Newsletter: Essential Arts: ‘Between Riverside and Crazy,’ the Pulitzer-winning play you must see in L.A.

Our culture newsletter wraps up the L.A. premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ ‘soulful’ play, a conducting triple threat, Manet’s late work, a Requiem inspired by dogs and ‘Baby Shark.’


Happy Scorpio season! I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff Scorpio for the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s essential arts news:

Sorrowful and soulful

Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Between Riverside and Crazy,” about an irascible cop frustrated by life, is receiving its L.A. premiere at the Fountain Theatre. “The surprises that happen are genuinely startling,” writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty. “But what grounds the play is the credible interior journey Walter undertakes.”

Speaking of Pulitzers: Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” is onstage at A Noise Within in Pasadena. “Opportunities to see Shepard’s masterpiece done this well are few and far between,” writes Philip Brandes.

It’s “1984” at the Actors’ Gang Theatre, where Tim Robbins is directing an adaptation of George Orwell‘s 1949 novel. “One sad truth of Orwell’s novel is that, somewhere in the world, some part of it will always feel uncomfortably real,” writes Daryl H. Miller.

The Times’ Ashley Lee joined an audience of toddlers at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center to see how Pinkfong‘s “Baby Shark,” the 90-second musical earworm, has been transformed into an 80-minute live show. The formula: “educational messages delivered by adorable characters through incredibly catchy tunes.”

A baby watches "Baby Shark Live!" in Long Beach
A baby watches “Baby Shark Live!” in Long Beach.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, novelist Rabih Alameddine on how “Baby Shark” became a rallying cry during protests in Lebanon.

Since we’re on the subject of babies ... two words: baby rave.

Classical notes

Rachel Fuller had always wanted to compose a Requiem Mass. But she didn’t begin in earnest until she began to lose her dogs to old age, writing “Animal Requiem,” which premieres Saturday at Royce Hall. “Unlike a human relationship, I think the relationship we have with our animals is very uncomplicated,” she tells Catherine Womack.

A 60-minute performance by cellist Maya Beiser and ballerina Wendy Whelan paid abstracted tribute to 9/11 and the historical paths we have taken since. “Rather than remembering the day something happened — the day, say, ‘I turned older,’” writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed, “it is the day we all turn older, every day.”

Composer Osvaldo Golijov turned a 1961 poem by Pablo Neruda into a cantata titled “Oceana” that was performed last weekend by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. “Conducted by Grant Gershon and featuring incomparable Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza,” the show, writes Swed, was “intoxicating.”

REDCAT has a modern update on “Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf,” a work by early 20th century cultural genre-bender Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (aka Witkacy). To describe the plot is “uselessly crazy-making,” says Swed. “Still, this is a provocative, original and exceptionally well-executed production.”

The best classical music reporting gig of the year? Getting to hang with Gustavo Dudamel, Zubin Mehta and Esa-Pekka Salonen as they rehearsed Daníel Bjarnason’s “From Space I Saw Earth,” commissioned for the L.A. Phil‘s 100th birthday gala. Naturally, Swed was there. “The one thing we have in common, us three here, is that we were born in a country that wasn’t in the mainstream of classical tradition,” Salonen said. “L.A. is a fantastic place for somebody who is coming from outside the mainstream.”

Zubin Mehta, left, Gustavo Dudamel and Esa-Pekka Salonen
Three of the L.A. Phil’s living music directors, from left: Zubin Mehta, Gustavo Dudamel and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, a dispatch from the gala, which included music, toasts and a display of 300 drones.


In the galleries

The Broad museum just debuted the largest exhibition to date of photography and video by Shirin Neshat. I sat down for a Q&A with the Iranian-born artist to discuss the nostalgia of exile and how she seeks to counter the notion of Muslim women as victims. “The biggest fighters in Iran today are the women,” she says. “The most unafraid people in Iran are women.”

Shirin Neshat stands before an installation of her work at the Broad museum.
Shirin Neshat stands before her installation “Land of Dreams,” which was shot in New Mexico.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Randall Roberts interviews the ailing performance artist known as Genesis P-Orridge. The artist, a pioneering industrial musician (of the British band Throbbing Gristle), has two shows on view in L.A. that explore body modification and gender reassignment. “The malleability of the body is one of the gifts that we receive,” P-Orridge tells Roberts.

Genesis P-Orridge
Iconic transgender artist and experimental musician Genesis P-Orridge, 69, in their New York home.
(Béatrice de Géa / For The Times)

Abstract painter Louise Fishman, who currently has a show at Vielmetter Los Angeles, hadn’t had a show in L.A. in 15 years. “I felt shamefully late to the game,” writes contributor Leah Ollman, “and yet exhilarated to be discovering just what a vital game she is playing.”

Ollman also reviews a show of paintings by Fritz Chestnut at there-there, which “puts patterns to the test, subjecting them to stresses of motion and change,” as well as Elyse Pignolet‘s ceramics installation at Track 16, a show that picks apart sexist tropes with “charm and charge.”

At the Getty Museum, the paintings of Edouard Manet have landed — but do not expect grand masterpieces. Instead, the museum has a “surprising” exhibition of more personal work, produced in the years before the artist’s death. “Unexpected pleasures turn up,” writes Times art critic Christopher Knight, “along with unforeseen insights.”

Friendship among artists

“Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire” is a new documentary that examines the life and work of the late L.A. painter, directed by his widow, Elsa Flores Almaraz, and actor Richard Montoya (of Culture Clash fame). The film is screening at OC Film Fiesta, where it’ll be paired with “¡Gaytino! — Made in America” by Dan Guerrero, a performance film by a lifelong friend of the painter’s.

Artist Carlos Almaraz in his studio in 1989.
(Richard Schulman / Getty Images)

A real circus

Lisa Fung has a two-part report on the latest production by Cirque du Soleil, titled “R.U.N” and written by none other than RobRod, a.k.a. filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. (Love his cooking videos.) Rodriguez was excited to get a call from the Montreal-based troupe: “I’ve been going to Cirque shows over the course of their history.”

Fung attended a rehearsal for the show, which will premiere at the Luxor in Vegas next month. Director Michael Schwandt says the show is like “you’re reading the pages of a graphic novel.”

Ready for the weekend

The eight best things to do in L.A. this week, according to Matt Cooper — including performances by the Mariinsky Ballet.

F. Kathleen Foley has the best in small theaters, including a multimedia show inspired by the stories of Latino immigrants.

I round up all the week’s artsy happenings, including a MOCA show devoted to Pattern and Decoration.

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In other news

Alicia Alonso, star of Cuba’s National Ballet, is dead at 98.
Royal New Zealand Ballet is devoting its 2020 season to work by women choreographers.
Whoopi Goldberg is hitting the stage again in London for “Sister Act: The Musical.”
MOCA announced a $5 million gift to fund a performance series in the spring.
— Tijuana artist Hugo Crosthwaite has won the National Portrait Gallery‘s $25,000 triennial prize.
A new retrospective of the work of Agnes Denes charts her prescient environmental works, including that wheat field she once planted in New York City.
— When a work about whitewashing is whitewashed: Chiraag Bhakta on his installation #WhitePeopleDoingYoga. (He has a show at Human Resources in Chinatown through Sunday.)
— A San Francisco supervisor sent the city’s Arts Commission back to the drawing board on a monument to Maya Angelou because the concept wasn’t “figurative” enough. That scene in “Amadeus” where the king says, “Too many notes”? This is it.
Nationalize museums, writes Jessa Crispin.
Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Ennis House has sold for $18 million to a pair of marijuana moguls.
— As school shootings rise, some architects are pushing back against the idea of designing schools as barricades.
Chris Kraus on Mary McCarthy is what you need to get the weekend rolling.
— I enjoyed this episode of the Director’s Cut in which Jon Favreau interviews director Ridley Scott about “Blade Runner.”
— And if you haven’t watched “Maradona” on HBO, do. What a rise. What a fall.

And last but not least...

A toddler dressed as a Dale Chihuly sculpture.