Essential Arts: The sweet, salty and tart in theater and street art preserved

The stories we covered this past week lacked a central character with the noir allure of a Robert Durst or Cookie Lyon, but Calendar arts writers and critics were busy on a range of stories -- and you never know, both characters have an operatic story arc. They may fall under our purview yet. I'm Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor for the Los Angeles Times.

Sweet and salty

Drama criticism isn’t for the faint of heart, and whiplash can be an occupational hazard: Within four days, Charles McNulty saw the Geffen Playhouse's “Switzerland,” with some of the foulest language and most heinous racial slurs heard outside of a David Mamet play, then segued to the national tour of “Cinderella” at the Ahmanson Theatre. Joanna Murray-Smith's “Switzerland,” which portrays novelist Patricia Highsmith in the twilight of her creative years, was weak dramatically and actress Laura Linney miscast, McNulty wrote, playing up her  "contrarian hatefulness" rather than "understand her as a tormented, bitterly contradictory yet fiendishly productive writer.” He found some opening night stiffness in the staging of the “Cinderella” touring company but said the story dutifully exerts its power, and its "natural enchantment is greatly enhanced by the music of Richard Rodgers and the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the original book.”

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

No space without grace

In a career of impressive and influential work, the late architect Jon Jerde did not forsee a crucial shift in Los Angeles. As Christopher Hawthorne quotes him sas aying in 1999, “The public sector stopped making public space a long time ago.” Jerde's  design for Universal CityWalk was his response. Today, with  public space a lot more healthy and new examples popping up around the city, Hawthorne argues against carving out space without creative design

Making street art last

Last week the Google Cultural Institute was in town, working on an expanded version of its searchable database of photos called Street Art. Deborah Vankin says Google is interested in preserving "a medium that is often political, sometimes renegade and, perhaps most important, frequently fleeting."

(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

When small is big

Was it a statement or just a very good year for small theater in Los Angeles? When the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle handed out its awards last week, two small theater productions received top honors ”Stupid – Bird” at Theatre @Boston Court (a co-production with Circle X Theatre) and "Firemen" at the Echo Theater. The awards come in the midst of a conflict between Actors Equity and many small theater producers about an Equity proposal to dramatically raise the salaries of actors in small theater productions. The critics group has weighed in against the Equity plan.

A first for LACMA

As part of its drive to add 50 works to its collection as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has acquired a bust by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that dates from the 17th century, the first work by the artist in its collection and a gift from the Ahmanson Foundation. Times art critic Christopher Knight admired its vitality: “This is a dynamic guy walking by in conversation, not some stiff sitting for an office portrait.”

Back to the tart

When you hear the names Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, how can you not think “My Fair Lady”? Director Jessica Kubanzky and actress Paige Lindsay know they have their work cut out for them with the production of "Pygmalion" that opens Sunday at Pasadena Playhouse. George Bernard Shaw’s version of the Pygmalion myth, isn’t tied up quite as neatly as the Broadway musical or movie and Kubzansky has made a career of her creative adaptations of classics and the work of challenging playwrights. 

(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)

In short:

The L.A. Phil had just left on its Asian tour when news broke in L.A. that Eloisa Dudamel and music director Gustavo have filed for divorce .... If you heard some unlikely sounds in the subway Saturday, it was Bach .... Philippe Vergne showed off what he's put together for the spring at MOCA, his first at the head of the museum tour.

What we're reading:

An upcoming exhibition at the Tate Modern in London shows how John Waters was ahead of his time. "What Does Art Smell Like?" (Atlantic Wire)

Peter Sellars talks to the Wall Street Journal: "Peter Sellars on Art, Politics and Controversy"

Opening the door to Pompeii's Villa of Mysteries: "Undoing the Ruins Once Wrought by Vesuvius" (New York Times)