Essential Arts & Culture: A buoyant 'Zoot Suit,' Moholy-Nagy at LACMA, and the power of composer Thomas Adès

Fly suits on stage at the Mark Taper Forum. The eternal artistic optimism of a Hungarian refugee of war. And the British composer who is making L.A. his second home. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, and I’m here with your weekly update of all the best arts and culture stories:

‘Zoot Suit’ revived

The “buoyant” revival of Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles couldn’t be better-timed, reports Times theater critic Charles McNulty. The play was inspired by the sensationalized, racially charged Sleepy Lagoon murder trial of 1942 and stars Oscar-nominated actor Demian Bichir in the role of El Pachuco. It “speaks so directly to the current political moment,” McNulty writes, “when fundamental constitutional values are being tested and law enforcement and racial justice appear to be at loggerheads.” Los Angeles Times

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McNulty also took in a performance of the Kneehigh theater company’s “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The story focuses on a petulant kid, a lost cat and life in a sleepy, rural English town during World War II. The “nonstop cuteness” can get overindulgent, writes McNulty, “but the company’s frisky heart is in the right place.” Los Angeles Times

Plus: McNulty charts the bumpy road that theater productions must take in making the journey from California to Broadway. He follows Pam MacKinnon’s “Amélie” and Christopher Ashley’s 9/11-themed “Come From Away” as they sharpen, tighten and rework productions in advance of their New York debuts. Los Angeles Times

Art in the face of fascism

“The optimism of László Moholy-Nagy,” writes Times art critic Christopher Knight, “is staggering.” The Hungarian artist — a polymath who dipped into art and design and the gray areas in between — survived social upheaval and two world wars. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art now has the largest, most complete retrospective of his work since the late ’60s, and it is a “large and fascinatingly beautiful show,” reports Knight, capturing the artist’s “curiosity, color, wry humor, excited trial and error [and] prolific innovation.” Los Angeles Times

From ‘Project Runway’ to ballet

A portable plastic Kenmore sewing machine helped inspire the career of fashion designer Bradon McDonald. It started him down a path that took him from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to “Project Runway,”  then to costume designer for choreographer Jessica Lang and her namesake dance company (which is performing at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A. through Saturday). Times culture writer Jessica Gelt paid a visit to his atelier to learn about his collaboration with Lang and her dancers. Los Angeles Times

The experience of internment

A new exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles tracks the history of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s infamous Executive Order 9066, which condemned roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps for the course of World War II. The actual executive order will go on view at the museum — its first time on view on the West Coast — along with numerous artifacts from the era. Curator Clement Hanami tells The Times’ Deborah Vankin, “the exhibition will be quite powerful for people who are concerned about America today.” Los Angeles Times

Architectural satire

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne sorts through the great pyramid of books that cover his desk (I know, I sit next to him) and comes up with something unusual for this week’s Building Type column: Keith Krumwiede’s “Atlas of Another America,” which lays out the history of an imaginary place called “Freedomland,” where a bucolic American landscape is amply studded with cookie-cutter McMansions idealized as places of collective living. Hawthorne interviews the author on why he thought “super-homes made from the monster houses of the boom years” were a good way of understanding the recession. Los Angeles Times

Historic Palmyra online

The tumult in Syria has left the ancient Silk Road settlement of Palmyra under siege as Islamic State militants and the Syrian Army have waged war amid at the graceful classical ruins. But even as structures are destroyed, the Getty Research Institute — which holds a trove of historic imagery related to the city — is preserving its memory. Curators last week unveiled an online exhibition featuring 19th century photographs of the site by pioneering photographer Louis Vignes, as well as the delicate illustrations of architect Louis-François Cassas that capture the site in the 18th century. The Getty Research Institute

A dance of death

The British musician Thomas Adès, the man behind the opera “The Exterminating Angel,” has become an “essential composer,” writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed. He is also now a part-time Angeleno and part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s extended family. Last week, Adès led the orchestra through a new work for cello and orchestra, as well as his startling and voluptuous orchestral piece “Totentanz,” the dance of death. “Adès,” Swed writes, “has begun to show increasing command as a conductor as well as interpretive flair.” Los Angeles Times

Swed also trekked up to Santa Barbara to take in a performance by violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Yuja Wang at the Granada Theatre. Despite some fumbled page turns, the pair were firmly in the moment. “In the Debussy, Wang emphasized the grave gorgeousness of the French composer’s harmonies, while Kavakos spun ever more exquisite silver,” writes Swed. “But Bartók’s gripping, experimental, unsettled sonata became the vehicle where both players found themselves by losing themselves.” Los Angeles Times

Taking on Salome

Soprano Patricia Racette has been “living, eating and breathing” “Salome,” Strauss’s tragic opera about a beautiful princess. She has played the demanding title role in Pittsburgh and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in December. And now she is set to take it on at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with L.A. Opera music director James Conlon — the 12th time they have collaborated. Of the role, Racette tells Times contributor Catherine Womack: “This, for me, is truly a theatrical feast.” Los Angeles Times

In other news…

— In high-culture Grammy Awards news: The cast of the “The Color Purple” won for musical theater album. Los Angeles Times, And L.A. Opera took home two trophies for “Ghosts of Versailles.”  Los Angeles Times Congrats all around!

— Hundreds of South Korean artists have sued impeached President Park Geun-hye for putting their names on a cultural black list that resulted in them being denied funds. (Idea for L.A. curators: a show of the blacklisted artists. I’d see that.) Artforum

— The art stash of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, is set to go on view at two European museums. New York Times

— The Museum of the Moving Image in New York has shut down Shia LaBeouf’s anti-Trump artwork for public safety reasons. Hyperallergic

— Hammer Museum senior curator Anne Ellegood and independent curator Erin Christovale have been named curators for the next edition of the museum’s Made in L.A. biennial. Los Angeles Times

— The Hollywood Bowl has announced its 2017 summer lineup, and it includes everything from the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” to Solange to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Los Angeles Times

— Geffen Playhouse artistic director Randall Arney will step down after 17 years with the company. Los Angeles Times

— In the age of the $10,000 “Hamilton” ticket: How theaters are cracking down on scalping. New York Times

— The hedge fund manager who scored “Moonlight.” Los Angeles Times

— CalArts has launched a new literary magazine called Sublevel. Los Angeles Times

— A Donald Judd-designed desk and chairs are reunited by a joint acquisition between LACMA and the Huntington. Los Angeles Times

— A walking tour of Compton architecture. Los Angeles Times

And last but not least…

The terms and conditions for Apple’s iTunes rendered as comics. Much better. Creators

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