June 27, 2012

ANTICIPATION AND MEMORY: The flirtatious maid (Katrina Michaels, on left), the middle-aged lawyer Fredrik (Evan Thompson), and Fredrik’s very young wife Anne (Miyuki Miyagi) anticipate, with wildly disparate fears and desires, a romantic “Weekend in the Country” in the first act finale to Princeton Summer Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical comedy, “A Little Night Music,” playing through July 1 at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus.

Stephen Sondheim acknowledged some conflict in his collaboration with the director Harold Prince on the original 1973 production of A Little Night Music: “Hal had described the show as being ‘whipped cream with knives,’ but he was more interested in the whipped cream and I was more interested in the knives.”

A Little Night Music, music and lyrics by Mr. Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, is more than replete with both “whipped cream” and “knives,” and Princeton Summer Theater’s current production, playing for just one more weekend at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus, delivers both the light and the dark, farce and tragedy, with unerring balance, taste, and sophistication.

Set in Sweden at the start of the twentieth century and based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, Night Music ran for 601 performances in its original Broadway production, starring Glynis Johns, Len Cariou, and Hermione Gingold, became a movie in 1978 with Elizabeth Taylor, Mr. Cariou, and Ms. Gingold, then was successfully revived for 425 performances on Broadway three years ago with Catherine Zeta-Jones, later replaced by Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury, later replaced by Elaine Stritch. It is, along with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Sweeney Todd (1979) and Into the Woods (1986), one of Mr. Sondheim’s most popular musicals, but in its depth, complexity of music, plot, theme, and subtle shifts of tone, it does pose formidable challenges for performers and audiences.

This youthful and ambitious Princeton Summer Theater Company — with seasoned professional director Adam Immerwahr at the helm, a dynamic and experienced cast of undergraduates, and recent college graduates from Princeton University and elsewhere, a first-rate, professionally-led design and technical crew, and a talented pit orchestra of nine — is up to the challenges and delivers a lucid, richly nuanced, thoroughly entertaining performance.

A Little Night Music is all about love, with themes and variations; perspectives from youth, middle age and old age; love eagerly anticipated, love fulfilled, and love remembered.

Three is the magic number here, as the show progresses in threes. The music is mostly in triple time — a sort of waltz musical — and the plot follows a series of no fewer than six shifting triangles of desire and romance. The music is complex. More typical of operetta than Broadway musical A Little Night Music, created in the style of late nineteenth century Viennese operettas, has been revived twice by the New York City Opera, in addition to its multiple productions in various venues throughout the world.

A Little Night Music is a tantalizing mix of bedroom farce and psychological tragedy, of bright romantic comedy and bitter reflection on the realities of male-female relationships, of true love and wistful regret, of human folly, and the wisdom of age and experience.

When Desiree (the luminous Sarah Anne Sillers), after a show-stopping rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” asks her middle-aged lover Fredrik (Evan Thompson), “Was that a farce?” and he replies “My fault I fear,” they seem to be referring to their problematic relationship. But she could just as well be asking about the whole show and its views of the human comedy of love and life.

The plot focuses on the story of Desiree, a touring actress, and her meeting after many years with her old flame Fredrik, who, intent on “renewing his unrenewable youth,” has recently married the lovely 18-year-old Anne (Miyuki Miyagi), who (somewhat implausibly) remains a virgin eleven months after their wedding.

The attraction between Fredrik and Desiree is rekindled. In their cleverly ironic duet “You Must Meet My Wife,” the two ex-lovers move quickly from uneasy propriety into a renewed romantic entanglement. But Desiree’s married current lover, the blustery, belligerent Count Carl-Magnus (Andrew Massey), is furious and seeks revenge on Fredrik.

Mr. Massey is not a singer, but renders the comical Carl-Magnus with convincing poise and swagger, as he talks and sings his way through his sexist “In Praise of Women” in act one, then clashes directly with Mr. Thompson’s Fredrik in act two for a cleverly choreographed, deftly timed, humorous confrontation in “It Would Have Been Wonderful.”

The two deceived wives, Carl-Magnus’s determinedly outspoken Charlotte (Maeve Brady), and Fredrik’s wife Anne, renew an old acquaintance and plot together to confound Desiree and end their husbands’ adulterous affairs. Their memorable duet “Every Day a Little Death,” offers an unsurprisingly cynical assessment of their husbands, their marriages and the state of love — “Men are stupid, men are vain,/Love’s disgusting, love’s insane,/A humiliating business!”

The plotting and the triangular liaisons multiply further as Fredrik’s impulsive nineteen-year-old son Henrik (Mark Watter), a scholarly seminary student and cello player, after a sexual dalliance with Petra (Katrina Michaels) the maid, finds himself desperately in love with his stepmother. Petra moves on to more satisfying fulfillment for her erotic passions in the form of the butler Frid (Patrick Morton). Ms. Michaels’ Petra expresses her colorful, forthright character and lusty outlook on life in a rousing solo, “The Miller’s Son.”

From beginning to end, Desiree’s daughter Fredrika (Emma Watt) and Desiree’s mother Madame Armfeldt (Carolyn Vasko), one too young and the other too old to be involved directly in the erotic dances of desire playing out on the stage before them, observe and comment on the proceedings. Ms. Vasko makes a sixty-year stretch in age to portray the elderly matron in her wheelchair, a sharp-tongued, commanding figure of strength and wisdom in the role made famous first by Ms. Gingold, then Ms. Lansbury and Ms. Stritch. Ms. Watt’s Fredrika is also memorable and consistently convincing as the inquisitive young granddaughter. Their relationship is intriguing and moving to witness.

In Ms. Vasko’s solo number, “Liaisons,” she may miss a few notes of the melody, but she forcefully delivers the meaning of the lyrics and the essence of character, as Madame Armfeldt nostalgically reminisces about her colorful past and laments over the declining standards in the art of love: “Where’s discretion of the heart, where’s passion in the art, where’s craft?”

Also providing perspective throughout the show is a quintet of waltzing singers, lovers — Mr. Lindquist, Mrs. Nordstrom, Mrs. Anderssen, Mr. Erlanson, Mrs. Segstrom (Sam Eggers, Abigail Sparrow, Emily Verla, Brian Hart, Jessica Anne Cox respectively) — who, as Mr. Immerwahr writes in his program note, “haunt the space, each with their own variations on the themes of the musical.” Like a late romantic Viennese version of an ancient Greek chorus, this polished ensemble observes, enhances the rapid transitions between scenes, and helps to establish the background and tone of the show.

The sturdy, functional set design by Jeffrey Van Velsor, with its Scandinavian elegance and simplicity, and complex, nuanced lighting by Alex Mannix serves this show admirably. Necessary furniture — bed, tables, chairs, desk — is wheeled on and off efficiently as the scene shifts from one residence to another and eventually to the Armfeldt country estate gardens, terrace, dining room, hallway, and bedroom. Three steps upstage lead to a wall of windows and French doors, behind which is the orchestra pit, lit in varying colors and degrees of clarity to suit the mood of the scene — all in all a striking visual effect. The close quarters and intimacy of the Hamilton Murray Theater lend themselves admirably to the delicacy and human scale of the drawing-room comedy enacted here.

Ben Schaffer brings an experienced, professional hand to the challenges of sound design and technical direction. Music director Kevin Laskey, another local professional and recent Princeton university graduate, leads the excellent nine-piece pit orchestra with poise and precision through the tangled and demanding Sondheim score.

Pulling this major production together, Mr. Immerwahr has cast the show with unerring intelligence and directed with distinction. The pace moves rapidly from start to finish. Every moment seems carefully, precisely rehearsed; with scenes shifting smoothly; diction, projection, and balance between actors and orchestra, between comic and serious, making all the witty shades of meaning and complex dialogue clear and accessible.

Costume designers Julia Bumke and Ariel Sibert have assembled a rich array of formal wear befitting the individual characters and helping to create the appropriate world of the Swedish upper class in 1900.

Madame Armfeldt promises her granddaughter at the start of the play that “the summer night smiles. Three times … at the follies of human beings, of course. The first smile smiles at the young, who know nothing. The second at the fools who know too little, like Desiree. And the third at the old who know too much — like me.” A Little Night Music, in this dazzling Princeton Summer Theater production, transcends the time and place in which it is set, transcends its farcical plot, transcends the difficulties of Mr. Sondheim’s sometimes cerebral music, and it transcends the discord of these characters’ lives. It delivers a striking commentary on the human condition, the frailty of love and life. Mr. Immerwahr and his richly talented company offer an exciting opening to PST’s diverse summer season. Don’t miss it.


Art Way Gallery, Schalks Crossing Road at Wyndhurst Drive in Plainsboro, shows “Inverted Minds,” featuring Thibaud Thiercelin’s paintings and Leo Vayn’s photographs through July 22. An opening reception is July 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Visit www.ArtWayGallery.org for more information.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, opening July 6. An opening reception is July 7, 4-7 p.m. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center has “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, through July 28. “Monday Gestures and Poses,” in which members of the ACP’s Monday night Life Drawing Workshop, is also on view. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher through July 1.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger through June 30. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, in the Marie L. Matthews Galleries. In the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, work from the Ennis Beley Photography Project, a summer student program, is on display. Both shows are through July 27.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, shows “Trenton Makes,” the local segment of the Trenton Artists Workshop Association’s Trenton/New York Visual Art Exhibition, which will also feature a show at the Prince Street Gallery in Soho. Works by Mel Leipzig, Jon Naar, Aubrey Kauffman, Leon Rainbow, Linda Osborne, and others are included. The show runs through September 1. Call (609) 989-3632.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross through July 1. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street, Cranbury, will exhibit “Flora, Fauna and Mystical” July 8-27. Paintings by Linda Gilbert are in the show. A reception is July 8, 1-3 p.m. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays July 8, 15 and 22.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows sculpture by Nancy Cohen and ceramics by Bill Macholdt through September 9. Visit www.hunterdonartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10. “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth” is on view through October 21. “I Look, I Listen: Works on Paper by Marlene Miller” is exhibited July 14-October 14.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” through July 8. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day. On July 11, Art After Hours includes an exhibition tour of “Aspects of Architecture” and a performance by the band Cotton at 7 and 8 p.m.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, is showing “Reveries,” contemplative portraits in the tradition of the Renaissance masters by Ken Hamilton, through July 9.

Morven Museum & Garden, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton, presents “The Garden at Night: Photographs by Linda Rutenberg” through September 16. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1. Marie Sturken’s prints, “Kimono Mania: Handmade Paperworks,” will be on display from July 1-September 4.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing work by New Jersey artist Mayumi Sarai through July 1, and “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents works in mixed media by Liz Adams through June 28.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, shows the works of Ma Xinle through June 29. The artist specializes in paintings of animals and hopes to raise awareness of environmental protection through his work. Hours are 12-6 p.m. or by appointment.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” from July 14-September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixes media, historical period and place of origin. “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, opens July 14 and runs through November 25. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works by artists Kyle Walsh through the end of June, followed by Johanna Furst through the end of July. “The Future is Female 2.0” runs the month of September.

Straube Center, Route 31 and Franklin Avenue, Pennington, presents “The Inception of an Era” through August 31. Works in all media are by artists who have graduated from colleges and universities within the past five years. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Thomas Sweet Cafe, Montgomery Shopping Center, Skillman, is showing “Old Masters 2,” the second annual exhibit by artists from Hannah Fink’s class at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, through June 30. Works range from still life to landscape, in a variety of media.

TAKE IT OFF — TAKE IT ALL OFF: Mike Martingano (Channing Tatum), aka Magic Mike, struts his stuff in a male revue in the Xquisite club in Tampa, Florida. Realizing that he isn’t getting any younger Mike dreams of getting out of the exotic dance business and setting himself up as a furniture designer.

Channing Tatum held a number of odd jobs before he became a matinee idol, including a brief stint as a male stripper. Rather than deny that embarrassing episode in his life on his way to becoming a superstar, he has opted to make a semi-autobiographical movie recounting his foray into the adult entertainment industry.

The result is Magic Mike, a raw and revealing drama directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) who has also collaborated with Channing in the movie Haywire. The two have also just finished shooting A Bitter Pill, a crime caper film set for an early 2013 release.

In Magic Mike, Channing stars as Mike Martingano, an exotic dancer who goes by the stage name Magic Mike when titillating the ladies at a seedy Tampa dive called Xquisite. The place is managed by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a silky smooth operator who has promised his most popular performer 10 percent equity in his business if Mike follows Dallas when he relocates the club to Miami.

Unfortunately, Mike isn’t getting any younger, and his big plans for himself definitely don’t include stripping into his 40s like Dallas and the other members of the aging revue: Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer), and Richie (Joe Manganiello). Instead, he dreams of saving up enough money to set himself up as a custom furniture designer and settling down with Brooke (Cody Horn), the sister of the 19-year-old (Alex Pettyfer) he’s just recruited for Dallas.

Unfolding over the course of a long hot Florida summer, Magic Mike is such an unpredictable and raw-edged adventure that you soon forget that you’re even watching actors performing on sets. In that regard, the picture is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s similarly realistic Jackie Brown (1997), a masterpiece which also featured a flawed protagonist ensnared in a sticky predicament at an unpretentious oceanfront setting.

Will Mike summon up the requisite resolve to extricate himself from the stripping game? Or will a financial setback cause him to rationalize moving to Miami, leaving his hopes and girlfriend behind for the sake of easy money?

A compelling character study not to be missed, if only to witness the gutsy performance delivered by Channing Tatum.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, drug use, nudity, and sexuality. Running time: 110 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.


June 20, 2012

Tuning in the latest star 

From the dashboard of my car

The CD-equipped dashboard providing 800 miles of words and music during a recent drive to and from Montreal belongs to a 2000 Honda CRV named Moby, after Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The two lines at the top are from the title track of That’s Why God Made the Radio, the first Beach Boys album in 16 years, which just debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Chart. In the spirit of the same lyric, “Feel the music in the air/Find a song to take us there,” this stereo-driven solo flight began at 10:40 a.m. last Wednesday, taking me up U.S. Route 206 to I-287 to I-87 and Quebec 15 to Montreal, where I bought the new CD at the big HMV store on Rue St. Catherine. Two days later, with Brian Wilson’s music leading the way, I followed the same course in reverse.

Brian Wilson turns 70 today while the group he founded marks its 50th anniversary with a tour that played Central Park June 15 and will touch down tonight, June 20, at the Bell Center in, of all places, Montreal.

Over and Over

I saved my first listen to That’s Why God Made the Radio for the moment we crossed the border into the springtime splendor of upper New York state. Between the border and Saratoga Springs, I played the album five times in succession (the title track seven times). The way Moby’s CD player works, unless you reject the disc when it ends, it automatically begins again at the beginning. This hitherto unthinkable behavior on my part was made possible only because Moby and I were on our own, and the album had become, in effect, one long song. No way would my wife and son have indulged me in this madness, however much they might have enjoyed the music the first time around.

The Program

Although I hadn’t mapped out a definite program either going or coming, everything fell into place as we headed north, from Debussy’s Preludes to P.J. Harvey’s magnificent Let England Shake (reviewed here Jan. 11, 2012) to Chapter One of James Joyce’s Ulysses (brilliantly read by Donal Donnelly) to the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society and back to Chapters Two and Three of Ulysses. As we entered (and left) Montreal, jazz pianist Dodo Marmarosa was on the stereo performing his own peculiar form of magic. On the way home, after those first 150 miles of Beach Boys, Debussy took us from Saratoga Springs to the Modena pit stop on the New York Thruway. In need of something with a bit more caffeine in it as we approached the New Jersey border, I found Camden native Patti Smith’s Trampin, with passionate, driving songs like “In My Blakean Year” providing all the sonic fuel Moby needed for the next to last lap. Finally, taking us from the dread Somerville Circle to the front door on Bloomsday eve was Chapter Four of Ulysses, in which we meet Leopold Bloom, his cat, and his Molly at No. 7 Eccles Street, Dublin, June 16, 1904.

Debussy in the Passenger Seat

While Dodo Marmarosa may be little known outside the jazz world, he was a classically trained virtuoso with a fertile musical imagination, and I have no doubt that if Debussy could hear him play his own compositions (“Tone Paintings,” “Escape,” “Raindrops,” and “Bopmatism,” to name a few), the great man would want to shake Dodo’s hand. Had the composer of “Clair de Lune” been sitting in the passenger seat while Polly Jean and Patti and the Kinks were rocking out, he might have had to recalibrate his receptors. But the Beach Boys? My guess is that as soon as the first track of That’s Why God Made the Radio began playing — the achingly lovely wordless “Think About the Days” — Debussy would have been as receptive to those incredible harmonies as I was. As for the lyrics, I doubt that the man who set Verlaine and Mallarmé to music would be troubled by blatantly simplistic English rhyme schemes like motion/devotion/emotion, air/there/prayer, or forgivable outrages like the rhyming of “when I and antenna” (when-eye/anten-eye) in the title track.

From “Surfin Safari” to “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” Beach Boys lyrics have been predictably and often justly scorned or patronized or laughed at (“cringeworthy” is the word that turned up in one of the more positive reviews of the new album), which is one of the obstacles disdainful or doubtful listeners have to overcome before submerging themselves in the wondrously sustaining element of the music. The first Beach Boy record I ever bought was Smiley Smile, the 1967 version containing the leavings of the infamous recording studio debacle at the heart of the Brian Wilson-as-mad-genius legend (with quirky, sometimes clever-to-a-fault lyrics by VanDyke Parks). Also on that LP was “Good Vibrations,” the three-and a-half-minute masterpiece that dominated car radios all over the land through the heart of the sixties. Though Pet Sounds (1966) is still generally considered to be Brian Wilson’s finest hour, Sunflower (1970) is the record I feel closest to, the pinnacle being the 1:58 minutes of “This Whole World” (the transition at 1:40 is still no less thrilling to hear all these years later, even with the om-da-did-its and lines like “When girls get mad at boys and go/Many times they’re just putting on a show”).

A Father’s Day Aside 

Sunflower also provided the most effective music to rock our child to sleep to until the arrival of the, for him, aptly titled, The Beach Boys Love You (1977), upon which his bedtime was so dependent that I had to rush out to the Walmart to buy an emergency duplicate copy when we were visiting my father in Key West.

Since this column is being written on Father’s Day, I should mention the man without whom there would be no Beach Boys, Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Dennis, and Carl, who was born in Hutchinson, Kansas (as was I, strange to say), before moving to California at age five. By most accounts, he was the stage parent from hell, a tyrant who bullied Capitol Records on behalf of the group and is said to have hammered Brian in the head with a 2×4, causing a loss of hearing in the right ear. As recently as a 2004 interview with The Independent, however, Brian says of Murry, “He was the one who got us going. He didn’t make us better artists or musicians, but he gave us ambition. I’m pleased he pushed us, because it was such a relief to know there was someone as strong as my dad to keep things going. He used to spank us, and it hurt too, but I loved him because he was a great musician.”

America, America

Reviewers in the U.K. were especially hard on That’s Why God Made the Radio. Here’s a sampling of British brickbats: “It’s good to have them back — but only just”; “all the warmth and personality of a motorway hotel’s car park”; “a cloudless orgy of nostalgia”; “pitifully thin stuff, with far too many nostalgic hankerings.”

So, I ask myself, if there’s the faintest glimmer of truth in those snide put-downs, how could I have done what I did? Even with favorite albums like the Beatles’ Revolver and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, two listens in a row was the limit. Five straight times I listened to a car park? I suppose I could blame my Honda alter ego, Moby, for whenever I looked in the direction of another CD, the speedometer would give a jump, as if to say, “Keep it going!”

Speed can be an influential accompanist. At 70 m.p.h., when the music’s moving, the weather’s perfect, you’re alone and feeling free, and the landscape’s head-staggeringly gorgeous, moderation is not on the menu. Days later, driving around Princeton, though the title track sounded as addictive as ever on Harrison Street, after that, I’m thinking, “How could I?”

Scenery and sentiment definitely had something to do with it. Imagine being back in your own country again after an hour of dull driving through the flat featureless landscape between Montreal and the border. Within a minute of crossing into New York state, rich, many-layered, almost unearthly stereo harmonies are sending chills up your spine amid all that Adirondack majesty, green, massive, brilliant, enfolding you and your car in its glory. Here’s where some deep-seated, unreal, inexplicable Beach Boy sentiment kicks in. If songs like “California Girls” and “Surfer Girl” can set your midwestern American boyhood heart pumping, what can you expect when you’re hearing nothing less than an anthemic creation against odds produced by a long-embattled, semi-dysfunctional group of 70-year-old teenagers 50 years down the line? Remember this is the group that doomed James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s most repellent cabinet member, the smug, sneering secretary of the Interior whose mission was to destroy it. When he mindlessly dissed the Beach Boys for “attracting the wrong element,” Watt was dead. Toast. Finito, though it took Reagan too long to dump him. The termination of Watt was not only one of the president’s finest hours, but Nancy’s. Like, “How dare you? My kids love the Beach Boys!”

Thus when we plunge at 70 m.p.h. into the lush heart of America, all this love of country is swelling in me until I’m about to explode while God’s stereo is filling my ears and God’s country is filling my eyes. Can scenery sing? Yes!

Up ahead traffic is slowing because just before you get to the New York Welcome Center on I-87, the U.S. Border Patrol has set up a surprise check point to ferret out “the wrong element.” Each driver is being asked the same question. Are you an American citizen? The Beach Boys are still singing as we approach. I start to turn down the music, but Moby won’t let me, the song that’s on is “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” sorry, can’t be done. The uniformed officer looks in, sees the CD propped on the passenger seat, hears those harmonies, starts to ask, ”Are you — ?” and before I can say a word, waves us through.


Since the inauguration of The Princeton Festival five years ago, the Concordia Chamber Players has been an integral part of the musical activities. Currently based locally across the river at Trinity Church, in Solebury, Pa., the Players do not have far to travel for the festival, and many Princeton chamber music aficionados may be wondering why they do not hear more of this ensemble during the year. The Concordia Chamber Players no doubt increased their fan base after their Sunday concert at Miller Chapel as part of The Princeton Festival’s second week. Programming a very contemporary and technically difficult concert, the Players used the intimate space of Miller Chapel to show the audience close-up how challenging repertoire can bring an ensemble together.

Artistic director Michelle Djokic (who also plays cello in the ensemble) bracketed a light-hearted Milhaud piece with two works of extreme intensity. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt spent a portion of his career under Soviet musical repression, developing a style rooted in ancient chant and mysticism. His early music was banned for its 12-tone technique, but his late 1970s Fratres, scored for cello and piano, retains a mathematical structure in its medieval atmosphere. The one-movement work begins and ends with stark and intense passages from the cello, played with obvious passion and concentration by Ms. Djokic. Ms. Djokic was joined by pianist Rieko Aizawa, and the two musicians built the dynamics and energy of the piece together. Ms. Djokic’s solo line may not have been the most melodic, but she always played with direction and an aim to tell the story. Both instruments warmed up their sound as the piece moved along, and Ms. Djokic in particular demonstrated rich double stops toward the end of the work.

Arvo Pärt’s musical effects recur in Oliver Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, an eight-movement work which brought together Ms. Djokic, Ms. Aizawa, violinist Jesse Mills, and clarinetist Igor Begelman. Quartet for the End of Time has its roots in Messiaen’s incarceration in a prisoner-of-war camp in the early years of World War II. Among the other prisoners were a clarinetist, violinist, and cellist, and Messiaen’s Quartet was premiered on broken instruments to an audience of prisoners and guards. Although inspired by texts from the Book of Revelation, the work encapsulates World War II, much of which was still to come in 1941.

It is unusual for a chamber quartet to include sections for solo instruments, and the most notable in this piece was the third movement “Abyss for Birds,” scored for solo clarinet. Mr. Begelman played seemingly endless lines with ease and intensity, holding the audience in rapt attention with extended single notes which seemed to grow from nothing. In the movements in which all instruments played, the musicians showed their parts to be independent, yet fitting together. Mr. Mills seemed to be the leader in this piece, and the four musicians maintained solid communication, leading to precise rhythm in multiple unison passages throughout the work. This quartet had a driving and relentless intensity about it, and its difficulty was clear to the audience. Each instrument told a story at some point, with violin and cello playing movements accompanied by piano. The final movement in particular showcased the violin and piano ascending to the highest point of their registers in the appropriately titled “Praise to the immortality of Jesus.”

Darius Milhaud’s Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano broke the extreme intensity of the other works and it was brought to life with a spirited approach and exacting rhythm. A second movement duet between clarinet and violin brought out the French flavor of the piece, as Mr. Mills and Mr. Begelman complemented each other in graceful melodic sound. Throughout the piece, Ms. Aizawa provided solid, bell-like accompaniment in a work clearly influenced by early 20th-century jazz. The Milhaud work not only provided respite from two works born of repression and subjugation, but also showed how clean and accurate the Concordia Chamber Players have become in their history of working together.


Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, opening July 6. An opening reception is July 7, 4-7 p.m. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center has “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, through July 28. On June 21, “Monday Gestures and Poses,” in which members of the ACP’s Monday night Life Drawing Workshop exhibit their work, opens with a reception from 5:30-7 p.m. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncil
ofprinceton.org.

Artsbridge at New Hope Arts, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents the 18th Annual Juried Show through June 24. The show is open Thursdays-Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Visit www.arts
bridgeonline.com.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher through July 1.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger through June 30. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, in the Marie L. Matthews Galleries. In the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, work from the Ennis Beley Photography Project, a summer student program, is on display. Both shows are through July 27.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, opens “Trenton Makes” on June 23 with a reception from 6-9 p.m. This is the Trenton Artists Workshop Association’s Trenton/New York Visual Art Exhibition, which will also feature a show at the Prince Street Gallery in Soho. Works by Mel Leipzig, Jon Naar, Aubrey Kauffman, Leon Rainbow, Linda Osborne, and others are included. The show runs through September 1. Call (609) 989-3632.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. “ The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross through July 1. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows sculpture by Nancy Cohen and ceramics by Bill Macholdt through September 9. Visit www.hunterdonartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting a series of original children’s book illustrations until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day. On July 11, Art After Hours includes an exhibition tour of “Aspects of Architecture” and a performance by the band Cotton at 7 and 8 p.m.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, is showing “Reveries,” contemplative portraits in the tradition of the Renaissance masters by Ken Hamilton, through July 9.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, Lawrence Shopping Center, Texas Avenue and Brunswick Pike, Lawrence, presents an exhibit of paintings by Bill Plank through June 22. The gallery is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Morven Museum & Garden, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton, presents “The Garden at Night: Photographs by Linda Rutenberg” through September 16. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing work by New Jersey artist Mayumi Sarai through July 1, and “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents works in mixed media by Liz Adams through June 28.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, shows the works of Ma Xinle through June 29. The artist specializes in paintings of animals and hopes to raise awareness of environmental protection through his work. Hours are 12-6 p.m. or by appointment. A meet-the-artist reception is June 23, 2-5 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” will be up from July 14-September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixes media, historical period and place of origin. “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, opens July 14 and runs through November 25. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works by artists Kyle Walsh through the end of June, followed by Johanna Furst through the end of July. “The Future is Female 2.0” runs the month of September.

Straube Center, Route 31 and Franklin Avenue, Pennington, presents “The Inception of an Era” through August 31. Works in all media are by artists who have graduated from colleges and universities within the past five years. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Thomas Sweet Cafe, Montgomery Shopping Center, Skillman, is showing “Old Masters 2,” the second annual exhibit by artists from Hannah Fink’s class at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, through June 30. Works range from still life to landscape, in a variety of media.

OH HIM — HE’S ONLY MY FATHER: Hans Solo (Andy Samberg, left) reluctantly introduces his father Donnie Berger (Adam Sandler) to an unseen person. Unfortunately, Donnie was the product of a one time liaison between Donnie, who was a teen ager in junior high school who was raped by one of his teachers. Ashamed of his origins, Hans changed his name and disappeared into the woodwork and reemerged as a successful business man about to get married and was completely surprised when his ne’er do well father showed up.

Anybody familiar with the work of Adam Sandler knows he built his career playing dim-witted characters like Billy Madison (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), and The Waterboy (1998) in coarse comedies that appealed to the lowest common denominator. So, his loyal fan base won’t be disappointed by this latest offering, a film about yet another pea-brained protagonist.

In case you’re wondering, That’s My Boy is not a remake of the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin college football classic, but is based on an original script by David Caspe. Sandler stars as Donnie Berger, a father desperate for a reunion and chance of redemption with his estranged son, Hans Solo (Andy Samberg).

However, Hans was so ashamed of being born as a result of the statutory rape of Donnie, who was an adolescent, by his junior high school teacher (Eva Amurri Martino) that Hans changed his name and disappeared the first chance he got. His unremorseful mother was sentenced to a long prison term for statutory rape but Donnie Berger, his slacker of a father, never really amounted to anything.

Fast-forward to the present where we find Donnie down-on-his-luck and $43,000 in debt to the IRS. He is wasting his days drinking at Classy Rick’s Bacon and Leggs, a seedy suburban strip club.

The plot thickens when Donnie accidentally discovers the new identity of his long-lost son. It turns out that he is Todd Peterson, who is a successful hedge fund manager about to get married to a refined socialite (Leighton Meester) from a prominent family. Donnie decides to track down his son with the help of a fellow has-been, a one-hit singer named Vanilla Ice.

Not surprisingly, Todd is embarrassed by the arrival of his disreputable father, and does his best to distance himself from him. Consequently, much of the ensuing humor is drawn from the shocking contrast between upper and lower class sensibilities.

A cross between The Three Stooges and Meet the Parents, That’s My Boy trades in typical Sandler fare, namely cheap jokes at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society such as: minorities, the disabled, and the mentally-challenged. When you factor in the profusion of profanity, graphic sexuality, and pedophilia, it adds up to a tasteless waste of time with no redeeming value.

Poor (0 stars). Rated R for nudity, sexuality, drug use, ethnic slurs, crude humor, and pervasive profanity. Running time: 114 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


June 13, 2012

OPENING NIGHT: “For the end of the year show, we try our best to not select or take out any art work,” reported curator Veronika Bychokova. “The purpose of this show is for the students to exhibit their progress throughout the year, so whatever art work they feel they want to show, we fit in. We do set a requirement of no more than two pieces per person, or else the gallery would just be too crowded.” (Photo by Allegra Dobson)

Following last week’s article on the “art scene” at Princeton High School (PHS), Town Topics received photographs of Numina Gallery’s end-of-year show, and curator Veronika Bychkova responded to a series of questions. Ms. Bychkova, who is currently a junior, explained that she assumed the title of “curator” from her predecessor, graduating senior Gabriella Shypula, in an annual “rite of passage.”

“I would just like to mention that I don’t think our community knows about Numina enough,” began Ms. Bychkova. “Each year we make a maximum of eight shows of various topics and try to encourage anyone to come and join us on the opening nights, through posting posters, making blurbs, and sending them to nearby newspapers, as well as announcements. Next year, we have amazing shows planned. The first is a community show where we will display art work that anyone living in Princeton would like to submit. It might be a fundraiser and have an entrance fee, but it won’t be more than $10.”

Plans for next February include a collaboration between PHS and area elementary school students for a combined art show. “As you can see, we really want to engage the community next year, and hopefully get more people to know that there is a student run gallery that is definitely not at a student level,” said Ms. Bychkova.

“I would like to thank all the art teachers in our school for inspiring all of us to express ourselves through art,” she added.

 


Some artistic changes in performing ensembles take place with a great deal of fanfare, and others slip under the radar. The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra has undergone a tremendous artistic change this year, not of their own doing, as Music Director Fernando Raucci temporarily withdrew from the organization for medical reasons. In any organization dealing with children, even a temporary loss of an influential figurehead is difficult, but the GPYO has rallied well to keep its musical family environment together. As the opening event of the Princeton Festival, the GPYO presented its spring concert this past weekend in Richardson Auditorium, showing that its student membership can be flexible under different types of leadership.

The GPYO has several ensembles within its structure representing different instrumentations, and the Concert Orchestra presented several works for strings. Conducted by Arvin Gopal, the Concert Orchestra used the string texture to find contrasting dynamics and colors within the rhythmic drive of three relatively contemporary pieces. Lower strings were a bit in short supply for this ensemble, but solo double bassist Peter Adams and cellists Rachel Asir and Pallavi Velagapudi made their presence known, especially in the contemporary arrangement of Jean Gabriel-Marie’s La Cinquantaine. Saturday night’s performance was a concert of great orchestral melodies, the first of which was head in the ‘Pavane’ of Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite for String Orchestra. By focusing on the rhythmic energy of these pieces, Dr. Gopal, conducting from memory, kept the mood of the music and closed the pieces particularly well.

High-quality music for wind bands is also hard to come by, but Adam Warshafsky, conductor of the GPYO Symphonic Winds, presented two effective late 20th-century pieces from living composers. Most impressive was Frank Ticheli’s Sanctuary, scored for concert band. Mr. Warshafsky brought out the majesty of the piece, aided by solos from oboist Melissa Maslyn and French horn player Anna Clifford.

Pianist Julian Edgren, featured in the GPYO Symphonic Orchestra’s performance of an excerpt from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, is a triple threat. Concurrently excelling at piano and violin, Edgren serves as Concertmaster for the Orchestra, and when not garnering awards and solos in music, wields a tennis racket for the Princeton High School varsity tennis team, with which he had a most impressive season this past year. Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto is one of the most challenging concerti in the repertory, and Symphony Orchestra conductor Kawika Kahalehoe certainly raised the bar for the players by programming its first movement. Mr. Edgren played the opening deliberately, building a crescendo leading to the Orchestra’s familiar rich string melodic entrance. With a fluid right hand, Mr. Edgren played with a great deal of feeling as the motion never stopped in the piano. Mr. Kahalehoe built orchestral dynamics to a decisive recapitulation of the opening theme, and the music maintained a nice flow, with fresh and youthful-sounding solos from some of the players.

Mr. Kahalehoe balanced the rest of the concert with familiar orchestral movements, including excerpts from Smetana, Borodin and Dvorak. Mr. Edgren rejoined the Orchestra as Concertmaster for these works, whose signature tunes were no doubt familiar to the audience. In the Borodin Polovtsian Dances, elegant solos were heard from oboist Heeyoung Park and English hornist Emma Coleman. Placing percussion on either side of the stage increased the rhythmic drive of the music, and these Dances moved right along.

More recognizable tunes were found in the fourth movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, especially from the horns as a section and clarinetist Ray Hou as a solo. The Orchestra demonstrated a great deal of precision in this movement, with graceful changes in dynamics amidst a lively tempo.

All of GPYO’s conductors Saturday night referenced the challenges of forging ahead this past year without their beloved Music Director, which made the performance not only a celebration of the student musicians (especially the graduating seniors) but also a congratulatory event for the organization as a whole for making it through the year. The players no doubt hope that Mr. Raucci returns soon, but in the meantime, the ensembles and music are in good hands.


Art All Night, at Roebling Wire Works, 675 South Broad Street, Trenton, June 16, 3 p.m. to June 17, 3 p.m. Free, 24-hour art show with entertainment, food, and a list of special events ranging from a Hula Hoop Lounge to a walking tour of the Roebling Works with historian Clifford Zink. Artists of all ages and levels are invited to submit one piece of art in any medium or format, on June 15 from 5-9 p.m. or June 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Millyard Park entrance. Visit artworkstren
ton.org.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, opening July 6. An opening reception is July 7, 4-7 p.m. Visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center has “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, through July 28. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncil
ofprinceton.org.

Artsbridge at New Hope Arts, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents the 18th Annual Juried Show through June 24. The show is open Thursdays-Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Visit www.arts
bridgeonline.com.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher through July 1.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger through June 30. Visit www.buckscountygalleryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, in the Marie L. Matthews Galleries. In the Olivia Rainbow Gallery, work from the Ennis Beley Photography Project, a summer student program, is on display. Both shows are through July 27.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, opens “Trenton Makes” on June 23 with a reception from 6-9 p.m. This is the Trenton Artists Workshop Association’s Trenton/New York Visual Art Exhibition, which will also feature a show at the Prince Street Gallery in Soho. Works by Mel Leipzig, Jon Naar, Aubrey Kauffman, Leon Rainbow, Linda Osborne, and others are included. The show runs through September 1. Call (609) 989-3632.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross through July 1. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows sculpture by Nancy Cohen and ceramics by Bill Macholdt through September 9. Visit www.hunterdonartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting a series of original children’s book illustrations until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day. On July 11, Art After Hours includes an exhibition tour of “Aspects of Architecture” and a performance by the band Cotton at 7 and 8 p.m.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, is showing “Reveries,” contemplative portraits in the tradition of the Renaissance masters by Ken Hamilton, through July 9.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, Lawrence Shopping Center, Texas Avenue and Brunswick Pike, Lawrence, presents an exhibit of paintings by Bill Plank through June 22. The gallery is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Morven Museum & Garden, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton, opens “The Garden at Night: Photographs by Linda Rutenberg” June 15. The opening reception is June 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The artist will lecture on June 15 at 10 a.m. about her work. To reserve tickets for the lecture ($12 friends of Morven; $15 general public), visit www.morven.org or call (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing work by New Jersey artist Mayumi Sarai through July 1, and “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents works in mixed media by Liz Adams through June 28.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, shows the works of Ma Xinle through June 29. The artist specializes in paintings of animals and hopes to raise awareness of environmental protection through his work. Hours are 12-6 p.m. or by appointment. A meet-the-artist reception is June 23, 2-5 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” will be up from July 14-September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixed media, historical period, and place of origin. “Root and Branch,” which explores the form of a tree in art and includes several art forms, opens July 14 and runs through November 25. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works by artists Kyle Walsh through the end of June, followed by Johanna Furst through the end of July. “The Future is Female 2.0” runs the month of September.

Straube Center, Route 31 and Franklin Avenue, Pennington, presents “The Inception of an Era” through August 31. Works in all media are by artists who have graduated from colleges and universities within the past five years. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Thomas Sweet Cafe, Montgomery Shopping Center, Skillman, is showing “Old Masters 2,” the second annual exhibit by artists from Hannah Fink’s class at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, through June 30. Works range from still life to landscape, in a variety of media. An opening reception is June 14 from 7-9 p.m.

MAKE SURE YOU FIND A SAFE AND SECURE LANDING SPOT: Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, left) who is the expedition’s leader exhorts Captain Janek (Idris Elba) to make sure the trillion dollar expedition is not going to fail because the spaceship Prometheus crash lands, or is destroyed by the aliens who inhabit the moon LV-233.

Dateline: Scotland, 2089. While spelunking along the shores of the Isle of Skye, archaeologists Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discover an ancient painting etched into the ceiling of an abandoned cave. The researchers immediately realize that the primitive object is an invitation from aliens to visit a moon located in a remote constellation that might very well have been the birthplace of humanity.

Fast-forward a few years and we find the couple en route to LV-233 on a daring expedition to try and find proof that people were either created by God or were genetically engineered by sentient beings from another galaxy. Clearly, unearthing such evidence will have a profound effect on Dr. Shaw who is a devout Christian and always wears a cross that was a gift from her late father Patrick Shaw.

As the spaceship Prometheus approaches its destination, Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and his crew of sixteen are roused from a cryogenic state of hibernation by an android named David (Michael Fassbender). Upon landing, command of the operation falls to Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a coldhearted corporate executive employed by Weyland Corporation whose late CEO (Guy Pearce) underwrote the trillion-dollar mission.

The trip is just a job to the jaded Vickers who is skeptical about what she refers to as “the scribbling of dirty little savages in caves.” In fact, she orders the disembarking explorers to refrain from making any direct contact with aliens.

Of course, contact with alien life forms is precisely the point of Prometheus, a horror movie directed by three-time Oscar-nominee Ridley Scott (for Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma & Louise). At this juncture, the picture divides its time between raising probing philosophical questions about the intersection of science, religion, and ethics, and graphic depictions of body invasion, mutation, and gruesome vivisection.

Although initially conceived as a prequel to Alien (1979), also directed by Scott, the movie was ultimately released as a stand alone adventure. Regardless, this riveting visually captivating and thought provoking science fiction film is recommended for avid science fiction fans, even if the heavy handed faith-based symbolism (“Where’s my cross?” and “After all this, you still believe!”) gets to be a bit much.

Very Good (***). Rated R for intense violence and brief profanity. Running time: 123 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.


June 6, 2012

STUDENTS AND ART: Posing in front of a collaborative drawing project at a recent PHS art show were (top row, from left): Veronika Bychkova, professional artist Sara Schneckloth, Jane Robertson, Gabriella Shypula, Allegra Dobson, and teacher-supervisor Scott Cameron; (bottom row, from left): Arts Council curator, Marsha Levin-Rojer, Jade Levine, and Emily Hunt. (Photo by Alex Levine.)

Art projects by students are currently on display in several venues at Princeton High School, and today, Wednesday, June 6, is, in fact, the only day the public can view upperclassmen’s larger installations in Room 172, where students in Studio Art 3 and 4 were asked to produce multi-media works that reflect the concept of “place as portrait.”

Room 172 is presided over by John Kavalos, who teaches painting, drawing, and advanced placement (AP) art history at PHS. He also teaches at Cooper Union, and the combination is important to him; frequent changes in college and university art curricula, he said, demand corresponding adjustments in the curricula that prepare high school students to move on.

In addition to a dense wall of flowers and greenery produced by several students, others responded to the notion of “place as portrait” with their own cubicle-filled environments.

“They’re talented kids,” said Mr. Kavalos. “The challenges are met.” In addition to proving their mettle in this large exhibit, students‘ talents have been recognized this year by senior acceptances at schools like Cooper Union and Rhode Island School of Design.

Those who miss the Wednesday show, which continues throughout the day, can watch for a student-produced documentary about the project that will appear soon on the studio’s blog and PRS website.

Next door, more traditional portraits were the focus of students in Mollie Murphy’s art class one morning this week. Ms. Murphy had tweaked tradition, though, by having students create a “fantasy” self on one-half of the photographs she took of each student.

Students at PHS attend art classes every day and, like Mr. Kavalos, Ms. Murphy speaks of them appreciatively. Gazing around a room of approximately 25 students, she quietly reported that there were “at least five brilliant, gifted” students who will probably go on to careers in art. Noting that “artists are problem-solvers,” Ms. Murphy, who is an artist herself, cited the compelling need of artists to create.

Numina

In Numina, PHS’s own art gallery, the fruits of assignments given to students throughout the year are currently on display.

“There are no themes at this show,” said advisor Scott Cameron, and that is apparent in the varied array of creations that fill the space. Along with Nick Fulginitis’s wire profile, there are pencil sketches of musicians by Tiffany H. Tang, and what looks like prehistoric wall painting by Lynn DiFerdinando. A black and white collage depicting a flying superhero comes from the imagination of Anthony Teng, and Nora Schultz pays tribute to Escher with an intricate, eye-twisting design. A skirt made out of candy wrappers by Eugenie Hossain is recycling at its most whimsical. Some “altered books” represent a “unique genre” this year, reported Mr. Cameron.

In the back of the room, visitors are welcomed to the Numina Gallery Zoo, where papier-mâché animals populate an aquarium, an aviary, and a jungle.

The Numina show was mounted by gallery co-directors Gaby Shypula and Veronika Bychkova, along with other students putting in after-school hours. “They do everything,” Mr. Cameron said, from identifying the focus of a new show, to arranging and hanging the art, to providing refreshments for opening receptions.

Numina Gallery will also be open on Wednesday, June 6, from 2 to 5 p.m. Those interested in visiting at other times are asked to contact Mr. Cameron at Scott_Cameron@monet.prs.k12.nj.us.


“June 6, 1944, was the turning point in Salinger’s life,” according to Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life. “It is difficult to overstate the impact of D-Day and the eleven months of continuous combat that followed.”

Six combat-driven days after landing on Utah Beach with the 4th Infantry Division, 25-year-old Salinger, a staff sergeant with the Counter Intelligence Corps (C.I.C.), was sending a postcard to Story magazine editor Whit Burnett saying that he was “too busy to go on with the book right now” (an understatement for the ages). The “book” would become The Catcher in the Rye. In effect, Holden Caulfield had landed at Normandy with Salinger, who carried a typewriter in his pack. Slawenski’s biography has C.I.C. colleagues talking about the “time when they came under heavy fire. Everyone began ducking for cover” except Salinger, who was “typing away under a table.”

Fussell’s War

Paul Fussell, who died May 23 at 88, was a platoon leader with the 103rd Infantry Division at Camp Howze in Texas when Salinger was taking part in the Normandy invasion. “D-Day of course excited us,” Fussell recalls in his memoir, Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (Little Brown 1996), “but the thrill was less in the Allied success than in the excitement we felt at the likelihood that the war would be over before we could be sent to it. At moments when we felt especially victorious, we persuaded ourselves that we’d probably do no fighting at all.”

Five months later, on the night of November 10, 1944, in a forest near the town of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges while relieving “a filthy, beat-up company of the Third Division,” 20-year-old Lt. Fussell and 200 soldiers in F Company had their first taste of combat. “As beginners,” they expected night relief to go according to plan, but instead found themselves stumbling forward “in the pitch black” trying to find “their assigned places” while being “so cleverly and severely shelled” by the Germans that there was no choice but to lie down, get some sleep, and “finish the relief at first light.”

In Doing Battle, Fussell describes the moment the “skeptic” of the subtitle was conceived:

“At dawn, I awoke, and what I saw all around me were numerous objects I’d miraculously not tripped over in the dark. These were dozens of dead German boys in greenish gray uniforms, killed a day or two before by the company we were replacing …. My boyish illusions, largely intact to that moment of awakening, fell away all at once, and suddenly I knew that I was not and would never be in a world that was reasonable or just.”

Until then the only dead people Fussell had seen had been his maternal grandparents (“placid, dignified, cosmeticized, and decently on display in their expensive caskets”): “These boys were different. They had not been fulfilled but cheated. But worse was to come almost immediately. The captain called for me and as I ran toward him down a forest path, I met a sight even more devastating. The dead I’d seen were boys. Now I saw dead children, rigged out as soldiers. On the path lay two youngsters not older than fourteen. Each had taken a bullet in the head …. Such murders, after all, were precisely what my platoon and I were there for.”

Explaining his “ironic view of life” in a May 1997 PBS interview with David Gergen, Fussell says the irony is “Everything you touch is going to be defeated by time. You’ve lost. No matter what you make, no matter what you do, no matter what you achieve.” To be forever conscious of this gives you “both a refined sense of humor and a refined sense of charity.”

The ironic sense of life also gives you, in Fussell’s case, an ex-infantryman’s view of aspects of everyday reality still in play decades later. In his memoir, Fussell remembers commuting back and forth to New Brunswick during the 23 years he lived in Princeton and taught at Rutgers. On the drive home, at the end of “a long stretch of absolutely straight two-lane road,” there was “a small hill covered with shrubbery” that he “never saw … without thinking it a perfect position for an antitank gun, should Princeton ever be attacked by an envious New Brunswick, which sometimes seemed a not unlikely possibility.”

The Gift

On March 15, 1945, on a combat mission in the Alsace, platoon leader Fussell was hit on the back and thigh by shrapnel. At the time, the shell sending “red-hot metal” into his body instantly killed the two men fighting beside him.

“I thought I’d been killed,” Fussell told David Gergen, “and I apparently had been metaphorically, because that moment caused me to meditate as follows: I was killed in 1945. Every month since then has been an absolute gift. And I’ve tried to enjoy them appropriately, and I’ve tried to exploit them appropriately, because I could so easily have been the third person killed on that occasion. And that shows how much luck has to do with it. Luck has much more to do with it than skill, alertness, training, knowledge, the things that you’re invited to believe are so important. The important thing is luck, which you can’t do anything about.”

In Fussell’s Class

I knew nothing of Professor Fussell’s wartime history when I was a graduate student in English during those years he was commuting between “envious New Brunswick” and anti-tank-gun-ready Princeton. Of all the teachers I had, he was the most professorial, the closest to my idea of the complacent academic, with his tweeds and loafers and his pipe. In terms of organization and presentation, the course I took, Introduction to 18th-century literature, was a perfect prototype for graduate study. The first day of class we were treated to a vivid, earthy, admirably executed portrait of the period, and the sessions that followed were models of planning compared to the more exciting, free-form, close-reading-oriented classes conducted by Richard Poirier.

During those turbulent years, roughly 1968-1970, it was Poirier’s book, The Performing Self (1970), that caught the temper of the time. Five years later, the skeptic who had been conceived in that forest on November 10, 1944, and “born” the following March 15, would make literary history with The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford 1975), which won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. In the works of social criticism that followed — Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars (1980) and Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) — Fussell became the “wide-ranging, stingingly opinionated” public intellectual “and cultural critic” described in the opening paragraphs of the New York Times obituary.

Salinger On The Front

If Lt. Fussell had luck, Staff Sgt. Salinger, it’s tempting to think, must have traveled with an angel — not an agent angel, but the supernatural kind. On December 5, 1944, of the 3,080 regimental soldiers enduring the month-long debacle of Hürtgen Forest, he was among the 563 who came out alive. Around the same time (“during the closing months of 1944,” according to Slawenski), Salinger wrote what appears to be his only actual at-the-front story, “A Boy in France.” Available online the last time I checked, the story, though it has Hemingwayesque lines, would be recognized as Salinger’s by anyone who knows his work. After finding a foxhole to bed down in (he ends up in “a Kraut hole” and has to dispose of the German’s blanket), the boy gets bit by a red ant, “nastily, uncompromisingly,” and compensates by fantasizing himself back in civilization, in a room with a door he can bolt, clean clothes, some records on the phonograph, and “a nice quiet girl” who will read Emily Dickinson to him (“that one about being chartless”) and William Blake (“that one about the little lamb who made thee”); the girl “will have an American voice, and she won’t ask me if I have any chewing gum or bonbons, and I’ll bolt the door.” The story ends with intimations of Glass-family-era Salinger as the boy, after perusing a crumpled clipping from a syndicated Broadway column, reads an amusingly mundane letter signed “love and kisses” from his sister Matilda in Manasquan, N.J.

In his progress from Normandy to Hürtgen Forest to the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of a subcamp of Dachau, Salinger, who had no “boyish illusions” about war, undoubtedly saw scenes as disturbing or worse than the ones recounted by Fussell. Rather than letting the sight of murdered children on the battlefield suggest a view of life based on the notion that “everything you touch is going to be defeated by time,” the unique sensibility Salinger developed in the years following the war enabled him to turn the battlefield into the field his creation Holden Caulfield describes to his sister Phoebe as he tells her he wants to be the person who stands on the edge of a cliff near a “big field of rye” where “thousands of kids” are playing: ‘What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff …. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.’”

When Salinger Returns

Significantly, it was Salinger, not Fussell, who suffered from post-traumatic stress and had to be hospitalized in the summer of 1945. Out of that experience came a short story classic, “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor.” After the war, while Fussell “exploited” his endgame sense of irony in a major work of literary history, Salinger established himself as a major literary force with The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories (retitled For Esmé – with Love and Squalor in England), and the Glass family stories, including the as-yet-unpublished ones written after 1965. If one day Salinger’s heirs release those stories into the world, I’ll feel like Staff-Sergeant X in “For Esmé,” only instead of Esmé’s dead fathers’s watch with its broken crystal, I’ll be holding a copy of the Salinger Returns issue of The New Yorker and unlike X, who hasn’t the courage to wind the watch to find out if it works, I’ll start reading, “suddenly, almost ecstatically,” knowing that if Salinger wrote it, it will work.


Art All Night, at Roebling Wire Works, 675 South Broad Street, Trenton, June 16, 3 p.m. to June 17, 3 p.m. Free, 24-hour art show with entertainment, food, etc. Artists of all ages and levels are invited to submit one piece of art in any medium or format, on June 15 from 5-9 p.m. or June 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Millyard Park entrance. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, presents “Transient Spaces” in remembrance of Herban Garden, Writers Block, and Quark Park through June 9. On view through July 28 is “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, and “Terrace Project: Sculpture by Jonathan Shor.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscoun
cilofprinceton.org.

Artsbridge at New Hope Arts, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, presents the 18th Annual Juried Show June 8-24. The show is open Thursdays-Sundays, noon-5 p.m. The opening reception is June 8, 5-8 p.m. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher from June 8-July 1. The opening reception is June 9 from 5-8 p.m.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger through June 30. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, through July 27.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. “The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross through July 1. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows sculpture by Nancy Cohen from June 10-September 9. Visit www.hunterdonartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting a series of original children’s book illustrations until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, is showing “Reveries,” contemplative portraits in the tradition of the Renaissance masters by Ken Hamilton. The opening reception is June 9 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. The show runs June 9-July 9.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, Lawrence Shopping Center, Texas Avenue and Brunswick Pike, Lawrence, presents an exhibit of paintings by Bill Plank through June 22. The gallery is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Morven Museum & Garden, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton, presents “Paint Out at Morven” on June 9 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event allows the general public to experience painting en plein air. Visit www.morven.org or call (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing work by New Jersey artist Mayumi Sarai through July 1, and “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, opens its first show with the works of Ma Xinle through June 29. The artist specializes in paintings of animals and hopes to raise awareness of environmental protection through his work. Hours are 12-6 p.m. or by appointment. A meet-the-artist reception is June 23, 2-5 p.m.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run through June 10. “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” will be up from July 14-September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixes media, historical period and place of origin. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works by artists Kyle Walsh through the end of June, followed by Johanna Furst through the end of July. “The Future is Female 2.0” runs the month of September.

Straube Center, Route 31 and Franklin Avenue, Pennington, presents “The Inception of an Era” through August 31. Works in all media are by artists who have graduated from colleges and universities within the past five years. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Thomas Sweet Cafe, Montgomery Shopping Center, Skillman, is showing “Old Masters 2,” the second annual exhibit by artists from Hannah Fink’s class at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, through June 30. Works range from still life to landscape, in a variety of media. An opening reception is June 14 from 7-9 p.m.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, is showing “Deep Within the Soul,” photographs by Colleen Maniere, through June 10. A percentage of all sales of the work benefit pancreatic cancer research.

HEIGH HO, HEIGH HO, IT’S OFF TO WORK WE GO: In this instance, their work is to save Snow White from having the evil Queen Ravenna suck the life out of her. The intrepid huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth, second from left), and the seven dwarfs have banded together and are on their way to rescue their heroine.

The primary problem with Snow White and the Huntsman is that it was released right on the heels of Mirror Mirror. True, a new version of Snow White has been made about once a decade since its debut in 1902, but how much of a call could there be for another one just a couple of months after the last one opened in theaters?

Secondly, while Mirror Mirror is a wholesome family film, this darker reinterpretation carefully courts the teen demographic by incorporating the popular vampire theme coupled with graphic violence. The film stars Kristen Stewart, of Twilight series fame, opposite Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the Marvel Comics series of movies.

Charlize Theron turns in the picture’s sole dynamic performance as Queen Ravenna, a vain villainess in constant need of reassurance that she’s still “the fairest of them all” from her magical mirror. Like a bloodsucking vampire, she preserves her “most beautiful” status by literally draining the youth out of all of her competitors.

The narcissistic queen keeps Snow White imprisoned in a dungeon with plans to suck the life out of her as soon as she comes of age. Somehow, the spunky girl escapes, taking refuge in the forest following a spectacular mountaintop plunge down a waterfall.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the angry monarch dispatches the huntsman Eric to track down and slay Snow White. However, the widowed hunter shifts loyalties as soon as he meets her and realizes how evil Ravenna’s true nature is.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman is an emotionally flat special effects filled film. Unfortunately, the movie fails to measure up to Mirror Mirror, despite the presence of Kristen Stewart.

A blasphemous revision of Snow White that is designed to exploit the popular vampire formula.

Very Good (**½). Rated PG-13 for intense violence and brief sensuality. Running time: 127 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.


May 30, 2012

I had much sorrow in my life, and I was a soldier, which was the worst thing of all. But it is a good thing to have led a life which has had good consequences.

—Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(1925-2012), in a 2005 interview.

If there’s a Grand Central Station of the Beyond, Maurice Sendak would likely be among the first to greet Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau when the foremost singer of Schubert lieder gets off the train that departed the land of the living on May 18. Sendak, who expressed a “passion for Schubert songs and … his birds of doom or birds of good” to Bill Moyers in 2004, had arrived at the terminal only ten days before.

The concept of trains to the afterlife, including a special underground express to hell, is brilliantly pictured in Frank Borzage’s 1931 film, Liliom. In my version of the fantasy, I would add to the welcoming party the German baritone’s most frequent accompanist, British pianist Gerald Moore, who was a long time waiting to shake his colleague’s hand, having arrived back in March of 1987. Would you believe who’s standing shyly off to one side, his spectacles flashing in the heavenly glare? Yes, it’s Schubert himself and he’s singing, very softly, something from Winterreise (Winter Journey), a song cycle that figures significantly in Fischer-Dieskau’s personal and professional history.

Schubert “sang continuously” during the last days of his life, according to Fischer-Dieskau’s biographical/analytical study, Schubert’s Songs (Knopf 1997). No wonder, since the only piece of music the dying composer had been able to focus on was the proof of the second part of Winterreise. Recorded a century and a half later by Fischer-Dieskau and Moore, Winterreise was also the subject of the 17-year-old singer’s first public performance, given in early 1943 in the town hall of Zehlendorf, a Berlin suburb. Seven songs into the cycle, the RAF intervened. “We had a terrible bombing of the city that day,” Fischer-Dieskau recalls in a 2005 interview, “and the whole audience of 200 people and myself had to go into the cellar for two-and-a-half hours. Then when the raid was over we came back up and resumed.” Asked where in the cycle he began again, he says the song was “Rückblick” (Backward Glance): “So we looked back to the part already completed.”

In fact, a clip on YouTube shows the singer rehearsing “Rückblick” with pianist Alfred Brendel for the 1978 recital that ends, memorably, with Fischer-Dieskau engulfed in darkness at the last stop in Schubert’s journey, singing “Der Leiermann” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), a composer’s farewell message as artless and lasting as John Keats’s “I always made an awkward bow.”

Imagine Schubert facing death in his closet of a room above Frau von Bogner’s coffee house in Vienna, musing over the last lines of “Der Leiermann” (“Strange old man, shall I go with you?/Will you grind your organ to my songs?”), and 115 years later at the conclusion of that bomb-blitzed recital, there’s Fischer-Dieskau facing war, soon to be drafted into the Wehrmacht, captured two years later in Italy by Allied forces, and not released until 1947, having proved himself a much-valued catch by giving morale-boosting recitals from the backs of trucks at various POW camps.

The Essence of Art

Maurice Sendak’s “passion for Schubert songs” was rooted in his identification with the aesthetic dimensions of Schubert’s accomplishment within that seemingly limited genre. What gave Sendak the idea, as he told Bill Moyers, was something said by the lieder singer Christa Ludwig in a television interview: “Schubert is so big, so delicate, but what he did was pick a form that looked so humble and quiet so that he could crawl into that form and explode emotionally, find every way of expressing every emotion in this miniature form.”

For Sendak this was a revelation: “I got very excited. And I wondered is it possible that’s why I do children’s books? I picked a modest form which was very modest back in the ‘50s and ‘40s. I mean, children’s books were the bottom end of the totem pole.”

In the first chapter of Schubert’s Songs, Fischer-Dieskau improves on Christa Ludwig’s appraisal, writing that when Schubert “raised the art song (Kunstlied) to hitherto unknown heights,” he “laid bare the essence of all art: intensity, concentration, a distillation into the purest of forms.”

A Lifelong Aversion

It goes without saying that anyone engaged by Schubert’s music must at some point learn to appreciate the genre in which he is the generally acknowledged master. The more you discover about this composer, the more you realize the obvious: that listening to Schubert without the lieder is like reading Shakespeare without the soliloquies or visiting Greece without seeing the Parthenon. Thus came the day in the 1980s when I swallowed a lifelong aversion to baritones with big voices singing in German and threw myself on the mercy of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, whose monumental Franz Schubert Lieder, Volumes I and II (Deutsche Grammophon) is one of the most rigorous two-man adventures since the Lewis and Clark expedition. We’re talking the equivalent of, say, five thousand kilometers on foot (with Schubert, you can ride part of the way on horseback), meaning close to 500 songs (not counting the 50-plus in Die Schöne Mullerin, Winterreise, and Swanengesang, another Fischer-Dieskau-Moore box set I purchased later).

When Schubert songs appear en masse in the form of 25 LPs in two formidable boxes, it’s not easy to comfortably or casually approach such a domain. As soon as you lift open the cover of one of the elegantly designed receptacles and take out the fat book of lyrics and translations, it becomes a formal experience, one I preferred to save for the after-midnight privacy of the downstairs study, which naturally encouraged a preference for compositions and performances in harmony with the nocturnal atmosphere. I wanted moody quietude. I saved the heavier, more operatic versions of Goethe, Heine, and Mayrhofer for daytime hours when I had the house to myself and could hear the singing and playing at full volume.

Over time I made pencilled notations in the booklets, asterisks for my favorite songs, according to the number of listenings, which I eventually transferred to miniature versions of the booklets after trading the two monsters for the boxed CD equivalent. For the past few nights, using an ancient Sony Discman and headphones, I’ve been listening to Volume II (Lieder from 1817-1828), with a copy of Schubert’s Songs in my lap, so I could consult Fischer-Dieskau whenever I had a question about the music.

With headphones, Fischer-Dieskau’s voice is an absolute. Listening to “Erlkönig,” one of his and Schubert’s most renowned performances, it’s as if the dynamic of an entire opera has been packed into a three-minute span, Fischer-Dieskau becoming the narrator, the clueless father, the crooning demon, and the terrified child, Moore’s piano at an unrelenting gallop until death halts it. “In a recital with a mixed program I have to portray 20 characters, one after the other,” Fischer-Dieskau told an Opernwelt interviewer after his 1992 retirement; in this one song alone, he portrays four.

Infatuation

While all Schubert belongs in the “common domain” of poetry and music Fischer-Dieskau refers to as the “landscape of the soul” in his autobiography Reverberations (1989), such language seems too ponderous next to melodies like “Der Jungling an der Quelle” (The Youth at the Well), where the charm is so simple, so transcendent, and yet so direct as to inspire thoughts of a Monty Python sketch where every time the song is played the listener drops dead from sheer delight; imagine John Cleese, idiot smile, sigh, swoon, before he keels over backwards, both legs straight up. “Captivatingly beautiful” is the best Fischer-Dieskau can manage when he first mentions the piece; returning to it a hundred pages later, he speaks of Schubert’s “water music,” a “genre painting over a murmuring accompaniment that wanders up and down the triad of the fifth, while the boy’s sighs rise to a high A, until he finally whispers above the sustained dominant, the musical name which Schubert added to the end of the poem: ‘Luise.’”

You have to hear, not read, the subtle but heartfelt yearning in Fischer-Dieskau’s singing of the girl’s name as Loueeesa. Even if I understood dominants and triads of the fifth, all I could say of this song is that listening to it is like falling in love, or rather, like the fleeting, haunting infatuation from family trips when your car passed a car with a girl your age smiling out the window at you, flirting at 50 miles per hour, and you smiled, and shading that sudden lost and found and lost flash of love was the knowledge that in all of life and the world and time, you’d never see each other again.

Strolling 

In “Der Jungling an der Quelle,” what seduces you is the way the piano “wanders up and down.” However, “Im Frühling” (In Spring) doesn’t wander, it strolls, and the stroll Gerald Moore takes after the second verse is one of the most exhilarating moments in all of Schubert: love hurts, but life goes on, merry and bright, till the next blow falls. When Fischer-Dieskau comes back for the third verse, Moore is still strolling but with a hint of urgency leading to the harsh, penultimate verse, where “joys with quarrels change” and all that’s left is “love and torment.” When love is love again in the closing verse, it’s a reunion, and the strolling couple is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, with Schubert leading the way, crossing a century and an ocean as he tosses off a “how-dry-I-am” quasi ragtime postlude that would make Scott Joplin smile.

The conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler once told Fischer-Dieskau that the most important thing for a performing artist was “to build up a community of love for the music with the audience, to create one fellow feeling among so many people who have come from so many different places and feelings.” Songs like “Im Frühling” create that “fellow feeling.” Said Fischer-Dieskau, “I have lived with that ideal all my life as a performer.”

———

Except where otherwise noted, the quotes are from Martin Kettie’s May 20, 2005, interview in The Guardian, conducted a week before Fischer-Dieskau’s 80th birthday. Frank Borzage’s film, Liliom, is available on DVD at the Princeton Public Library.


“TO STIR, INFORM AND INFLAME”: Cartoons by Philadelphia Inquirer editorial cartoonist Tony Auth will be on view at the Michener Museum from June 2 through September 23. Above, “The Trojan Elephant.” (From the collection of the artist.)

“I read widely and comment on things that rise to some sort of level where my alarms go off,” said political cartoonist Tony Auth in a recent interview. The fruits of many of those alarms will be on view in the exhibit “To Stir, Inform, and Inflame: The Art of Tony Auth,” from June 2 through September 23, in the Michener Art Museum’s Fred Beans Gallery.

This retrospective exhibition gathers together the full range of Mr. Auth’s art, including drawings, paintings, sketches, and newspaper pages, as well as a selection of his award-winning children’s book illustrations.

The impetus for the retrospective occurred when Mr. Auth recently retired after 40 years as editorial cartoonist at The Philadelphia Inquirer. A curator who was appraising Mr. Auth’s archive suggested it, and the Michener was “all for it.”

During his time at The Inquirer, Mr. Auth won one of the paper’s first Pulitzer Prizes in 1975, the Thomas Nast Prize in 2002, and the Herblock Prize in 2005. Auth fans needn’t worry that they’ve seen the last of his cartoons, though; he’s now the first-ever digital artist in residence at WHYY’s NewsWorks.

“Tony Auth is a no-nonsense, New Dealish, Frank Capra kind of cartoonist,” Jules Feiffer has observed. “Cartooning is basically a critical medium,” noted Mr. Auth. “You support someone by criticizing their enemies.” Mr. Auth’s criticism can come in many forms. “Political cartoons are so wide-ranging in what they attempt to do,” he commented. “Sometimes I’m ironic, sometimes whimsical, sometimes nostalgic.”

Asked whether, after so many years of observing local, national, and international politics, he ever feels discouraged, Mr. Auth was quick to say no. “I don’t think you can do this kind of work and have it ring true unless you’re optimistic on some fundamental level. If you become cynical, I think it becomes quickly visible in the work — and it certainly wouldn’t be any fun to do if you were cynical.”

“Tony Auth and his work is for anyone interested in politics, culture, cartoons, newspaper work, and the life of an illustrator in late 20th century and early 21st century in America,” commented guest curator David Leopold, who has organized exhibitions for a wide range of museums including the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library in America; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and Berlin’s Filmmuseum in Europe. “His seemingly unflappable optimism and unwillingness to bow to power give us all a voice on the issues of the day. He might not show us or our leaders at our best, but there is always his hope that we will all be better.”

Mr. Auth found newspaper comic strips (“so wonderfully drawn”) a particular influence as he was growing up. His influences today, some of whom show up in the Michener exhibit, include Jules Feiffer, David Lowe, and Pat Oliphant. Other influences include children’s book illustrators like Maurice Sendak and Quentin Blake. “There’s a whole list of artists I admired and still admire,” he observed.

Mr. Auth named Barack Obama as a current favorite among public figures. He is impatient with those who say that the president hasn’t made good on his promises. “I think a lot of people confuse the role of president with the role of advocate,” he pointed out. “Look at his list of accomplishments; it’s pretty amazing considering what he’s been up against.

“I recently read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln, and it became very clear to me that the role of president is not to be ahead of the people on certain issues,” Mr. Auth continued. “The whole art of leadership is so complex; it doesn’t do Obama or his causes any good to be defeated at the polls.

“Disagreement is a given,” said Mr. Auth of his profession. There is “always a little cluster of issues at that particular moment that are very hot to handle, whatever you say.” He cites the Middle East, the role of religion, the Catholic Church, Israel, Islam, and abortions as current hot-button issues, noting that he responds “to criticism that doesn’t seem dripping with hatred. There’s nothing to be gained from getting into that kind of dialog.”

Mr. Auth’s colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer have described him as a “very, very serious journalist” who attended every editorial meeting (see http://vimeo.com/41168044). His move to WHYY reflects an interest in continuing to be part of a news-gathering operation, albeit one that is evolving rapidly. “It’s hard to imagine a viable democracy without a serious and robust free press,” he observed.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.michenerartmuseum.org or call (215) 340-9800.

 


I’LL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BACK: Special Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, left) and Special Agent J (Will Smith) are surrounded by enemies, but each one is able to protect the other by keeping their backs to each other.

One sign that scriptwriters have run out of fresh ideas is when they recycle the time-travel theme in order to extend a film series. This approach has been employed over the years in sequels such as The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991), to name a few.

Even Back to the Future III (1990) doubled-down on the cinematic device when it had Michael J. Fox teleported back to the Wild West instead of to the fifties like the earlier installments.

Fortunately, Men in Black III is more than just another rip-off. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (MIB & MIB II), the picture reunites Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as alien-hunting Agents J and K, respectively.

However, don’t expect to see much of Jones since he only makes what amounts to a couple of cameo appearances during the film’s wraparound opening and closing sequences. Otherwise, Josh Brolin plays K in the story which unfolds in the summer of 1969.

At the picture’s point of departure, we find a one-armed convict called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) sitting behind bars in a maximum security prison located on the moon. The evil alien soon escapes with the help of his cake-bearing girlfriend (Nicole Scherzinger), his first visitor in over 40 years.

Next, Agent J catches wind of the missing fugitive’s plans to travel backwards in order get even with Agent K for having shot off his limb. The vindictive Boris also intends to spearhead an intergalactic invasion of Earth by the Boglodites, a bloodthirsty race of his rogue relatives. Of course, J decides to return to the past too, to keep the world safe for humanity and to make sure his partner survives any attempted rewrite of history.

Courtesy of some preposterous pseudo scientific mumbo-jumbo, J learns that he must accomplish his mission and return to the present in less than 24 hours before a breach in the temporal fracture (huh!) closes. Upon arriving on July 16, 1969, Agent J introduces himself to the 29-year-old incarnation of Agent K, and does his best to loosen up Agent J’s Type-A personality.

What ensues is an engaging mix of special effects mirth and mayhem, with the tension centered on the launch of Apollo 11 at Cape Canaveral. Since there’s never a doubt that Boris and the Boglodites are destined to be subdued, the true payoff arrives after the action subsides by way of an emotional revelation that it would be unfair to spoil.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for violence and suggestive content. Running time: 103 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


Art All Night, at Roebling Wire Works, 675 South Broad Street, Trenton, starts Saturday-Sunday, June 16-17, 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. Artists of all ages and levels are invited to submit one piece of art in any medium or format, on Friday, June 15 from 5-9 p.m. or Saturday, June 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Millyard Park entrance. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, presents “Transient Spaces” in remembrance of Herban Garden, Writers Block, and Quark Park through June 9. On view through July 28 is “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, and “Terrace Project: Sculpture by Jonathan Shor.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscoun
cilofprinceton.org.

Artsbridge at Prallsville Mills, Route 29 in Stockton, presents the 18th Annual Juried Show from June 8-24. Artists from a 50-mile radius are invited to submit work until June 3 at 5 p.m.; acceptances will be announced June 5. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher from June 8-July 1. The opening reception is June 9 from 5-8 p.m.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger June 1-30. The opening reception is June 2. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, through July 27.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. “Alan Turing at Princeton,” is on display in the lobby through June 5. The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. An opening celebration is May 31 at 4 p.m.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross June 1-July 1. The opening reception is June 1 from 6-8 p.m.; Meet the Photographer is June 3 from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. In the Education Gallery through June 6, “The Impact of Art” will show works by artists with disabilities. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows “Kirsten Hassenfeld: Cabin Fever,” through June 3. The artist does sculpture and collage. From June 10-September 9, sculpture by Nancy Cohen is on view. Visit www.hunter
donartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” is featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting a series of original children’s book illustrations until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8. “In the Search of an Absolute: Art of Valery Yurlov” is on view through June 3. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, Lawrence Shopping Center, Texas Avenue and Brunswick Pike, Lawrence, presents an exhibit of paintings by Bill Plank through June 22. The gallery is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lewis Center for the Arts of Princeton University presents in its Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street the “Senior All-Star Art Show,” an exhibition of the best of the best of graduating student work, through June 5. Paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, film, video, and mixed media are included.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. In collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton, “Paint Out at Morven” on June 9 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. allows the general public to experience painting en plein air. Visit www.morven.org or call (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street, hosts work by senior artists through May 31. Acrylics, watercolors, pencil drawings and pastels by senior artists who attend classes at PSRC will be on view.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run through June 10. “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” will be up from July 14-September 30. The show includes more than 60 works from the museum and private collections and mixes media, historical period and place of origin. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30. A “Feminist Fete” honoring Ms. Flack is June 3 from 3-6 p.m.

Straube Center, Route 31 and Franklin Avenue, Pennington, presents “The Inception of an Era” June 1-August 31. Works in all media are by artists who have graduated from colleges and universities within the past five years. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Thomas Sweet Cafe, Montgomery Shopping Center, Skillman, is showing “Old Masters 2,” the second annual exhibit by artists from Hannah Fink’s class at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, from June 1-30. Works range from still life to landscape, in a variety of media. An opening reception is June 14 from 7-9 p.m.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, is showing “Deep Within the Soul,” photographs by Colleen Maniere, through June 10. A percentage of all sales of the work benefit pancreatic cancer research.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, has a juried exhibit for visual artists ages 13-33, called “Can You Hear It?” running through June 8. Visit ww.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-VisualArtist.html for details.

May 23, 2012

Thirty-three years, or a third of a century, is a long time in any organization’s history. In her pre-concert remarks, Princeton Pro Musica Artistic Director Frances Fowler Slade commented that when she first wanted to start a chorus in Princeton she was told that “the last thing Princeton needed was another music ensemble.” On the contrary, in the past thirty years, the Princeton area has exploded with high-quality musical performances, and Princeton Pro Musica has grown right along with the musical community. After thirty-three years, Ms. Slade has decided to pass on the Pro Musica baton to a new choral visionary, and the chorus honored its founder on Sunday afternoon with a final performance under Ms. Slade’s direction. Choosing what could be the most towering choral work going, Ms. Slade, chorus, soloists and orchestra brought J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor to spirited life in Richardson Auditorium.

It surely was not easy to conduct the last concert of an ensemble that she has brought up like a child, but Ms. Slade was all business when it came to Bach’s intricate music. Tempi were quick with instrumental soloists finding nuance within the speed, and the chorus showed off three decades of choral discipline in its handling of coloratura runs. Movements which often get bogged down in over-romanticization moved right along, with the pathos and poignancy of the Biblical text conveyed by Baroque phrasing and tapered cadences.

Bach probably never heard all the components of this monumental work performed together as a single unit in his lifetime, but since the 19th-century revival of interest in Bach’s music and evolution of the choral society it has become a staple of choral performance, featuring up to five choral parts and four soloists, accompanied by Baroque orchestra. Soloists for Sunday’s performance included singers who had a history with Pro Musica, as well as newcomers. Soprano Mary Ellen Callahan had her hands full with a very quick “Laudamus Te,” but handled the tempo well without feeling rushed. Ms. Callahan was well matched with mezzo-soprano Alyson Harvey, with whom she shared two duets. These two singers were especially cognizant of each other in the “Et in unum Dominum” duet, as phrases flowed among singers and violins.

Ms. Harvey had two very tough arias, closing phrases particularly well in the mezzo aria from the “Gloria” section. Her phrasing never felt rushed, despite the difficulty of the passages, and she was elegantly accompanied by oboe d’amore player Caroline Park. Ms. Harvey was also key in closing the entire mass, singing a haunting yet crystalline “Agnus Dei” which summed up the imploring text leading up to this point and making the final chorus all the more glorious.

Tenor Robert Petillo brought a long history of Bach performance to this concert, drawing on his experience as a Bach passion evangelist to present the “Benedictus” text with the authority of a preacher, as the flute obbligato, gracefully played by Mary Schmidt, chased the vocal phrases. Mr. Petillo collaborated well with Ms. Callahan in a duet from the “Gloria,” with Mr. Petillo handling well some unusually quirky word placement. Bass Kevin Deas, who has been heard with Pro Musica numerous times, was as commanding as he has been in previous performances, maintaining especially well the long vocal lines of “Et in spiritum sanctum.” In this aria Mr. Deas was accompanied by two oboi d’amore (played by Ms. Park and Nathan Mills), which was a special treat since it is rare enough to hear one oboe d’amore, much less two. In a previous choral section, Ms. Slade wisely re-assigned a very difficult bass choral line to Mr. Deas, who presented the resurrection text with affirmation and conviction.

More than anything else, this performance was about Pro Musica and what Frances Slade has created over the past thirty-three years. The choral movements were full of the trademark Pro Musica blocks of sound, with especially clean runs in very quick tempi. As could be expected, the vocal musicians sang their hearts out, and the sections were always well-balanced. Most energetic among the choral movements was the “Et expecto” section which closed the “Symbolum Nicenum,” with the chorus flying through runs and three trumpets adding a joyous touch. As also should have been expected, all performers, and especially Ms. Slade, were clearly pleased with themselves as the ensemble celebrated its past and looked toward new beginnings.

 

Not since Byron awoke one morning to find himself famous has there been such an example of worldwide celebrity won in a day by a book.

—New York Evening World

The novel that made Upton Sinclair rich and famous “in a day” was written in a tarpaper shack behind a farm house on the Princeton Ridge. By all rights, The Jungle should have been written in New York or in the urban nightmare of its setting, Chicago, or anywhere but “the hills north of Princeton.” Why there? What brought the young muckraker to our neck of the woods? And where exactly had he written the book?

Last fall I was researching a photo-based piece for Princeton Magazine on the local residences of famous writers. My mission seemed simple enough. The other houses had been easily located and photographed. But Upton Sinclair had apparently resided in a whole slew of mostly vanished tents, cottages, shacks, and farmhouses in at least two different locations between the western edge of Ridgeview Road and Province Line Road.

The rub is, I could have solved the mystery at the outset simply by visiting the offices of a local realtor. No need to study old maps or old issues of the Princeton Recollector, no need to drive all over the Ridge buttonholing residents in my quest, no need to consult former Ridge homeowner John McPhee, who graciously played a wary Watson to my hapless Holmes in The Case of the Disappearing Cottage. Nor was it necessary to join forces with another Ridge resident, the dauntless, ever resourceful Sherri, who played Nancy Drew to my Frank and Joe Hardy in The Adventure of the Chimney in Back.

Of course I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Into the Mystique

As he helped me put the facts of the case in focus, even at one point consulting Sinclair’s autobiography on my behalf, McPhee contended that “an accurate location” of Sinclair’s “early dwellings or sites thereof … would be something close to impossible to achieve. You can’t, of course, just drive up to some place and think ‘that’s probably it.’”

But that’s just what I did one sunny, hazy, mid-November Sunday afternoon.

Anthony Arthur’s biography, Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair (Random House 2006), includes an old photo of the Sinclair house “near the intersection of Drake’s Corner Road and Province Line Road.” That’s pretty specific. No mystery there. Even if the house had been demolished or renovated or added to, I could scout the spot, and if the house was there, I could ask the owner’s permission to have a photographer take some pictures of it.

So, down Drake’s Corner toward my goal I go, only it’s a road I’ve never been on before, I know nothing of its ways, its twists and turns, ups and downs. What starts as a paved surface begins to narrow, slip out of definition and direction and sense, as if it might simply disappear, leaving one to drive off the edge of the world. Now it seems little more than a path, no room for oncoming vehicles, nature’s closing in with Blair Witch overtones, the light’s gone strange, as if strained through a filter, everything more intense, more haunting, and yet even as it seems most strange it’s becoming excitingly familiar. A force far more compelling than the possibility of finding the house in the photograph is at work. I’m picking up flashes of southern Indiana, some scary thicket of childhood, Br’er Rabbit’s briar patch, the mysterious landscape the schoolbus used to plow through every schoolday morning.

Yes, there’s a frame house of the right vintage at the intersection of Drake’s Corner Road and Province Line Road. The owner is doing yard work, I pull over, introduce myself, explain my mission, and am thrilled to hear that his house had belonged to someone named Stout, which is the name of the farmer who had sold it to Sinclair. I send hopeful emails to Sherri and McPhee. The next day I show the owner the photo in the biography, but nothing matches, neither the house nor the lay of the land. So I go on my way, neither sadder nor wiser, but never mind: I’m in a state of benign mystification. It’s all to the good that the previous day’s quest led nowhere because I know there’s no such thing as nowhere in this somewhere. I’m on the other side of the Looking Glass, in the suburbs of Xanadu. Yesterday’s drive has created an enchanted neighborhood around Drake’s Corner, Province Line, the Ridge. References to other names associated with the locale — Cedar Grove and Hanging Rock — make my eyes light up and my heart beat faster. And all to find the work space of a writer I’d never read a word of — no, not even The Jungle. Not until the quest began.

Reading Sinclair 

The Jungle was not the first book Upton Sinclair wrote on Princeton Ridge. If you wonder what made him come here in the first place, the answer is a novel about the War Between the States. In his preface to the revised edition, retitled Theirs Be The Guilt (Twayne 1959), Sinclair explains that the book was written in 1903 and published a year later as Manassas: “Its author was twenty-four, living in two tents in the hills north of Princeton, New Jersey …. I had moved to that hillside woodland in order to have the use of the fine Civil War collection at Princeton University Library. They allowed me to take home a dozen volumes at a time, and I would rent a farmer’s horse and buggy for $1 a trip and drive down from the hills to load up a week’s groceries and an armful of reference books.” He claims to have studied over 200 volumes.

The two tents were pitched on the property behind a farmhouse on Ridgeview Road. According to a New York Times piece from July 21 1985 (“Upton Sinclair’s Princeton Hideaway),” all that then remained were “a few hand-hewn logs” forming “a skeletal frame” and a “chimney … of mortar and stone” under “a canopy of oak and poplar branches.” When my fellow investigator Sherri and I explored the spot in February, all that remained was the base of the chimney and some wooden remnants like railroad ties. The owner had been kind enough to give us a sheaf of material that answered all the essential questions about both Sinclair sites. That there had been two tents, yes, along with one 16’ by 18’ cottage and a “tar paper shack for writing” that in 1905 was moved to a spot behind the farm house Sinclair purchased a mile and a half away on Province Line Road upon his return from the famously productive stockyard adventures in Chicago.

I’ve been to both the Province Line and Ridgeview sites now, and have rushed through both books. Walking around the proximate location of the “black shack” where The Jungle was written, I tried to imagine how it had been. Wife and child in the house with the carpenter’s gothic front porch, Sinclair scribbling his fiendish work in that poorly insulated hut while the winter wind howled like an outraged muse. Apparently, that’s how he wanted it. He’d written the first book in the same flimsy, storm-besieged structure during the previous winter.

It makes sense that Sinclair wanted to endure heavy weather or at least a semblance of exposure to risk and adversity. He needed to write in a wilderness. The worst thing he could imagine was to be trying to work in the same space with his wife and baby. That’s why he pitched the second tent, built the second cabin. He had to be haunted, on the edge, aware of the precipice. Adversity is what The Jungle is all about. You don’t finish that book, you wake up from it, shaking your head, pinching yourself, as from a nightmare. What gets you isn’t simply the hair-raising stuff about the meat-packing plant, the rats, the filth, but the relentless punishment Sinclair lavishes on Jurgis, his Lithuanian Job whose wife is raped and later dies in childbirth and whose only son, a toddler, falls from an elevated sidewalk and drowns in mud. At the plant, where men drown in tubs of lard, a 13-year-old relative is locked in a storage room and eaten by rats. Jurgis is hammered at every turn.

Think about the writer who is conjuring up this nightmare. Did his wife and child shudder when he came back into the house of a night, wild-eyed, after one of his bouts with the demon muse? Here’s a budding socialist who wanted to write, as he boasted to Ernest Poole when he first arrived in Chicago, “the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the Labor Movement.” Instead he wrote a novel as nightmarish as Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, a far greater work.

Imagine this unlikely creation burning like a fire in the windows of the wind-blown shack, seen flaring and fading through the trees on Province Line Road as the author hounds his protagonist through every imaginable circle of urban hell. This is the passionate, anguished, pull-out-all-the-stops narrative Sinclair wraps around his documentary dynamite, an explosion heard round the world (“I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident hit its stomach”). “By accident?”

Recalling the eerie, exciting chill I felt that first day driving down Drake’s Corner Road, I wonder if Sinclair’s muse isn’t still haunting those woods. I talked about it that November afternoon with the owner of the house I mistook for Sinclair’s. When I said, “This area feels strange, spooky,” he told me that the people living in the nearby McMansions had said as much.

The Chimney in Back

It was thanks to Sherri’s considerable charm that we were allowed to explore the yard behind the house on Ridgeview Road, which turns out to be not far from the home owned by Sherri and her husband, who, coincidentally enough, has always had “a fascination with The Jungle.

All that remains of the cottage is the base of the chimney, the open hearth that Sinclair, his wife and baby warmed themselves by during the vicious winter of 1903-1904. The author must have been better company when he was working on Manassas, where one striking domestic detail makes an unlikely appearance in the next to last chapter. With the battle raging, bullets flying, Union soldiers are barricaded in the home of a “poor white,” where, “near the fireplace of the little room,” two kittens are playing together: “one would lie on its back and the other would bite it, and they would roll over and over.”

The Arts Council of Princeton at Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street, presents “Transient Spaces” in remembrance of Herban Garden, Writers Block, and Quark Park through June 9. On view through July 28 is “Poolscapes and Swimmers,” with drawings of the old Princeton Community Pool by Stephanie Magdziak and Ronald Berlin, and “Terrace Project: Sculpture by Jonathan Shor.” For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscoun
cilofprinceton.org.

Artsbridge at Prallsville Mills, Route 29 in Stockton, presents the 18th Annual Juried Show from June 8-24. Artists from a 50-mile radius are invited to submit work until June 3 at 5 p.m.; acceptances will be announced June 5. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, presents “Absorptions and Immersions,” an exhibit of watercolors and photographs by Gail Bracegirdle and John Treicher from June 8-July 1. The opening reception is June 9 from 5-8 p.m.

Bucks County Gallery of Fine Art, 77 West Bridge Street, New Hope, Pa., presents new bar and tavern interior scenes by Steve Messenger June 1-30. The opening reception is June 2. Visit www.buckscountygal
leryart.com.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place off Rosedale Road, presents “Crossing Cultures,” art celebrating the biodiversity of habitats, through July 27. An opening reception is May 23 from 6-8 p.m.

Firestone Library at Princeton University is showing “A Fine Addition: New & Notable Acquisitions in Princeton’s Special Collections” through August 5 in its Main Gallery. In the library’s Milberg Gallery, “Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic” is on view through July 8. “Alan Turing at Princeton,” is on display in the lobby through June 5. The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is showing historically important pieces in the Boyd Room of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. An opening celebration is May 31 at 4 p.m.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, through May 27 shows Frank Magalhaes’ “I Am a Tree, Part 2.” From June 1-July 1, “The Elephant and the Rainbow” by Charlie Gross is on view. The opening reception is June 1 from 6-8 p.m.; Meet the Photographer is June 3 from 1-3 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Garden State Watercolor Society at Prallsville Mill, Route 29, Stockton, presents the Annual Members’ Exhibition through May 27. Hours are 12-6 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays. The reception and awards presentation is May 27 from 3:30-6 p.m.

Gourgaud Gallery at Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury, is showing “Local Paintings & Preview of the Journey through Britain in Watercolor Exhibit,” by Daniel Turner Thomas, through the end of May. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. In the Education Gallery through June 6, “The Impact of Art” will show works by artists with disabilities. See www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, Princeton, is presenting “Einstein At Home,” an exhibit featuring home furnishings, personal memorabilia, and photographs of Albert Einstein with family, friends, colleagues, and national dignitaries, through August 19. Admission is $4 per person; free to HSP members. At the HSP’s Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, “The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist” is on display. Opening hours are Saturday and Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. For more information visit www.princ
etonhistory.org.

Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton shows “Kirsten Hassenfeld: Cabin Fever,” through June 3. The artist does sculpture and collage. From June 10-September 9, sculpture by Nancy Cohen is on view. Visit www.hunter
donartmuseum.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has a permanent exhibit, “Intelligent Design: Highlights of Arts and Crafts Studio Craft Movements,” is featuring works by Wharton Esherick, George and Mira Nakashima, David Ellsworth, and others. “Have Gags Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist” will look at the work of Sylvia Getsler through July 1. “Offering of the Angels,” a selection of 45 Renaissance and Baroque masterworks from the Uffizi Gallery, is on view through August 10.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting a series of original children’s book illustrations until June 24. Rachel Perry Welty’s first solo show, “24/7,” runs through July 8. “In the Search of an Absolute: Art of Valery Yurlov” is on view through June 3. “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms” is on display through July 31.

Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery, Lawrence Shopping Center, Texas Avenue and Brunswick Pike, Lawrence, presents an exhibit of paintings by Bill Plank through June 22. The gallery is open Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lawrenceville School, Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center for Visual Arts, presents “Cassie Jones ‘97 over and under” through May 26. Visit www.lawrenceville.org for information.

Lewis Center for the Arts of Princeton University presents in its Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street the “Senior All-Star Art Show,” an exhibition of the best of the best of graduating student work, through June 5. Paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, film, video, and mixed media are included.

Morven Museum & Garden presents “Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia,” through June 3. The show tells the story of Princeton native Lonni Sue Johnson. Visit www.morven.org or call (609) 924-8144, ext. 106. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. There is free on site parking.

Mudd Manuscript Library at 65 Olden Street, Princeton University, is presenting “She Flourishes,” showcasing the history of women at Princeton, through August 31. The show documents the struggles and accomplishments of women associated with the University.

Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street, is showing “Thoughts on Paper” by Princeton artist Anita Benarde, through July 1.

Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute at 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, presents “The Activity of Form,” a photography exhibit by Laura McClanahan, Greg McGarvey, Barbara Osterman, and Larry Parsons, through September.

Princeton Senior Resource Center, 45 Stockton Street, hosts work by senior artists through May 31. Acrylics, watercolors, pencil drawings and pastels by senior artists who attend classes at PSRC will be on view.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870-1930,” 40 works of art never before exhibited, through June 24. “John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum” will run through June 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Princeton University Office of Gender and Sexuality in 113 Dickinson Hall is presenting “Roles with a Punch,” collages and paintings by Stacie Speer Scott, through June 30.

Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, presents “Audrey Flack: Recent Pages from an Ancient Past,” through June 30. A “Feminist Fete” honoring Ms. Flack is June 3 from 3-6 p.m.

Straube Center is presenting a “Fine Art Show: Grace, Strength and Freedom,” through May 25. Local artists will be featured. The center is on Route 31 at West Franklin Avenue in Pennington, in buildings 100 and I-108.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, is showing “Deep Within the Soul,” photographs by Colleen Maniere, through June 10. A percentage of all sales of the work benefit pancreatic cancer research.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, has a juried exhibit for visual artists ages 13-33, called “Can You Hear It?” running through June 8. Visit www.westwindsorartscenter.org/Call-to-Visual-Artists.html for details.

SCORE ONE FOR THE UNITED STATES NAVY: Intrepid sailors on the high seas manage to fend off the attack from one of the seemingly invincible attack vessels from outer space that are determined to take over planet earth.

Though ostensibly inspired by the Hasbro board game of the same name, Battleship is a special effects driven science fiction adventure that has more in common with blockbusters like Armageddon (1998), Transformers (2007) and Independence Day (1996). The movie devotes considerable attention to developing a back story before the action begins.

That gives the audience a reason to care about the characters when war with bloodthirsty invaders from outer space breaks out. Another positive is director Peter Berg’s cast, led by Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, and Brooklyn Decker. Also pop icon Rihanna more than holds her own in her acting debut as Petty Officer Cora Raikes.

The picture opens in 2005 where we meet Stone (Skarsgard) and Alex Hopper (Kitsch), two brothers seemingly headed in opposite directions. The former is serving his country as captain of the destroyer USS Sampson, while his ne’er-do-well brother lands in jail over an incident with an attractive blonde (Decker) whose father (Neeson) is in charge of the entire Pacific fleet.

Fast forward to the present where we learn that Alex has not only enlisted in the Navy, but has already risen to the rank of Lieutenant. He is also dating Samantha over the objections of her disapproving father who doesn’t trust her hot-headed suitor.

Alex is summoning up his courage to ask Admiral Shane for permission to marry his daughter when five vessels arrive from planet G and proceed, without provocation, to decimate an international armada on maneuvers in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly, wedding plans have to take a back seat to defending the planet.

Furthermore, as the most senior officer aboard his ship who survives the initial attack, Alex assumes command of the U.S.S. John Paul Jones. This affords him a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his future father-in-law.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for profanity and intense violence. Running time: 131 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.

 

May 16, 2012

PLAYWRIGHT IN DISTRESS: Stranded with two abandoned children (Hope Springer, left, and Matthew Kuenne) in a strange house and a hostile environment, Mundie (Paul Gross) tries to make progress on his new screenplay in the world premiere of John Guare’s “Are You There, McPhee?” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through June 3. (Photo by Michal Daniel)

At a New York City party the guests are telling stories in the opening scene of John Guare’s new play Are You There, McPhee? at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Edmund “Mundie” Gowery, a playwright, urges the group to gather round for his “horror story” of abandoned children, a dead mother, a porn ring, at least two sea monsters (11-pound lobsters) and Walt Disney. Mundie’s story, which he both narrates and re-lives, takes him from the present back to 1975, summer of “Jaws” (blockbuster movie and book), as he, at the age of 35, becomes embroiled in a tangled series of troubling, life-defining incidents — alternately absurd, horrific, and romantic — on the island of Nantucket.

In addition to the above, this two-and-three-quarter-hour surrealistic comedy includes dozens of different characters, all played by a versatile cast of 12; a slew of movie allusions and children’s literature references; repeated appearances by marionettes depicting the Argentine writer Borges, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, and Mundie himself; a diamond-stuffed lobster; a heart literally turning to gold; movie deals with Disney and Roman Polanski; a living room in the style of a Magritte painting, with a train coming out of the fireplace; literary references to Herman Melville, Samuel Beckett, Dr. Seuss, Primo Levi, and others; and frequent visitors from the past dredged up from Mundie’s creative memory.

This much plotting and literary, cinematic, artistic, and dramatic material can become daunting for audiences struggling just to keep track of what’s going on. The humor is clever, surprising and richly absurd. The distinguished cast is excellent, led by the dynamic, humorous, and appealing Paul Gross (Due South, Slings and Arrows) as Mundie. The talented Sam Buntrock (Travesties at McCarter last month and a widely acclaimed production of Sunday in the Park with George in London in 2006 and on Broadway in 2008) directs with imagination and finesse, teaming up brilliantly again with set and costume designer David Farley (Travesties, Sunday in the Park).

Present here are qualities that have established Mr. Guare (House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation) as one of the great American playwrights of the past 40 years: wildly imaginative plotting, detailed and sympathetic characterizations, hilarious comedy, striking and moving portrayals of deeply flawed men and women trying to make human connections, besieged in a forbidding environment. But Are You There, McPhee? needs an editor. Two-thirds of the current plot, fewer characters, and a running time much closer to two than three hours would suffice. The audience could catch its breath, take time to enjoy the humor rather than struggling constantly to follow the plot, and establish the kind of close ties with the main character that would draw us in to care more about his amusing, moving, sometimes ridiculous plight.

As Mundie’s story begins, the characters from his past appear and the layers of dark complexity accumulate. Lighting by Ken Billington and set shifts assist in transporting Mundie and the audience back to 1975. Mundie, who owns a Nantucket rental house he has never seen, receives an alarming phone call from the Nantucket police. They have arrested his tenants for running a child pornography ring. With Mundie’s first love interest departing for Buenos Aires with her husband, Mundie’s lawyer, and his second girlfriend demanding Mundie’s presence at a social event that evening, Mundie plans to fly to Nantucket for the day.

The literary background develops. Mundie reads Borges stories on the plane, and the famous writer appears in the form of a life-sized puppet to offer words of wisdom. Everybody else seems to be reading Jaws or going to the movie, as ominous “Jaws” sound effects complement the action here. Mundie’s Nantucket house had once been the home of a famous author of the “Elsie and Wally” books for children.

Soon after arriving in Nantucket, Mundie undergoes a police interrogation concerning his criminal tenants, and finds that everyone he meets recently acted in a local amateur production of his play, Internal Structure of Stars. They are all still furious that Mundie declined an invitation to attend a performance, but more than ready to offer dramatic samplings of their best lines.

Somehow Mundie encounters a lobster fisherman named McPhee. Some sort of alter ego for Mundie, he also had a part in the play, has a married girlfriend with the same name as Mundie’s and is also reading Borges. McPhee bestows upon him a large trash can and a cooler containing two huge lobsters.

And somehow McPhee directs Mundie to a house where Peter and Wendy are housesitting and taking care of a young boy, Poe, and girl, Lilac, and that’s where the plot really gets going, as we gradually find out details about the children’s mother, the daughter of the writer who lived in the house Mundie now owns, and the father, who directed Mundie’s play and aspires to greater achievements in Hollywood.

Mundie finds out he has a deadline to write a screenplay for Roman Polanski and looks forward to a rapid departure back to New York, but suddenly finds himself responsible for the two mischievous children who seem to have been abandoned by their parents and by Peter and Wendy.

This is just the first half, and this description barely scratches the surface. Is this Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw updated, in double time and on steroids? Much of the dialogue and action is very funny, and the excellent cast plays a colorful and entertaining array of characters: John Behlmann (McPhee), Gideon Banner (Peter), Jeremy Bobb (the lawyer), Molly Camp (Wendy), Patrick Carroll (the cop), Alicia Goranson (Mundie’s girlfriend), Matthew Kuenne and Hope Springer (the children), Jenn Lynn (daughter of the famous children’s book author), Danny Mastrogiorgio (the children’s father), and Luisa Strus (the children’s aunt) — all except for Mr. Gross’ Mundie and the children, taking on multiple additional challenging roles.

Just before intermission, after more than an hour and a half of intense exposition and plotting, Mundie looks up at the audience and tells us: “You need a break.” Despite the superb production and the wealth of great comedic and dramatic material, he’s right. Less would be more.


To close its 2011-12 season, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra presented musical roses — two light airy flowers and one sturdy plant with solid roots. It no doubt was very difficult to come indoors on Sunday afternoon, but those who chose to forego gardening for Ravel and Brahms were treated to a Mother’s Day gift of musical lightness and serenity.

Princeton Symphony Orchestra Music Director Rossen Milanov began the concert as if introducing the audience to a garden, surveying all the flowers in one visual gaze. Princeton composer Sarah Kirkland Snider began composing the one-movement Disquiet more than ten years ago, recently revising it for inclusion in this concert. Disquiet was lush, with many orchestral colors, and despite its title, began peacefully with almost imperceptible violins. Mr. Milanov effectively brought out crescendi and descrescendi, as the “agitated restlessness” of the piece was expressed by Jeremy Levine’s precise timpani. An elegant string quartet recurred throughout the piece against harp (played by Barbara Biggers) and clean articulation from the winds and a graceful English horn solo from Nicholas Masterson. Ms. Snider offered some unusual combinations of instruments in this piece, with the sonorities between violas and celli especially nice.

This piece was very audience-friendly because of its sonorities and the many different colors in the texture. The keynote work on the program, Maurice Ravel’s Concerto in G Major for Piano and Orchestra, was also an impressive palette of musical colors, illuminated with clarity by guest piano soloist Rieko Aizawa. Ms. Aizawa began the Ravel Concerto with a quick impressionistic start, playing with precision against jazz-influenced orchestration from the ensemble. Languid when she needed to be, Ms. Aizawa played with a great deal of upper arm strength, playfully adding sauciness for the final movement. Especially mesmerizing was Ms. Aizawa’s refined playing in the second movement Adagio, with an always-steady left hand and just a bit of quirkiness to the piano melody line.

Wind solos abounded in this high-spirited piece, with sweetness added from Mr. Masterson’s English horn and flutist Jayn Rosenfeld. The brass sections were able to provide jazzy effects, including some from principal trumpeter Jerry Bryant and a klezmer-type clarinet solo from Andrew Lamy. Ravel intended this concerto to be lighthearted, and all involved seemed to be having fun in this performance.

Where Ravel’s Concerto was like delicate instrumental lace, Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor was solid and substantial. The orchestra pared down for this work, showing Brahms’ Classical roots, and Mr. Milanov took a contained and stately approach to the first two movements. Particularly in the second movement Andante, the wind theme was presented nicely against pizzicato strings, with a very clean pair of horns, solo clarinet and bassoon adding to the texture. Mr. Milanov took an especially relaxed approach to this movement, building tension slowly.

The Princeton Symphony took off in the final two movements, conveying the most drama and musical bite. Mr. Milanov kept the theme of the third movement decisive, with a well-blended quartet of horns. Timpanist Jeremy Levine was kept very busy during the final movement providing a martial effect to contrast the lyrical winds and a very clean trio of trombones. Also adding to the clarity of sound were trumpeters Jerry Bryant and Paul Murphy. The closing fourth movement was also marked by a clean flute solo from Ms. Rosenfeld.

Closing Mr. Milanov’s first year as music director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra with these three works showed the ensemble’s commitment to three musical tenets: the best in orchestral repertoire, new and exciting soloists, and promoting the music of contemporary and local composers. The orchestra also promoted its coming season on Sunday afternoon, and no doubt will continue building its strength in these three areas.