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Best Bets: Theater, fine film opportunities abound

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

We can thank Anchorage for some fine entertainment in Juneau this weekend.

Anchorage playwright Dick Reichman is playing Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Perseverance Theatre's newest offering, "Lost in Kubla Khan." The role brought Reichman to Juneau, and Reichman, a playwright as well as an actor, is bringing his newest play, "Money," to town.

"Money" just completed its premiere run in Anchorage, a run that was extended by popular demand. The play looks good. I like the premise - an aging pitch artist is delivering an inspirational get-rich-quick seminar in a rented motel conference room. He's a master salesman, but as he talks it becomes clear he's also a con artist and a deeper, more sympathetic character than meets the eye. He's befriended a young woman, and their relationship unfolds.

I've been to these seminars - maybe everybody has. Sometimes they're free, sometimes you are misled and don't realize this "opportunity" a co-worker is so excited about is really a multi-level marketing scheme and you are his potential "downline." Sometimes you pay for them. There always seems to be some inspiring, wholesome-but-oily evangelical con man trying to take your money so you can make money. It's fertile ground for theater.

It's a two-person show set in a generic room, all script and acting, the perfect candidate for weekend guerilla theater. "Money" launches Perseverance's new spring Midnight Theatre Festival, a series of three different shows running from 10 p.m. to midnight over three weekends. "Money" is at 10 p.m. Saturday night, April 27, and again at 2 p.m. Sunday.

A group of Anchorage film buffs is trying to establish a sort of Sundance north in Alaska's largest city. They've courted international filmmakers for an annual film festival, which debuted last year. A selection of the winning entries, The Best of the Anchorage Film Festival 2001, comes to Juneau Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30.

The seven films were selected from more than 200 submitted and includes "Helicopter," which won the Academy Award this year for Best Short Film. These are not shoestring budget videos, but contenders in national festivals. The collection looks like a good sample of last year's crop of international, independent short films. It's a nice follow to last week's Panhandle Picture Show, which in contrast featured locally and regionally made low-budget videos. Check the movie calendar on page 9 for details.

"The Trojan Women" is in the second weekend of its month-long run in McPhetres Hall. This production by Theatre in the Rough has all the hallmarks of directors Katie Jensen and Aaron Elmore's best works - excellent acting, compelling staging and beautiful props and costumes.

Elmore and Jensen can get more dramatic impact out of a bowl of water and a lit candle than most Hollywood directors get by blowing up cars. Phil Fitzgerald, a carpenter and electrician who works with both Perseverance and Theater in the Rough, was shaking his head in amazement.

"They built the Trojan horse in a couple of hours with some silk and a few bamboo poles," he said.

The play is an interesting contrast to "Kubla Khan" at Perseverance. Both are rich with meaning and food for thought but tempered by a kind of eye-pleasing surface lightness. "Kubla Khan" looks light and is deep. The surreal quality, humor and fancifulness make it fun. "Trojan Woman" is heavy but buoyed up by the satisfying performances, mythic overtones and imaginative staging.

Both these shows run into May, but this is the final weekend to catch "Madama Butterfly." The opera at Northern Light United Church runs at 7:30 Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27.

This is also the final week to catch the photography exhibit at the Big Picture gallery at Lyle's Home Furnishings. Eight Juneau photographers are exhibiting 80 or 90 pieces, and there is some beautiful work, mostly landscapes and scenic stills.

This weekend the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council brings the critically acclaimed film "The Man Who Wasn't There" to the Gold Town Nickelodeon for three shows. This is the Coen brothers first film since "O Brother, Where Art Thou," and features Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for her work in the Coens' "Fargo." Joel Coen won the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director Award for "The Man Who Wasn't There."

The film has gotten excellent reviews and sounds like a return to the themes of the team's first film, "Blood Simple," a character study driven by double-crossing, deceit and murder. The Oscar-nominated cinematography has been especially praised and was achieved by shooting color film that was processed in black and white, giving it a classic 1940s film noir feel.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.



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