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Desert Companion

The 2014 Fall Culture Guide: Theater and dance

The 2014 Fall Culture Guide: Visual Art | Music | Lit and ideas | Family food and festivals | Theater and dance

So, how's your schedule look next week?  And the week after that?  And the week after that?   Whether you're an art-lover, a dance aficionado, a foodie or a live music fan, our culture guide's got the goods for one very busy fall.  And we mean busy in a good way - this year's calendar is brimming with sights, sounds and tastes to engage, inspire and entertain you.  Enjoy.

Sep. 4-6, 11-14, 18-20

Picnic and ‘Arsenic’

The same self-affirming impulse that makes reality TV a guilty pleasure (“Hey, at least we’re not that crazy!”) draws us to dysfunctional-family comedies. And Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 play, Arsenic and Old Lace, is the original Kardashian-style train wreck you just can’t stop watching — complete with two elderly homicidal aunts, one brother who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and another brother who’s had plastic surgery that makes him resemble Boris Karloff. The play’s main character, Mortimer Brewster, unearths one disturbing truth after another as he defends his family from the authorities and decides whether to marry his fiancée, drawing an innocent victim into the madness. Kim and Kanye? Yawn. (HK) 7:05p, $12.95, Super Summer Theater at Spring Mountain Ranch,

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Sept. 20

When it’s okay to talk in a theater

As Asylum Theatre sees it, there can be more to being in a theater audience than passively receiving staged entertainment. Following this staged reading of a submission selected from Asylum’s annual call for plays — one of some 350 entries — audience members will discuss their responses to the work, their feedback helping the author fine-tune it. Hooray, empowered viewing! (The same dynamic will repeat in February with a staged reading of Reckoning, “an intense family drama about modern-day Irish travelers,” by Chicago’s Jenny Seidelman.) (SD) $10, Onyx Theater,

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sept. 20-21

A dream for all seasons

Nevada Ballet Theater opens its season with the birds and the bees — and the Vivaldi and the Shakespeare. The two-act show begins with Paul Vasterling’s Seasons set to Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and ends with George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 1 (1), the sensual interpretation of William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy set to Felix Mendelssohn’s score. Emil de Cou will direct the live orchestra that includes members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and more than 20 young dancers from the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theater will participate in the performance. (HK) 2p and 7:30p, $29-$129, Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


GaddisOct. 3

Go ask Gaddis

The Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater could only get more popular if its founding artistic director, Bernard H. Gaddis, made his first full-length ballet the modern interpretation of a much-loved fantastic tale. Oh, and look! He’s doing just that, with Alice Down the Rabbit Hole (2). Gaddis says he’s always related to Lewis Carroll’s story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and audiences can expect his dance company to bring the little girl’s imaginepic to life on stage with their usual passion and athleticism. (HK) 7:30p, $24-$79, Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


Oct. 10-19

Circle work

The College of Southern Nevada drama program goes all meta with its season opener this year, producing Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation. The 2009 Obie Award winner for Best New American Play follows a group of four theater wannabes through six weeks of drama both inside and outside a community center classroom, where role-playing exercises turn into power plays. The muffled tension elicits as much laughter as it does post-performance conversation. (HK), 7p, $10-$12, CSN’s BackStage Theater,


Oct. 23

Drink it! Drink it!

You gotta love the demented imagination of Troy Heard: For this Table 8 Productions performance of Jonestown — yes, about Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and that Kool-Aid — he’s creating … make that curating … an “immersive” experience that will “recreate the Guyana tragedy in a desert location (busing included).” Sounds wild, creatively risky — and worth the ride. Look for similar risk-taking in March, when Table 8 presents Motel, by Ernie Curcio and Heard, which funnels audiences through rooms at downtown’s Gateway Motel. (SD) Through Nov. 8, $30,


BalletOct. 26 and Nov. 2

CirQue du ballet

I love modern ballet; you love postmodern acrobatics; A Choreographer’s Showcase (3) loves us both! The Nevada Ballet Theater and Cirque du Soleil are collaborating on the seventh installment of their gymnastics-influenced dance — or is it a ballet-influenced tumble? Both, and more, say audience members, who applaud the boundary-pushing performances that give the city’s most talented dancers and directors a unique forum for flexing their collective muscles. (HK) 1p, $25-$45, Mystere Theater at Treasure Island,


Nov. 4-6

Dream hoops

The original American culture-tainment explodes out of Derrick Suwaima Davis, the Hopi-Choctaw artist who’s won five world championships in hoop dancing. Davis spins the Hopi creation tale to the accompaniment of singers and drummers, while also spinning rattan hoops around his arms, legs and body. For Native American Heritage month, he’ll be performing at libraries around the valley. (HK) times vary, free, Las Vegas Clark County Library District,


Nov. 6-9

Five steps forward, five steps back

The Last Five Years is a rare treat for fans of musicals who also fancy nonlinear narrative techniques. The Nevada Conservatory Theater presents the intimate romance of New Yorker twentysomethings Cathy, who remembers the story in reverse, and Jamie, who tells it from beginning to end. The two characters appear on stage together only once — in the middle of the play, at their wedding — leaving remaining scenes to deconstruct the traditional arc of falling in and out of love. The production features Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, who starred in the 2013 off-Broadway revival of Jason Robert Brown’s musical. (HK) 6p, $10-$30, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre,


Nov. 11

Making faces

Mummenschanz appears ahead of its time today; just imagine the impression it must have made on early 1970s audiences in Paris, where it began. The “mime-masque theater” descriptor often used in its reviews doesn’t do justice to the troupe’s pointed, whimsical observations of human nature through the use of brightly colored objects, light and shadow, and stick figures come to life on stage. Parents will be just as entertained as their children. (HK) 7:30p, $21-$69, Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center


Nov. 16

Pasties and pastries

Producers tout Brunchlesque as “Las Vegas’ earliest gastro-exotic burlesque revue,” but we’re going out on a limb to say it’s not just the earliest, but the only. If there is some other show you can attend in your PJs that combines the dying art of the striptease with that of the perfectly cooked omelet, it hasn’t made its way above the radar just yet. Host Ricardo Montalbum presents performers from both Southern Nevada and beyond, with past talent hailing from as far away as Japan and Brazil. (HK) 11a, individual tickets $17-$20, booths seating up to five $110, Boomers Bar,


Nov. 20-23

Surreality show

What’s not to like about a dragapella beauty shop quartet poking fun at a half-dozen sub-genres of reality television at once? That it’s only two hours long, that’s what. In America’s Next Top Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star Gone Wild, the four cross-dressed divas of the Kinsey Sicks try to outdo each other in a series of dancing, dating, dieting, singing and extreme-insect challenges — all in four-part harmony. (HK) 8p, $35-$50, Troesch Studio Theater at The Smith Center,


Dec. 4

Scientology might sue you for reading this blurb

L. Ron Hubbard! The musical! Sung by children! It’s the Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant, presented by Table 8 Productions. What (aggressive response) could possibly (aggressive response) go wrong with something that sounds so very, very right? (SD) Through Dec. 20, $20-$25, Art Square Theater,


Dec. 5-6

Wonder study

CSN’s performing arts department ends each semester with an onstage celebration of footwork at its fanciest. The Fall Dance Concert brings together the college’s dance ensemble, its concert dance company and special guests for a showcase directed by program head and artistic director Kelly Roth. (HK) 2p and 7p, $8-$10, CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theater,


Jan. 15

Do dance for her, Argentina

Tango Buenos Aires dance troupe weaves the layered tale of Argentina’s beloved former first lady in Song of Eva Peron. The translation is a natural: Evita’s tireless fight for the rights of the poor, women and the working class animates the passionate steps of her country’s traditional dance. (HK) 8p, $25-$75, UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall,


Jan. 16-Feb.1

Conspiracy theorists in love

Those whose guts can take one more notch up on the current-affairs wrench won’t want to miss Tracy Letts’ play Bug, in which two people who would be better off not finding each other, do. The main characters — a middle-aged waitress who’s suffered both domestic violence and the loss of a child, and a mentally disturbed military vet with a mysterious past — meet in a tiny hotel room and feed on one another’s fears. The play will be performed by Cockroach Theater’s new season ensemble, a small company of actors to cover all the roles in the play calendar. The hope is that the close-knit cast’s personal dynamics will translate to the stage. (HK) 2p and 8p, $16-$20, Cockroach Theater at Art Square,

Ira Glass

Jan. 17

A pace for radio

Dancers tell a story without words; radio show hosts speak to their audiences unseen. The two, as “This American Life” host Ira Glass says, “have no business being together.” So, what did he do? Put them together. In Ira Glass: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host (4), the on-air personality does all the talking, while the onstage performers do all the moving. The combination has been a surprising crowd-pleaser that Glass describes as one of the best things he’s been part of. (HK) 7:30p, $29-$99, Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,

Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat

Jan. 20-25

The colors, the colors …

Hope, humility, overcoming challenges and doing what’s right — you wouldn’t find more family values in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (5) if it were a church picnic with the Cosbys. In addition to uplifting tunes that tell the Biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, this production features the real-life husband-and-wife team Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, Broadway veterans who play the narrator and Joseph, respectively. Tony Award-winner Andy Blankenbuehler directs the time-tested classic. (HK) 2p and 7:30p, $28 and up (currently available by subscription only), Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


BootleggerFeb. 24-March 1

The “pro” in “prohibition”

Did someone say “escapist entertainment”? Nice Work If You Can Get It (6) has a bootlegger, a wealthy bachelor and a wedding bash, all imbued with the faux naughtiness of Prohibition-era New York. The only thing flowing more freely than the booze in this celebrated musical comedy is the George and Ira Gershwin soundtrack. Perfect fare for Las Vegans, who get the winks and nudges of speakeasy humor better than most. (HK) see website for times, $28 and up (currently available by subscription only), Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


May 1-10

Sit for a spell

The pangs of puberty are as unpredictable as the spelling of words is rote. In her 2004 comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, writer Rebecca Feldman uses the juxtaposition of chaos and control to explore the sweet stress of being a small-town American teen. Audience members are drawn into the fun of the bee, being staged by Nevada Conservatory Theater next spring. (HK) 8p, $20-$30, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theater,


May 9-10

Undead love

Every jilted lover has been tempted to go all Carrie Underwood and smash in some headlights — or, in 1841 parlance, join a cult of supernatural vengeance witches. But before she digs her keys into the side of Duke Albrecht’s pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive, Giselle thinks twice. Maybe he doesn’t deserve to die? Find out, in Nevada Ballet Theater’s creepily gripping season-closer, Giselle. (HK) 2p and 7:30p, (tickets on sale Dec. 13), Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


May 26-31

Little orphan, big optimism

Come on: Just try not to love the musical that begins with a carrot-topped orphan singing the lyric, “Their one mistake was giving up me.” That tune, “Maybe,” sets the stage for Annie, the Tony Award-winning, hope-inducing, rags-to-riches tale that original lyricist Martin Charnin will direct in its classic form at The Smith Center to the delight of families throughout Clark County. Bet your bottom dollar that this crowd-pleaser will sell out. (HK) 2p and 7:30p, $28 and up (currently available by subscription only), Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center,


June 12-28

Careful what you say

With Native Speech, a 1983 play by Eric Overmyer, Cockroach Theater continues this season’s exploration of just how timely dated drama can be. In a dystopian future society, an underground disc jockey called The Hungry Mother churns out sensational, fictionalized news stories that begin to come true. Trying to make a point, the opinionated broadcaster instead makes a mess of the world. (HK) 2p and 8p, $16-$20, Cockroach Theater at Art Square,

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