Tucson Local Media: Scene1

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  • Great American Playhouse brings in the holidays

    The holiday season is upon us, and for Tucsonans, that means slower traffic, delicious tamales, and wearing thermal socks underneath your sandals. For Oro Valley, however, it also means that the Great American Playhouse is bringing an instant holiday classic to the stage. “We’re No Angels” is an original story written by GAP staple Nick Seivert. Seivert’s writing style is noticeably different from frequent GAP penman Sean MacArthur. While MacArthur enjoys paying homage to cult Hollywood films, Seivert prefers completely homegrown allegories with little to no references to the silver screen. Being an unapologetic film-buff, I tend to prefer MacArthur’s witty movie-reference filled scripts, but there is still something respectable to be said about an entirely new product brought forth from the mind of a comedian such as Seivert. “We’re No Angels” begins with the prime action already having taken place. Much in the way Jacob Marley is dead to begin with in Dickens’ masterpiece, “We’re No Angels” heroine Nellie “Thursday” Baxter (Erin Anderson) has already lost a hefty bet to sly gangster Michael “Moose” Moran (Stewart Gregary). And if Thursday can’t come up with the “10 G’s” she owes Moose, she will be forced to marry the despicable crook. All hope is not lost, however. Do-gooders Henry “Bashful” Jones (Seivert), Dennis “Duke” Johnson (Mike Claridge), and Julius “Junior” Moran (Randy McDonald) are determined to save the day. Proclaiming themselves in the likeness of the three angels of the bible, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the trio promises to pull Thursday out of the fiery furnaces of Moose Moran’s devilish grasp, and help make this the “best Christmas ever!”The greatest holiday gift from the Great American Playhouse (other than the top notch food) is the way their cast seems to gel together so fluidly, constantly bouncing off of one another’s improvisations without as much as a hiccup. Seivert is his normal hilarious self as Bashful, except this time something is different. Having penned the script, it is obvious that the actor is especially invested in his performance. Seivert seems more in tune with the play’s content than any other actor on stage.As always, Randy McDonald stole the show with his endless energy as Junior. At times, I became exhausted just watching the youngster bouncing, dancing, and singing his way into the hearts of the audience. If the GAP is a machine, then McDonald is surely the battery, and the crowd just can’t get enough.Erin Anderson appears to be women’s answer to the rambunctiousness of McDonald. Though Anderson has appeared on the GAP stage in the past, this time around it seemed as though the young actress has truly come into her own as Thursday. She raised eyebrows with her comedic timing, and outright talent. Anderson has evolved as an actress, and has now blossomed into something truly great.

  • It’s no secret: Gaslight’s “Secret Santa” a hit

    Someone once asked me what my favorite thing about Gaslight Theatre is.I asked them how much time they had.That couldn’t be truer than of the playhouse’s newest comedic gem, “The Secret Santa,” which debuted last week and runs through Jan. 4.Set in the 1960s, the play revamps the age-old tale of Santa Claus with a modern twist – his sleigh has broken down in the Town of Merryville – but that’s not the real dilemma.The Cogsworth Toy Factory is under siege by its owner, CC Cogsworth (Brian Hale) and manager, Barkely Simpson (Todd Thompson), who together plot to halt toy production in order to launch a potentially more lucrative lawnmower factory. Initially unaware of the devious plan, the spirited toymakers are caught off-guard when they discover management’s true motives, and things look grim for the factory workers and Merryville alike. The potential shutdown could mean Christmas passes by as just another day.

  • ATC: Zany musical comedy whodunit, ‘Murder for Two’

    The national tour of the off-Broadway hit, Murder for Two, a laugh-out-loud musical comedy whodunit with the classic feel of a murder mystery and a contemporary homage to vintage comedy – with some cheeky references to murder mysteries that have come before thrown in – takes off in its Southwest premiere at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., from Nov. 29-Dec. 20.  Arizona Theatre Company’s 2014-15 season is sponsored by I. Michael and Beth Kasser.Murder for Two channels composer Joe Kinosian and lyricist Kellen Blair’s love for both Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers into a zany 90-minute blend of classical musical comedy and madcap mystery with killer laughs and two performers playing 13 roles – and the piano.  The New York Times called Murder for Two “Ingenious! A snazzy double-act that spins out a comic mystery animated by funny, deftly turned songs.”It’s the story of Officer Marcus Moscowicz, a small-town cop with dreams of making detective.  One fateful night, shots ring out at the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney and the writer is killed --- fatally.  With the nearest detective an hour away, Marcus jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills with the help of his silent partner, Lou.  But, whodunit?  Did Dahlia Whitney, Arthur’s scene-stealing wife, give him the big finish?  Is Barrette Lewis, the prima ballerina, the prime suspect?  Did Dr. Griff, the overly-friendly psychiatrist, make a frenemy? Marcus only has a short amount of time to find the killer and make his name before the real detective arrives … and the ice cream melts!Directed by Scott Schwartz, Kinosian (The Suspects) and Ian Lowe (Marcus) from the off-Broadway production make their Arizona Theatre Company debuts in Murder for Two.BMO Harris Private Bank is the Opening Night Sponsor for Murder for Two.ATC follows Murder for Two with the world premiere of Five Presidents, Jan. 10-31; Romeo and Juliet, Feb. 28 to March 21; and A Weekend with Pablo Picasso, April 4-26.

  • Family letters are transformed into a play about Nazi Germany

    SaddleBrooke resident Susan Shear grew up knowing that her parents had escaped from Nazi Germany in the events that lead up to the Holocaust. But her family really didn’t talk about it and in school, she and her fellow students weren’t taught much more than a paragraph or two mentioning what had happened.Later in life, she began to read up on it and research it when she came to the realization that she just needed to know what happened. Her course in life to study, learn and to try to understand what people suffered through was set in motion.Then, one night she was sitting and talking with her mother.“She said, ‘You know, I do have a few letters.’ And that was her sentence. So she went down into the basement, she gets a tiny little box, and she brings it up.”Enclosed were three or four letters, written in German, from Shear’s aunt, her mother’s sister.Once the discussion and topic of the letters spread throughout her family, she learned her brother had more letters and her uncle had a giant stash of letters written by her grandfather chronicling the events that were taking place in Germany.

  • Great American Playhouse re-invents cult classic with ‘Beetle-Juiced’

    It may be hard to believe, but Oro Valley’s Great American Playhouse is already celebrating its one-year anniversary as the premier melodramatic theater in the neighborhood, if not the entire city. This Halloween season, the all-star cast is setting the spooky mood with a Sean MaCarther re-imagining of the Tim Burton 1988 cult classic film,“Beetlejuice”.The GAP’s rendition, “Beetle-Juiced”, introduces Roger and Susan Baldwin (Brian Paradis and Jennifer Ackerly Lawrence). The Baldwins are a cookie cutter couple from the suburbs that seem to be perfect were it not for one minor detail: they are dead. That’s right, the Baldwins are dead to begin with. And even worse, they are trapped as ghosts inside their beloved home with its new owners, Charles and Cordelia Fairmont (Jesus Limon and Amy DeHaven). Cordelia Fairmont and her psychic Otto (Nick Seirvert) have a nefarious ploy to rid Mr. Fairmont of his fortune, but young Timmy Fairmont (Randy McDonald) is wise to the plot against his father. As luck would have it, Timmy is also the only one who can see the ghosts of the Baldwins, and with eachother’s help, the trio may just be able to rid themselves of Cordelia and Otto. But Timmy also calls on the aid of a spooky troublemaker from the netherworld, and things quickly become much more complicated (and hilarious).By now, two things have become unmistakably clear about the GAP. The first is that director and playwright Sean MaCarther has his successful formula down to a particular science. MaCarther is a master of re-invention, recycling and straight comedy. The multi-talented storyteller is a genius when it comes to pulling major ingredients from a famous film of our nostalgic past, and placing his own twist on them. Under a new guise, productions such as “Beetle-Juiced” and the recent “Naomi and Michelle’s Excellent Adventure” become entirely new family friendly creations unique to the GAP.The second hard fact about the GAP is that they, without fail, cast each role with perfect precision, made easy of course by a dynamic group of talented players. “Beatle-Juiced” offers enough diversity in its characters to allow the actors to breath in their roles and to make each character their own. Each of the actors have their own separate moments to shine before the audience, and the overall allure is complimented by a special attention to the detail of costume and stage design, which is particularly on point this time around.An especially delightful aspect of the GAP’s latest product is the “Fractured Fairy Tales Olio”. The team conjures up melodies of the last 60 years of Disney favorites, hosted by the not so traditional fairy Godmother played by Nick Seivert, and including an uncanny portrayal of Marry Poppins played by Amy DeHaven, a Randy McDonald led hip-hop rendition of Little Red Riding Hood, and Sean MaCarthur singing “Under the Sea” in an enormous crab costume. Need I say more? The GAP is back to its old tricks, and it keeps getting better and better.

  • Gaslight’s “Cronan” a hit

    “Buy tickets now and see it later!”That line will make sense to those fortunate enough to have already seen the Gaslight Theatre’s latest production, “Cronan The Barbarian,” kick-started Sept. 4 and running through Nov. 9.For those who haven’t yet, expect what you’ve come to expect of the Gaslight Theatre: A slew of hilarious one-liners mingled into a well-structured script that incorporates a family friendly theme, song and dance, and an acting crew that has mastered the craft of melodramatic and improv comedy.While my timeslot was missing the always popular and spunky Joe Cooper from the lineup, there was enough depth and talent in the acting crew to fill the void, and in “Cronan” that is particularly true of lead Todd Thompson (Cronan), whose high-energy, and mere stage presence demands attention, and Mike Yarema (Pirate Captain, Bragdar the Horrendous, Equinox the Centaur, several soldiers), who somehow has the state of mind and versatility to flawlessly transition between numerous roles that give him nearly no time for a breather.Loosely following the 1982 storyline of director John Millus’ “Conan the Barbarian,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gaslight’s latest gem opens with the introduction of General Ataxia (Armen Dirtadian) heading up a pirate ship full of slaves he and his crew have collected along their journey – slaves who are told they will be land laborers until their death.Among them is Cronan, who unlike his fellow captives, won’t go down so easily. He makes his mission known early and often – he will free the slaves and restore order to his land no matter the cost.

  • Prime Time Review: Shakespeare in the Park returns with ‘King Lear’

    One of the primary allures of the Tucson climate is the seemingly endless amount of outdoor entertainment that can take place nearly year round. Games of golf, family picnics, hiking expeditions, and films underneath the stars have become community favorites in years past, but one local theater group is quietly bringing a much more educational twist to the list.The El Rio Theater Project is gearing up for their 8th annual production of Shakespeare in the park with the classic tale “King Lear”. The series of performances began in 2006 as part of a vision experienced by long time Tucson theater staple Michael Givens. Givens had a dream of making quality theater more accessible to people who do not usually purchase tickets to expensive productions. By performing for a fee in a public space, El Rio Theater has become a community theater that places more emphasis on the importance of exposing community members to classic plays rather than seeking monetary profits. Givens and his team of top-notch players are true to their word and true to their vision, as there is no price for admission (though a small donation is welcome).Following last year’s comedic park performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, “King Lear” promises to be a much more dark and gritty spectacle in the night. The tragedy focuses on a waning leader who decides to forfeit his estate, electing to divide it among his three daughters, Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. But there is a catch. King Lear, blinded by hubris, wishes to be showered with flattery from his daughters before they receive a portion of the kingdom. When two of the daughters deceive the Lear by lying about the extent of their love for him, a series of tragic events unfold that bring about devastating consequences for the entire kingdom.  Providing the perfect opportunity for a night out with the family, a cozy date under the stars, or a class outing, the Shakespeare in the park performances are sure to deliver something special for all groups of entertainment seekers, outdoor enthusiasts, and literature buffs alike. The team of performers remind those attending to bring a blanket and a picnic basket, and prepare to become lost in a timeless allegory written over 400 years ago, yet still captures constant and universal nuances of the human condition that speak to audiences in the 21st Century. The play will take place at Himmel Park at 1000 N. Tucson Blvd. at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19-21, Sept. 25-28, and Oct. 2-5, and yes, the weather should be lovely.

  • Broadway Tucson presents Flashdance, Nov. 4-9

    FLASHDANCENovember 4-9, 2014Centennial HallCelebrating its 30th Anniversary, the pop culture phenomenon of FLASHDANCE is now live on stage. With electrifying dance at its core, FLASHDANCE-THE MUSICAL tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of Alex Owens, a Pittsburgh steel mill welder by day and a bar dancer by night with dreams of one day becoming a professional performer. When romance with her steel mill boss threatens to complicate her ambitions, Alex learns the meaning of love and its power to fuel the pursuit of her dream.***Please note there is no Sunday evening performance***Recommended for ages 12+. Contains language and some adult content.

  • “Ghostblasters” a blast at Gaslight Theatre

    Who you gonna call when you want to see a hilarious spoof of the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”? The Gaslight Theatre, of course. In its latest production, “Ghostblasters,” the Gaslight Theatre manifests another comedic work of art under writer/director Peter Van Slyke, starring Mike Yarema and Jake Chapman as ghost-hunting protagonists tasked with saving the city from a flurry of trouble-making spirits. As is the usual with Gaslight shows, this one starts out high-energy and doesn’t let up for the duration, in the process seamlessly revisiting some of the most memorable scenes from the “Ghostbusters” series, the third and latest film of which is rumored to be going into production next year. But “Ghostblasters” doesn’t share in that speculation. With a running date of June 12 through Aug. 31, this one is already made, and made well.Initially set in New York City’s Metro University Science Lab, we are introduced to scientist/ghostblaster Zack Freeman (Yarema), and parapsychologist/ghostblaster Wally Beaker (Chapman), who are in the process of creating a hi-tech device that will allow them to visualize ghostly spirits. 

  • Great American Playhouse continues streak of excellence

    By now the Great American Playhouse has gained notoriety across north Tucson as a rowdy melodramatic theater that fills its auditorium with laughter and energy.  On weekend evenings, the theater is commonly filled to the back with audience members who join in on the fun by singing along with the familiar ballads, booing at the villains, and cheering for the heroes. The roof threatens to fly off the foundation on these crowded evenings of rowdiness.  You can imagine my surprise, then, when I attended the theater’s Sunday afternoon showing of their newest production “Naomi and Michelle’s Excellent Adventure”, and found the auditorium half full. It seemed as though it would be a different crowd than I had grown accustomed to in prior GAP experiences, as the audience appeared tired from the mid-day heat, from large Sunday lunches, and from the thoughts of beginning a new a work week. I sat in my seat, and prepared myself for what I fully expected to be a toned down and lazy rendition of GAP’s newest play, lacking the perennial punching power that the company has become known for.Boy, was I ever wrong.By the beginning of the second act, the Great American players had won over the crowd completely, and I had entirely forgotten that attendance was far less than that of a weekend evening. You never would have guessed by the volume and energy that filled the room.  In “Naomi and Michelle”, playwright Sean MacArthur blends elements of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” to bring us a wonderfully silly tale about two hip high school girls from the fictional Oro Valley High in the year 1984. Naomi and Michelle are facing academic probation on account of their less than radical grades in American history. Unless they can pull off an incredible final presentation, the girls will be forced to sit out of the championship volleyball game. But as luck would have it, the desert dwelling duo happens upon a time machine that ultimately takes them on a journey throughout American history, opening the floodgates for hilarious occurrences between the clueless teenagers and the most prominent men and women in America’s formation.The GAP is comprised of much more than actors. These are all out performers, feeding off the orchestration of musical director Mike Padilla to deliver a top-notch over-the-top invention.Sean MacArthur seems to lead the way of the talented team, as he masterfully slips into historical role after historical role as John Adams, John Muir, and American General MacArthur (as well as a few secret cameos). Nick Seivert and Jesus Limon are comedic naturals, undoubtedly in their element in a company such as GAP. The mere presence of Limon and Seivert seems to bring the hilarity up a notch whenever they appear on the stage.  Amy Dehaven may be the most diverse part of the GAP comedy machine, as she masters roles ranging from a stereotypical 40-something high school volleyball coach, to the tough and rugged cowboy Frank James, to a refined and principled Susan B. Anthony. Jacinda Rose Swineheart has established herself as an ever-faithful centerpiece of the team. With Swineheart, you always know what you are going to get, a strong presence, talent, and a bounding energy. Swineheart’s partner in crime, Dennis Tamblyn flows in a similar vein as Seivert, unmistakably self aware that just about anything he does is funny. In this production, he conquers as Todd, the metro and evil high school cheerleader who, as malicious as he is, is impossible to hate. Most of the team’s energy is pumped from the bottomless reservoir that is the young Randy McDonald. McDonald has a way of stealing the show with his comedic precision and dancing. GAP’s young aces are Erin Anderson and Jacqueline Williams, who play the title roles. They bring much promise and stability to a group oozing with talent, and are perfect as oblivious 80’s teens who begin to learn valuable life lessons.

  • Tucson Fringe Theater calls for submissions

    The Tucson Fringe Theater Festival is proud to announce its acceptance of performer applications for its 2014 festival. The Tucson Fringe Festival is an unjuried and uncensored performance, art, and theater festival promoting accessibility for presenting established and emerging artists, and unrestrained artistic freedom.  Tucson Fringe is looking for writers, performers, actors, directors, sign twirlers, puppeteers, balladeers, auctioneers, playwrights, bards, jugglers, raconteurs, stage managers, state legislators, other clowns, artists, guitarists, creative alarmists, poets, thespians, musicians, sirens, comedians, really talented sign twirlers, dancers, prancers, knowers of answers, and other prognosticators.The Festival will take place Sept. 12 through Sept. 14 at Club Congress in downtown Tucson.  The priority deadline for performer applications is June 23.  Interested performers may apply to for a single performance during the festival, or a two-night residency.Interested artists can visit www.tucsonfringe.org for more information.Tucson Fringe is also looking for volunteers for the upcoming festival.  Rewards for interested individuals may include free admission to upwards of at least half of one festival performance, a sense of accomplishment, free leftover popped corn, a feeling of moral superiority, a commemorative festival lanyard, and more.Tucson Fringe Theater Festival strives to expand upon an already thriving theatrical community by promoting affordable opportunities for artists to craft original ideas while presenting a wider array of performance practice.  Downtown Tucson provides an ideal backdrop for bringing together arts patrons of all demographics and the creative force that is Fringe.  Fringe doesn’t curate.  Fringe restores the artist’s creative influence.  Fringe is affordable.  Fringe is unique.  Fringe doesn’t preach.  Fringe gives all the money back to the artist.  Fringe is a laboratory for ideas.  Fringe is community.

  • Terry Fator at AVA Amphitheater

    Casino Del Sol presents singer, comedian, ventriloquist and celebrity impressionist Terry Fator at Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater.May 30, 2014Event Location: 5655 W. Valencia Rd., Tucson, AZ 85757 Venue: Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center Time: Starting: 8:00 PM Admission: See website 

  • S.H.I.E.L.D half season finale delivers

    On Tuesday we got the fall finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and we got more questions than answers. Some characters are dead, others “dead” and a few more transformed.I have to admit, my initial viewing left me thinking “that was cool, but…” I like the episode, but felt we lacked the answers we were waiting for. Then I did a little research.Confession time, I grew up a comic book geek. I can recite trivia and continuity from about 1975-1996, but after graduating from college the hobby priced me out. I would keep tabs, mostly by picking up occasional graphic novels or flipping through magazines, but I was no longer a diehard. That is why I missed a few of the big reveals in the finale.We knew Sky (Chloe Bennett) had a secret and we were pretty sure it involved the blue alien from last season, but now it appears we know a lot more. Her father Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) referred to her as “Daisy” and a quick google search reveled that she is a character named Daisy Johnson who is a superhero called Quake, who happens to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics. Didn’t know that? Don’t worry, neither did I and I have about 30 boxes of comics taking up closet space in my guest bedroom and my father’s house. Over the past 10-15 years  S.H.I.E.L.D. has become more important in the Marvel Universe (duh, just look at the Avengers and the latest Captain America movie), and apparently Quake is important.The one thing I did get, and got a few episodes ago, is that MacLachlan is essentially the comic character Mr. Hyde, though I doubt he will ever be called that.We also know, (thanks google) that the mist that emits from the crystals is something called “Terrigen Mist” and that is what gives the Inhumans their powers? Who are the Inhumans? Humans that were genetically altered by the alien race the Kree (blue aliens) thousands of years ago. The Inhumans are slated for a Marvel movie in 2018.

  • The Clam Capital of Pima County

    Jackson Tavern, the latest concept from Metzger Family Restaurants, is scheduled to open this week at 2900 N. Swan Road in Plaza Palomino. It draws its inspiration from the coastal towns of New England, and its menu features creative twists on regional classics from Rhode Island to Maine.But make no mistake about it. At Jackson Tavern, the clam is king.“Clams are the quintessential Rhode Island thing,” said Brian Metzger of Metzger Family Restaurants, which owns and operates Jackson Tavern. “I remember eating clams as a kid growing up in Rhode Island, and they’ve always been my favorite food. I knew that if this menu didn’t represent the clam in a big way, it just wouldn’t be authentic with what we’re trying to do.”The clam makes an appearance on six of the tavern’s menu items, from snacks to supper and seemingly everywhere in between. But it’s the clam cake that holds a special place in Metzger’s heart.“My twin brother and I first started eating clam cakes at age six, when we spent the summer hanging around the Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick,” he recalled. “My grandparents took us there every summer, and clam cakes were always such an important part of that experience.”Jackson Tavern’s ode to this Metzger memory is a plate of big bite-sized clam fritters served with a horseradish tartar sauce, a “true taste of Rhode Island,” he promises.  

  • Great American Playhouse brings in the holidays

    The holiday season is upon us, and for Tucsonans, that means slower traffic, delicious tamales, and wearing thermal socks underneath your sandals. For Oro Valley, however, it also means that the Great American Playhouse is bringing an instant holiday classic to the stage. “We’re No Angels” is an original story written by GAP staple Nick Seivert. Seivert’s writing style is noticeably different from frequent GAP penman Sean MacArthur. While MacArthur enjoys paying homage to cult Hollywood films, Seivert prefers completely homegrown allegories with little to no references to the silver screen. Being an unapologetic film-buff, I tend to prefer MacArthur’s witty movie-reference filled scripts, but there is still something respectable to be said about an entirely new product brought forth from the mind of a comedian such as Seivert. “We’re No Angels” begins with the prime action already having taken place. Much in the way Jacob Marley is dead to begin with in Dickens’ masterpiece, “We’re No Angels” heroine Nellie “Thursday” Baxter (Erin Anderson) has already lost a hefty bet to sly gangster Michael “Moose” Moran (Stewart Gregary). And if Thursday can’t come up with the “10 G’s” she owes Moose, she will be forced to marry the despicable crook. All hope is not lost, however. Do-gooders Henry “Bashful” Jones (Seivert), Dennis “Duke” Johnson (Mike Claridge), and Julius “Junior” Moran (Randy McDonald) are determined to save the day. Proclaiming themselves in the likeness of the three angels of the bible, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the trio promises to pull Thursday out of the fiery furnaces of Moose Moran’s devilish grasp, and help make this the “best Christmas ever!”The greatest holiday gift from the Great American Playhouse (other than the top notch food) is the way their cast seems to gel together so fluidly, constantly bouncing off of one another’s improvisations without as much as a hiccup. Seivert is his normal hilarious self as Bashful, except this time something is different. Having penned the script, it is obvious that the actor is especially invested in his performance. Seivert seems more in tune with the play’s content than any other actor on stage.As always, Randy McDonald stole the show with his endless energy as Junior. At times, I became exhausted just watching the youngster bouncing, dancing, and singing his way into the hearts of the audience. If the GAP is a machine, then McDonald is surely the battery, and the crowd just can’t get enough.Erin Anderson appears to be women’s answer to the rambunctiousness of McDonald. Though Anderson has appeared on the GAP stage in the past, this time around it seemed as though the young actress has truly come into her own as Thursday. She raised eyebrows with her comedic timing, and outright talent. Anderson has evolved as an actress, and has now blossomed into something truly great.

  • Happenings of Week of Dec. 10

    THEATERFriday to Saturday,Dec. 12-13• Enjoy Pima Community College Dance’s contemporary dance concert inspired by movement processes featuring faculty and student works Signature Selections under the direction of Nolan Kubota. Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road; $10; 206-6986. Friday to Sunday,

  • Hilary Swank is lone bright spot in ‘The Homesman’

    Hollywood studios deserve major credit for increasing the public’s awareness of mental illness and the silent suffering often faced by those afflicted. Leading actors from several successful 2014 films have masterfully morphed into character to showcase their delusional tendencies or other psychotic episodes. Michael Keaton’s powerful performance in “Birdman” provided audiences with a riveting illustration of bouts from auditory and visual hallucinations. In “Nightcrawler”, Jake Gyllenhaal’s emotionally troubled and socially awkward freelance cameraman role gave us a look into the off-kilter, dangerous menace to Los Angeles residents. Director David Fincher provided audiences with a brilliant depiction of a psychopath in the twisted thriller “Gone Girl”. And now comes a western movie, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, which chronicles the suffering and plight of women on the American frontier during the 1850s.“The Homesman” offers a sobering account of the difficulties faced by settlers along the sparsely populated U.S. territories. Based on the 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout, the movie depicts how bitter cold weather, infectious diseases and isolation from society created unbearable hardships and, ultimately, death to many on the Plains. But this story takes the dark, depressing conditions even one step further--shocking audiences with the sexual abuse and inhumane treatment leveled by husbands upon their wives. The mental and physical assaults so severe that it prompts three women to completely shut down on their families and own lives.The lone bright spot in this movie is the presence of two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. Standing between a depressing storyline and multiple horrid scenes of harsh treatment towards women lurks the unmistakable generosity of Swank’s character, Mary Bee Cuddy. Determined to find help for those suffering, Swank adds another stellar piece of work to an already remarkable motion picture resume. Unfortunately, Swank’s exceptional performance and the film’s strong start can’t overcome setbacks from a disjointed storyline with too many loose ends at its conclusion. Swank--and to a much lesser degree Jones--heroically carries this movie as far as its weak plot allows…and then some. But in the end, Swank’s effort and the cruel reality check on life’s demands isn’t enough to save this film.This film highlights mental illness and the stigma associated with social exclusion. Anyone different from the norm was discriminated against and suffered for it. In the brutal and heartless conditions of the American frontier, women also fell victim to the harsh treatment from their husbands. “The Homesman” gallantly sheds light on the medical condition by which women suffered as a result of diminished coping abilities. The stressful demands of life became too much for many to overcome. But just as a diagnosis may be easier to find than its cure, “The Homesman” charts a steady course towards hope only to leave viewers stranded in ambivalence. It’s a shame that a film with such a promising start and superb acting squanders both with a depressing, inconclusive end result.Grade: C(Editor’s Note: Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com)

  • December’s Holiday Sing-A-Long Spectacular!

    Sing-A-Long Spectacular (Dec. 11th)As the holiday season creeps upon Tucson residents with warm clothing and Christmas music at every turn, don’t miss out on the wintery fun of The Loft Cinema’s Very Merry Holiday Sing-A-Long Spectacular! Held every year on all three Loft screens, this exciting winter gathering encourages viewers of all ages to get together and celebrate their holiday spirit with songs, candy canes, and prizes.This year the festivities will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday with the ugly sweater parade, encouraging everyone to dig up the boldest and brightest pullovers they can find and participate in this zany procession. Once the parade subsides, brave souls in the audience will take the theater stage and share their craziest holiday stories with what’s sure to be a hilarious treat for both speakers and listeners alike. And before anyone rules out sharing their kooky Christmas tales, be aware that the audience’s favorite story will be awarded with a free mystery gift that’s sure to make you the envy of your friends (if not, hey, you still get a free gift). Once the master storyteller has been properly compensated, everyone will take their seats at 7:30 on the dot and the main event will begin: the Sing-A-Long Spectacular.Compiled from everyone’s favorite movies, TV shows, and music videos, this blast of subtitled holiday spirit celebrates the most iconic moments in (big and small) screen history with a stunning list of legends that includes Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Charlie Brown, The Muppets, and many more. A truly exciting way to spend a winter evening with friends and family, the Sing-A-Long Spectacular is definitely something you won’t want to miss! Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children under 12. Free candy canes and egg nog will also be served at the snack bar all throughout the event. “The Women” (Dec. 14th)

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