Monday, November 24, 2008

Theater Weekend

This weekend turned out to be theater weekend.

Friday night we went to "The Execution of Precious Memories," a contemporary dance, vocals and music performance by Blixa Bargeld (of Einstuerzende Neubauten), Nanos Operetta, and the Kunst-Stoff dance company at Project Artaud. The hour-long performance featured interpretations, both spoken and sung, of memories submitted by the general public, accompanied by music and dance. Blixa's vocalizations, and the music by Nanos Operetta, were engaging throughout. Especially compelling were the pieces during which Blixa actually sang, making the text feel much more poetic than if it had been read. The other vocalists were not as consistent. Their performances were good, though not as dynamic as Blixa's, and therefore unable to elevate some of the uninteresting and poorly composed memories that were, for reasons unclear to me, included in the piece. Unfortunately, the least successful part of the performance was the integration of the dance with the text and music. While Nanos Operetta did a fine job of providing an exciting, interpretive score, the Kunst-Stoff dancers seemed to be dancing an entirely different piece of work. None of their movements corresponded to either an apparent interpretation of the text, nor the energy of the music. The rhythm and movement patterns of the dancers remained relatively constant throughout, despite changes in tempo and dynamics in the music, and different ideas and emotions being expressed in the text. It was worth going to hear the music, and about half the text, but the dance and remaining text were sufficiently unsuccessful that I felt they made a potentially excellent work merely pretty good.

Saturday night we went to the closing night of Thrillpeddlers' Shocktoberfest 2008 show. Featuring Grand Guignol style theater, and a vaudevillian performance of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody accompanied by a player piano, it was a silly, enjoyable evening that was capped by a very well done black-lit Spook Show, as the closer to the third and final play (which was also the best of the three). While not nearly as polished and intellectual as Project Artaud, the Hypnodrome is another local theater worth supporting, and the Shocktoberfest shows are enjoyable Halloweentime diversions, complete with beer and popcorn. Modernized interpretations of turn-of-the-century French Grand Guignol plays are performed, as are contemporary texts written in a similar style. The Vaudville meets fetish scene stylings of the troupe are, of course, very San Francisco and quite amusing. While you won't get high art from this venue, it is definitely a place to go for a good time.

On Sunday we stayed away from Theater and instead went to see Disney's Bolt in 3D. It was a lot better than I had expected, and I actually enjoyed it (though I would much rather have seen a full 90 minutes of the world presented in the opener). Furthermore, the Disney Digital 3D presented on the Dolby 3D system actually looked good, and didn't give me a splitting headache. The Dolby system is a notch filtering based technology that doesn't require a silvered screen, rather than a polarization based technology that does. It also isn't the traditional headache-inducing red-blue anaglyph technique. I'd seen an R&D demo of notch filtering based 3D at SIGGRAPH a few years ago, and it looked very promising. Now that promise has been fulfilled. And Disney's use of it was not over-the-top. The separations were all motivated, and mostly restrained, making for something I've never had before: a relatively pleasant 3D viewing experience.