April 18


Ugly People you can trust

When two would-be First Ladies surreptitiously speak on the phone during a compelling moment in James Venhaus' premiere production of Ugly People at the Overtime Theater, a sensitive observation is made about the families thrust into the blaring heat of the political spotlight: only a handful of people ever experience that rollercoaster ride to ballot-driven stardom. For a moment, the audience is encouraged to reflect upon the likes of Cindy McCain, the late Elizabeth Edwards and others who choose to put themselves out there for love of husband and country, and for some – maybe just a little – fame. This interactive, multimedia show has much to say about the state of modern politics and the people who, in Venhaus' interpretation, make it so ugly we can't seem to take our eyes off the spectacle.


Woodlawn's avenue of downsized dreams

My detestation for visible, onstage puppeteering was hatched in 1997 when Geoff Hoyle originated the role of "Zazu" in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Before the end of Act I, I ceremoniously marched out of the New Amsterdam Theater with a realization that mere human beings could never compete with the wizardry of an animated motion picture – and that I was out a hundred and ten bucks. Naturally, when the 2003 production of Avenue Q debuted another in-sight puppeteering thing, I was certain we were living in the last days. But unlike Elton John's great experiment, Avenue Q leaves the actors blatantly exposed – and by the power of Snuffleupagus, it worked.

Eight years later, another milagrito is happening at the Woodlawn Theatre, a venue known mostly for cut-rate productions of splashy Broadway shows.


Colby Buzzell's roads less traveled

Laying out his reasons for writing Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey, Colby Buzzell keeps it blunt, his preferred style: "I love grime, alleys, and alcohol. I’m an alley cat. I like to wander. It’s not really any more complicated than that."

Unfortunately, I’m inclined to agree with him.


Planning from the ground up

Two years ago, iconic architect Frank Gehry gave an hour-long talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival about his life and work. When the Q&A period rolled around, a man stood up to ask whether Gehry thinks his buildings function well as public spaces. Do people want to come back to them again and again, to spend time in them? Gehry contended that they do; but his interrogator pushed back, asking Gehry to justify his assertion. The architect’s mood quickly soured, and he responded with what The Atlantic correspondent James Fallows called “a dismissive gesture, much as Louis XIV might have used to wave away some offending underling.”


A 'pure land' graces SAMA

The San Antonio Museum of Art has recently acquired an image of paradise. It is, to be sure, one of many heavens in the museum's collection, but remarkable all the same for being among the finest specimens of Tibetan thangka, or scroll painting, in the country, and, moreover, for being a work of art of quietly stunning accomplishment.


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