Sayonara Bay Area!

imagesBesides working on my book, packing up my apartment, and cleaning my oven in preparation for the off to Colorado Thursday next, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few Bay Area cultural adventures over the past few days.
California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Romeo & Juliet at the Bruns Amphitheater is like a small megaphone: Minimalist in scale with only seven actors performing multiple roles on the wooden slats of an otherwise bare stage, director Shana Cooper’s take on the classic love tragedy enables the language, passion and violence of the drama to blaze forth uncluttered and pure. Bare bones productions of Shakespeare play can be a dicey prospect. Without brilliant acting and blocking, they can easily come across as theatrically lacking; theatergoers are all too inclined to look at a small cast and empty stage and figure that these staging decisions are less to do with aesthetics than strapped finances. But in this case, thanks to an energetic ensemble cast and judicious textual editing, Cooper brings us a Romeo & Juliet that feels intense, personal and youthful.
The Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the De Young Museum is the perfect thing for someone like me who’s in transition to see. The exhibition focuses on the “middle period” of the American artist’s life –- the years he spent living in Berkeley, California from 1953-1966 after which time he moved to Los Angeles. Not only did Diebenkorn range around geographically, reacting to the light and energy of his surroundings in his work, but he also made major aesethetic transitions as he changed locales . His early career was spent working in abstract expressionism. In Berkeley, he gravitated towards creating more representative art. When he got to LA, his work became more abstract once again. As I wondered around the De Young’s exhibition, I marveled at the way in which the painter builds colors on a canvas. Colors are not simply red, pink, blue or green in a Diebenkorn work, but every inch vibrates with dozens of different hues within the same color category. The energy of the palette belies the stillness and intimacy of the figures that populate many of the artist’s paintings as well as the clearly delineated geometrical spaces that commonly divide up the canvases. Motion and stasis are in direct competition with one another and this is what makes the act of beholding a Diebenkorn painting so thrilling. Seeing these works up close made me even more excited about my own big transition later this week.
Finally, I should mention that monologist Josh Kornbluth’s Sea of Reeds is opening later this week produced by the Shotgun Players at Ashby Stage. The management kindly let me check out a preview performance over the weekend as I won’t be here when the play actually opens. In return I agreed not to review the show, in which the monologist attempts to bring together two disparate interests in his life – oboe playing and Judaism. Being an oboe playing Jew myself, I have long had a vested interest in Kornbluth’s project and was in fact involved as a consultant during the process. As such, I wouldn’t be able to review the show anyway, regardless of whether I could see it on or after opening. So I won’t offer up any opinion about it, except to say that the making of oboe reeds and the parting of the Red Sea are quite challenging concepts to unite and spin out into 90 minutes of live performance and I look forward to reading what Bay Area audiences and critics make of it.

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  1. says

    It is astounding how much energy, informed insight, and style you brought to your often unremunerated journalistic work in the Bay Area. I’m sure many people are very sad to see you go, but what a gain for Colorado! It’s so nice to see such dedication and talent go to the heartlands. I hope we outside the state will be able to follow now and then what you do.