Pygmalion Theatre Co.: Eleemosynary
The word "eleemosynary" simply means charity. However, in the context of Pygmalion Theatre Co.'s production of Eleemosynary, it more specifically refers to "having or showing a concern for the welfare of others—even when they're family." Lee Blessing's play, about three generations of women, is an extraordinary look into the complications of family.
The nonlinear storytelling starts near the end, with the family's eccentric matriarch, Dorthea (Barb Gandy), having recently suffered a stroke. She's looked after by her intelligent, spelling bee-champion granddaughter Echo (Sydney Shoell), whom she raised. Dorthea's daughter and Echo's mother, Artie (Tracie Merrill) has kept her distance from her mother since she was 18, and her daughter since Echo was 2. As their history unfolds, all three alternately play narrator, laying out the exposition of each situation that has shaped them—for better or worse.
Anyone with a family, particularly mothers and daughters, will identify with at least one of the characters—or maybe all three. It's both heartbreaking and heartfelt as the women go on their own personal journeys. Gandy, Merrill and Shoell are exceptional in their roles, feeling and acting like complex family members.
Hopefully, you'll find Eleemosynary speaks to you on some level. And if not, at least you'll know how to spell "eleemosynary" by the end. (Missy Bird)
Pygmalion Theatre Co.: Eleemosynary @ Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Black Box Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, through March 11, Thursday-Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees, 2 p.m., $20, pygmalionproductions.org
Chess: Concert Version
At first glance, a musical centered around an international game of chess, espionage and star-crossed lovers seems like an imagined play created from a game of Mad Libs.
But with award-winning music created by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA (yes, that ABBA), Chess successfully brings all these components together to give a human face to the Cold War. What begins as an international chess match between an American and Soviet quickly transforms into a demonstration of the ways big political ideologies can interrupt and destroy the lives of the little people trying to live with them.
Karen Azenberg, Pioneer Theatre's artistic director, says the fraught history between the Soviets and Americans is particularly relevant in today's political climate. "It's sort of this very interesting statement about American and Russian political relationships, and so there's some very, very timely nature to the subplot of this story, which I think is kind of fun and exciting," Azenberg says. "You get to see a show written 30 years ago and be, like, 'Wait, I think they wrote it last week.'"
Azenberg says the minimalist "concert version" production—including the 1980s radio hit "One Night in Bangkok"—allows people to revel in the score without the strings that would come in a fuller production. "This is one of those fabulous musical theater scores that everybody likes to listen to, but it doesn't get performed very often because the book isn't as wonderful as the score," Azenberg says. (Kylee Ehmann)
Chess: Concert Version @ Pioneer Theatre Co., 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, March 10, 7:30 p.m.; March 11, 2 & 7:30 p.m., $25-$40, pioneertheatre.org
In recent times, animal handlers have become celebrities of sorts. Jack Hanna's frequent visits to The Tonight Show always guaranteed hilarious encounters between host Johnny Carson and the unusual creatures Hanna would have in tow. The late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin became an international sensation, thanks to his obvious love affair with the animals he interacted with in the wild and his engaging sense of humor.
Jeff Corwin's performance includes guest appearances by live wild animals, but the focus of the presentation is on conservation and the role we can all play in helping to protect these animals. Corwin takes his role as a wildlife biologist and nature conservationist seriously, although his fame has spread through the programs he's produced for Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. Combining personality, humor, reverence for Mother Nature and a spirit of adventure, those shows—Jeff Corwin Unleashed, The Jeff Corwin Experience, Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin and Corwin's Quest among them—have garnered him multiple Emmy nods, and even kudos from People Magazine, which named him one of their "50 Most Beautiful People."
However, success hasn't been without its challenges; while filming an episode of Planet in Peril for CNN, he was inadvertently attacked by an elephant, permanently injuring his arm. "Elephants are complex animals with a huge array of emotions ... and this was his way of telling me he didn't want to be ignored," Corwin said after the incident. Yeah, we'll take him at his word. (Lee Zimmerman)
Jeff Corwin @ Eccles Center, 1575 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-8252, March 11, 7:30 p.m., $29-$79, ecclescenter.org
Golden Dragon Acrobats
Grace. Power. Beauty. These are the words the Cangzhou, Hebei province-based Golden Dragon Acrobats use to describe their production.
Acrobatic displays are perpetually reaching for new heights and thrills, and these performers have kept up with that pursuit, all while maintaining their stylistic roots in the 25-century-old Chinese tradition. Their work has paid off, as they are able to claim recognition in the United States and abroad as "the premiere Chinese acrobatic touring company of today," according to their website.
Physical prowess and athletic skill are centerpieces here. Juggling takes multiple forms, and general acrobatics dominate it all, though the beautiful costumes of brilliant hues are worthy of noting in their own right. Extreme heights and hoops of many sizes add to the excitement the Golden Dragon Acrobats promise.
Alternate versions of the Golden Dragon origin story have them founded either by Lien Chi Chang in 1967 with his family, or by Danny Chang, his son. Both contributed significantly to the group as it is now, but Lien Chi launched the smaller version, on which Danny based this bigger touring company. Danny now acts as the show's artistic director, and under his guidance they have toured continuously since 1978, averaging 200 performances per year, including two runs in Broadway's New Victory Theater.
If you like circuses, thrills and watching people do things you know should be impossible, chances are good you'll enjoy the Golden Dragon Acrobats. (Casey Koldewyn)
Golden Dragon Acrobats @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-3787, March 11, 2 & 8 p.m., $15-$30, artsaltlake.arttix.org