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The most fun, festive holiday shows and events for this weekend

People in 19th century garb dance on a stage.
A Noise Within performs “A Christmas Carol.”
(Craig Schwartz)
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Happy SZA album release week! This is a monumental week for SZA stans — including me. I hope you’re just as pumped as I am to make this new album my personality for the remainder of 2022. You can break up your listening sesh of the 23-track album over the weekend with these events recommended by the crew here:

Weekly countdown

A smiling man in a white T-shirt holds out the arms of a smiling young woman wearing a skirt, tank top and purse.
Carmen Gozz as Ana and Marco Salazar as Luis in “Monarch: A Mexican-American Musical.”
(Matt Kamimura)

1. “Monarch”
Spread your wings with “Monarch: A Mexican-American Musical” at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The musical by Mexican composer Alfonso Molina and playwright Mayu Molina Lehmann follows a handyman named Luis, who, after building a life for himself in the U.S. running a successful workshop for 20 years, suddenly becomes the focus of an ICE officer. The brother and sister Molina duo created the musical to share a story close to them, pulling from their life experiences growing up on the border of Mexico and the U.S. The show ran in March at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre and plays at the LATC in downtown L.A. Friday through Sunday. Their Sunday performance will be a special presentation for Dreamers, who can attend the musical for free with the code DACACOMP. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and can be found on the musical’s website.

A crocheted sculpture of a man holding up something on his back.
“Luis Flores: Because of You, in Spite of You,” installation view, 2022.
(Josh Schaedel)
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2. “Lezley Saar: Diorama Drama” and “Luis Flores: Because of You, in Spite of You”
Craft Contemporary on the Miracle Mile has an intriguing set of exhibitions that investigate race, gender and masculinity. Los Angeles artist Lezley Saar’s exhibition “Diorama Drama” transforms the space into large-scale dioramas with mixed-media work including tapestries and collages. Textile pieces and vintage objects “explore the fuzzy boundaries around race and gender,” Times art and design columnist Carolina Miranda says: “I especially dig the textile pieces that render figures as a photographic negative, further confusing issues of race.” Luis Flores’ autobiographical exhibition “Because of You, in Spite of You” explores toxic masculinity through the lens of a young man, creating sculptures out of crocheted objects like monster trucks. Admission to Craft Contemporary ranges from $7 to $9 and the gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Check out the exhibits before they close on Jan. 8.

3. “The Tristan Project”
First performed in 2004, “The Tristan Project” is an opera that tells the story of star-crossed lovers. The first notes include the “Tristan chord,” which rings a yearning tone that reflects the reality of two doomed lovers. Times classical music critic Mark Swed recommends this Los Angeles Philharmonic program, which is returning to Walt Disney Concert Hall. For the first time, Gustavo Dudamel will conduct Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde,” directed by Peter Sellars with video art by Bill Viola. The revolutionary work is presented Friday to Sunday, with one act per day. Tickets range from $64 to $216 and can be found on the L.A. Phil’s website. If it’s too late to snag a seat, the three-day event starts again next Dec. 15.

4. Sensory-friendly performance of “A Christmas Carol”
A Noise Within in Pasadena is making theater more accessible with its sensory-friendly performance of “A Christmas Carol” on Saturday. The relaxed performance provides a safe space for those living with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, neuromuscular disorder, sensory integrative dysfunction, attention deficit disorder or disorders of social interaction and communication. While the story remains the same, production elements such as lights and sound will be altered to be sensory-friendly. And if you need more preparation, the theater has a social story that acts as a step-by-step guide for your visit. There will also be trained staff to assist throughout the show. Tickets to the special Saturday performance at 11 a.m. are $22, and further details can be found on A Noise Within’s website.

A male ballet dancer lunges, with a ballerina on pointe.
Eduard Sargsyan as the Snow King and Victoria Aletta as the Snow Queen in “The Nutcracker.”
(Cheryl Mann)

5. Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre presents “Joys of the Season”
The Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre of Los Angeles is making its return to the stage this month with “Joys of the Season” at the Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts’ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University in Malibu. The show includes excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” “Les Patineurs” and “The Little Match Girl.” The company was founded by Andrei Tremaine, a former dancer with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and continues under the direction of his daughter Natasha Middleton. Their performances Saturday and Sunday mark a momentous return for the company after shows were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets range from $25 to $65 and can be found on PBDT’s website.

Bonus round: ‘My Barbarian’

Two men in overalls and a woman in kerchief and painter's apron stand on a stage.
Malik Gaines, Alexandro Segade and Jade Gordon of My Barbarian.
(Stephanie Berger / Whitney Museum of American Art)

Greek theater meets rock opera meets ghost stories in “Double Future” by the performance group My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade). REDCAT and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles present this performance, which includes “You Were Born Poor and Poor You Will Die,” the final act of their survey exhibition recently performed at the Whitney, and “Silver Minds.” The double feature touches on social issues such as economic disparity and climate change through an experimental mashup of performance genres. My Barbarian is re-performing work from almost two decades ago, showing how the concerns they address are still prevalent today. The shows start at 8:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and tickets are $25 on REDCAT’s website.

Your L.A. weekend, all mapped out

For a more comprehensive roundup of exhibitions, concerts, screenings, festivals and other events, check out Matt Cooper’s new Culture Guide. The mapped list is a go-to for those of you who make plans based on drive time, and it also can be filtered by type of event and by price. Matt updates it regularly, so check it out.

And for a holiday round-up, see Cooper’s ultimate guide to festive seasonal shows — everything from “A Christmas Carol” to “The Nutcracker Suite.” Peruse the extensive list, broken down by date, here.

On my mind

In a stage show, Tigger looks at Piglet, who peeks out between wood planks of a fence.
A scene from “Disney’s Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Stage Adaptation.”
(Rockefeller Productions)

Last weekend I had a theater marathon.

I started with a Saturday matinee of “Disney’s Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Stage Adaptation” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. After featuring the show as a bonus event last week, I was eager to see it myself. The production was a feat, with life-size puppets and an elaborate set that followed Pooh Bear as he searched for honey in the Hundred Acre Wood. Aside from the large puppets attached to performers’ costumes, the technologies fascinated me — including a tree filled with honey that revealed a stuck Pooh Bear, and flying carrots in Rabbit’s garden.

Tigger and Eeyore brought out the biggest laughs and loudest cheers. At one point, Tigger showed off his hops during a musical number, and kids in the audience jumped along at their seats. My favorite, Eeyore, was a master of comedic timing, balancing his somber mood with unexpected optimism. Even when his house was trampled by Piglet, he assured the rest of the crew that he’d find a new home. In a poignant moment, he promised he had a great smile, and he turned to the audience with a big, silent grin, bringing out a laugh from attendees. The show was great for all ages and even brought some adult patrons to tears in the last minutes.

A group of people at a holiday party watch as drinks are funneled into someone's mouth.
“Triple Funnel Drinking,” with, from left, Joe Keyes, Maile Flanagan, Melissa Denton, Mark Fite, Cody Chappel, Michael Halpin and Rob Elk.
(Louisa Gauerke)

On Saturday evening, I went to see “Bob’s Holiday Office Party” at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. The show, running until Dec. 18, marked the 25th production of the holiday play in L.A. Written by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk, the production started off strongly — every other line hit the funny bone, and characters Bob Finhead (Elk) and Sheriff Joe Walker (Keyes) had strong chemistry in their friendship. Tensions built as more characters entered Bob’s insurance office, and audience members familiar with production cheered at every entrance. LaDonna (Judy Heneghan) and LaVoris Johnson (Johanna McKay) entered with top-notch physical comedy, often in sync as they interrogated Bob for his secret fling with the mayor’s wife, but for me, the laughs they generated came at the expense of marginalized communities.

Problematic jokes landed every few minutes. Margie Mincer (Andrea Hutchman) entered showing off a new face regimen that rendered her skin orange, commenting on how “ethnic” she looked. Later on, Walker proudly chimed in that he’d helped get a Latino family deported from the small town. Although it could be seen as a way to poke both ends of the political spectrum, I couldn’t help but think that certain jokes perpetuated discriminatory thinking in a way that was more harmful than comical, especially coming from an all-white cast.

A man on a stepladder kisses a woman standing on a balcony.
Kay Sibal as Juliet and Khamary Rose as Romeo in “Invincible.”
(Sean Daniels / DVR Productions)

Lastly, I attended a Sunday matinee of “Invincible — The Musical” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. I worried that it would be difficult to follow the world that Bradley Bredeweg created for this reimagining of “Romeo and Juliet,” but the production solidly brought to life characters, relationships and a community in conflict. At times, I forgot that the musical was set to music by Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo because the lyrics were swiftly integrated into the narrative. Although the first act was slightly slow at times, the second act’s strong start with an ensemble performance of “Love Is a Battlefield” brought to life the star-crossed lovers. Choreography by Galen Hooks was sharp and inventive, as was the set designed by Arnel Sancianco. A large three-story structure encapsulated the world of the Capulets, and dance made use of every bit of it — at one point, dancers hung from bars on the ceiling as they moved their legs.

Standout moments included “Heartbreaker” performed by Romeo (Khamary Rose) and Juliet (Kay Sibal). They began in an argument, belting into harmonies, thrashing at each other and yearning for an escape. It ended in a kiss that allowed me to let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding onto. After tragedy struck and Mercutio (Aaron Alcaraz) lay dead on the ground, Benvolio (Ari Notartomaso) fell to their knees in agony. Notartomaso’s performance pulled out Benvolio’s deep pain in an impeccable solo, coming to tears and singing so poignantly through it all in a breathtaking moment of vulnerability. The show had its hiccups balancing modern-day language with Baroque-style verse, but this world-premiere production was one to remember.

Insights: A guide to gift shops

A decorated and lighted tree in a home with many sculptural wood accents.
The Gamble House during the holidays.
(Emily Silva / The Gamble House)

Still looking for a present to give your sibling? Or maybe you’re like me and you plan to get everything last minute. If you’re looking to find something unique to L.A. — perhaps featuring art from the city’s biggest museums and galleries — here are the institutions with promising gift shops:

  • The Gamble House: Here you can find stocking stuffers and fun home gifts like mugs and vases. The architectural masterpiece is decked out with seasonal decor for a holiday tour on Sunday, and the bookstore is waiting. Tickets to the Gamble House range from $12.50 to $15, but if you’re just there to shop, the bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday, no admission ticket needed.
  • Hauser & Wirth: This Arts District gallery space is also home to a shop with an array of possible holiday gifts. Aside from merchandising with artwork from current shows, the gallery also has books, apparel (including Rashid Johnson: Anxious Men Collection), scarves, towels, tote bags and more. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Posters, holiday cards, T-shirts, LACMA pins and more can be found at the museum’s gift shop. And if you have loved ones with a passion for interior design, there is plenty of merchandise available that is connected to its Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980 exhibition. The shop is open Thursday through Tuesday with varying hours.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art: The DTLA art museum has plenty of posters, note cards and apparel related to its exhibit “Henry Taylor: B Side.” The shop also has a MACK pop-up, offering award-winning books on visual arts. Aside from the usual, MOCA has an array of jewelry and gifts for kids. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Broad: The Shop at the Broad has apparel, furniture and puzzles featuring work from artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and William Kentridge. There’s an eclectic variety of items, including neon signs and a 20-inch Dunny, so if you’re looking for something special, this might be the place to start. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • Craft Contemporary: The shop in the lobby of Craft Contemporary is where you can find a great knickknack or stocking stuffer, such as earrings, Christmas cards and holiday decorations. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

A shout-out

This week, we have something special coming from my colleagues: “Envelope Live: L.A. Times Short Docs Showcase FYC Shorts.” The screening series presents some of the work from independent filmmakers and the L.A. Times. Short docs being screened at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lumiere Cinema at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills include “After Skid Row,” “ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught),” “Nice to Meet You All,” “Nasir” and “We Are Like Waves.” Take a peek at what’s been brewing this year at the L.A. Times for free. Details on the event and how to RSVP can be found on Eventbrite.

Go-out speed round

Closeup of bright patterns on a wall hanging.
Hmong artist Mandora Young specializes in Paj Ntaub (“flower cloth”) textiles.

Go out for free: The Craft in America Center is opening a new exhibit,Inspiration & Home: Highlights From the Episodes,” which features a rare display of traditional embroidery from the Hmong diaspora. This and more pieces of art from the PBS show “Craft in America,” including ceramics and canvas wall hangings, will be part of the exhibition opening Saturday at the center in Beverly Grove. Craft in America Center is free and open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. And if you have the time, catch up on the show before attending.

Go out and learn: Discover the depths of the Mariana Trench at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. A new installation at the museum, Pressure: James Cameron Into the Abyss,” documents the filmmaker and explorer’s solo dive to the Challenger Deep in 2012. The installation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the expedition, displaying Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger submersible, which he co-designed and co-engineered. The exhibition goes on display Monday and tickets to the museum range from $7 to $15, and are free to L.A. County Residents from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Go out before it closes: One dancer, five photographers and a gallery full of multiple interpretations. Dance and Eye is a group exhibition where Andrew Macpherson, Richard Nielsen, Atiba Jefferson, Ricardo Vidana and Tali Maranges each have photographed contemporary dancer Oguri in unique styles. The exhibit at Arcane Space was originally planned to close Nov. 27, but it’s been extended to two more weekends. Your last chance to check it out is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A photo of a mostly nude man lying on the floor with arms and legs stretched upward.
An image of dancer Oguri for “Dance and Eye.”
(Ricardo Vidana)

Go out with the kids: Get up and get moving with the kids at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for Sunday Funday. Its free monthly outdoor family programming starts this weekend with Story Pirates, Klezmer band Mostly Kosher and dance instruction by Debbie Allen or instructors from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Visit the Wallis’ website for programming details. It all starts at 11 a.m., and be sure to bring a water bottle and wear comfortable shoes.

Go out on a date: Bring your plus one to a new comedic play with Rogue Machine that goes behind the scenes of the cutthroat world of theater in the 1990s. Times theater critic Charles McNulty recommends “Little Theatre” by Justin Tanner at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood, saying, “Lisa James directs this no doubt hilariously unsparing Rogue Machine world premiere.” The show is in previews with its official opening on Thursday, and tickets range from $25 to $45.

Go out and wander: Take a stroll through the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Estates and get lost in the starry lights of Astra Lumina: An Enchanted Night Walk Amongst the Stars.” Times arts and culture writer Deborah Vankin recommends this “multimedia wonderland” that includes projects, lights and music to guide you through an immersive nature walk. The night walk opens Thursday and operates from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $29 and can be found on fever.

Tall narrow trees are illuminated with purple light.
Astra Lumina Night Walk at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Estates.
(Moment Factory)

Go out all day: CAAMCon Black Comics Festival is here! The festival at the California African American Museum on Saturday is packed with conversations from comics creators, including the director and screenwriter of “Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ryan Coogler and “Black Panther: Long Live the King” novelist Aaron Covington. The event is free and is packed with events from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Further details can be found on CAAM’s website.

Go out and support the cause: Supporting a comic takes more than a laugh. Comedy Gives Back and Comedy Central are partnering for “Laughing for Good,” a fundraiser on Thursday that supports working comedians experiencing hardship. The organization is collaborating with comedy clubs across the nation. Here in L.A., such comics as Sarah Silverman, Gina Yashere, Erin Jackson and Caroline Rhea are performing at the Hollywood Improv at 8 p.m. The recommendation comes from Times deputy entertainment editor Nate Jackson. Tickets range from $75 to $250 and can be found on the venue’s website.

Go out and party: If you’re one of those people who has five utterly different genres on your Spotify wrapped this year, this music festival at the L.A. State Historic Park might be for you. The two-day LA3C fest features a genre-spanning lineup with performances from Lil Baby, Snoop Dogg and Maluma. Alongside big-name headliners is locally grown talent. The festival is Saturday and Sunday, and tickets range from $99 to $679. Details can be found on the LA3C website.

More from the crew here

Out with the old and in with the new. As the holiday presents come rolling in, you may be looking to get rid of a few items from your closet. Here are 11 charitable thrift stores in L.A. that need your clothing donations right now.

If you’re looking for a place to eat in between events, check out one of the 101 best restaurants of 2022.

We’ve mentioned a couple of light shows thus far. If you’re looking for more holiday cheer, here are 28 sparkling SoCal holiday light shows.

The holidays don’t all have to look the same. In fact, some celebrations can look … Danish. Here is a Danish escape for the holiday season that’s not too far away.

I’m all ears!

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Follow our feed of recommendations and itineraries on Instagram and Twitter, and if you have recs of your own, send them to steven.vargas@latimes.com.


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