August 1, 2012

ALFRED, WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT HER?: Trusty and crusty butler Alfred (Michael Caine, right) is being asked by his employer, wealthy philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who also becomes the Caped Crusader Batman when circumstances require it, what to do about the pesky cat burglar (Anne Hathaway, not shown) who is making a nuisance of herself in Wayne’s mansion in Gotham City.

The Dark Knight Rises brings an end to the brilliant Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman. Each of the earlier episodes, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), earned a spot on this critic’s annual Top Ten List, numbers 9 and 1, respectively.

Because the late Heath Ledger played the part of the Joker to perfection, and delivered an Oscar-winning performance in the previous movie, you knew it would be hard for Nolan to find as compelling a character for his finale. If The Dark Knight Rises does have a weakness, it’s because the primary villain pales in comparison. Otherwise, the movie measures up to the previous two films expectations, although its convoluted plot and 2¾ hours running time is likely to have younger kids squirming in their seats.

The picture opens eight years after the end of the last adventure, when Batman selflessly accepted the blame for the untimely demise of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The broken, embittered vigilante has kept a low profile over the intervening years, allowing the Gotham police department to fight crime on its own.

But, the situation changes with the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy), a member of the association of assassins known as The League of Shadows. Although Banes speech is somewhat muffled by a contraption affixed to his face, you don’t need to understand his unintelligible mumblings to know that he’s a maniacal menace. The masked terrorist is bent on blowing up the city with a nuclear device and it isn’t long before Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) needs help handling the situation.

Meanwhile, Batman’s alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, has his hands full with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar he catches snooping around his mansion. Fortunately, Wayne still has his loyal assistants Alfred (Michael Caine), the butler, and weapons/vehicle/gadgetry specialist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Plus, he develops a new friendship with John Blake (Joseph-Gordon-Levitt), a cop with excellent instincts who might become Batman’s sidekick Robin should the series be continued.

Outfitted with a state-of-the-art motorcycle and hovercraft, a revivified Batman enthusiastically engages his evil adversary. And between Nolan’s loyalty to 35 mm film and live action stunts, what’s served up on screen is spectacular.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity, and intense violence. Running time: 165 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.


July 25, 2012

AT HER PEAK: Ballerina Cynthia Gregory, shown here as Odile, the black swan in “Swan Lake,” during her career with American Ballet Theatre.

In a classroom at the Princeton Dance and Theatre Studio in Forrestal Village, six young men take their places and wait for music from the ballet Raymonda to begin. Sitting in front of them with her back to the mirror is a woman who was dancing “Raymonda” — and just about every other ballet in the classical repertory — before they were born.

Watching Cynthia Gregory demonstrate how to use a plié, or deep knee bend, to add spring to a jump, or how to open the arms into a more authoritative pose, it seems as if she might have performed these movements yesterday. Yet it has been two decades since this famous ballerina retired from dancing after a stellar, 26-year career with American Ballet Theatre (ABT).

These days, Ms. Gregory spends much of her time coaching younger generations of dancers. For the past several years, she has traveled to Princeton from her home in Las Vegas to Princeton Dance and Theatre Studio’s annual Summer Intensive. For one week, she works with the students on the finer points of performance. The 48 students in this year’s program come from several states and Guatemala. In addition to Ms. Gregory, they studied this summer with former ballerinas Susan Jaffe and Kyra Nichols; and with Roy Kaiser, who is artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet. The students will give an end-of-term performance Friday, July 27, at 1 p.m. at The Hun School Auditorium. Tickets are $10.

“I like to coach, rather than teach. There are so many better teachers than me,” Ms. Gregory says. “I like to work on the art of dance rather than the nuts and bolts. And they already know what they’re doing when I get here, so I can work on the finer points with them. The students here are very strong. There are no watered-down versions of anything. They’re learning the real thing.”

For Risa Kaplowitz, co-founder of the school, hosting Ms. Gregory each summer is a thrill for the students, and for her. “This is Cynthia’s fourth or fifth time at PDT, and I am still in awe of what she offers the students,” she says. “Her coaching is filled with positive energy and her simple explanations for difficult steps can make such a big difference in how a dancer executes them. Most of all, she gives the variations context and inspires the students to dance them with joy.”

A much younger-looking 66, Ms. Gregory has a warm smile and open manner that seem to put the dancers immediately at ease. She is quick to offer encouragement while pushing her charges to work harder and reach for a level that transcends technique and athleticism.

“The level of technique today is fabulous. It’s amazing,” she says, speaking of ABT, where she spent her career. “But the general feeling is more bravura than drama. Somehow, the heart is gone. We didn’t have that level of technique, but we had something else. I try to pass along what I learned from people like Agnes de Mille, whom I loved. She taught me how to be a real person on stage. I tell the dancers today to be real with their gestures, to be themselves. That translates to the audience.”

De Mille is only one of the renowned choreographers with whom Ms. Gregory worked during her long career. Born in Los Angeles, she began studying ballet as a small child. She managed to get herself into a class that George Balanchine was teaching when she was only 13. The great choreographer and co-founder of the New York City Ballet was impressed and invited her to come study in New York, but she was too young.

A year later, though, she was accepted into the San Francisco Ballet as an apprentice. Her parents sold their home and business and the family moved to San Francisco, where Ms. Gregory thrived. She stayed with the ballet company for four-and-a-half years before deciding to make the move to New York. Since Mr. Balanchine had encouraged her, she expected to join his company, where abstract ballets tend to dominate the repertory.

“But I saw a performance by ABT, and I set my heart on that,” she says. “It was drama. I like to tell a story, and that’s what they were doing. It’s not that I don’t love the Balanchine repertory; I do. But the story ballets suited me best.”

ABT had Giselle and La Sylphide in its repertory when Ms. Gregory joined. Over the years, more full-length classics and ballets by Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, and other choreographers were added. “I just fell in love with all of those ballets. They kept adding more, every year or two,” Ms. Gregory says. “I could really immerse myself in the roles.”

While drama was her forte, Ms. Gregory was also a formidable technician. She was known for her ability to balance en pointe longer than just about any other dancer, and her fans loved her for it.

She especially enjoyed working with Mr. Robbins, performing his ballet Other Dances with Alexander Godunov and Kevin McKenzie, now ABT’s artistic director. “He showed another side of me,” she says of the choreographer. “A lot of people never thought of me in that way.” Mr. Robbins was her favorite choreographer. But he was a tough taskmaster. “He made you do things over and over, and I get worse as I do things over and over,” she says. “Twyla [Tharp] was like that, too.”

Ms. Gregory exited ABT during the period that Mikhail Baryshnikov was artistic director. The Russian superstar favored younger dancers. Only in her mid-thirties, which is considered a dancer’s prime, Ms. Gregory chose to bow out. “I didn’t thrive under him, so I started doing guest performances,” she says, tactfully. “I did get to dance with him once, in Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, and that was great. But I needed to move on.”

When Ms. Gregory ended her dancing career a few years later, she was ready. “I don’t miss it,” she says. “I was really completely fulfilled.”

She has been divorced twice and widowed once. Ms. Gregory raised her son, now 24, in Greenwich, Connecticut. She moved a few years ago to Las Vegas, where she is an artistic advisor with the Nevada Ballet Theatre. She coaches for that company and elsewhere.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” she says, flashing her radiant smile. “I had no major injuries. I got to  work with the most amazing choreographers in the world. And now I get to pass it on.”


On my way across campus to the University Art Museum, I see a single leaf drifting toward the September 11 memorial garden at Chancellor Green. I’m in a don’t-take-anything-for-granted mood, my reporter’s notebook in my hand, my objective a show called “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery,” which opened July 14 and will be on view through September 23. At the time, I know nothing of the work of Gabriele Münter and the only Aurora I know of is the Aurora Borealis.

In art exhibits you go from one work to another, looking, attending, thinking, so it must be because I’m already in a museum state of mind that I’ve been paying attention to this one yellow leaf. How come it’s falling now, in the middle of summer? I’m waiting to see where it ends up so I can have a closer look.

As it’s about to come to earth by the 9/11 memorial bell, the leaf flutters to life and flies away. Though I’m not in the museum yet, I take out my pen and write, “Butterfly = leaf.” The real exhibit has begun.

The Shadow of Aurora

The carnage at a Colorado multiplex showing The Dark Knight Rises seems a long way from an art museum on the campus of an Ivy League university. Yet the same film opened across the street from the campus at the Garden Theater with a midnight screening a day before the midnight show in Aurora. Meanwhile, visitors to the exhibit are going to see it differently now than they would have if, like me, they had come to it the day before the shooting.

A large, attractively designed hand-out showing a plan of the museum is accompanied by a colorfully printed essay about the exhibit that refers, appropriately enough, to “commonality,” “cultural encounters,” “entangled interaction, mutual impact,” and “points of contact” that “occur across place as well as time …. Such encounters elicit curiosity, bemusement, or, sometimes ardent condemnation and rupture” (the last word is printed in big pink capital letters against a purple background). When you read the preceding statements after learning that a lone, heavily armed gunman shot and killed at least 12 people and wounded 58, “encounter” becomes the mother of all euphemisms. At the end of the essay, which was apparently co-written by the Curator of Asian Art Cary Y. Liu, Project Coordinator Francesca Williams, and Curatorial Fellow Juliana Ochs Dweck, “rupture” is among the five key words that are highlighted and defined (viz, “to burst open — treaty, nation, body, or belief”).

Because of the killings in Colorado, I’m more attuned to terms of “rupture” and “conflict” than “dialogue” and “discovery” as I look back over my exhibit notes. The words of a New York Times article about the shooting, “Fantasy became nightmare, and a place of escape became a trap,” have me asking the obvious: “Aren’t people going to an art show also looking for a place of escape?” More likely, the long view provided by a presentation that spans centuries offers something more enlightening than a vivid, violent, big-screen vacation from routine; speaking of “fantasy as nightmare,” for instance, there’s Goya’s image of the artist slumped over his desk, his head buried in his arms as a nightmare phantasmagoria of owls and bats hover over him in “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” the etching from Los Caprichos that inspired the most spectacular encounter in “Encounters,” Yinka Shonibare’s massive four-part photographic adaptation of Goya’s original vision.

Encountering Carnage

If you don’t count the leaf that became a butterfly, Le Carnage is the first object mentioned in my notes, an oil on canvas painted by Georges Clairin (1843-1919), described as a “mock Equestrian battle” in the curator’s commentary. My scribbled comment is, “Why ‘mock’? Mock carnage?” You’ve got robed and turbaned warriors and horsemen firing rifles and pistols, the skies in the background blazing like hellfire; there’s a dead horse in the right foreground and on the other side, if you look closely, you can make out at least three corpses. Few museumgoers will be able to view this scene without thinking of the ongoing folk tale of carnage being told in the media and spreading like a virus online. There’s even a lone gunman in the painting, a Hell’s Angel lookalike, the only warrior with a pistol and there’s nothing fake looking about the flame spurting from the barrel.

Before your thoughts can turn to more benign matters, the next thing the museum shows you is a case containing a dagger with an ornamental handle in the shape of a Saracen with sword upraised, about to behead a crusader. And above the dagger is a pen and brown ink sketch by Tiepolo of a Saracen Cavalryman. After that come a legion of Amazons followed by two terra cotta Amazons from 300-280 B.C. in blue leather boots and lavender-colored skirts. As the exhibit brochure suggests, conflict and rupture are everywhere.

The Sleep of Reason

I first saw one of Yinka Shonibare’s massive photographic revisitings of “The Sleep of Reason” at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers four years ago (“Goya’s Book of Dreams: Sharp as the Point of an Etching Needle, Sept. 10, 2008), but the four-fold impact here is considerably more impressive because of visual excitement created by the arrangement. It’s rare enough to speak of a “view” unfolding within the confines of a museum, but what the curators have created is very definitely a view, and a great view at that. You enter the exhibition gallery on your left as if coming to the summit of an old world city — imagine yourself, say, atop the Palatine Hill in Rome peering through a statuary-ornamented balustrade at a Nigerian Sound and Light spectacle fashioned with fabrics from London’s Brixton Market.

Or, to put it another way, less fancy and more fact, what you see is a matchless matching of the photographic clarity and richness of color and design with which Shonibare has clothed the four dreamers, each one representing a continent, Africa, Asia, America, and Australia. The genesis of the work — Goya’s vision remastered in living color — is implicit in Shonibare’s personal history. Born in London in 1962, he moved with his family to Lagos, Nigeria, when he was three years old. At 18, after returning to Britain, he contracted an inflammation across the spinal cord that left him disabled. Because of his disability, he depends on a team of assistants to help him manifest his visions, the essence being composed of the African and Indonesian fabrics he buys himself from the aforementioned London market.

Shonibare includes his MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) whenever he uses his name, to emphasize his hybrid identity. “I have always viewed art as a form of opera, or as being operatic,” he explained in 2004. “And opera is excessive; it is beyond the real, and therefore hyper-real.”

The opera in images arranged around Shonibare’s hybrid, hyper-real aesthetic is all about, according to the museum’s summer 2012 magazine, the pursuit of “the ideas of cross-cultural discovery — and its attendant dislocations — as a common human experience and of the visual arts as a crystallization and visualization of that experience.”

Cosmic Encounters

Instead of presenting the effect of a view across an earthly vista, the other half of the exhibit, which is located in the gallery opposite the one centered on the spectacle of Shonibare’s “Sleep of Reason,” offers views of the moon and the cosmos, with an emphasis on “encounters with the unknown,” including “other spiritual realms or celestial worlds” and “so-called encounters of the third kind.” The epigraph of moment is from Lewis Rutherford, the father of celestial photography, who observed on January 8, 1865: “Few things have inspired as many myths and mysteries as the moon.” The range is stunning. You go from photographer Ruth Bernhard’s shiny, smashed-flat teapot to Howard Russell Butler’s “early scientific visualizations of other planetary bodies” to Liu Guosong’s hanging scrolls, five full moons painted after the first lunar landing.

Having infinitely expanded the dimensions of the subject at hand, “Encounters” allows a larger view of what happened at the Century cineplex in a place called Aurora. For one thing, scientists at NASA have predicted that in 2012, the Aurora Borealis will be the brightest and most intense in 50 years. Last April 24, according to an article in Huffington Post Science, “The Aurora Borealis put on a dazzling show in more than a dozen states,” including Colorado and Illinois. A post from County Antrim in Northern Ireland described “vertical green pillars of light some 60 degrees high accompanied by amazing pulsating motions like the beating of a heart.”

Münter’s Moments 

When you leave “Encounters” make sure to stop by the gallery of 19th − early 20th century art to see the newly displayed paintings by Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), from the repository of works of the Berlin-born artist donated by Frank E. Taplin, Class of 1937, his wife Margaret (Peggy) Taplin, and their family. The paintings include a thoughtful self-portrait of Gabriele in her early thirties, peering at us, at once focused and wistful, from under an extraordinary lampshade of a hat, and an oil on board from 1910 of her fiance-for-a-decade, Wassily Kandinsky, age about 44, holding forth over coffee to a young woman named Erma Bossi.

In a 1958 interview with Edouard Roditi in Dialogues – conversations with European Artists at Mid-century, Münter said, “My main difficulty was that I could not paint fast enough. My pictures are all moments of my life – I mean instantaneous visual experiences, generally noted very rapidly and spontaneously. When I begin to paint, it’s like leaping suddenly into deep waters, and I never know beforehand whether I will be able to swim …. When I painted my ‘Blue Mountain,’ I had learned the trick. It came to me as easily and naturally as song to a bird.”

In the context of current events, murder and mayhem, art shows and butterflies, it’s hard not to think of another Gabrielle, the survivor of another shooting in the west, Gabrielle Giffords. Which brings us back to the present, July, 2012, where a carpenter who makes crosses for the victims of massacres travels from his home in Aurora, Illinois, to Aurora, Colorado, with 12 more.

———

The image of The Sleep of Reason (Africa), 2008, C print mounted on aluminum, is from the Collection of Nancy and Rodney Gould, courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai.


Throughout music history, the city of Vienna has been a hot spot for musical performance, with Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert among its masters. Two centuries later, Vienna is still exporting great music, and a sample came to Richardson Auditorium last Wednesday night as part of the Princeton University Summer Concert series. The Vienna Piano Trio performed three works for piano, violin, and cello, showing precision and a solid command of 18th and 19th century repertoire.

The other ensembles heard in the Summer Concert series this year have maintained blended repertoires of traditional and contemporary (event, avant-garde) music, but the Vienna Piano Trio is firmly rooted in the classics. Violinist Wolfgang Redik, cellist Matthias Gredler, and pianist Stefan Mendl have compiled a discography of the great masters of chamber music, including the piano trios of Franz Josef Haydn.

The Vienna Trio’s performance of Haydn’s Piano Trio in A Major was clean from the outset, beginning with exacting chords from the piano. Mr. Mendl showed a very light touch on the keyboard, with even fingering on running passages and a subtle left hand. Mr. Mendl demonstrated a great deal of character in his piano accompaniment, complementing a sweet violin sound from Mr. Redik. Haydn’s trio included stylistic musical teasing, which was well executed by the Vienna ensemble.

Throughout the three movements, the strength of Mr. Mendl remained the evenness of his hands, which enabled a concise and well-timed dialog between piano and violin. Mr. Gredler drew a rich sound from the lower register of the cello, especially in the darker second movement. The Vienna Trio also demonstrated their quick playing in the third movement as they brought the Haydn work to a fast and furious close.

The Viennese work paired with the Haydn Trio was Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat Major, composed less than a year before the composer’s death. Despite Schubert’s physical suffering at the time, his late works, including this trio, were infused with expressive melodies and a bit of playfulness. The Vienna Trio brought out well the lyrical second subject of the first movement, allowing the silences between musical thoughts to become a bit longer each time. The second movement, Andante, resembled a typically Schubertian lieder for cello and piano, with Mr. Gredler deriving the most from the phrases, evenly accompanied by Mr. Mendl. The full ensemble sound and musical drama showed Beethoven’s presence in the same city (he died shortly before Schubert began work on this trio) and the Vienna ensemble illuminated the saucy refrain of the closing Rondo with its especially Beethoven-esque dash to the finish.

French musical impressionist Maurice Ravel is not a composer one normally associates with Vienna, but he did travel to the city many times, and had a great regard for Viennese musical heritage. From this tradition Ravel may have borrowed the piano trio form, but his Piano Trio in A Minor was colored by a far darker influence than light-hearted Viennese court life. From the time of this trio’s beginnings in 1913 to its premiere in 1915, France moved from the joie de vivre of the early 20th century to immersion in World War I. Ravel was forced to rush completion of this trio in order to enlist in the military, and the four movements of this work are almost a pastiche of world-wide musical influence.

In this work, Ravel took an old form and added a new harmonic twist, and the Vienna Trio brought out well all the nuances and impressionistic musical tricks. Mr. Mendl began the work with a very liquid piano character, soon joined by unison violin and cello. Mr. Gredler’s cello part showed more range than the other two works, with long melodic lines in both stringed instruments and more use of vibrato. An elegant dialog between the violin and cello smoothed out the Basque irregular meter of the movement.

The second movement, Pantoum, drew its structure from Malaysian poetry, with a great deal of rise and fall in the music and jagged rhythms. This movement was more demanding of the players, and the Vienna Trio moved smoothly into the third movement Passacaille. Mr. Mendl well intoned the funeral march theme in the lowest register of the piano, and the three instruments built intensity well as the movement arched and returned to its funereal roots from the keyboard.

In all three of these works (as well as the Schumann excerpt which served as an encore), the Vienna Piano Trio paid tribute to the precision of the Classical era, while stretching their range into Ravel’s muted instrumental colors. This was clearly an ensemble rooted in the great traditions of the history of music.


Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, through August 5. The artists will host a “Coffee and Conversation” August 5 from 2-5 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.

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.

Dalet Gallery, 141 North Second Street, Philadelphia, hosts “Made in Princeton,” with works from members of the Princeton Artist Alliance and the Princeton Photography Club, through August 13. A reception is August 3, 5-9 p.m. Hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Visit www.dalealert.com.

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, through August 5. A partner show is at the Prince Street Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, 4th floor, New York, July 31-August 18. Works by Mel Leipzig, Jon Naar, Aubrey Kauffman, Leon Rainbow, Linda Osborne, and others are included in these shows. Call (609) 989-3632 for Ellarslie information; (646) 230-0246 for Spring Street Gallery.

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 Milberg Gallery through December 28 is “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House.”

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows the third annual Juried Photographic Exhibition through August 11. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. or by appointment.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street, Cranbury, exhibits “Flora, Fauna and Mystical” through July 27. Paintings by Linda Gilbert are in the show. Next is “All About the Birds,” the art of Necati Itez, from August 5-26. A reception is August 5 from 1-3 p.m. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays July 15 and 22.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries through September include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. “Aerial Roots” by Steve Tobin is in the Meadow Gallery through July 31. See www.groundsforsculp
ture.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 through September 15. 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. “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 through October 14.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms,” through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day. “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” is on view through June 23, 2013.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, has the First Annual Works on Paper Show through August 17. Call (609) 460-4708 for more information.

Mercer County Senior Art Show is being held through August 3 at Meadow Lakes, 300 Meadow Lakes just off Etra Road, East Windsor. Categories are acrylic, craft, computer imagery, drawing, mixed media, oil, pastel, photography, print, sculpture, and watercolor. Call (800) 564-5705.

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.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, is showing works by artists influenced by the late professor I-Hsiung Ju. A closing reception July 31 is from 6:30-8 p.m. Howard Ye will demonstrate Chinese brush painting. The gallery’s hours are 1-6 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.

Princeton Township Municipal Complex, 400 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting a photo collection of the traditional costumes of the Molise region, on loan from the Cultural Ministry of the Region of Molise. The photos will be on display through the month of July. The exhibit was arranged by the Princeton/Pettoranello Sister City Foundation.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” through 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, runs through November 25. The Museum will install 12 sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Scudder Plaza, in front of Robertson Hall, for one year starting August 1. 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.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works 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.

West Windsor Arts Center Gallery, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, will show “Pantyhose, Wire, Brushstrokes & Lens” through August 31. This is work by teaching artists and faculty of the arts center. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12-6 p.m. Visit www.westwindsorarts.org.

TOO BAD THIS HOLIDAY ONLY COMES ONCE A YEAR: Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) runs excitedly through the bayou holding a lit sparkler in each hand. She is clearly enjoying the holiday as only a six-year-old can.

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is growing up in “The Bathtub,” a backwoods bayou located on the swampy side of a Louisiana levee. The self-sufficient tomboy divides her days attending to her sickly father (Dwight Henry) and she lives in harmony with a handful of other hardy refugees from civilization.

Hushpuppy feels sorry for the children growing up in nearby New Orleans because they eat fish wrapped in plastic and have been taught to fear the water. While those city kids were confined to strollers and baby carriages during their formative years, she’s been free to explore her surroundings that are teeming with vegetation and wildlife.

Yet, her existence is far from idyllic, because she pines for the mother whom her widowed father explained simply “swam away” one day. The heartbroken little girl tries to fill the void via flights of fancy. Using her vivid imagination, she has imaginary conversations with her long-lost mother.

Hushpuppy is also concerned about her father’s failing health and by an ominous foreboding that climate change is ruining her surroundings. She’s been warned by Miss Bathsheeba (Gina Montana), a sage soothsayer, who is her surrogate mother, that “The trees are gonna die first, then the animals, then the fish.”

So unfolds Beasts of the Southern Wild, a compelling tale which is also the directorial debut of Benh Zeitlin. The movie, an early entry in the Academy Awards sweepstakes, is a surreal fairy tale about the prospects of the planet that richly deserves all the accolades it received at Sundance, Cannes, and other film festivals.

Considerable credit goes to Quvenzhané Wallis, a talented youngster who not only portrays protagonist Hushpuppy but narrates the film as well.

A clever mixture of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the movie repeatedly reminds us of a pre-pollution, pre-digital era when children were encouraged to plunge headlong into nature to experience the world firsthand rather than through electronic media.

The movie is a visually enchanting fantasy told from the perspective of a naïve waif untouched by the 21st century.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, child imperilment, disturbing images, and brief sensuality. Running time: 91 minutes.Distributor: Fox Searchlight.


July 18, 2012

“I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.”

—Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
‘Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along.
Seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn,
It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born.

—Bob Dylan, “Song to Woody”

When the folks next door gave us the new Neil Young record, Americana, I wasted no time sliding it in the CD player on Moby, my four-wheeled stereo CRV. As happened last month with the Beach Boys’ new one, That’s Why God Made the Radio, I let the thing keep playing, five times at last count, as I drove around town. To borrow an old term from MTV’s heavy metal youth, it was a high octane headbanger’s ball as Neil and Crazyhorse beat the joyful daylights out of old singalong favorites, including “Clementine,” “Oh Susanna,” “Travel On,” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Although I was unaware until a few days ago that Woody Guthrie’s centenary was upon us, what better prelude to the event than all this pounding, full-throated vintage Americana? It was Neil Young, after all, who inducted Guthrie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. In his remarks, Young said that when he was in high school he thought “maybe I’d like to be one of those rockers that could bend the strings and get down on my knees, and kind of make everybody go crazy. Then I wanted to be that other guy, too, that had a little acoustic guitar, and sing a few songs — sing about things that I really felt inside myself, and things I saw going on around me.” He doesn’t come right out and say so (“I don’t know which one of those guys I tried to be”), but of course Neil Young is not only one of the most go-crazy-everybody guitar madmen in the universe, he is a passionately committed, devoted-to-the-message singer songwriter with one of the great rock and roll voices, full of hope and heartbreak, and as searing as a siren in the night.

“It all seems to go back and start with Woody Guthrie,” Neil said near the end of the Hall of Fame remarks. “His songs are gonna last forever, and some of the songs of his descendents are gonna last forever.”

While the first such descendents to come to mind are Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, there’s also Johnny Depp, who grew up in Kentucky “on bluegrass and country music,” has listened to Guthrie all his life, and is editing with Douglas Brinkley Guthrie’s only novel, House of Earth, which will make its publishing debut next year. In the back page essay in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Depp and Brinkley locate “the roots” of the novel in Guthrie’s Dust Bowl experiences, his reading of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and the writing of “This Land Is Your Land,” which he “conceived of” while hitchhiking to New York and wrote in late February of 1940, “holed up in a low-rent Times Square hotel.”

Not surprisingly, the version in Americana sung by Neil Young restores the more contentious verses, such as:

 

By the relief office I saw my people.

As they stood hungry,

I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.

And:

There was a high wall there

That tried to stop me

A sign was painted that said ‘Private Property’

But on the other side it didn’t say nothin’

That side was made for you and me.

 

With a few adjustments, those words still have some significance in the time of the 99 percent. Centenary Princeton coincidences abound here, given what Woody reveals in his wordslinging memoir, Bound for Glory (1943): “Born 1912. That was the year … my papa and mama got all worked up about good and bad politics and named me Woodrow Wilson.” Only ten days before Woody came into the world, the other Woodrow, Princeton graduate, professor, and president, then governor of New Jersey, had been nominated for president on the 46th ballot at one of the wildest Democratic conventions ever, which took place 12 days before Woody came into the world on July 14.

Woody in the Apple

At the end of Hal Ashby’s visually stunning film version of Bound for Glory (1976), Woody (played wisely and well by the late David Carradine) is headed for New York City. The Times Square hotel where “This Land Is Your Land” was written was the Hanover House, located on West 43rd and Sixth Avenue, “a long block from the New York Public Library,” according to Ed Cray’s 2004 biography, Ramblin’ Man. Guthrie’s American anthem, orginally titled “God Blessed America for Me,” was written as a corrective to Irving Berlin’s forthrightly patriotic, “God Bless America.” The tune came from the Carter Family’s “Little Darlin’, Pal of Mine,” which, typically, derived from a Baptist hymn, “Oh My Lovin’ Brother.”

Some of the most colorful prose in Bound for Glory is inspired by his response to the big city. Sixty-five stories up (“Quite a little elevator ride down to where the world was being run”), he riffs on the Rainbow Room “in the building called Rockefeller’s Center, where the shrimps are boiled in Standard Oil” (a line ready made for the song in which it became “they tossed their salad in Standard Oil”): “I was floating in high finances, sixty-five stories above the ground, leaning my elbow on a stiff-looking tablecloth as white as a runaway ghost, and tapping my finger on the side of a big fishbowl. The bowl was full of clear water with a bright red rose as wide as your hand sunk down in the water, which made the rose look bigger and redder and the leaves greener than they actually was.”

Subway

There’s a photo from 1943 of Woody playing and singing on the subway that belongs with the iconic New York images of an overcoated James Dean walking, hands in pockets, in the middle of a rainy night Times Square and a decade later, a tan-jacketed Bob Dylan walking down West 4th Street in the Village with Suze Rotolo on his arm. My first thought was of Walker Evans’s clandestinely snapped pictures of subway riders between 1938 and 1941, most of which show seated passengers, with the exception of a blind accordion player standing and playing in the middle of a crowded car. Evans’s slightly unfocused image pales next to Eric Schaal’s photograph of Woody, who is also standing in the middle of the car bundled in what appears to be a black pea coat with a dark cap pushed back on his head, his eyes closed or perhaps downcast in a singing trance that gives his face a naked, exposed, almost beatific quality. If you’re accustomed to the more common images of Woody as the craggy, raw-boned Dust Bowl wayfarer, you might not even recognize him. He looks exotic enough to pass for, say, Jean Louis Barrault’s street-singer brother, having climbed aboard the D train fresh from the Boulevard du Crime in Marcel Carné’s film, Les Enfants du Paradis, his face lit with the otherworldly radiance of the mime Baptiste’s in one of his dumbshow reveries.

Twenty-one of the pictures Schaal took as he followed Woody Guthrie around New York can be seen (and should not be missed) in Life.com’s 100th birthday tribute, “Woody Guthrie: Photos of an American Treasure” at http://life.time.com/culture/woody-guthrie-in-nyc-1943. Guthrie’s politically suspect wartime reputation presumably explains why these flattering, sympathetic photos of Woody as a folk hero never showed up in the pages of Henry Luce’s Life magazine.

Dylan Crosses the Swamp

In his memoir, Chronicles Volume One, Bob Dylan describes a visit to Guthrie at Greystone Hospital in Morristown New Jersey during which Woody mentioned some boxes of songs and poems stored in the basement of his house on Mermaid Boulevard in Coney Island. Having been told he’s “welcome to them” if he wanted them (Woody’s wife “would unpack them for me”), Dylan rides the subway all the way from the West 4th Street station to the last stop and finds himself walking across a swamp (“I sunk in the water, knee level, but kept going anyway — I could see the lights as I moved forward, didn’t really see any other way to go”). When he comes out on the other end, his pants are drenched, “frozen solid,” and his feet are “almost numb.” Guthrie’s wife isn’t there, just a nervous babysitter who wouldn’t let him in until Woody’s son Arlo tells her it’s okay. Nobody knows or can do anything about the box in the basement. Staying just long enough to “warm up,” Dylan turns around and trudges back across the swamp to the subway in his waterlogged boots. Like so much in Chronicles, this anecdote is a song in itself, waiting to be written, even though it would have been better yet had Dylan forged the swamp with his arms weighed down with boxes of Guthrie’s songs and poems.

As Dylan goes on to explain, Woody’s lyrics “fell into the hands” of Billy Bragg and Wilco, who “put melodies to them” and brought them “to full life” in the first of a series 40 years later. Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions was released this year on Record Store Day, April 21, in a 3-disc box set to commemorate Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. Also in honor of the centenary, the Smithsonian has released Woody at 100, a 3-CD boxed set including 57 tracks and dozens of Guthrie’s drawings, paintings and handwritten lyrics.


The Princeton University Summer Concerts series continued its popular season last week with a performance by the Chiara String Quartet, which presented a concise and well-balanced program to a very appreciative audience. These free summer chamber concerts have become the thing to do on hot summer nights in Princeton, and the audience at Richardson Auditorium last Monday night was not disappointed by the Chiara Quartet’s level of play or choice of repertoire. The quartet, comprised of violinists Rebecca Fischer and Julie Hye-Yung Yoon, violist Jonah Sirota, and cellist Gregory Beaver, presented two chamber standards and a work by a composer with whom they have had a long association.

Franz Josef Haydn’s string quartets were the model for the genre during the 18th and a good part of the 19th centuries. His Opus 76 was a courtly set of quartets, and the fifth of this set was particularly joyful. Led by first violinist Ms. Fischer, the first movement was a refreshing start to the Chiara’s concert. Ms. Fischer drew out the phrase cadences especially well, with Mr. Beaver playing with a rich and mellow sound when the cello had long solo passages.

Throughout the four-movement work, the Chiara String Quartet demonstrated excellent communication with one another, building simultaneous dynamic swells and crescendi. Mr. Beaver was well in control in the third movement Menuetto, providing a solid foundation to the ensemble sound. The final Presto was high-spirited, with a quick melody traded between violin and cello, and precision among the players as the work came to a close.

Like the Chiara Quartet, Massachusetts-born composer Jefferson Friedman is young, and his String Quartet No. 2 had an energetic exuberance and contemporary intricacy about it. The Chiara Quartet has a long-standing partnership with Mr. Friedman (he has written three quartets for them) and clearly had his second String Quartet well in hand. From the outset the four instruments maintained simultaneous intensity through the very rhythmic and canonic movement. Mr. Friedman’s work had a great deal of motion, interspersed with haunting and expressive solos. The three movements had no descriptive subtitles, but were different in character, with the Chiara ensemble bringing out well the stylistic variety. In the hymn-like second movement, Mr. Friedman created a soothing texture with two violins and viola against a subtle cello accompaniment, and the ensemble showed its expertise in working together with collective silences and reaching points of rest together. The third movement contained an unusual texture, with the viola being the only instrument bowed against sharp pizzicatti from the other players. The Chiara Quartet maintained focus and intensity well as this difficult yet appealing work drew to a close.

The quartet showed its full strength in Brahms’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, the last of the composer’s three quartets. Brahms composed many of his violin works for a specific performer, as evidenced by the lyrical song played by first violinist Ms. Fischer in the second movement. The Chiara ensemble played this piece from memory, which enabled the players to fully communicate with one another unencumbered by music stands. The players seemed to lean in more, playing with ease and sensitivity, and the audience was definitely intrigued by how much more one can see in a performer when they are playing from memory.

The Chiara players could feel instinctively when to move from resting point into motion, especially in a second movement which could easily have come from Brahms’s sacred repertoire. The players brought out well the gypsy-like syncopation in the third movement Agitato, with the muted first violin matching the dark color of the viola. The charming Viennese fourth movement which closed the work reminded the audience of the chamber roots of the string quartet genre and sent the audience off into the summer night feeling as though they had been to a delightful and intimate soirée.


Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, through August 5. The artists will host a “Coffee and Conversation” August 5 from 2-5 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. “Words with Friends,” through July 20, blends language and art. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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.

Dalet Gallery, 141 N. Second Street, Philadelphia, hosts “Made in Princeton,” with works from members of the Princeton Artist Alliance and the Princeton Photography Club, through August 13. A reception is August 3, 5-9 p.m. Hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Visit www.dalealert.com.

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, 530 West 25th Street, 4th floor, New York, July 31-August 18. Works by Mel Leipzig, Jon Naar, Aubrey Kauffman, Leon Rainbow, Linda Osborne, and others are included in these shows. Call (609) 989-3632 for Ellarslie information; (646) 230-0246 for Spring Street Gallery.

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. Opening in the Milberg Gallery July 23 and running through December 28 is “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House.”

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows the third annual Juried Photographic Exhibition through August 11. 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” through July 27. Paintings by Linda Gilbert are in the show. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays July 15 and 22.

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries through September include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. “Aerial Roots” by Steve Tobin is in the Meadow Gallery through July 31. See www.groundsfor sculpture.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. “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 through October 14.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, is hosting “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms,” through July 31. The museum is offering free admission this summer to all active military duty personnel and their families, through Labor Day. “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” is on view through June 23, 2013.

Joan Perkes Fine Art Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, has the First Annual Works on Paper Show July 21-August 17. An opening reception is July 21, 3-7 p.m. and July 22, 1-6 p.m. Call (609) 460-4708 for more information.

Mercer County Senior Art Show will be held July 18-August 3 at Meadow Lakes, 300 Meadow Lakes just off Etra Road, East Windsor. Categories are acrylic, craft, computer imagery, drawing, mixed media, oil, pastel, photography, print, sculpture, and watercolor. Call (800) 564-5705.

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.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, is showing works by artists influenced by the late professor I-Hsiung Ju. A closing reception July 31 is from 6:30-8 p.m. Howard Ye will demonstrate Chinese brush painting. The gallery’s hours are 1-6 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.

Princeton Township Municipal Complex, 400 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting a photo collection of the traditional costumes of the Molise region, on loan from the Cultural Ministry of the Region of Molise. The photos will be on display through the month of July. The exhibit was arranged by the Princeton/Pettoranello Sister City Foundation.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery” through 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, runs through November 25. The Museum will install 12 sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Scudder Plaza, in front of Robertson Hall, for one year starting August 1. 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.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works 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.

West Windsor Arts Center Gallery, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, will show “Pantyhose, Wire, Brushstrokes & Lens” July 22-August 31. An artists’ reception is July 22 from 4-6 p.m. This is work by teaching artists and faculty of the arts center. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12-6 p.m. Visit www.westwindsorarts.org.

SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR: The whimsical prehistoric animal Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge), who is half squirrel and half rat, is obsessed with burying his acorn for future use when food is scarce. Unfortunately, Scrat tries to bury the acorn in the frozen tundra of the north. His efforts set off a series of cataclysmic events which results in the world’s land mass separating into separated continents.

Unfortunately, the people behind the latest installment of this animated series of movies abandoned the family-friendly formula which made the earlier films so popular with children of all ages. Instead, they decided to produce a comedy that is more concerned with generating cheap laughs by any means possible than with spinning a coherent tale that will also engage adults.

In addition to the unfocused, scatterbrained storyline, Ice Age 4 features a plethora of preposterous anachronisms which suggest that pirates, togas, and telephones existed in the age of prehistoric creatures. Plus, the picture makes a number of distracting allusions to everything from the movie Meet the Parents, to Trix cereal TV commercials (“Silly Rabbit!”), to Homer’s Odyssey (seductive sirens as characters), and to the Bible (Book of Jonah).

The result is an adventure designed to enthrall tykes at the expense of appealing to older audiences. In addition to the principals who are reprising their roles, newcomers to the voice cast include Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Wanda Sykes, Joy Behar, Peter Dinklage, Nicki Minaj, and Keke Palmer.

The fun starts when half-squirrel/half-rat Scrat (Chris Wedge) accidentally triggers the tectonic division of the planet’s continents when he tries to bury an acorn in the frozen tundra. Elsewhere, Woolly mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and his wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah), exhibit concern about their daughter Peaches’s (Palmer) crush on Ethan (Drake). Predictably, the smitten teen rides roughshod over the feelings of a secret admirer (Josh Gad) whose existence she barely acknowledges becauses he’s just a molehog.

Additional subplots involve sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) who is caring for his sassy grandmother (Sykes), and saber-toothed tiger Diego’s (Denis Leary) pursuit of a love interest. However, the film’s primary concern is reuniting the families who were separated from each other and ended up on different land masses in the wake of Scrat’s cataclysmic hijinks.

Too bad the resolution of every piece of this cinematic jigsaw puzzle proves predictable.

Fair (*). Rated PG for rude humor, action, and scenes of peril. Running time: 94 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.


July 12, 2012

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me.

—William Faulkner (1897-1962)

This time last year, on the fiftieth anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death, I described “the big this-is-what-it’s-all-about moment where a 14-year-old who has been reading Mickey Spillane suddenly recognizes ‘the real thing.’” (“Fifty Years Later: Hemingway’s Hymn to the Writer and His Craft”). The book providing that moment was The Old Man and the Sea. With Faulkner, who died on July 6, 1962, almost a year to the day after Hemingway, the first shock of recognition came around the same age in a mass-market paperback edition of Sanctuary. The first thing I saw was a publisher’s note that immediately put Sanctuary and Faulkner beyond my range by referring to the novelist as “the modern master of the Grand Guignol” (whatever that was) and comparing his work with the plays of Webster and Tourneur (whoever they were). Next came the shock of encountering a character called Popeye in the first sentence when the only Popeye I knew was the cartoon sailor man and this was someone whose face “had a queer, bloodless color, as though seen by electric light.” When I went on to read that he had “that vicious depthless quality of stamped tin” and that his eyes were “two knobs of soft black rubber,” I knew I was “not in Kansas any more.”

Five years later I found myself pondering the first page of The Sound and the Fury. I was reading it outside of school, on my own, and I was lost. I had no idea what was going on. “I could see them hitting.” Hitting what? Caddie? Oh, golf. They were playing golf? The first time through was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t put the book down, but what kept me reading had nothing to do with plot or character or suspense in the usual sense of the word. Faulkner’s departure from the conventional guidelines added a new dimension to reading. As I began to pick up on what he seemed to be doing, it was like sneaking into his secret workshop to look over his shoulder as he wrote, feeling a small part of what he must have felt, to be building something so mysterious and unique. By the end, I thought I’d discovered a new world but only barely. I knew I was still missing a lot, I wanted more, I couldn’t put the book away. So I went back to the beginning and started reading it over again.

Faulkner in Princeton

Some months ago, thinking ahead to a column on the 50th anniversary of Faulkner’s death, I began reading A Fable, which he finished writing here in Princeton in November 1953 in his editor Saxe Commins’s Elm Road home. Years later when we were living around the corner from the Commins house, I used to picture Faulkner in his overcoat walking off a hangover under the Hodge Road sycamores. He acknowledged his relationship with Commins in the dedication accompanying his collection of hunting stories, Big Woods (Random House 1955); presented in the form of an author-to-editor memo, it reads, “We never always saw eye to eye but we were always looking at the same thing.”

It’s best to read A Fable the way Faulkner suggested that readers come to James Joyce’s Ulysses, as “the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith.” Even so, you soon get the impression that Faulkner approached the writing of the novel in the same spirit, in effect saying a prayer and betting everything he had on the power of his art while making himself available to that metaphorical “somebody else” who would write him if he “didn’t exist.” According to Dorothy Commins’s book, What Is An Editor: Saxe Commins at Work, Faulkner typed a two-page preface “as a favor to Saxe and to Random House,” to be used on the dust jacket of the finished book. The result was a rambling meditation on war and pacifism (“which does not work, cannot cope with the forces that produce the wars”), none of which was used in the eventual jacket copy, with its references to “mutiny in the trenches,” “the ageless tragedy and triumph of the crucifixion and the resurrection” and its promise to the reader of “a compelling story of violence and humility, of cruelty and compassion, of pathos and humor, of war and peace.”

Faulkner Plays 50 Choruses

At this point I should admit that I interrupted my reading of A Fable at page 215 in order to reread Light in August. Although I may never finish the book, I’m glad I read far enough to witness the feat Faulkner performs between pages 126 and 139, an Olympian run that begins inauspiciously with these two sentences:

“But when they reached the city they found no placid lake of grieving resignation. Rather, it was a cauldron of rage and consternation.”

I wonder if Commins had the nerve to point out that resignation-consternation trainwreck or the way the engine of Faulkner’s prose seems to come to a crashing halt when it hits a pair of labored, no-way-out, dead-end metaphors. “Seems” to come, I say, since what follows are 13 pages of Faulkner in full flight, all his jets and subsidiary igniters kicking in, propelling those “as if” and “not … but” clauses he’s addicted to. Give yourself up to it with a full measure of faith and the rhetorical onslaught sweeps you past bizarre liberties (“which was when the inspectors and inquisitors … realised the — not enormity, but monstrosity, incredibility; the monstrous incredibility, the incredible monstrosity, with which they were confronted”); when Faulkner’s locked in, it’s best to just sit back and let him play, the way you would if he were a jazz virtuoso standing on a storm-wracked promontory blowing 50 choruses against a gale-force wind. Like all great musicians, Faulkner has his own sound, as you’ll hear if you listen to the recordings of him reading from his work, his voice soft and swift and unstoppable, beyond mere accent and affect.

I’ve listened to recordings of Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Hemingway, Yeats, Pound, but no poet or writer I’ve ever heard is as insidiously seductive as Faulkner. It’s hard to imagine that a literate person of either sex could resist the way he makes love to the word “avatar.” The cassette I’ve been listening to includes passages from The Old Man, As I Lay Dying, and A Fable, as well as the Nobel Prize acceptance speech that no one at the ceremony could hear because he rushed the words and was standing too far from the microphone. It’s true, he seems happiest when he’s reading uptempo, feeding off the momentum, muting the rush of rhetoric; in terms of intonation, cadence, and melodics, the musician who comes to mind with his, in Nat Hentoff’s words, “pulsating ease,” is Faulkner’s fellow Mississippian, Lester Young.

Faulkner and Blackness

In 1959, his skin darkened with the help of a dermatologist and long sessions under an ultraviolet lamp, the novelist John Howard Griffin (The Devil Rides Outside) took his chances travelling through the Deep South as a Negro and published the results two years later in his book, Black Like Me. In 1931-32, after, incredibly, producing Sartoris, Sanctuary, The Sound and the Fury, and As I Lay Dying in the space of three years, William Faulkner wrote Light in August. You could say that Faulkner was safe within his fiction while Griffin put his life on the line passing as a black man in the reality of the South, but in Light in August, Faulkner dared to submerge himself and his art in the “black abyss” of race by creating and inhabiting and finally destroying Joe Christmas, who had passed as a white man until, obsessed by the enigma of his origins, he began fatally announcing that he had Negro blood.

Faulkner and Milch

According to a Dec. 1, 2011 New York Times article by David Itzkoff, when David Milch found that his daughter, Olivia, was studying Light in August at Yale, it “renewed [his] engagement with the material,” eventually leading to discussions between his company, Red Board Productions, and the William Faulkner Literary Estate for the purchase of the rights to 19 novels and 125 short stories by Faulkner that could be adapted for film or television. HBO said in a news release that it would have the first opportunity to finance and produce these projects. Admirers of the great HBO series Deadwood, with its rhetorical overtones of Shakespeare, Dickens, and, yes, Faulkner, may agree with me in thinking that if anyone can do cinematic justice to the author of A Fable and Light in August, it’s David Milch.

In a Nov. 30, 2011, interview with the L.A. Times, Milch says that his interest in Faulkner “deepened” when he was at Yale assisting Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, and R.W.B. Lewis “on a history of American literature.” What attracts him in Faulkner is that he “speaks to us on the questions of race, the challenges of modernity and modern man’s dilemma in all of its aspects.” Asked about the challenge of filming “an unfilmable writer,” Milch contends that Faulkner is “enormously cinematic,” his prose and dialogue “superb, and compelling, and absolutely authentic,” and “his ear … just impeccable.”

When he was asked which of Faulkner’s works would begin the series, Milch said the decision had not been made. My guess is he will choose Light in August. If he does, he might cast Ray McKinnon, who was so heart-breakingly brilliant as the Rev. Smith in Deadwood, as the fallen Rev. Gail Hightower, in whose kitchen Joe Christmas is gunned down and castrated by a National Guardsman with the “voice of a young priest” and a face that has the “serene, unearthly luminousness of angels in church windows.”

For an example of the challenges Milch will face if he means to put the essence of Faulkner on film, consider the language surrounding Hightower as he thinks he should never have let himself “get out of the habit of prayer.” When he turns to the book-lined wall of his study, what is he seeking? Something theological? No.

“It is Tennyson. It is dogeared. He has had it ever since the seminary. He sits beneath the lamp and opens it. It does not take long. Soon the fine galloping language, the gutless swooning full of sapless trees and dehydrated lusts begins to swim smooth and swift and peaceful. It is better than praying without having to bother to think aloud. It is like listening in a cathedral to a eunuch chanting in a language which he does not even need to not understand.”

Good luck, David. Keep the faith.


MARITAL MANIPULATIONS: Manningham (Evan Thompson) subtly deceives his wife (Sarah Paton) into thinking she is going insane, in Princeton Summer Theater’s production of Patrick Hamilton’s “Gaslight” (1938), playing at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus through July 15.

A creative work whose title becomes a part of the common cultural vocabulary must strike a resonant chord in our social and psychological worlds, and the indomitable Princeton Summer Theater’s (PST) polished, intelligent production of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 Gaslight presents a vibrant case in point. Our society has recently been struggling to come to terms with the complex psychological ramifications and destructive effects of bullying. “Gaslighting” — a power play which involves manipulating the victim into doubting his or her memory and perceptions — is certainly one of the most insidious forms of that kind of psychological abuse. Unsurprisingly, despite a certain quaint predictability and Victorian-style domestic familiarity, this classic melodrama maintains its power to engage and intrigue audiences almost 75 years after its original production.

Most famous is its 1944 movie version directed by George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten and an 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut, Gaslight, set in London in the 1880s, is the story of a villainous husband and his calculating emotional and psychological torture of his wife, as he drives her to the brink of insanity.

Under the guise of the most caring and kindly paternalism in this traditional Victorian upper-middle class household, he deceives her into believing that she is misplacing valuable objects, neglecting her responsibilities as dutiful wife, and gradually losing her mind in forgetfulness. One of his ruses that make his wife question her senses and sanity is his clandestine raising and lowering of the gas lamps that give the play its title and light the couple’s Victorian living room. The Victorian world and male-dominated marriages of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) come to mind, as does the victimized wife consigned to a 1860s mental institution in Emily Mann’s Mrs. Packard (2007).

The PST cast of five principals, all undergraduates or recent college graduates, under the direction of Princeton English and theater professor R.N. Sandberg, is excellent — credible and engaging in making significant character stretches to portray this curious assemblage of characters from a distant world.

In the central Ingrid Bergman role of the beleaguered wife Bella, Sarah Paton is convincing and sympathetic. She portrays a fluctuating fragility that shifts rapidly and credibly from happiness in response to her husband’s feigned affections to desperation and manic hysteria in the face of her fears and desperation in confronting what she is led to believe is her declining mental state. This overly dependent, neurotic stereotype of a Victorian wife is certainly a ripe subject for feminist scrutiny, as is her misogynist husband, though suspense and melodrama are Mr. Hamilton’s priorities rather than social commentary here.

Evan Thompson as Jack Manningham takes on the villain’s role with spirit and poise. His proud posture, thinly veiled insincerity, roguish demeanor, sexist commentary, and inappropriately suggestive overtures to the maid (Ariel Sibert) lucidly reveal his duplicity to the audience, if not to his wife, early on in the play. The audience, realizing Jack’s machinations, then identifying with Bella as she first spirals into distress and fear, then gradually begins to realize her husband’s treachery, enjoy watching as husband and wife match wits in mortal combat.

Ms. Sibert’s impertinent Nancy exudes the brazen spirit and style of the saucy, lascivious maid, and Jack’s flirtations with her become part of his psychological abuse of his wife, as the two women compete for his attentions.

As the elderly house servant Elizabeth, Maeve Brady makes an impressive stretch in age and creates a memorable character, watching closely the suspicious actions of her master and the alarming behavior of her mistress and helping in the end to resolve the tangled plot. Andrew Massey’s avuncular, witty, and determined detective contributes irony and dark humor to the proceedings, eventually winning Bella’s trust and allegiance in opposing the treacherous husband and sorting out his complex schemes and actions. Mr. Massey creates a quirky, believable, and likeable three-dimensional character.

Jeffrey Van Velsor, professional local set designer, in collaboration with talented lighting designer Alex Mannix, has successfully created the Manningham’s living room and this ponderous world of Victorian domestic life. In sharp, welcome contrast to the multiple settings of the 1944 movie version, the audience here stays focused in the single, darkly paneled, increasingly claustrophobic room. As the plot develops throughout the evening, the single setting intensifies the suspense and fear that the audience shares with the panicked Bella. “Gaslight” sconces on the wall further enhance the atmosphere and admirably serve the plot.

Mr. Sandberg has directed with skill and careful attention to detail. The action, even the rather long first-act exposition and set-up, moves swiftly, drawing the audience into this eerie world of intrigue and drama. The performers are well rehearsed and communicate the complexities of this tale with clarity and conviction. Ben Schaffer’s expert technical direction and period costuming by Julia Bumke and Ms. Sibert are also on-target and effective.

In commenting on Gaslight, Mr. Hamilton, who wrote several popular psychological dramas and novels in the first half of the twentieth century, once remarked, “It has a sort of genuineness in its very bogusness — it is sincere good fun theater.” Princeton Summer Theater makes the most here of Mr. Hamilton’s fascination with a rich psychological struggle and his fine sensitivity to the playwright’s art of keeping audiences on the edges of their seats.


In the ten years since Opera New Jersey’s founding, the company has grown from a vehicle for student performance to a mentoring program incorporated into high quality operatic production. In these tough economic times, Opera New Jersey has managed to expand in quality if not quantity (this season sees a marked increase in number of productions and venues) while somehow keeping the wolves away from the door. Like its sister summer musical celebration The Princeton Festival, Opera New Jersey is branching out into educational initiatives, as well as venues in other parts of the state, but its core programming remains operatic production at McCarter Theatre — and nothing says opera more than Giuseppe Verdi.

Opera New Jersey opened its 10th anniversary season with Il Trovatore, one of Verdi’s most successful operas and one which can pack audiences in. Just about three hours long and cast for little more than a handful of principals, Il Trovatore is not for the faint-hearted opera company, but Opera New Jersey cast its net to the highest musical levels to find singers who could stand up to the demanding and dramatic score.

Refreshing to see onstage again was baritone Young-Bok Kim, who has performed with Opera New Jersey in past seasons. Mr. Kim remains a phenomenal singer and is spreading his wings a bit with other companies in the country. As the officer Ferrando, Mr. Kim sang solidly with a voice full of color, ringing out the lyricism of the narrative “Di due figli vivea padre beato” aria and singing cleanly against the orchestra’s gypsy rhythms.

Verdi incorporated many different styles of music into this opera to match the characters, and the heroine Leonora was well accompanied by strings in her opening scene. Joined onstage by her confidante Ines (sung by JoAna Rusche), soprano Erica Strauss brought a tremendous amount of vocal stamina to the role of Leonora, soaring with ease into the coloratura stratosphere for which Verdi is known. Ms. Rusche is a member of Opera New Jersey’s “Emerging Artists Program,” yet she impressively complemented the voice of Ms. Strauss, completing her phrasing and vocal color as the two singers carried on a musical dialogue. Ms. Strauss demonstrated great control in the cavatina and cabaletta of her opening scene (Verdi was experimenting with forms other than arias) handling the quick coloratura of the show-stopping cabaletta well. Particularly as the opera progressed into more dramatic and theatrical territory, Ms. Strauss proved that she is a soprano who can sing forever, never losing strength, even as Verdi saved the most difficult singing for the final scene.

Leonora’s beloved Manrico does appear, lightly accompanied by harp to replicate his lute (he is the trovatore, or troubadour of the title), and tenor Rafael Dávila brought passion and vocal strength to the role. Whatever vocal overpowering he may have started with quickly dissipated as the opera went along (it would be impossible to oversing for that amount of time) and Mr. Dávila found the “serenade” quality and innocent passion of his arias. Baritone Marco Nisticò provided a suave contrast in the Count di Luna, pouring his heart into “Per me ora fatale” as he also vies for the love of Leonora.

All of these vocal roles were demanding in stamina and energy, but the role of Azucena combined these requirements with the nastiness of a witch’s character. Mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa, fresh off of a performance of Beethoven’s equally demanding ninth symphony with The Philadelphia Orchestra, proved that McCarter’s Matthews Theatre was a great space for her — easily heard with just a shade of the demonic. Ms. Mezzacappa showed her lyrical and sensitive side with the trio with Leonora and Manrico in the final prison scene, singing expressively and with control while lying on the floor. Opera New Jersey cast some of its “Emerging Artists” in the smaller roles of this opera, and these young artists showed no difficulty keeping up with the very experienced principals.

Conductor Victor DeRenzi (artistic director of the Sarasota Opera) led the New Jersey Symphony in the orchestra pit, keeping a good balance between voices and instruments even as the opera went into its third hour (a tough haul for any orchestra). The orchestra opened the opera with clean brass and handled Verdi’s martial passages well. There were disconnects between singer and orchestra at times in rhythmic clarity, but when the two came together with precision the effect was very clean. The chorus of “Studio Artists of the Emerging Artists Program” provided solid singing in the well-known choruses from this opera.

Scenic Designer Boyd Ostroff (for the Syracuse Opera) made the most of simplicity, keeping a minimum of structure onstage with a backdrop of changing hues to depict the sky. There were many costume changes in this opera, and costume designer Howard Tsvi Kaplan emphasized the Spanish flavor of the storyline, incorporating a wide range of costumes for the principals and chorus members.

So where does Opera New Jersey go from here? With a wide array of musical offerings this summer (conducted and directed by a variety of people and accompanied by different ensembles) one wonders if the next decade will include an artistic director to pull these factions together with one resident artistic thread. Whatever the next decade brings, Opera New Jersey seems to be on solid footing going forward.


Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing “Water Light,” watercolors by Eric Rhinehart and Carol Sanzalone, through August 5. The artists will host a “Coffee and Conversation” August 5 from 2-5 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. “Words with Friends,” through July 20, blends language and art. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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.

Dalet Gallery, 141 N. Second Street, Philadelphia, hosts “Made in Princeton,” with works from members of the Princeton Artist Alliance and the Princeton Photography Club, through August 13. A reception is August 3, 5-9 p.m. Hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Visit www.dalealert.com.

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. Opening in the Milberg Gallery July 23 and running through December 28 is “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House.”

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, shows the third annual Juried Photographic Exhibition July 13-August 11. The opening is July 13 from 6-8 p.m. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, 12-5 p.m. or by appointment.

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

Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Artists displayed in other GFS galleries through September include Sharon Engelsein, Willie Cole, and Marilyn Keating. “Aerial Roots” by Steve Tobin is in the Meadow Gallery through July 31. See www.groundsforsculp
ture.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. “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 “Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms,” 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.

Mercer County Senior Art Show will be held July 18-August 3 at Meadow Lakes, 300 Meadow Lakes just off Etra Road, East Windsor. Categories are acrylic, craft, computer imagery, drawing, mixed media, oil, pastel, photography, print, sculpture, and watercolor. Call (800) 564-5705.

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 12-4 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.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, is showing “Botanica Magnifica: Photographs by Jonathan Singer” through August 26.

Princeton Art Gallery, 20 Nassau Street, is showing paintings by I-Hsiung Ju through July 15. A reception hosted by the MIT Club of Princeton and the gallery is July 12, 6-8 p.m., for area alumni. From July 17-31, a joint show of artists influenced by the late Mr. Ju will be on view, in a show called “A Tribute to a Teacher.” The opening reception is July 17, 6:30-8 p.m. Call (917) 520-8653.

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 Township Municipal Complex, 400 Witherspoon Street, is exhibiting a photo collection of the traditional costumes of the Molise region, on loan from the Cultural Ministry of the Region of Molise. The photos will be on display through the month of July. The exhibit was arranged by the Princeton/Pettoranello Sister City Foundation.

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.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works 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.

Tinicum Arts Festival, Tinicum Park, Erwinna, Pa. is July 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Ty Hodanish, Impressionist painter and founder of the Artists Colony at Prallsville Mills, will be the featured artist, creating an original painting starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. He will donate the painting, which will be up for bid at the Silent Auction tent. Visit www.tinicumarts
festival.org.

West Windsor Arts Center Gallery, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, will show “Pantyhose, Wire, Brushstrokes & Lens” on view through August 31. An artists’ reception is July 22 from 4-6 p.m. This is work by teaching artists and faculty of the arts center. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12-6 p.m. Visit www.westwindsorarts.org.

WE SHOULD SAVE THESE OUTFITS FOR HALLOWEEN: Partners in the marijuana drug trade in southern California Ben (Aaron Johnson, left) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) prepare themselves for a dangerous mission in which they clearly don’t want to be recognized.

If you’ve seen the documentary Cash Crop, then you know that violent Mexican drug cartels have begun to force their way into the United States to claim a share of the lucrative marijuana market. That eye opening exposé suggested that it’s only be a matter of time before the same sort of violence occurring in Mexico also starts erupting in this country.

Although Savages is fictional — based on Don Winslow’s best-selling novel of the same name — its chilling account of a California turf war is so realistically depicted that you easily forget that what you’re watching isn’t a true story. The movie was directed by three time Oscar winner Oliver Stone (for Platoon, Midnight Express, and Born on the Fourth of July), who directs the film with a highly stylized flair akin to Miami Vice (the TV series) while grounding the grisly goings-on with a sobering gravitas reminiscent of Traffic (2000).

The picture pits a pair of home growing pot producers operating out of Laguna Beach against a ruthless Chicano gang that wants a piece of the action. At the point of departure, we find Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) living in an oceanfront mansion, with the help of a crooked DEA Agent (John Travolta), and a very potent strain of weed that has made the duo millionaires several times over.

The pair complement each other nicely, since Ben, as a Berkeley graduate who majored in business and botany, supplies the brains, while Chon, a former Navy SEAL who served a couple of tours in Afghanistan, provides the brawn. The partners share the same girlfriend, Ophelia (Blake Lively), a blonde who says that she loves both of her beaus.

The three share a hedonistic existence until they’re paid a visit by an emissary (Demian Bichir) sent to the states by a brutal Mexican crime boss (Salma Hayek), who make the threesome an offer they can’t refuse. They grudgingly enter into a partnership with the Mexicans in order to avoid the thinly veiled threat of being decapitated.

What ensues is a gruesome game of cat-and-mouse where it’s often difficult to discern who’s got the drop on whom. When the smoke finally clears, look for a mind bending twist that leads to a rabbit-out-of-the-hat resolution.

An unsettling vision of America degenerating into a lawless dystopia.

Excellent (****). Rated R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality, gruesome violence, ethnic slurs, and pervasive profanity. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 129 minutes. Distributor: Universal Pictures.


July 3, 2012

Borough resident Marianne Farrin has worn many hats over the years: Stanford University alumna, wife, mother (raising her three children on several continents), psychotherapist, theologian. The list goes on, and has always, by the way, included sports like swimming, cycling (as in serious, days-long cycling commitments), and rowing. Her most recent role is translator; she has translated from German to English, Roosevelt: A Revolutionary with Common Sense, the book written in 1933 by her late father, Helmut Magers.

Magers’s book is a paean to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s swiftly-implemented accomplishments in the early 1930s. In 1930-1931, the German-born Magers spent a year as an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Initial skepticism about Roosevelt’s plans to reinvigorate the country turned to admiration as Magers observed what he described as “’a top-down’ revolution that, in generosity and reasoning, surpasses any radical social change currently experienced elsewhere in the world.”

“Magers’s reflections on Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the daunting challenges to American society posed by the Great Depression provide a remarkably prescient, and hitherto overlooked contemporary German perspective on the relevance of the New Deal to a world in crisis,” said Rutgers University History Department Chair Michael Adas of the English edition prepared by Ms. Farrin.

Sadly, Magers’ dream that Germany and other strife-ridden countries would emulate some of the economic policies that were proving successful in the U.S. never happened. Instead, he was silenced for what was considered progressive writing and thinking by Hermann Göring, a high ranking Nazi official. Magers was ultimately sent to fight on the Russian front in 1944, a fate Ms. Farrin describes as “a death sentence.” An advice-filled letter to her written from her father, who was then stationed in the Crimea, suggests that he knew his fate.

It wasn’t until 1951 that the family received a letter from the Red Cross describing Magers as “missing in action.” In the interim, Ms. Farrin says, “The silence was devastating.” A soldier who remembered Magers later described how they were eventually taken to a camp called Mogilev in Belarus as prisoners of war by the Soviet Army. Mr. Magers died there of typhoid fever in the spring of 1945, at age 38. Magers apparently, never lost his admiration for this country; the former soldier described how Magers would entertain them at night with stories about America.

Ms. Farrin, who was born in 1938, escaped to Denmark with her mother and two siblings. Ten years later they immigrated to America, and eventually settled in California. Ms. Farrin reports that she was very self-conscious about being a German in this country, and that she grew up quickly as the eldest child and helpmate to her mother.

Ms. Farrin’s sense of purposefulness and determination were apparent early. Moved by the grandeur of the procession and ceremony she observed as a junior at Hollywood High School graduation, she determined that she would be next year’s valedictorian, and she was. She moved on to Stanford, where she met husband, Jim Farrin (Princeton University class of 1958), with a full scholarship.

Ms. Farrin says she has no idea how the German edition of the book was received in Germany when it was originally published. A copy of the first edition is in the Presidential Library at Hyde Park, and Mr. Magers’s inscription is reproduced in the new edition of the book: “To the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in profound admiration of his conception of a new economic order, and with devotion to his personality.” It is signed “The author, Berlin, Germany, November 9, 1933.”

Translating her father’s book was, Ms.Farrin says, nothing less than a labor of love. The translation is “absolutely literal,” she comments; “there was no other way to do it.” Reading aloud as she worked helped her soften some of the “very stilted German sentences.” A research trip to the Berlin Library, where she read newspaper accounts of Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, left her “very depressed.”  Although her memories of her father are “slight,” she says that she was very attached to him, and shares his “intellectual, introspective character.” She would like to visit the site of the Mogilev camp where he died.

Copies of Roosevelt: A Revolutionary with Common Sense are in both the Princeton Public Library and Princeton University’s Firestone Library. It is available for sale at Labyrinth Books, and online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Season 2 of HBO’s Treme (pronounced Trem-ay) ends, movingly, with sometime DJ Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn) back at the WWOZ microphone from which he was unceremoniously separated in Season 1. If you’ve watched both seasons of David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s extraordinary series about the agony and ecstasy of post-Katrina New Orleans, you will feel the moment with Davis, his face in the shadows as he prepares to put on a CD. What follows may be the calmest, most thoughtful utterance of his life as we know it. “Anyway, New Orleans,” he says, softly, as if the whole city were in the booth with him or bedded down for the night nearby, “we’re all still here, ain’t we? A few more home every day. And even if it isn’t as it should be, even if they make it hard, where else would we go? who else would have us? … Let Pops tell it.”

Pops is, of course, New Orleans’s most illustrious citizen ever, Louis Armstrong, born July 4, 1900, his birth date a glorious fabrication he maintained right up to the day he died. People inclined to scold me for claiming Independence Day as Satchmo’s true 112th birthday can point to Terry Teachout’s biography Pops (Houghton Mifflin 2009), which declares that, according to the baptismal register of New Orleans’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901. So, who do you trust, an old ledger, a drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, or the jazz god performing “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” for the city of his birth as Davis slides home the CD? The dream that began on July 4, 1900, didn’t end on July 6, 1971. Those who doubt Satchmo’s song of himself should listen to Walt Whitman’s: “I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and/am not contain’d between my hat and boots,” and “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Recorded when Louis and the 20th century were 31, “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” was in his band’s repertoire as he returned to New Orleans that same year for the first time since leaving his hometown in 1919. Eight marching bands met his train, the crowds closed down Canal Street, and that night when he played at the Suburban Gardens, WSMB was broadcasting live from the club. After the white announcer refused to announce him, Louis took over, later claiming it was “the first time a Negro spoke on the radio down there. For that night and the rest of the gig I did my own radio announcing.”

Though Davis McAlary most likely didn’t know that Louis Armstrong had once played the DJ on a New Orleans radio station, he couldn’t have picked a better song. While John Boutté’s lively theme music for Treme serves the purpose well, Armstrong’s performance of the Depression era hit captures the spirit of Season 2, all its ups and downs and “cloudy and gray … king for a day” moments. As the last note of Louis’s eloquent solo fades and with it the last of a series of New Orleans views (the cluttered makeshift memorial for a busker, a derelict house, a swamp with the skyline in the background), Davis sits speechless — a rare state for him. “Sorry for the dead air,” he says when he can find words. “But that one got me.”

Me, too.

As Louis Sings

During the four minutes the music’s riding the air waves, there are glimpses of some of the key characters in Treme doing what they do, Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce, the irrepressible trombonist, formerly of Simon’s The Wire); his ex-wife LaDonna (Khandi Alexander, formerly of Simon’s The Corner), back to her usual fine and foxy bartending self after a near catastrophic trauma; a couple of should-be could-be lovers, Terry the police lieutenant (David Morse) crossing paths with Toni the widowed lawyer (Melissa Leo, a.k.a. Kay Howard to fans of Simon’s Homicide), who snubs him due to a misunderstanding that Season 3 will have to clear up.

As Louis sings, “Whenever skies are cloudy and gray,” we see one of Treme’s stellar female characters, chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens, late of Deadwood) who is inspecting a kitchen she just might be commandeering if and when she returns to New Orleans from the Big Apple. The downside of the song seems especially fitting for Nelson Hidalgo (Jon Seda, another Homicide alum), the wheeling and dealing Dallas businessman who comes to town to make big money and cultivate the powers that be, including the politician whose downfall buries Hidalgo’s schemes and dreams. To real-life citizens of New Orleans, Seda’s character is a hateful reminder of the carpetbaggers who exploited the Katrina aftermath (“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to beat the living snot out of that guy,” says one blogger). But Treme’s many virtues preclude one-dimensional characters, certainly among the principals. Nelson’s cocksure ambience has a boyish charm (otherwise he wouldn’t be operating as effectively as he seems to be) and he’s enjoying himself right up to the moment he’s shown gazing unhappily at a vacant lot as Louis sings the chorus of “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.”

John Goodman

It makes sense that a series about the character of a city would feature vivid characters, some with purely surface impact like the celebrity chefs and celebrity musicians who appear in cameos, while the ones who carry the weight have depths and dark places and rough edges, none more so than Creighton Bernette (John Goodman) as a Tulane professor harrowed and half-mad in the desolate aftermath of Katrina. Being one of the most celebrated character actors on the planet, Goodman gave the show instant media clout as he loomed, brooding and raging, above the music and mayhem of Season 1. In explaining Creighton’s fate to the Times-Picayune’s Dave Walker, David Simon points out that the suicide rate was quadruple the national average for a period after the storm: “What I found on The Wire was, if you’re not willing to kill your babies — to kill your beautiful babies, the characters you create and nurture — and be willing to say they serve the story in both life and death, any show becomes precious and you know that the story is not really speaking to the human condition.”

Davis McAlary’s Angel

You can tell something about the quality of Treme by following the ups and downs of the character granted the privilege of quietly closing out Season 2. Inspired by a real-life New Orleans “wiseass savant” named Davis Rogan, Davis McAlary has provoked as much online vitriol as the savvy opportunist Nelson Hidalgo. Davis is capital-E enthusiasm carried to an often intolerable extreme. Some may see him as a retro nightmare of an “off-the-pigs” hippie radical, others as a gag-me-with-a-spoon New Orleans version of Michael Moore. He’s loud, arrogant, and so in-your-face that whenever you begin to like him, he embarrasses you, the way certain one-track-minded motor mouths tend to do in “real life.” The very qualities that should redeem him — his passion for New Orleans, heart and soul, and its music (he more than any other character qualifies as the cheerleader for Treme) — lead him again and again off the deep end; thus the “Why I Hate Steve Zahn’s Davis” bloggers.

All that said, most reasonably understanding viewers will feel a nagging affection for the Davis character by the end of Season 2. Because of his unguarded effusiveness, his passionate devotion to his musical dreams, the whole world seems to be watching when his “castles … tumble,” so that when he loses his place in his own band or is outshone by a more compelling performer, you can’t help feeling for him as he swallows the disappointment (“that’s fate after all”). But what gives him definitive credibility is the affection of the street violinist Annie Talarico (Lucia Micarelli). Watch Annie’s face light up or go dreaming with eyes closed when she’s playing or smiling or simply being who she beautifully is, and you can’t help feeling that she’s Treme’s angel, the soul of the series, and one of its finest musicians. Not only does she move in with Davis, she enjoys him, roots for him, is on his side and in his bed, a combination sister, friend, and lover.

If Annie is Treme’s angel, Melissa Leo’s pro bono civil rights lawyer Toni might be called its conscience, if she weren’t so busy dealing with her grieving teen-age daughter, Sofia, probably the most wholly touching and vulnerable character in the series. Played by 18-year-old India Ennenga as if she were four years younger, Sofia doesn’t discover the truth about her father’s death (that he took his own life) until halfway through the second season, which further estranges her from Toni, who hadn’t had the heart to tell her. Sofia resembles one of Fellini’s angelic presences, like the girl smiling at Marcello near the end of La Dolce Vita. Her anger, confusion, and sad, wounded beauty haunt the second season. Though she gets drunk and high (and is arrested), the heartsick sadness abides. Not until her mother breaks down when despairingly attempting and failing to explain the inexplicable suicide (a hugely courageous, giving moment for Melissa Leo) does Sofia open up to her.

The Three Davids

In the post-millennium cable reign of the three Davids — Chase of The Sopranos, Milch of Deadwood, and Simon of The WireTreme puts Simon in a class by himself, at least until we see what David Milch does with, say, William Faulkner’s Light in August, now that he’s signed a contract with HBO and the Faulkner estate that will allow him to adapt whichever of the author’s stories or novels he chooses.

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Both seasons of Treme are available on DVD at the Princeton Public Library and Netflix, where there is a long waiting list for Season 2. The most informative websites on Treme belong to Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger and Dave Walker of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.


There are a number of ways an opera company can tie works together for a multi-opera production: by composer, plot theme, or perhaps as a vehicle for a particular singer. For its principal operatic production this season, The Princeton Festival joined two one-act operas together based on literary source material. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini draws its storyline from the early cantos of Dante’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. To round out the evening, Princeton Festival Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk pulled Giacomo Puccini’s comic Gianni Schicchi away from its usual trilogy companions, exploiting the opera’s Dante source material to create an operatic evening reminding us all why we should behave. This “double bill” premiered June 23 and was repeated to a packed Matthews Theatre house this past Saturday afternoon.

Rachmaninoff composed his one-act setting of Francesca da Rimini at the turn of the 20th century, during Russia’s revolution. Rachmaninoff composed the crucial love duet between Francesca and Paolo first and then put the opera aside. During those ensuing years, he became acquainted with the music of Richard Wagner, which considerably influenced the orchestration of the opera. The rich orchestral fabric is a character unto itself, full of leitmotifs and dark sonorities. The action in this opera moved slowly at times, and The Princeton Festival Orchestra brought out every nuance (including some very creepy string effects). Rachmaninoff’s ability to mesmerize through orchestration was particularly evident when Paolo and Francesca finally give in to their desires over a lush 51-measure orchestral passage.

Princeton Festival stage director Steven LaCosse cleverly further embedded the Dante link into the evening by staging Dante (played by Samuel Green) at a writing desk as text from Divine Comedy floated above the stage. In this first of the double bill of operas, Dante and his companion, the ghost of Virgil (played by Nathaniel Olson) had the tough job of staying animated onstage for the entire opera, observing the action.

The most commanding voice of the evening belonged to baritone Stephen Gaertner, who sang both the roles of Malatesta in the Rachmaninoff and Gianni Schicchi in the subsequent Puccini opera. Mr. Gaertner is a veteran of the Metropolitan Opera, and had no trouble taking over the stage and convincing the audience of his torment. Soprano Caroline Worra, also a past Met singer, particularly excelled at floating the very high passages of her role, which was full of pathos at being married to the wrong man. Tenor Rolando Sanz handled well his role as the “other man,” somehow knowing that Francesca would eventually come around.

Key to the success of this opera, full of long orchestral interludes, was Graham Lustig’s choreography, setting four dances as other condemned souls. This production also created great opportunities for lighting and technology, fully exploited by set designer Mark Pirolo and lighting designer Norman Coates. With this teamwork, The Princeton Festival managed to balance a heavily symphonic work with visuals and vocals.

The operatic mood shifted considerably with Gianni Schicchi — a character referenced briefly in Dante’s Inferno, but rooted in 13th-century Florentine history. Puccini was highly successful when he set the story of Gianni Schicchi in the 16th-century commedia dell’arte tradition, with all the patter and vocal intricacy Italian audiences were used to hearing from the time of Rossini. Mr. Gaertner returned in the title role, still commanding the stage, but relaxed in intensity and clearly enjoying the comedic physicality as he elaborately scammed the rest of the family. Ms. Worra also returned as one of the related wives, showing a slightly different singing style than the first opera. By the time this opera premiered, audiences were likely expecting great melodies from Puccini, and one of the most peculiar moments in the opera is when amidst all the comedic patter comes one of the great melodic gems of opera. Soprano Jodi Burns delivered “O mio babbino caro” with a touch of innocence in a relaxed but quick tempo. A cast of underhanded and conniving relatives (performed animatedly all around) swarmed around Schicchi, also enjoying the chance to cut loose a bit (and have fun making a huge mess onstage). Soprano Jamie Van Eyck was particularly well made up and dressed to portray La Ciesca with elaborate snootiness.

The Princeton Festival operatic “double bill” was an impressive handful for the one evening alone, but combined with the more than thirty events the festival produced in three weeks no doubt made the Princeton community appreciate all the more how much work it was to put these two operas together and bring them to the stage. The Rachmaninoff opera in particular is rarely heard, and the two works together cemented the Festival’s reputation as a high-level opera presenter.


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. “Words with Friends,” July 5-20, blends language and art. For more information call (609) 924-8777 or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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 third annual Juried Photographic Exhibition July 13-August 11. The opening is July 13 from 6-8 p.m. 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. Jewelry artist Laura Lewis will exhibit and sell her work the weekend starting July 6. 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. “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.

Mercer County Senior Art Show will be held July 18-August 3 at Meadow Lakes, 300 Meadow Lakes just off Etra Road, East Windsor. Categories are acrylic, craft, computer imagery, drawing, mixed media, oil, pastel, photography, print, sculpture, and watercolor. Call (800) 564-5705.

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.

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, is showing paintings by I-Hsiung Ju through July 15. A reception will be July 8 from 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 “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.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works 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.

Tinicum Arts Festival, Tinicum Park, Erwinna, Pa. is July 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Ty Hodanish, Impressionist painter and founder of the Artists Colony at Prallsville Mills, will be the featured artist, creating an original painting starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. He will donate the painting, which will be up for bid at the Silent Auction tent. Visit www.tinicumartsfestival.org.

West Windsor Arts Center Gallery, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, will show “Pantyhose, Wire, Brushstrokes & Lens” July 22-August 31. An artists’ reception is July 22 from 4-6 p.m. This is work by teaching artists and faculty of the arts center. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12-6 p.m. Visit www.westwindsorarts.org.

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I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S COME OVER ME: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, right) is amazed at his new found capabilities that resulted from the spider bite he received when visiting a biotech company. Nonetheless, he is happy to finally be able to impress Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and have her become his steady girl friend.

When Columbia Pictures first brought Spider-Man to the big screen in 2002, the Marvel Comics adaptation was such a box-office bonanza that it spawned two equally successful sequels. Now, a decade later, the studio has seen fit to revive the popular series.

Although that might strike some as too soon to attempt to replicate a winning formula, director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is up to the challenge. The Amazing Spider-Man easily eclipses the earlier trilogy by using a combination of shadowy cinematography, dialogue, seamless special effects, and romantic chemistry.

The film stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker who becomes the superhero Spider-Man, with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as his love interest. At the point of departure Peter is a 98-pound weakling who is being bullied in school and secretly harboring a crush on Gwen.

We learn that Peter has been raised by his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and is consumed with solving the mystery of his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) who disappeared years ago. So, he pays a visit to a former colleague of his father, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a leading research scientist at Oscorp, a biotech company that is attempting to develop a revolutionary limb regeneration serum.

Connors claims to be trying to create a world without weakness by splicing human genes with those of other species. But his interest isn’t entirely altruistic, since he also happens to be missing an arm himself.

While visiting Oscorp labs, Peter is bitten by a mutated spider which causes him to develop incredible strength as well as the ability to climb walls and spin webs. This evolution conveniently gives him a new physique with which to impress Gwen, and the strength to get even with his tormentors back at Midtown Science High.

Concurrently, the murder of his uncle by a mugger inspires him to embark on a crime fighting campaign as a masked vigilante. That doesn’t sit well with Gwen’s father (Denis Leary), a New York police department captain, who is opposed to citizens taking the law into their own hands.

Nevertheless, the ante is upped when Dr. Connors morphs into a formidable lizard-like creature after injecting himself with an experimental elixir. Worse, the drug made the power hungry madman hell-bent on hatching a plan for world domination which the cops are ill-equipped to fight, but is tailor-made for Spider-Man to combat.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action. Running time: 136 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.


June 27, 2012

Princeton University Summer Concerts kicked off its season in high gear last Tuesday night with a full house performance of the Daedalus String Quartet, a young and fresh chamber ensemble. The Daedalus players seem to work in all periods of music, with attention to particular current composers. Their concert Tuesday night at Richardson Auditorium focused on the turn of the 19th century and a composer whose work was commissioned for the ensemble.

Violinists Min-Young Kim and Matilda Kaul, violist Jessica Thompson and cellist Thomas Kraines showed great ability to carry on a musical dialog among instruments, starting with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 23 in F Major. Composed within two years of the composer’s death, this last of Mozart’s string quartets paid homage to Haydn but also showed the playfulness and humor of the Magic Flute.

The first movement, led by a sweet cello melody, featured delicate little phrases and sforzandi which were effectively brought out by the ensemble. Ms. Kim demonstrated very quick fingers in lively exchanges between the violin and cello. Mr. Kraines had a predominant role throughout the quartet, as evidenced in a long second movement melodic line. The Daedalus Quartet paid a great deal of attention to dynamic detail, which paid off in conveying the poignancy of the second movement and the clean parallel thirds between the violins. This work contained dynamic and musical suspense, showing the evolution of the genre that Beethoven would eventually claim as his own, but the four members of the Daedalus ensemble maintained a freshness to their sound, ending movements especially gracefully.

The Daedalus Quartet has long championed the music of American composers and recently premiered New York composer Joan Tower’s one-movement White Water. Like the water for which it was named, this work alternated between moving and staid music — tension and resolution. Ms. Thompson opened the work with a rich viola sound, as the other three instrumentalists employed languid glissandi up to a collective union. Intervals were exact, even when dissonant, and the ensemble drove repeated passages forward. As the pulsating chords moved together, it was clear to see why the Daedalus ensemble enjoyed performing this complex and intriguing work.

By the time Beethoven got a hold of the string quartet form, the genre had expanded to include a wide emotional range. Beethoven composed a number of his quartets in sets, one of which was Opus 59, dating from the height of the composer’s middle period. The Daedalus ensemble presented the first quartet of the Opus 59 set, with Mr. Kraines opening the piece with a rich cello sound. Especially after the fury of the Tower piece, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7 in F Major seemed to be intimate and personal to the players. The quartet was marked by an unusually fast second movement, with the same rhythmic drive and motivic intensity as the composer’s Symphony No. 5. The Daedalus players kept this movement heading forward, ending with a bit of Beethoven humor.

In the introspective third movement, the players seemed to be in their own worlds, yet cohesively together. An elegant and extended violin I trill led to a joyous fourth movement full of sparkle as the two violins blended together. The Daedalus Quartet moved smoothly through a typical series of false endings leading to a final flourish to close the work.

Among the many string quartet ensembles that spring up all the time, the Daedalus String quartet in particular possesses a youthful and buoyant sound which would make any concert of theirs enjoyable. Princeton audiences have become accustomed to hearing elegant chamber music in the summer, and they were certainly not disappointed with this start to the summer concerts season.


Borzage never needed dream worlds for his suspension of disbelief. He plunged into the real world of poverty and oppression, the world of Roosevelt and Hitler, the New Deal. and the New Order, to impart an aura to his characters, not merely through soft focus and a fluid camera, but through a genuine concern with the wondrous inner life of lovers in the midst of adversity.

—Andrew Sarris (1928-2012)

Several reviews of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom have pointed out the title’s seemingly inadvertent reference to Academy-Award-winning director Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1948), the film numerous critics and filmgoers consider to be his last masterpiece. Borzage, who died 50 years ago this month, June 19, 1962, is still, incredibly, the dark horse among major American directors as well as the most shamefully under-represented on DVD in spite of Fox’s massive 2008 box set of his silent work. Thus, sadly, this is a “DVD review” in name only.

Last week also brought news of the death June 20 of Andrew Sarris, the critic who alerted the film world to the director he hailed as “that rarity of rarities, an uncompromising romanticist.” Writing in his highly influential compilation-as-manifesto, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, Sarris saw Borzage’s abiity to make the most of “the glorious opportunity of Moonrise” as a vindication of “the moral of the auteur theory.”

Citing Moonrise in his Chicago Reader review of Moonrise Kingdom, Ben Sachs suggests that both films “are love stories about social outcasts” that “advance the optimistic message that we become better human beings through loving others.” Sachs calls Borzage “one of the most stalwart romantics in movies. Even when his stories feel contrived, the director’s sincerity comes through overwhelmingly.”

What comes through overwhelmingly in Moonrise Kingdom, however, is Anderson’s directorial panache, which is expressed on the grand scale, with flashily orchestrated set-piece flourishes like the life-sized doll-house opening and wildly implausible, borderline cartoonish action sequences. The adult characters, with the possible exception of Bruce Willis’s kind, thoughtful, sad sack sheriff, are little more than caricatures, and even the two 12-year-olds, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), whose scenes together are the essence of the film’s charm, sometimes seem to be reciting their lines like pre-teen automatons. On the other hand, their romance is one Borzage would have appreciated, and quite probably have been moved by, for Anderson’s young lovers do find their own version of that “wondrous inner life … in the midst of adversity.”

The Heart of Darkness

Books on film noir generally include Moonrise, in spite of the fact that it takes place in the backwoods of Virginia rather than in the urban setting typically associated with the genre. Take the term literally, as black film, and few pictures can match Moonrise for pure, swamp-deep, unremitting blackness. Orson Welles’s wild night ride, Touch of Evil, comes to mind, not to mention films like Producer Val Lewton’s Cat People, where Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur use darkness to disorient the audience, the better to break down its defenses and, in effect, its hold on reality. More often than not, the “noir” in film noir is the substance of its mood, its atmosphere.

Night is the primary element in Borzage’s most characteristic pictures, from Street Angel’s Neapolitan murk to the nocturnal Devil’s Island wilderness of Strange Cargo. He has no interest in mood for mood’s sake, nor in scaring or titillating the audience with shocking or menacing effects. Borzage plunges his stories into the element of night because night is the lifebreath of romance, and he’s the “uncompromising romanticist.” In Moonrise it’s a manifestation of the dark night of the protagonist’s soul. But in the heart of this film’s darkness, there is a place for “the wondrous inner life” Sarris was talking about.

The embattled lovers are a schoolteacher named Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell at her most warmly alluring) and a fugitive wanted for murder, Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark, the Brooklynite who reportedly got his film name from noir hero Humphrey Bogart). Danny is the benighted soul in need of saving, since he’s responsible for accidentally-on-purpose killing his nemesis, Jerry Sykes (Lloyd Bridges), who has never stopped taunting Danny about the fact that his father was hanged for murder. The couple’s trysting place is an abandoned mansion where, at the teacher’s insistence, they play out a Civil War fantasy of a ball as she executes Scarlett O’Hara moves as Mrs. Blackwater, the lady of the house (one of the film’s most rapturous moments involves a high-angle shot looking down at the dancing couple) — until his pursuers and the baying hounds arrive.

That a woman as beautiful, sensible, and intelligent as Gilly could ever have been engaged to an obnoxious bully like Sykes (the banker’s son, wouldn’t you know) is hard enough to accept, but for her then to become so suddenly and devotedly in love with the slayer of her fiance without losing our sympathy or her credibility is further evidence of Borzage’s mastery. What draws the teacher to Danny even as it repels and frightens her is the mixture of rage, anguish, fear, and remorse overflowing from the killing, that and his lot in life, the feeling that he’s been cursed from birth by his father’s fate. It’s the wildness in Danny that stirs and compels the teacher (much as similar qualities in James Dean a decade later attract Julie Harris in East of Eden and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause); Gilly doesn’t want to reform him, she wants to save him, and so she does, with some help from Mose, a black sage (Rex Ingram) who has “withdrawn from the human race,” a deafmute named Billy Scripture (Harry Morgan), Danny’s grandmother (Ethel Barrymore), and a sympathetic, philosophical sheriff (Allyn Joslyn).

To Save a Soul

The mission driving the plot of Moonrise is to save a soul.

Does saving or restoring a soul sound  presumptuous? Melodramatic? Old Fashioned? Dated? Without commercial viability? Probably. Why else has so worthy a mission been so rarely attempted in Hollywood, let alone accomplished?

While it’s possible to think of major American writers whose ambitions are on this level (most obviously, Faulkner’s “human heart in conflict with itself”), it’s not so easy to find the moral equivalent among landmark American films, including those made by Andrew Sarris’s pantheon of directors, where the attempted saving of souls is rarely on the agenda (exceptions being, among others, D.W. Griffth’s Broken Blossoms, Josef vonSternberg’s Docks of New York, and F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise).

Frank Borzage has beamed his soft, steady, sympathetic light time and again on the “souls” mentioned in the opening title of Street Angel (“Everywhere … in every town … in every street … we pass, unknowing, human souls made great by love and adversity”). It happens when Charles Farrell’s Chico saves Janet Gaynor’s Diane in 7th Heaven. It happens in Lucky Star, with a couple again played by Farrell and Gaynor. It happens with the couples in Man’s Castle and Little Man, What Now? and Three Comrades and Strange Cargo and with the nun and the soldier in Till We Meet Again.

You could even say that some soul-making is going on, at least superficially, in Moonrise Kingdom, where Suzy and Sam save one another in love and are saved from an impersonal society by the sheriff, who, like the sympathetic sheriff in Moonrise, perceives the human truth beyond the law.

Book and Film

The novel by Theodore Strauss from which Moonrise was adapted, title intact, was published by Viking to good sales in 1946. Compare the opening of the book with the first three minutes of the film, and the difference is stunning. The novel begins with Danny looking down at the man he has just killed; the first paragraph ends with a trope right out of the hard-boiled private eye playbook: “Jerry could almost be asleep and dreaming. Only he wasn’t asleep, and dead men don’t have dreams.”

The movie begins with grim music, a death march accompanied by nightmare imagery, dark pools of slime three dark figures are walking through, no faces, just the legs of three men plodding across a mire of gleaming darkness. Next a clearer view of the men walking toward you, the man in the middle in prison garb, still no faces, the figures casting shadows on the black gleam of the water. As the three men climb the steps in the foreground, more people come into view, a group holding umbrellas over their heads, all looking upward at the same time. What they see we see in silhouette: a gallows, the noose being fitted over the victim’s head, no faces, only the ink-black figures, one of them the executioner whose hand is on the lever that will drop the body, and down it goes, done with a fierce finality, after which the film cuts to the shadow of a hanged man swinging back and forth over white bedclothes, a baby crying, it’s a crib, and the hanged man is some sort of doll suspended overhead. Then the screen clouds up, a mass of ominous chaos, all floating shadows until you’re looking down at the lone figure of a boy walking across a school yard of kids chanting “Danny Hawkins’s dad was hanged.” As in a nightmare, young Jerry Sykes looms up with his hands clutching his neck in a gagging hideous mockery of hanging, his enormous shadow looming behind him against a stormy sky. Danny jumps on Jerry, they fight, the other kids gang up, jeering as Jerry rubs dirt in Danny’s face, all this intercut with images from the march to the gallows and the executioner slamming the lever down.

One minute and forty seconds into the film, the motive essence of the novel has been expressed with a force few if any writers, including Theodore Strauss, could have approached. At this point, you enter the present with another dark half-formed figure pacing in a deeply shadowed woods. A dance is in progress on the other side of a pond; you can see the lights and hear the music. Now you hear contentious voices, it’s Danny and Jerry, grown-up now, Jerry sneering, “It’s about time you had another beating,” followed by a crack about the hanging, and so begins the fight that leads to Jerry’s death.

You can see this opening sequence on YouTube, and if you’re inventive and persistent, you can probably view the film in its entirety. Again, it’s appalling that there is no DVD of Moonrise or Man’s Castle or History Is Made at Night, or any number of other classics by this great director. Meanwhile, you can see Moonrise Kingdom at various area theatres.


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.