The Critical Eye will be going a bit cross-eyed this week, as we need to focus on two different yet excellent arts opportunities:
Next Saturday, singer, dancer and actress Jill Keating will be performing a one-woman show at Webb's Captain's Table, in Mayville.
Meanwhile, Buffalo's Albright-Knox Gallery has announced a major change in their opening hours, and has introduced an internationally-celebrated show, which will be running for the rest of 2009 and into January.
If we concentrate hard, I think we can focus on them both.
British playwright Willy Russell has created his play ''Shirley Valentine,'' as what he calls his gift to anyone who has every looked around and wondered what has happened to his or her life.
The play was a smash in both London and New York City, and was expanded into a feature film. It won a number of major awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for best new comedy of 1988.
Next Saturday, Jill Keating will be performing as Shirley at Webb's Captain Table, in Mayville. Those interested in attending are offered two choices. You're invited to attend as a dinner and theater package, with food beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the performance beginning at 7:45 p.m.
If you prefer, you may attend only the performance. Dinner and performance cost $45 per person. The performance alone costs $15, and gives the opportunity to order dessert, coffee, and/or drinks, at additional expense.
I'll share with you what I know about the play, and then a bit about what I know about the charming Ms. Keating.
The title character of Shirley Valentine is a housewife of the working class, in Liverpool, England. With relatively little education or life experience, she finds herself talking to the walls of her dingy apartment, in the hope of not losing her mind, while frying up her husband's dinner.
Suddenly an opportunity enters Shirley's grim life. A friend has won a two-week vacation for two in sunny Greece, and she invites Shirley to use the other ticket. Shirley packs her bag, writes the husband a note, and suddenly she has exchanged a gray, industrial city in the cold and damp north of England for shining sun, blue seas, and the palm trees of the Mediterranean.
Shirley may have led a dull life, but she is certainly an original thinker, and her observations on her old life from the perspective of her new one, are often unexpected, and truly classic.
Jill Keating is a professional performing artist with an impressive list of credits. She has lived in Chautauqua County since 1990.
If you know her, chances are it is because she is the Director of the Pointe Chautauqua Dance! Studio, or perhaps during her years as a member of the faculty at the Chautauqua Institution School of Dance, under the artistic direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.
Otherwise, she has directed and/or choreographed a series of performances of all styles, in various areas of our county.
Ms. Keating began dancing in Michigan, at the age of 9, and studied for several years at the ballet school of the National Ballet of Canada, in Toronto. She danced for five years as a featured artist with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, where she performed major character roles such as Juliet's Nurse, as the Queen Mother in ''Swan Lake,'' and as a stepsister in ''Cinderella,'' among others.
Switching from ballet to musical theater, the talented performer moved to the Bucks County (Pa.) Playhouse, where she was dance captain for their production of ''Damn Yankees,'' and ''Showboat.'' She was then featured in the role of Miss Hannigan in ''Annie.''
Other performing credits include the professional Broadway tour of ''Big River,'' the smash Broadway show based on Mark Twain's ''Huckleberry Finn,'' featuring music by popular songster Roger Miller.
She has performed leading roles in ''Once Upon a Mattress,'' ''Grease,'' ''Chicago,'' and ''They're Playing Our Song, and performed in musical revues with Carol Lawrence and Dean Jones.
Currently, she is appearing regularly in ''Diva By Diva,'' the all-woman celebration of the many talents of women which is performed every Wednesday and occasional other days by Buffalo's O'Connell and Company, under the direction of Mary Kate O'Connell.
I strongly suspect you'll enjoy her take on ''Shirley Valentine.'
For additional information about next Saturday's performance, phone Webb's at 753-3960.
THE ALBRIGHT-KNOX GALLERY
Two weeks ago, we shared with readers information which we gathered in a recent visit to the Burchwood-Penney Art Gallery, a new facility less than a year old, on the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo.
At the time, we mentioned that the new gallery is located directly across Elmwood Ave. from the venerable Albright-Knox Gallery, one of the most respected repositories of modern and contemporary art in the world.
No sooner had we written the column, than we were invited to the older gallery for a press conference, which announced important changes in the gallery's operations.
So, this week, we're happy to divide our attention between the remarkable Ms. Keating and the astounding Albright-Knox.
It certainly is no news to readers that our nation is in a period of acute economic hardship, and unlike many countries, when our country experiences a downturn, one of the first things to be considered for reduction is our own culture.
As a result of this curious attitude, the Albright-Knox Gallery has been reducing its days of availability to the public, from six days per week to five, and then to four.
Always closed on Mondays, the gallery began closing its doors on Tuesdays, and then on Wednesdays, as well.
Beginning last week, the Albright-Knox has decided on a different approach. The gallery has changed their opening time from 10 a.m. to noon on all the days they're open. With the hours they save by that effort, they will once again be open from Tuesday through Sunday.
Teachers are encouraged to note that the gallery will still offer free-of-charge tours to school groups, during the morning hours.
The change has been made possible in part with funds from the Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board.
The gallery's museum shop and their restaurant, Muse, are open, whenever the gallery is open.
Closing hours remain unchanged. They are 5 p.m., every day but Fridays. That day, the ''Gusto at the Gallery'' program provides a series of free, family-friendly programs and performances for visitors of all ages, and they remain open until 10 p.m.
Admission to the gallery is $12 for the general public, $8 for senior citizens and students. There is no charge for Gallery Members and for children age 12 or younger.
If you haven't been there, for a while, it's a beautiful place to be, which can be full of inspiration to new ways of seeing our world and ourselves.
To reach the Albright-Knox from Chautauqua County, drive east on I-90 to the exit for Route 33. That is the same exit as for the Buffalo International Airport, but you want the ramp to drive west on Route 33. The airport is east of the Thruway.
Drive a few miles on Route 33, until you reach the exit for N.Y. Route 198. It only goes one direction. Drive along that route until you see the exits for Elmwood Ave. The first ramp is labeled ''Museum,'' and that has misled a number of readers, I've been told. It goes to the Museum of Natural History, and you don't want that. The second ramp is labeled ''Art Gallery,'' and that's the one you do want.
At the top of the exit ramp, just turn right on Elmwood Ave., and maneuver as quickly as you can to the center lane. You will soon come to a stoplight which has the Burchfield-Penney Gallery on your right and the Albright-Knox on your left. There is a large commercial parking lot, directly in front of the gallery.
The Albright-Knox has more than 6,500 works of art in their permanent collection. A generous selection from the collection is always displayed for the public, and it changes regularly, so if you've seen it before, there is always something different to see, this time.
In addition, the gallery installs a frequent selection of works which are on loan from other galleries and from private collectors. These exhibits tend to last from a month to a year or more, and give you the opportunity to see in Buffalo, works which are typically available to be seen, only in Paris, or in California, or some other distant site.
There are 70 works in the exhibit, and they come from a private collection, so they're not generally available to be seen by the public. They include both sculptures and paper maquettes of the same works, so the viewer can get an idea of creative process of the artist.
These will be on display through July of 2010.
The artist made hundreds of drawings around Buffalo in June of last year. From those drawings, she has made the paintings of this exhibit, which she considers combinations of history, physical fact, decay, memory, personal experience, and innocence. She says they ''stop something short of being symbols.''
They will be displayed through Feb. 28 of 2010.
Mangold was born in North Tonawanda, and had his first encounters with art at the Albright-Knox Gallery. Buffalo is in the process of constructing a new U.S. Courthouse, designed by award-winning architect William Pederson. The building is said to connect Buffalo's great architectural history to the city's future. Mangold has been commissioned to install windows of colored glass in the building.
The windows will transfer the artist's layering effects in painting to the building itself, and there are displays of his techniques and his materials.
This exhibit will occupy the gallery through Jan. 31.
The theme of the exhibit is the human need for companionship.
The list of future exhibits, stretching through 2011, goes on for pages.
For additional information about the Albright-Knox Gallery, you can phone them at 882-8700 or look up their web site at www.albrightknox.org.
The Jamestown Area Community Orchestra will perform their annual autumn concert, tomorrow at First Covenant Church, on Spring St., in downtown Jamestown.
Please note: the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., which is a change from their usual afternoon start time. The orchestra performs without admission charge, although a freewill offering will be taken.
A number of announcements have been received from the State University of New York at Fredonia:
This year's opera will be the most frequently-performed opera in the world: Puccini's classic ''La Boheme.'' The opera recounts the story of young artists, struggling to create their art and maintain their love, amid poverty, jealousy, temptation and disease. The plot of the opera has been transformed recently into the Broadway hit ''Rent.''
To reserve tickets, phone 673-3501, or toll-free, 866-441-4928. Purchase them by computer at www.fredonia.edu/tickets. Prices are $20 for the general public, and $8 for students, with I.D.