'Mules' Carries Emotion
British playwright Winsome Pinnock wrote "Mules" -- about women hired to smuggle drugs on (or in) their persons -- after extensive research in various prisons.
The result is a play, the last in the Taper's New Theatre for Now series (it closes June 29), that is starkly realistic and gritty but also uneven. The characters are sharply, colorfully drawn and brilliantly portrayed in multiple roles by Saundra Quarterman, Gail Grate and Bahni Turpin. Yet the protagonists are, in the end, generic: poor women who turn to dope smuggling to escape poverty.
The action takes place on Christopher Barreca's appropriately bleak set, essentially a bare platform; the short scenes, punctuated by hip-hop music, are energetically, stylistically directed by Lisa Peterson.
Quarterman is riveting as Bridie, the enigmatic, elegant shark of a drug boss, who preys on the down-and-out. Allie (Grate) is the lonely, vulnerable runaway who is transformed into a strident scofflaw.
In a parallel story, we encounter Lou (Turpin) and Lyla (Grate), two sisters working at a pathetic little stand in the Jamaican slums until Bridie comes calling. Predictably, all end up paying dearly for their stab at the good life.
"Mules" seems disjointed at times, like sketches in search of a play; nevertheless, the piece is not without its share of powerful moments, such as the sisters' tragic, ironic final scene. Lyla and Lou are back in Jamaica, toiling in a ganja field; their squalor seems all the bleaker after their fleeting taste of glamour. -- Naomi Pfefferman, Senior Writer
Wanted: Local Poets
Ink-stained wretches take note: More than $48,000 in prizes will be awarded this year in the North American Open Poetry Contest, an annual literary competition that is open to everyone and is free. Poets from the Los Angeles area, particularly beginners, are welcome to try to win their share of 250 prizes. The contest is sponsored by the 15-year-old U.S. National Library of Poetry -- the largest poetry organization in the world.
"Any poet, whether previously published or not, can be a winner," said contest director Howard Ely. "Poets from the Los Angeles area have successfully competed in past competitions."
Every poem that is entered also has a chance to be published in a hard-bound anthology.
To enter, send one original poem, any subject and any style, to: The National Library of Poetry, Suite 1992, 1 Poetry Plaza, Owings Mills, Md. 21117-6282, or via e-mail to www.poetry.com. Poems should be no more than 20 lines. Be sure that the poet's name and address appear at the top of the page. Entries must be postmarked or sent via the Internet by July 15. -- Diane Arieff Zaga, Arts Editor
Later at LACMA
In order to better accommodate the schedules of working adults, families and summer tourists, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has announced a new schedule, which will take effect on Tuesday, July 1. While the new hours have been described as a summer schedule, the change is likely to be extended into the fall, according to LACMA staffer Angela Dickson.
The new schedule is as follows: open from noon to 8 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; open from noon to 9 p.m., Friday; open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday; closed on Wednesday.
During the extended hours, LACMA's Plaza Cafe and museum shop will be open, and special programming -- such as lectures, concerts, family tours and entertainment -- will be scheduled. Parking in the lot at Spaulding and Wilshire will be free after 6 p.m. Museum admission will be free to all visitors on the second Tuesday of every month. Film matinees, which have been screened on Wednesdays, will now be shown on Tuesdays. Call (213) 857-6000 for more information, or visit the museum's web site at http://www.lacma.org. --D.Z.