieces, displayed in a comfortably small space, radiated an air of tranquility and sophistication.

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Contemporary Sensibilities and Progression: Blood Wedding at Ithaca College

Article updated. 

Even before the show begins, the set at the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center of Ithaca College is striking — clean lines, neat delineations of space with blues and whites, and solid colors immediately give a modern tone to Blood Wedding, the famous tragedy of Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Set in twentieth century rural Spain, Blood Wedding tells the story of an on-going curse of a family feud and deception as it explores the story and aftermath of a young woman who abandons her own wedding for her former lover. Though such a story could easily slip into the realm of cliché, the clean aesthetic and direction of Ithaca College’s “Blood Wedding” keeps the narrative fresh and enthralling. Director Norm Johnson’s Blood Wedding remains contemporary in great part due to the set and costumes. The creative team (Scenic design: Emily Weisbecker; Costume design: Victoria Pizappi; Lighting and projection design: Steve TenEyck, assisted by Teddy Kosciuszek; Sound design: Don Tindall) does an incredible job with a nod to Lorca’s surrealist links — the look is simple but timeless.

COURTESY OF FANTAGRAPHICS

In Garden of the Flesh, A Master Cartoonist Crafts A Blasphemous Delight

Gilbert Hernandez is an unparalleled figure in American comics. Working tirelessly since 1979, “Beto” is one of the key artists in the first wave of alternative comics, creating with his brother Jaime, a significant cartoonist in his own right, the legendary magazine Love and Rockets, a pioneering work of comics-as-literature. Gilbert’s stories in Love and Rockets, the Palomar cycle, form perhaps the greatest work of magical realism in the comics form; challenging, moving storytelling. However, the reaches of Gilbert Hernandez do not end here. The man’s output is simply insane, ranging from quiet childhood memoirs to exploitation-style pulp, all executed to maddening perfection.

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The Candid Man’s Guide to Humor, Evil and Theatre

“Il avait le jugement assez droit, avec l’esprit le plus simple ; c’est, je crois, pour cette raison qu’on le nommait Candide.”

Theodicy is the central problem for any incarnation or lyricized reworking of Voltaire’s novella Candide. The eponymous character runs the Weltanschauung-gamut in his pained, hopelessly naïve globe-trekking, alternatively stumbling into phenomenal luck and misfortune, being swindled out of everything he owns or plucking golden pebbles off the streets of Eldorado. It is equal parts absurd travelogue and philosophical disenchantment, what the tale of the Buddha would have been if written by a splenetic Frenchman. It is an irreverent parable with a moral, a Bildungsroman and, on a 21st century stage, a pastiche suprême. It lends itself, if one may be so bold, to musical theatre.

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Fumbling With History: American Spoila

American Spolia gashes itself out into space like an inverse wound. It spans an unbent and unwavering 140 feet across Libe Slope’s midsection, resting, at its highest, westernmost point, several feet above my head. At each end it terminates bluntly and abruptly. Its thin metal beams are sparse and rudimentary, almost purely utilitarian. Numbering about a dozen, they support, as if extollingly, an imbricated miscellany of wooden panels, each one of its own faded hue.

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Artist Profile: Caroline O’Donnell

If you walk around the Cornell campus at this time of the year, you might be surprised by what you find. The Cornell Council for the Arts 2016 Biennial has just started around campus and one of the most capturing installations is the urchin. It is an enormous white structure in the middle of the Arts Quad. You can’t really tell what it is until you start getting closer. That’s when you see the spikes.

Karl Gregory as Jason/Tyrone

Puppet Masters: Hand to God at the Kitchen Theatre

The Kitchen Theatre’s production of Hand to God would seem to be a very pure, if a little preachy, production if one were to just look at the set. Stuffed animals and toys are placed in bins next to a bookcase full of picture books, the theatre’s walls are covered in posters with messages about Jesus, and a colorful banner hangs above. But as soon as a skinny gray puppet pops up from behind a pulpit-like stage and starts cursing at the audience and ranting about the devil, it becomes clear that this is a very different kind of play. After this introduction, the play opens to a church in Cypress, Texas where Margery (Erica Steinhagen), recently widowed, leads three teenagers in sewing puppets for a church puppet show. The teens, rebellious Timothy (Michael Patrick Trimm), snarky yet compassionate Jessica (Montana Lampert Hoover) and Margery’s bashful son Jason (Karl Gregory) constantly bicker.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CORNELL COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS

Art You’re a Part of: Polyphony at the John Hartell Gallery

Underneath the Sibley dome, adjacent to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning Dean’s Office, is Polyphony. It is an interactive art installation designed by Liu (Leo) Jingyang ’15, Shining (Christina) Sun ’17 and Yue Gu ’16 — all current or former architecture students. To say that the project sounds interesting — “an interactive audio-visual installation that generates a simultaneous feedback loop between performance, image and sound” — is to say little about the installation. Yet, how does it actually look, sound and perform? The first time I entered the John Hartell Gallery (where Polyphony is installed), I sensed that something was wrong.