It’s been a week filled with winners on the cultural front.
Don’t miss “Dunsinane” at The Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills. Including tonight (Thursday, April 2), there are only six more performances.
This co-production of The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland picks up — sort of — where “Macbeth” leaves off. It isn’t perfect, but it does not disappoint.
It’s set in Scotland following Macbeth’s beheading, with the English army, led by strongman Siward (Darrell D’Silva), sent in to enforce the security of England’s northern borders by supporting newly crowned King Malcolm (Ewan Donald). Malcolm is neither universally accepted nor loved, and the English are especially unwelcome here.
The country is unruly with tribal rivalries but, far more dangerously, with the influence of widowed queen Gruach (Siobhan Remond), an ambitious and savvy seductress and possibly a witch. She has her own lineage to claim, a son from her first marriage whom she wishes to see enthroned.
Sex, love, intrigue and bloodshed follow, as Siward falls under Gruach’s spell and is betrayed. His naivet√© vanishes, along with any hope of convincing the occupied Scots to unite. He is finally defeated by the impossibility of doing the right thing in a country not one’s own. Program notes say that comparisons to post-9/11 Afghanistan are easy to find.
But “Dunsinane” operates well enough on its own, so you can let the deeper meanings penetrate after you leave the theater. There are also some laughs along the way. Visit www.thewallis.org or call (310) 746-4000 for more information.
Tate’s Turners take the Getty
My eyes are still trying to come down from the dazzling high of “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” on view through May 24 at The Getty Museum in Brentwood. It’s the first major West Coast exhibition of his work, on loan from London’s Tate Museum.
The effect of a mass of Turners can be overwhelming if you’re not used to looking slowly and deeply at art. Much is revealed, and you are rewarded when you take the time.
Considered one of the most influential English romantic painters of nature, Turner (1775-1851) was renowned for using experimental techniques to capture fleeting light and dramatic atmospheric effects. This show features 60 paintings, made after the age of 60, many of which became his most famous.
His work foreshadowed Modernism, Impressionism and even abstraction, inspiring future generations of artists in the centuries that followed.
The first work that grabbed me was Turner’s “Bedroom at the Palazzo Giustinian” (Venice, c. 1840). To my inexpert eye, this small watercolor pre-figures the abstract movement. I stopped cold and hard in front of the large canvas, “The Bright Stone of Honour (Ehrenbreitstein)” for its incredible light and power. His sea paintings dissolve into mists; his travel watercolors and paintings evoke the bright light of sunrise and the warm glow of sunset. The famous “Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons” captures the energy of commotion and conflagration in what feels like, and was painted in, real time.
Go see the Turners before they take off; your eyes will thank you. Find out more at www.getty.edu.
The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena has exchanged three masterworks with the Parisian Mus√©e d’Orsay. Now on view for the first time since 1933 in Southern California is “Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (1871)” – better known as “Whistler’s Mother.” Painted by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, it’s an American icon.
Another icon, √âdouard Manet’s “Emile Zola” is a stunning portrait with deep historical roots and a storied background. And Paul C√©zanne’s “The Card Players” represented a period of the French master’s painting that focused on depicting domestic scenes.
In addition to these visiting works, the Norton Simon contains an extraordinary permanent collection, including Van Gogh’s electrifying “The Mulberry Tree,” and a stunningly beautiful 20th-century gallery with Kandinskys, Picassos, Braques and so many other stellar renowned artists represented by some of their best works.
After viewing the collections, enjoy the Norton Simon’s peaceful sculpture garden and swan pond. Visit www.nortonsimon.org or call (626) 449-6840 for more information.
‘Woman in Gold’
I was utterly moved by “Woman in Gold,” now at Landmark Theatres in West Los Angeles, with the incomparable Helen Mirren and her equally convincing co-star, Ryan Reynolds.
The filmmakers have done a masterful job of taking a highly complex legal case about Holocaust art restitution and turning it into fully human drama about reconciling history, finding justice, creating friendship and understanding the significance of personal heritage.
It’s based on the true story of how lawyer Randol Schoenberg — the grandson of famed Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg — and his client, Maria Altmann, took on the Austrian government to recover paintings by Gustav Klimt, including his most famous “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” This painting became Austria’s cultural calling card to the world, and its name was changed to “Lady in Gold” in part to obliterate the truth of its looting by the Nazis from Altmann’s family, the Bloch-Bauers.
Skillfully weaving the past history of Vienna’s Jews and Austria’s willing takeover by the Nazis with its lingering echoes today, the modern-day legal drama unfolds in Vienna, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Altmann’s uncle commissioned the extraordinary gold leaf-laden painting of her aunt Adele, who died in 1925. But for decades after World War II, it hung in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, along with other Klimt paintings belonging to the Bloch-Bauer family.
Schoenberg finds proof of an illegitimate will that gave The Belevedere its claim to the paintings. But defeated at every turn by the Austrians who refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing and won’t let the paintings go, Schoenberg finally finds a way to sue the Austrian government in the U.S. Supreme Court. He fights a final battle in Vienna, persuading an Austrian arbitration commission to return the paintings to Altmann.
It’s a remarkable, true tale and a terrific movie. Go.
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 theater for LAOpeningNights.com.