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Friday, May 2, 2008

Night + Day: Calendar Picks for 5/2

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2008 at 12:04 AM

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Waiting For Godzilla, 8pm - $10

Theatre of Yugen - 2840 Mariposa at Alabama

Waiting for Godzilla is less absurdist angst than its Beckett namesake and more operatic B-movie fantasy. In fact, the piece, by famed composer and singer Randall Wong, is billed as a "miniature opera in three parts," which means lots of enchantment and baroque flourishes rather than empty vistas pulsing with sad apathy. There's no monster-movie mayhem here; the performance seeks to render Godzilla in his original incarnation in the 1954 Gojira, a skillful meditation on the horror of post-war society and anxiety over the destruction of Japan's very infrastructure. The performance presents itself as a tell-all from the dinosaur hybrid's perspective. Rather than presenting him as an otherworldly behemoth intent on wreaking vengeance, Waiting for Godzilla casts our scaly protagonist as a tragic hero pining for the love of the indifferent Mothra (his fluttery erstwhile adversary). It may sound like pure kitsch, but the addition of live instruments, an originally composed libretto, puppeteers in the Japanese bunraku tradition (which means you get to see them moving their puppets rather than just imagine the shadowy manipulators), and stunning visual stagecraft in the form of intricate screens and stages enable the piece to transcend its seemingly twee constraints. --Nirmala Nataraj

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Clouds In Fog, 5:30pm

Patricia Sweetow Gallery - 77 Geary

Looming, delicate, billowed clouds howl through the work of Gale Antokal at her new exhibit, "No Vanishing Point." With these large-scale chalk pastels on paper, the artist continues her habit of producing epic, washy images, now taking them a step closer to complete abstraction. Some of Antokal's pieces look like old photographs snapped out a moving car's window – the kind children in backseats with Polaroids used to be so fond of taking. A low angle, a blurry tree, and a lowlit sky recall moments preceding the inevitable, eternal question: "Are we there yet?" But we love those clouds. What do you see in them? How did she capture them? Is their promised rain welcome, or ruinous? Antokal's previous work focused on leaving, with its motifs of people carrying luggage and tilting pigeon swarms. She seems to be paring down, which is generally a good sign among visual artists, though we're sad to hear that her signature inclusion of ash and flour as pigments isn't repeated here. --Hiya Swanhuyser

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The Rape of the Sabine Women, 8pm - $15-$20

SF Museum of Modern Art -151 Third St. at Mission

A few years ago the city went into paralytic shock over Matthew Barney at the SFMOMA. We don't expect the same for Eve Sussman, but her work fits squarely in the genre of gorgeous-to-look-at art films. Describing herself as a "sculptor who shoots videos," she struck it big with 2004's 89 Seconds at Alcazar, which shows Spanish royals milling about before posing for Velázquez' iconic Las Meninas -- and includes a snapshot instant of the very scene the master captured in his work. For the video-opera The Rape of the Sabine Women, she reaches for much more, reinterpreting the myth of the founding of Rome by setting it into the swinging '60s. Shot in Greece and Berlin and full of chic young things and lush, dense scenes, the story (the Roman abduction of the Sabine women to populate the burgeoning city) is told without dialogue, relying on a soundtrack by Jonathan Bepler, who worked with Barney on his Cremaster cycle. Including a chorus of 800 voices, a bouzouki, and a "coughing choir," it was recorded live on site during the filming. Tonight's screening is followed by a live performance of a handful of these musicians and vocalists, and on May 3 Sussman appears in a panel discussion with members of the Rufus Corporation, the art group she directs. --Michael Leaverton

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