arts+culture writing

ART

https://parkerderen.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/entering-the-void-last-chance-to-see-destroy-the-picture/

Entering the Void: Last Chance to See Destroy the Picture

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Salvatore Scarpitta Racer's Pillow, 1963 Canvas and wood with resin 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.92 cm) Friedman Estate © Estate of Salvatore Scarpitta

Not attending former MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel’s Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962 equates transgression. It ends Monday, January 14th. While the title of the exhibit suggests an erudite realm, the show exceeds intellectual and political awareness.  Under Schimmel’s direction, the galleries form an intricate network that awakens the weary individual from quotidian slog. In this sense, Destroy the Picture performs as a meditative labyrinth that transcends the immediacy of violence, labels and circumstance. The works of twenty-six artists in the exhibit embody a global, cross-cultural postwar dialogue.  Each piece represents a type of autobiographical response that expresses the need to create dignified meaning from the unfathomable atrocities of World War II’s assault against humanity; reflecting a collective un/conscious desire to surpass survival.  Schimmel’s deliberate curation elicits the viewer’s contemplative space between visceral and intellectual experience; an introspective void that induces profound consideration.Destroy the Picture functions as the viewer’s psychological and cultural mirror – reverberating  historical traces not just in present society, but the world.

Salvatore Scarpitta Racer's Pillow, 1963 Canvas and wood with resin 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.92 cm) Friedman Estate © Estate of Salvatore Scarpitta
Salvatore Scarpitta Racer’s Pillow, 1963 Canvas and wood with resin 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.92 cm) Friedman Estate ©Estate of Salvatore Scarpitta

The first gallery includes  Saburo Murakami’s 1955 Iriguchi (Entrance),  an aperture that leads to the body of the exhibit. The definitive portal asserts a pausal, reflective space. It, also, contains Jean Fautrier’sDépouille (1945) and Shozo Shimamoto’s Gutai 02  (1950) on opposing walls.  Fautrier  covered layers of paper with heavy, impastoed abstract faces to evoke the corporeal and psychological reality of Nazi occupied France. While,  Shimamoto’s use of  similar medium reflects his financial constraints. Both of these artists’ tiered, textural pieces evoke a metaphysical, correlative unspoken dialogue. (Shimamoto asserted he was unaware of the artistic processes arising out of Europe).

Alberto Burri Sacco e oro (Sackcloth and Gold), 1953 Burlap and gold on canvas 49 5/8 x 43 11/16 in. (126 x 111 cm) © Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello – by SIAE 2012
Alberto Burri Sacco e oro (Sackcloth and Gold), 1953 Burlap and gold on canvas 49 5/8 x 43 11/16 in. (126 x 111 cm) ©Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello – by SIAE 2012

It is easy to escape into the particularities that delineate each work present in Destroy the Picture. From the wire stitches in Lee Bontecou’s three dimensional welded and torched canvases to Alberto Burri’s painted, cut and sutured sackcloths, the act of painting represents an actualized alternative reality originating from destruction. Thus, representing simultaneous recognition and obliteration: an acknowledgement of brutality through the erasure of the traditional use of common objects. The assault on the canvas symbolizes a dismissal of severe or even prosaic existence. Destruction burgeons inquisition; such as examining how Bontecou’s artistic choices defy the stereotype of the female artist. In Burri’s case, what it meant to be a prisoner of war. Indeed, as an American living in Italy from 1956 to 1958, Bontecou did encounter Burri’s art.

Lee Bontecou Untitled, 1962 Canvas, welded steel and wire construction 57 x 54 1/2 x 22 in. (144.78 x 138.43 x 55.88 cm) Manfred and Jennifer Simchowitz Photography by Brian Forrest © Lee Bontecou
Lee Bontecou Untitled, 1962 Canvas, welded steel and wire construction 57 x 54 1/2 x 22 in. (144.78 x 138.43 x 55.88 cm) Manfred and Jennifer Simchowitz Photography by Brian Forrest © Lee Bontecou

Destroy the Picture’s significance cannot be attributed to a singular artistic moment or figure. Rather, the emotional and historical propulsions that exist within –  yet exceed –  particular times and locations. This momentous exhibit beseeches the viewer to find parallels between the seemingly abandoned artists’ pasts and the socio-economic urgency of today. Immediate gratification has replaced sustaining knowledge; as pharmacies and sporting goods stores enter the edifices that once sold books.  So apropos is John Latham’s Then is Now. Constructed in 1959, Latham’s incorporation of burned books onto a canvas plane reminds the viewer of fascist book burnings, as well as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451(which was published in 1953). Duly, the title forewarns.

Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962 ends January 14, 2013. MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA are open 11am to 5pm on Monday and Friday; 11am to 8pm on Thursday; 11am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday; and closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. General admission is $12 for adults; $7 for students with I.D. and seniors (65+); and free for MOCA members, children under 12, and everyone on Thursdays, from 5pm to 8pm, courtesy of Wells Fargo. For 24-hour information on current exhibitions, education programs, and special events, call 213 626 6222 or access MOCA online at moca.org

DANCE

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/revisiting-what-the-body-does-not-remember/

REVISITING WHAT THE BODY DOES NOT REMEMBER

By Natalie Mann

Staff Writer

UVbody3

On March 15 and 16 th, , twenty-five years after Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus’s original dance production of What the Body Does Not Remember, Ultima Vez pounded the stage of UCLA’s Royce Hall. The reaction of the audience may not be the same, and the word shocking may no longer describe Ultima Vez’s performance in the context of contemporary modern dance, but, the piece remains explosive, profound and daring. The physical vigor, tireless energy and agility of the dancers powered from the gut conjures images of John Cage and Merce Cunningham infused with STOMP. This is not your mama’sMartha Graham, where the strength of the body is disguised by grace. The cast of What the Body Does Not Remember assaults the audience with dynamic sprints and reverberating high jumps reserved for athletes – defying the obedience of classically trained dancers who are usually told to land soft.

Theatricality and emotion are central to Vandekeybus’s work. For the original performance, Theirry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch composed music during rehearsals. Thus, the dancers, not musical score, set the tone for the piece. Raw human experiences emerge as choreographed cyclical patterns, while music accompanies this primal repetition. The performance contains no definitive meaning. However, the piece begs the viewer to assign meaning to everyday acts such as walking, sitting, changing clothes or posing for photographs. Is the hidden message about society, capitalism or love? There is no answer to this question.  Through the dancer’s movements, the audience recalls those moments of intensity that prelude significant events. Those are the moments that slip, as the main event dominates memory.

If the purpose of the piece is to summon the audience’s repressed recollections, then it is important for the dancers to be pushed toward their edge. Trusting the dancers to make mistakes, Vandekeybus provides his cast with props, such as chalk blocks that dancers throw to one another. One dancer misses. His block breaks in half. He picks up a fractured piece, and continues as if nothing happened. For a dancer to make a “mistake” on stage is to exemplify humanity.

In one of the most provocative pieces, three women stand with their arms out and legs apart while their partners control their actions. The variations of performance between the three women evoke images concerning arrest, rape, sadomasochism and metaphors for attraction.

UVbody2

Because the performance’s program did not contain information that included dancers’ biographies or titles for each piece, the ninety-minute performance worked as an abstract composition. Although engaging on artistic and philosophical levels, there were times in which the repeated, frenetic movements felt overwhelming and the humorous breaks far between. At one point, it felt like the piece needed to end, and it did. This is the signification of good art. It moves and rattles the viewer. Then, backs off when it has done its job.

* * *

What the Body Does Not Remember

Performed by the dancers of Ultima Vez:  Ricardo Ambrozio, Damien Chapelle, Tanja Marín Friðjónsdóttir, Zebastián Méndez Marín, Aymara Parola, Maria Kolegova, Livia Balazova, Eddie Oroyan, Pavel Masek

Performed on March 15 and 16, 2013

Presented by  CAP (Center for the Art of Performance) at UCLA

Royce Hall

340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095

310-825-2101

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/lula-washington-dance-theatre-meets-complexions-contemporary-ballet/

LULA WASHINGTON DANCE THEATRE MEETS COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET

Lula Washington Dance Theatre Meets Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Natalie Mislang Mann
Staff Writer

Lula Washington Dance Theatre - Ian Foxx

The Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Complexions Contemporary Ballet performed as part of the inaugural year of the Zev Yaroslovsly Signature Series, a two concert series in which acclaimed Angeleno performers are paired with world-class artists. The Ford Theatre’s natural backdrop encases a unique forum to hold a dance performance on a chilly, Hollywood night. Only suiting that Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s Micah Moch and Khilea Douglass’s performance of “At First Sight” (an excerpt from Love Is…) begins with a composition by the Icelandic group Sigur Rós. Choreographer Christopher Huggins choice to use Sigur Rós’s music provides an expressionist soundscape for the audience to begin thinking about what love is, as well as the distinctive nuances that the word embraces,  from the esoterically spiritual to the pulsation that drives humans toward a common good. Perhaps this is why Lula Washington’s dancers performed on the same night with Complexions Contemporary Ballet: Both dance companies create introspective works that embody cultural and emotional  transcendence.

Lula Washington’s multifaceted talent as choreographer bounds from joyous to cerebral. Highlighting this spectrum was the premiere of Turn the Page, inspired by Zev Yaroslovsky’s childhood memory as a page turner for a symphony conductor. In the first part of the piece, “Classical”, Washington’s choreography riffs the formulaic ballet love themes of romantic love, as dancers Naila Ansari, Bernard Brown and Jeremiah Tatum lampoon classical dance through over-exaggerated foot and arm movements. The piece emphasized the timelessness of Beethoven, but questions the stagnation of why audiences return to canonical productions like the Nutcracker year after year. The last two sections of the piece, “Innocence” and “Feelings,” are emotionally compelling.  In “Innocence,” a young woman, Ra’JahNae Patterson, tries to get the attention of dancer Bernard Brown. Ultimately, she walks off the stage pulling her black hoodie over her in remembrance of Trayvon Martin.

In “We Wore the Mask”, dancer Queala Clancy’s power does justice to Washington’s powerful, poignant piece that surges to the heart of what it means to tear off  masks that African Americans use/d to protect the self in the United States. And, in light of the Martin ruling, the power of this performance ignites. Beginning the dance, Clancy sits on a stool facing away from her audience. At times, she holds her arms behind her in bondage. Other times she gets up and mimics moves made famous by minstrels. She turns around wearing a caricatured mask reminiscent of prevalent racist images used to stereotype African Americans. During this part of the performance, most of the audience remained silent. Some of the audience laughed. A few giggled, because they thought it humorous, others out of discomfort. The former guffaws made me wonder why they perceived this stereotypical image as amusing, reinforcing why this piece is more relevant than ever. Clancy’s character struggles to take off a veil. When she finally removes it, the company takes the stage in powerful unity filled with strength, deviating from moves that performers like Al Jolson made famous. Towards the end of the performance, Clancy lifts up both arms open handed and triumphant, as if to say “f-you,” takes her stool and walks off the stage.

Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s performance ends with an excerpt from Ode to the ‘60s from 2007. The performance begins with “Calling of the people,” which includes excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech, followed by a movement performance to Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner.  In “Let it Be,” Tamica Washington-Miller, associate director and company dancer, accompanies the dancers as she calls out Cesar Chavez, NAACP, NOW and the assassination dates of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.  The segment concluded with “Cultural Exchange,” in which the company performed to Super Bad. Lula Washington made a surprise appearance with her college friend, California African American Museum Executive Director and California Arts Council member, Charmaine Jefferson, on stage. The presence of these two women who help shaped, and continue to shape, the Los Angeles cultural scene on stage was evidence that art has the potency to create political change.

Complexions - Photo by Jae Man Joo

After intermission, Complexions Contemporary Ballet performed an excerpt from The Curve under the artistic direction of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson. Rhoden’s choreography, combined with Kelly Brown’s costume design, and musical composition that included sound sampling, the music of Michael Nyman, Hauschka, Hildur Guonadottir, Emil Dedov and Ryuichi Sakamoto, transformed The Ford Theatre into a grounded, yet surreal, environment. The music ranged from minimalistic to discordant noise, either complementing or opposing the muscular graceful lines of the dancers’ ability to evoke emotion. This piece was successful in altering the audience’s  awareness of  present physical location, yet it transported consciousness to a  hypnotic realm.  During Complexion’s duration on stage, I was mesmerized by dancer Terk Water’s ability to embody elegance and masculinity on stage in this piece as well as in “Testament”, performed with Kelly Sneddon to Amazing Grace.

I also appreciated “On Holiday”, a piece about an abusive relationship choreographed to Billy Porter’s rendition of My Man (Mon Homme) and performed by Christina Drooling and Edgar Anido. Without judgment, the piece explores the cycle of tension to honeymoon to calm phase, and gives the viewer the respect to feel his or her own emotions toward the work.

The night ended on an upbeat note when the two companies joined for “I Wonder Why”, followed by “Rise” featuring Complexions dancing to an array of U2 beats. I found this part of the performance entertaining as the dancers mimicked Irish folk dancing paying homage to the band’s roots. Preferring more indie music and never a U2 fan, I was surprised that I left the amphitheater feeling joyous. It says a lot when watching dancers, like Complexions Contemporary Ballet, can influence taste in music.

The curation of pieces could be interpreted as choppy,  rather than seamless, since no singular concrete element strung together  a coherent sequence. This is the difficulty of having two dance companies with unmistakable identities juxtaposed within limited time to showcase meaningful works from their repertoire.  However, pairing divergent artists gives audiences the chance to experience performers they might otherwise overlook and opens up a forum to foster cultural discourse.

* * *

An Evening of Dance – Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Lula Washington Dance Theatre performed on August 10, 2013 at 8 PM

Ford Theatres
2580 Cahuenga Blvd, East, Hollywood, CA 90068
Box Office Info: Tel 323-461-3673

Lula Washington Dance Theatre Performance Schedule

http://www.lulawashington.org/company/performance-schedule/

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Performance Schedule

http://www.complexionsdance.org/#!tour–tickets/c1nnd

MUSICALS

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/felas-final-stand/

FELA’S FINAL STAND

By Natalie Mislang Mann

Staff Writer

Fela! Production Photo 10

The band starts playing. The dancers start grooving. The audience mingles in and out of seats waiting for the main event. Enter Fela like a prizefighter parading through the audience. Finally, everyone settles. And the production explodes.

Do you feel safe? Fela Anikupalo-Kuti, played by Adesola Osakalumi, asks the audience. The audience answers, “Yes!” He repeats the question. Do you feel safe? Where does the audience feel safe? In their seats at the Ahmanson? In downtown Los Angeles? In the United States? In the world? Or in 1978 Lagos, Nigeria at the Shrine, where Fela! is set? By the end of the musical, perhaps some of the “yeses” will change.

Fela! tracks the life of Fela Kuti: The father of Afrobeat, the son of feminist Funmilayo Ransome Kuti(Melanie Marshall) who was murdered by his political oppressors, and the husband of twenty-seven wives. Osakalumi’s Fela is human and engaging. Not a mythicized musical idol whose legacy lives on through enigma, rather a person who yearned to empower the Nigerian people through music. In pidgin, he asks the audience, “How many have you been to jail?” A handful of hands raise. “Who here has been put in handcuffs? Was it at the police station?” The audience laughs at the implied joke. He lights a joint. Someone in the audience wants it passed. “Pass it? Next time don’t be so cheap. Sit in the front row.”

Nice introduction to Expensive Shit, a song that references when the Nigerian police tried to plant marijuana on him. He ate it from the policeman’s hand. For days, he held in his poop, while officials waited for him to crap. Through mixing overt humor with ironic subtleties surrounding the serious politics of Fela’s arrest, the audience does not disappear into despair. The performance’s wit parallels Fela’s celebratory beats, while the message speaks reality.

Fela! Production Photo 7

The female dancers – who represent Fela’s wives- counterbalance the virile, male presence on stage. Their energetic athleticism hypnotizes the audience as their costumes gyrate to the layers of beats. From one musical score to the next, I found myself captivated and pulled into the whirlwind of musical currents. The repertoire of Fela’s work illustrates the guts he had to outreach political and musical limitations, the power he had to bring people together, and the acknowledgement that women influenced his life. The duet between Funmilayo and Fela is powerful. Marshall’s soulful voice breaks the audience from fervent intensity, while her character buttresses Fela’s strength to fight. Sandra Isadore (Michelle Williams) introduces Fela to writers and activists such as Angela Davis and Malcolm X. These were the women who fueled Fela’s political vision to see the connection between colonialism, capitalism and Nigerian politics. At times, I wished that Williams brought more fire to her role. Working with a powerhouse cast should have fueled her intensity. Her soft femininity seemed underwhelming compared to the rest of the company, even her character’s political ideologies.

As choreographer and director, Bill T. Jones combines politics, historicity and musicology with attainable immediacy.  With Fela!, Jones brings this revolutionary passion to a mainstream stage and larger audience who might be unfamiliar with his work. Back in 2007, George W. Bush increased the number of troops sent to Iraq. I saw Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s Blind Date at UCLA’s Royce Hall.  The impressive power and weight of this work stuck with me, because it propelled me to think about my role in the world.  Jones became my philosophical hero bringing to life existential questions. What does it mean to be human? How is humanity defined by war, jingoism and religious fundamentalism? There is no answer. Jones does not water down the potency of his artistic vision and intellectualism.

With the last scene, B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Coffin), the audience should no longer feel safe. When Fela carries his mother’s coffin to the capital, he tells everyone to bring theirs. Dancers carry caskets through the audience and along the stage. They bear the names of ENRON, AIG, Halliburton, BP and Monsanto. Now,Do you feel safe?

But of course, a musical cannot end on that note. So, it concludes with Kere Kay. The words from the title repeat several times as drumbeats emphasize each syllable. The rapture of the final set is a call to revolt. And, the audience gets up to join the dance.

Fela! is the big party you want to invite everyone to and experience the second time. After leaving, it’s as if the preservance of a single person’s resolution can change the world.  Through Fela, it did.

This is the perfect musical for those who hate – or dislike the idea – of musicals.  Fela! is more like an experiential journey, even a one-man show.  The line between nonfiction and fiction blurs as the audience dances, responds and interacts with the performers on stage. There is no “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” No chasing some unrealistic or unfulfilled dream. There is no pot of gold. The colonialists took that away. It is now, here, on stage and splatters reality along the aluminum paneling where the green, yellow and red of the African flag intermingle with deity images.

* * *

Fela!

Book by Jim Lewis and  Bill T. Jones
Lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
Additional Lyrics by  Jim Lewis

Ahmanson Theater
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213 – 972 – 4400

Performances
April 26 – May 5, 2013
Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
No performance on Mondays

OPERA

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/ceilingsky-shakin-up-the-northridge-quake/

CEILING/SKY: SHAKIN’ UP THE NORTHRIDGE QUAKE

by Natalie Mislang Mann

Staff Writer

unnamed-1

As an admirer of composer John Adams and poet/activist June Jordon (1936-2002), I knew that Long Beach Opera’s Los Angeles premiere of I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky at the Ford Amphitheatre on August 23, 2014 would be political. But, how political could an opera/musical performance about the Northridge Earthquake be? As a Northridge resident at the time of the earthquake (and still), I remember my reality being shaken to what seemed like the rudiments of existence:  No gas, no electricity, and no tap water for days. It was being in a quasi-fundamental way.

Ceiling/Sky undulates beyond those prolonged eight catastrophic seconds of the Northridge natural disaster and cracks open an era of human made debacles. Only two years prior to the earthquake, the Los Angeles rebellion took place in response to the Rodney King beating at the hands of Los Angeles policemen. Later, on November 8, 1994, California voters would approve Proposition 187 to ban social services to undocumented immigrants. The Northridge quake was different than these two events by effecting and affecting everyone inhabiting its radius in some way or another, regardless of ethnic background or class. However, Ceiling/Sky underpins the sentiments behind these three historical events, and weaves them into a tapestry that uncovers the racial, political and class landscape of Los Angeles in the early to mid 1990s. It was, and still stands, as a city rumbling from racial and class disparity.

Cedric Berry and Holly Sedillos in I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky at the Ford Amphitheatre

The African American performers comprised of Cedric Berry as Dewain, a reformed gang member; Bernard Holcomb as a lothario who happens to be a Baptist minister; and, Lindsay Patterson as Leila, a graduate student and sex educator/family planning counselor.  Zeffin Quinn Hollis portrayed Mike, a white police officer and community activist struggling with his sexual identity. Zapporah Peedle performed as Tiffany, a sensationalist reporter on a program loosely based on the concept of the television show COPS. Andrew Nguyen, as Rick, is a Vietnamese-American Legal Aid defense attorney. Holly Sedillos sang as Consuelo, the undocumented mother from El Salvador who lost loved ones at the hands of a death squad. In a moving piece, Consuelo asks what the difference is between living in America and El Salvador, “El Salvador and Los Angeles, what is the difference to me?”  She realizes that in both places she “must not open [her] mouth.” The lives of all these characters cross through the entirety of the performance as ordinary events lead up to the earthquake. The most pivotal part of the performance is when Mike arrests Dewain for stealing two bottles of beer. Tiffany catches the detention on camera. Representing Dewain, Rick offers to pay five dollars so that his client won’t have to face the Three-Strikes Law and go to jail for forty-five years. The reason he took the beer becomes clear during Rick’s performance – illuminating how the identities of the  characters are misconstrued when seen as the other.

Zeffin Quinn Hollis, Andrew Nguyen, and Zipporah Peddle in I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw sky

John Adams utilizes his minimalist operatic style as the foundation to build an amalgamated genre that fuses together pop, jazz, gospel, blues and funk. Utilizing chairs as the main stage prop/decoration, the artistic staff under the direction of Andreas Mitisek (conductor/stage director) emphasized the importance of Jordan’s libretto and the interaction amongst the cast. Having seen the orchestra tech rehearsal on August 19, 2014, I was expecting to see something slightly different  – in terms of aesthetics and staging – the day of the performance.  But, I didn’t.  What I did see the evening of the rehearsal was a cast who yearned to bring out the best in each other.  From my perspective, it seemed that what they wanted most was to create a precise experience within the confines of staged abstraction. And, in order to create visual meaning out of near nothing, the interaction between the cast had to be tightly woven. They accomplished that by embracing the strengths and vulnerabilities of each character to create a malleability that comes from experiencing life. The earthquake represented disruption at the center of a crossroads to fuel political, social and romantic awakening. Dewain sings one of the most poignant lines: I am the only way I will be free.

***

I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky was presented by The Los Angeles Arts Commission as part of the Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series at Ford Theatres. The title of the piece is a quote from an interview that ran in the Los Angeles Times from someone who experienced the Northridge Earthquake on January 17, 1994.

Ford Theatres is located at 2580 Cahuenga Boulevard East. Hollywood 90068

The next Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series performance will be Ezralow Dance:

http://fordtheatres.org/en/events/details/id/779

For more information about the Long Beach Opera’s 2014/2015 season of rarely performed operas:

http://www.longbeachopera.org/

THEATRE

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/will-the-real-federico-garcia-lorca-please-stand-up/

WILL THE REAL FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA PLEASE STAND UP?

by Natalie Mann

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Walk down First Street in Boyle Heights and enter the “Lorca Room,” the poet’s fictional purgatory housed in Josefina Lopez’s theater, Casa 0101. Nilo Cruz’s Lorca in a Green Dress begins with the annunciation of the wordsmith’s death in the hands of fascist Spain and follows the newly deceased author through psychological labyrinths of encountering multiple selves. Each asserting that s/he is Federico García Lorca. Jennifer Sage Holmes’ interpretation transcends a potentially confusing text into a surrealist, nonlinear performance that parallels Dalí’s figurative dreamscapes alluded to in the play. Under Holmes’ direction, the multiplicities present within Cruz’s work are handled with deliberation. To the audience, Rajesh Gupie’s embodied voice of Lorca in a White Suit as Dalí declares his artistic quest for a “paranoiac reality,” a “transcription of reveries.” He yearns to create “[i]mages on top of images, layers in the details as if seen through a mirage.”The mirage is the search for a nonexistent singular truth buried behind multiple versions of reality, dreams and memory. There is no separate lens of the mind’s eye, but refractions contorting to time, place, emotion and condition. The first act of the play begins with two versions of Lorca’s assassination; decentering the power of an authoritative voice. Concrete significations elude as multiple Lorcas erupt.

In this circular, yet oblique, interpretation of Lorca as author and text, the cast and crew work together to breath life into this play. And, this viewer as author is reminded of what Jacques Derrida meant in “Ellipses” when he wrote: Death is at dawn, because everything has begun with repetition. Out of each interpretation of Lorca as memory, a new translation arises. Lorca’s identity and voice gives rise to Cruz’s creative analysis. After wafting through the lacuna that exists between production and audience, it is each viewer’s personal, mental discourse that gives revived spirit to the play.  Although death catalyzes Lorca in a Green Dress, the martyr is buried and the existential humanist endures.

Holmes masters the interplay of Lorcas with grace. The actors seamlessly move in and out of un/parallel realities that are at the core of Cruz’s play. Through Holmes’ precise vision, the performance washes over the audience like an undulating wave and repetitions with differences emerge. The minimalist set provides a blank canvas for the audience to un/consciously absorb the flow of intertextual, fragmented verbal and visual images. Within the play, Lorca’s poetic words intertwine with Cruz’s dialogue and gradations of green, beginning with the celestial lights at the start of the play, stream to keep the memory of the poet alive. Costume designer Monica French’s choice to outfit Lorca in a Green Dress, played by Alex Polcyn, in celadon – versus a vibrant green – illustrates this point. The greyish version of this secondary color not only signifies death, but also refers to the archaic name for languid swains, sighs and longings. Without hope, dreams die. Without love, there is nothing.

Gerardo Morales’s guitar improvisations and Alejandra Flores’ flamenco dancing conjure the image of roaming gypsies; yet ground the ethereal, unearthly production. However, there are times during the performance’s choruses that movement interrupts the audibility of the play’s stream of consciousness flow, muffling vocalizations. Thus, severing the audience from this simulated political and psychological urgency engendered by the historical backdrop of war. It is through these important segments that the viewer remembers that labels, such as poor, rich, liberal, socialist, communist, and homosexual, prevent people from seeing one another as human.  After all, no one can escape death.

Sometimes, but not often, the viewer’s unconscious mind allows the multicultural cast to merge into a single entity – most playing plural roles – slipping in and out of dialogue to create the multifarious dimensions of Lorca. However, Adrian Gonzalez, Lorca as Blood, congeals these various aspects of self in a corporeal, heartfelt way. Gonzalez epitomizes Lorca as human. He bleeds. True, everyone is a dreamer, a thinker, an artist. However Gonzalez nails the denial, anger and acceptance that characterize the cycle of mourning an existence displaced.

To be truthful, it is easy to get contemplatively lost in the poetic beauty of the play; including allusions, philosophical discourse, and transcendence through time, space and memory. But in a sense, Holmes’ adaptation of Cruz’s piece serves as a contemporary meditation where a truth is found through self-examination, acceptance, compassion and universal love. Verde is Spanish for Om.

Lorca in a Green Dress by Nilo Cruz is presented by Casa 0101 Theater and The Center for Collaboration with the Arts at Whittier College. The theater is newly located at 2102 E. First Street in Boyle Heights, CA 90033.  The play runs until August 26th: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. For more information visit http://www.casa0101.org/.

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/three-views-cubed/

THREE VIEWS CUBED

by Natalie Mann

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

The play’s title fits: Three Views of the Same Object.  The number three is powerful – representing past, present, future or body, mind, spirit; even birth, life, death. Love and death are themes throughout the play that incite the question: What does it mean to live, age and die with dignity? There is no singular, idealized answer. Under the direction of John Perrin Flynn, Brett Aune and Hollace Starr, Henry Murray’s piece multiplies love, dilemma, and death to the power of three.  Three versions of the play’s married protagonists, Jesse and Poppy, intertwine to explore the philosophical and pragmatic questions that arise in the process of aging.

Sitting in the Rogue Machine Theatre, one feels like a fly on the wall watching the unraveling of a cubist text. Through Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s vision, the stage design feels familiar with its modernist, Eames-esque allure. This could be the home of a friend, aunt or parent who never gave into shiny, new materialism beyond the mid-century mark. The opening scene between Anne Gee Byrd’s Jesse 1 and Allan Miller’s Poppy 1 seems ordinary. She sleeps on the couch. He reads on his chair. Jesse awakens. And, the conversation that bends toward familiarity teems with piquant wit. This is the point. This could be anyone. Anywhere. Replace Poppy’s book with Soduko.

There is nothing uncommon about the topics that Murray tackles. When K Callan’s Jesse 2 addresses her incontinence, Shelly Kurtz’s Poppy 2 responds: I like my women wet.  Through use of dialogue and fresh perspective, Murray challenges how American culture views growing older as a secretive, shameful process. Aging is not a sickness. Not addressing it is. Revealing the unspeakable is a step toward questioning how our culture views mores surrounding one’s individual right to die with dignity when the body begins to fail. At one point Nancy Linehan Charles’ Jesse 3 laments, “What a blessing Alzheimer’s would be.” This illustrates the thrust of the play. In a very Foucauldian sense, her cry questions the construction of normalizations. For whom is Alzheimer’s a burden? The absent daughter alluded to in the play?

In his Los Angeles Times review of Three Views, David C. Nichols expresses a yearning for “[t]he unseen daughter” to be “clarifi[ed].” However, this would detract from the aesthetic of Murray’s work as a “cubist” piece that poses multitudes of questions. The beauty of Three Views is that it pulls the audience in, while keeping the viewer at a distance. Yes, the viewer – young and old – can relate on different levels to the personal, societal and philosophical issues that play engenders. However, the vacancy of certain specifies prevents the viewer from establishing false authority over the discourse of the characters’ lives. There is only so much the audience, as other, can know.

THREE VIEWS OF THE SAME OBJECT runs Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm through October 28t, 2012. Rogue Machine Theater is located at 5041 Pico Blvd. LA, CA 90019. Tickets are $30. Reservations: (855) 585 – 5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

 

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/take-me-to-the-red-and-brown-water/

TAKE ME TO THE ‘RED AND BROWN WATER’

by Natalie Mislang Mann
Staff Writer

In the Red & Brown Water_1

Kinetic energy charged with emotion. That describes Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Los Angeles premiere of In the Red and Brown Water presented by The Fountain Theater. The location of this acclaimed, vibrant, nonprofit performance space in a humble Los Angeles neighborhood foreshadows the economic reality of the play’s kaleidoscopic mix of characters traversing the stage. In this context, McCraney’s play represents a microcosm of shattered dreams and unrealized potential within the larger world.

Treading In the Brown and Red Water, the audience descends into the protagonist’s depths. Set in an impoverished section of the fictional San Pere, Louisiana, Diarra Kilpatrick’s Oya is a passionate runner who abandons a college track scholarship to take care of her dying mother, Mama Mojo, played by Peggy A. Blow. In the process of losing her dreams, she escapes into a fiery relationship with Gilbert Glenn Brown’s Shango and relinquishes the one man, Ogun, who declares his heartfelt love. As Ogun, Dorian Christian Baucum exudes an honest, inner-strength that contrasts with Shango’s impulsive personality.

On a superficial level, the plot reads formulaic: Tragedy hits girl. Girl turns to wrong man. Girl finds herself alone. However, McCraney’s vision is anything but banal. The onstage interactions between Oya and the characters with Yoruba deity names evoke the transcendental belief that spirits interact with humans in the everyday world. Through Oya’s relationships, the audience begins to explore not just socio-economic realities, but the human desire to survive. Simultaneously visceral and intellectual, this “circular” ode to human spirit emerges then concludes in similar yet distinct ways.

In the Red & Brown Water_2

Peeling away In the Red and Brown Water’s stratum is akin to unraveling textual and historical layers of aSorrow Song. Within this context, McCraney’s drama illustrates civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois’ analysis of slave songs as “the music of unhappy people, of the children of disappointment [which] tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wonderings and hidden ways.” Through the allusion to Yoruba deities, McCraney echoes aspects of African American culture that used to remain hidden. His knowledge of Yoruba Diaspora adds to the dialogue of African American art.

While prominent art historians, such as Robert Ferris Thompson, have examined the spiritual and practical aspects of West African culture brought to the Americas through the slave trade, In the Red and Brown Water pushes beyond enumerating bodies of work which focus on elevating African American folk art from obscurity to cultural center. McCraney indirectly asks: Why stop there? He bridges the aesthetic, spiritual and socio-political gap that encompasses not just race, gender, class and sexual identity, but – most importantly – the psychological self, the whole self affected by poverty onset by institutionalized human bondage.

During the ensemble’s performance, parallels between In the Red and Brown Water and choreographerAlvin Ailey’s Revelations arise. Known for drawing on the emotional and spiritual experience of African Americans rooted within a rich musical tradition, Ailey, who McCraney cites as one of his influences, connected the past to the present. Traces of Ailey’s influence emerge as drumbeats pulsate through the heart of the play, interweaving through spiritual scores and contemporary beats. The connection between past and present compounds in an agonizing scene. In the midst of electronic house music, Oya breaks down. Tapping into her primal emotions, she ruptures into African dance, which emphasizes the beauty of African American culture ingrained within the realities of personal struggle.

Shirley Jo Finney’s discerning direction coalesces the multidisciplinary facets of Peter Bayne’s talents as composer/sound designer and Ameenah Kaplan’s choreography to evoke the presence of Yoruba culture within a contemporary play. Although Frederica Nascimento’s minimalist set appears stark, she places attention on every detail: From what resembles a divination bowl sitting under the porch to the assorted water vessels on stage. Even the plastic water bottle turned percussion instrument summons the spirit of San Pere. In the Red and Brown Water conjures ancestral spirit as literal, figurative and mystical dreams appear.

* * *

In the Red and Brown Water
by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Performances: October 20 through December 16 – EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 24TH
Thursdays – Saturdays 8 pm; Sundays 2 pm

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029

Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com

https://intimateexcellent.wordpress.com/?s=natalie+mislang+mann

Black History Month: Revelations of African American Culture in ‘In the Red and Brown Water’

"In the Red and Brown Water" (photo by Ed Krieger)

by Natalie Mislang Mann

Kinetic energy charged with emotion. That describes Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Los Angeles premiere of In the Red and Brown Water presented by The Fountain Theatre. The location of this acclaimed, vibrant, nonprofit performance space in a humble Los Angeles neighborhood foreshadows the economic reality of the play’s kaleidoscopic mix of characters traversing the stage. In this context, McCraney’s play represents a microcosm of shattered dreams and unrealized potential within the larger world.

Treading In the Brown and Red Water, the audience descends into the protagonist’s depths. Set in an impoverished section of the fictional San Pere, Louisiana, Diarra Kilpatrick’s Oya is a passionate runner who abandons a college track scholarship to take care of her dying mother, Mama Mojo, played by Peggy A. Blow. In the process of losing her dreams, she escapes into a fiery relationship with Gilbert Glenn Brown’s Shango and relinquishes the one man, Ogun, who declares his heartfelt love. As Ogun, Dorian Christian Baucum exudes an honest, inner-strength that contrasts with Shango’s impulsive personality.

Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn brown in "In the Red and Brown Water"

On a superficial level, the plot reads formulaic: Tragedy hits girl. Girl turns to wrong man. Girl finds herself alone. However, McCraney’s vision is anything but banal. The onstage interactions between Oya and the characters with Yorubadeity names evoke the transcendental belief that spirits interact with humans in the everyday world. Through Oya’s relationships, the audience begins to explore not just socio-economic realities, but the human desire to survive. Simultaneously visceral and intellectual, this “circular” ode to human spirit emerges then concludes in similar yet distinct ways.

Peeling away In the Red and Brown Water’s stratum is akin to unraveling textual and historical layers of a Sorrow Song. Within this context, McCraney’s drama illustrates civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois’ analysis of slave songs as “the music of unhappy people, of the children of disappointment [which] tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wonderings and hidden ways.” Through the allusion to Yoruba deities, McCraney echoes aspects of African American culture that used to remain hidden. His knowledge of Yoruba Diaspora adds to the dialogue of African American art.

Mama Moja

While prominent art historians, such as Robert Ferris Thompson, have examined the spiritual and practical aspects of West African culture brought to the Americas through the slave trade, In the Red and Brown Water pushes beyond enumerating bodies of work which focus on elevating African American folk art from obscurity to cultural center. McCraney indirectly asks: Why stop there? He bridges the aesthetic, spiritual and socio-political gap that encompasses not just race, gender, class and sexual identity, but – most importantly – the psychological self, the whole self affected by poverty onset by institutionalized human bondage.

During the ensemble’s performance, parallels between In the Red and Brown Water and choreographer Alvin Ailey’s Revelations arise. Known for drawing on the emotional and spiritual experience of African Americans rooted within a rich musical tradition, Ailey, who McCraney cites as one of his influences, connected the past to the present. Traces of Ailey’s influence emerge as drumbeats pulsate through the heart of the play, interweaving through spiritual scores and contemporary beats. The connection between past and present compounds in an agonizing scene. In the midst of electronic house music, Oya breaks down. Tapping into her primal emotions, she ruptures into African dance, which emphasizes the beauty of African American culture ingrained within the realities of personal struggle.

Shirley Jo Finney’s discerning direction coalesces the multidisciplinary facets of Peter Bayne’s talents as composer/sound designer and Ameenah Kaplan’s choreography to evoke the presence of Yoruba culture within a contemporary play. Although Frederica Nascimento’s minimalist set appears stark, she places attention on every detail: From what resembles a divination bowl sitting under the porch to the assorted water vessels on stage. Even the plastic water bottle turned percussion instrument summons the spirit of San Pere. In the Red and Brown Water conjures ancestral spirit as literal, figurative and mystical dreams appear.

Natalie Mislang Mann has a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University and writes for Playwriting in the City.

In the Red and Brown Water  Must End Feb 24th  (323) 663-1525   More

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/?s=observing+tribes

OBSERVING TRIBES

By Natalie Mislang Mann

Staff Writer

Tribes Photo 3

The setting appears lonely, abandoned. A wooden farmer’s table stands toward the front of the stage as books slide from their upright positions on a back wall shelf. To the right is a chalkboard, where a piano sits in front. The curious viewer wonders if the space’s occupants fear that chalk dust might ruin the instrument. Would they notice the polluted notes? Enter discord as a clamorous British family crosses the stage. Welcome to the Barrow Street Theatre’s production of tribes at the Mark Taper Forum, where a sensory, impressionistic journey alternates between what is heard and unheard.

Billy, played by Russell Harvard, is deaf and never learned to sign. Billy, the self-described familial mascot, lip-reads and binds the other familial members to their caricatured bohemian identities. So wrapped up in their personas and aspirations, the members of Billy’s family do not see beyond themselves. Billy’s mother, Beth (Lee Roy Roger’s) is a kimono-clad writer working on her first novel that contains no concrete plot. His father, Christopher (Jeff Still) portrays an obnoxious, dogmatic academic-turned-writer who philosophizes on language. Christopher’s musings are esoteric.  At one point, he pronounces that art puts feelings into words. Even Billy’s brother, Daniel (Will Brill), and sister, Ruth (Gayle Rankin), have academic and artistic ambitions. Daniel works on his thesis, while Ruth yearns to be a singer. Unlike the rest of his family, Billy has no artistic or academic role. He sits at the kitchen table, as banter between the other family members oscillates between coarse, injurious and witty.  They speak too fast for him to watch their lips form the words that come out of their mouths. When an agitated Christopher complains that all of his kids have returned home, Billy asks what happened. Daniel supplies an abbreviated response.  Dad is being annoying, again.

When Billy meets Sylvia (Susan Pourfar), his life begins to change. Through Sylvia, who is losing her hearing, Billy learns sign language and gains agency by moving out from his family’s home. He refuses to speak to any of them until they learn how to sign. Beth finds this defiance selfish and asks Billy to put herself in her position. Billy tells Beth to put herself in his. For the first time, Ruth speaks to the family’s self-centeredness toward Billy: We are all egotists!

Sometimes Raine’s characters seem over the top. In one scene, a self-pitying Ruth holds a BB gun to her head and shoots several times. Nothing fires. However, Raine’s interplay of high and lowbrow action underpins how the remaining members of the family need to be the center of attention, while depreciating Billy’s value.

Tribes Photo 5

Under the direction of David Cromer, the integration of Scott Pask’s scenic design, Keith Parham’s lighting design, Daniel Kluger’s sound design and Jeff Sugg’s projection design transport the play’s narrative through emphasizing the senses. While Tribes’ dialogue is rapid, image and sounds bolster the fleeting conversations. There is no coincidence that Mark Farina’s Dream Machine plays in the background, when Billy meets Sylvia at an art opening for the first time. He begins to think of possibility. Abiding to the land of “what happened” no longer remains an option. Nonspeaking moments, also, stick in the audience’s mind. When Billy and Sylvia sign, words project above the stage or onto walls to flip the experience of the hearing audience; a reminder that closed captioning was initially used to assist the deaf.

Yes, there were times in which the rapid, spoken dialogue came across like an annunciated muffle. At first, this annoyance was like an axe cutting through the performance. The man next to me expressed a similar sentiment. I concurred when he stated that Tribes was written for a more intimate space. Upon reflection, I realized that this would detract from the meaning behind the piece. It is easy to go through life yearning to examine every gesture and nuance from a personal, contrived lens. While these moments could keep the audience at bay, Tribes’ beauty evolves through the total experience. Watching the moments when Beth surrenders to her husband’s request to wear the kimono to Daniel sitting atop the kitchen table as he stares at the moon through the kitchen skylight offers the audience a soft resignation. Raine commands the audience to surrender without imposing language and to look with heart. Seeing Tribes is not just watching a play. It is a process of discovery. Perhaps, sometimes, it is better to just observe.

* * *

Tribes
Written by Nina Raine

Performances
Continues through April 14 at the Mark Taper Forum located at 135 N. Grand Ave. in downtown Los Angeles at the Music Center.
Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.;  Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.;
No performance on Mondays.
No public performances March 19–22 (student matinees only)
No 6:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 14.

Tickets
www.CenterTheatreGroup.org
213.628.2772
In person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center
Group Sales: 213.972.7231

TDD 213.680.4017 for Deaf community information and charge.

 

https://playwritingworld.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/base-banality-celebrity-saturdays-at-io-west/

COMEDY

BASE BANALITY: CELEBRITY SATURDAYS AT IO WEST

By Parker Deren

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Latex. Strippers. Threesomes.  Superheroes. Porn star. Improv. Wrester. Anal sex. Maybe the reference to anal sex would have been funny, even witty, if the pedestrian locution was replaced by the word for the sodomitic byproduct named after a Republican politician. Instead of being a scintillating fest, my experience at iO West’s Celebrity Saturdays on August the 18th felt more like an IT nerd’s wet dream; in which the only people laughing seemed to be the casts’ friends.

My evening began with PodCRASH with That Chris Gore and ended with The Armando Show, a ninety-minute improv program that featured WWE (proclaimed) Superstar John Morrison.  Reading the descriptions of the shows on iO’s website misleads the potential viewer into thinking that the lineup might be funny, perhaps even subversive. The shows were none of the above. Instead, they reified hegemonic geekdom in which the only women on stage the whole night were part of the first show:  A porn actress, Nikki Hunter, from a video that alludes to a James Cameron flick and Gore’s nervous ex-girlfriend who recounts how she screwed three navy members in Vegas. Pun intended.

Before the evening was half way over, I found myself laughing hard — once.  Partially out of misery. Also, I remembered what a friend said: There is a reason why there is a bar in the theater.  Server, drink please….At least the bar stocked Hendrick’s. It was more than welcome after sitting through the first hour of male-centric misogynistic humor.

PodCRASH with That Chris Gore

The concept of the sounds interesting: Dude is too lazy to have his own podcast; so, he “crashes” other people’s programs. The title of the show is a misnomer, because he appears as an invited guest on hisstage. The night I caught the show, he collaborated with Caleb Bacon’s The Gentlemen’s Club; which included guests Nikki Hunter and Jordan Harbinger, co-founder The Art of Charm, a company dedicated to teaching clueless guys how to date.

The most disturbing, uncomfortable part of the night was not when Gore generalized that women are looking for men who alphabetize their CD collections or when he called his aforementioned ex-girlfriend, who he met at a porn party, onto stage. It was when he entered into a monologue about how the best way to date a stripper is to not be a customer. How does he know? Because he dated one. Gore’s story is uninteresting and cliché: He met her at Jumbo’s Clown Room, she was not bright and the best part of dating her was when her clothes came off. Leaving the intelligent person to wonder: What does this say about a forty-something-year-old man who dates vapid strippers? Gore doesn’t disclose that the owner of Jumbo’s is a woman and that some of her dancers are rumored to hold law degrees.

The Armando Show

It wouldn’t have been that torturous, if it weren’t for Chris Gore’s previous show. At the same time, I felt like I missed the punch lines and allusions of the all guy cast.  Server, another drink please…

The humor at iO West is obvious. The show begins with the cast asking the audience for suggestions to begin their performance: Rubik’s Cube. A common request. The show was filled with characters and ideas that felt recycled: An emo kid named “Darkness” to an Improv group performing in front of prisoners. Hence, a reference to anal sex becomes trite. But, still, elicits chuckles.

There were times that the cast could have stretched their craft. A cast member’s reference of a Herman Miller Aeron Chair in darkest black to the only African-American actor, Thomas Fowler, could have led to a multitude of allusions from hipsters to NPR sponsorships to a profound, politically incorrect commentary on race.  True comedy makes the esoteric humorous and universal. This is where the troupe fell short – they never took it there – the unsafe place that audiences rarely traverse on their own.

After seeing this show, I was reminded of something Henry Miller once wrote: And anything that falls short of this frightening spectacle, anything less shuddering, less terrifying, less mad, less intoxicated, less contaminating, is not art. The rest is counterfeit. The rest is human. The rest belongs to life and lifelessness.

Comedy at its most provocative creates art from bowels and stretches the parameters of the audience’s mind. By the time I left, I felt exhausted from the deluge of nondivergent frat boy humor. iO West mimics American culture and society. But, not in the tongue-in-cheek kind of way that makes life’s absurdities pee in your pants funny.

iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, California. The themes and the lineup of Celebrity Saturdays changes weekly. Check the schedule for updates.

For alternatives eats to mediocre Kitchen 24 and froufrou Delphine, check out The Blue Boar Public House. They offer decent burgers at an average price.

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