Cirque du Soleil "Totem"
Cirque du Soleil "Totem" (Photo courtesy Cirque du Soleil)



The arts are alive and well in Los Angeles this October, as three very different takes on creativity got off to great starts in the City of Angels this week.

First up was the Cirque du Soleil "Totem" opening night on Tuesday, October 15, performed under the giant Chapiteau (Big Top) down on the harbor in San Pedro. The gorgeous spectacle, "a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind" (as the Cirque people describe it) moves effortlessly from the dawn of civilization straight into the surfer-dude world of today, with funky frogs rubbing shoulders with characters in full Native American garb along the way.

Naturally, all the performers have those special Cirque skills, including a troupe of tiny women in fantastical costumes and makeup, five of them riding huge unicycles while balancing and throwing bowls onto each other's heads. It's an act that has to be seen to be believed. A wildly costumed troupe of men strut their balancing skills on springy "Russian Bars" in a breathtaking, perfectly timed routine; and those Native Americans (one male, one female) put on a seriously spinning, nausea-inducing roller-skating performance that will make you wish you hadn't tried the nachos earlier in the evening.

But really, all the acts in "Totem" will put a permanent smile on your face. The show runs until November 10 in San Pedro, then moves to Irvine from November 21 to December 29 and culminates its Southern California tour in Santa Monica from January 17 to February 9, 2014.

Switching gears on Wednesday, October 16, we found ourselves at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, where a new adaptation of "Wait Until Dark" opened to resounding cheers.

Bellamy Young and Alison Pill at the Wait Until Dark afterparty.
Bellamy Young and Alison Pill at the Wait Until Dark afterparty. (Photo by Jordan Strauss)
The play, about a blind woman terrorized in her New York apartment by a gang of thieves, originally starred Lee Remick on Broadway in 1966, and Audrey Hepburn in the film in 1967. This excellent revival features Allison Pill (you know her as Maggie Jordan from "The Newsroom") in the lead; and while you may notice some subtle changes in the plot and setting, the basic story is still as compelling and scary as it was way back in the Sixties and Pill gives a terrific turn in the complex role.

Fans of the theater experience included everyone from Oscar winner George Chakiris to the younger set - gorgeous "Scandal" star Bellamy Young, "Psych" favorite James Roday and "Bones" hottie Michael Grant Terry. After the show brought the audience to its feet in approbation, everyone headed off to the Napa Valley Grille, where Pill and the rest of the cast (Mather Zickel, Matt McTighe, Brighid Fleming, Rod McLachlan and Adam Stein) were toasted repeatedly and vociferously. "This one should be a sellout!" exclaimed one happy partygoer. "Wait Until Dark" runs through November 17.

A very different opening night happened on Thursday, October 17, at the Academy Theater on Wilshire Boulevard, where two of Hollywood's true A-listers showed their labor of love to a packed house. Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner led the glittery red-carpet premiere charge for "Dallas Buyers Club," the fascinating true-life story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who contracted AIDS in the early 1980s.

It's the role that McConaughey admits he might have lost too much weight to play; as he told reporters at an earlier press conference, "I was at 182 [pounds]. I ended up getting down to 135." Even at the premiere, the actor still looked slightly drawn and much too skinny; but if the Best Actor Oscar nomination buzz that is building for his performance comes to pass, that transformation will finally get him the recognition he deserves for his varied body of work. His transformation was the talk of the jammed after party, held in the lobby of the theater, as was Jared Leto's.
 Leto, too, went super-skinny for his role as an AIDS-stricken gay transvestite, and the buzz is hot for his performance as well. As he and Jennifer Garner exchanged hugs, one onlooker whispered, "Jared's legs are the size of toothpicks!" Seems he's struggling to get back to a healthy weight, too.

Also in the post-screening party scrum were Emile Hirsch, Beth Grant, Bruce Boxleitner, Harry Hamlin and McConaughey's gorgeous wife, Camila Alves, who was a vision in a caped white Paula Ke sheath.

"Dallas Buyers Club" opens in theaters on November 1. Take tissues.

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Follow Jenny Peters and Spywitness on Twitter at @jennpeters.