The Pick List: The Week’s Recommended Events

Thursday, April 10

Citizen Kane/The Magnificent Ambersons

Previously part of Northwest Film Forum, the Grand Illusion celebrates its 10th successful year as a stand-alone nonprofit cinema with this Orson Welles double feature. His great-though-compromised 1942 Ambersons is based on the Booth Tarkington novel about a wealthy family oblivious to the turning of the 20th century. This follow-up to 1941’s Citizen Kane—no further praise or introduction needed—was famously recut, to put it politely, by Robert Wise at the studio’s behest without Welles’ permission. Tim Holt, Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorhead, and Anne Baxter are among Welles’ expertly directed ensemble (he narrates, of course). Most of the players are introduced in the famous long-take Christmas ball sequence, shot by Stanley Cortez with Bernard Herrmann’s score in the background; it’s a technical achievement on par with anything in Kane. Not quite a tragedy, since the Ambersons somewhat gaily cause their own decline, the film communicates the sad, somber, ineluctable passage of time. More than a few commentators have noted that its elegiac tone portends Welles’ own imminent obsolescence. But half a masterpiece is better than nothing at all. (Through Mon.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5–$8. 7 p.m.

Friday, April 11

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

All kinds of elements go into choosing dances for a performance, from style and content to the logistics of costume changes, so it’s probably just a coincidence that several dances the Ailey company is bringing to Seattle are about water. For Bill T. Jones’ D-Man in the Waters (1989), the connection comes from its dedication to the late Demian Acquavella, one of many dance artists lost to AIDS. In Ailey’s own choreography for The River, made originally in 1970 for American Ballet Theater, he used the life of a river flowing to the sea as an allegory for the life of man, working closely with Duke Ellington on the project. But it’s in Ailey’s iconic Revelations (1960) that the watery references are most vivid, especially in the baptismal section to “Wade in the Water.” (Through Sun.) The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $26–$72. 8 p.m.

Bethany

Some works of art are forever tied to times of economic hardship, like The Grapes of Wrath and the Great Depression. And while a raft of nonfiction accounts have been written and filmed about the 2008 bubble and following recession (The Big Short, Inside Job, etc.), a play takes longer to percolate. Laura Marks’ dark comedy premiered in New York last year to good reviews, with Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera in the lead role of Crystal, a saleswoman who’s rapidly lost her job, home, and daughter Bethany (the latter to foster care). Now Emily Chisholm assumes the same position as a heroine so bottomed-out that she sneaks into an abandoned (supposedly) and foreclosed home to live as a squatter. She hopes to get a new job selling cars and thereby to win her kid back. Things take a turn, however, when she discovers a fellow recession refugee under the same roof—the possibly schizophrenic Gary (Darragh Kennan). He’s sometimes her ally, sometimes a menace as Crystal tries to claw herself back onto the economic ladder. That process makes her a meaner, more conniving, and possibly even dangerous woman—and those are the qualities required in our cutthroat new economy. John Langs directs. (Through May 4.) ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7660, acttheatre.org. $55 and up. 8 p.m.

Mistaken for Strangers

You don’t have to know, or like, the stately indie rock of The National to enjoy this documentary, but it helps to have a brother. Sibling rivalry isn’t the main subject of Mistaken for Strangers, yet neither is music. It’s a hybrid: tour doc and family romance, as curiously endearing as the schlubby ne’er-do-well Tom Berninger, who begins the movie living in his parents’ Cincinnati home at age 30 while successful brother Matt Berninger, nine years older, prepares to take The National on a 2010 world tour. Metal-head Tom asks to make a movie about the band, which hires him as a roadie; no surprise, he’s not qualified for either job.

And yet the movie works, in part because Tom’s fumbling progress as a filmmaker parallels his gradual maturation. It also helps that Matt and his wife Carin Besser both helped produce and edit the picture; they show forbearance and exasperation, but they’re also leading Tom by professional example (even when he misses a 5 o’clock “bus call” in Europe). Artists have to be on time, too. Tom’s like some guileless Zach Galifianakis character, unable to ask good interview questions or shape the miles of video he’s shot—including his own confessions to the camera. “I don’t have fucking anything,” he despairs to Carin, and he’s talking about his life, not just the footage. Yet editing the unruly film forces a kind of discipline on Tom—something like The National’s “humiliating” early failures, Matt tells his kid brother. Those words of support, and the implicit love here, are what make Mistaken for Strangers so rewarding, even for those who couldn’t care less about the music. (Through Thurs.) Grand Illusion, $5–$8. 9 p.m.

Sunday, April 13

Women in Music

“When I was just starting out as a composer in the early ’90s,” says Cornish faculty member Emily Doolittle, “I felt like sexism was just about to be over . . . I was dead set against what then seemed to me like segregating music into concerts of ‘women composers.’  Twenty years later, not much has changed.” Doolittle cites statistics from recent seasons: “Of the 55 pieces I see listed on the [Seattle Symphony’s] Masterworks series next season, one is by a woman. . . . Perhaps there are more women composers on their Untitled series, which is devoted exclusively to the music of living composers? No: zero out of eight! . . . The program for the Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival lists 24 male composers, and no women at all—and women have been writing excellent chamber music since the baroque era, so there is no shortage of repertoire that they could have chosen from.

“I think women composers are often reluctant to talk about this—I was for years—because we don’t want to seem like we’re complaining, or saying our careers aren’t what they could be. I feel like I have lots of great opportunities and performances, and so do most of my composer friends who are women. . . . Seeing my students face the same issues that I did 20 years ago is really what made me start speaking out about this. So although I still look forward to the day when concerts of music by women composers aren’t necessary, in the meantime, I think we need to do whatever we can to get women composers more exposure.” Thus Sunday’s concert, featuring music for viola—itself unduly neglected—played by Mara Gearman and a gathering of excellent colleagues and written by Rebecca Clarke, Janice Giteck, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Doolittle herself. PONCHO Concert Hall, Cornish College of the Arts, 710 Roy St., cornish.edu. $10–$20. 7 p.m.

Tuesday, April 15

A Room With a View

They’ve made stage musicals out of The Lion King, Hairspray, even Carrie. There doesn’t have to be any singing in the original Hollywood product, just an uplifting-enough story—and preferably romance—that lends itself to a cheerful chorus in the final big production number. Though it’s hard to imagine how prim and proper (and gay) E.M. Forster (1879–1970) would feel about his 1908 novel becoming Broadway fodder. The Merchant-Ivory movie of 1985 is the more direct inspiration for writer Marc Acito and composer Jeffrey Stock, both Broadway veterans. (The 5th is also nakedly targeting the Downton Abbey demo with its marketing.) As you’ll recall, virginal heroine Lucy (Laura Griffith) is traveling through Italy with her chaperone (Patti Cohenour); there she’s courted by the romantic George (Louis Hobson), which threatens a potential match back in England with uptight Cecil (Will Reynolds). Which man will she choose?!? Well, you’ve seen the movie, so you know. This Room debuted in San Diego two years ago, when Variety praised the book and score but found the production lacking. Now the 5th’s David Armstrong, directing a local cast, hopes to improve upon it. (Through May 11.) The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, 5thavenue.org. $29 and up. 7:30 p.m.

 
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