Hockney: Creative and Colorful

One of the brightest and happiest paintings on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is David Hockney’s “Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio.” It was always a highlight of the tours I led for school kids during my decade as a docent at the museum. For me, its vivid colors – splashes of reds and blues and greens – are a giddy and delightful representation of much of Hockney’s lifelong fascination with, and keen observation of, the world around him.

The painting was done during a period in 1980 when Hockney would regularly drive from his home in the Hollywood Hills to his studio on Santa Monica Boulevard where, among his many other artistic innovations, he designed spectacular, glowing sets and costumes for major operas and ballets.

My questions to the kids would always start with “How do you think the artist felt as he drove to the studio?” and “How can you tell?” The kids got it immediately. The bright colors of the scenery bordering the winding road made it very clear that Hockney relished the drive.

In a new biographical film by filmmaker Randall Wright that opens this week in L.A., Hockney’s work is interspersed with anecdotes and interviews by the friends who have known him throughout his life. He has painted intimate, loving portraits of each of them, and their conversations reflect their warm devotion to him.

Hockney was born in England in 1937 and continued to live there intermittently even after he fell in love with California and took up residence here in 1966. He was captivated by the life style, as is evidenced by his series of sparkling swimming pool paintings and of the men who frolicked in them.

A typically whimsical anecdote by one of his lovers tells of the time that the dark-haired Hockney watched a Clairol commercial on television that claimed that blondes have more fun. He immediately rushed out to buy the hair dye that turned him into a blond, and he has maintained that color ever since. (Until now, of course, in his late seventies, when his hair is lustrous white.)

The film, “Hockney”, depicts the man as interesting and colorful and as varied as the many artistic styles he has created and experimented with. He is not only a painter, but a photographer, an author, and a bon vivant. This filmed journey through his life is every bit as delightful as his body of work. “Hockney” will leave you dazzled.

It opens at several Laemmle theaters on April 22.

A Disastrous Dinner

And then there are the plays that are really bad. Poorly conceived, badly written, terribly miscast, and excruciatingly directed.

Such a play is “Dinner at Home Between Deaths”, now having its world premiere as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. There is one good thing about this play, though: it’s only 90 minutes long.

The tone is set at the beginning by Fiona (Diane Cary), who enters shrieking incomprehensibly in a language that appears to be Klingon. After a few minutes you learn that the man (Todd Waring) feverishly setting the table is her husband Sean. It takes a few minutes because they conduct their rapidly delivered conversation in an incomprehensible (there’s that word again!) Irish brogue.

It takes much longer to figure out who the other players are. There’s Kat (Andrea Evans), one of Sean’s previous wives, who shows up in an ill-fitting evening gown because she has just attended a fundraising banquet for her personal foundation. (What the money is in aid of is not clear.) Later on you learn that Kat is Fiona’s younger sister. (Not that that has any relevance to the plot.)

The fourth character in this conglomerate is a young woman named Lily Cunningham-Goldberg (Amelynn Abellera). She is identified as Asian, so where her last name in the play comes from is anybody’s guess. She is the daughter of one of Kat’s former husbands and she works for Sean, with whom she is having an affair.

Lily, unfortunately, has figured out that Sean’s financial services company has been operating a Ponzi-Madoff scam. (To understand the specifics of this scam, see the marvelous movie “The Big Short” because you certainly won’t get it from this play’s explanation.)

Among the other inscrutable diversions is the fact that Fiona, in addition to speaking Klingon, apparently speaks Spanish as well. She speaks it periodically apropos of nothing and on the telephone, too, to unidentified callers.

And finally (SPOILER ALERT) there is only one death between dinners.

Sadly, that’s far too few.

“Dinner at Home Between Deaths” was written by Andrea Lepcio and directed by Stuart Ross. It will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through May 8th. It is presented by Indie Chi Productions at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. Call (323) 960-4429 for tickets.