Sharkeez’s Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita

“Recession? What recession?”

So says Ryan Leeper, manager of the Santa Barbara branch of that college drinking institution Sharkeez. Some blocks of State Street may be a bit quieter these days, but not the block between Haley and Gutierrez. With the Savoy across the street, and the numerous late night food establishments popping up here and there (thank you Santa Barbara for getting a clue about our stomachs), this block is buzzing.

And as we walked in on a Thursday, we were told that in an hour it would be College Night, so brace for the crowds. Well, we thought, that gives us an hour to get our drinks in before all chaos reigns.

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Forces of Nature – The team behind ‘Ruckus’ returns for a free show at CAF

Back again so soon? Some readers may remember Anaya Cullen and Marko Pinter from September’s issue, when they caused a “Ruckus” over at Center Stage Theater, where they were one-third of that evening’s show of multimedia performance. For this Thursday’s forum Lounge at Contemporary Arts Forum, the two return with their still-unnamed company for “Gravitational Forces,” a longer, more ambitious piece.

Returning to mix sound, video and dance are Kaita Lepore and Steven Jasso, who Cullen considers as much a part of the company as the two creators. For “Dichotomous” and “Ruckus,” Cullen remained behind the scenes. But for “Gravitational Forces,” she returns to the stage as a performer. Santa Barbara audiences will know Cullen from her previous performance work for SonneBlauma Danscz Theatre, though currently she is the costume designer for State Street Ballet.

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It Had To Be Them – Successful production gets a second chance, helps a worthy cause

“It Had To Be You,” the charming two-character comedy by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, earned several standing ovations last year in its Circle Bar B Theater run. The odd couple of Sean O’Shea and Tiffany Story, along with director Bill Egan — together known as Acting Up Productions — are back for a second go ’round this year. They’ve moved, however, and have taken up residence at the Center Stage Theater for a production to open this Thursday.

In this swift-moving farce, a down-on-his-luck theater producer named Vita Pignoli comes to the downstairs apartment of the kooky Theda Blau, after she auditions for him. He’s come for what he sees as a one-night stand. She sees his enthusiasm as artistic interest and the visit as her big break, and insists he reads her “masterpiece” and help her find a publisher. The book is awful, of course, and the apartment is kind of claustrophobic, but Vito just can’t seem to leave.

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Quick, Quick Change – ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’ comes to Ensemble

Joseph Fuqua, left, and Jamie Torcellini, right, are a handful to keep track of in "The Mystery of Irma Vep." David Bazemore Photos
Joseph Fuqua, left, and Jamie Torcellini, right, are a handful to keep track of in “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”
David Bazemore Photos

Murder. Mystery. Mummies. Vampires. Wolfmen. Is this Christmas? At Ensemble Theater Company, it sure is, with the preview night Thursday of “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” a very light, very ridiculous work of theater meant to bring some levity in the middle of a dramatic season. Featuring only two actors but over eight roles, the evening requires many quick costume changes behind the scenes (over 30!), and loads of gender switching. In other words, yes, we have men in drag. Deck the halls!

Charles Ludlam wrote 29 plays in his short life, most of them comedies. Many are considered by critics and companies to be unmountable, as they were so intertwined with Ludlam’s persona. But “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is not that kind of play. Possibly Ludlam’s crowning achievement, it provides a series of memorable characters as well as postmodern pastiches of everything from “Rebecca,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Gaslight” to penny dreadfuls and Universal horror movies. His company was called the Ridiculous Theatrical Company — located in Greenwich Village, New York City — and the name indicates what Ludlam was after.

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POWDER ADDICTS : ‘Wintervention’ marks Warren Miller’s 61st ski film

JJ Thomas BRADEN GUNEM
JJ Thomas
BRADEN GUNEM

If you’re into winter sports of any kind, the annual screening of a Warren Miller film is to you what the September issue of Vogue is to fashionistas.

“The real Warren Miller experience is that people show up this time of year at the theater, not watch it on a DVD,” professional skier Jonny Moseley says. “You’re tired of summer, fall’s getting old, you see the movie on the big screen, the photography’s amazing and you hang out with a bunch of buddies and get fired up for the season.”

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Monty’s Flying Saucer

Looking to the far corner of the bar at Monty’s, we see a spaghetti kitchen. Or rather, the ghost of one. Before anybody can remember, this space in the Magnolia shopping center used to sling pasta and meatballs before it transformed into a neighborhood bar.

Now owned by the wife of the former owner, Monty’s Sports Bar gets packed during “da game,” Tuesday pool league nights and Thursday karaoke. But when we sauntered in, it was late and a bit slow. A few regulars are seated up to the bar, and we are greeted by Susie Crawford, who has been mixing drinks here for 17 years. If you’ve stopped by on a weeknight, then you’ve probably met her.

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Brief Encounters, Long Engagements – Paul Taylor Dance Company returns with a career-spanning selection

Tom Caravaglia Photos
Tom Caravaglia Photos

At 80, Paul Taylor is one of, if not the only, master choreographer from the birth of modern dance who is still alive and creating. He danced in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham (who dubbed him the “naughty boy” of dance), and George Balanchine, absorbing styles and techniques as he went. By the time he set up his own company in 1954, Taylor had a style, a way of moving. But most writers agree that when Taylor retired from dancing in 1974, his choreography went from good to great, as his company, his family, became a group of mini-Taylors. A towering presence himself, his male dancers tend to be larger than average.

“You can do the steps, but there’s a way that he moves that you have to learn,” says Robert Kleinendorst, one of the current company’s senior dancers. “He likes everything to originate from the hips, the back and the center. There’s a lot of twisting. The arms are secondary.”

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Bullet Train – The human cost of Chinese expansion on display in new doc

EyeSteelFilm Photos
EyeSteelFilm Photos

If “The Last Train Home” is reminiscent of “Up the Yangtze,” another film about the social upheavals following the wake of China’s economic transformation, that’s because director Lixin Fan worked as associate producer, sound recordist and translator on that film. Now stepping into the director’s shoes, Lixin brings us a story of the New Year’s Holiday migration in China, where 120 million workers get time off to return home to their families.

The scene, as we see at the beginning, is chaos, like something out of a disaster movie, with crowd upon crowd trying to get a ticket, cramming onto trains, and heading back into the countryside. Some wait so long to get a ticket and live so far away that if they ever reach their destination it’s time to go back.

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OATH KEEPERS: A tale of jihadist, Abu Jandal, and his unlucky friend screens at UCSB

A committed jihadist, Abu Jandal got himself a plum job in the ’90s when he became the bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. After splitting with bin Laden, serving time in prison during 9/11, giving up info to the FBI and returning to his family, he now drives a taxi in Yemen. But back when he was a bodyguard he helped his brother-in-law get a job as Bin Laden’s driver. That man, Salim Hamdan, was not so lucky. Although kept out of the terrorist information loop, Hamdan was captured and held in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay.

Laura Poitras’ documentary “The Oath” follows the fate of the two men in an engrossing film that relishes its ambiguities. Poitras followed Jandal for two yeas, shooting his everyday life. For Hamdan, she shows his family and reads from his letters home, written on cartoonish stationery.

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Throwing a perfect Tantrum: Fitz and the Tantrums annihilate Velvet Jones at the end of New Noise

A perfect band! That’s how one neighbor in the pit at Velvet Jones put it near the end of Fitz and the Tantrums’ weekend-capping set for New Noise Santa Barbara. And it was, at least in recent memory, one of the most exciting, go-for-broke performances we’re seen in Santa Barbara this year.

The Los Angeles-based band re-imagine soul — both Motown and the blue-eyed ’80s revival version — on their own terms, and make sure to bring everybody along for the ride.

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