Buddhism, Islamic Art, a City Garage world premiere and free entry to 20 museums are on my local cultural radar.

City Garage Theatre is consistent in one respect only: their productions are always innovative and nearly all are original works.

This Friday marks the opening of their latest world premiere, “Timepiece” by Charles A. Duncombe, directed by company Artistic Director Frederique Michel. This compact and comfortable theatre space located in the western-most building at Bergamot Arts Station takes a sharply intellectual and highly visual approach to its exploration of philosophical ideas and the art of the stage.

In “Timepiece,” Betty thought she had all the time in the world to in love. Bob wishes she would love him. Bernice is afraid to go home, and Burt is just plain angry at everything.

What happens if someone unexpectedly told you are running out of time and exactly how much you have left? What does it mean — for her and the others?

Bob wants to help but the rest of them just argue. Bebe wanders in to announce that time has no meaning. Billie emerges from a refrigerator with ideas of her own. Finally, Superman holds them all hostage, demanding compassion at the point of a gun.

This witty new absurdist comedy by playwright Duncombe helps laugh at our ultimately silly and illogical view of love, life, and death.

“Timepiece” runs January 23 ‚Äì March 1 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 p.m. on Sundays including special pay-what-you-can tickets at the door. Find out more at www.citygarage.org or call¬† (310) 453-9939.

SPEAKING OF BERGAMOT

Also at Bergamot, why not make an evening of it and stop in to see the two new exhibitions that opened at Santa Monica Museum of Art this past Saturday?

“Brian Weil, 1979-95: Being in the World” is the first career retrospective for this exceptional photographer and the only West Coast venue for this exhibition. His work sheds light on insular and otherwise invisible communities, which he shot during the 1980s and 1990s. The exhibition features sixty photographs, prints, and videos.

“Moshe Ninio Rainbow: Rug”¬†is the first West Coast solo presentation of a distinguished Israeli artist whose body of work‚Äîcomprised of drawings, photographs, and video ‚Äî offers poignant insights into insistent universal themes. The exhibition features a human-size floor hologram of a partly-folded Middle Eastern carpet.

The two shows are on view through April 18. Admission is free, for details call (310) 586-6488 or visit www.smmoa.org.

SPEAKING OF FREE

On January 31, more than 20 Southern California museums are banding together to offer Museums Free-For-All Day.

General admission will be waived (though parking and special exhibitions will still cost you) at such locations as The Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, The Getty Villa in Malibu, UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood, our own Santa Monica Museum of Art, The California African American Museum, California Science Center, the Museum of Latin American Art, USC Pacific Asia, The Skirball…and even the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.

If you do wish to attend, some venues may require reservations for ticketing or parking purposes. Check with each museum individually about their specifics and find out about the participating institutions here: www.SoCalMuseums.org.

ISLAMIC ART AT LACMA

While extremists garner headlines, the long and cultured history of Islamic art is playing out in the hands of Middle Eastern contemporary artists.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art has recently begun acquiring works by Middle Eastern artists whose work is inspired by the technique, imagery and ideas represented throughout their own cultural history.

The first of a two-part program, “Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East” marks the first major installation of this collection and features 25 works by some of the most influential Middle Eastern and artists of the diaspora working today. They include Shirin Neshat, Mona Hatou, Youseff Nabil, Hassan Hajjaj and others. Most of these works have never been shown before.

“The artists in this exhibition are not reinventing Islamic art but rather repurposing it as a form of personal expression,” said Linda Komaroff, LACMA‚Äôs Curator of Islamic Art. “The contemporary works share a similarity with historical Islamic art in terms of their use of writing in the Arabic alphabet as a means of both communication and decoration, as well as their brilliant use of color and superb balance between design and form.”

Islamic Art Now opens on February 1st. Find out more at www.lacma.org.

NOW AND ZEN

The Getty Center has a very special lecture planned, titled “Buddhism in the World,” on Saturday, January 31, 2015, at 3 p.m. in the Museum Lecture Hall at the Getty Center in Brentwood.

Over the course of more than two millennia, Buddhism developed a canon of sacred texts that is vast in scope, geographical origin, and linguistic variety. The largest selection of these scriptures ever to appear in English has just been published as part of the Norton Anthology of World Religions.

Jack Miles, editor in chief of the Norton volumes, and Donald Lopez, editor of the section on Buddhism, will offer their reflections on how and why Buddhism developed into a religion of global scope and significance.

This free event complements the Getty’s ongoing engagement with the artistic legacy of Buddhist and Buddhist-inspired works, such as those found in the Museum’s photographs collection, the Getty Research Institute’s archives, and the Getty Conservation Institute’s wall painting conservation project at the Mogao Grottoes in China.

You need to make reservations for this one-off event; find out more at www.getty.edu.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

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