John Hurt stars in ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. (Photo courtesy Kirk Douglas Theatre)

I don’t know where to begin this week; there’s just so much happening on the cultural scene here on the Westside.

Do not miss “Krapp’s Last Tape” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The incomparable John Hurt owns this Samuel Beckett gem, which much to my surprise, few of my theatre-savvy friends knew about. I’d seen it performed at the Mark Taper Forum by actor John Necsi in 1990 during the 50/50 Vision Festival celebrating plays and playwrights who changed theatre, and I never forgot it.

On his 69th birthday, a worn and weary man listens to his younger self on reel-to-reel recordings made throughout his life, especially one moment at age 39, on the tape archived in “box three, spool five,” about his relationship with a woman.

This one-man tour-de-force is funny, sad, pointed and pointless in that existential way Beckett epitomizes, and brings to bear the lesson that John Lennon once aptly summarized: Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

When young, we’re busy looking for the next, more meaningful moment, while later we’ll discover that the moment itself contained all the meaning there is. Is Krapp an author with a sense of self-importance so grand that he missed the long-lost moment now haunting his memory?

There’s also an audience component: tell your own story and listen to the stories others have recorded at the listening stations in the lobby (which has been set up like a pub) before and after the show.

Simple yet profound, this production comes from the celebrated Gate Theatre Dublin, and has been admired by critics and audiences everywhere it’s played. One of the major highlights of the theatrical year, it runs through Nov. 4. For more information visit www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/Krapps-Last-Tape/

 

Murals

 

The big news was the Oct. 9 unveiling of David Alfaro Siqueiros’ “America Tropical” mural on Olvera Street, which had been considered so politically confrontational in its day that it was whitewashed in two phases, one just months after its completion and the remainder in 1938. Commissioned for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, the Getty Conservation Institute has been busy for years restoring Siqueiros’ only surviving public mural still in its original location.

The mural depicts a Mexican Indian tied to a double cross with an American eagle above him, and revolutionary soldiers — one aiming at the eagle — closing in. Siqueiros was unabashed in his communist sympathies for ethnic peoples and the poor, and calls for the mural’s restoration came about as the Chicano mural movement of the 1960s began churning.

You’ll be able to view it, now safely shaded from the sun by a canopy, from the new rooftop platform. Learn more about its creation and restoration at the new America Tropical Interpretive Center on the ground floor of the historic Sepulveda House at El Pueblo, L.A.’s historic heart. For more information visit www.getty.edu/

Inspired by the Chicano mural movement and renowned for its socially-conscious murals, SPARC, the Social and Public Art Resource Center in Venice, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this weekend. An award named for Siqueiros is being given to local muralist and painter Francisco Letelier, and union leader Maria Elena Durazo will be honored with The Judy Baca Award for Social Justice. Baca is the founder of and has led SPARC throughout its storied history.

SPARC is renowned for its signature mural, the Great Wall of Los Angeles, the half-mile long panel in the Tujunga flood control channel depicting the ethnic history of California, from prehistoric times to the 1950s. More than 400 young people and their families worked with artists, scholars and historians to create it.

Celebrate with SPARC on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the old Venice Police Station at 635 Venice Blvd. More info here: www.sparc35.org/

 

Music

Jacaranda (Music at the Edge) opens its 2012-2013 “Season of Contrasts” on Saturday, Oct. 20 with composer Tobias Picker narrating his own work, “The Encantadas,” based on the Herman Melville novella. Picker composes operas, most recently setting Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne” to music.

The evening at Santa Monica’s architecturally stunning First Presbyterian Church includes an amazing line up of performers and composers, including superstar pianist Gloria Cheng playing former L.A. Phil music director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s solo piano piece “Dichotomie,” and a large ensemble for Steve Reich’s “City Life,” featuring two pianos and two sampling keyboards programmed with a plethora of New York City sounds including street talk, car horns, breaks and sirens.

A post-performance party celebrates the season’s opening and Jacaranda’s Forte Awards, honoring new music champions, among them theatrical and operatic wizard Peter Sellars (presented by video artist pioneer Bill Viola). Get the details here: jacarandamusic.org.

 

Movies

 

A heart-rending multi-generational film from Sweden called “Simon and the Oaks” opens at the Landmark Theatres on Friday, Oct.19. This touching and engrossing movie is based on a beloved Swedish bestseller that tells the story of an intellectually gifted boy who feels out of place in his rural home. He convinces his provincial father that he deserves an education at a school too posh for the likes of his family’s class.

He befriends Isak, the son of a highly cultured Jewish family, on the cusp of World War II, and as secrets are revealed, the lives of these two families intertwine in surprising, disruptive and ultimately enlightening ways.

A film festival favorite, it received 13 nominations for the Swedish Oscars including best picture, best director, best actress and best cinematography. On a personal note, I loved this film and encourage you to see it. Tickets at www.landmarktheatres.com/

And on the political front, one of the most stunning documentaries to elucidate the concerns affecting the science of genetically-modified foods and plants, Dr. Jeffrey Smith’s “Genetic Roulette” will be screened for free at the Santa Monica Public Library tonight.

The program begins with music by “Label GMO” performer Rob Herring, and following the film, David King, founding chair of The Seed Library of Los Angeles (www.SLOLA.org), housed at The Learning Garden at Venice High School, will lead a panel discussion on the ballot initiative, Prop. 37, “California’s Right to Know,” calling for labeling of genetically modified foods.

Co-sponsored by Co-Opportunity, Real Food Daily will be on hand after the event providing sweet and savory foods. http://coopportunity.com/calendar/

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

 

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