A&E

Worth a Look: Encaustic paintings, a trip to the 1950s and more

This week's A&E highlights

This week, catch a dark comedy about 1950s nostalgia, check out encaustic wax paintings on the Stanford campus and revel in an orchestral performance of Holst's "The Planets" accompanied by NASA images of the solar system.

Theater

'Maple & Vine'

Ever wonder whether you'd be happier living in a simpler era? In playwright Jordan Harrison's dark comedy, "Maple & Vine," that's the wager made by two stressed-out 21st-century types, Katha and Ryu. In Los Altos Stage Company's production, Lorie Goulart and Jeffery Sun play the young couple who together decide to forgo modern conveniences -- iPhones included! -- in exchange for an authentic 1950s lifestyle, complete with a job at the factory, a ranch-style home and Tupperware parties.

Is their nostalgia really warranted? Will Katha and Ryu's trade grant them freedom, or steal it? What will they give up, and what will they gain? There's only one way to find out.

"Maple & Vine" plays now through Feb. 22 at the Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $18-$34. To learn more, go to losaltosstage.org or call 650-941-0551.

Art

'Wax Works'

In traditional oil painting, pigment is suspended in linseed oil, rendering the paint reflective, thin and translucent. In encaustic painting, wax rather than oil provides the binding agent, resulting in a thicker, more opaque medium that lends itself to complex layering and even sculpting. Bay Area artists Mari Marks and Howard Hersh exemplify the contemporary application of encaustic painting. Now through March 6, works by the two artists will be on view at Stanford University as part of the Stanford Art Spaces program.

Marks' exhibition, "The Spiritual Landscape," features layered, scraped paintings whose abstract patterns evoke geological features: dappled light on water, ripples, scales. Like clouds or Rorschach blots, they invite the viewer's free association. Meanwhile, Hersh's collection, titled "One Day at a Time: Thirty Years in the Studio," incorporates two- and three-dimensional works inspired by nature and architecture, light and energy.

"Wax Works" will be on view in three separate campus spaces: the Paul G. Allen Building (420 Via Palou Mall), the David W. Packard Electrical Engineering Building (350 Serra Mall) and the Psychology Department (Jordan Hall, 450 Serra Mall).

To learn more about Stanford Art Spaces and "Wax Works," go to facebook.com/stanfordartspaces or call 650-725-3622.

Music

'The Planets'

Imagine hurtling through outer space, flying past planets as a soaring musical soundtrack fills your ears. That's the idea behind this weekend's performances by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. The 110-member group will play "The Planets," an iconic orchestral suite by early 20th-century classical composer Gustav Holst, while on screen, high-definition NASA images will be projected. The photographs were shot by unmanned spacecraft, rovers and the Hubble Space Telescope, and they offer a stunning vision of our solar system, allowing viewers to virtually land on other planets.

Joining the Stanford Symphony Orchestra for these performances will be the Cantabile Youth Singers and the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale.

The show is part of a larger campus-wide project, "Imagining the Universe," whose stated goals are "to deepen our understanding of, and appreciation for, the richness of the universe, and to help us learn about ourselves from the ways we depict our cosmos."

The multimedia performances of "The Planets" will take place on Friday, Jan. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at Bing Concert Hall, 327 Lasuen St., Stanford. Tickets will be available in advance and at the door. They range from $10-$20, with free admission for Stanford students with valid I.D. Go to tickets.stanford.edu or call 650-725-2787.

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