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A midsummer Thursday Theater Roundup

As the all-female cast of "Macbeth" prepares to take the Shakespeare in Delaware Park stage tonight and the theater-heavy Buffalo Infringement Festival kicks off, there's plenty of other good stuff happening on stages in Niagara-on-the-Lake and at the Chautauqua Institution. Here's a look at what's hot this week:

Youcanttakeit1480 Charlie Thurston plays young Tony and Stuart Margolin is Grandpa Vanderhof in "You Can't Take It With You."

"You Can't Take It With You" through Sunday at the Chautauqua Institution's Bratton Theatre in a production by the Chautauqua Theater Company. From the review: "This is a show known and loved far more for its happily unorthodox characters than for any jaw-dropping dramatic achievement or deep insight into American society. This production surely isn't out to change that. It succeeds by allowing its cast to revel in the inspiring strangeness of its characters and allowing its authors' ode to unfettered American idealism to sing anew." --Colin Dabkowski

Picture 2
The cast of "My Fair Lady" performs at MusicalFare Theatre. 

"My Fair Lady" through Aug. 7 in MusicalFare Theatre. From the review: "In other hands and with a different cast, 'My Fair Lady,' imbued by Shaw with a turn-of-the-century tinge of feminism, might have seemed woefully dated. But Drozd and this multifariously gifted ensemble of actors, led by [Christian] Brandjes and [Edith] Grossman, feels both endearingly nostalgic and surprisingly fresh." --Colin Dabkowski

Untitled-1 

The cast of the Shaw Festival's "The Doctor's Dilemma" on the Festival Theatre stage.

"The Doctor's Dilemma," through Oct. 30 in the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "...audiences might not agree with Shaw’s opinion. But it’s difficult not to be sucked in by the inherent drama, the wonderfully idiosyncratic characters and the overall charm of this show, which dives headlong into the challenges of the medical establishment in a stratified society." --Colin Dabkowski

"John Bull's Other Island," through Oct. 9 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "[The production] uses an intelligently and heavily abridged script that, together with Christopher Newton’s sure-handed control of stage action, provides a performance that rolls along purposefully and compellingly, leading the audience by the ear and eye even through the most pontificating of Shaw’s soap-box orations." --Herman Trotter

"Half an Hour," through Oct. 9 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "Barrie has packed a surprising amount of humor, hope and tragedy into such a compact package that you may walk out of the theater thinking you’ve seen a full-blown production.... It’s not Shaw, it’s not Shakespeare and it’s perhaps too sentimental for some tastes, but “Half an Hour” may be the most effective piece of drama from concentrate I’ve seen. It is, at the very least, well worth the time." --Colin Dabkowski


Venus 

The cast of "One Touch of Venus at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

"One Touch of Venus" through Oct. 10 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "With Weill’s music enhanced by S. J. Perelman’s book, and lyrics by the one-and-only Ogden Nash, the prospect is for top-level music and laughs. And to a large degree that’s what we get. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the joy of Ogden Nash’s lyrics can sometimes be diluted in the transfer from printed page to song... Directed by Eda Holmes, the large cast was given a lot of latitude to exploit the show’s louder, more boisterous possibilities." --Herman Trotter

"An Ideal Husband" through Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review"The intricacies of the plot — which, truth be told, is a little tiredly conceived and tends in spots toward the maudlin — all serve one over-arching and worthy point: We are all hopelessly imperfect creatures whose only hope for forgiveness comes through the redemptive power of love. It’s a beautifully simple, almost naive idea, and it’s what elevates the play beyond a chuckle-worthy society comedy. That it was written while Wilde was embroiled in a public scandal over his forbidden homosexuality, and from which he would never recover, lends the play’s storybook conclusion a gloss of wistful fantasy that makes it all the more compelling." --Colin Dabkowski

"Harvey" through Oct. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "'Harvey' should be completely exempt from deep analysis. It is about happiness. Its simplicity and gimmicky humor are its chief strengths, a fact exploited by director Joseph Ziegler and carried on ably by his cast. This is the antidote to Chekhov, the perfect cure for world-weariness and a great affirmation of eccentricity that strives to bring out the dreamer in us all." --Colin Dabkowski


GUSTO The 

Cherry Orchard 

Severn Thompson as Varya and Laurie Paton as Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" at the Shaw Festival.

"The Cherry Orchard" through Oct. 2 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "This production, featuring Shaw veterans Benedict Campbell as Lopakhin and Laurie Paton as Lyubov among a great many other gifted actors, employs an excellent Irish-tinged adaptation by Tom Murphy. This imbues the script with subtle sense of modern urgency (“How’s tricks?” instead of “How are you?”) and expands it ever-so-slightly beyond the insularity of its rural Russian milieu." --Colin Dabkowski

Blogger launches contest for 'America's Favorite Art Museum'

Buffalo loves competitions. And while I have my own reservations about the worth of such dubious distinctions as American Style Magazine's list of of America's "Top 25 Arts Destinations," or, for that matter, Forbes' list of America's "Most Miserable Cities," there's a new competition out there that Buffalo art lovers may find enticing.

Critic and art blogger Tyler Green has launched a good-natured contest in which Americans can vote for their favorite art spaces. He makes the important distinction that the competition is not about the "best" art museum or gallery, but simply the most beloved. On Green's widely read blog Modern Art Notes, he seeds the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at number 17 out of 64, right between Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the first round of the competition, the Albright-Knox is up against New York City's Neue Galerie.

Vote away, if you feel so inclined.

--Colin Dabkowski

Thursday Theater Roundup

Here's our weekly list of recommended theater productions in and around Western New York.

Picture 2
The cast of "My Fair Lady" performs at MusicalFare Theatre. 

"My Fair Lady" through Aug. 7 in MusicalFare Theatre. From the review: "In other hands and with a different cast, 'My Fair Lady,' imbued by Shaw with a turn-of-the-century tinge of feminism, might have seemed woefully dated. But Drozd and this multifariously gifted ensemble of actors, led by [Christian] Brandjes and [Edith] Grossman, feels both endearingly nostalgic and surprisingly fresh." --Colin Dabkowski

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Karen Finley brings 'The Jackie Look' to Hallwalls

Finleykaren

Karen Finley, the respected artist, performer, writer and provocateur who last performed at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center two years ago, returns on Wednesday to deliver a brand-new piece of experimental theater. Finley last performed in Buffalo in June, 2008, when she workshopped a piece called "Impulse to Suck," about the tribulations of the Eliot and Silda Wall Spitzer in the wake of the former governor's resignation. (Read a preview and review of that performance.)

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Finley explained, she has been fascinated with public grief and the figures who embody it. Hence her current project, "The Jackie Look," in which Finley adopts the persona of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- perhaps the most enduring example of the grieving American celebrity -- as a jumping-off point into a performance that has been variously described as "Roland Barthes in designer drag" and "a horror movie about women living public lives."

I called Finley far too late on Monday evening before she boarded her train to Buffalo this morning. She was kind enough not to hang up on me. Read our conversation below, and look for a review of "The Jackie Look" in Friday's Gusto.

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Buffalo Book Fair returns Saturday

After a one-year hiatus and a move into the museum district in 2008, the Buffalo Book Fair, the area's top open air, all-ages, urban book fair and summer literary entertainment, returns to its original location downtown in Buffalo's Lafayette Square and the central branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The 2010 Buffalo Book Fair is the 5th annual installment of this summer festival which at its inception was modeled after New York City's Harlem Book Fair, but has since evolved its own unique Buffalo flavor.  Part of that flavor is the mix of aromas wafting east from A Taste of Buffalo, which once again this year will held just two blocks away.

Families looking for a complement to the gustatory adventures occurring on Delaware Avenue and in Niagara Square will find food for thought in the book fair's tasty menu of author talks and presentations, book signings, seminars and panel discussions, as well as poetry readings and spoken word performances, storytelling, live musical performances, and the displays of numerous book vendors.

This year's featured guest writers are James McBride and Rosalind Wiseman.  McBride is the author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water (1996), and the novels Miracle at St. Anna (2003)--which Spike Lee adapted into 2008 motion picture by the same title--and Song Yet Sung (2008).  Wiseman, a parenting expert and author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (which is often cited as a source for the 2004 popular movie “Mean Girls”), will be reading from and answering questions about her new young adult novel, Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials.

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Jeff Simon Chat With Our Favorite People

Google Editions to partner with independent booksellers

Last week the New York Times reported that Google Editions -- the soon to be launched e-book sales division of the search engine technology giant -- is in negotiations to partner with the American Booksellers Association -- the national trade association for independent booksellers -- in an agreement that will the make participating bookstores point-of sales locations for Google e-book downloads.
 
Although key provisions of the agreement have yet to be resolved, it promises to be a significant momentum changer both for the independent booksellers and Google. The booksellers -- who have been for the most part shut out of the rapidly growing market for e-books while Amazon, Apple, and the large chain booksellers Barnes & Noble and (as of this Wednesday) Borders have opened their own electronic book stores -- stand to gain access to that market with a server-based inventory that numbers close to 4 million titles (including many that are currently out of print).

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Thursday Theater Roundup

See tomorrow's Gusto for a review of the smashing "My Fair Lady" at MusicalFare Theatre. In the meantime, forgive us if this week's roundup looks remarkably like last week's:

"Subversive Shorts" through July 11 at the Manny Fried Playhouse in a production by the Subversive Theatre Collective. From the review: "On 'Subversive Shorts' opening night, Schneiderman said that the event has become so popular, and is in such dire demand, that playwrights nationwide are submitting works. Lara Haberberger curated this presentation. The company has divided the 10 selected works into two evenings. I saw one, the 'Artaud' program. The plays, while not necessarily all “political,” are thought provoking... This is a fun and endearing evening. On opening night, Schneiderman offered a deal if you wanted to come back and see the other program. Thursday performances are 'pay what you can,' and, one day during the run, you can see the lineups back to back. I’d say it would be worth it. Just bring a sandwich for intermission." --Jana Eisenberg

Meanwhile, over at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.:

Venus 

The cast of "One Touch of Venus at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

"One Touch of Venus" through Oct. 10 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "With Weill’s music enhanced by S. J. Perelman’s book, and lyrics by the one-and-only Ogden Nash, the prospect is for top-level music and laughs. And to a large degree that’s what we get. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the joy of Ogden Nash’s lyrics can sometimes be diluted in the transfer from printed page to song... Directed by Eda Holmes, the large cast was given a lot of latitude to exploit the show’s louder, more boisterous possibilities." --Herman Trotter

"An Ideal Husband" through Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review"The intricacies of the plot — which, truth be told, is a little tiredly conceived and tends in spots toward the maudlin — all serve one over-arching and worthy point: We are all hopelessly imperfect creatures whose only hope for forgiveness comes through the redemptive power of love. It’s a beautifully simple, almost naive idea, and it’s what elevates the play beyond a chuckle-worthy society comedy. That it was written while Wilde was embroiled in a public scandal over his forbidden homosexuality, and from which he would never recover, lends the play’s storybook conclusion a gloss of wistful fantasy that makes it all the more compelling." --Colin Dabkowski

"Harvey" through Oct. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "'Harvey' should be completely exempt from deep analysis. It is about happiness. Its simplicity and gimmicky humor are its chief strengths, a fact exploited by director Joseph Ziegler and carried on ably by his cast. This is the antidote to Chekhov, the perfect cure for world-weariness and a great affirmation of eccentricity that strives to bring out the dreamer in us all." --Colin Dabkowski


GUSTO The 
Cherry Orchard 

Severn Thompson as Varya and Laurie Paton as Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" at the Shaw Festival.

"The Cherry Orchard" through Oct. 2 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "This production, featuring Shaw veterans Benedict Campbell as Lopakhin and Laurie Paton as Lyubov among a great many other gifted actors, employs an excellent Irish-tinged adaptation by Tom Murphy. This imbues the script with subtle sense of modern urgency (“How’s tricks?” instead of “How are you?”) and expands it ever-so-slightly beyond the insularity of its rural Russian milieu."

Review Roundup: Summer concert season heats up

When we get to this point of the summer in Western New York, there's a major concert (many of them free) almost every night of the week. Hear are some of last week's highlights in photo/review form:

Tuesday: America at Artpark
Review: Seamus Gallivan/Photos: Robert Kirkham

America
"The harmonies shined especially during a seated session of selections from the band’s debut album, during which they noted that this year marks their 40th anniversary."

Wednesday: Collective Soul at Starry Night in the Garden
Photos: Adam Wolffbrandt

Soul

Thursday: Ed Kowalczyk at Thursday at the Square
Review: Jeff Miers/Photos: Adam Wolffbrandt

Ed
"With an able band backing him, Kowalczyk certainly didn’t embarrass himself. He sang well, and was an able frontman. However, something seemed to be going seriously amiss as he cavorted about the stage, intermingling bad Bon Jovi moves with ill-timed crotch-thrusts. The end result was akin to a bad aerobics video with a halfhearted ’90s grunge sound-track. Clearly, the man is in need of a way to move forward."

Friday: Our Lady Peace at Molson Canal Concert Series
Review: Jeff Miers/Photos: Robert Kirkham

Peace

The OLP sound has always offered a blend of straight-up heavy alternative, pop and a Dash of the avant-garde. Maida is the man, it would seem, who pushes all proceedings toward the pop end of the spectrum.

OLP’s ability to blend all of this into a convincing guitar-rock stew remains impeccable. This is a band that can bring the fire; its music has managed to transcend its immediate mileau.

Saturday: Gord Downie at Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls
Review: Jeff Miers/Photos: Sharon Cantillon

Downie
"Many in attendance might’ve preferred a Hip show, with all its grandiosity, but by roughly three tunes in, Downie and company had enthralled the assembled with their own roughshod 'jammin’ round the campfire'charm."

W.S. Merwin named U.S. poet laureate

Merwin001 

W.S. Merwin


On Thursday, James H. Billington, the Librarian of the United States Congress, announced the appointment of W.S. Merwin as the 17th Poet Laureate of the United States. Merwin had previously served along with fellow poets Rita Dove and Louise Glück as Special Consultants in Poetry for the Library of Congress' 200th Anniversary in 1999-2000. He will commence his term in October with a reading and lecture at the Library of Congress, one of the few official responsibilities required by the position, which carries with it a $35,000 stipend.

William Stanley Merwin was born in September 1927 in New York City to a Presbyterian minister and his wife, who had been raised as an orphan. He was brought up in Scranton, Pa., the site of his father's ministry, and attended Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School in northeast Pennsylvania.  He entered Princeton University on a scholarship in 1944, where he studied poetry with the noted critic R.P. Blackmur and his then teaching assistant and future Pulitzer Prize winner John Berryman and was a classmate and peer of poet Galway Kinnell.  

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