Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - September 7, 2012

Worth a look

Theater

'The Cherry Orchard'

Chekhov's last play, "The Cherry Orchard," might hit too close to home for some people in this foreclosure-riddled economy, but a classic is a classic. And the latest production does have a shiny-new translation.

Presented by the Pear Avenue Theatre, this translation of the play was done by Stanford University lecturer Marina Brodskaya. The Pear bills it as an interpretation that takes a fresh and unsentimental approach, delivering "Chekhov's humor and pathos for a modern audience while retaining his lyricism."

Pathos is plentiful in this tale of Madame Ranevskaya (played by Palo Alto resident and Pear artistic director Diane Tasca), who comes home from Paris to learn that her treasured cherry orchard may need to be auctioned off. As a wealthy merchant offers his help, friends and relatives swirl around, and the comedy and tragedy of life goes on. Palo Altan Jeanie K. Smith, a Weekly theater critic, directs.

The play previews on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m., and then runs Sept. 21 through Oct. 14, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The theater is at 1220 Pear Ave. in Mountain View, and tickets are $10-$30. Go to http://thepear.org or call 650-254-1148.

'The Little Dog Laughed'

In addition to Chekhov, a decidedly more modern tale is being offered up on the stage over in downtown Palo Alto. Dragon Productions is presenting "The Little Dog Laughed," by favorite Dragon playwright Douglas Carter Beane ("As Bees in Honey Drown," "The Country Club," the book for the musicals "Xanadu" and "Sister Act").

The play centers on Mitchell Green, a sexually perplexed actor who could be a big star if he could only stay in the closet, or so his agent sees it. When the play opened in the Big Apple in 2006, the New York Times' Ben Brantley called it "the tastiest homegrown comedy of manners to hit New York since, well, Mr. Beane's "As Bees in Honey Drown."

Directed by theater veteran Dale Albright, the show has a pay-what-you-can preview on Sept. 13 and then runs Sept. 14 through Oct. 7 at 535 Alma St. in downtown Palo Alto. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.; admission is $20-$30 on opening night, Sept. 14; and $16-$25 at other performances. Go to http://dragonproductions.net or call 650-493-2006.

Books

Paul Tough

How can growing up in poverty affect the minds of children — and how can teachers and doctors help kids overcome those challenges? Journalist Paul Tough, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, delves deeply into these questions in his new book, "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character."

A New Yorker who has also been a writer and producer for public radio's "This American Life," Tough has long written and reported on poverty and education. In his new book, he looks at connections between stress in children and their later success, while paying tribute to the tremendous effects that strength of character can have in overcoming obstacles. He also offers thoughts and ideas on helping poverty-stricken young people.

Tough's talk is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 15 at Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Audience members must buy the event book or a $10 gift card to admit two; members get in free. Go to http://keplers.com or call 650-324-4321.

Art

'Memories from Syria'

Family dinners, prayers, weddings and holidays, all rendered in colorful oil paint on antique wood. These are the artistic memory pieces painted by Avraham Shemi-Shoham as he recollects his childhood in the town of Halab (also known as Aleppo), Syria.

The artist, who now lives in Israel, is exhibiting his series "Memories from Syria" this fall at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto. He is also a graphic designer and illustrator who explores various themes of Judaica in his art and the ketubahs (Jewish wedding contracts) he creates.

An artist's reception will be held for the JCC exhibition on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall. The show is up through Nov. 7. To RSVP for the free reception, email Simcha Moyal at sim@clay-artisan.com. To schedule a viewing of the exhibition, call 650-223-8699 or email boxoffice@paloaltojcc.org. The JCC is at 3921 Fabian Way; go to http://paloaltojcc.org .

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