Weekend Picks: Lawrence Arts Center turns 40; Bootlegger’s Fur Ball; Radkey’s back; Kirk Rundstrom tribute; Card Table tackles ‘Twilight Zone’
With the exception of Radkey's present-tense punk fury, this week's column turns its attention toward the past. If you're looking for a reason to dress like a 70's swinger or a Prohibition-era gangster, you're in luck. Or perhaps you prefer to relive the early days of Split Lip Rayfield or watch local actors perform a classic "Twilight Zone" episode in a local basement? We've got that too.
Lawrence Arts Center 40th Anniversary Bash, 5-9 p.m. at Lawrence Arts Center
The Lawrence Arts Center has become a major New Hampshire Street fixture and community hub since the new building opened in 2002, but don't forget the fact that the LAC had a long history in the Carnegie Building prior to that.
Stop by (and dress appropriately) for a '70s-themed street party Friday to celebrate 40 years of the LAC. Truckstop Honeymoon and hometown hero Chuck Mead will provide some tunes. Other activities include a "70's Sitcom-A-Thon," children's games from the '70s, and a screening of Tim Burton's recent "Big Eyes." Maybe you'll find yourself at an "Ice Storm"-like "key party" before the night is over.
And don't forget to step inside the LAC to check out the Final Friday opening reception for the new and important Albert Bloch exhibition.
[Pro-tip: While you're in the vicinity, make your way to the Percolator for the sure-to-be-stellar Final Friday opening of Norman Akers' "Contested Territories" exhibit. Get the scoop here.].
Find a full lineup of events at the Facebook event page.
Bootlegger's Fur Ball (Lawrence Humane Society Fundraiser), 7 p.m. Friday at Abe and Jake's
Another weekend brings another big fundraiser for a beloved LFK institution, so consider supporting your fuzzy friends (and their human caretakers) from the Lawrence Humane Society at Friday's intriguing Prohibition-themed fundraiser.
The Bootlegger's Fur Ball promises to transform Abe and Jake's big space into a speakeasy full of "specialty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, great silent and live auction items, raffles and entertainment." The shindig is hosted by Lawrence fitness legend Red Dog and Channel 6's Tabatha Mills.
Dress accordingly (can we borrow a fedora or homburg?) and booze it up for the pups and kitties. General admission tickets are $50. The Facebook event page is here.
Radkey, doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m. Friday at the Bottleneck
Sure, Saturday's Beach House show at Liberty Hall may be the "biggest" touring show this weekend for many scenesters, but punk fans would beg to differ. Radkey hasn't graced a Lawrence stage in awhile, and they are sure to be treated as conquering heroes at a packed Bottleneck on Friday.
This band of three (very young) brothers from St. Joseph, Mo., have been touring extensively to wild acclaim and now have a debut album, "Dark Black Makeup," under their belts, an album which Consequence of Sound memorably describes as "a 13-track clinic in why the leanest, meanest punk rock always seems to come from kids who aren’t old enough to play half the venues in town."
LFK's People's Punk Band and Stiff Middle Fingers join forces Friday night to help rip the roof clean off the joint. The Facebook event page is here with fun descriptions of each of the Radke brothers, such as, "Please don’t mention X-Men 3 around Isaiah because it may cause a rant that will make you wish you had never been born."
For more about Radkey and the band's history in Lawrence, check out this Lcom interview with Isaiah Radke.
Card Table Theatre's "Twilight Zone: To Serve Man," 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday at Frank's North Star Tavern
It's possible that there are greater theatrical events in LFK than Card Table's occasional re-creations of old television episodes, but it's NOT possible that there are stranger theatrical events.
If you were on hand in Frank's basement to witness the group's full-tilt performances of "Saved by the Bell" and "Full House" episodes, you're certainly itching for more. For this installment, Card Table drops the comedy nostalgia for a frightening evening of the legendary "To Serve Man" episode of "Twilight Zone" (along with a mini re-imagining of "X-Files" and probably some television commercial parodies).
We haven't spotted a cast list yet, so perhaps you'll want to take bets on which Card Table luminary gets to yell "IT'S A COOKBOOK!!" Our bet is Sarah Matthews.
The Facebook event page is here.
Nation: The Kirk Rundstrom Legacy, doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m. Saturday, the Bottleneck
Our personal favorite music pick for the weekend is unquestionably this massive Bottleneck barnburner, a tribute to the late great Kirk Rundstrom of Split Lip Rayfield fame (or infamy, if you prefer).
The evening will feature a wealth of artists performing an array of Kirk's songs that span his various musical projects over the years, so concertgoers will be treated to much more than just Split Lip tunes. Bring on the Scroat Belly and Grain and Demise!
This evening's show at the Bottleneck is a follow-up to a Friday evening shindig at Wichita's Fisch Haus. That one is a BYOB affair that we suspect will be truly legendary. But don't worry: the Bottleneck will be rowdy too. Split Lip to this day refers to it as their favorite bar to play.
The vast lineup includes Split Lip (obviously) along with Truckstop Honeymoon, the Dewayn Brothers, and many other special guests.
Info on both shows can be found at the Facebook event page.
Tweet us @LarryvilleLife and live it up this weekend.
Full disclosure first. Yes, I’m friends with “True West” director Rob Schulte and some of the Card Table Theatre crew. But I’m also someone who sees a lot of Lawrence and Kansas City theater, and I’m comfortable saying that Card Table’s production of Sam Shepard’s mind-bending 1980 classic is one of the more ambitious and memorable theatrical outings the area has seen in quite some time. Even if you don’t “like” it (and most of you are going to like it), you’ll still remember and talk about it.
The venue is essential. It’s a rare thing that Liberty Hall has agreed to offer up its beautiful space for two consecutive weekends for an unusual staging of a challenging work of live theater (and particularly to a staging that only allows 60 audience members at each production). If you think you know Liberty Hall, think again.
Upon entering, the audience is directed through the wings and onto the stage itself, behind the drawn curtain, then seated in a semi-circular fashion, facing outward toward Liberty’s main room. With Liberty’s cavernous interior effectively sealed off, the audience is immediately startled out of the complacency of familiar surroundings, perhaps more able to believe themselves in a nondescript kitchen in a small home somewhere outside the Mojave Desert.
Lawrence musician Spencer Mackenzie Brown strums mournful Americana songs as audience members settle into their new locale and awaits the cast who will soon perform mere feet away.
In terms of casting, Schulte’s smartest move was to further stress unfamiliarity by drawing deeper within — and even outside — the usual Card Table Theatre casting pool for his two stellar leads. Chris Roady and Derek Trautwein play Lee and Austin, two brothers holed up in their mother’s home while she is away on vacation. Roady and Trautwein are naturalistic and impressive here, effectively capturing a brotherly bond that can turn on a dime from playful banter to primal anger.
They are also boldly tackling the Broadway technique used by Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in which they alternate lead roles each night. Seeing both incarnations (as I did) is a wonderfully disorienting experience for the viewer and a skillful feat of acting by Roady and Trautwein (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late, great Hoffman in some scenes).
Rounding out the cast are local comic/actor Jay Maus (suitably smarmy in his two scenes as visiting Hollywood producer Saul Kimmer) and Liberty Hall manager Maggie Allen, nearly unrecognizable as the vacationing mother, who doesn't enter the stage until the maelstrom of violence at the end.
Finally, what IS “True West” about and why will you remember it? Like most of Shepard’s work, it can be cryptic and somewhat maddening, less focused on plot than mood, which is enhanced between scenes by Brown’s quiet acoustic strumming and the buzz and howl of offstage crickets and coyotes (perhaps a bit too distractingly loud at times).
The play’s (surprisingly short) first act is a slow burn, establishing the tension and jealousy between the two brothers: one a family man and aspiring writer, the other a drifter and small-time thief.
The longer second act ratchets up the tension incrementally through short scenes that build, as most Shepard plays do, toward onstage destruction (numerous objects are bashed and flung) and shocking human violence, staged so realistically that our companion suggested the actors might need a “safe word” to prevent accidental onstage murder.
Thematically, "True West" is about the strange merging of identity within the American family. It’s about the disappearance of the American West (and the illusion of the American Dream). It’s about "Art" with a capital A and what defines it, and who gets to make it.
Like all great plays, it’s ultimately about us, the viewers. As Lee and Austin gradually lose sight of who they are, their identities bizarrely swapping and merging, the audience is left to question the boundaries of our own identities. How much of your brother (or your ever-absent father) actually lives within you and shapes your behavior? And can you break free of the darker implications of these forces?
Claustrophobic and intense and often darkly funny, “True West” is not a light night on the town, but it provides the kind of artistic and cultural jolt that you’re not going to find on a polite Final Friday art walk or an evening in the comfy confines of Theatre Lawrence. Embrace it while it’s here. A few tickets remain for Friday and Saturday's performances and a few more will be released in the (likely) event of sellouts.
Performances of "True West" will be 7:30 p.m. June 12 and 13 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. Tickets cost $15 and are available at the Liberty Hall box office and website.