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Short Takes: Doily making produces fine art; Indian dancers perform elegantly

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Arts & Entertainment writers offer capsule comments on this, that and the other thing ...

'Stitches That Heal'

The dictionary definition of a doily -- a small napkin or mat used as a decoration or protection for furniture -- doesn't give a clue to the beauty and craftsmanship contained within 270 examples at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

"Stitches That Heal," an installation by Akiko Kotani that's simultaneously contemporary and nostalgic, suggests new ways of looking at and thinking about this traditional handwork. It was inspired by a conversation the fiber artist and Slippery Rock University professor emeritus had with her mother, Chiyoko Chinen, now 92, who talked about the soothing quality of doily making.

The show centers on Kotani's "Liminal Chair," a striking silk stitch and organza work in her inimitable style that symbolizes a "space of safety." Three of the gallery walls are pinned with mainly white and beige doilies while the fourth, smartly selected to be seen last, bursts with color. Many are circular in form and crocheted or knitted, some showy and ruffled, others exquisitely embroidered. Expression ranges from delicate lace to paint or paper.

A call for entries brought 370 works from across the country and as far as Japan and Slovakia. Kotani selected pieces as varied as snowflakes yet, for the most part, retaining genre characteristics. With the doilies came testimonials that support the exhibition theme, and these accompany images in loose-leaf binders the visitor may peruse.

"Stitches" continues through Nov. 7 at the gallery, Fifth and Shady avenues, Shadyside. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Kotani will give a free gallery talk at 2 p.m. Saturday. Information: 412-361-0873.

Review by Mary Thomas,
Post-Gazette Art Critic

Neal Pollack

Humorist Neal Pollack brings the Neal Pollack Invasion tour to the Rex in support of his novel, "Never Mind the Pollacks," and its accompanying sound track at 10 tonight.

The novel is a comic tale about two rival rock critics. Pollack explained his decision to form a punk band last week in the Baltimore Sun: "I figure, if I'm going to do a book about rock 'n' roll [lifestyle], then I'm going to have to live it to the limits of my ability."

If you're going tonight, there's a $6 cover and an opening set by Goldblade.

Preview by Ed Masley
Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

Srishti Dances of India

Akiko Kotani's installation, "Stitches That Heal," will be displayed at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until Nov. 7. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

It was the stuff of legends, this lingering escape into a land where gods have five faces and goddesses three eyes, where there are epic tales of heavenly love and fierce wars.

Srishti Dances of India, capably headed by Sreyashi Dey, presented acclaimed Indian dancer Guru Manoranjan Pradhan and a company of Odissi dancers in "Shatarupa: Splendorous Myths and Divinities of India" at the Kelly Strayhorn Community Performing Arts Centre in East Liberty.

As usual, Saturday's late-afternoon program had a full-service dance menu, with liberal explanations both in the program (highly recommended) and on stage (narrator Gwen Morton) to negotiate the cast of characters and their unfamiliar dance vocabulary.

All of this added up to a lengthy program, but one rich in the myth and that unending curl of beauty that is Odissi dance. Even pain and suffering are elegantly portrayed in its soft sculptural movements, so deliciously intricate as the waves of dance unfold between face and hands and feet.

There was the customary opening invocation to Lord Shiva, although this one contained the unusual element of a story within a story. It was notable for a harmonious blend between the five dancers -- Minati Dasgupta, Asako Takami, Chaitee Sengupta, Pradhan and Dey.

On the whole, Pradhan's style had a more open, inviting feeling and singular dramatic presence. This was evident in a pair of abhinaya solos, full of varied musical textures and tempi and featuring detailed facial expressions.

The first, wonderfully interpreted by Dey, made its way through the jealous imagination of Radha, who, along with Krishna, is a particular favorite of Odissi dance. Uniquely sensual in nature, it plumbed Radha's emotional landscape as she pictured Krishna in a relationship with another woman.

The program ended with a charming dance drama about Lord Jagannath, replete with galloping horses and bejeweled costumes. It showed that, more than its trademark lyricism, Odissi inherently exemplifies the best in life by acknowledging courage and spirit.

Review by Jane Vranish,
Post-Gazette Dance Critic

'H.M.S. Pinafore'

The Pittsburgh Savoyards, a theater group dedicated solely to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan (London's Savoy Theatre was the home for G&S operettas for years), is starting its 65th season with a production of "H.M.S. Pinafore" that is first-rate musically and better than passable from an acting standpoint.

"Pinafore" tells the story of a lowly sailor in love with his Captain's daughter. The operetta lampoons the British social system and the dedication of the Royal Navy and its officers.

The first treat of the evening is seeing 30 accomplished musicians in the orchestra pit rather than two synthesizers and a drummer. The orchestra, led by conductor Guy Russo, gets the mood of both the lively and the (far less frequent) quieter moments just right.

No one is credited as vocal director, but the choruses -- particularly the male chorus -- are in fine voice throughout, providing the added bonus of proper enunciation to help the uninitiated follow the plot.

Director Patrick Brannan keeps the pace moving along seamlessly, but too often his supporting actors are flat in their delivery of lines that cry out for the trademark G&S over-the-top caricatures. As a choreographer, Brannan is less successful. The sailors are often out of unison or a half step behind the music.

But the actors in the lead roles are all fine. Foremost among them is Meighan Lloyd's serving girl, little Buttercup. Her range both vocally and comically are top-notch and her use of a fine vocal vibrato to put across particularly comic moments is a joy.

The shipboard set is lush and realistic and Robin Kornides' costumes are stunning.

The show continues Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday through Oct. 25. Call 412-734-8476.

Review by A.J. Caliendo, for the Post-Gazette

Film Kitchen

Movies about bicycles are the highlight of tonight's Film Kitchen program at the Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland.

"BICAS," the title of a 46-minute video documentary by Todd Martin, is the acronym for Bicycle InterCommunity Action and Salvage, a Tucson-based collective. The movie chronicles how its members salvage and repair discarded bicycles, and turn bike parts into art.

Tonight's Film Kitchen also offers works by local filmmaker Olivia Ciummo, including "Bikes," about a Pittsburgh bicycle collective that also promotes bike safety on the part of motorists.

Screenings begin at 8 p.m. A reception begins one hour earlier. Tickets are $4.

By Ron Weiskind,
Post-Gazette Movie Editor

'Living Successions'

Choreographer Maria Caruso will delve into the true grit of ballet technique when her company, Bodiography, takes on Pearl Jam at the Byham Theater this week.

"We're giving the audience a very raw, rock concert format," says Caruso of the program, collectively called "Living Successions."

The dancers will swerve from cabrioles to camouflage attire in the opening segments, with selections from groups such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus and Linkin Park.

But the main attraction is Pearl Jam's "Living Successions," with a dozen songs in a tapestry of movement and emotion. Caruso became acquainted with the group through her boyfriend and has attended a number of concerts. "They deal with realistic themes and ideas," she explains. "I think it will attract a new and younger audience by enticing them with the music."

Although ballet is the foundation of Caruso's style, her goal was to "find a group of dancers strong and well-versed in all genres. My work is very athletic and multifaceted, although I strive to have the dancers feel comfortable and beautiful on stage."

With pieces like "Black," "Immortality" and "Nothing Man," the ensemble of seven dancers will have to retain their ballet vocabulary while delving into modern dance and jazz with the same confidence.

Caruso isn't worried, noting, "When you're touched by music, it hits you in the heart."

Bodiography will present "Living Successions" at the Byham Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Tickets: $20-38; 412-456-6666.

Preview by Jane Vranish,
Post-Gazette Dance Critic

Pat Metheny

It didn't take long for guitar phenom Pat Metheny and his star-studded trio to endear themselves to a capacity crowd at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on Friday night.

Metheny's trio, which featured bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, opened the Guild's 17th year. In addition to Metheny, this season will present groups such as Russell Malone and Benny Green, Sergio Mendes and the Dave Holland Quintet.

But Friday night, Metheny and his trio held court.

Metheny opened the evening performing solo, demonstrating his unmistakable style and guitar mastery.

He simultaneously played the bass and melody line with quick-witted dexterity and made an intimate evening even more pleasurable with wonderful interpretations of "Nylon" and "Pikasso," a tune that features Metheny performing on his 42-string Pikasso guitar.

Midway through the set, McBride and Sanchez joined in on the fun.The pair held a steady but fluid groove all night, keeping up with Metheny's propensity for stylistic changes and moods.

The trio showcased two new songs, creatively titled No. 11 and No. 13. The songs were presented publicly here for the first time, leading Metheny to joke about being nervous and hoping he had the melody down.

Review by Nate Guidry and David Nguyen,
Post-Gazette Staff Writers

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