This week we have an inspirational documentary, Buster Keaton silent movies accompanied by a musical master on Wurlitzer organ, an all-male Benjamin Britten opera, and local stars onstage in a world premiere play.
Tonight at 7:30 at Laemmle‚Äôs Monica 4-Plex, The Rev. Greg Boyle and some of his “homeboys” will be on hand to open a seven-week, seven-film documentary festival called Docurama. They‚Äôll be answering questions from the audience following the screening of “G-Dog.”
This very moving film by Oscar-winner Frieda Mock follows the Jesuit priest‚Äôs lifelong mission to help save the street kids of East Los Angeles. Founder of Homeboy Industries, one of the country‚Äôs most successful gang intervention programs, Father Greg (G-Dog) is also the author of the highly-acclaimed autobiography “Tattoos on the Heart.”
G-Dog inspires ‚Äî not just the film, but the man himself. Father Greg has devoted himself to improving the lives of the lost, and making miracles happen where they‚Äôre least expected. “Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” is his motto, and he‚Äôs not just talked the talk, but walked the walk.
Don‚Äôt miss your chance to hear and see him in person. There are only two screenings ‚Äî tonight at 7:30 with Father Greg, and Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Monica 4-Plex, and the same schedule at three other Laemmle Theatre venues in North Hollywood, Pasadena and Claremont.
The madcap 1920s return in style this Saturday, April 27, when Buster Keaton hits the big screen at Barnum Hall auditorium, accompanied by theater organist and composer Robert Israel playing the restored Barnum Hall Wurlitzer.
The event features two classic Keaton films and benefits the Santa Monica High School Band. In “Sherlock, Jr.” (1924) Keaton portrays a wronged movie theater projectionist who dreams of becoming a great detective and clearing his name.
The second feature, “The Cook” (1918), was believed to be lost for 80 years, and was rediscovered in 1998 in cans of film belonging to the Norwegian Film Institute. It pairs Keaton with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle as chef and Keaton as a waiter at the posh Bull Pup Caf√©.
Israel provides an original score for each film, which he‚Äôll perform live.
After a long period of disuse, in 1997 Barnum Hall was closed. Its beautiful Streamline Moderne design was restored and improved thanks to a local bond measure and private donations.
A staple of the silent film era, Barnum‚Äôs original Wurlitzer was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Organ enthusiast Gordon Belt donated the current Wurlitzer in 2004. It was redesigned and installed by the Crome Organ Company and debuted in 2010.
Unlike its more sedate instrumental relatives, the theater organ features a wrap-around keyboard and chambers filled with pipes, cymbals, horns, drums and more, including sound effects. The Barnum Hall Wurlitzer is a full-featured instrument with dual organ chambers flanking the stage.
Barnum Hall has added full theater projection onto a 38-foot screen, enabling a theater-going experience echoing ‚Äî and in some ways, improving upon ‚Äî that of the films‚Äô original theatrical showings.
The event is at 7 p.m. this Saturday, April 27. Barnum Hall is on the campus of Santa Monica High School, 600 Olympic Blvd. Park at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Admission is $10 at the door ($5 for students).
Inspired by Noh
Jacaranda‚Äôs three-concert celebration of Benjamin Britten‚Äôs centenary continues on April 27 with a staging of his little known masterpiece, “Curlew River,” a chamber opera (1964) intended for performance in a church.
This 70-minute story of tragedy and redemption is based on “Sumidagawa,” the most famous drama of the classical Japanese Noh theater in which the traditional all-male ensemble tells the story of a distraught noblewoman driven mad by the kidnapping of her son.
Jacaranda will give “Curlew River” its first known Los Angeles performance. Tenor Steven Tharp leads the cast, featuring members of the Gay Men‚Äôs Chorus of Los Angeles.
Artistic Director Patrick Scott offered this cinematic description of the overlooked work: “The story of ‚ÄòCurlew River‚Äô is as riveting as a Kurosawa film, but as translated by Benjamin Britten to the English countryside, it feels like David Lean. It is an unquestioned masterpiece that is never presented on a proscenium stage because it is written for church performance by 13 male singers, seven instrumentalists and no conductor.”
Join Jacaranda Saturday night at 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 1220 Second St. Call (213) 483-0216 or visit www.jacarandamusic.org.
Making her South Coast Repertory stage debut in Costa Mesa, Calif., Santa Monica resident Dana Delaney ‚Äî star of TV‚Äôs “Body of Proof” ‚Äî is a woman not to be messed with in the world premiere of Beau Willimon‚Äôs “The Parisian Woman.”
The play has everything: passion, politics, intrigue and comedy. Playing her husband is actor Steven Weber, a Brentwood resident, who‚Äôs perhaps most recognized for his starring role in the TV sitcom “Wings.”
I first encountered Delaney as one of the wonderful readers for “Selected Shorts,” the public radio series featuring actors reading short stories, and it took me until I saw the premiere of “The Parisian Woman” on Saturday night to remember that I‚Äôd also seen Weber onstage in New York in the 1990s as the star of the groundbreaking hit play, “Jeffrey.” Loved him then and now!
Willimon seems to specialize in political drama; his “Farragut North” was about campaign strategists, he‚Äôs co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix hit, “House of Cards,” and his current play extols the virtues ‚Äî and vices ‚Äî of a political power-broker wife, the behind-the-scenes puppet master who lobbies in her own way to get her husband the job of attorney general.
Delaney shines as the mistress ‚Äî literally ‚Äî of Machiavellian manipulation and there are plenty of laughs to leaven this biting look at political ambition. “The Parisian Woman” runs through May 5 on the Julianne Argyros Stage at South Coast Repertory. For more information visit www.scr.org or call (714) 708-5555.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.