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Night + Day 

Wednesday, Feb 17 1999
February 17
It's InEVITAble Divas are well-loved in these parts, so when Alan Parker assembled a diva trinity -- Eva Peron, Madonna, and Andrew Lloyd Webber -- in his 1996 film version of the musical Evita, local viewers lined up around the block for opening weekend. Madonna may not have had the vocal chops of Patti Lupone, the original Evita, but her ambition and her constant reinvention of herself might as well have been mapped from Eva's life. They don't come much more divalike than Peron, a bundle of contradictions who fought her way up from an impoverished childhood to become the wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron, and very nearly the vice president of the country, had she not died of uterine cancer at 33. Loved, feared, and ultimately sainted by her countrymen, Peron is perfect fodder for an epic musical, and the touring production headed our way is said to be new and improved, with a reorchestrated score boasting the salsa rhythms of Buenos Aires, and choreographer Larry Fuller's addition of authentic Argentine tango. Broadway actress Natalie Toro is Evita in this show, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 4) at the Orpheum Theater, Market & Eighth Street, S.F. Admission is $27.50-69.50; call 512-7770.

February 18
Full Stopp Some writers concern themselves with the way things are, but Tom Stoppard specializes in an imaginative type of revisionist history. Until this year, Stoppard's best-known creation was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a witty reconstruction of Hamlet told by minor characters who decide to investigate the ruckus emanating from the Danes' castle. The critically acclaimed movie made from that play has been overshadowed by last week's announcement of Academy Award nominations: Shakespeare in Love, the nimble romantic comedy that Stoppard co-authored, garnered 13 nominations (including best screenplay) for its fictionalized account of the Bard's love life. Stoppard fans can bide their time until the Oscars broadcast with ACT's production of Indian Ink, a romantic mystery that, as with Stoppard's farcical Arcadia, is misinterpreted by a modern academic. Drawing perhaps from his own time spent in India and England, Stoppard scrutinizes Britain's colonial legacy in a tale of misunderstandings between a consumptive English poet and the Indian painter with whom she has an affair, and later, between the American scholar who attempts to reconstruct the poet's life and the poet's opinionated sister, played here by Jean Stapleton. The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 21) at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $11-55; call 749-2228. (Stoppard discusses his use of mathematics in playwriting at a public forum featuring excerpts from Arcadia at 3 p.m. Friday at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall. Admission is $5-10; call (510) 643-0705.

February 19
Everybody in the Pool! As the tabloids like to say, there were incidents. In the case of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, nearly all of these involved singer Anton Newcombe, who, according to the 40-odd people who have passed through his band in the last decade, is completely off his nut. It hardly shows in the group's seventh release, Strung Out in Heaven, an album so infectiously jangly, so richly patterned with swirly psychedelia, that the Byrds and early Stones come flooding back in an instant. But what kind of guy would name his band after the twin horrors of druggy rock excess sunk face down in the pool and cult followers gone belly up in the jungle after their charismatic leader forces them to drink poisoned Kool-Aid? That would be Newcombe, who at last count had instigated glass-shattering, epithet-laced brawls with both the audience and his bandmates, pissed on someone's nice leather jacket without blinking, and gotten the band 86'd from so many San Francisco clubs that they finally moved to L.A. Will Newcombe ever reconcile his pop side with his surly rock-star persona? Find out when the Brian Jonestown Massacre plays one of the few places that will still let them in. Elements open the show at 10 p.m. tonight, followed by Starlight Desperation; I Am Spoonbender opens at 10 p.m. Saturday night, followed by Dora Flood, at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $8; call 621-4455.

Digesting the Inner Child Irish playwright Bernard Farrell's comedy I Do Not Like Thee, Dr. Fell made its auspicious debut in 1979, with a cast including Liam Neeson and a tony address to call home: Dublin's acclaimed Abbey Theater, where many of Ireland's finest writers have seen their plays premiere (Juno and the Paycock author Sean O'Casey among them). Dr. Fell, which parodies phony therapy groups, made its entrance in the era of transcendental meditation, couples therapy, and Woody Allen, and has remained timely ever since. Former Abbey actor Patrick Murray directs Sheep Talk Productions, a 6-month-old local company of mostly Irish actors, through one man's gradual debunking of Dr. Suzy Bernstein's encounter group. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at the Next Stage Theater, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1668 Bush (at Gough), S.F. Admission is $10; call 289-6727.

It's a Revelation Neither Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater nor Dimensions Dance Theater is touting their respective shows as Black History Month affairs, but both companies celebrate the spirit nonetheless. AAADT, one of this country's proudest achievements in modern dance, brings with it the company's uplifting signature work, Revelations, as well as Geoffrey Holder's The Prodigal Prince, a new work based on the life of Voudoun priest Hector Hyppolite, and French choreographer Redha's Lettres d'Amour, set to the music of Arvo Part and Einsturzende Neubauten. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 28) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-42; call (510) 642-9988. The Oakland-based Dimensions, whose strong, lyrical lines recall Ailey dancer-turned-director Judith Jamison, joins forces with Latin jazz pianist Omar Sosa and spoken-word artist Kamau Daaood for Crossing to Mend and A Very Simple Wish, set to the poems of Nikki Giovanni. The show runs at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Alice Arts Theater, 1428 Alice, Oakland. Admission is $10-20; call (510) 465-3363.

Bali Nigh Gamelan Sekar Jaya, the local Balinese music and dance troupe that continues to pop up in everything from Balinese shadow-puppetry productions to modern dance showcases to the Ramayana epic with an Indian company, has given Bay Area viewers a taste of the Balinese aesthetic. Anyone who's ever wanted more should plan to see Dancers and Musicians of Bali, a 35-member company that recruits the best performers from all over the island. As the orchestra hammers out a tuneful score on chimes, xylophone, gongs, and drums, the dancers (clad in vivid silks and brocades, and wearing elaborate headdresses) tell ancient stories of love and valor through delicately stylized hand movements, an evocative gestural language, and dramatic facial expressions. The ritual trance dance kecak, or "monkey dance," used to purify villages in times of danger, is a treat. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Marin Center, North San Pedro, San Rafael. Admission is $20-25; call 472-3500.

February 20
The Simple Twist of Fete The masked intrigue of Carnival, circa 1564, inspires "Fete at Fontainebleau," a scrupulous re-creation of the lavish masquerade ball staged at the French court where royals spent their days hunting and their nights soaking up a little culture. NOVAntigua dance ensemble director Mark Franko weaves Renaissance ballet and country dances with a soupçon of contemporary movement, performed by company members and UC dancers. Renaissance violin band the King's Noyse, meanwhile, reconstructs and performs the music of the day on period instruments, aided by soprano Ellen Hargis and 30 instrumentalists and singers from UC's music department. The show begins at 8 p.m. in the International House Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont (at Bancroft), Berkeley. Admission is $2-8; call (510) 642-9460.

February 21
Tenor of the Times Unless you're an opera buff or a Holocaust scholar, you may not have heard of Joseph Schmidt. The diminutive Jewish-Romanian tenor began his brief but widely heralded musical career just after the turn of the century as a cantor in the local synagogue. Schmidt's career took off in earnest after he was engaged to sing the role of Vasco da Gama in a German radio broadcast of L'Africaine, and though his short stature precluded him from taking starring roles, his many recordings and concert performances throughout Europe and at Carnegie Hall endeared him to English- and German-speaking audiences. His popularity couldn't save him from the Nazis, however, and in a story worthy of its own opera, he fled from Austria to Belgium to France, and finally to Switzerland, where he fell ill and died at age 38 after being interned in a work camp. Soprano Ellen Kerrigan, a former guest artist with the San Francisco Opera, performs solo at "A Gala Concert in Memory of Joseph Schmidt," where she and cantors Kenneth Koransky and Martin Feldman will sing operatic solos and liturgical music with a professional choir. Historian John Thomas speaks at the concert, which begins at 3 p.m. at Congregation Sherith Israel, 2266 California (at Webster), S.F. Admission is $10; call 346-1720.

February 22
Mob Rules On Nov. 3, 1979, civil rights activists armed with a city marching permit rallied in Greensboro, N.C., to protest the Ku Klux Klan. The rally was interrupted when pickup trucks full of American Nazis and KKK members arrived and opened fire on the group, killing five. Evidence of the incident may be found in a terse commemorative plaque bolted to a tree trunk in the Morningside-Lincoln Grove neighborhood where it happened, and in Emily Mann's play Greensboro: A Requiem. Like Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror, Requiem is comprised of interviews with people who were there or were directly affected by the incident, including survivors, Klansmen, Nazis, and bystanders. Unconditional Theater plans to stage a full production of the play later this year, the first since it debuted in New Jersey, but John Warren will direct a staged reading of the work at 7:30 p.m. at the Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson (at Battery), S.F. Admission is a $10 donation; call 788-SHOW.

February 23
Zoom Lens Documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff is hugely unpopular with hundreds of people. GE security chased her around Schenectady, N.Y., while she was filming the nuclear power plant documentary Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, and when she won a 1991 Academy Award for the film, her acceptance speech thanking "life partner" Helen Cohen and urging a boycott of GE didn't sit well with many of the show's millions of viewers (after the broadcast, General Electric sent out a memo instructing its employees to ignore her). But as Chasnoff herself has described it, power-plant goons were a piece of cake compared with the religious leaders, parents, and educators who opposed the filming, and later, the screening, of It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School. Chasnoff and co-producer Cohen, lesbian parents of a school-age son themselves, hoped to film teachers across the country presenting lessons on gay issues, but community pressure was so intense that the directors could find only six schools willing to participate. The film itself is a fascinating glimpse of lively teacher-guided debates among kids about topics like having a gay relative, set against the contentious national debate on gay and lesbian civil rights. Chasnoff will screen and discuss both films at 6 p.m. at Media Alliance, 814 Mission (at Fourth Street), Suite 205, S.F. Admission is free; call 546-6334, ext. 310.

About The Author

Heather Wisner


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