The complicated questions of Nazi collaboration take center stage in "Taking Sides." The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble's production of Ronald Harwood's play explores the intersection of culture and politics through the dramatic postwar confrontation between American prosecutors and the controversial German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. Boiling down the controversy, the character asks, "If I conduct great music in a country that is by chance ruled by Hitler, must I therefore represent him? Does not great music, on the contrary, make me one of his antagonists?" Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Through Sept. 10. $15-$23.50. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations call (310) 477-2055.
A dance theatre performance in two acts, titled "Lovesickness," is the final program presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture." Inspired by Freud's writings on hysteria, the performance blends a variety of dance traditions with music, text and projected images. Act one, "Hexen" (Witches) relates Freud's theories and early cinema as simultaneous forces inspiring new ways of understanding desire. The second act, "Narrinen" (Fools), examines more recent perceptions of mental illness as chemical or genetic imbalance. 8:30 p.m. General admission $15; Skirball members $12; Students $8. Mark Taper Foundation Courtyard, Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For advance tickets call (323) 655-8587.
The California Science Center is a magical place starting this week, with the opening of its new exhibition "Magic: The Science of Illusion." Developed with the help of such magical luminaries as Penn & Teller and the late Doug Henning, exhibits include a live interactive magic show and taped performances of professional magicians, with "audience" and "backstage" experiences for each illusion. Accompanying the exhibition is an IMAX film featuring Siegfried & Roy. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. IMAX Theater tickets, $3.75-$7.50. California Science Center, 700 State Dr., Los Angeles. (323) 724-3623, or www.casciencectr.org
The Molly Barnes Gallery in Santa Monica presents a group show of works by some of Southern California's most important female artists. 12 Divas includes artworks by Eleanor Antin, whose film "The Man Without a World" was recently featured in this column. Other artists featured in the show include Rachel Rosenthal, Ruth Weisberg, and Alexis Smith. Through Sept. 2. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 1414 Sixth St., Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 395-4404.
A smaller exhibit at the Daniel Weinberg Gallery presents the work of Mirit Cohen. Raised in Israel and later residing in New York, Cohen created a small body of intense abstract drawings and sculpture during her brief career. Her work, which is now exhibited for the first time on the West Coast, includes woven and knotted copper wire constructions and abstract drawings of weblike networks of graphite lines and dots. Through Aug. 5. 6148 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 954-8425.
At a time when borders around the world were closed to the victims of the Third Reich, Shanghai was an international territory that required no visa for entry. The documentary film The Port of Last Resort presents the little-known story of the nearly 20,000 European Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai in the years 1938-1941. Though they went in search of temporary refuge, most would stay a decade, surviving the Holocaust in the Hongkew ghetto under Japanese control. This remarkable story unfolds through interviews, as well as letters, memoirs, and refugee newspaper writings. 7 p.m. General admission, $5; Museum of Tolerance members, $4. 9760 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2452.
"The Merchant of Venice" has been causing trouble and stirring controversy with its Jewish themes for 500 years. The Pasadena Shakespeare Company production opening tonight is set in the near future, and the merchant of the title has been changed to a female role, but story's treatment of anti-Semitism, intermarriage, forced conversion, greed and corruption remain. What also remains are the gorgeous language and gender-bending hijinks of Shakespeare's work. Half-price previews July 28, 8 p.m., and July 29, 3 p.m. Opens Aug. 4, 8 p.m. General admission $18; students and seniors, $15. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. For information and reservations, call (626) 564-8564, or visit www.pasadenashakespeare.com
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