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Essential Arts & Culture: A new Iceman Cometh to Broadway, singing the blues at the Wallis, and paintings of history

Essential Arts & Culture: A new Iceman Cometh to Broadway, singing the blues at the Wallis, and paintings of history
Denzel Washington in 'The Iceman Cometh' on Broadway. (Julieta Cervantes)

Hello, weekend! I'm Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, back in the saddle after a couple of weeks off, with the week's blazing arts and culture news — not to mention some bizarre pope-inspired fashion:

REVELATORY PERFORMANCE

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A new revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" on Broadway features none other than Denzel Washington in the well-trod role of Hickey, a recovering alcoholic who becomes a crusader against the vice he sees at the saloon that was once his hangout. "Washington's prodigious celebrity sometimes encumbers him onstage," writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty. "That is not the case here. Hickey can be a showboating role, but Washington resists the temptation to exploit the theatrical occasion." Los Angeles Times

The company of "The Iceman Cometh," with Denzel Washington, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
The company of "The Iceman Cometh," with Denzel Washington, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. (Julieta Cervantes)

IN 'PEPPERLAND'

Times music critic Mark Swed caught the "dazzling" California premiere of the Mark Morris Dance Group's Beatles-inspired "Pepperland" at Santa Barbara's Granada Theatre. Imagine German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen as "a female dancer in DayGlo turquoise and purple" or "an otherworldly theremin solo with a cocktail lounge piano accompaniment." The program was commissioned by the city of Liverpool for the 50th anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Says Swed: "No pop record of the past, and none of such significance since, had its musical range, from music hall sentimentality to Bach to Ravi Shankar to the avant-garde of Stockhausen, John Cage and Luciano Berio." Los Angeles Times

The Mark Morris Dance Group performs the California premiere of "Pepperland" at the Granada Theatre Thursday night.
The Mark Morris Dance Group performs the California premiere of "Pepperland" at the Granada Theatre Thursday night. (David Bazemore)

FEELING THE BLUES

Times music writer Randy Lewis notes that the comedic jukebox musical trend can suck the life out of an evening of good tunes. A new production of Sheldon Epps' 1980 show, "Blues in the Night," currently at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts doesn't rely on such gimmickry. The show, which is "more than a revue but well short of a conventional book musical," he writes, is centered on three female characters who take turns interpreting and collaborating on blues songs — including half a dozen songs written and original recorded by blues "Empress" Bessie Smith. Los Angeles Times

Yvette Cason sings in Sheldon Epps' "Blues in the Night" at the Wallis.
Yvette Cason sings in Sheldon Epps' "Blues in the Night" at the Wallis. (Lawrence K. Ho)

ROCKING SCHOOL

Andrew Lloyd Weber's "School of Rock" has landed at the Hollywood Pantages and Times reviewer Margaret Gray was in the audience, ready to rock out. Until she began to ponder the meaning of a hit Broadway musical about music that is supposed to be about rebellion. "Can 'School of Rock' be seen as a celebration of the death of rock 'n' roll? The total co-opting of rock music as a profit-generating tool of the capitalist hegemony?" she asks. "Those questions inevitably lead to another, more chilling still: What if rock 'n' roll has always been a profit-generating tool of the capitalist hegemony?" Big questions amid the fun times. Los Angeles Times

Cast from the hit musical "School of Rock," now at the Hollywood Pantages.
Cast from the hit musical "School of Rock," now at the Hollywood Pantages. (Matthew Murphy)

IN THE THEATERS

At the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, Times reviewer Philip Brandes finds that playwright Jane Anderson's 1989 drama "The Baby Dance" has been revised for the contemporary era. Now focused on an affluent mixed race couple who enter a contract with a poor Louisiana woman to adopt her baby, the revise, Brandes notes, opens up "new opportunities to personalize and deepen the characters." Los Angeles Times

A woman looking to adopt (Tracey A. Leigh, left) tries to bond with the birth parents (Krystle Rose Simmons and Gabriel Lawrence) in “The Baby Dance: Remixed."
A woman looking to adopt (Tracey A. Leigh, left) tries to bond with the birth parents (Krystle Rose Simmons and Gabriel Lawrence) in “The Baby Dance: Remixed." (Jeanne Tanner)

In the meantime, reviewer F. Kathleen Foley is not at all impressed with the "scattershot" musical spoof "Solo Must Die: A Musical Parody," at Hudson Backstage Theatre. Los Angeles Times

Find more theater in our weekly column, "The 99-Seat Beat," which features the latest must-see small theater shows. Among them: Steve Apostolina's "Forever Bound" at Atwater Village Theatre (about a criminal underworld of rare book dealing — who knew?) and "Wood Boy Dog Fish" at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, Rogue Artists Ensemble's imaginatively staged re-imagining of the Pinocchio story. Los Angeles Times

PAINTING HISTORY

The Fowler Museum at UCLA is currently lined with 19 large canvases painted by Botswana-born painter Meleko Mokgosi — with a 20th canvas rolled up and leaned against a pillar. Times art critic Christopher Knight notes that the artist considers himself to be a "a history painter, but what he considers to be historic is what sets his work apart." This includes scenes showing schoolyards and bedrooms with an "economy of means" that "can be provocative." Los Angeles Times

An installation view of Meleko Mogkosi's "Bread, Butter and Power," 2018.
An installation view of Meleko Mogkosi's "Bread, Butter and Power," 2018. (UCLA Fowler Museum)

Looking for more shows to see? I cover all that's worth checking out in this week's Datebook, including paintings by Rick Bartow at the Autry Museum and Deborah Roberts' empowered collages at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles Projects. Los Angeles Times

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LIKE A PRAYER

The art world chatter this week has been about the red carpet fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute gala (which was kinda like watching a papal bull in a china shop). But what of the vestments and Catholicism-inspired fashions that make up the Met's "Heavenly Bodies" exhibition at the heart of all the fuss? "Sacrilegious? Heavens, no," writes critic Jason Farago. "But it takes communion at Fellini's church rather than Francis's — a surreal congregation whose parishioners express their devotion through enchanted excess." New York Times

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An installation view of "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & the Catholic Imagination" at the Metropolitan Museum.
An installation view of "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & the Catholic Imagination" at the Metropolitan Museum. (Jemal Countess / Getty Images)

And about that Met gala red carpet: Times deputy fashion editor Adam Tschorn broke down what the religion-themed looks revealed about the celebrities wearing them: "Since celebrity culture and the Catholic Church are two of the most rigidly hierarchical social structures around, what the Met Gala congregants chose to wear … was an intriguing exercise in sartorial symbolism" — from Rihanna's bejeweled pope regalia to Lena Waithe's "Carolina Herrrera cape designed to look like the rainbow-striped gay pride flag." Los Angeles Times

Plus: Pictures of all the Catholic school-gone-crazy fashion. Los Angeles Times

DOCTOR AND PATIENT

Ten years ago, Michael Gittes had a mental health crisis that landed him in an institution. He credits his recovery to a sympathetic doctor, Lewis Engel, who was willing to communicate with him on his terms. Now the pair are showing their art together in an exhibition at the Gabriella Foundation. Times contributor Sharon Mizota talks to Gittes about art, mental health and his boundary-blurring collaboration between doctor and patient. Los Angeles Times

Artist Michael Gittes photographed during installation of "Since We Met" at the Gabriela Foundation.
Artist Michael Gittes photographed during installation of "Since We Met" at the Gabriela Foundation. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

A GUIDE TO L.A. DANCE

Want to see some moves? Times contributor Laura Bleiberg has the essential guide to the best L.A. dance companies of the moment, with shouts out to L.A. Dance Project, Barak Ballet, Ate9, BodyTraffic, Versa-Style Dance Company and many more. These are the dancers to watch. Los Angeles Times

Gbari Gilliam, one of the founders of Versa-Style Dance Company.
Gbari Gilliam, one of the founders of Versa-Style Dance Company. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

BOOM AND BUST

Composer Ellen Reid ("Hopscotch") and writer Sarah LaBrie have teamed up for a new 40-minute work, "dreams of the new world," which explores important historic cycles in American history. The piece, commissioned by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, premieres at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday. The musical ensemble Wild Up will supply the tunes. Times contributor Catherine Womack reports. Los Angeles Times

Librettist Sarah LaBrie, left, and composer Ellen Reid wrote "dreams of the new world."
Librettist Sarah LaBrie, left, and composer Ellen Reid wrote "dreams of the new world." (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN

A new documentary, "Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat," looks at the early years of an artist that has been relentlessly mythologized. Times movie critic Robert Abele says that Sara Driver's movie is "refreshing" for the "frisky, contemplative, ground-level angle it takes on its hype-magnet of a subject." Los Angeles Times

A scene from "Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat."
A scene from "Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat." (Magnolia Pictures)

IN OTHER NEWS…

— Friends, Southern Californians, countrymen: Lend me your credit cards! You have another opportunity to see "Hamilton" — at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Los Angeles Times

— How a record shop and taxi driving shaped the career of composer Philip Glass. The Atlantic

Elon Musk is going to alleviate the housing crisis with … bricks. Bloomberg

— This year's Venice Architecture Biennale will feature a pavilion devoted to cruising. Quartzy

— How a Chicago architecture firm turned an old Kmart into a cool new high school. Citylab

— Critic Alexandra Lange rethinks the lone genius architect profile. Good reading for anyone who likes to read or make good writing. Curbed

— U.S. lawmakers are scheduled to introduce legislation that would subject art dealers to financial regulation. The Art Newspaper

— A powerful exhibition of quilts in Massachusetts honors the Latin American migrants who have died crossing the Arizona desert. Los Angeles Times

Margaret Atwood and Glenn Ligon will be honored at the Hammer Museum's annual gala. Dear Hammer: Am available for seat-filling. Los Angeles Times

Novelist Margaret Atwood and artist Glenn Ligon.
Novelist Margaret Atwood and artist Glenn Ligon. (Liam Sharp, left, and Paul Sepuya)

— Arts writer Eva Recinos considers the legacy of L.A. photographer Laura Aguilar, who recently passed away. (My obit can be found here.) Good

— A pair of interesting essays about words and their meanings: on art at that is "necessary" and art that is "problematic." New York Times Magazine, New York Review of Books

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— I've been poking through the collected writings in "Momus: A Return to Art History, Vol. 1, 2014-17," the first published volume by the arts website, and have been enjoying Catherine Wagley's essay on the risk and value of nepotism in art. Momus

— Why the dancing in the viral Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) video "This is America" is so uncomfortable to watch. The Atlantic And why Glover likely won't read the essay. Los Angeles Times

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

Vassily Kandinsky, animated. (Best if watched on full screen.) Vimeo

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