Amaluna mon amour
by Roberto Friedman
Amaluna, the new Cirque du Soleil show now dazzling audiences under the Grand Chapiteau next to AT&T Park, takes place on a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to "mother" in many languages, and luna, which means "moon," a symbol of femininity that evokes both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of a lunar goddess. Amaluna director Diane Paulus has said she intended to put women front-and-center in this circus show. The production's motto is, "Escape to an island where beauty and women power are unleashed!"
There is indeed a lot of feminine energy on display in Amaluna, in its story-line as well as in its feats of derring-do. A pack of female monkeys, for example, chases away invading male monkeys from a set of uneven gymnastic bars, the better to demonstrate their superior skills. But as always in Cirque shows, the slim narrative takes a back-seat to sheer spectacle. And in the acrobatics and artistry, the make-up and costumes, the stage design and lighting, even in the original music that always seems to be set in Esperanto, this latest theatrical confection does not disappoint.
We'd say the masculine components in the show should not be overlooked. During the "Teeterboard" segment, for example, a gang of shirtless young men imprisoned on the island uses some seesaw equipment to attempt an escape, in the process serving up some incredible gymnastic feats, such as landing in a handstand on another acrobat's hands. The plot falls away, mercifully, as the breathtaking athleticism takes center stage. As an aside, our comely companion Pepi noticed that none of the acrobats have any tattoos marking the ample flesh on display. Yet the show's Romeo, who so impressed on the Chinese pole, has a distinctive shoulder-blade tattoo. Does star billing bring this perk? We'd like to know. (Now playing at AT&T Park; opens Jan. 22, 2014, in San Jose. Go to: www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna.)
Judi, Judi, Judi
The Mostly British Film Festival is presenting a free screening of Philomena on Sat., Nov. 23, 11 a.m. at the Vogue Theater in San Francisco. Move over, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, because Dame Judi Dench is definitely going to make the Best Actress Oscar nominations a horserace. She gives a controlled but life-affirming performance as the title character, an older woman recalling her past in 1950s Ireland, when she was forced by the Catholic Church to give up her infant son. Director Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Grifters) is at his best telling this true story of a determined woman who hooks up with a cynical journalist to find her long-lost son. Dench and Steve Coogan have a natural chemistry, she often acting as the "straight man" to his offbeat humor. Their search takes them to Washington, DC, and a surprise ending to their journey. America offers a revelation for Philomena, whose world expands because of her travels.
For tickets, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Write Live and your name in the subject line, and indicate how many tickets you would like (up to two) in the body of the e-mail.
Last week's review of author James McCourt 's new memoir Lasting City (Liveright) inspired us to crack open a review copy that came our way. McCourt is an acquired taste, and his reminiscences flow in a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness way. But if a reader lets go of conventional narrative expectations, some real gems are unearthed. We've selected a few passages to annotate and pass on to our dear readers.
On the lost world of seedy Times Square: "'The Gaiety Male Burlesk certainly did not go out of business for want of steady customers.'
On metaphysics: "'Einstein says time bends.'
"'It certainly bends you over, I can tell you that much.'"
On looking backwards: "Nostalgia is dreadful, its victims enslaved by it in its baleful presence and their dread obligation to it."
"'The Shadow knows everything.'
"'So does the Web.'"
McCourt's candor extends to the book's copyright page, where we learn, "In one way or another everything represented in Lasting City happened. Certain names have been changed to protect the author from the innocent."
David Weissman and Bill Weber's 2011 award-winning documentary We Were Here is returning to the Castro Theatre for a special one-night return engagement on Sun., Dec. 1, the 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day. The stories of five individuals' experiences at the advent of the AIDS crisis make for a profoundly moving and cathartic experience, and from personal experience, Out There knows that seeing it at the Castro only intensifies the emotional impact of the film. Weissman will be in SF for the screening (his first Castro event as an eviction exile, now living in Portland, OR) and will appear at the theatre with the cast and crew.
"One new angle is the perspective I have as an evictee/exile, and how the film relates to the housing crisis facing so many men of the AIDS generations in SF," Weissman told Out There in an e-mail. "I'll certainly speak about this at the screening. There's a bunch of new activism around what people are terming 'AIDS Survivor Syndrome' and around evictions.
"The film is so fundamentally about the importance of community. And now, with the epidemic of evictions and insane cost of housing, the very existence of our Castro community is threatened."