At first, you have to get a feel for Maria Bamford's tendency to switch characters/voices in a nanosecond. You need to adjust to her act's pacing, how it initially feels agonizingly slow and awkward, with Bamford laying out her anxieties and flaws like open wounds that, of course, you don't want to see—they remind you too much of your own.
Then comes the moment when you get it. You see Bamford's meticulous comedic craftsmanship, and you laugh. A lot. Sometimes uncomfortably. Again, you've been there.
The Special Special Special! (2012, Netflix) illustrates this well. Bamford ratchets up the discomfort by filming the entire show in her own living room, with only her parents, crew, musical accompanist and dog as her audience. Letting millions of people see inside your home is scary enough. When you're doing stand-up comedy, where audience reaction is part of the show, and you've got maybe six people listening—some focused more on doing their jobs? It's brutal.
But Bamford crushes it. In the middle of her act, she realizes cookies are burning in the oven. "Not cool. Not cool," she deadpans while removing them, then hiss-whispers, "Okay ... cookies. Cookies! That's what makes [the special] so special." She serves them to her parents and crew anyway, telling her dad he can have two. Later, she calls a pee break and divulges that, "My dad had prostate surgery so, now, um ... he has a bag." Soon after, the pizza arrives. So weird. So awkward. But so, so funny. (Randy Harward)
Maria Bamford @ Wiseguys Downtown, 194 S. 400 West, 801-532-5233, Thursday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m., $25. WiseguysComedy.com
Marvel Universe Live
We're in an era where Marvel Comics is conquering the world. You can be a supporter of DC or any of the indie publishers, but the truth is Marvel has become an unstoppable pop-culture force.
We know this in part because Marvel is now stepping up its game in the live-performance department with Marvel Universe Live. Much like what its parent company, Disney, would do when it created Disney On Ice, this show brings together everyone's favorite superheroes and villains from the hit films for an original action-packed showcase. Join "Earth's mightiest heroes" as they venture forth to fix the Cosmic Cube, shattered by the hammer of Thor, and reunite its pieces before they fall into the vile hands of Loki, who seeks to destroy the planet. This is a cool opportunity to see a live-action show that took two years to plan and execute, giving both kids and adults a thrilling experience with these legendary heroes.
The show itself includes acrobatics, fighting, action sequences, awesome tech, aerial tricks and probably one of the biggest motorcycle battles you'll see at Vivint shy of a motocross show. If you have a kid in your life who looks up to Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and others, this is a no-brainer. They are going to become wrapped up in an exclusive adventure not seen on TV or the comics, and you'll be right there with them enjoying the show as you become a kid again. (Gavin Sheehan)
Marvel Universe Live @ Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 W. South Temple, 801-325-7328, Feb. 11-14, various showtimes, $15-$60. MarvelUniverseLive.com
Ballet West: Romeo and Juliet
Just in time for Valentine's day, Ballet West presents John Cranko's version of one of history's greatest love stories. Utah audiences can enjoy Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of their dueling families.
This specific version premiered in 1962 and has since been performed many times around the globe. Cranko's choreography is considered one of the best ballet interpretations of the play, and is only licensed to four other ballet companies in the United States.
Set to music by Sergei Prokofiev, the performance also features extravagant sets, beautiful costumes, a full orchestra and a cast of 75 dancers.
Beckanne Sisk, Katie Critchlow, Arolyn Williams and Sayaka Ohtaki will share Juliet's role, while Chase O'Connell, Alexander MacFarlan, Christopher Ruud and Rex Tilton will alternate as Romeo.
Informative discussions with members of the artistic staff are free to ticket holders. These warm ups begin promptly one hour prior to the show. Audience members can expect to learn about the background on the ballet and other interesting behind-the-scenes facts.
On Feb. 11, the company hosts a unique masquerade party, which offers attendees the opportunity to enjoy light refreshments, an exciting sword-fighting demonstration and a fun after party. They will also preview Act 1 from Romeo and Juliet. (Shawna Meyer)
Ballet West's Romeo & Juliet @ Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Feb. 12-20, various showtimes, $20-$107; Masquerade Party, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m., tickets $55 advance, $65 at the door. BalletWest.org
In a departure for Modern West Fine Art—which specializes in showcasing artists of the West—its first show of 2016 features Dolan Geiman, whose mixed-media works accentuate the Southern flavor of his native Shenandoah Valley, and the use of found objects. Geiman follows in the grand tradition of rural outsider artists often associated with the South that has propagated since the '50s all over the country in tandem with Americana folk arts.
His art is a kind of artistic ecology movement in its reclaiming of salvaged scraps of wood, metal and other materials, particularly old signage. The works in this show ("Vaquera Sudoeste" is pictured) emphasize his connection with the West; he has a studio in Denver and operates his art business out of Chicago. "Great Plains Collection: Mule Deer" deconstructs the familiar trophy animal on the wall, and "New American Past" depicts the collision of tradition and technology with a Native American with head-dress clutching a transistor radio.
There is a considerable design element to his work, and you can't help but notice that a great many of them might work as home décor—while still making a statement. Even the two-dimensional works in this collection have a sculptural quality to them, and the 3-D pieces maintain the layering of collage. Existing under the accretion of layers of time is the traditional, with its ties to nature, and that is what persists. (Brian Staker)
Dolan Geiman @ Modern West Fine Art, 177 E. 200 South, 801-355-3383, through Feb. 13. ModernWestFineArt.com
Steven Fales' My Mormon Valentine
In 2001, writer/actor Steven Fales performed his original work Confessions of a Mormon Boy as a reading at the Sunstone Symposium, premiering a full production later that year at the Rose Wagner Center. The story mixed Mormon theology with Fales' own coming-out story, exploring whether he would ever be able to unite with his children in the Celestial Kingdom, or find love and happiness on earth.
In the 15 intervening years, Fales has brought a version of that work to other audiences, including the Off Broadway stage. But the original version has never been back in front of audiences—until now. The newly renamed My Mormon Valentine returns to that transformative story, in a series of performances that will include several special events. For the Sunday, Feb. 14, matinee, a two-for-one special allows you to bring your own Mormon Valentine. And on Feb. 20, proceeds from the performance benefit the Utah Pride Center. (Scott Renshaw)
Steven Fales' My Mormon Valentine @ The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South, 800-838-3006, Feb. 11-March 5, 3 p.m. & 7 p.m., $10-$25. MormonBoyLive.BrownPaperTickets.com